V-Moda V-80/M-80 Stereo Headphone Review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Sep 2, 2011.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Some notes for this review: The V-80 and M-80 are identical according to V-Moda except for the additional red accents on the V-80 model. For the V-80 that I purchased, I found the sound somewhat recessed in the high end compared to other headphones I have**, so I used the iPod's 'Acoustic' EQ setting for most of my tests and comparisons. The overall sound quality of the V-80 is so good that you can play it without EQ if that proves satisfactory, or try different EQ settings to better match your personal preferences.

    **Those other headphones I have are considered to be "bright" by some users, so the V-80 may be just as close to ideal with the high end tones as they are.

    The one headphone I've used that to me sounds most similar to the V-80 is the Beyerdynamic DT-1350, but the DT-1350 has a much greater midrange emphasis than the V-80, and so I think the V-80 would be much easier to adapt to a wide variety of musical tastes.

    The bass of the V-80 is tight and detailed, but 'tight' in this case does not mean light or thin bass - the bass is prominent and full on any track that actually has bass. I'd rate the V-80's bass as 9 out of 10, and since I haven't heard a 10 that means the V-80's bass is as good as I've heard.

    The midrange is more difficult to judge since nearly every aspect of music is involved with the midrange in one respect or another. I can say that after playing nearly 100 of my favorite tracks in many different genres, the midrange sounds very good - voices sound right, instruments such as guitars, cellos, trumpets, pipe organs - in short everything I've played - sounds marvelous.

    The high end of the V-80 sounded less prominent to me than the midrange and bass as I noted above, but what's interesting here is that even after I added treble with the iPod's 'Acoustic' setting, there is still no problem with sibilants or other harshness. I wanted to make sure that this wasn't the case due to high-frequency rolloff, so I checked my lineup of test tones from about 4 khz up to about 13 khz, and those tones were audible in their proper proportions.

    I can't give the V-80 the same kind of rating for midrange and highs as I gave for the bass, since the bass is 100 times easier to rate than the mids and highs. But the V-80 is the best-sounding portable headphone I've used so far, and is second in sound quality only to my two large desktop headphones, the Sennheiser HD-800 and Shure SRH-940.

    The V-80 will play quite loudly with portable devices such as most cellphones, iPods and so on. The two straight cords (one red/black and one grey) are detachable, the miniplugs are at a 45 degree angle, and the cords are covered in a fabric that doesn't snag on my clothing, which is a major plus for me. The carrycase is compact enough to include in carry-on luggage on most U.S. flights. I wondered before I saw the V-80 in person if it would attract any unusual attention because of its "True Blood" design. The short answer is no. The design is low-key, elegant, stylish, and can be worn by anyone without concern.

    The physical quality of the V-80 is as good as the literature says it is. Comfort is good, with much less pressure on the ears than the Beyer DT-1350 for example. Isolation is very modest though, so don't expect it to block outside sounds to any major extent. Soundstage is average, which is better than I expected for a small headphone with small earcups.

    In addition to the pop music tracks listed below, which I used mainly for detecting weaknesses or other problems with the sound, I played a wide variety of genres (Jazz, Diana Krall, Bill Evans Trio; Bach organ, Biggs; Beethoven 9th, Solti CSO; Chopin, Moravec; Reggae, Marley, Tosh; Country, Haggard, Yoakam; Verdi, Domingo; Sinatra and Bennett; Punk, Germs, Fear, Sid Vicious, Social Distortion; Medieval, Madrigali, Medieval Babes; Trance, Mylene Farmer, etc.)

