V-MODA 'LP' Around-Ear (yet portable) Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Dec 8, 2014.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube review: http://youtu.be/GchpUX35buM


    Sources: iPhone6+ with Portaphile Micro/PA2V2/Decware Zen Head amps using the LOD, various computers using Microstreamer/Beyer A200p/v-moda Verza DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the V-MODA LP are based on direct comparisons to other headphones - the v-moda M100 and XS, the FAD Pandora VI and IV, the Beyerdynamic T1 and T90, the AKG K812 and K712, and notes that I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I'll describe how I relate to the LP (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    The LP's sound is dark and bassy, having less output in the presence area around 3-5 khz and more output in the upper bass than many other full-size headphones (ex: v-moda M100, Beyer DT770, etc.) Some of the other dark-sounding headphones I have do compete with the LP in overall presentation and balance, but don't always have the clarity and accuracy of tone that comes with the higher quality drivers and manufacturing standards that the LP benefits from. I can't say much more about the sound except that I re-tune it in a sense, using my favorite EQ app - Audioforge. That gives me the lower bass and upper treble to satisfy my hi-fi listening, and because of that higher quality construction I mentioned, the LP delivers that enhanced sound without distortion or muddiness - excellent clear sound in fact (see above chart or check my dalethorn website under Photos and Audioforge no.3.)

    The LP's isolation is modest - possibly less than average for a full-sized closed headphone, but given the design to be used in environments where increased volume is the intent, not likely a concern outside of passenger jets or very noisy trains. Leakage is also moderate, and unlikely to be a problem when used on a train, bus, or jet plane, but if used in a public library or a very quiet office, volume would have to be kept below audiophile levels. My 4 v-moda M100's were black and white (2 each), but this time I got a rouge-red color with textured custom earcup plates. The LP looks so similar to the M100 (given similar colors) that most people probably wouldn't know the difference unless the M100 hinges were pointed out to them. The LP uses the same ultra-quality earpads as the M100, and those are a dream fit for me. Users who need larger or deeper earpads can buy the XL earpads for the LP, which I assume are installable the same as the M100 series.

    This LP's darkish red colors are beautiful, and its military-grade look is not only very classy, the build quality is the best in the headphone business - all metal and perfectly finished, but not heavy on the head. At least part of the reason this LP is so comfortable is the design that's shaped to fit the head without anything sticking out like an astronaut helmet etc. The additional benefit of that design is the look - I've never seen a better-looking headphone on anyone's head. V-MODA's newer 'XS' headphone used the marketing slogan "Mind the Gap" to describe how that headphone was contoured to fit its users' heads more closely and securely than previous models, and especially its competitors' headphone models. But the LP certainly looked forward to that design, which is very apparent when you see just how closely it fits most heads. The LP's range of adjustment is slightly more than an inch on each side from where it fits me - about half an inch up or down.

    My v-moda LP came with 2 cables, each about 2m long, one with a control box and one without. These are fabric-covered cables, and don't stick to clothing like many of the rubber cables do. The ends that detach from the earcups are generic miniplugs, so generic cables can be used as long as the sleeves ahead of the miniplugs are narrow enough to fit into the earcup socket. The business end of the cables are 45-degree angled miniplugs - the most ideal kind. This headphone came with a perfect stiff zippered carry case, slightly longer than the M100 case (since the LP doesn't have collapsible hinges like the M100 does), but about the same thickness, so it will fit into backpacks and most luggage easily. Note that when using the LP as a portable headphone, a carry case isn't essential, since the headphone can be pulled off the head and worn around the neck with the earcups pulled all the way down.

    In previous reviews I've included the following music examples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to those other reviews and see how the LP compares with each individual track. Note that the comments below apply to the LP's sound played with the Audioforge equalizer as noted above.
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    V-MODA LP review part 2 - music samples

    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has excellent detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The LP plays this very well.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled perfectly by the LP.

    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 LP.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The LP plays this music smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Great sound quality - this is a good test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled extremely well by the LP.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The LP plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track.

    Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are crisp and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The LP reproduces the space and detail very well.

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the LP renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The LP plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are very detailed but not edgy - very musical in fact.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track 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 is clearly recognizable.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The LP reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are normally very extended and detailed, but the LP needs some treble boost to get the full upper-harmonics effect.

    Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The LP plays this music perfectly.

    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 solid deep-bass response. The LP plays this music extremely well.

    Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has excellent detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The LP plays this track perfectly.

    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 LP. 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.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The LP provides great detail. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for best-case detail. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the LP does those very well.

    Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The LP plays the fundamental tone pretty well, but not quite as detailed as some of the better planar headphones I've used.

    Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2014, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the LP is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    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 fairly subtle with the LP.

    Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the LP renders this music as perfectly as I've heard an energetic pop-rock recording played with any headphone.

    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 LP reproduces that sound effect perfectly.

    Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The LP conveys that experience fairly well, but with less impact than some of the better planar headphones I've used. The Tympani also have good impact here.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E LP K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is normally fairly bright and detailed, but the LP needs some treble boost to render the tones and transients properly, and to reproduce the full upper harmonics of the harpsichord.

    Tiger Okoshi - Bootsman's Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant "bite". The LP's reproduction is near-perfect, and the close-miked piano is also a treat. For comparison, I have several Maynard Ferguson tracks that feature a similarly strong trumpet with lots of brassy bite.

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

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