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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 produced 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.
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.
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.
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