V-MODA Crossfade Wireless a Mixed Bag Page 2

VModa_CrossfadeWireless_Plot_CompareHeadphones

The above plot shows the Crossfade Wireless raw frequency respons plots compared to the raw response plots of the Crossfade LP, LP2, and M-100. Using the dip between 400-500Hz as our baseline reference point, we can see that the LP2 has the largest differences with the deepest dip around 6kHz and characteristically different dip at 2kHz. Disregarding the LP2, the remaining curves are fairly similar, with the Crossfade Wireless having the most elevated response in both bass and treble (it's the most "V" shaped); the M-100 has the next highest bass response (though better extended), and is more even (less extreme ups and downs) in the treble; and the LP has the least bass. But all four plots remain fairly similar to each other.

The reason I bring up these plots is that V-MODA very intentionally indicates they build headphones with two different tunings. From their FAQ:

What's the sound difference between the Crossfade LP, Cropssfade LP2, and Crossfade M-100?

The Crossfade LP and LP2 are part of our "Live Series" with heavy bass, while the Crossfade M-100's and M-80's are part of our "Modern Audiophile" M-Class with more refined mids and highs.

Well, that's not what my ears and measurements are telling me. To my ears all of the V-MODA over-ear headphones have too much bass—which is why even though I recommended them, my M-100 review specifically said they were basshead headphones. For reference, I'll insert my estimate of the Harman headphone target response curve here.

VModa_CrossfadeWireless_Plot_Harman

As you can see, the V-MODA headphones do have a curve somewhat similar to the Harman response, but it's significantly exaggerated. Both the bass and the peak at 3.5kHz are at least 5dB higher than the target response. I'll also note that the M-100 has the most restrained peak at 3.5kHz making it the least offensive and "V" shaped to my ears. The bass hump also bleeds into the mid-range about an octave too far.

When I listen to these headphones as a family I hear a lot of bass emphasis that bleeds up into the lower mid-range, and I hear some sparkle in the treble, but most of the mid-range is too recessed for me to enjoy the music. While these headphones aren't recklessly uneven and do, to some extent, approach the target response curve, they are far to "V" shaped for my music listening.

The thing that really gets my goat though is that V-MODA advertises two different tunings in their headphones when, to my ears and measurements, there's very little difference between them. And they indicate they try to appeal to, or more correctly, redefine tastes for the "modern audiophiles" with this tuning. Well, I think I'm a modern audiophile, and I find these headphones very colored, bordering on abusively so for my music. I would suggest that a better example of a similar tuning but one not so extreme would be the Master & Dynamic MH40, which, even though somewhat colored, I found to be surprisingly pleasing.

But...

In my world, wireless headphones spend more time reproducing phone conversations and movies than music. And, I have to admit, I find these applications to be significantly less sensitive to deviations from neutral—especially if those deviations increase the bass for some extra thump, and increase the treble for extra speech intelligibility. The Crossfade Wireless does just that, and when watching movies and talking on the phone, I find them a perfectly acceptable headset.

Voices have a little extra bloom in the bass, which to my ears gives dialog a little extra rhythm and pace. Sort of like how you know Charlie Brown's teacher has a voice even though it's just a trumpet going, "Wa wa-wa-wawa wha wa-wha." A bit of extra bass in a voice gives it a bloom that modulates with the rhythm of the spoken words. Speech intelligibility is also enhanced with the sparkle in the treble at both 3.5kHz and 10kHz, while the suckout centered at 6kHz prevents these headphones from becoming overly strident during harsh sound effects (car crashes, guns, wind). Add to this audio utility the ability to switch to the cable when the battery runs dry and still have a very similar sound signature, and I found myself happily using the Crossfade Wireless quite often as a headset.

I have to note that in Bluetooth mode the Crossfade Wireless do seem to create a bit more noise than I've experienced with other BT headphones. It's usually not a problem, but I did hear it when the program material was low in volume.

A Little Side-Note
I may have been a little harder on V-MODA than I normally would be to a manufacturer in this review...but the issue of neutrality has me somewhat on edge lately. There are many manufacturers who I find much more flagrantly abusive in their marketing communication, and V-MODA, though they may tend toward the bass-heavy side of things, generally do a terrific job of manufacturing a high-quality product.

Doing this review I realized that I do have a lot to say about the issue of neutrality. While I don't think we'll be able to find neutral exactly, because it's very difficult to define precisely, and while I think there's a few dB of wiggle room to allow for personal tastes and interpretation, I do think neutral exists in principle and it's a worthy goal to have in mind. Honoring the original artistic intent with high-fidelity reproduction (not editorialization) is, in my mind, the highest priority goal of audio gear.