    The following are some of the music tracks I tested with, and the main features I listened for with those tracks:

    Blues Project - Caress Me Baby (piercing guitar sound, handled very well).
    Cocteau Twins - Carolyn's Fingers (guitar string detail and quality, excellent).
    Commodores - Night Shift (bass detail, very good).
    Germs - Forming (raw garage sound, excellent).
    Lick The Tins - Can't Help Falling In Love (tin whistle, very clear and clean).
    Lou Reed - Walk On The Wild Side (bass impact, very good; detail very good).
    REM - Radio Free Europe (drum impact, excellent).
    Rolling Stones - She's So Cold (bass impact, excellent; guitar sound very good).
    U2 - With Or Without You (bass boom/high-pitched instruments/sibilants, handled very well).
    Van Morrison - Into The Mystic (bass, very good).
    Who - Bargain (voice trailing off: "best I ever had", very good vocal harmonics).
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    V-Moda V-80/M-80 Review Part 2

    Now that I've presented the worst-case scenarios for the V-80/M-80, it's time to get into the musical qualities in greater detail. As I explained previously, I felt that the highs were too recessed and so I compensated by applying the iPod Touch's 'Acoustic' EQ. This EQ seems to be working out well for me, with the only possible downside that I'm hearing a slight peak in the midrange that gives voices more prominence than what I would like. In some rare cases this can contribute to the "Caruso" effect as I call it, where Caruso recorded into horns that had some remaining resonances after their best design efforts had been exhausted, and so in some passages where he projected his voice most strongly, the otherwise minor resonances amplified those notes out of proportion to the rest of the music. In the V-80's case it's not a serious problem, and even then it's probably a result of my imperfect application of EQ rather than a fault of the headphone.

    At this point in my listening, the highs are smooth and extended, and the midrange is under control with reasonably accurate and pleasing reproduction.

    Then there's the bass. Ooooh, the bass. Compared to the Phiaton MS-400, the bass is tighter and more detailed, yet has greater impact. I can not only hear 15 hz softly and 20 hz strongly, but I can hear the beats of those frequencies, albeit at 20 hz it's too rapid to hear as a clearly enunciated staccato sound. And this is not just harmonics playing tricks - the 15 and 20 hz fundamentals with low distortion are obvious and well defined.

    Comparing the bass of the V-80 to my Sennheiser HD-800, the HD-800 has comparable detail, but sounds anemic at the equivalent overall volume level. That comparison is with each headphone running from the Cute Beyond "Class A" headphone amp. The good news in running the V-80 from a decent headphone amp is that the highs open up and there's a better sense of space and clarity, particularly on very dynamic passages. And the deep bass gets tighter, yet does not lose any strength or impact, which continues to surprise me with the V-80.

    The bad news in using the iPod Touch with a headphone amp is that the EQ selections remain active at the iPod's "Line Out" docking port. This suggests to me that it's not a true line out, and better results might be obtained using a DAC that can capture and process the iPod's USB output instead.

    My overall summation is that the V-80 is an excellent music machine in most respects, except that it's a phenomenal bass machine. I have never experienced bass that goes so deep and remains so powerful, even after EQ'ing and amping, yet is never boomy, bloated or other such negatives, no matter what I play. Note that the V-80 is not a "bassy" headphone, nor does it impress me as being very "warm". It simply goes very deep and retains better detail and impact than any other non-bassy headphone I've heard.
     
  3. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    More superbly detailed insight from dalethorn. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and discoveries again, I hope people find this review helpful if you have been considering a V-Moda:D
     
  4. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    V-Moda M-80/V-80 Change of EQ

    I eventually settled on the Treble Booster EQ for running the V-80 from the iPod Touch, and that setting gives me the proper balance of lows to highs for normal listening. It also eliminates the midrange anomalies I noted previously. Interesting too is that while I've never listened to trance or "house" music to any extent, I've sampled the V-Moda channel for a few hours (and I presume it's streaming without the EQ treatment by the iPod), and that music plays very well on the V-80. The bass with 'house' music is obviously very strong and enhanced for that genre, yet with the V-80 I can listen for an hour or two continuously in total comfort, since the V-80 doesn't allow the bass to smear any midrange detail as I would normally have expected it to.
     
