“The M-200 is able to reveal details that fewer headphones miss. It is a wired winner.”
Very detailed and precise sound
Mids and highs are incredibly clear
First class materials
Balanced audio cable and input
Restrained bass reproduction
Flat EQ will not please everyone
Ear cups can fill up larger ears
-Moda M-200 It’s been seven years since we got the hands and ears of V-Moda’s $ 310 M-100 crossfade headphones. At that time we were impressed by the relatively new audio brand with the combination of the killer look and high-end audio chops of the M-100.
Now the company is back with its successor, the $ 350 million M-200. Can the new kid on the block still deserve our praise, although most of the new headphones at this price are now wireless and the original M-100 is only $ 250?
Time to find out.
Headphone design is a tricky business. You have to balance comfort, mobility, weight, ergonomics, style and, of course, audio performance. The V-Moda M-200 scores with only a few minor problems.
Material and workmanship are excellent. The M-200 combines robust metal ear cup pins and hinges with soft and supple synthetic leather.
The ear cushions are magnetically attached to the ear cup, making replacement a breeze when that day comes. Unlike many of the headphones I’ve tried, the pillows feel good whether you wear them with glasses or not.
Comfort, portability, weight, ergonomics, style and of course audio performance. Overall, the M-200 scores very well.
As the name suggests, the “FlexSteel” headband can be turned so far that you can use the headphones individually for quick monitoring or DJing. However, it maintains its shape when used normally.
I haven’t used the M-200 for months, so I can’t confirm how much abuse they will suffer, but their build quality creates a lot of confidence.
Although the M-200 is a little heavier than some other high-end headphones at just over 10 ounces, it feels perfectly balanced once it’s on your head. There is practically no movement between the firm but comfortable clamping force of the headband and the fit of the ear cups. I wouldn’t hurry to jog with these puppies, but you definitely could.
For smaller heads, the minimum size of the headgear may be a little too large. I wore them like this and they were perfect for me – but just straight.
As comfortable as I found them, if your ears tend to stick out of your head, you may find that they touch the inner lining because the distance between the pillows and the inner surface is very small. Less than half an inch separates the sides of your head and the internal grille that protects the driver. Some headphones, like the WH-1000XM3 from Sony, are three-quarters of an inch or more, which gives a much more spacious feel.
My only small criticism of the design of the M-200 is the lack of a laterally rotatable hinge for the ear cups. Because of this, there is no way to lay them flat when worn around the neck, which leads to a somewhat uncomfortable experience. These impressively thin metal ear cup cones actually sat right on my collarbones and I couldn’t leave them there for more than a few minutes.
Connections and cables
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
As wired headphones, you won’t find any buttons, switches or touch controls on the M-200. Two 3.5mm connectors on the bottom of each ear cup are the only breaks for the otherwise very clean look.
The left connector is for a standard headphone jack (which is hard to find on smartphones these days), while the right connector is reserved for those who have access to a balanced stereo output.
Balanced outputs are even rarer in the personal audio world, but are common in audiophile devices and in professional studio environments. They are valued for their almost complete elimination of interference from one channel to another, which very demanding listeners claim to notice with unbalanced headphones.
The impressive design of the M-200 is that it not only uses a single cable, but also a single input. Most balanced headphones split their balanced cables into left and right connections.
V-Moda includes both a balanced cable and the more conventional unbalanced stereo cable, which is equipped with an inline microphone and a one-button remote control for handling phone calls and play / pause functions on most smartphones.
An individual look
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
After unpacking, the M-200 looks fantastic in my opinion. Designing headphones that don’t look like they’re trying to swallow your head is difficult – especially if it’s an over-ear model.
This sweet aesthetic can be enhanced by choosing interchangeable metal shields.
And yet the M-200 is slim and unobtrusive thanks to the hexagonal shape of the outer shell of the ear cup and the metal cones that seamlessly continue the bow of the headband.
This sweet aesthetic can be enhanced by choosing interchangeable metal shields (the outermost plate of the ear cups). These increase the price of the M-200, but if you want your headphones to reflect your personal style, they’re $ 30 well spent and the options are almost limitless.
