V-Moda M100 Headphones – Oh it’s the Bass! dalethorn December 28, 2012 Closed, Full-Size, Gear Reviews, Headphones, Portable 16 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. 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. How do they sound? 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. Note: Played without EQ, it sounds like listening to music at the end of a short tunnel, with plenty of bass added to that. With bass reducer, the bass compares very closely 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. I can’t say that the M100 represents better fidelity, but the positive effects are still working for me. 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 small change in the upper presence area to mitigate a slight hardness or sibilance, which is audible on a few music tracks. Track comparisons In other reviews I’ve done I’ve included music samples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. Here are a few examples: 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. 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. 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. Sources: iPhone4 alone, iPhone4 with FiiO E17 using LOD, various computers using Audioengine D1 DAC and the D1’s headphone out. Pingback: A big huge list of reviews from Headfonics - Page 8 - HiFi Headphones Forum - online headphone & earphone community forums() http://www.facebook.com/Bryan.Pong.Rafa Bryan Rafael I just can’t find the logic of companies nowadays making 45 degrees plugs. all style but no conceivable usage. those plugs will just be an annoyance when plugged in straight from any player and would be too bulky when put inside your pocket. dalethorn I don’t know the rationale of the 45 degree plug, but I assume v-moda was the main proponent of that, so perhaps in their videos or the innerfidelity videos there’s an explanation. When I go portable, it’s music player only, so a straight plug is best for me. For some people who use a PMP carried with an amp (bonded together with a strap usually), the right-angle plug can be a big plus, but that doesn’t explain the 45 degree plugs. headfonics Some DAP’s and phones wont take a 3rd party straight plug and sometimes a right angle plug can get around the deep recess found in more modern phone jacks. David 90 deg plugs don´t fit some players and straight plugs tend to apply force to the minijack hole of the player. 45deg kinda sits in between. headfonics 45 suits me also for on the go, little bit of flexibility and as you say less force on the jack. Angelo de Dios The V-Moda M100 was made, design and aimed for the DJ market. 45 degree plugs are very useful when plugging them into a mixer. So that is the logic. headfonics It is interesting that Aiaiai did away with the right angle for their Young Guru edition. Angelo de Dios Probably because the Young Guru was being aimed for sound/studio engineers who want a compact headphones, as many of the board mixers/mixing desks have the headphone inputs located on the front panel instead on top of the board. headfonics So was the stock Studio but it had a right angle so maybe the guru was righting a wrong? dalethorn 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. dalethorn I added some notes to the ATH ESW11 review about a comparison of the ESW11 to this M100 headphone. Roger Hi Can anyone compare v-moda m100 to superlux HD631? headfonics Not directly as I have never got my own sweaty ears into an M100 but the HD631 is not boomy though dark and bass tuned. The M100 is going to be built a whole lot better and a darn sight more comfortable though you will pay more. dalethorn The Earmass review was rather negative, suggesting among other things that the 631 didn’t have much soundstage. The M100 does have a good soundstage, but if you never use EQ, you will miss the full potential of the M100 due to the strong bass. OTOH, for portable use the bass is perfect. armiger Hi Dale, you mention bass reduction quite a bit, and I assume you’re simply talking about EQ settings. would you mind sharing these?