V-MODA V80/M80 Stereo Headphone Review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Dec 15, 2013.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube review: V-MODA V80 'True Blood' Stereo Headphone Review by Dale - YouTube


    Sources: iPhone5, iPhone5 with FiiO E07k using LOD, iPhone5 with Decware Zen Head amp, various computers using the Microstreamer and Audioengine D3 DAC/amps.

    Review note: V-MODA stated that the V80 ('True Blood') and M80 headphones are one and the same except for the exterior finish, and I have owned the original V80 (late 2011), two M80's (black and pearl white), and now a second V80. There is no difference in the sound of these as I understand it now, but my initial impressions of the V80 two years ago were based on long-time listening to the Sennheiser HD800, Shure SRH940, and subsequently the Shure SRH1840. These last three headphones were all "neutral" in signature, and are generally regarded today as somewhat bright and slightly bass-shy. And thus my initial impression of the V80 as slightly treble-shy in 2011 - but no longer. Two years later and after owning many treble-shy headphones (a few with severely recessed treble), my impression of this new V80 is a perfectly balanced (i.e. neutral) signature, 2013 version.

    Summing up the V80 sound based on a long listen plus direct comparisons to the Shure SRH1540, B&W P7, B&O H6, Beyerdynamic T51p, and a few others, the bass is excellent when heard on its own or compared to headphones that don't have an emphasized bass. But compared to the four headphones just mentioned, the V80 bass seems to have a light impact, and the upper bass warmth seems minimal. I realize now that these impressions are heavily biased by what a person is most accustomed to, so my descriptions and comparisons should help to show where the V80 fits into the overall bass hierarchy. The V80 midrange is clear, somewhat forward, and very slightly upper-emphasized giving the mids a lighter tone than the average headphone, although that emphasis is much less than the excellent B&O H6 headphone. The earcups and earpads are very small, yet I understand that they contain 40 mm drivers - and not just that - the diaphragms are supposed to be a dual-layer type that strengthens the bass.

    The treble is a near-perfect quality of the V80 headphone. It's clear and clean and perfectly balanced, and the only possible negative would be the drop from about 4 db above neutral at 4 khz to approx. -4 db at 5 khz. Most headphones I've had vary quite a bit in the lower treble, so my worst-case dread is having an obvious and large resonance peak somewhere in the treble (or for that matter anywhere else), and the V80 is free of that as well as any major recess. One of the first reviews of the V80 stated that the midrange sounded a bit congested, but I haven't gotten that impression whether listening with computer DACs and high-res files or with iPods and iPhones. The V80 has a good soundstage for a small closed headphone, but the recording makes a much bigger difference to soundstage than the headphone itself. Adding to that the influence of treble - the more highs you have (up to a point) the bigger the soundstage may seem to be. The V80 is pretty small, so don't expect miracles, just excellent sound.

    Reiterating the most sensitive aspect of the V80's sound from the most common user viewpoints - the bass does not have any weakness when the V80 is played exclusively for a long enough time for the user to shed their biases based on their familiarity with the more common bass-heavy headphones. People who are gaming and require a heavier impact, or people who use the headphone on public transport where the background sound contains a lot of low frequencies - these users usually prefer a larger headphone which can produce the boosted bass frequencies more cleanly than a small headphone, since the small headphone is typically being stressed beyond its design limits by the use of bass booster controls and EQ settings. Like most quality headphones, the V80 sound improves noticeably with DACs and headphone amps as compared to driving the headphone with just a low-cost portable music player or cellphone etc.

    To appreciate the difference a good DAC and/or amp can make, play music using the DAC/amp first, then switch to the cellphone or music player and hear the difference. That difference is usually subtle and difficult to appreciate the other way around: if you listen with the cellphone first and then switch to the DAC/amp. I think that's because it's easier to hear what detail is lost in the former example instead of what's gained in the latter example, unless what's gained is dramatic as might be heard with some of the more expensive DACs and amps. V80 isolation is low - less than 10 db at high frequencies and even less lower down. Leakage is low - if used in a very quiet office in a cubicle next to other cubicles, persons in the adjoining cubicles won't likely hear disturbing sounds unless the V80 is played very loudly. There's no significant difference in bass response when wearing the V80 with eyeglasses on, but when wearing glasses while listening, the leakage might be slightly higher than otherwise.

    The V80's design is nice enough as is, but the earcup side plates can be replaced with different colored plates, with laser-engraved logos if desired. Construction is all metal, the headband can easily be bent permanently so that the earcups and earpads fit different heads precisely, and the earcups can be extended all the way down so that the V80 can be worn around the neck when not listening, all day if needed with no inconvenience. The earpads are soft and squishy, so they're less likely to pinch anyone's ears, especially since the headband clamp is fairly light. The headband has some padding, but some people don't like the feel of a headband pressing even lightly on their head to support the weight of a small headphone like the V80. For them I'd suggest pulling the earcups down one more notch on either side to shift more weight to the earcups.

    Two single-entry fabric/Kevlar cables are supplied with the V80 - one 6-foot grey cable with standard 3.5 mm miniplugs on both ends and no controls or mic, and a 4.5-foot red/black cable with a standard miniplug on the earcup end and a Apple-style plug on the music player end. The shorter cable has a control box with mic plus another mic closer to the earcup. The control does start/stop and next/previous track with Apple devices, but I don't know if it provides similar functionality with Android devices. I do know that if these cables ever failed they could be replaced temporarily or permanently with a generic cable having standard miniplugs on both ends. The carry case supplied with the V80 is a zippered hard case and is small enough to fit into airline carry-on bags or student backpacks without taking up a lot of the space in those bags.

