Val Kolton of V-Moda continues to release new headphones in the wake of his success with audiophiles from models starting as far back as his early M-series of over-ear and on-ear models. One of our first early reviews was of the M-80 from this time period. It stood out with its unique highly energetic sound that placed lot of fun on either end of the frequency spectrum.
In recent years the brand has matured even further, with a unique aesthetic design and Italian-inspired sensibilities that are a fresh departure from the silver, black and grey motifs that cover most of personal audio. V-Moda has been able to construct a fresh bridge between lifestyle and just good sound in general, which isn’t a territory that many tread in very often, or often enough. But times continue to change, and with the insurrection of a 3.5mm-absent iPhone looming over much of personal audio, and the time to refine wireless audio to new heights is upon us. Taking a heavy hint within all of this, V-Moda has recently released an update to its Crossfade Wireless over-ears.
The new “Crossfade 2 “Wireless ($330) sports an updated dual-diaphragm 50mm driver, a bigger battery, larger, deeper ear cushions, and the option for aptX (+$20). The outside look maintains much of the same hexagonal shape with 3d-printable faceplates, removable cord and low profile earcups. As with the original Crossfade, the earcup doesn’t hold the title for largest interior realestate for a headphone, but still provides enough room to give any ear enough space to fulfill its purpose with style. In a way the relatively smaller cup size (for an over-ear) is more manageable and presentable than a great deal of the audiophile cans that are simply enormous fixtures upon a head. The overall style is both solid in presentation and realistic for out-of-the-house wear. The Crossfade 2 is accompanied by a removable cable, should your headphones need the assistance. The headphone is actually foldable, though you might not know it given how stable the headphone feels when extended. The “Cliqfold” hinge appears as a solid pivot point with fully reinforced hardware to keep things moving along reliably. The carrying bag is one of the smallest, yet robust we have seen to date. The rubberized shell and compact form factor are a compelling included accessory, both the included analog cable and USB charging wire fit inside with even a little room to spare.
The wireless performance out of the box is as straightforward as any bluetooth device. A simple slide of the power switch turns it on, push it a little further and it changes into pairing mode. Since the battery is a little bit bigger this time around, rated listening duration has been increased to 14+ hours thanks to an internal 430mAh battery. Even with this increase the headphone is fairly light on the head as audiophile headphones go (309g). A simple three button operation is located along the top edge of the right earcup. Volume up and down worked well and were easy to reach during playback. The middle button starts and stops the music similar to the inline remote. Should you head out with the Crossfade 2 in wired mode, the included detachable cable with in-line controls is an good length for portable listening from pocket to head. In wireless mode, the distance was excellent (even without line of site) from an iPhone 7 and should be able to cover any 1k sq.ft apt without breaking a sweat. While connections were easy to install and maintain one of the foremost concerns with almost all wireless devices (as it pertains to audiophile listening) is the noise floor. The Crossfade 2 did have a very slight digital sounding floor that was present for most connections with the exception of wired. With a wired connection, no noise floor was detectable through any of the amps or sources tested with the headphones. The floor with a wireless connection was very low in most situations and was easily drowned out by the natural dynamics of the music, and in cases with older classic recordings – lower than the analog tape hiss present within many albums.
The Crossfade 2 collectively is a great headphone for the price. It performs very much on par with other traditional audiophile headphones in the in the $300 range, but includes a wireless feature. And in terms of listen habits, that is one heck of a bonus feature. Detail retrieval listening to Joss Stone’s Free Me 2017 was expressive and articulated. Her once smoky voice is now showing fair amounts of Aretha influence and the nuanced tone of the vocals rang through in a fair recreation with all the subtleties one would expect from a solid performing headphone. It was very easy to pick out some pad brushing noise coming from the instruments around the isolated singing and accompaniment. Mid tone texture was above the norm for this price and placed in perfect linear fashion with the lows and highs. Looking downward, bass was fairly even and blended well with the mids without overpowering or overreaching their designated territory. Listening in wireless mode saw a bit of an elevation in the bass and felt a little more rotund – in a good way. Treble was well extended, but most importantly, never screechy or strident to the ear. While the detachable cable often brought a little more cohesion to the focus and to an certain extent, a little more air, the wireless mode brought a reliable sense of fun and excitement to the mix. In fact, it was quite shocking how similar the two really have really progressed towards each other. The difference is a such that perhaps all but the trained ear would be able to tell any difference at all. Even with the very slight elevation in bass, the variance is quite minimal to nearly all other evaluation factors that one could throw a stone at. V-Moda does offer a step up headphone with Qualcomm’s aptX bluetooth audio codex that currently colored with a rosegold hardware accent. Using the upgraded codex from a Macbook Air (which can be verified by holding the option key and clicking the bluetooth icon in the upper tray while the headphone is playing) provided another small step of improvement. Listening to Diamond’s on the Soles of Her Shoes by Paul Simon through Tidal’s streaming service (HiFi quality) it was possible to make out just a little more treble separation between the shaker percussion and high hat through aptX. So those seeking the absolute best wireless experience might want to opt for the rose gold, all other should be perfectly fine with the standard blackout pair. Apple fans just need to bare in mind that only the big A’s computers and laptops will play nice with the codex, all iDevices currently do not offer support for aptX. The big news here is really how similar all three (including wired) sound. Its progress in the forward direction precisely at the time when headphones need it most. While some cable connoisseurs may cry nay, this is the direction hardware is moving for the mainstream, weather hard core enthusiasts approve or not.
The Crossfade 2 Wireless is solid headphone, both in build and in acoustic quality. The sound signature is delightfully thought out, excited yet refined and translates very well into the wireless realm. The exterior also showcases some of the finer points of headphone design, harnessing appealable style without every looking to gaudy, something that quite a few headphone manufacturers have yet to fully grasp. Its really convenience dialed up to the maximum, in a way that works without interfering with your life as you move from point A to point B. Its worth an audition to anyone looking for a headphone, wireless or wired.
On Adorama: https://www.adorama.com/vmcrsfadew2g.html
More info: www.v-moda.com