V-Moda has kindly sent us a number of personalized Digital Trends shields for review – custom logos are another option.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
Since the M-200’s ear cups cannot be rotated, the included hard-shell travel case has turtle-like proportions to allow for the additional height. The resulting bulbous shape will be difficult for most people to comfortably put in a backpack or laptop bag. Therefore, V-Moda contains a snap hook, with which you can attach the tote bag to the outside of your bag.
Despite the somewhat unfavorable shape, the housing is actually quite small, and the M-200 is admirably foldable in a confined space, while still leaving room for both cables. An internal pouch for cable adapters would have been a nice touch – especially since you have to bring one unless your smartphone has a headphone jack – but unfortunately your adapters have to float freely in the main cavity.
The best way to describe the sound signature of the M-200 is “scalpel sharp”. The sheer amount of detail they can render is amazing, especially in the mids and highs that usually compete with each other in smaller headphones.
This is not the case with the M-200, which creates a frequency separation that enables every instrument and every voice to be fully enjoyed.
As with the M-100, this precision can sometimes be painfully bright. The volume control on my smartphone was not nuanced enough as I tried to find the right balance of gain with which I could enjoy the excellent definition of the M-200 without causing pain.
Unfortunately for those hoping to repeat the impressive M-100’s bass-forward stance, the M-200 has a reserved low end, resulting in the “flat” EQ so appreciated by audiophiles and professionals alike. But many people who don’t fall into these categories may not be prepared for the M-200’s smooth bass response.
The sheer amount of detail they can render is amazing, especially in the mids and highs.
Even on tracks that are very long to create a low-end that you can feel in your chest, like Boom Boom Pow from the Black Eyed Peas and Hans Zimmer Time, the M-200 is cautious about the bass and prefers him nuance over power.
It can be delicious: this balance brings out all the beauty of an acoustic guitar on a track like Road Trippin ‘by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and classic pieces with a full orchestra are a delight, especially if you don’t like anything better than picking out your favorite instrument.
But it can also be disturbing: this level of purity has a degree of attack that those who are used to a customized EQ, such as the type that tries to warm up the sound, sometimes find it uncomfortable.
When describing the sound stage of a headphone – the imaginary space in which the music is played – we often use terms such as “broad” or “immersive”. But here, too, the unique properties of the M-200 create a different set of adjectives. The placement of musical elements is remarkably precise. As I listened to tracks I’d heard dozens, if not hundreds, of times, I suddenly noticed subtleties – like a background voice or a light use of a tambourine – in a way I had never done before.
It is not clear that I did not know these elements. But with the M-200, they were able to occupy such a clearly defined space on the sound stage that it felt like I could turn around in my seat and actually see the instrument or vocals in question. If you’ve never heard this precision before, it’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Granted, $ 350 is a lot of money for headphones that aren’t wireless and don’t have active noise cancellation. But for those looking for tonal perfection, the V-Moda M-200 offers virtuoso performance for hundreds of dollars less than other audiophile options.
Is there a better alternative?
Finding an audiophile headphone with a balanced audio input can be shockingly expensive, making the M-200 an easily accessible model with this feature. As such, it’s in a class of its own.
If you know everything about the M-200 but fear that its flat EQ doesn’t suit your taste, then V-Moda’s own M-100 Crossfade or M-100 Crossfade Master is the place for you. You lack the symmetrical input, but you’ll find that the sound is warmer, the prices are cheaper, and the designs are practically identical, including the custom shield option.
How long will they last?
The V-Moda M-200 comes with a very generous two-year warranty. However, the company also offers the Immortal Life Replacement Program, which offers discounts on new V-Moda products if the M-200 fails after the warranty period.
This is a nice safety net, but given its excellent construction, I doubt you will need it.
Should you buy them
Yes. As long as you are looking for the highest audio precision in a comfortable and elegant set of wired sockets, the M-200 is guaranteed to be satisfactory.