V-MODA’s latest addition to their on ear headphone line up is the V-MODA XS. It was officially released months ago and by now I’m sure there are tons of rave reviews about the XS already. Probably you are still having second thoughts about getting one right now and I hope that my review of the XS will provide you with some answers. I spent a lot of time testing and listening with the V-MODA XS before I wrote and publish this review. I was able to test it with several DAC/AMPs and compared it with other on ear headphones as well. Don’t expect that I’ll give you a straight answer in my intro, whether you should get one or not. Stick around and find out why you should or should not get the V-MODA XS in my review below.
V-MODA XS Headphone Review
First, of all let’s talk about the features that we should expect from the V-MODA XS. If you are familiar with V-MODA’s entire headphone lineup (which is not a lot), they very much look similar. The XS is just like a smaller version of the Crossfade series, with some few changes in its design. The company doesn’t spend much time making one headphone to another. But they spend time trying to perfect their headphones.
One key feature of the V-MODA XS is its sleek ergonomic design where there is virtually no gap between the band of the headphone and the surface of your head, dub as the ERGONOMIX™. The XS is made with SteelFlex headband making it very strong and durable, but at the same time remains flexible. The company also used memory foam cushions which should provide better comfort specially during long audio sessions. The ear cups also provides decent amount of noise-isolation.
The V-MODA XS features 40mm dual-diaphragm, interchangeable metal shields, CliqFold™ hinge (it clicks when you unfold the speakers), and dual inputs. No, these dual inputs are not balanced inputs. These are for daisy chaining with other XS or other headphones, a really cool feature.
I’ll discuss more of its features as we take a closer look on the V-MODA XS below.
V-MODA XS Specifications
Type: On-Ear Supra-aural
Drivers: 40mm Dual-Diaphragm High Fidelity (patent pending)
Frequency Response: 5 – 30,000 Hz
Sensitivity: 105dB @ 1kHz 1mW
Microphone Sensitivity: -42dB @ 1kHz
Weight: 195g (headphone only)
Plug: 45 degree, 24k gold-plated 3.5mm (1/8″) stereo
Packaging and Closer Look
The V-MODA XS comes in a small but nice box with an unusual shape. By the way, if ever you are getting one, be sure to buy from trusted retailers. There are a lot of counterfeits nowadays and you wouldn’t want to waste your time and money on those. Sometimes the presentation of the box tells you how good the product is, even its build quality.
The package includes some reading materials, a sticker, a 3.5mm braided cable and an Exoskeleton hard carrying case. Where is the XS you might ask? Well, it was actually inside the carrying case.
The XS’ exoskeleton hard carrying case is, according to the company, the smallest on ear carrying case. It’s pretty tough actually and it feels really sturdy and well made. It also looks like a clam shell in my opinion. There’s also a layer of fabric that is covering the teeth of the zipper making it look very clean. If it weren’t for the pull tab, you wouldn’t notice the zipper. The inside surface is a smooth orange fabric where the V-MODA XS can rest comfortably. You also need to remove the cable and fold the XS before it can fit in its case. There’s a small space just between the headband and the speakers where you can insert the cable. The Carabiner is attached on the case out of the box.
Here’s how the V-MODA XS looks like fresh from its cradle. Looks like a smaller Crossfade right? It folds into a small form factor which is really nice and neat. I have another on-ear headphone that doesn’t fold at all, and another one that folds but not as compact as this one.
Now here’s how the V-MODA XS looks like when we unfold those “CliqFold™” hinges. They really do click when you unfold them. Did you also notice that the headband is somewhat more oval than the usual shape you see in most headphones? Typically the headphone’s headband has a circular or spherical shape. The XS features a more oval shape, which the company calls it the no gap and sleek Ergonomix™ design. This kind of design simply eliminates the gap between the surface of your head and the headband itself. As a result the headband rests on your head evenly, thus distributing the pressure not only on the tip of the head but also on the sides as well. This makes the XS more comfortable to wear.
The surface of the headband is made out of leatherette material. Not sure if this is real leather or not since they didn’t emphasize that. Unlike the B&W P7, they used real sheepskin leather on the headband and on the ear cups. But it still looks great even if it’s not real leather. There is a discrete “v-moda” logo on top of the headband. On the bottom portion you can see a 3.5mm ports on both speakers. Basically you can use either of the ports whichever is more comfortable for you. But another reason why there are two ports is that you can daisy chain the V-MODA XS with another XS or another headphone. Cool huh? This kind of feature is not new and other headphone companies have this kind of feature on their headphones as well.
The metal shields are removable and interchangeable. You can engrave your own design or get another shield color. It looks like you need a small Allen wrench to remove the screws. I’m not sure what number, but they are small. Those ear pad cushions on the V-MODA XS are memory foam.
Just like any other headphones, there is a slider where you can adjust the height of the headband. As you adjust the slider up or down, you will hear and feel a click. The V-MODA XS is paired with an orange Kevlar-reinforced braided cable with mic. I haven’t tried using a third party upgrade cable (yet), but I would definitely want to try when I get the chance.
According to V-MODA , the headband is so durable that they can withstand 1 million cable bends and 10+ flat bends. And yes, they can be flattened but I try to avoid that. I don’t want the headband to become too loose. I would suggest that you put a box or something in between the XS and let it stay that way overnight or so. This would loosen the headband a little bit. The clamping force is a little bit strong out of the box.
