V-MODA M-100 Stereo Headphone review by Dale

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Dec 17, 2012.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Youtube video review: http://youtu.be/KKXD_He6Izc
    Youtube "sound quality" review: http://youtu.be/bdg_l6L9D5k

    Photo #1: http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Panasonic_Lx7/Headphone_Vmoda_M100_01.jpg
    Photo #2: http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Panasonic_Lx7/Headphone_Vmoda_M100_02.jpg

    Sources: iPhone4 alone, iPhone4 with FiiO E17 using LOD, various computers using Audioengine D1 DAC and the D1's headphone out.

    First impression of the V-MODA M-100: Bass! The kind you don't have to quibble about. It's there in abundance for any conceivable need you might have. That aside, I see this M-100 as 2 headphones in one (a bargain BTW) - the extra-bass model for gaming, TV action film, house and other bass-centric music, and the hi-fi model (using bass reduction) for symphonies, folk and acoustic, jazz, rock/pop/metal, and other such delicate genres. Unless otherwise noted, all comments below apply to the M-100 using bass reduction, since I listen to music only, and my tastes are mostly midrange-centric.

    The M-100's sound is somewhat dark, having less output in the presence area around 3-6 khz, and more output in the upper bass/lower midrange than my other full-size headphones (Sennheiser Momentum, Shure 1840). Some of the other dark-sounding headphones I have such as the Phiaton MS-400 don't compete with the M-100, because they don't have the clarity and accuracy of musical tone that comes with the higher quality drivers and manufacturing standards that the M-100 benefits from. Despite the impression of "dark", the overall sound is quite lush, and very smooth from top to bottom. Although I stated above that all of the comments from here down apply to using bass reduction with the M-100, I must repeat here that with bass reduction on, the bass is as strong as the Sennheiser Momentum, and the Momentum's bass is significantly stronger than neutral headphones. With bass reduction off (played flat), the M-100's bass overwhelms the midrange for the types of music I listen to.

    Some of the reviews I've read describe the M-100's midrange as recessed, but of course that's with the default bass as I noted above. The only thing I would add to my above comments about the sound is a fairly strong output around 8 khz, which may emphasize sibilants on music tracks that have noticeable sibilants. This occurred with 2 of my 1800 tracks, and those were still fine at slightly reduced volume, so not an issue for me. In summary, excellent sound for high fidelity music playback, if you follow my line of reasoning. Soundstage seems average or better for a full-size closed headphone, isolation is also about average (10 db?), and leakage is moderate even with the extra earcup jack plugged. If you were using the M-100 in a quiet office next to someone else's cubicle, they would hear some sound if you played music at a normal audiophile listening volume.

    The M-100 in white (my color choice) is beautiful, and being an eggshell or pearl white, it not only looks very classy, it doesn't tend to show dirt and grime. The white M-80 is made the same way, and wearing the M-80 around outdoors for months, I never noticed anything that needed to be cleaned. The really unusual, possibly unique thing about the M-100's appearance is the combination of a military-industrial build with the pearl-white and stainless-steel/silver finish. It's like having your own Abrams tank or B2 bomber in a custom finish - spectacular! At the time I purchased the M-100, an extra set of metal earcup side plates was offered free, with choice of color and even a custom logo. Headband clamping force with the M-100 is very moderate for a full-size headphone, and if the headband were ever to become uncomfortable on top of a user's head, I suggest pulling the earcups down an extra click so most of the weight is borne by the earcups.

    The earpads go completely around my ears, unlike some headphones that are described as circumaural (around the ear). The Sennheiser Momentum is one such headphone where the earpads sit partially on my average-size ears. The earpads are very soft and spongy, covered in 'pleather' I would guess, and are the most comfortable type of earpad I've used. The dark grey earpad color is an amazing contrast with the pearl-white headphone - whoever designed this must be a fashion genius. The M-100 is the first headphone I've had with a single-sided detachable cable that can be plugged into either the left or right earcup. The 4-foot grey fabric-covered cable is terminated with a 45-degree angled Apple miniplug, and the end that goes into the earcup is a standard (non-Apple) miniplug. In case of cable failure, any generic miniplug to miniplug cable could be used, as long as the sleeve ahead of the plug that goes into the earcup is no bigger than 7mm in diameter.

