Review: V-Moda Crossfade M-100 Headphone

We're not sure about you, but here at Sound+Vision we've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of V-Moda's M-100 since we first glimpsed it at the 2012 CES. It's been a long and interesting road for the company's latest full-sized, audiophile-friendly 'phone, with many changes stemming from the active input from the community of headphone enthusiasts at Head-Fi. And the Crossfade M-100 is finally here.

In thethat early version M-100 looked like it might provide the smoother mids and clearer highs of the on-ear M-80 in the form factor of the DJ-friendly, bass-forward LP2 - but along the way Head-Fiers chimed in with an unbelievable number of keen observations and feature requests, and the headphone has evolved into a very interesting do-it all: a full-size, high performance portable (it folds up even smaller than its on-ear predecessor), that includes some very cool features, including a system of swappable cables for nearly every need.

V-Moda CEO Val Kolton has dropped by the S+V offices a couple of times this past month, the first time with a selection of near-complete prototypes, and ultimately with the finished product; a sample from the first preproduction run of ~200 units, most of which have been circulating among Head-Fiers and magazine and Web reviewers for the past couple of weeks (and I'd guess most of them, like myself, have been spending the majority of their headphone listening time with the new V-Modas).

But enough speculation. On to the headphones.

Getting Acquainted

The first thing that'll strike you upon opening the M-100's substantial packaging is how small the clamshell travel case is. If you're familiar with the M-80, it's about half the size. Open the zipper, and you'll find the M-100 folded up on itself, collapsed into a softball-sized package (the case almost seems too small to hold the 'phones, but don't worry, there's sufficient stretch to make it all work, even with the cable attached). You'll also find, nestled in elastic bands, a pair of cables - one in bright orange (a selection, Kolton tells us, of Head-Fi's Jude Mansilla), the other in black. 

The orange cable includes a mic and a universal one-button remote; the black has a second 1/8-inch jack on an extension, for sharing your signal with a friend. Another smaller elastic strap retains a 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch adapter, while an extra slot can secure a USB thumb drive (or, perhaps, an AudioQuest Dragonfly DAC/headphone amp or similar miniature source device).

The cable can attach on either side; to cover the unused port V-Moda's thoughtfully provided a plug (there are two in the package) that fits securely with a twist. I can't imagine it coming loose under normal use. Likewise, the hinges seem very solid. Kolton tells us that after voicing, the folding mechanism was the most difficult aspect of the M-100 to get right. The parts are replaceable should they fail (and V-Moda's always offered a solid warranty, so there's no need to worry on this front).

A made for iOS cable is in the works, as is a DJ-friendly coiled cable that terminates in a 1/4-inch plug, and a very interesting gaming-oriented cable that includes a mic mounted on a miniature flexible boom at the headphone attachment point (we got to see a prototype of this, and it's a very nice solution that really should increase the M-100's do-it-all flexibility without forcing you to carry around unnecessary features if you don't want to.

Turning to the 'phones themselves, the M-100 itself looks quite similar to V-Moda's previous models. You'd be hard pressed to distinguish it from the LP2 save for the hinges on the frame, and the ear cups outer shells are faced with V-Moda's familiar customizable "shields." The comfortably padded headband is reminiscent of the previous M-80. For now, the M-100 is available in three finishes, V-Moda's mainstay white pearl (to match your white iDevice, naturally) and shadow (black with a suede-finish band and red accents), along with a new matte-black look, without any highlights at all. We got the matte version, and it's a very slick looking headphone in person (and, if such things concertn you, it's a bit more sedate than is the norm for V-Moda stuff, which can tend towards the blingy).

While the on ear M-80 wasn't immediately comfortable for me (I did manage to get used to it over the course of a few days), the M-100 fit fine on first attempt; clamping pressure seems right on, and the cups are correctly sized for my ears; I was able to get a good seal even while wearing classes. Padding is dense, and if there's any downside compared to the the M-80 it's that given your local climate you might find the larger headphone warmer and a bit sweatier for long sessions. But given how it sounds, I think that's a small price to pay.

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