Testing and Sound Quality
In testing the V-MODA XS I primarily use my desktop as my source. It has the Gigabyte Z97X Gaming G1 WIFI-BK, featuring Sound Core 3D and OP-AMP: TI Burr Brown OPA2134. But I don’t use the onboard DAC, instead I am using an external DAC/AMP. I also used my Hidizs AP100 and an iPhone 5 for my portable test. I also tried pairing the XS with JDS Labs O2+ODAC, iFi Nano iDSD, Arcam rPAC, Encore mDAC and Sound Blaster E5. For comparison purpose, I have the Thinksound On1 and Beyerdynamic T51i. Both are on ear headphones. I also have over headphones like the B&W P7, Audio Technica ATH-M50x a couple of German Maestro headphones. Although I think it would be somewhat in appropriate to compare an on-ear headphone with an over ear headphone.
Honestly, I’m not really an on-ear headphone type of guy. I prefer over ear headphones or IEMs. I don’t feel comfortable when a pair of can presses against my ears. My ears’ Helix and other outer parts tend to heat up and I have to remove them occasionally to let my ears breath. I think 30 to 45 minutes is my limit before I remove and rest my ears for a few minutes. This is not only true with the V-MODA XS, but it’s the same experience with the Beyerdynamic T51i and Thinksound On1.
However, unlike my other on ear headphones, the headband portion of the XS rests nicely on top of my head and it feels more comfortable to wear compared to other on ear headphones. I hope this type of design will also be implemented with over ear headphones as well.
How about my “wearing experience” while on the go you might ask? Yes, they feel comfortable to wear and don’t fall off easily. You can use them while walking, sitting or staying still. But I wouldn’t suggest you use them while running or doing some activities that involves a lot of movements. When you shake your head slowly, they don’t fall of. But if you shake your head rapidly, they will fall off or gets out of place.
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time already with the V-MODA XS before writing this review. It’s probably been more than couple of months when I first received this. And I’m pretty sure that I have properly burned it in and it has reached it prime state when it comes to performance.
When it comes to sound quality, don’t judge the V-MODA XS because of its small size. You might have read from other reviews that this is a “fantastic headphone with great sound quality”, or something like that, and they may be right. When it comes to sound quality the V-MODA XS has a neutral well balanced sound. The highs, mids and lows do not overlap each other. The bass is nice and smooth, and somewhat punchy. It’s natural without being boomy. Sorry bassheads, this may not be for you. Compared to the Thinksound On1, the On1 is warmer and has a stronger bass presence. Compared to the Beyer T51i, the bass has more impact but the highs are a tad rolled off.
Now the mid-range on the XS is well defined. Even without focusing on the voice of the singer and listen to the music as a whole, you can still appreciate their voices. Adele’s voice sound natural as if she is singing in your head. When it comes to treble I think they tone it down just a bit, just to make things less harsh. “TS” and “TZ” sounds are not harsh and sibilance is difficult to observe. I haven’t encountered any harsh or sharp tone while listening with the XS. Everything seems to be balance and I could easily crank the volume up to what my ears can take. Overall, the balance between the bass, mids and highs on the V-MODA XS is quite really good.
Price and Availability
The V-MODA XS on ear headphone are now widely available. V-MODA is selling it at $210 with free customization and US shipping from their website. Some retailers like B&H is selling the XS for a lower price of $199.99 only. However I don’t think that customization is included. It’s available in Matte Black Metal, like the one I reviewed, and White Silver which actually looks really nice as well. You also get a limited 2-year warranty for the XS.
V-MODA XS Review: Conclusion
I think V-MODA has made another masterpiece with the XS. It’s a sexy and fashionable headphone, not to mention the matte black looks somewhat discrete. In terms of build quality, yes, this is a well-made headphone and made out of durable materials. The construction is pretty solid and yet remained classically elegant. When it comes to comfort, I have mixed feelings about it. Extremely comfortable? No, I wouldn’t say that. Don’t get me wrong. It is comfortable, but not extremely. Take note, I’m not an on-ear guy so when it comes to comfort, better take my comment with a grain of salt. You may be an on-ear person and wouldn’t mind the cushion pressing your ears. By the way, almost forgot to mention this, the ear pads are replaceable.
Another thing worth mentioning is that the V-MODA XS is a compact pair of cans. You can fold it nicely and tuck it in in its sleek carrying case. When it comes to sound quality, I wouldn’t say that this is absolutely the best and no other headphone can beat the XS. But for its price and performance, it may be difficult to beat. Like I said above, the overall tonality of the XS is neutral, natural and well balanced, without overlapping each frequency. It won’t require you to use a high end player, like the Astell&Kern AK240. But it doesn’t mean you can’t pair it with the really high end ones as well. You can surely enjoy music with your smartphone with some MP3s on it. But don’t expect poorly encoded MP3s to sound like lossless. For those who are concerned about “noise cancellation”, I think it’s not the proper term. Rather, noise-isolation or suppression would be better to use. It can’t totally suppress the sound coming from the outside but it does suppress them enough for you to enjoy your music.
Overall, I’m impressed with it and I like the sound quality of the V-MODA XS. It’s dynamic and is well suited for most genres. You can safely traverse from one music to another without the need to change from one headphone to another. Finally, I award the V-MODA XS with a highly recommended award. If this was an over ear, I would have given it an editor’s choice!