    The 4-foot cable has a one-button control with mic about 13 inches down from the earcup, and an additional mic about 4 inches down from the earcup. A second (7-foot) cable is included, having the same plugs as the 4-foot cable, but no controls or microphone. The 7-foot cable also has a short (3.5 inches) extension on the end in a 'Y' configuration, where you can plug a second headphone in. I didn't try it, but I wonder what the effect on the sound would be if you plugged two 18-ohm headphones into a music player using this cable. It seems like that would create a 9-ohm load for the music player, or even less if the minimum impedance of the headphones were less than 18 ohms. The M-100 comes with a small white zippered carrycase that's suitable for backpacks and airline carry-on bags. This carrycase is plain white, not the pearl-white color of the headphone.

    In other reviews I've done 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 other reviews and see how the M-100 compares with each individual track.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2012
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Test tracks for v-moda M100 review

    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 exceptionally well by the M-100.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note for this headphone are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts won't overwhelm you since they're soft and well in the background, but you can really feel the weight they carry.

    Blues Project - Caress Me Baby (1966): Rarely mentioned, but one of the greatest white blues recordings ever. The loud piercing guitar sound at 0:41 into the track is a good test for distortion or other problems. Handled perfectly here.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Good sound quality - this is a great test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled well by the M-100.

    Buffalo Springfield - Kind Woman (~1968): A Richie Furay song entirely, rarely mentioned, but one of the best sounding rock ballads ever. This will sound good on most headphones, and sounds good with the M-100.

    Cat Stevens - Morning Has Broken (early 70's): A near-perfect test for overall sound - this track will separate the best sounding headphones from the lesser quality types. Nothing specific, except that almost any deviation from perfect reproduction will stand out with this track. Sounds very good on the M-100.

    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 M-100 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Def Leppard - Bringin' On The Heartbreak (1981): MTV goth/pop/metal at its best - good ambience and high energy - the better headphones will separate the details and make for a good experience. Lesser quality and the details tend to mush together. The M-100 plays this very well.

    J.S. Bach - E. Power Biggs Plays Bach in the Thomaskirche (~1970): Recorded on a tracker organ in East Germany, the tracks on this recording have the authentic baroque sound that Bach composed for, albeit the bellows are operated by motor today. The M-100 plays the tones seamlessly through the upper limits of the organ, which cover nearly the full range of human hearing. Of special note are the pedal notes - tracker organs have low-pressure pipes and don't typically produce the kind of impact around 30-35 hz that modern organs do. A headphone that's lacking even a little in the low bass will sound especially bass-shy with this type of organ, but the M-100 delivers the full experience of this music.

    Jamming With Edward - It Hurts Me Too (1969): Intended originally as a test to fill studio down time and set recording levels etc., this was released a few years later for hardcore Rolling Stones fans. Although not as good technically in every aspect as the Chess studio recordings of 1964, and in spite of the non-serious vocals by Mick Jagger, this rates very high on my list of white blues recordings, and sounds absolutely delicious with the M-100.

    Jennifer Warnes - Rock You Gently (1992?): The strong deep bass percussion at the beginning of this track has been cited as a test for weakness or distortion in certain headphones. The M-100 plays those notes with good impact and control. Having played this track a number of times now, I'm impressed with the M-100's bass reproduction and detail throughout the track.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has some loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical on some headphones. The M-100 provides very good reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in, for maximum detail effect. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrumental separation and detail, and the M-100 plays them well.

    Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch (~2009): Featured in The September Issue, this song has heavy overdub and will sound a bit muddy on some headphones. Sounds great with the M-100.

    Milt Jackson/Wes Montgomery - Delilah (Take 3) (1962): The vibraphone is heavily dependent on harmonics to sound right, and the M-100 plays it very well.

    Pink Floyd/Dark Side of the Moon - Speak To Me (1973): Strong deep bass impacts will be heard and felt here.

    Rolling Stones - Stray Cat Blues (1968): Dirty, gritty blues that very few white artists could match. On some headphones the vocals and guitar lack the edge and fall more-or-less flat. If you're a really good person, playing this song will probably make you feel nervous and uneasy.

    Tony Bennett - I Left My Heart In San Francisco (1962): Frank Sinatra's favorite singer. Highest recommendation. With some of the best headphones, the sibilants on this recording are very strong, but they're not too bad with the M-100.
     
