(Pocket-lint) - Throughout recent years we've seen an increase in headphones with flashy new features. Be that totally wireless, dual over- and in-ear design, or the latest and greatest noise-cancellation and Bluetooth connectivity options.
Not so the V-Moda M-100 Crossfade Master. As the last word in their name suggests, these are for masters. Be that studio, mastering, or just plain ol' love of a more neutral and unimpeded sound quality. It might seem unconventional in today's world, but for a crisp and Hi-Res Audio-capable listen the M-100 Master offers a lot of quality at a fair price.
Design & Features
- Weight: 283g
- Exoskeleton case included
- Steelflex headband design
- Dual 3.5mm inputs, left/right
- Laser engraved customisation options
The M-100 Master take the same design language as the Crossfade Wireless Codex that we reviewed last year. That means a mixture of industrial aesthetic - with exposed external screws and coated wires - that are almost juxtaposed with a far softer, comfortable side from that cushy earcups.
However, the M-100 Master aren't as clamp-like around the ears, making them a little more comfortable we've found. We still think that V-Moda could do a little more work here to free up some space for ear lobes, as other manufacturers are exploring. Long-term wear is comfortable enough, but you'll feel aware of contact and ears can feel a bit tired as a result.
If you want to customise then there's an engraving and 3D printing service, too, so you can add on personal logos and prints at the production stage should you wish. We've stuck with the raw black metal look, which for us is preferable. Still, knock yourself out, few other makers offer such customisation.
These are very tough headphones too. You can literally twist the Steelflex headband into a loop back on itself and it's unfazed. The two year warranty is reassuring too, but given this toughness we suspect you can lob them around with little care.
Unlike its Crossfade cousin, the M-100 Master has no internal battery, because it doesn't need to offer any sort of wireless. Instead it offers 3.5mm jacks on both left and right sides, one per earcup, so you can choose which side is preferable to listen. Sounds like a small thing, but 3.5mm jacks appear on different side of laptops or you might have one coming from some strange position from some outboard equipment in a studio. So having the choice is great. Both sides support twist-lock too, although such cables aren't included within the box.
- 5 - 40,000Hz frequency response
- 50mm dual diaphragm drivers
- Features Japanese CCAW coil
- Hi-Res Audio compliant
- Passive noise isolation
Sound quality is always going to be subjective and personal tastes will differ. The M-100 Master has a simple enough goal though: "to deliver "consistent tonal balance from the deepest bass to the sharpest highs; perfectly tuned for the modern audio professional."
As is often the case with 'neutral' balance headphones, the bass doesn't thump with presence quite as giant as others. It's very well represented, though, just not over-boosted as you'll find in many other popular cans. Which is exactly the point here.
That said, the low-frequency range is fully catered, it just doesn't muddy the mix at all, staying taut in the centre as it should. We dug out some bass-laden tracks, such as Breakage's Wicked (on Index Recordings) and that sub-bass really does hum along.
We find the mid-range feels somewhat coned toward the centre, especially for voice, sitting almost entirely separately in the mix. The high-end, meanwhile fizzes along to such a degree that you'll quickly hear any poor audio source - we streamed some mid-level MP3 and it just didn't cut it.
That's because the M-100 Master is designed for Hi-Res Audio, catering for the highest in audio quality standards, so if you're building beats in your studio and want a true representation of the frequencies and cross-overs then these headphones will give you a more accurate way to hear that.
This is often true of well-fitting, well-made headphones such as this. If there's not too much surrounding interrupting ambient sound - and the M-100 Master offers great passive isolation, it has to be said - then you'll pick up on all manner of details, with things like reverb being more prominent as it trails away, or the splash of cymbals seemingly extra detailed. These over-ears heighten the listen in terms of detail.
But there are no fancy bells and whistles. No app. No equaliser adjustments. No wireless signal. No active noise-cancellation. All the things that can't exist in neutral, as-the-sound-is headphones. And we're just fine with that.
If you're looking for a pair of wired-only headphones with big sound that's also representative to the original and capable of spilling shovel-loads of detail into your lugholes, the V-Moda M-100 Master does a mighty fine job.
The design might be divisive, and long periods of wear aren't the most comfortable ever, but otherwise V-Moda has ticked all the boxes here. And with a price tag that's very reasonable for the quality of build and sound that's on offer, that'll only add further appeal.
Beats Studio 3 Wireless
Hear us out here. Yes, the Beats Studio is a whole different offering to what V-Moda has on the table, but if you're looking for bigger yet bass and wireless connectivity then these cans do a stellar job. Not comparable, just a different route to consider.