V-MODA M100 (matte black) Stereo Headphone Review by Dale
Youtube review: http://youtu.be/oRg0F84Kpvk
Sources: iPhone5 alone, iPhone5 with Decware Zen Head amp via LOD, iPhone5 with v-moda Verza DAC/amp, various computers using the Microstreamer DAC/amp.
First impression of the V-MODA M100: 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 M100 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 M100 using bass reduction, since I listen to music in quiet places mainly, and my tastes are mostly midrange-centric.
The M100's sound is slightly dark, having 1-2 db less output in the presence area around 3-5 khz and more output in the upper bass than many other full-size headphones (ex: Beyer COP, B&O H6, Senn MOE). Some of the other dark-sounding headphones I have don't compete with the M100, because they don't have the clarity and accuracy of musical tone that comes with the higher quality drivers and manufacturing standards that the M100 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 M100, I must repeat here that with bass reduction on, the bass is as strong as any good hi-fi headphone that has good bass. Some of the so-called 'neutral' headphones will have bass that's significantly weaker than the M100 even when the M100 bass is reduced, so I think the concept of hi-fi neutral is overdue for a revision.
Some reviews I've read describe the M100's midrange as recessed, but of course that's with the default bass as I noted above. How you perceive the midrange depends a lot on where you play the M100. Outdoors, on public transport, in a noisy club - those environments tend to absorb most of the bass, so the M100 should be ideal in those cases when played flat (no EQ). Listening at home late at night when it's very quiet is where you'll hear the most detail, since the background noise level can be 30 or more db lower than outdoors in the daytime, and even a lot lower than the indoor daytime noise level. In summary, excellent sound for high fidelity music playback, if you follow my reasoning. Soundstage is mostly dependent on the music of course, but frequency balance plays a large role as well - since most reviewers are adamant about not using EQ, when they evaluate the M100 in their very quiet listening locations, the strong bass makes the midrange seem more distant, hence the soundstage follows from there.
Isolation seems quite good, but most isolation is at the higher frequencies, so loud noises from air conditioners or dishwashers etc. may intrude if your music is soft and quiet. Leakage is low, but if you're in a very quiet office in a cubicle right next to other cubicles and you play your music loud, someone in the next cube may hear your music faintly, and some people are bothered by the least bit of leakage that way. It's very doubtful that leakage from the M100 would be noticeable to anyone on a noisy bus, train, or plane.
My first M100 was pearl white, and this one is matte black. The sound seems about the same a year after the first one I had, and the fit is very similar also. But just in case I had the impression of a tight fit with my first M100, this current M100 is ultra-comfortable - so much so that I'm wearing it for hours at a time with no adjustments. The sound is so good (as described above) that I'm enjoying classical, jazz, electronic, rock, and other genres of music like never before - everything from Daft Punk, David Chesky, and David Lynch sounds just as spectacular as Michael Buble, Korn, and Miles Davis.
The M100 in matte black (my color choice) is beautiful, and its military-gear stealth look is not only very classy, it doesn't tend to show dirt and grime. The military-grade look isn't just superficial though - the build quality is the best in the headphone business - all metal and perfectly finished, but not heavy on the head. At the time I purchased the M100, an extra set of metal earcup side plates was offered, with choice of color and even a custom logo. Those custom plates aren't expensive and they can be attached or detached at any time, so if the headphone is transferred to another person that person can use the standard side plates instead. Headband clamping force with the M100 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 M100 has a single-sided detachable cable that can be plugged into either the left or right earcup. The 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 M100 comes with a small zippered carrycase that's suitable for backpacks and airline carry-on bags.
In previous reviews I've included the following music examples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to those other reviews and see how the M100 compares with each individual track. Note that the comments below apply to the M100's sound played with Bass Reducer EQ as noted above.
Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has good detail and tone, and both male and female vocals 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 sounds realistic, and the sax is soft. The M100 plays this music extremely well.
Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice is crisp and well-balanced, and there's 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 very loudly the percussion may be too bright.
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 especially) sounds 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 has good detail, and the ambient electronic effects maintain their separation and never congeal into a glassy, hard, or "ringy" sound as some headphones do if they have uncorrected resonances. The M100 plays this track 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 has good detail, and the percussion and voice are 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( here may sound boomy with some headphones, but the M100 handles this perfectly. The trumpet sounds natural but soft, and the voice has 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 balance well with neither overwriting the other. 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 sound like drum impacts, although they're not sharp impacts. The male and female voices have a good balance and don't 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 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 very well 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 (bright, but 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. The M100 plays this track 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.