Review: V-Moda Crossfade Wireless & Zn In-Ear Headphones

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V-Moda is an audio company with strong ideas about how things should look and sound. Their headphones have a distinct industrial look and feature highly customizable plates on the earpieces. While the company’s audio sounds great, you’re also making a visual statement when you wear their gear. V-Moda has recently launched the Crossfade Wireless headphones (a companion device to the excellent Crossfade M-100s that I reviewed here a while back) and the ZN In-Ear headphones. Both sound great and offer outstanding value.

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ZN in-ear headphones.

The standard Crossfade Wireless headphones sell for $300, but you can drive the price up if you want to customize the shields (the 14K gold version with a stud design sells for $12,800, just in case you won the lottery or have a side gig as a Saudi prince). The ZNs sell for $180. Neither is inexpensive but both offer a great value compared to other headphones at their respective price points.

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The Crossfade Wireless headphones feature Bluetooth connectivity, 12-hour battery life and a cable that lets you use the headphones even after the batter has died. They weigh 10 1/2 ounces: not light but not too heavy for me. I found the earpads to be incredibly comfortable but you can buy some softer/thicker pads for $20.

They sound great, almost as good as the wired Crossfade M-100s mentioned before. Using the cable, the Crossfade Wireless even represent a slight upgrade, with more detailed bass. These would an excellent pair of wired headphones at the price, so the Bluetooth capabilities are sort of a bonus.

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The Crossfade Wireless only has an audio cable connection on the right ear (as opposed to either ear for the M-100s): the left ear holds the battery and has a micro USB connection for charging. V-Moda engineers decided these can’t fold up the same way their predecessors do, so you end up with a larger travel case. It’s not perfect but it’s only noticeable if you’re familiar with the M-100 case.

There’s a single microphone built into the headphones so you can use them for phone calls. There’s not the standard 2nd mic that loops back to the earpieces, so you aren’t able to hear yourself in the headphones while speaking. That’s a bit disorienting.

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The headband is flexible and the construction screams METAL, making a sharp contrast with all the plastic used by most of V-Moda’s competitors. I don’t generally like the sound of wireless Bluetooth headphones but these sound great and I’ve definitely gotten used to not getting tangled up in the audio cable when working at my desk.

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The first pair of good earphones I bought for my iPhone 3G were the V-Moda Vibe II headphones. I’ve owned a lot of in-ear monitors since then but the Vibe II’s have held up under a lot of abuse and they’re one of the few pairs that’s still going strong. The ZNs are better in every way: you can buy them with 3-button controls for iPhone or single-button for Android. The cables are thicker with a new Diamondback design and the 24K gold plated There connector plug is sturdier and long enough to work with most phone cases.

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You get V-Moda’s signature packaging sealed with a ribbon that must be ceremonially cut to open the box for the first time. All of their products make great gift choices if you care about presentation.

There are two styles of silicone eartips and each comes in four sizes. V-Moda calls the black ones the BLISS (Bass Level Isolating Soft Silicone) 3.0 fittings and they’re designed to give more sound isolation than other silicone tips without creating the kind of underwater isolation you’d get from most foam tips.

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They also come with sport earhooks that can be easily attached and removed. They’re incredibly effective at keeping the ZNs in place if you wear them to the gym. And I’ve been wearing them to workout. These feel sturdier than every other pair of “sport” earphones I’ve used over the last few years. V-Moda offers what the call their “Immortal Life” program: in the “unlikely event you run over your headphones with a tank,” you can get a replacement pair for 50% off.

V-Moda’s headphones emphasize the bass. If you think you like Beats, you should definitely check out their products. Like the M-100s, the Crossover Wireless make a definite visual statement and you’re sure to be noticed when you’re wearing them. If you’re up for spending $200 on earbuds, the ZNs are definitely worth a look. If you’re looking for sport headphones, I’d bet that the ZNs can give you better sound quality than you’d expect and handle the abuse.