  5. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    It sounds like these find some genuine low frequency depth rather than just having a big hump in the EQ at the bottom!:)
     
  6. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    M-80/V-80 low frequencies

    After nearly two weeks, my listening confirms the published frequency response graph pretty well, from the midrange down anyway. The response is smooth and seems flat from the lower midrange to the very bottom. This is the first headphone I've had that I can actually verify a 10 hz tone with. It's faint, but has enough of the fundamental so as not to confuse with the harmonics. The 6 to 7 db "notch" as I call it from ~600 hz to an octave above - that is the tricky part. I can boost the highs to sound more realistic for most of my music, but that area around 1300 hz or less tends to produce a peak that can sound almost like a resonance in some vocals. It hasn't really bothered me yet, but it's noticeable.
     
  7. JC-1

    JC-1 New Member

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    Hi everyone. I'm new to the site and new to the headphone world to be honest.

    Always enjoyed listening to music but have always just picked up headphones that cost no more than £15 as I never understood just how good the more expensive headphones could sound.

    Then recently I fell into the hype of the Beats by Dre range and decided to get a set of iBeats for £80. These, compared to my standard issue iPod earphones were a complete world apart! Around the same time a friend purchased the SoloHD's and again I was shocked at the sound. I really thought they was as good as it got.
    I then decided I would buy a set of SoloHD's but just by chance decided to investigate possible alternatives that sort of money could buy and via the internet I came across this review and in turn, this site.

    This review really opened my eyes to the complexity of headphones and that clearly there are far 'better' headphones out there, if you have the knowledge.

    So yeah after looking into the V-Moda V-80's (I was sold after seeing a picture!) I decided these were the ideal headphone for me to make my first steps into the higher end of the market.

    They came yesterday and I am absolutely over the moon. I am far far far from an expert on sound quality but my ears know what they like and they like to be in the company of these headphones very much!

    Everything just sounds so clear and crisp compared to what I have been used to.

    As for the look & build quality? Amazing! They look even better than in pictures & feel so sturdy and comfortable. Even the packaging & accessories are top notch, which really complements the headphones and adds to the confidence that you have puchsed a high quality product.

    So I guess I just wanted to share my experience and say a big thank you to the author of this fantastic review and to the forum for opening my eyes and leading me to buying the V-80's.

    I look forward to learning all I can from the forum as I strive to improve my listening enjoyment!
     
  8. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    VModa V80

    Thanks for that reply JC. I am happy to confirm that after 6 months now, the V80 is still my No.1 headphone for most tasks.
     
  9. sam1014

    sam1014 New Member

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    Hi.
    Sorry to drag up an old thread.
    I am also new to headphones and was also considering the Beats SoloHD, but am now really liking the look of these. Is there anywhere that stock these in the UK so i can listen to them? Not sure I want to spend £150 without actually listening to them first.

    Thanks,

    Sam.

    p.s I must add how good this review is, very detailed.
     
  10. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    beats or M80

    I hope you can find an M80, since the Beats have an very uneven response that doesn't lend itself to fixing with equalization. I've found small adjustments I could make with i-devices that would make a couple of the Bose headphones sound better, but both of the Beats models at the Apple store here have problems that simple EQ couldn't address.
     
  11. sam1014

    sam1014 New Member

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    Thanks for your reply.
    I'm very new to all this, and I don't really want to listen to the Beats as i'll probably think "WOW they sound amazing", but only because I've never really listened to a good set of headphones before. Are the M80s loads better, or will a 'un-educated headphone person' like myself, not really notice the difference?
     
  12. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Beats

    What you notice and to what extent depends on a lot of things. For example, if you've got some good quality music tracks, even some audiophile tracks, you would quickly realize that the Beats are distorting your music. But if you've gotten mostly pop music tracks of different kinds, which are usually very compressed and distorted by the music "industry" who supply those tracks, then you might accept the distortions as a natural part of the music.

    BTW, I have many of those lo-fi tracks on my own music player, but until I find a better copy I just live with it. So you just do the best you can with what you can get.
     
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