V-Moda Crossfade 2 Bluetooth Headphones Hands-On

They say you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. V-Moda’s Crossfade 2 Wireless headphones have that part of the ownership experience covered. From the moment I began unboxing these over-ear headphones, the company’s fastidious attention to detail was readily apparent. And the moment my wife saw them, she said “that looks like an Italian design” i.e. slick and fashionable… Which they are, although the company itself is headquartered in Hollywood California.

Italian design, at least when it comes to cars and espresso machines, has always been about performance as well as aesthetics. And while the Crossfade 2s may look great, the real question is this: Do these headphones offer fidelity to match their great looks?

Hands-On Impressions

Thanks to the immense popularity of smartphones, the market for wireless headphones is huge. The result is stiff competition, especially in the $300-$400 range. These headphones stand out from the pack when it comes to build quality, they have the look and feel of a premium luxury product. Click here to read the backstory of how V-Moda came up with its signature designs.

These DJ-style headphones are a folding closed-back over-ear design. The hexagonal earcups are signature V-Moda, you won’t mistake them for any other brand. The fit is airtight, thanks to a moderate clamping force and compliant ear cushions. The Crossfade 2s are effective at reducing outside noise and staying attached to your head when you’re doing something active, like DJing or running to catch a flight.

The steel spring hinge mechanism lets the Crossfade 2s fold compactly for travel.
At first I was worried that the compact earcups would not be very comfortable, but I found that they had enough cushioning to feel snug without causing fatigue. All in all, it’s a design that makes for good pair of travel headphones, even if they lack active noise cancellation.

When I check out headphones, before I get into music listening I like to play some bass test tones and subjectively ascertain how they can go and still play clean. The specs for the Crossfade 2s claim a (wired) frequency response of 5 Hz to 40,000 Hz, and in practice I was able to hear clean bass down to 16 Hz, but furthermore I was able to hear clean, distortion free pressurization of my eardrums down to 10 Hz. While the specs may be a bit optimistic, there’s no question these headphones are among the best I’ve heard at reproducing deep bass, and do so without undue exaggeration.

At the end of the day, my primary interest in any pair of headphones is with how they sound. The good news is that V-Moda’s voicing is enjoyable, with excellent-sounding bass, clear midrange, and highs that possess a pleasant sparkle and deliver copious amounts of detail without triggering listener fatigue. Plus, even when using a cord, they are mobile-friendly with 32-ohm impedance and 100 dB (1 kHz/1mW) sensitivity.

I do most of my headphone listening while walking my dog at night, when it’s nice and quiet out. Ideally, a great pair of headphones will disappear and allow me to focus on the music. I’m happy to report that the V-Modas passed that threshold.

V-Mody Crossfade 2V-Moda Crossfade 2 headphones are stylish and comfortable.

Thievery corporation’s recent album The Temple of I & I provided my first real taste of what these headphones offer. I listened in wired mode and the first track, “Thief Rockers,” set a crisp and energetic tone. There’s basically nothing to criticize here, even when powered by my phone the Crossfade 2s played loud and very clear.

Much to my surprise, the soundstage was not at all claustrophobic, despite these being comparatively compact closed-back headphones. “Letter to the Editor” with Racquel Jones on vocals got me walking with a syncopated stride while I absorbed the irie vibe of the admittedly political track and its driving rhythm—it sounded awesome.

“Letter to the Editor” by Thievery Corporation featuring Racquel Jones 

As I checked out Coil’s album Loves Secret Domain, I could clearly hear the complexity and nuance of the mix that’s often masked by lesser headphones. Any headphones that can peel through all the layers of “Things Happen” or “Windowpane” are good headphones in my book. The album’s production style is perfectly suited to headphone listening and the Crossfade 2s proved adept at rendering all the different elements in proper proportion.

A switch to Bluetooth wireless came with slight loss in fidelity as compared to wired. I reviewed the white version of the Crossfade 2s, but only the Rose Gold version of these headphones offer aptX bluetooth for enhanced fidelity. Having said that, because these are great headphones to begin with, music sounds quite good through a regular Bluetooth connection, just not as finely resolved. Plus, to their credit, these headphones can play quite loud in wireless mode, and the  Bluetooth connection itself is rock-solid.

Any fears I had that these would turn out to be uncomfortable headphones melted away after my first continuous hour of listening. If anything, they seem to become more comfortable over time, not less. Of course, because ears come in all shapes, sizes and sensitivities to pressure, what works for me may not work for you.

A switch to the charismatic rapper Action Bronson’s new album “Blue Chips 7000” put a smile on my face. The tracks are backed by jazzy acoustic grooves that sounded studio-quality through these cans. And Bronson’s raspy, leathery, Queens, NY accented voice sounded as clear as when I listened to the album through a five-figure stereo system. The performance you can get out of a pair of well-designed, stylish headphones these days is amazing.

Metallic Spheres is an album by The Orb and David Gilmour (of Pink Floyd fame) that is a truly impeccable studio production full of huge sounds, including Gilmore’s signature guitar and Dr. Alex Pattersons masterful ambient soundscapes. And upon listening to the 28 minute long “Metallic Side,” I felt as if the Crossfade 2s provided one of the best headphone renditions of the track that I’ve heard. Here again, the surprising openness of the soundstage came into play; these headphones can do tight and intimate, or grand and expansive

Conclusion

I admit I’m a bit baffled as to why all the Crossfade 2 models don’t have aptX Bluetooth. It’s the only feature I missed, and given that the Rose Gold model only costs $20 more, it seems like it should have been an easy feature to include for the other colors. Why can’t I have aptX in white? But, it made little difference since I found “regular” Bluetooth to be very listenable, and crucially the connection was strong and worked even if I walked 15-20 feet away from my phone. Moreover, the corded performance of these V-Modas is uncommonly good for closed-back cans, regardless of price.

The ultimate compliment I can offer any pair of headphones is that I forget I’m wearing them and get lost in the music. If I can obtain that in headphones that offer wireless listening, slick styling, and high build quality, then I’m happy. The Crossfade 2s made me very happy.

Of course there is no “ideal” headphones, it’s all a matter of taste. But, if you have $350 or so budgeted for headphones and are looking for something durable that travels well, you should at least try out the Crossfade 2 headphones. I was initially skeptical that they are a “complete package” of style and substance, but that’s the reality.

Now, you might ask, if these Crossfade 2 headphones are so amazing, can you really spend more and get better? Of course you can, as long as you accept that the law of diminishing returns is in full effect. I find it remarkable how close to an “ideal” sound—at least to my taste—these cans can get. If you add the excellent build quality, stylish looks, and deep bass performance that is genuinely superior, it becomes clear that V-Moda’s Crossfade 2 headphones are something special.