VModa M-80 Review by Edd Noble

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COMPARISONS

For this section I will mostly be comparing the VModa M-80 to the Sennheiser HD25-1 II because these headphones are aimed at a very similar audience: Both are small, have great build quality, good isolation, versatile signatures and class leading sound quality. The HD25 (I’ll use this truncated name now for sanity reasons) was a favourite of mine at work and on the move for the past 5 years. Then along came the M-80 and completely won me over. To improve on an iconic headphone such as the HD25 is really something quite special as this is a lot of people’s favourite.

The M-80 feels faster and more detailed, the bass kicks harder and is more textured. The upper midrange sounds nice and forward like the HD25 but despite this the M-80 feel less sibilant (a common complaint of the Sennheiser). The ‘v-shaped’ response feels less apparent with the M-80 but that still makes the mids a little recessed. Personally I like this approach but it makes the M-80 feel more neutral / less bright by comparison and that could disagree with some people’s preferences. Generally speaking I think the M-80 improves on pretty much everything over the HD25 but apart from the subjective mid presentation there are a couple of small areas where the HD25 has the edge. The first is comfort, the HD25 feel a bit nicer on the ear for slightly longer periods being a little larger headphone but it’s still an on-ear so the difference is not huge. The second aspect is isolation, the HD25 wins here too because of the M-80′s porting but this is a double edge sword because it also provides a nicer soundstage. That’s not to say the isolation of the M-80 is poor, far from it, they’re just not as good the HD25.

BUILD QUALITY

The build quality of the M-80s could easily be described as ‘tank-like’ and maybe the military grade durability is influencing me there but it’s a fair statement. There is a lot of metal used in the construction, both in the cups and the headband. This shows when you pick them up as they feel considerably more dense / heavier than say the Sennheiser HD25 but that’s certainly not a criticism. They don’t feel too heavy and are generally pretty comfortable (albeit not for long periods – see above). VModa do make a larger over-ear headphone in the form of the more bass-heavy LP2 and are rumoured to be planning a combination of the LP2′s size with the M-80′s sound signature (M-100?). I for one really hope this is true.

Apart from being strong and aesthetically pleasing the large screws you see on all VModa headphones are also for customisation of the metal shield plates on the cups. New plates can be ordered in several colours but you can also have a set design (or any monotone image you send them) laser engraved to the surface. Given the already great looks and build to this design this is a wonderful way to increase the desirability factor even further for people who want to show them off. For the first time people can be just as proud of the sound quality as the style.

Although the build quality could easily withstand being thrown in to a bag every day there is also a nice, tough, moulded case provided. Removable cables are a nice touch too (especially the standard 3.5mm plug on both ends). Two are included and both are kevlar reinforced with a button/s and a mic for use with a phone. I had some compatibility issues with these cables due to them seemingly being aimed at Apple users. It seems to be related to the buttons, mic and connections at the device end (I know of at least 3 other people that reported the same issue). Apparently they will work with some other devices but they didn’t work properly (audio distortion) with my phone, computer or my DACs. This meant I had to buy another cable but at least it was cheap, easy and possible. In case anyone would like to know which one I used in the pictures: It’s a ‘QED Profile’ cable (99.999% pure copper). It was fairly cheap, worked well and it matched the VModa styling quite nicely.

SUMMARY

If you are looking for a neat, sturdy, good looking, fairly neutral, well isolated headphone with absolutely stunning sound quality then I highly recommend them. Their performance and versatility is extremely impressive and a good DAC/amp pushes that quality even higher.

The relatively neutral response yet great bass & mid tones, the good isolation yet surprising sound-stage, the durability yet customisation… This is an amazing example of balanced features that not only works but puts it on top of my recommendation list for this category.

They might be difficult to try before you buy but if you are aware of their minor shortcomings I don’t think you can be disappointed. The fact that they do all this and with such aesthetic styling just seems too good to be true. The competition should be very concerned indeed – this newcomer is making the headphone business look easy.

 

EDD_1496 vmoda_m80_08 vmoda_m80_07 vmoda_m80_06 vmoda_m80_05 vmoda_m80_04 vmoda_m80_03 vmoda_m80_02 vmoda_m80_01

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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..