Re-defining neutral for modern audiophiles, or for any other reason, is fraught with the peril of expectation bias—it's very easy to buy your own act. This is a difficult time for headphones: there's a lot of work to be done to get them sounding better, and the market isn't particularly good at rewarding good sound quality with strong sales. I get concerned when I see companies adding confusion to that equation. I've seen too much of this lately and I'll be posting more on this issue very soon.

Summary
Like all V-Moda headphones, the Crossfade Wireless is terrifically well built, has a strong sense of style, is very nicely accessorized, and is comfortable to wear. It's also quite unusual in that its characteristic sound changes very little when going from powered Bluetooth mode to passive wired use.

Unfortunately, its bass-heavy and slightly emphatic and uneven treble character gets in the way of music listening enjoyment for me. On the other hand, these same sonic characteristics seem to work well for movies and telephone communication.

I'll give a guarded recommendation for the Crossfade Wireless. If you're a basshead, you'll probably love these headphones. If you simply want a quality headset for movies and phone calls, these headphones compete pretty strongly against much more expensive wireless cans like the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless. But if you're looking for Bluetooth cans that sound really good, I'd check out the Ausdom M05 for $51. Yes, I'm serious.

Video

Resources
V-MODA home page and Crossfade Wireless product page.
Head-fi reviews and thread.

COMPANY INFO
V-MODA
support@v-moda.com
1.888.VMODA.LA
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
david.parker83's picture

I believe it's AAC/AAC+ btw (will remove this message post-edit)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Actually, I clipped that claim directly from their site. Because of your comment I had a look at wiki's entry on AAC+ but also found this excellent post about the AAC codec family. I'll change the text to AAC+ but I think there's a lot to know about the exact implementation and how it interacts particularly with your device that makes the performance of wireless transmission pretty hard to predict. I will say it generally WAY better than it was 10 years ago, and the tuning of the headphones themselves is probably more relevant than the particular codecs used as long as they're fairly modern. No need to remove your post, and thanks for your comment on the writing. I think I do a decent job of getting ideas across efficiently, but the actual quality of the prose could be way better. I'd need a different brain to get there, however.
david.parker83's picture

Maybe the marketing team got their dirty little red pens on that text before it was published to the VMODA website. :-)

tony's picture

Something happened to the sound and perhaps video quality of your reporting.

I started listening with my RS120s and noticed the crappy sound. So I switched over to my Big System and the quality was even worse.

The Colors and Image quality also seems deteriorating.

Are you having to use a cheapie jiggle Cam?

I bought a gifting pair of V-Moda phones, the folks love em. ( not wireless ) I bought them because of your review! Thanks, nice work!

Tony in Michigan

Tyll Hertsens's picture
The very expensive Canon 7D I bought for photos a year or two ago has a known bug that adds noise to the audio. Today it seemed a bit worse...maybe some random additional RF interference from somewhere. The only fix is a completely new camera for video, or to add a separate audio recorder and add another step and the video production workflow. I've not done it yet because both options suck, but I've had it with the problem at this point. You may see one more with bad sound, but I'm gonna get it fixed.
detlev24's picture

You should have a look at www.magiclantern.fm - a must have on Canon, especially for video!

Best regards

meringo's picture

I'd refrain from using in camera audio, especially when your video quality is that of the 7D. Buy a cheap audio recorder and add that in afterwards. Just my two cents. A homemade clapboard and $50-100 recorder investment would go a long way.

barun432's picture

Appreciate the honest review both in the article and the video. Your videos help people like me, who want to make an informed decision before purchase, unlike the product announcement reviews published by various websites these days who love everything and find everything amazing!!!!

BTW are you going to review the HD 800 S this year?

Merck's picture

Audio Stream is pretty bad about that. Nearly everything they review gets added to the Greatest Bits, and to top it off, it's almost always really expensive stuff. There is certainly a following for that kind of stuff but I actually prefer reading about products that might actually be at a price I may be able to afford. To each his own.

tony's picture

The 7D does far better work.

Call Canon's 800 number and have them look at the Video!

I'll bet they'll send you a New replacement.

They simply can't have their stuff performing like this. I've never seen Color Quality that rough from anything they offer including their Elphs. Betcha you got a bad processor!

On top of all that, I couldn't hear any background sounds that are quite typical of your work on Big Sound.

Something failed, anyway, they'll fix it.

Tony in Michigan

maelob's picture

Tyll - I umderstand your comments about neutral sound but as you know there are a lot of closet "bass heads" in our hobby that actuallu prefer a more colored sound signature.Also i believe this type of headphone is more apt for potable use. I found that for portable use in a noisy enviroment the colored sound signature of the Vmodas is more to my liking than even the Oppo PM-3 which in noisy enviroments i found them boring. I guess something to consider as a future topic would be how sound preferences changes in different environments.

