Brief: As the first full-size headphone from the US-based designer of fashionable audio gear, the Crossfade is impressive in both design and functionality but misses the mark when it comes to sound
MSRP: $199 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $130 from amazon.com
Build Quality (9/10): Compared to the majority of style-oriented portable headphones, the Crossfade LP carries an air of heft and solidity. All of the chromed bits and pieces are made of stainless steel and really add up in weight but give the headphone a quality feel. The glossy plastics are a bit less impressive but their use in the load-bearing parts of the structure is minimal. The Crossfade is also neither flat-folding nor collapsible so there is very little to go wrong and, though some portability is sacrificed, the excellent hard carrying case means that the Crossfade can still be thrown into a backpack or suitcase very easily. Will the V-Moda outlast the Senn HD25-1 if abused heavily? Probably not – it is too heavy for its own good and the plastic bits will probably shatter if it is dropped too many times. For a consumer-oriented headphone, however, it’s all very impressive. Another upside is the cable – the Crossfade uses a slightly recessed 3.5mm jack and comes with two sturdy, nylon-sheathed cables. Microphone-less replacement cords are quite cheap, too – only $5.49 each on V-Moda’s website – but as with the Beats any slim 3.5mm interconnect will work.
Comfort (8.5/10): Though the Crossfade LP has an inherent comfort advantage in being fully circumaural, it is also one of the heavier consumer-class sets in this lineup and is handicapped somewhat by the moderately shallow cups. After a while I do start to feel the grilles pressing against my ears but I still find the Crossfade a touch more comfortable than any of the supraaurals with the exception of the B&W P5. The thick pleather pads do get a little hot after a while but the fact that they aren’t deep enough to seal completely helps a bit.
Isolation (8.5/10): The isolation of the Crossfade LP is on par with other portable circumaural sets from companies such as JVC and Panasonic. Like the similarly-priced Monster Beats and Phiaton MS400s, they don’t quite reach the passive attenuation level of the HD25-1 and P5 but do perform very well out and about.
Sound (6.25/10): As a brand, V-Moda has always placed more emphasis on styling and design than sound quality, but that didn’t stop the original Vibe IEMs from gaining a small audiophile following upon release. Indeed, the warm and full sound of the Vibe was a good compromise between performance and the fun factor – something I think the Phiaton MS400 does exceptionally well in the portable headphone realm. The Crossfade LP, unsurprisingly, is just as warm as and even more bass-heavy than the Phiatons, but unfortunately doesn’t perform on the same level on the whole. The Crossfades’ bass, for one, is extremely forward and sounds a little strained, as if every last bit of bass response has already been coaxed out of the drivers. Resolution is not as good as with the MS400 and bass detail gets drowned out by impact. Bass power is quite similar to the Sony MDR-XB700 but the midrange of the Crossfades is a less recessed, making them sound more balanced than the Sonys. However, despite similar extension, the bass of the Sonys still sounds a touch deeper and more articulate than that of the Crossfades. It doesn’t help that the badly recessed midrange of the XB700 is nevertheless clearer of bass bleed while the well-textured mids of the V-Modas lack clarity and still sound somewhat muffled even with the bass eq’d out. Even Monster Beats Solos have slightly better midrange clarity, sounding noticeably leaner and crisper on the whole.
The treble transition is smooth and treble emphasis is about on-par with the Sony XB700. However, the Crossfade’s clarity issues affect the treble as much as they do the midrange. Roll-off is slightly less obvious than with the MS400 but the 30kHz limit on the frequency response specification is still a gross exaggeration. Presentation-wise, the Crossfade is again decent but not outstanding, with the overwhelming bass occasionally stepping out of line and ruining the otherwise-decent layering. Separation suffers slightly as well even though the soundstage has decent width and depth. Slow recordings with sparse instrumentation sound quite good but fast and busy tracks get smeared. Don’t get me wrong – the Crossfade is not a bad headphone and still makes for an upgrade from entry-level sets like the KSC75 – but compared to the other heavy-hitters in this lineup it is simply not resolving enough. Along with the Beats Solo, the Crossfade really is a headphone I don’t see myself picking up at my leisure – what it offers in build quality, isolation, and comfort, it lacks in sound quality – a real shame as good portable circumaurals are hard to find.
Value (6.5/10): Beautifully-packaged, well-accessorized, sturdily-build, isolating, and very comfortable, the Crossfade has everything I look for in a portable headphone except the big one – sound quality. With much more bass body and rumble than the Beats Solo and much less clarity, the V-Modas deserve every negative connotation of the term ‘bass monster’. On the whole, what the Crossfades do is make most the other higher-end headphones in this lineup sound good in comparison – they are not terrible but perhaps expecting them to sound like a $200 set is the wrong approach. For me, the Crossfade carries $100 worth of functionality but only $40 worth of sound.
Frequency Response: 5 – 30,000 Hz
Impedance: 32 Ω
Cord: 3ft (0.9m) or 5.8 ft (1.8m), single-sided, detachable; Angled Plug
Space-Saving Mechanism: N/A