VModa M-80 Review by Edd Noble

EDD_1496

 

Say hello to Edd, a video game 3D artist who happens to maintain a headphone review blog called Noble Hi-Fi (http://noblehifi.blogspot.co.uk/). I know that a lot of people have been asking for us to do a review on the popular VModa M-80, but I’ve yet found the time to do that. I thought Edd’s review is excellent and aside from the difference in personal preferences (me still a bigger fan of the HD25-1), Edd did a really good job of describing how the headphone sound. Ed also takes great photos and I thought that’s a nice thing to have on reviews. Anyway for the V-MODA M80 we’re just re-publishing the original article from Edd’s blog, but I hope that in the future he’ll be able to write other articles for Headfonia.

- Mike

With the explosion of digital audio in recent years high-end headphones are taking a real boost in popularity. VModa comes rather late to the party but with a fresh perspective. Their M-80 model has made a big impression since it’s launch in August 2011 but if the looks make you sceptical please read on, unlike a lot of new designer headphones their beauty isn’t just skin deep. Let’s take away the great looks, the awesome customisation options, the military grade durability and focus on what’s really important for a moment – the sound…

SOUND IMPRESSIONS

I’ve heard people describe the M-80′s sound character as neutral and I can see where they’re coming from but this doesn’t paint quite the full picture. The sound is not neutral compared to a professional monitor headphone and for most people’s music listening this is probably a good thing. They are neutral compared to a bass heavy headphone like a Dr. Dre Beats, VModa LP/LP2, compared to some they are neutral enough to make them feel well balanced, clear and uncoloured but there is a little more excitement in the mix.

The bass is nicely pronounced but fast, punchy and with reasonable depth but most importantly it doesn’t feel bloated. The upper midrange gets a similar treatment, very slightly forward giving vocals a subtle but noticeably enjoyable push. Both of these deviations from neutrality only aid in creating a more pleasant presentation. They feel carefully tuned to be more about an enjoying listen than scrutinising. This balance of neutrality and subtle ‘v-shape’ enhancement seems to have a positive affect on genre versatility too but I will come back to that later. The treble is also very impressive in that it’s rarely painful, it’s well controlled without sounding restrained.

The M-80′s detail resolving capabilities are great, instrument separation is also good and keeps up with the competition well (something like the Sennheiser HD25-1 II). The subtle porting in the metal cups help give a nice airy sense. Soundstage is impressive for a closed back design, a little isolation is lost in this process but this trade off with soundstage is probably a nice balance for a majority of listeners. They would still be a good choice for use on public transport. Although better isolation can be found they will most likely not touch this balance of great sound characteristics and certainly not at this price.

AMPLIFICATION

Plugged directly in to any portable player they perform admirably. With a low impedance of 28.5ohms they’re unlikely to have volume issues with any source. The iPhone 4 was loud at 60%, the Samsung Galaxy S at about 75%. They are also quite forgiving of compressed music but more so when listening to a non-amplified source. Connected to a portable DAC & headphone amplifier all of the M-80′s many strengths get a healthy boost but even getting used to this boost in quality didn’t ruin the experience of running them directly. I connected them to an iBasso D7 for a whole week while I was working and it has been a real joy. The sound got a tighter and more textured bass, being more detailed, faster and even more enjoyable.

I wasn’t expecting much more from the M-80s than when connected to the iBasso portable but when I put them with the desktop sized Yulong D100 mkII it propelled the music enjoyment to a totally different level. This combination showed a level of power and poise to the presentation that I wasn’t hearing with the cheaper DAC/amp and certainly didn’t expect from such a small and relatively low cost headphone. It’s not something that I can see many people doing since the machine is twice the price of the headphones but it did add a huge amount of value to the sound quality, it was a lot of fun!

