It’s been over 2 years since the introduction of V-MODA’s first attempt at an audiophile-friendly sound, their M-80 on-ear headphones. In those two years, they released an over-ear model that diverged from neutrality with respect to the 80s. It’s 2014 and V-MODA has released a successor to the M-80, dubbed the XS, these headphones are flatter and represent a natural progression to the original M-80. Is it worth the price? Is it worth the upgrade? Read on to find out.
Driver: 40 mm Dynamic
Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 30 kHz
Impedance: 28.5 ohms
Sensitivity: 105 dB / mW
In the Box
Cable with Remote and Mic
With the release of the XS, V-MODA keeps the original aesthetics of the M-80 on hand, they were already successful, and look great. In addition, they nixed the Shadow color scheme and replaced it with a matte black that matches that of the matte M-100. The orange cable does set them apart. The matte black color scheme is very minimalistic and simply disappears. The other color scheme is a pearly white color with silver accents that has an edgier feel to it (Personally, I prefer the white color scheme).
Note: the white headphones pictured are the M-80, the color scheme and housing is the same though.
As I stated, the design of the M-80 and XS are just about exact with a few small details. The new XS collapse in like the M-100 and get even smaller (hence its name). The familiar hexagon housings feel great in the hand and look pleasing. V-MODA offers customization options as well for faceplates to add your own personal touch to the ‘phones.
Many audiophiles, after hearing the M-80 were expecting the M-100 to be an over-ear version of the M-80. It wasn’t… The XS goes in the opposite direction and becomes more neutral, something a lot of audiophiles wanted the M-100 to do. This is definitely a good sign. Overall, the XS retain the warm signature of the M-80, but become just slightly more neutral. As with the M-100, a pair of V-Corks are included. These, however, are shaped more like a headphone jack and pretty much universal. They are supposed to help with misbalanced sound with dual inputs.
More specifically, when we get into the bass regions, we find that the XS keeps itself well controlled throughout, although it does have a slight mid-bass hump that it inherits from the M-80, it’s smaller and more controlled though. Bass depth is improved over the predecessor as bass does dig deeper textures beautifully. Bass impacts are strong and thicker while the midbass isn’t the tightest and holds average speed.
The midrange holds a very nice medium between laid back and aggressive, it’s actually a good middle ground though as it keeps the XS inviting while not ridding of any details. That said, the detailing is all there while the clarity is gorgeously rendered giving the upper midrange that bit of energy it needs. Vocals were something that the M-80 did well, and that is another thing that the XS inherits from it. Vocals are dynamic allowing them to get lush while also being able to go up high.
As we go up into the treble range, we find that this is where the sound does take a slight step back like the M-80, but to a lesser degree. The lower treble holds good extension though could be slightly better in some places. It also details well and has OK presence overall. V-MODA states that the XS does extend in the treble better than the M-80, and I’ll admit it does, but the upper highs just don’t seem to hold enough presence or power unfortunately. Separation and clarity (in notes) are done fantastically though.
If there is something that V-MODA has always been good with, it’s build quality. Each V-MODA model goes through quite a bit of torture testing… Er… I mean quality testing. That said, it’ll survive with or without a case. One compact case is included though. The included karabiner clip allows this case to be convenient as well. It is extremely compact in size, so the internal straps designed for the cable don’t fit the cable and headphones that well in one little package. Either way, there is another spot for the cable.
If you look around the headphone’s housings, or even the headphones in general, you’ll see very little plastic. Metal housings, hinges, and arms are all strong and robust. The build is just like the M-100’s, except in a smaller size. The quality is all there still. The ClickFold hinges feel very nice when they click and actually give a nice clicking sound (hence their name).
Recycle, reuse, reduce… V-MODA has a knack for redoing things, and the headband is one of those. The headband on the XS is the same, quality one found on the M-80, why fix something that isn’t broken. The headband has a flexible metal core and is quite strong and just about immune to warping and twisting.
V-MODA includes one cable with the XS (as opposed to two with the M-100). The cable is the same one they have been using for the longest time now. The exterior is fabric and has a good texture. Internally, V-MODA also reinforced the cable with Kevlar to ensure it wouldn’t break or snap in the long run. I don’t see any issues with the cabling V-MODA chose build wise.
Like with the M-80, the XS are lightweight that makes them great for on the go use and those extra long jam sessions that you may go through. As with all other V-MODA models, the pads on these are memory foam and soft to the touch.
Additionally, V-MODA does also have the “Mind-the-Gap” advertisement on these that gives the headphones a smaller profile. This doesn’t only make them look better on someone, but also allows the headband to hug your head, dissipating the pressure along your head (instead of one spot) and improving comfort.
The overall package that the XS provide is what really makes the selling point for these. They are priced right at 212 dollars and are worth every single dollar you drop on them. They offer a stellar, customizable design with robust build quality and can be worn for hours. The sound is audiophile friendly but can be enjoyed by just about anyone. They are a good, supplemental upgrade over the M-80.
I know I said this earlier in the review, but sonically, I do prefer the XS’ sound over the M-100’s, it’s simply flatter and more audiophile friendly. That said, I do believe this is the best headphone V-MODA’s designed to date, which is a tough feat to do. The XS is a headphone that proves to be an extremely well-designed, well-thought out ‘phone that excels all around.
I’d like to thank Eric for the product sample