It’s been almost two years since V-Moda introduced the extremely popular Crossfade M-100. Boiled in a cauldron of seemingly opposing flavors, the M-100’s unique mix of characteristics is what makes them stand out. The design mashes sleek Italian styling with an extremely rugged build, while the sound blends bombastic bass with stark clarity, creating a winning combination that’s equal parts beauty, brawn, bass, and brilliance.
Not surprisingly, V-Moda’s big seller spawned a sequel of sorts as the company made the inevitable move toward wireless headphones. Not wanting to mess with success, V-Moda crafted the Crossfade with the same drivers and styling as the M-100, for a seamless transition from wired to wireless. The result isn’t the second coming of the M-100 we’d hoped for, but the Crossfade Wireless still emerge as a smart, bass-forward set of cans that should make some real noise in the wireless world.
Out of the box
In line with V-Moda’s penchant for fashion, the company’s newest creation comes in a slick hexagonal box ornamented with a riveted pleather handle and matching clasp. Inside, the headphones lie cocooned within a slim “Exoskeleton” case, surrounded in Batman-style putty armor for protection. Unzipping the case reveals the glimmering cans in a snug felt lining, encircling a velcro accessories patch that packs a charging cable, a braided audio cable for plugging in, and a carabiner — because every rugged piece of electronics needs a carabiner.
Also riding along was a jewelry box containing an extra pair of earpiece shields resembling what looks like reptilian armor. Customization is a calling card for V-Moda, which offers 3D-printed and laser-engraved shields, allowing users to draw up just about any design imaginable. In our case, the headphones were decked out with bright blue shields bearing the DT logo. Shameless self promotion? Sure, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.
Features and design
Apart from a few nips and tucks, the Crossfade Wireless look and feel a lot like the M-100, with the same knock-around build quality to complement the stylish design. That includes the robust Steelflex headband across the top — which can be bent and twisted like a pretzel to no ill effect — along with sleek hexagonal earpieces on metal arms that rotate along the horizontal axis to fit. Like the headband, the earpieces are up for a good beating — though we did put a few scratches on the plastic exterior. One major difference here is that the earpieces don’t fold in for compact portability, but the slim case allows a relatively easy haul.
The same look and feel of the M-100 shines through here, melding sleek styling with knock-around durability.
Of course, wireless playback is the big sell here, which necessitates onboard controls, including a power/pairing switch on the bottom of the right earpiece, and a standard three-button control panel at the top for volume, play/pause, and song skip. The plastic buttons feel a little cheap here, but they work.
Ports include a power input on the left earpiece, and a 3.5mm input on the right, which is set with one of the coolest functions built into the cans: Whenever you insert or remove the audio cable, the Auto Analog Switch sends the “hybrid” cans back and forth between wireless or wired mode. It may not sound like a huge deal, but when you want to switch out your sound source quickly, it’s pretty darned slick.
Inside, the cans sport a “refined” version of the M-100’s 50mm drivers, with a 5Hz-30kHz claimed frequency response. While you might assume the same drivers means the same sound remember that, when wireless, the headphones not only receive audio via Bluetooth, they also need on-board amplification, which can alter the sound. To account for that, the cans sport a special chipset to create what V-Moda calls “virtually identical analog and wireless playback,” along with avoiding a “powered EQ.” As such, they do a good job switching back and forth.
Other features for the headphones include a middle-of-the-road 12 hours of battery runtime per charge, and, of course, an onboard mic for fielding calls.
Weighing 12 grams more than the M-100, the Crossfade Wireless feel a little bulky after a couple of hours, and we wished for a bit more padding up top. Those with larger ears may have trouble fitting them inside the earpieces as well, though it wasn’t a problem for us. Overall, they’re a pretty comfy ride — we were able to wear them almost all day with few complaints.
V-Moda says it “refined” the drivers for its new cans, and in this Beats-driven marketplace that means bigger bass. While the M-100’s chocolatey warmth nimbly rides the line between powerful and overbearing, the Crossfade Wireless cross over occasionally. With the headphone cable, bass is tighter, and the top end is airier and more present. But, for better or worse, V-Moda’s first pair of wireless cans are set firmly in the “bass forward” segment.
V-Moda’s engineers must be huge Paul McCartney fans. The musical legend with a penchant for exceptionally melodic bass lines is one of many artists given added solo time via the Crossfade’s boosted bottom end. Bass makes its presence known early and often in tunes like the Beatles’ Savory Truffle — which is wrought with enough oomph to change the overall character of the tune via Sir Paul’s bellowing bass track and resounding hits from Ringo’s kick drum packed tightly into the left side.
That said, there’s plenty of smooth warmth and clean detail to be enjoyed, and the power below tends to ebb and flow with the music. Other tracks on the White Album, for instance, such as the classic Martha My Dear, let the golden color of the lower midrange shine through while exposing some of that keen touch in the treble that was part of what had us smitten with the M-100. The result is a vividly parsed spread of instrumental textures, cutting through with gritty snare snaps, dry strings, and gorgeous brass. The tuba and trumpet, in particular, spill forth in lively colors here, with bubbly foundational lines in the tuba, and silvery brilliance in the trumpet solo.
Bass asserts itself fairly aggressively in plenty of other musical moments — The Decemberists’ Calamity Song, for instance, spits out a driving rhythm in the kick drum that sounds powerful enough to summon a rainstorm, but it isn’t enough to cloud vocals. or take away the copper-coin click of the cymbals. And even when turning to beat-heavy tracks like Before Your Very Eyes by Atoms for Peace or Wu-Tang’s classic Bring Da Ruckus, listeners won’t lose sight (or sound, rather) of the intricate elements of the music.
We prefer the more tempered approach of the M-100, but the Crossfade Wireless do offer a rich and thumpy punch that doesn’t leave the rest of the music by the side of the road. Moreover, V-Moda sells these capable hybrid cans for just $300, undercutting some contemporaries by as much as $50-100.
V-Moda’s new Crossfade Wireless move too far into the basement for our taste, but those looking for a wireless solution with powerful bass that won’t sacrifice detail will find it here. Add in sleek styling, rugged durability, and solid wireless performance, and V-Moda has drawn up a pair of wireless thumpers that put Beats on notice.
- Powerful sound that keeps the details
- Great wireless performance
- Easy switch from wireless to wired
- Signature stylish-yet-rugged build
- Ramped up bass may be a bit much for some
- Not as travel-friendly as we’d like