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V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless Review – Road Warrior

Pros – 

Super sturdy, folding design, Excellent wireless range, Engaging Sound

Cons – 

Bass emphasis can be overpowering at home, Midrange is a little unnatural


Introduction –

I’ve always had a strange fascination with V-Moda. They are an audio company that lean towards professional application, as the DJ’s headphone of choice, but their products are served with undertones of consumer fashion sense. As such, they’ve always existed in a limbo for the audio community; offering far more quality than your regular retail store headphone while lacking that last iota of focus possessed by enthusiast models. But that’s just common perception, in my experience, V-Moda are a company that deserves your attention whether you’re a regular consumer or a hardened audiophile.

Some may turn their noses up to the company’s talk of fashion and customizability, but a strong tuning methodology permeates beneath their sharp aesthetic styling. The Crossfade 2 Wireless absolutely exemplifies this as a headphone that is both exceptionally solid and surprisingly innovative. With a highly engaging sound, rock solid build quality and the liberation of Bluetooth connectivity, the Crossfade 2 presents a very strong offering within the portable headphone scene. And, at a $330-350 USD asking price (depending on configuration), V-Moda undercut the premium competition priced closer to $400. Let’s see what V-Moda’s latest cans are all about.

 

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank V-Moda very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the Crossafed 2 Wireless for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the headphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

 

Accessories –

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The Crossfade 2 Wireless ships within very distinct packaging that draws parallels to V-Moda’s hallmark angular styling. Unclasping a leather strap enables the carry case containing the headphones and accessories to be removed. The first thing buyers will notice is that the case is absolutely minuscule; especially considering that they contain a wireless over-ear headphone, 3.5mm audio cable and micro-usb charging cable.

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It really drives home how portable the Crossfade 2 Wireless is, and the headphone’s hexagonal design permits space to store the cables inside the case for access at all times. The case has two vents that can be opened to allow the headphones to breathe, presumably after a workout, or vigorous gaming or DJing session. And, where most wireless headphones include an audio cable that is almost an afterthought in quality, the included cable here is better than those on most wired headphones. It’s a fully featured V-Moda Speakeasy cable with remote/mic, 45-degree plug and durable braided cord. I separately purchase these cables for use with other headphones, they’re terrifically well constructed.

 

Design –

The Crossfade 2 Wireless embodies a delightful mix of portability, durability and usability. It’s distinct, angular styling harkens back to the M100 and original Crossfade; all distinct and stylish headphones. However, the Crossfade 2 is perhaps V-Moda’s most feature-rich headphone yet, retaining the folding design of the M100 while compounding on the innovations of the original Crossfade. The result is one of the most practical daily driver headphones I’ve had the pleasure of using, and I’ve personally owned almost every portable headphone on the market.

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At a glance, the Crossfade 2 Wireless is a very low profile over-ear headphone with a mostly metal construction. The earcups are clad in V-Moda’s signature faceplates customizable with an array of materials, colours, textures and even user specified designs; I opted to etch in my website’s logo. The bulk of the earcups are constructed from a well-finished matte plastic that feels as solid as they come; if not quite as opulent as designs from Bowers and Wilkins or Bang and Olufsen. The Crossfade 2 Wireless achieves especially impressive solidity through a one-piece metal frame that also serves to keep the whole package looking coherent.

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As aforementioned, the headphones fold for transport via hinges on the metal frame. The hinge is steel with a solid locking mechanism. Furthermore, when folded, they are easily the most compact I’ve handled, occupying minimal bag space. The headband adjustment slider is also incredibly sturdy, adjusting with defined clicks. I would have liked some numbered markings, but they did hold their position perfectly well during testing.

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Comfort will vary between users as V-Moda headphones have always had shallower more unorthodox hexagonal earpads. That said, the Crossfade 2 has V-Moda’s plushest pads yet and even more spacious XL pads are available for $20 on their website. The stock pads were a little snug for me, but they’re made from a soft pleather with compliant memory foam innards. Combined with the headphone’s soft fabric headband and relatively lightweight, I found the Crossfade 2 to be comfortable for hours of listening.

