The V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Master Updates a Classic

The original Crossfade M-100 I reviewed are still going strong. Now, however, their price has dropped to an MSRP of just $150. That’s a bargain for an incredible pair of wired headphones. The new V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Master is an update to the original. They look similar but have a few important updates that make them compelling.

The original Crossfade Wireless is also just $150. (The Crossfade Wireless 2, which, along with the Master & Dynamic MW50 and MW65 remain my favorite wireless headphones, are now $280.) Why you might ask, would someone spend $250 when for the Crossfade M-100 Master when the Crossfade M-100 are a hundred dollars less? The simple answer is, you don’t unless you are using a hi-def audio file and a device that can take full support of them. (More on that a bit later in the review.) Still, even if you aren’t using hi-def files and a hi-def source device, there are reasons you might want this updated version of the Crossfade M-100.

V-MODA has sold over half a million pairs of the Crossfade M-100s. I did one of the early reviews and was blown away at the time. (You can read my review here.)

As the company notes,

The world’s first crowdsourced headphones, Crossfade M-100 was developed to achieve ultimate reliability and accuracy for stage performance and studio mastering. Since its release date in late 2012, more than 150,000 professionals and musicians of all levels selected Crossfade M?100 for their craft.

They go on to note,

It now passes the torch to Crossfade M-100 Master, which carries all of its strongest features while raising the bar in comfort, sound quality and durability.

So while the original M-100s were, and are, great, the new version builds on their success but offers several significant tweaks and updates that make them an even more compelling pair of wired over-the-ear headphones.

Inside the box you get the Crossfade M-100 Master, an exoskeleton carry case, a carabiner clip, an ARAMID Fiber-Reinforced SpeakEasy 1-button microphone cable, a reinforced SharePlay Audio cable, a gold plated 1/4” pro adapter, two V-CORK to close either of the two 3.5mm ports and documentation explaining the 2-year warranty and the company’s Immortal Life Replacement Program.

The two cables are nice but, to a degree, are a throwback to when the first M-100s were released. At the time, every smartphone and tablet had a 3.5mm audio input. Fast forward eight years and most high-end phones and tablets have shed the 3.5m port. In other words, for someone like me who has a current model iPad Pro and an iPhone 11, the cables are useless unless you have an adapter. (For the iPhone, you would need a 3.5mm to Lightning adapter while, for the iPad, you would need a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter.)

Fortunately, the company also sent me V-MODA’s SpeakEasy DAC/AMP 3.5mm to Lighting cable. It has a durable, woven cable, a three-button inline controller, a microphone positioned close to the end of the cable, so it sits near your mouth, and a built-in DAC to ensure the best quality music. It’s an additional $101, but it is worth it if you use an iPhone.

At some point, V-MODA is going to need to start including a cable like this (or one with USB-C), but at over $100, doing so would likely require them to increase the price of the headphones. You can check out the MODA’s SpeakEasy DAC/AMP 3.5mm to Lighting cable here.

The range of available cables include:

  • CoilPro Cable features TwistLock technology and extends listening reach for DJs and audio professionals
  • BoomPro Microphone ensures crystal clear communication and a next-level gaming experience
  • Speakeasy DAC/AMP Lightning Cable allows for studio-quality sound from your iOS devices
  • Audio Only Cable removes remotes from the equation, going straight to your instrument for pure analog sound

I have the BoomPro Microphone from a previous review and find it to be a great way to use V-MODA headphones for things like podcasts or calls. That, of course, assumes your device has a 3.5mm headphones jack.

The company employs a unique design-language that is immediately identifiable. When I first boarded the ship for our latest cruise, I passed by the DJ and immediately noticed he was using a pair of M-100s. When I went up to discuss the headphones, he asked me how I know they were V-MODA. I told him they have a unique appearance. He replied, ”And they sound amazing. Sadly I’ve almost worn these out.” (He was correct, they have gotten a lot of love, and the headband was beginning to show signs of wear.) The Crossfade M-100 Masters employs the same design and look every bit V-MODA.

The headband is wrapped in material and has just enough padding on the underside that sits on your head.

The connection between the ear cups and the headband are made from flat metal. As with previous V-MODA headphones, this metal gives the headphones a bit of an industrial look. I love it. The metal also gives the headphones a superior degree of durability without adding too much weight.

As was the case with the original version of the headphones, V-MODA’s CliqFold Mechanism is present on the M-100 Masters. It allows the headphones to collapse into themselves and take up a far smaller space than would be possible without this feature.

That’s important since it allows the headphones to fit into the included Exoskeleton Hard-Shell Case. This case, another V-MODA exclusive, is tough as nails and far smaller than you might otherwise think. So while some companies design their headphones and then throw in a case or bag that is ”good enough, ” V-MODA designed the headphones and case, so they work together seamlessly.