  3. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Heresy

    I was intending to wait a couple of weeks (who has that kind of time?) to compare the M100 and Sennheiser Momentum at length. But I did a critical compare last night, and I found that I'm going to have to repeat this a few more times to get a definitive result. The M100 tested favorably against the Momentum, but it's not a simple listen. With bass reduction applied to the M100, the bass is roughly equivalent, but I didn't get a clear winner on detail. The M100 was the clear winner on treble. The Momentum's treble is more recessed than the Shure 1840, which I feel is the minimum standard for neutrality. The M100 compares better to the 1840, and although the M100 is alleged to have a treble peak, it's either not that significant or I've tuned it out somehow. Mids are really tricky. Depending on which you start with and then switch to after a few minutes of listening, the M100 can sound dark and a little murky (compared to the Momentum), or the Momentum can sound dry and somewhat lifeless compared to the M100.
     
  4. benatat

    benatat New Member

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    V-MODA M-100 Stereo Headphone review

    First post here!

    So, I've been trying to figure out a good headphone to be my first serious one. I have previously only ever used Apple Earbuds, which have left much to be desired in terms of sound quality and isolation. I'm looking for a pair of headphones that will be used primarily to listen to progressive metal, death core type metal, classical orchestral pieces, and reggae.
    It needs to have relatively good isolation, enough so that I can travel on planes and subways comfortably, without ruining my hearing or disturbing others. It also should be very durable, due to my clumsy nature :( . My budget is right around 300 dollars-tops. 200-250 would be much preferable, but if it makes that much of a difference I could stretch it up. The headphones should also be completely closed and VERY comfortable. Bare minimum fatigue if possible. One last thing: these will be used un-amped and primarily from an iPod or MacBook, so if it came with a cable with volume controls that'd be good, but not a deal breaker if it doesn't. I've been looking at:

    Logitech UE 6000
    Shure SRH940
    V-MODA M-100
    Bose QuietComfort 15
    Philips Fidilio L1


    Of those, which would you recommend for my needs? Or do you think there's something better out there?

    Thanks in advance,
    Ben
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2012
  5. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Logitech 6000 would be good for some music, but for black metal etc. you get either dull in passive mode or hot treble in active. Also huge, really huge bass in active mode. The Shure 940 has a neutral bass where the 6000 is boosted, and the 940 treble is hot. M100 bass is like the 6000, but the treble is near ideal and won't kill you on metal and other such. Bose QC15 is basically low-cost plastic with (probably) some kind of EQ built in. The sound is somewhat bassy and the treble fairly hot. Not a real clean sound in my opinion. The Philips L1 has a strong bass and a fairly strong treble.

    You might want to get some second opinions on the 6000 in passive mode - I find it quite muffled but others disagree. It seems also to have a high defective rate, so prepare for that. The 940 would be great with an earcup foam mod like I describe in my Shure 1440 video mod review. The Philips is a good headphone (the L1), and could possibly work well with no EQ adjustments. The M100 is very good I think, and far more durable than the rest (but you would have to order the 3-button cable extra), but it's a darker sound than the others.

    I don't have a lot of metal, but Enslaved (a more classic metal) sounds awesome on the M100, and Amon Amarth sounds quite appropriate with it.

    Edit: BTW, get the Dirac player for your earbuds - you won't believe what it does, so I won't tell you something you won't believe.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2012
  6. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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  7. benatat

    benatat New Member

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    Thanks. I'm watching the video now. Also, which one isolates the best, or do they all do it roughly the same? (besides the qc15)
     
  8. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Of the headphones I have, the B&W P5 isolates the best, and has the most neutral sound.
     
  9. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    I thought I should update this topic with the last couple weeks of accumulated experience. My original impression of the M100 out of the box, and comparing that with Edd's review hasn't changed. Played without EQ, it sounds like listening to music at the end of a tunnel (albeit a short tunnel), with dollops of bass added to that. With bass reducer, the bass compares very well to the Senn Momentum, the treble is slightly better than the Momentum, and the mids are darker, warmer, and less dry. I went back to the Momentum for a few hours and enjoyed the sound, but it felt like something was missing, like gently withdrawing from an addictive drug. So I can't say for certain that the M100 represents better fidelity, but the effect is still working, which is amazing enough. Absolute fidelity aside, I think I'm as close to my ideal sound as I've ever been, and the things I would most like to improve are: A slight change in the mids to reduce the closed-in or 'tunnel sound' effect (which isn't bad after reducing the bass), and a very small change in the upper presence area to mitigate a slight hardness or sibilance, which is just audible on a few music tracks.
     
