Thereâ€™s never a â€œperfectâ€ choice. Be it cars, headphones, mobile phones, tablets, etc., youâ€™re always playing a balancing game of what feature or features youâ€™re ok with letting go in order to get some other feature(s). Such is the case with headphones. In this scenario there are two things to wrestle with if youâ€™re a headphone manufacturer: sound quality and outward appearance/physical design. The more one is elevated in priority, generally, the worse the other thing becomes. Did V-Moda but the beats trend and make a good sounding and good looking headphone with the M80?
Thereâ€™s no denying that the M80 is a nice set of cans. The utilitarian and dark design makes for a sinister looking headset. Add to that, metal accent pieces on each ear cup aim to push the look and feel of the M80s up to a more premium level.
The fit of the M80s is an on-ear design meaning you wonâ€™t have the complete isolation of an over-the-ear design. Depending on what youâ€™re after, this is either good, bad or indifferent.
Like many higher end (and now mid-range), the M80s feature a braided cable. In fact, there are two cables shipped from the factory – a black/gray straight cable and a red/black cable with an in-line remote for compatible iOS devices.
Overall, the M80s are a well made piece of hardware that feel and look genuinely nice. But $200+ ($199-$239) nice? At that price weâ€™re not so sure.
Extended listening (3 hours plus) can turn into a nightmare if you have the wrong pair of headphones. Typically, over-the-ear models offer the most cushion and comfort. But every once in a while an on-ear model provides much of the same. The M80s are for the most part a comfortable on-ear pair of headphones. Multiple 2-4 hour listening sessions only needed an occasional adjustment to resituate the ear pads on the sweet spot on our ears and to give our ears a second or two blast of fresh air. Speaking of which, the on-ear design means sweat and moisture are something to think about, especially since the material of the ear pads isnâ€™t exactly breathable.
In short: weâ€™ve worn far more comfortable and significantly less comfortable pairs of headphones.
The meat and potatoesâ€¦ sound. For this review we did some A-B listening alongside a pair of Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pros (80 Ohm).
Overall, the sound on the M80s compared to the Beyers is more forward in the mid-range and slightly punchier on the low end in more types of music whereas the Beyers turn out sounding more analytical. If you were looking at an EQ scale the Beyers would have a 3-part hill of sorts. A slight bump in the low end with a slightly larger bump in the upper mid-range, and finally, an even bigger (yet overall still relatively subdued) bump in the upper range.
Now how does that translate into actual music? Songs that are really fast paced and/or complex such as some family favorites by Lamb of God, Chimaira and Trivium sound more engaging on the M80s. That is, the ranges that the guitars congregate in are louder and more forward while also carrying a bit more heft. Warmer. The highs arenâ€™t as articulate or clear as the Beyers but they are there. And for a pair of headphones with a sound signature such as the M80s, itâ€™s a blessing that theyâ€™re not completely rolled off in the upper range as many tend to do. Conversely, itâ€™s also a blessing that the high end isnâ€™t super harsh and exhibiting sibilance (annoying).
Soundstage between the M80s and Beyers is quite different. The in-your-face attitude of the mid-range on the M80s feels more stereo and inside your head. The Beyers on the other hand sound more like youâ€™re sitting in a small to medium sized room with the band. Neither sound characteristic is inherently better or worse than the other and is more-so a matter of preference.
If we move from fast paced harder metal to something like rap or music with many different layers, the M80s hold their own. The less analytic style means the low end is well represented and for their size, quite respectable. The only complaint in this area is that the less analytic nature of the M80s means music with a lot of different things going on can get a bit unorganized. Itâ€™s not as bad as some headphones where the entire mid and upper range sounds like an elephant running through a pool of cymbals. But itâ€™s not nearly as defined and easy to tell pieces apart as it is with the Beyers.
As we started with above, there are always reservations with audio junkies when reviewing a pair of fashion forward headphones. Too many times more money than should be allowed is spent on fancy design or celebrity endorsements. Meanwhile, the real point of the whole product (sound quality) is an after thought. And in those instances, ears-on testing shows this time and time again. V-Moda has been guilty of this tactic in the past too, charging too much and/or putting sound quality in the back seat. But with the M80s they stepped back a bit from the flashiness. Yes, theyâ€™re still a very well designed headphone and obviously trying to appeal to the customersâ€™ eye for design. But this time around, V-Moda also made a decent sounding pair of cans.
The only reservation we have for the M80s is the price. If they were $99-$129 weâ€™d be more apt to pick them in a lineup against other competitorsâ€™ offerings. But considering our comparison set of headphones, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro are an all around better headphone for $40+ less, it makes it a hard sell. If we open up our search, there are several other models under $200 that weâ€™d recommend over the M80s.
In the end, V-Moda has something great here. They simply priced it way too high.
An overall good pair of headphones that provides big sound in a small package is ultimately hampered by not it's sound or design, but price. If the M 80s were priced ~$40 less it would be a different outcome.