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I did experience some mild discomfort on the outsides of my ears and the pads don’t breathe well, getting a little hot over time, but these are easily one of the more comfortable portable headphone’s I’ve used. The headphone’s closed design and strong seal produce low sound leakage and great noise isolation that is easily sufficient for public transport. That said, fit stability isn’t excellent due to their looser clamp force. Resultantly, they don’t compress the head during longer listening sessions but they will shift with the wearer’s head position.

 

Usability –

The Crossfade 2 is quite typical for a wireless headphone with no snazzy touch-sensitive panels or flashy LED effects; this is a refined and straightforward setup. The right earcup houses the main interfaces with a 3.5mm audio input, sliding power button and 3-button media controls at the top. The control buttons are relatively easy to distinguish but have terrible tactile feedback with shallow travel and little click. The left cup is featureless besides a micro-usb charging port at the bottom.

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When it comes to wireless performance, it should be noted that not all Crossfade 2’s are identical. The rose gold version being reviewed is $20 more expensive and supports Apt-X whereas the standard version does not. From a source with Apt-X support, this codec does deliver tangible benefits to sound quality and certain implementations feature lower latency ideal for films and videos. And, in testing, my rose gold unit offered one of the most agreeable wireless implementations I’ve experienced.

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Pairing is simple, activated by holding the sliding power button for a few seconds and signified by the flashing status LED. Once paired, the headphones automatically attempt to reconnect with the last paired device and can be connected to two devices simultaneously. During my testing, connection was stable and latency was noticeable but not obtrusive; both videos and movies were practically in sync. But perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Crossfade 2 is its wireless range; they stubbornly hold onto a signal like few other wireless headphones. I was able to traverse the entire first floor of my double brick house with just a few hiccups at its extremities. In close proximity, connection is rock solid.

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Battery life is rated at 14+hours which is very respectable amongst wireless headphones. Better yet, the headphones easily met that claim, lasting ~16hrs around low-medium volume over 6months of testing. When the battery becomes depleted, connecting the audio cable disables all electronics, enabling them to function identically to a wired headset. Moreover, background hiss was barely noticeable during wireless listening and volume was easily sufficient. The headphones also introduce no additional sound processing over a wireless connection in the pursuit of fidelity and lower latency; something that can bother on other wireless headphones.

 

Sound –

As the Crossfade 2 Wireless is designed to be used over a Bluetooth connection, the following comments will be over an Apt-X wireless connection from my HTC U11 and Fiio X7 II. The headphones received over 200hrs of burn-in prior to final evaluation to ensure optimal performance during testing.

Full Specifications: here

 

Tonality –

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The Crossfade 2 is obviously sculpted; leaning more towards consumer than audiophile tuning with a vivid V-shaped signature. That said, their tuning is well-considered with emphasis lying mostly within sub-bass and lower-treble. This style of tuning creates a sound that isn’t thick down low nor splashy up top, while still delivering heaps of slam and crispness. Mids don’t hold as much presence, but they do possess great clarity that tends to draw attention. These features culminate to produce a sound that isn’t natural but wows on first impression and continues to engage with every subsequent listen.

 

Bass –

It’s no secret that V-Moda headphones favour bass orientated tuning, but common perception is that the Crossfade 2 Wireless is their most balanced yet. Though undoubtedly true, these headphones don’t lack warmth or impact, its emphasis’ are just a little altered. Sub-bass holds dominance in the Crossfade 2’s sound, providing a very physical foundation to its sound. Bass is also well-extended, delivering visceral rumble and slam. As is typical of most portable headphones, V-Moda also employ some mid-bass emphasis to provide fullness and impact. Resultantly, the headphone’s low-end leans in the direction of warmth however, this is redeemed by a fairly significant dip in their upper-bass.