MUSIC

When deciding how a certain headphone performs with different music it’s usually pretty easy to find some genres that perform better or worse than others but in the M-80′s case this proved really difficult. I have described headphones as versatile before but after hearing the M-80 it makes me want to withdraw my previous statements and crown these as the new king of versatility (at least for their category).

Nero’s ‘Welcome To Reality’ sounded pleasantly energetic whilst feeling neither boosted nor constrained. The bass impact is quite impressive without feeling muddy but it might lack some bass extension for the dubstep crowd. VModa’s own LP2 could step in here although I wonder at what cost to versatility. I’m really curious to try this music with the LP2 because I find it hard to believe that it could be generally better than it is here already. The M-80′s bass, although not big as some, is just so nicely presented. Pop music is not exactly my forte but it sounded nicely balanced – bright and bold, good separation on the vocals / instruments, generally lively and a lot of fun.

The heavy industrial metal guitar and energetic female vocals of Velcra’s ‘Between Force and Fate’ were displayed with a healthy dose of power and aggression. The bass and energy on display was especially impressive given the M-80′s small size. The guitar from Tool’s ‘Lateralus’ album was similarly satisfying. Nicely detailed for such a densely musical rock track, it can be difficult for this kind of music to sound engaging on closed headphones but the M-80′s do a commendable job.

John Williams’s classical orchestra in ‘Tin Tin’ does a great job at conveying a lively and dramatic energy. There are many deep and powerful sections to this album which are presented very well considering the M-80′s size / price, only headphones much larger and more expensive can take the edge off the slight congestion and add some deeper bass while keeping the control on offer here. Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s live (in Japan) latin album really shines for it’s detail and fast rhythm but there is also plenty of heavy influence from their roots in Metal music so is a great test for any headphone. There are some heavy guitar thumping moments that are deeply impressive and rhythmic but also soundstage gets a good workout and treble articulacy is on top form.

 

Continue to the next page…

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  • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

    Please check out Edd’s blog to see his AKG Q701 and Denon D7000 review: http://noblehifi.blogspot.co.uk/

    • Edward Noble

      Thanks very much Mike and hello everyone, it’s great to be here :)

  • http://www.theideate.com/ Gorboman

    i noticed on the picture gallery, that it’s not using stock cable. what cable did edd use, mike?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Okay I’ll ask Edd.

      • Edward Noble

        That’s a ‘QED Profile’ cable, picked it up from ebay but found out later it was cheaper on Amazon. I bought it without knowing quite what it looked like but luckily it matches the style pretty well. Not too expensive for a half decent cable. Thicker that the included one, not kevlar but fixed some issues I was having.

        • http://www.theideate.com/ Gorboman

          what issues were you having earlier? also, was there any changes in the sound after you use the QED Profile cable?

          • dalethorn

            When I plugged the default cable with the Apple miniplug into my O2 headamp, it didn’t connect on both channels. I backed the plug out a little and it did connect, but a normal stereo non-Apple cable works better with the O2 amp and others possibly as well.

            • http://www.theideate.com/ Gorboman

              How about when using the other stock cable, Dale? The non iOS one. Do you still experience the same problem?

              • dalethorn

                I don’t have the M80 here now, but I tried a Bose OE2i with Apple controls on the O2 amp, a Dell desktop, a Samsung netbook, a Macbook Air, and iPhone, iPod Touch, iPod Nano and iPad. All 8 devices worked perfectly with no looseness. Wiggling the plug did not create any problems or static in the sound, and the stereo image was correct. The Apple controls also worked properly with the Apple i-devices. So when I get my M80 back I’ll repeat those tests with it.

                • http://www.theideate.com/ Gorboman

                  Thanks, Dale. Let us know the result when you get your M80 back. :)

          • Edward Noble

            Both included cables connect to the device via a non-standard (3 section) connector, the standard 3.5mm jack has only 2 sections and this often causes a bad connection. The result was badly distorted audio, often you got no vocals at all and the music sounded distant.

