V-MODA Forza Sport Hybrid In-Ear (IEM) Stereo Earphone review by Dale

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Nov 17, 2016.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube review:

    Photo: http://dalethorn.com/Photos/iPhone7p/Headphone_Vmoda_Forza_Sport_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 Sport Hybrid ('Forza' from here on) earphone/IEM are based on comparisons to other IEM's (RHA T20, FAD FI-BA-SS, B&O H3, V-MODA Forza Metallo 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. The Forza Sport Hybrid wins over the IE800 in bass response, and despite the big cost difference, it's not a close call. You have to hear the Forza's bass detail to appreciate it. Treble is where the IE800 wins, and even the Forza Sport's cousin the Forza Metallo is ahead of the game slightly there. The Forza Sport may actually be as good as these others for some users with different eartips, but that all depends on the user's ear canals. The potential is there, so eartip selection is the key. I can't say much about the Forza Sport's midrange, except that I found no particular colorations there, which is pretty amazing given that my $500, $600, and $1700 headphones do exhibit some midrange colorations.

    Since the Forza is such good 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 moderate treble emphasis I hear between 3 to 5 khz is largely a function of the eartip to ear canal seal, since it's clear from listening that there are no obvious resonances as I hear with most headphones, even the expensive types. So whatever the science is in making the Forza Sport, 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 very 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 Sport Hybrid comes with a small surfer-style bag, 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 Sport Hybrid to be one of the best IEM's I've heard. Given the list price of $99, 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.

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