A Traveler’s Delight: CliqFold Mechanism and Exoskeleton Hard-Shell Case: Travel like a pro with Crossfade M-100 Master thanks to the iconic CliqFold hinge: enabling it to fold into the smallest of spaces, the dreaded question of how to fit your headphones safely and comfortably into your carry-on is officially over. Simply fold Crossfade M-100 Master into its compact travel form, place it in the premium protective Exoskeleton carry case included and either place it in your bag, backpack or luggage of choice, or clip it to the outside with the carabiner clip to maximize packing space.the included carabiner let’s you clip the case to a backpack or luggage.

I’ve traveled extensively with V-MODA headphones and the combination of the small size when they are folded, and the hard-shell case make them ideal for travel.

At home, on stage, and for the long haul: Fold the Crossfade M-100 Master into the smallest spaces thanks to the CliqFold hinge, making it ideal for taking on the road. Most importantly, it fits into the premium protective Exoskeleton case included, which can be clipped onto the bag, backpack or luggage of your choice, maximizing your packing space.

The earcups are made from thick, durable plastic. That might sound like a shortcut, but the quality of the materials and build is fantastic. These headphones put up with a lot of use and abuse and keep doing their job.

The only headphones you can make completely yours.: Endorse Yourself with custom full color or laser engraved shields: with a range of colors and materials to choose from, and the ability to upload your own designs, you’ll be sure to stand out from the crowd.

Just four of the possible customizations

On the outside of the headphones are V-MODA’s unique shields. My review sample is black and has solid black shields. For a few dollars, you can get custom shields that make your headphones unique to you. You can also spend a small fortune and get shields with intricate designs and made from precious metals. I guess that great if you have money to burn, but I’m pretty happy with the stock shields.

The earcups are made from memory foam wrapped in ”premium vegan leather.” It’s a synthetic material, but it looks and feels excellent. The ear cups on the M-100 Master offer a bit more space than the original version and do an excellent job of blocking out ambient noise. These headphones don’t have active noise cancellation, but the seal created by the redesigned earcups is almost as effective. As the company explains:

Larger Cushions Enhance Sound and Comfort with Negligible Noise Leakage: The extra space afforded to the Crossfade M-100 Master via the L (Large) size memory foam ear cushions acts as a natural amplifier while the premium vegan leather cushion covers provide ultimate comfort, guaranteeing fatigue-free long listening sessions, resistance to sweat and overall durability. Together with the virtually indestructible SteelFlex headband, this key comfort upgrade, developed after fan feedback, prevents the development of pressure points so it feels like the headphones are not even there. Through innovative design and hand-selected premium materials, the Crossfade M-100 Master achieves first-class natural noise isolation, creating an immersive 3D soundstage without resorting to active noise cancellation which can pollute pure analog sound.

The earcup design is a relatively small change, but it is worth a bit of focus. For while they look the same as the original M-100s, the new design makes a huge difference. My original M-100s are great, but the combination of fairly small ear cups and a serious degree of clamping pressure become a bit uncomfortable during long listening sessions. The larger ear cups of the M-100 Master combined with slightly reduced clamping pressure, making them far more comfortable. In other words, this change is subtle but, in use, significant.

Unrivaled sound quality: Complete with CCAW Japanese coil, the Crossfade M-100 Master support frequencies up to 40kHz. The re-engineered driver cover enhances driver stability, for the structural integrity to manage a vast tonal range.

Inside, the M-100 Master has 50mm dual-diaphragm drivers. These drivers are an upgrade to the original version and make use of Japanese CCAW coils. Also, ”the re-engineered driver cover enhances driver stability, for the structural integrity to manage a vast tonal range.” All of this helps ”push the sound quality into the ranks of Hi-Res Audio, as certified by the Japan Audio Society (JAS).”

V-MODA has always been fiercely independent, but for the M-100 Master, they partnered with engineers from Roland.

For the first time, Roland engineers managed the tuning process of a V-MODA headphone throughout the different iterations to make Crossfade M-100 Master sound just as sound engineers intended. This co-engineering process emphasized a “creators first” approach and makes the new headphone a natural choice for professional DJs, producers and video streamers who want to improve their skills with an exceptional audio tool.

Specifications:

  • Type: Over-Ear Circumaural
  • Speaker driver: 50mm dual-diaphragm driver
  • Frequency response: 5 – 40,000 Hz
  • Speaker sensitivity: 107dB @ 1kHz 1mW
  • Microphone sensitivity: -42dB @ 1kHz
  • Impedance: 32?
  • Weight: 283g

So let’s talk sound. V-MODA headphones have always been targetted toward people who love music. DJs love them, and I wasn’t surprised to see the ship DJ using a pair. Musicians love them too. These are not, however, reference headphones. Every pair of V-MODA headphones I have reviewed- and I’ve reviewed quite a few- have been heavy on the bass. The M-100 Master is no exception. They sound crisp and clear. The soup stage is fairly large. And there, bass- lots and lots of bass. So while the headphones are good for pretty much any genre of music, they excel when used for EMDR, Downtempo, and other music with a heavy beat. Since much of my listening falls into these categories, V-MODA headphones are a great fit for me.