            There are a couple of fixes for this but neither is ideal. The first is to hold the button on the cable down (the middle one in the case of the 3 button cable). This would work about 95% of the time but you had to hold the button down permanently to fix the issue. The second fix is to not fully push the connector in but this was extremely fiddly and worked about 75% of the time, just not if you move around though. My personal opinion is that these cables should never be the only option included in the box.

            I have since tested the original cables with a Samsung Galaxy S2 which worked fine so it could be newer phones or just some phones that this works with. Non-phone devices have been much less reliable though. Some 3.5-6.35mm (1/8″-1/4″) headphone adaptors fix this issue so this can be an easy solution plugging them in to a larger amp.

            Oh and no apart from fixing the main issue I have not been able to notice a difference in audio quality between the original cables and the QED one.

            • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

              I’ve had the issue at several occasions with idevice cables

            • http://www.theideate.com/ Gorboman

              Thanks, Edd. Sometimes I get a similar problem too when connecting to my desktop PC at the office. I might try getting a 3rd party cable as a work around.

      • http://www.theideate.com/ Gorboman

        thanks, mike :)

  • Fabio_Rocks

    The perfect city headphone, period. I wish an all black version. You Wellcome, Edd!

  • ErikTheRed

    Nice review! I’ve actually known the founder of V-Moda (Val Kolton) for many, many years – he may make it look easy, but the guy is just flat-out *obsessed* with music and European-style looks and quality. He spent about half a decade on the M-80 design, and he’s extremely proud of his “baby.” It’s a lot of fun to see other people appreciating his hard work and dedication!

    From what I’ve been told, different phone manufacturers use slightly different connectors and control schemes; if the included cable doesn’t work with your phone their customer support will try to help you out and hook you up with one that does if they’ve got it. They also have “straight-through” cables for DACs/amplifiers, etc. available. And speaking of headphone amplifiers, keep your eyes peeled… they’re going to VAMP things up…

    • Edward Noble

      Thanks Erik! Val’s dedication to the sound certainly pays off for me. I have a DAC/amp obsession so I am eagerly awaiting that as well as the M-100 now so thanks :).

      As for the cable: It’s nice that the customer service will help out here but I just thought it strange that they included two that have serious compatibility issues with most equipment rather that one for some phones and one normal one that works for everything. I know I may have been unlucky so I don’t want to make a big deal out of this but it seemed an unnecessary issue. If a normal cable had been included then there would have been no problems.

      • dalethorn

        This is an interesting question. I wonder what the payoff would be, i.e. how many of the extra cables would get used -vs- thrown away. My VModa Apple compatible cable worked OK on my desktop and laptop computers (Apple and PC-Dell), it just didn’t work on the O2 headamp.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Julian-Junishev/1525337896 Julian Junishev

    I don’t know if I’m capable of writing so many words about these cans. I’ve listened to M-80 for about a minute and I can describe the sound in three words: tough punchy bass.
    Fun cans. Don’t deserve reviews. Just buy and listen. On the street.

  • dalethorn

    I have both, and the DT-1350 wins the points you mentioned. But where the M80 is treble-shy and responds well to a treble boost, it’s also pretty neutral from there down. The 1350 OTOH has a very large emphasis in the midrange around 400-500 hz, giving a substantial hollow sound that’s not only difficult to correct, but when addressed with simple midrange EQ the treble then becomes excessive. The 1350 can be an exciting experience if you can walk between the raindrops with it, getting a perfect fit and tweaking the sound, but taking a broader view of it, it’s really a hassle dealing with it. I’ve had two of them purchased a year apart.

  • http://twitter.com/joshuachw Joshua Chew

    Mike, what laptop is it that is in the picture with the V Moda?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Edd should be able to answer that since he took the pictures.

      I’ll tell him about your question.

      • Edward Noble

        Hey Joshua, the laptop in most images is a Dell Adamo Onyx. A little bit on the old side now as it came out to compete with the original Macbook air so you can pick them up pretty cheap these days (if you can find them still).