  10. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    The music tracks listed in my original V-MODA M100 review were carried over from my oldest reviews, to provide a comparison between different headphones playing the same music. Starting with this review, I'm switching to a more modern selection that I think will fit better with modern headphones like the M100. Note that the following comments are based on using the M100 with bass reduction EQ, as noted in the original review.

    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth should have good detail and tone, and both male and female vocals should sound natural, without favoring either. The M100 plays this perfectly.

    Ben Heit Quartet - Suite-Magnet and Iron (Jazz with a Bebop flavor): The piano that leads off should sound realistic, and the sax should sound soft. The M100 plays this music very well.

    Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice should be crisp and well-balanced, and there should be a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The M100 reproduces the space and detail convincingly, although if this is played too loudly, the sharpness of the percussive sounds could verge on irritating.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): Another track with plenty of space around the voice and instruments. The voice and high-frequency percussion (tambourine?) should sound natural with no harshness. The M100 plays this music perfectly.

    Crystal Castles - Wrath of God (Electro-Pop): The moderate level of bass in this track should reproduce with good detail, and the ambient electronic effects should maintain their separation and never congeal into a glassy, hard, or "ringy" sound as some headphones might produce if they have uncorrected resonances. The M100 does this one just right.

    DJ Shadow - Building Steam With a Grain of Salt (Electronic/DJ): This track opens with what sounds like very high and very low piano notes, and those high notes particularly might ring a few resonances in lesser headphones. The M100 handles those notes well, and reproduces the ambient voices with good tone and balance.

    Franz Ferdinand - Ulysses (Pop-Rock): The moderate level of bass in this track should reproduce with good detail, and the percussion and voice should be crisp and well-balanced. The M100 makes this sound like what I imagine the original producers heard when they mixed it.

    Halie Loren - Sway (Jazz vocal): Bass instrument(s) here may sound boomy with some headphones, but the M100 handles this perfectly. The trumpet should sound natural but soft, and the voice should have the right presence without sounding recessed or too forward. The M100 does a great job in both respects.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion hits hard here, and the M100 handles it well. The bass tones beginning around 0:45 into the track are the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind that require good deep bass response from a headphone, and the M100 delivers on those.

    Kaskade - 4am (Electro-House): The bass that kicks in around 1:01 into the track is subtle, but the M100 gets it right. The percussion and female voice should balance well with neither overwriting the other, and the M100 aces this.

    Katy B - Perfect Stranger (R&B-House-Garage): The heavy bass that begins at 0:27 into this track is played very well by the M100. The voice is slightly forward, but it doesn't overpower the instruments or get lost in the mix. The M100 balances the different elements in this music extremely well.

    Machine Gun Kelly - All We Have (Rap/Hip-Hop): The heavy bass beats that begin at 0:23 into the track should sound like drum impacts, although they're not sharp impacts. The male and female voices should have a good balance and not overpower the music or sound recessed. The M100 plays this as good as can be expected given the limited quality of the recording.

    Massive Attack - Angel (Trip-Hop): This track begins with a steady low-frequency sound and some solid deep-bass impacts. The voices should blend well with the music and have just the right presence, although the recorded quality of the instruments isn't great. The M100 plays this as good as can be expected given the limited quality of the recording.

    Morcheeba - Bullet Proof (Trip-Hop): Bright percussion and medium-strength bass impacts make up most of this, with some dance-club spoken intonations thrown in. The M100 renders the percussion treble correctly (not too bright, not harsh), and the voices sound just right.

    Peter Tosh - Get Up Stand Up (Reggae): The bass here has a decent but moderate impact, and the lead and backup voices have good separation that's not too narrow or wide. The M100 renders the bass with good detail and the voices sound very natural.

    Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are also some "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The M100 reproduces all of these sounds faithfully.

    Rachmaninoff - Prelude in C-Sharp Minor Op3 No2 (Classical, Piano): Grand piano played mechanically from an original recording by the master himself. The bass is light here, but the piano tone is good quality, and the M100 plays these notes very well.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the M100 renders the tones and transients superbly.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are unusually strong, and work very well with the horns and other instruments. The M100 delivers the impacts with proper weight, and makes the horns sound real.

    William Orbit - Optical Illusion (Billy Buttons Mix) (Electronic): This is about as close as I want to get to easy-listening music. The string(?) tones beginning at 0:18 are subtle, but clearly reproduced by the M100. The bass isn't very strong, but still adds a good underpinning to the music. The short poetic rap at 4:14, preceded by an etherial female voice, sounds so perfect that this track could easily have been mixed using the M100 headphone.
     
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