V-MODA is a fashion headphone company. That is not to say all fashion headphone companies are equal. Last year, V-MODA released a great competitor for the $300 bracket in the form of the M100. While its sound was not exactly fit for the price tag, in my opinion, few can argue that they are a fantastic choice for the mobile basshead, with one of the most compact form factors available in an almost-full-sized headphone. The new XS takes it one step further, slightly improving on the M80’s deficiencies and added their fantastic Cliqfold hinge.
Build and packaging
The XS is packaged like V-MODA’s other headphones in its signature hexagonal box. (Marcusd – Probably the best box for portable headphones out there with a dashing leather clip and ergonomic dimensions. Val you really have spent far too much time in Milan and it shows!)
Inside is a very small case with the XS and two cables in them. To provide some perspective, here is a size comparison between the case and my Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which I can easily fit in my pocket.
The build is probably the best part of this headphone. The headband is made out of steel and very soft pleather. As mentioned earlier, these have the same Cliqfold hinge the M100 has, which allows for the XS to have a very small footprint. Any fears of a foldable design being a weak point in this headphone’s build can be quelled. I don’t think I’ve ever used a more sturdy-feeling folding mechanism. It’s a far cry from AKG’s 3D Axis system which I’ve never felt was very sturdy. The earpads are made of the same very soft pleather the headband uses and while not very thick, never feel uncomfortable. I’ve actually been able to wear these for six hours straight during a hardcore study session and didn’t feel any discomfort, which is a huge upgrade from the somewhat uncomfortable M80.
The downside is that I had to take off my glasses when using them because they seemed to break some of the seal. The XS features changeable plates–a V-MODA staple since its original headphone, the Crossfade LP– so they can be customized to the heart’s content (as long as you don’t ask them to use trademarked logos) in that aspect. One thing I’d like to call to attention is how well V-MODA designed the headband. The padded portion conforms perfectly to my head, which, to be completely honest, makes them look pretty good while being worn. I actually wish other headphones would look as low-profile as these.
The biggest struggle of the portable headphone segment is that size is a huge limiting factor in making the headphones sound good. Small cups are just physically harder to tune. For example, the $100-$200 portable market is saturated with headphones that sound “okay,” like the Skullcandy Aviators, Monster DNA, and Sennheiser HD25, but sound comparable to full sized headphones that cost less. Going up to $200-$250, the options start to look more attractive, with headphones such as the NAD HP50,Beyerdynamic T51p, and KEF M500. While the HP50 sounds good, possibly even better than the other options in the price range, they aren’t as compact as the others– especially the XS. The HP50s are at home in a backpack, but for those that want to travel light, IEMs may be a better option. That’s the niche the XS intends to fill. By adding the Cliqfold hinge to the already small M80 frame, they easily fit into a coat pocket.
But that means nothing if the headphones don’t sound good. Click on next page to see how they sound!