Although the M-100 headphones are similar to V-Moda's other products -- namely, mil-spec (810G) metal construction and vampire-esque styling -- this is the brand's first set to feature collapsible earcups and cable inputs on either side. Its cliqhinges (as they're named) swing the 'cups in-and-out of place with a click and a firm hold, sadly however, they can't fold flat; still, we're glad to see more focus on portability and enjoy that these headphones will fit in a hand. We're not exactly sold on the red accents and screen-pressed (read: cheap-looking) logo on the headband, but white, matte black and replaceable earcup plates will also be available. Speaking of how the headphones fit (but on the head), it's basically what you'd expect from the LP2 cans. We're told that the earpads are slightly different, but we wouldn't know the difference if blind-folded. The cans have a pleasingly slim profile, so that also means there isn't much depth inside of the earcups from the pads to the metal grills in front of the drivers.
Even though this editor didn't experience major cartilage cramps after a few hours of repeated use, it's safe to say it'll be a weird feel for some -- memory foam pads only help so much when parts of your ears are being pressed against pieces of metal veiled only by a thin strips of fabric. We should note, however, that clamping force and weight (280 grams) don't seem to be part of the issue here, as the steelflex headband (which can be pushed flat at least 10 times) does an admirable job of keeping pressure at a minimum. Kolton stresses that, based on his research and various reviews (Amazon & Head-Fi), most people do rate the ergonomics highly, but noted that deeper, wider and velour pads are definitely on the table for post-release availability. The main issue as he puts it, is that "the fit is the sound," so any minor changes require more development time to ensure it's ready to ship at the company's standards.
As we mentioned, the biggest change with this set is the newer sound. As Kolton (mostly verifiably) explained to us:
We originally tried to replicate M-80 sound but in an over-ear as it is almost the top-ranked in the world in ... overall reviews. However, it came out a bit different than we planned and has a deeper extending, yet still "fast" bass that you can feel more. The highs extend much higher past 8kHz to 30kHz. The isolation and soundstage is better, especially with our [Vamps]. The fit difference in an on- vs. over-ear creates a world of difference. Overall, we feel M-80 and M-100 are cut from the same cashmere of sound, but the M-100 edges it out for most music -- but the M-80 has a bit flatter overall curve which makes it the maestro for mixing productions on the go.
This time we did not use the 31-band EQ that was used mainly for M-80 and to a lesser extent Crossfade LP (primarily 50+ DJs). For M-100, we primarily used audiophiles, producers, editors and golden ears to outgun our own M-80, so in a way it still used the 31-band EQ but it was based on its heritage and our R&D data. We did this because M-80 became the #5 ranked headphone now of all headphones in the world on Head-Fi and we really couldn't find another headphone we liked better in EQ/soundstage. LP is #1 on Amazon in customer ratings for "modern headphones." We usually have two competitors we aim a model to beat, but this time it was our own two and no other brands: M-80/LP2.
So, gripes about the fit and familiar design aside, we're finding ourselves very pleased with the sound quality after a few hours of initial use with an iPhone 5 (click-through for our independent audio tests of Apple's latest). Almost exactly as described, the 50mm drivers let the high-end shimmer without being fatiguing and the bass bump just enough for impact without drowning the full mix. The audio comes through exceptionally clear, well-rounded and moderately punchy. If sound could be equated to a candy bar, these would be a Kit-Kat -- a smooth, moderately thick texture with a very light crisp. It's a similar tonality to what you'd expect from something like the well-regarded Audio-Technica ATH-A700 headphones ($165), albeit much more polished and refined aside from an expectedly smaller soundstage. Speaking to that, the headphones sound very open and natural for being fairly portable. They definitely possess the "big" V-Moda sound to them that, which feels similar to being a small club.
We especially like that although the sound is bright, the treble isn't very harsh or exaggerated (something we're the company especially mindful about) not in least and vocals come through naturally full -- Pronunciations like shh, tss and sss didn't pounce on our eardrums like what we've annoyingly experienced -- especially -- with the $350 Sennheiser Amperior, among others. We haven't had much opportunity to test out the level of isolation provided, but it seems to be light, which has us concerned about how well the headphones will do in the likes of NYC's noisy subway system (these are intended for on-the-go use, after all). Lastly, the Kevlar-wrapped doesn't seem to transfer a lot of cable noise, but we'll wait to reserve judgement once coat-wearing season is in full swing.
To put it simply, we like the direction of the audio from the M-100 headphones, if we're still not totally sold on V-Moda's designs. The cans really seem to possess the audio chops you'd anticipate from audiophile headphones without the bulky audiophile looks. As is, the headphones will ship with a hard-shell case, a 1/4-inch adapter, two kevlar-wrapped cables (one with a secondary output and another with a single-button remote / mic) and plugs for the cable inputs. Additional offerings will include more pads (as detailed above), a three-button remote cable for iDevices, a coiled DJ cable that can lock into the earcups and, interestingly, a "pro" boom-mic for the likes of gaming and Voip chat. As far as we know for now, the headphones will be priced somewhere below $400 and, depending on the final tally, this set is at least worth a listen and may even be worth your hard-earned paper if they fit your wants. We'll need much more time with the M-100 headphones in day-to-day usage scenarios to eventually make our final call -- stay tuned.