V-MODA Forza Metallo In-Ear (IEM) Stereo Earphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Nov 14, 2016.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Photo: http://dalethorn.com/Photos/iPhone7p/Headphone_Vmoda_Forza_Metallo_01.jpg

    Sources: iPhone7+ with Oppo HA-2/AudioQuest DragonFly Black DAC/amps, various computers using the AudioQuest DragonFly v1.2/Lehmann Traveller DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the V-MODA Forza Metallo ('Forza' from here on) earphone/IEM are based on comparisons to other IEM's (Sennheiser IE800, RHA T20, FAD FI-BA-SS, B&O H3 etc.), to a few reference headphones, and to notes I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I will describe how I relate to this IEM (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use this earphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    My favorite IEM was the Sennheiser IE800, which once sold for $1000 USD, but costs less now. I relate to the IE800 as having a 'powerful' sound, with decent mids and a fairly smooth treble, but especially for the strong (but not bloated) bass it provided. I don't know why the Forza Metallo sounds better, and it may be that IEM tech has just gotten better in the last 4-5 years, but the difference is amazing. The bass for example just rises out of somewhere below and exerts an authority that my best headphones (in terms of the bass) come close to but don't quite equal. I think part of that is because the Forza is much easier to drive from low-power devices than the big-beast headphones, and so the bass has the right amount of power, with good detail and tightness. How tight and detailed will depend on the eartips you use and how they seal to your ear canals. Note that while the bigger headphones' bass improves with a good DAC/amp, it's not easy to match the tightness and detail of a good IEM.

    Since the Forza is such great hi-fi, I ran a response curve to get a sense of how it sounds, frequency balance wise, compared to my many headphones. The bass is spectacular, at least with portable devices (desktop amps may thin it out a bit), the mids are perfect, and the very modest treble emphasis I hear between 3.5 to 5 khz is purely a function of the eartip to ear canal seal, since it's obvious from listening that there are no obvious resonances as I hear with most headphones, even the expensive types. So whatever the miracle is in making the Forza this good, I won't question it, and the short selection of music tracks below will serve to illustrate some key properties of the sound. Note that it's possible to have a 'flat' frequency response with a headphone yet not a really musical or tonally authentic sound, because tone sweeps don't reveal certain factors such as timing and phase errors, to name a couple. I prefer single drivers myself, since they minimize those errors.

    Isolation with the Forza is very high - good enough to use in an area near a busy freeway and still hear musical details, although if you're in the traffic on a bus or train, some of the very soft details may be out of reach unless you crank up the volume, which isn't a good idea. Leakage will not be an issue unless you're in an extremely quiet place, the volume is quite loud, and other persons' heads are right next to yours. The Forza cable is plastic or rubber coated and looks to be extremely strong. There are strain reliefs that go into the earpieces, but don't expect them to withstand constant hard tugging over a long period of time. The cable is about 4 ft long, and terminated with an Apple-style miniplug in my case. There is also an Android version. The mic and 3-button control is on the right, about 5-6 inches down from the earpiece (the control box is an inch long).

    The Forza Metallo comes with a small flat leather case, 4 extra sets of eartips, a clothing clip to keep the cable secure when in use, over-the-ear hooks for stability, 3 sets of inside-the-ear 'fins' for additional stability, and the usual literature and warranty. I've had quite a bit of experience with earphone users on audio forums who purchased cloned or fake (fugazi) earphones, and it rarely has a good outcome. Be sure to get the genuine Forza.

    Final word: The nature of IEM's - the better ones at least, is to sound sharp and detailed, partly because the drivers are much smaller than full-size headphones and thus have a 'faster' response to input signals, and partly because they couple much more closely to the eardrum. That said, I still find the Forza Metallo to be the best I've heard since the Sennheiser IE800, although I can't compare those directly at this point. Given the list price of $130, it's a no-brainer and an ideal gift.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can really feel the weight they carry with the Forza.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track with the Forza has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sound is clearly identifiable.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound and feel that indicates a good deep-bass response. Overall, the Forza plays this music very well.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the Forza. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is impressive with the Forza.

    Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The Forza reproduces those sound effects with a reasonably good tonality.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are strong and work well with the horns and other instruments. The Forza delivers the impacts with excellent weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2016
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