Such a sculpted sound inevitably has its caveats, the most notable being the Crossfade 2 Wireless’ unnatural timbre. However, as a result, bass isn’t overly warm and mids are impressively uncoloured. Muddiness is evident, stripping their sound of some articulation. Still, the Crossfade delivers notes with very impressive control and tightness despite its emphasis, contributing to their very physical quality. This style of tuning creates huge slam while retaining defined, textured and focussed notes; even if they are lacking some detail through lack of linearity. But though not linear, the Crossfade 2 Wireless sounds especially dynamic down low due to great contrast between their bass and midrange.

 

Mids –

Clarity is the Crossfade’s greatest asset when compared to similarly bass orientated headphones. And interestingly, it is achieved not through excessive brightness but their aforementioned upper-bass attenuation. As bass is still emphasized, vocals are slightly chesty and lower details slightly muffled, but that dip into the lower mids effectively counteracts their added warmth, enabling a clearer presentation. Of course, linearity is always key to a realistic image, and the Crossfade’s uneven tuning does result in a notable lack of vocal density. This manifests through the headphone’s somewhat dry midrange presentation but also contributes to its excellent separation. Still, combined with their upper-midrange brightness, the Crossfade 2 Wireless is impressively revealing and isn’t affected by bass spill or congestion.

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Though more emphasized and less coloured by bass, upper mids tell a similar story. Female vocals don’t sound perfectly natural but are never hollow or raspy while upholding a high level of clarity. In fact, upper mids are rather nicely expressed within the realm of dark and over-bright portable headphones; and the V-Modas tend to bring details to the fore more naturally than most. Instruments can sound slightly inconsistent, a little warm down low and a little thin above, but notes are always defined, clear and delineated. So despite sounding a little unnatural, the Crossfade 2 Wireless remains easily enjoyed and highly engaging.

 

Treble –

The headphone’s generally more revealing nature can also be attributed to their aggressively detailed high-end. And unsurprisingly, the headphones don’t strive for realism up top either; rather pursuing engagement and addictive contrast. This mainly stems from their clear lower-treble emphasis that brings intricacies to the fore and forms their crisp presentation. In particular, cymbals and strings are delivered with great clarity and attack though this narrow-band emphasis does sap some instrument body. Actual detail retrieval is also very pleasing even if they are a little flavoured to resolve bundles of background detail. Regardless, strings are textured and cymbals polished without succumbing to artificial glossiness or stridence.

Middle treble possesses smaller but notable accentuation that produces higher levels of treble air. I suspect this is intended to mask some roll-off up top because, though certainly airy with plenty of shimmer and decay, micro-details are not particularly well resolved and upper-treble elements such as high-hats sound truncated. That said, this is a fairly common deficit non-specific to the V-Moda’s and their extension is easily above average, producing similarly pleasing resolution. They also produce quite a clean background and refrain from either sibilance of the blunting of most active lifestyle headphones.  Thus, the Crossfade 2 Wireless skillfully mitigates fatigue during high-volume listening while maintaining a revealing image.

 

Soundstage, Imaging and Separation –

The Crossfade 2 Wireless delivers a spacious stage that extends well beyond the confines of the head. Due to their enhanced air, highs are atmospheric and their sound is very separated due to its reduced upper-bass body which thins out their note presentation. This does aid definition and clarity, but imaging takes a hit with sparse layers and vague placement. Resultantly, the V-Moda is best enjoyed with modern albums which don’t rely as heavily on natural timbre and precise imaging. They are also very suitable for movies and videos due to their space, bass impact and clarity, however, they may lack some precision for competitive gaming.

 

Wired – 

Though designed for wireless listening, that’s not to discount V-Moda’s rich heritage with competitive wired models. Over a wired connection to my Fiio X7 II, the Crossfade 2 Wireless did indeed sound better; not a transformative change but one that was easily appreciated and, of course, very welcome. Their 32ohm impedance made them relatively easy to drive, requiring just a little more volume than headphones like the Denon MM-400, but not enough to necessitate an external amplifier.

