Review: Crossfade M-100
We like “lifestyle” headphones here – when they’re done right, that is. Digital DJing is a lifestyle in itself (you know, roll up, play anywhere using smart, compact gear, no need to use all that immovable, ancient old kit that everyone else still relies on if you don’t want to) – and we think everything, from your DJ bag to the music apps on your smartphone, can and should reinforce this ethos. So V-Moda’s new Crossfade M-100 headphones on paper are ticking a lot of boxes for us. They’re extremely high quality. They look great. They fold into a tiny case small enough to clip on your belt. And they have a few digital-friendly features that mark them out from other headphones too. Definitely worth a closer look, then…
We’ve always had a soft spot for the V-Moda Crossfade LP2s. Aesthetically very similar to the Crossfade M-100s, the LP2’s are equally of exceptional build quality, and beautiful objects in their own right. There’s something timeless about V-Moda’s designs (they appear kind of “classic” aviator yet still throughly modern), and their big 50mm drivers provided a sound quality we got thoroughly attached to.
One colleague here at Digital DJ Tips found the LP2s to be too bassy, so it just goes to show that judging headphones can be notoriously subjective, but I liked them a lot. For me, the one thing that let down the LP2s was the simple fact that they didn’t fold. That meant the case they came with was big, and it made them hard to pack in my compact digital DJ kit bag – I ended up either wearing them (which you can get away with, as they are street as well as DJ-friendly), or carrying them.
So when the M-100s came along and it was immediately obvious that they folded, we were well up for taking a closer look. The big questions were: How sturdy are the hinges? Any change to the sound quality? And finally, what about all these “crowd-sourced” features that V-Moda is banging on about in its PR?
From the understated yet luxury box with its open/close clasp, to the snug, highly protective yet light case, they scream quality from the off. Inside apart from the headphones and case are a few cards and leaflets, a 1/4″ TRS adaptor, and two cables. The headphones are compact and just weighty enough to feel substantial. With metal used throughout the construction they feel incredibly strong and sturdy, and just by looking at the hinges you can tell they’ll last – they’re securely bolted and spring loaded, all the workings being in full view. The fold/unfold mechanism feels as good as the doors on a BMW – I loved it.
The hexagonal earcups are just big enough to cover the ears, although if you have Spock-like tendencies you may find them a bit small. Like the LP2s, they’re extremely comfortable. V-Moda branding is limited to subtle “V” markings on the headband’s extremities and the outer faceplates, and black-on-black glossy “V-MODA” lettering on the top of the headband. There are left or right options for plugging your cable into either earcup, unlike on the LP2s which only have an option on the left. However, the sockets protrude more on these, which I don’t like against the LP2s. The case is lightweight but precision moulded and highly protective. It has a zip that goes around nearly its whole circumference, and the coloured interior has sewn-in elastic straps to tuck cabled and the adaptor away in. The headphones are a pleasingly snug fit in it.
The first cable is a bright orange, straight, Kevlar-coated one, with a smartphone remote and microphone built in to it (the remote is now a one-button design rather than three buttons as with the LP2s; you lose the volume control). The second cable is a straight, black Kevlar-coated version, this time with a short second cable hanging out of one of the plugs with an 1/8″ TRS socket on the end of it, so another DJ or listener can plug in to your headphones and hear what you’re hearing – good for sharing the in-flight movie sound on your iPad or playing tag team with another DJ, for instance. (This is one of the “crowd sourced” features, apparently.) No coiled DJ cable.
To start with, the comfort factor is huge. They isolate without applying undue pressure, and they’re so svelte and good looking, you wonder why any other headphone dares to be any bigger. Coupled with their new ability to fold away into a tiny case, and this side of things is stitched up – they’re wonderfully practical, just substantial enough, and built for long-term listening comfort. Another crucial difference for the DJ from the LP2s is that the earcups now pivot far more – past 90 degrees as opposed to only a little – so when you have them dangling around your neck, they naturally move out of the way, making them much more comfortable to wear in this typical “between mixes” DJ position.
Sound quality is if anything better than the LP2s. I’m no audiophile, but in a straight comparison I was frankly impressed once again with both pairs – everything just sounded full, natural, and clear. My colleague who thought the LP2s sounded a little bass heavy would probably think the M-100s sound better, and they did seem to exhibit more control over the bass, but they still have a nice emphasis on what sounds good in dance tracks (again, this is simply to my ears) – a good “thump” on kicks, maybe a bit of rounding out on mids, with some musical brightness around the female vocal/brass stabs region of the spectrum before tailing a little of any harshness off the highs.
I can paraphrase all of this: they sound great, even better than the LP2s, which I love. Being able to pack them down into a genuinely small case proved, over a few weekends of DJing, to be the biggest advantage over the LP2s, and one of the reasons why I think they’re near-perfect for the space-conscious digital DJ.
I did find the supplied cables a compromise – the orange cable is the only one I’d DJ with as I don’t want dangly bits that I’m not using on a DJ cable, as would be the case DJing with the SharePlay black cable. But while the orange cable is arguably too long for street use, it’s too short for DJ use. Conversely, a lightweight coiled cable (that on the AIAIAI TM-1 is a good example) keeps out of your way when you’re in front of the console, and expands gracefully when you have to wander to the other side of the booth.
Sound great, look wonderful, built to last and with some neat features – there’s much to love about the M-100s. (It is a love thing, too – you can grow attached to a headphone like this.) There’s honestly very little to fault about them. No, they’re not cheap, but for the neat, strong folding mechanism, the extra comfort due to the additional movement in the earcup hinges, and the slight improvement in sound quality, I think they’re worth the extra over the LP2s for frequent users. Shame the remote control has dropped the volume function, although an iPhone cable is available separately if this really bothers you.
Good news is you can buy a coiled DJ cable, but for $300 I want it in the box, or at least as an included option. That cable includes a locking mechanism which might explain the design of the oversized and slightly ugly sockets for the input leads. And in all honesty I can’t see a massive use for the sharing lead, but I guess V-Moda knows its market and has researched the appeal of this. Overall, though, they’re marvellous. One set of headphones will really do you for everything – home (really comfortable, sound fantastic), street (small, stylish, fold up into a great case), and DJ gig (loud, good isolation). Buy the coiled DJ cable, and they’re just about perfect.
Do you already own these, or another model in the V-Moda range? What are your thoughts on them? Please share in the comments.