        • http://twitter.com/joshuachw Joshua Chew

          Thank you Mike and Ed for the replies..

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  • GrizzlybEast

    What often confuses me is when people say v-shaped but forward mids. I always thought v shaped meant high bass low mids high highs. I have heard the l1 and sent them back because they were used like new but dirty. I liked them because they were non-fatiguing at high volumes. I dont know whether to get the l1 or m80. Which one would sound better with the fiio e12 and would deliver more detail. I do wish the l1′s bass was slightly more controlled but Its quantity is just right and I didn’t mind its loosness. The bass of the l1 was definetly more controlled an enjoyable than the COP’s. A little loosness is actually more true to life than completely tight bass. If it were down to detail which one wins M-80 or L1? And can someone clarify v-shaped. Does that simply mean not nuetral?

    thank you much in advance. i know i had a lot of questions.

    • GrizzlybEast

      reason for these two is the mid-centric signatures and closed portable design. I haven’t found a headphone with recessed mids that I like yet. b&w is less preferred over the l1 to me.

    • dalethorn

      The L1 is a lot more headphone than the M80. The M80 is slightly treble shy – the L1 is not. The L1 does have more bass, but that’s much easier to adjust to than treble shy. You are correct about what v-shaped is supposed to represent.

      • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

        This is interesting dale, because the new batch of M80s I have on the store sounds like what you’re saying, however the old batch definitely has more treble than the L1.

        • dalethorn

          That’s odd, because I bought the V80 when it first came out and it was treble shy, then I got the L1 when it was released and it had full treble. Then v-moda sent me a white M80 a few months later, and it was exactly like the V80. I wouldn’t say the V80 or M80 were severely recessed, maybe down 5 or 6 db at 10 khz.

          • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

            Very weird indeed.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Detail, L1 wins.

      I got a new batch of M80s in my store and interestingly it doesn’t have the clarity of the old batch. The bass is also meatier on the new one but lacks detail.
      With he E12, also the L1 wins.

      • Eli Segal

        I had the M80 about a year ago and really liked the sound of it, now I ordered another pair for my girlfriend, I hope mine was from the new batch and hers will be the same

    • Eric Thompson

      they are sort of wave shaped, low upper treble, forward upper mid’s then a little resesed lower mmids then a little extra bass

  • Vi Le

    What about V moda Crossfade LP

    • dalethorn

      Crossfade LP will give you *big* bass and a better fit with around-the-ear cups and earpads. But for anyone who is interested in the M80, Amazon has been selling new V80s (same as M80) for $115 USD, and I ordered some yesterday. It’s a terrific bargain at $115.

      • Vi Le

        it’s out of stock and the price became 189.99$ :(

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      The LP is a dark sounding headphone with prominent bass. I’d recommend the M100, the bass is good but you also get mid and treble detail.

      • Vi Le

        Thanks :)

  • Allen Gabriel Mirasol Iñigo

    I’m actually a little torn between the m80 and the new Senn Momentum. I mostly listen to rock, punk, alternative, indie kind of music. Any inputs with regards to these two?

    • John123John

      I would first consider comfort (having owned both) as they are fairly different; On ear vs slightly on-ear/ mostly over ear although both headphones can be very comfortable.

      The M80 has a very punchy sound that is great for fast music or music with a lot of snap. The Momentum is a fuller, warmer sounding headphone although not as fast compared to the M80. So it depends on what you want.

      I think the momentum would be the choice for alternative and indie but depending on how aggressive the rock and punk is, the m80 could be a contender as well in an ideal world. Honestly I loved the Momentum and would have to recommend that. Comfort was amazing, looks and all around sound were great.

      but apparently the L2 is amazing as well~

      • Allen Gabriel M. Iñigo

        Thanks a lot for the input John… That really helped. Currently I’m leaning towards the m80 as most of my music are fast ones..