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And similar to other Bluetooth headphones, I found the Crossfade 2’s low-end control to most notably improve; likely a result of better amplification over a wired connection. This, in turn, contributed to higher coherence throughout. Their sound signature and balance weren’t altered, but bass was cleaner and more defined. Mids sounded a little more linear but retained their slight dryness and warmth. Highs improved most notably through enhanced extension that benefit resolution and micro-detail retrieval. As such, the headphones sounded appreciably more technical and generally coherent over a wired connection. Imaging also improved by a fair margin which would explain why the V-Moda’s are such a popular choice for gamers.
Comparisons –

Denon MM-400 ($400)The Denon’s aren’t wireless, but they are subjectively one of the best bass-orientated portable headphones on the market. Its wooden build is just as iconic as the Crossfade’s angular customizable design but they trade the hard-wearing properties of the V-Moda for additional aesthetic charm. The MM-400 is slightly more comfortable as it is lighter with larger pads that fully encompass the ear. Both fold, but the Crossfade gets a lot smaller if bag space is a concern.

It’s in listening that the Crossfade’s interesting bass tuning reveals its strengths and weaknesses. The Denon is notably warmer than the V-Moda, but also more linear and balanced. It has a slight mid-bass focus and lacks the upper-bass dip of the V-Moda’s, sounding a lot more natural as a result. The Denon also delivers tighter rumble and greater deep-bass definition. However, mids are a lot clearer on the V-Moda as they are less coloured by its bass. The Denon is more natural and possesses the density that the Crossfade lacks, but lower-mids can sound a little muffled as a result.

That said, the Denon’s have a similar upper-midrange lift that enhances clarity and they retain their more natural timbre on top. The Denon has a little lower-treble emphasis but it is noticeably less aggressive than the Crossfade 2. It also lacks the middle-treble air of the V-Moda but has a little extra extension and upper-treble energy in return. As such, both are clean sounding headsets with similarly engaging tuning whose unique character is derived from their differing bass tuning.

Master & Dynamic MW60 ($549): The MW60 is among the most prestigious wireless headphones on the market. It has a gorgeous metal/lambskin leather build that feels more opulent but less hard-wearing than the more utilitarian V-Moda. Its design isn’t as sleek as the Crossfade’s, but its deeper pads are more comfortable during longer listening. Both fold for storage and have excellent wireless implementations with great range and Apt-X support.

The MW60 has a warmer, darker sound that is more linear but also considerably less vibrant, lacking the high-end and midrange energy of the Crossfade 2. Both are bass boosted, but the MW60 has more evenly distributed emphasis and is a little tighter. However, the V-Moda has quite a lot more midrange clarity and is a little more transparent; as the MW60 is darker with greater bass spill and colouration.

Highs also have a little aggression on the M&D headphone but they are vastly smoother overall where the V-Moda has greater emphasis and air. The MW60 does extend a little further despite its less revealing nature and delivers higher resolution and greater detail as a result. Both have fairly impressive soundstage presentations for portable headphones, the V-Moda is more spacious and a lot more separated but lacks the coherence and precision of the MW60.

 

Verdict –

Mad Max is a tale of redemption. And, much like the film, the Crossfade 2 Wireless does much to redeem the reputation of consumer headphones. Because, though not without its flaws, the new Crossfade forms a synergistic blend of form and feature; this isn’t a statement in fashion or luxury, but a hardened headphone adapted for daily use and abuse.

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Their combination of engaging tuning, rock-solid build and practical form factor culminate to a headphone that excels with daily use; a vital trait to all wireless headphones. Their sculpted sound is slightly unnatural and may be a little over-cooked for home listening, but it is immensely engaging and balances out nicely in louder environments. Additionally, low-latency apt-x wireless lends them well towards videos and films. This is a versatile headphone perfectly evolved for its intended uses.

Verdict – 7.5/10, These are not lounge chair headphones, Bluetooth was never designed with such uses in mind. Rather, the Crossfade 2 Wireless pursues functional excellence; a road warrior, imperishable and enchantingly coloured.

The V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless is available from Amazon (International) for $350 USD at the time of writing, please see my affiliate link for the most updated pricing, availability and configurations.

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