The V-Moda Vibes

vmoda1However, from the ubiquitous sea of stock, mug-me-white earbuds rose a demand for high performance headphones suited to a mobile lifestyle. While other companies have answered this demand, Hollywood company V-Moda has recently positioned itself as a player in this expanding market with a line of luxury earphones for the fashion-forward.




The V-Moda Vibes

Even more so than the Sony Walkman over two decades before it, the Apple iPod redefined the concept of portable music – and not only the ability to soundtrack one's life, but to do so in style. However, from the ubiquitous sea of stock, mug-me-white earbuds rose a demand for high performance headphones suited to a mobile lifestyle. While other companies have answered this demand, Hollywood company V-Moda has recently positioned itself as a player in this expanding market with a line of luxury earphones for the fashion-forward.

The slick Vibe series, V-Moda's newest designer earphone, joins the new breed of in-ear-monitors (IEMs) made by companies like Shure, Etymotic Research, and Ultimate Ears. Formerly the exclusive domain of musicians and audiophiles, the IEM market has seen a surge in growth due to the success of portable music players like the iPod and its competitors.

What V-Moda hopes to bring to the increasingly crowded competition, in that finest of cruel juxtapositions, is both style and substance. Right from the packaging, it's clear that V-Moda has succeeded on at least the first point.

Packaging and Accessories

The Vibe series comes packaged in a small black box, about the size of a double-CD set, with a window displaying the earphones positioned flying out from each other, resembling the logo in a sprawling v-shape. The satin finish of the black box is accented with metallic ink, providing both a pleasing visual and tactile experience from the start.

Included with the V-Moda Vibes themselves are a plethora of accessories: six pairs of silicon tips, a membership card to the V-Moda VIP Club, a v-shaped cable wrap, and, last but not least, a gold leather pouch proudly emblazoned with the V-Moda logo (to be perfectly precise, it's gold pleather, but this distinction is really of minor importance when holding a metallic earphone pouch). Minor lapse in accessory taste aside, V-Moda has put together an exceedingly complete package to compliment their Vibe series.

V-Moda's fine attention to detail continues with the Vibes themselves. Playing off the fashion sense of Apple's own serialization in its products, V-Moda offers several styles of the Vibe, which carry names like Gun Black, Flashback Chrome, La Mocha, and Red Roxx. The latter, designed to match the special edition (Product) Red iPod Nano, features a knurled black ring as an accent to the rich, candy apple red of the anodized aluminum housing.

The stylish touches to the Vibe series extend down from the enclosures themselves, from a braided metal cable encased in clear plastic to the tapered housing for the 1/8-inch jack. Unfortunately, the plug terminates in a straight jack, as opposed to a more headphone-port friendly L-plug, which would reduce strain on the audio out jack of players like the iPod. This minor flaw aside, other points along the way, like the aluminum sheath for the cable's y-connector, add to the impression of a highly finished product.

Fit and Comfort

The Vibes come with three sizes of soft silicon tips, which are meant to ensure a comfortable listening experience. Also, since the Vibes, like other IEMs, sit in the ear canal, the proper fit and seal are critical to optimal performance and the best sound quality.

As a universal IEM, as opposed to a pair featuring custom-molded earpieces, the Vibes offer an effortless and fairly comfortable fit; insertion and removal is as easy as popping them in or out. In a wonderful example of form following function, the black knurled bands that encircle the driver enclosures serve as handy grips against the otherwise slick aluminum housing, making this process all the more easy.

In addition, the light weight of 12 grams contributes to a light and high level of comfort. The Vibes can be worn either with the cable hanging straight down or with the cable wrapped over the ears.

Sound Quality

While the flashy stylings of the Vibe series leave little doubt as their function as a fashion accessory, the question remains as to their ability to deliver on V-Moda's second promise: sound quality.vmoda3

V-Moda has described the sound of the Vibes as possessing a "sculpted sound curve," designed to mimic the sound signature a specific pair of hi-fi speakers owned by Vol Koltron, CEO of V-Moda.

Just like the style of these 'phones, the sound of the Vibes is bold from the ground up, with tight and nicely extended bass. Percussion is full without feeling bloated, and the Vibes deliver a satisfying attack. With little roll-off in the low tones, the Vibes have solid foundation of the smooth and warm midtones.

Treble is mild, if slightly recessed, which is arguably the Vibes' greatest sonic misstep. It's this understated presence of the upper tones that can, at times, contribute to a veiled character when compared to other IEMs, which may produce a more balanced and forward presentation. However, to their credit, the Vibes never display any sense of harshness in the upper tones, while still allowing for spare moments of sparkle.

The driver enclosures of the Vibes feature a small hole in the driver enclosure, which V-Moda calls the "beat port airflow" system. This opening contributes to a slightly wider soundstage than other IEMs, which are most often completely sealed. This marginally more expansive soundstage does come at the expense of isolation, however, so these canalphones will not block out as much external noise as sealed IEMs that sit deeper in the ear. While they will produce better isolation than earphones that sit outside the ear canal, users who listen to music in crowded or noisy environments will be best served by another pair of IEMs.

Overall, the V-Moda Vibes produce a warm, enjoyable sound reproduction, favoring musicality over absolute precision. This presentation is the sort that seems to grow more pleasing with subsequent listening; even if it isn't accurate, it's undeniably fun.

Positioned as an intersection between fashion-conscious style and audio enthusiast sound, the V-Moda Vibes surprisingly deliver on both accounts. While the sound signature is far from flat (V-Moda goes to great lengths to describe this departure in its marketing materials), the Vibes combine high quality build and style with an involving presentation. From the great detailing of the slick aluminum casing to the richly engaging sound signature, the Vibes are a set of 'phones that are poised to satisfy fashionistas and music lovers alike. | Todd Owyoung

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