Feilong4's picture

Sorry if this is going off topic or if you've mentioned it already but are the Ausdom M05 and Mee Audio Air-Fi/Air-Fi matrix2 essentially the same headphone but just the Ausdom M05 at a lower price?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
MEE is discontinuing it, so the OEM---who has recognized it's popularity with enthusiasts---will continue to make the same product selling it through their branded channel (Ausdom.com) as the M05.
jcheadphone's picture

Nice review Tyll! Have you ever tried this product? http://thebtunes.com I use it with my Oppo PM-3s to add wireless functionality for my Apple TV and iPad movies etc. It works and sounds great and BTunes even makes a model for some of the Bose QC cans. .

Tagjazz's picture

Hi. I have been looking at the BTunes as an option and also have Oppo PM3. Does it have enough power to make the Oppo's loud enough? I heard that the BTunes lacks volume. Would appreciate your take on it. Cheers.

jcheadphone's picture

I use the BTunes with my PM-3s and Apple TV. Even though Btunes does not have its own volume control, I'm still able to obtain plenty of volume which a few clicks to spare.

Impulse's picture

The discontinued MW600 or it's current day equivalents in the SBH52/54. I've been using the former for years, mainly with my V-Moda XS (and the M-80 previously) but also occasionally at home (NAD HP50, X2, etc).

Yeah you do need to use a cable in between (it and the headphone), but no one says it has to be a long one. I think the cable + clip on the receiver looks more ergonomically versatile than something hanging right off the bottom of the headphone cup.

I tend to use my MW600 with very short 1-3' cables and I just clip it to my shirt collar or even to the headphone's headband if I'm at home. With larger headphones you could even get away with it in the go (having it directly on the headphone that is).

The screen, playback controls, and call functionality are all nice bonuses tho Sony has a smaller/cheaper model without all but the playback controls. The MW600 has a decent amp/DAC section, at least by phone standards.

zobel's picture

and found that they list 53 different on-ear or over-ear Bluetooth wireless headphones!!!!

There were even more in-ear headsets. This looks like an entirely new category for your reviews Tyll. Where to start?

I was mainly interested in the Noontec Bluetooth 4.0 Zoro II, with lossless transmission encoding. I really like the Noontec Zorro II HD, and thought that these might be a good choice for Bluetooth. It goes for $150.

NA Blur gave it a rave review at Head-Fi, so I ordered one to give as a gift. Are you thinking about starting a section of tests and reviews of your own on the latest and greatest Bluetooth cans?

zobel's picture

I wonder how many different headphones are on the market now. It must be a staggering number. Fifteen years ago there were only a fraction of models of headphones available. Even then I remember a little shop in Bozeman MT, on Peach Street, where the staff was swimming in cans. Trivia question; Who said "We handle headphones with pitchforks here." ?

zobel's picture

That was closer to 18 years ago...

ednaz's picture

I have a number of the headphones you mentioned, right down to wearing ES5 for lawn work... the MEE wireless, which continues to baffle me by how good it sounds at the price or forgetting about price, but how little environmental isolation they have. Over ear sealed... but they don't sound that way. I also have a set of V-Moda, and specifically to listen to some types of music that I think are compatible with them, but I've found each of the V-Moda to be also very poorly isolating compared to other sealed headphones. Almost an echo of environmental noise. I've also found that the V-Moda seem to sound better with my i-devices and terrible with the few high def players I've got, for the same reasons you identify here.

I've pretty much abandoned wireless other than for bluetooth talk - one ear. I love my music, and the wires are a minuscule price to pay for great sound. My wife's a books on tape enthusiast and loves her bluetooth earphones, which I find put my teeth on edge.

Mr.TAD91's picture

Your review was as accurate as a first-rate studio monitor.

Cheers!

Dawindyk's picture

I hope M05 changes a lot compared to OOB because otherwise I have no clue what You're writing about. Yes it's cheap and sound is kinda OK but kinda at best. Soundstage is practically nonexistent, bass is boomy and uncontrolled and highs are very muted. For me it's at least as bassy as VMODA but lacks nice sparkle, details and some soundstage that was present in VMODA

Paul Williams's picture

Tyll, based on your recommendation I've just bought the Ausdom M05. Initially I thought they had a great mid range, but seemed a bit bloated in the bass and dark in the treble - but after a week's listening I really like them. I find them non-fatiguing and fun. Any chance you could measure them? Also as I'm a vinyl fan I listen to them mostly wired rather than wireless. Would they measure differently wired v wireless. (Note: I bought the cheapest Audioquest cable I could find which made them sound even better.) Thanks

alex.wood518's picture

Tyll, can you review the Shure SRH940's? I wanna here your take on them

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