    The music tracks below have been listed in several prior reviews, and are a random sample selected from the 400 most recent tracks I've acquired. Since these tracks cover a wide range of genres, and were selected when I was using several different headphones, there won't be a bias toward the V80 headphone with this music. My suggestion is instead of reading each comment below as an absolute unto itself, you could compare these notes to the prior reviews and other reviews as they get posted, and see how the V80 compares with each individual track.
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    V-MODA V80/M80 review part 2 - music tracks

    Ana Victoria - Roxanne (Pop Vocal): Spacious sound, good bass tone and impact, and the vocal sounds very natural. Excellent reproduction by the V80.

    Ben Goldberg - Root and Branch (Jazz): Realistic you-are-there sound with great instrumental reproduction. The V80 plays this extremely well.

    Benedictines Of Mary - O Come Emmanuel (Medieval/Female Choral/Acapella): Very spacious sound and natural reverb for a large recording venue (cathedral). The V80 makes the voices come alive.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Excellent instrumental detail - the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The V80 plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Candy Dulfer - Lily Was Here (Jazz): Narrow soundstage, but excellent detailed instrumental tone. The V80 gives this a reasonable sense of space, but in spite of being a modern recording, the net effect is only slightly better than enhanced mono.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The V80 plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The V80 plays this high treble energy recording with perfection - the voice and instruments are highly detailed but very smooth.

    Daft Punk - Lose Yourself to Dance (Electronic/Disco): Less than hi-fi quality recording, but the voices are very good. There's a decent amount of bass impact, but the bass doesn't have much detail.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The V80 reproduces the instruments perfectly with a you-are-there ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.

    David Lynch-Lykke Li - I'm Waiting Here (Soundtrack/Vocal): Dark, moody song - Lykke's voice is very detailed, the bass impacts are very good, but most of the instrumentation is soft and kept in the background. The V80 plays this music very well given the sonic limitations.

    Dream Theater - Take The Time (Metal): The sound quality here is limited, but the V80 is smooth enough to bring out the details in this very busy music without verging on harshness.

    Genesis - Follow You Follow Me (Pop/Rock):The V80 plays this old and less-than-ideal recording well enough to be very enjoyable, but the soundstage is fairly narrow.

    Giant Drag - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): Annie Hardy's version of the Chris Isaak hit has a lot of energy, but the quality is limited - still the V80 pulls out enough detail to be a pleasant listen.

    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 V80 makes this an outstanding listen.

    Hubert Kah - The Picture (New Wave): This track has great bass detail and weight at the same time, which I find unusual for this type of 1980's pop music. The V80 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 strong deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce with moderate impact with the V80. 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.

    Korn - Another Brick In the Wall (Rock): Aggressive rock that's very satisfying for hard-rock fans. The V80 plays this perfectly, which is to say, with proper edginess and bass impact, yet without unintended sonic harshness.

    Kunika Kato - Fur Alina (Vibraphone): A very unusual instrumental - the tone quality is unlike anything I've heard before. Recording close-up is part of the magic here, but the V80 does the rest in reproducing the full harmonics of this amazing instrument.

    Michael Buble - Nice 'n Easy (Easy Listening/Jazz): This is the only track I bought by Michael Buble, but it's a great recording and vocal performance. The sound of the backing band here is rendered extremely well by the V80, and the voice isn't pumped up for Loudness Wars thankfully.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone, brought to life by the V80. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and while those impacts are soft and far into the background, the weight is palpable with the V80.

    Muse - Madness (Rock): The bass in this track has good impact and detail with the V80, and although the voice is somewhat forward, it doesn't interfere with my appreciation of the bass line here.

    Phaeleh - Afterglow (feat. Soundmouse) (Electronic/Vocal): The instrumental sounds that begin this track are played very nicely by the V80, but the voice tends to overwhelm those background sounds - until the heavy bass impacts kick in. If there is any doubt about whether the V80 will play heavy impactful bass with good detail (if such sounds are really in the recording), this track is the proof. If you were to begin your V80 listening with this track, you might think you were listening to a headphone that has a boosted but tight and detailed bass. Simply amazing.

    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 V80 reproduces the very deep bass on this track, but the feel of thunder that you'd get with some of the larger bass-emphasized headphones is more subtle with the V80. The tympani have an excellent impact on this track.

    Sargis Aslamazian - The Sky is Cloudy (Classical/Armenian): The National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia has a great classical program, and the V80 plays this music with good separation, tone, and big-orchestra precision.

    Satri-Tomoko Sonoda - All The Things You Are (Jazz): This track came from Bakoon Products, who make high-quality audio amplifiers. There's a lot of upright bass plucking in this track, and the V80 plays it well, although it's recorded pretty close-up and may sound somewhat boomy at times.

    Tommy Smith - Johnny Come Lately (Jazz): Small-combo jazz - sax, piano and drums. The sound is fairly close-up but well-recorded, and sounds very nice with the V80, although the wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are not as extended as on the David Hazeltine track above.

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