The V-Moda XS are a pair of on-ear headphones that are the direct follow-up to the Crossfade M-80s providing a deep, bassy sound in a smaller and more compact design.
Currently available to buy for $200 (£125) in the US, the XS are likely to be closer to the £200 mark when UK retailers begin stocking it. The distinctive look won't be to everyone's tastes but if you can look past that, these are headphones built to last and that deliver fantastic sound quality.
Essentially a shrunken down pair of M-100s, they are available in the same matte black metal or white, with the brightly-hued latter model we tested not being as loud and brash as we initially feared. It's actually more of a cream colour on the top of the headband and around the earcups, which gives of a more subtle vibe.
The diamond-shaped ear cups still include the customizable metal plates held in place by a series of screws that are easy enough to take off and replace when you find the right sized screwdriver. As is now customary with the V-Moda range there’s a tangle-free Kevlar cable with a simple one button control and mic that sits further up the cable to be in much closer proximity to the mouth.
It also has a second input below the bottom of the cups so you can plug in another pair of headphones and listen to the same music. The spare input port is covered by a small plug with a spare one in the box if it goes missing.
Examples of the lavish quality are everywhere you look. The extendable steel arms, the plush memory foam cushions and leather padded headband all combine to make these such a well constructed pair of headphones. Even the hard exoskeleton carry case that comes with a carabiner to hook it onto your bag is a stylish place to store them instead of throwing them into a bag. You can do that as well though and like previous V-Moda headphones the XS have a similarly tough exterior. V-Moda makes a big deal of how bendy and indestructible they are and they certainly held up to our abuse too.
If you like a form-fitting pair of headphones, these fit the bill. V-Moda talks about minimising the gap between the head and headband to provide less of a bulky look - something which can be a problem with over-ear headphones - and largely it has achieved this. They definitely hug the head and not in an uncomfortable, clamping way. The XS weigh just 195g so they are very light and having worn them for long tube rides and days in the office we can confirm these are built to be worn for long periods without discomfort.
Beneath the largely metal exterior lie 40mm drivers that are rated to an impressively expansive 5-30,00Hz. It doesn't take long to realise that the XS cannot match the warmth, sparkly highs or wide soundstage of the M-100s, though. That said, they still manage to deliver great results.
Bass is undeniably at the forefront but in a way that doesn't overpower the well balanced sound signature. The good treble response and impressive mid range also shine through and even when you swap music for movie-watching the 3D soundstage is surprisingly well rounded creating a great sense of depth. Clarity and definition is not top notch, but it’s a minor gripe at an otherwise solid all-round performance.
Where the XS headphones do fail is noise isolation. If you are hoping to wear them and drown out exterior noise on the way to work then you are going to be disappointed. Like the Sennhesier Momentum On-ear, these fight a losing battle and if you crank it up to help matters they do leak out that audio, not to mention deafen you too.
The V-Moda XS headphones are fantastic in many respects and are a shining example of how to make a premiium pair of headphones. Aesthetically they offer something different, are comfortable to wear, have that slim profile and remain faithful to the great sound V-Moda is growing a reputation for.
In terms of alternatives that can offer most of the same qualities, the obvious choice are the Sennheiser Momentum On-ear headphones. Priced at around £165 they also have the stylish good looks and enjoyable sound. They do also suffer from the same noise isolation issues so they are not going to be the greatest for a noisy commute. Both are certainly great on-ear options under £200.
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