What distinguishes the Crossfade M-100 Master from the original version is the Hi-Res Audio Certification.

Experience more with Hi-Res Audio: Powered by dual-diaphragm 50mm drivers, the Crossfade M-100 Master are Hi-Res Audio certified by the Japan Audio Society (JAS). Featuring a sophisticated sound signature and unparalleled clarity from the deepest bass to the sharpest highs, your sound will be so vibrant and detailed, you can practically touch it.

As the product page explains, Hi-Res Audio is “lossless audio that is capable of reproducing the full range of sound from recordings that have been mastered from better-than-CD-quality music sources.”

The company goes on to explain:

In its simplest terms, it refers to music files with a higher sampling frequency and/or bit depth than CD (which is 16bit/44.1kHz). Hi-Res Audio is therefore able to reproduce sound which is incredibly close to the sound originally created by the musicians and engineers in the studio at the time of recording. In short, Hi?Res Audio is the closest thing to actually being there when the artists recorded the track.

Here’s the problem with that. To get Hi-Res audio, everything that creates the audio experience has to support Hi-Res audio. Not only do the headphones need to be capable of handling high resolution, but the source device does too. Moreover, the audio file needs to be a high-resolution file. If everything isn’t ”speaking the same language,” the audio will default to the highest quality shared by all aspects of the experience.

That’s a problem since MP3 and AAC audio files, the most common music formats, aren’t high-resolution. Apple Music compresses tracks, so they are easily downloaded, streamed, or stored. The same goes for other streaming services. So while something like Apple Music is convenient, the ”price” is a compromise on quality.

What does work are formats such as WAV files, the standard format for CDs, FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) and Apple’s ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec.) Most consumers aren’t using them, opting instead for the convenience of streaming or subscription audio.

Also, the audio source device needs to be able to handle these less compressed files and output high-definition audio. The iPhone or IPad, my most common audio source, doesn’t do this unless they are connected to a high-quality DAC/AMP lightning cable. Even then, however, the file format has to offer high-resolution too, so, as the company explains, ”if you’re trying to listen to an AAC track from iTunes, you’re missing the last piece, and your audio will revert to a lower quality.”

V-MODA goes on to explain that the is good news in the department.

Hi-Res Audio support has made its way into all sorts of audio gear, from DJ controllers to computers and even smartphones and car stereos. Just like headphones however, this varies from device to device, so always research whether the device supports Hi?Res Audio before buying. On top of that, all of your audio components need to be able to support the bitrate required for Hi?Res Audio, from the file to the source device, to the cable and finally the listening device.

Does it matter? Yes and no. If you usually use your smartphone and no other audio source to stream and listen to music, you will perhaps not receive the full benefits of a device tuned for Hi-Res Audio as, once again, your devices will not be speaking the same language.

If you do, however, use high-quality files for producing, DJing, mixing, critical music listening, studio sessions, streaming, and so on, you will notice the difference with Hi-Res Audio, making a Hi-Res Audio-enabled device a true benefit and well worth choosing. In fact, a study published by QMUL (Queen Mary University of London) concluded that “people can hear the difference in high-resolution audio.”

It is, to a degree, similar to a picture taken with the original iPhone and one taken with my iPhone 11. They both capture the same scene. But while the picture taken with the original iPhone may look fine on its own, when compared to the one taken with the current iPhone, the difference is remarkable.

Or, for you oenophiles out there… A bottle of $15 red may taste fine until you drink a fine bottle of expensive wine. Once you taste the latter, it is hard to do back.

So are the V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Master headphones only for musicians, DJs, and audiophiles? I don’t think so. Yes, they are great for people in those and similar professions, but they are also good for folks like me who simply love music. For the additional money compared to the original M-100s, you get a more comfortable headphone that is future proof as to the quality of streamed and downloaded music increases. Also, while the sound signature is pure V-MODA, I think these sound a bit better than the original M-100s- even when my phone is the audio source. So while you CAN save some money and get the original version of the headphones, if you have the extra cash, it makes sense to get these instead. Before you do, though, you might want to step back a bit and reconsider. Because while these are amazing for DJs, etc., for us common folks the V-MODA Crossfade Wireless 2 may be the better choice. They don’t offer hi-res audio, but they sound fantastic and can be used in either wired or wireless mode. For me, and I suspect many of you, that’s the sweet spot that balances convenience and quality. Either way, you can’t go wrong. V-MODA makes some amazing headphones. The V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Master is $250. The SpeakEasy DAC/AMP Lightning Cable is $101. Check them out here.

Source: Manufacturer supplied review samples

What I Like: Amazing build quality; The included case is amazing; Durabible; A bit more comfortable than previous models; Sound great when used with an iPhone, sound better if you can access high-definition tracks

What Needs Improvement: Included cables rely upon antiquated 3.5mm standard; Equipment and audio file formats limit who can access the hi-res audio prowess of the headphones

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.