V-Moda S-80 on-ear headphones

MSRP $400.00

“They’re beautiful, however too costly, heavy, and missing in options.”

Execs

  • Nice design
  • High-notch supplies
  • Good sound high quality

Cons

  • Costly
  • Heavy and uncomfortable
  • No ANC/transparency
  • Mediocre battery life
  • Speaker characteristic is underwhelming

It’s usually true that on the subject of headphones, you get what you pay for. As costs go up, you’ll be able to count on higher supplies, higher craftsmanship, extra and higher options, and higher sound high quality. That’s why V-Moda’s new S-80 wi-fi, on-ear headphones are so shocking. At $400, they price as a lot as Sony’s WH-1000XM5, which we take into account to be the very best wi-fi headphones proper now. At that value, the S-80 must be distinctive, however as a substitute, they’re an oddity — a well-crafted however extremely restricted set of headphones that lean on a single concept for his or her enchantment: whenever you twist the earcups outward, they grow to be audio system that you could supposedly use for private or small-group listening.

Is it attainable that this one characteristic can justify such a lofty value? Right here’s what we discovered.

What’s within the field?

Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

The S-80 are available a really good, huge field. Sadly, inside that field, you’ll merely discover the headphones, a USB-A-to-USB-C charging cable, and V-Moda’s signature magnetic shields on the skin of the earcups, which I’ll clarify in a second. The massive lacking factor right here, particularly when you think about the value, is any sort of storage case or safety. Significantly, V-Moda doesn’t even present a drawstring bag.

Design

Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

I’ve handy it to V-Moda — the corporate has by no means failed to supply actually handsome headphones. The S-80 are fairly putting of their minimalist design, with absolutely built-in, single-sided aluminum earcup pivots that reach up into the scarf on tubular sliders. The scarf itself is adorned with slash-cut aluminum endcaps, which give a really modern look. Our evaluate unit featured a black/rose gold colour combo (although frankly, it appears to be like extra like copper to me) however you may also get them in black/silver and white/silver combos.

Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

V-Moda’s signature design component — the hexagonal earcups — are current and accounted for, although smaller than the corporate’s different fashions due to the on-ear design. It has additionally stored its different signature design characteristic — swappable outer earcup shields — however the S-80 has embraced the present development to make all the pieces magnetic. As an alternative of bolting the shields to the earcups with a sequence of tiny screws, they’re held in place by magnets. The corporate received the magnet stability good: they’re highly effective sufficient to maintain the shields from changing into by accident dislodged, however weak sufficient that you could pry them unfastened with no need a device.

I’d love to have the ability to say that when you place them on, all of that weight magically goes away, however I can’t.

The identical factor goes for the ear cushions, that are additionally magnetically latched, making them very straightforward to switch.

In brief, the look splendid and the craftsmanship is top-notch. However there’s extra to design than appears to be like. The earcups fold flat, however there’s no secondary hinge. So not like most of V-Moda’s different cans that supply the corporate’s intelligent Clique Fold hinges (dramatically reducing their journey measurement), the S-80 stay actually huge when it comes time to stow them away.

Consolation, controls, and connections

Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

When you have been to guess how a lot the S-80 weigh, simply by them and evaluating them to a lot bigger, over-ear fashions, you’d be tempted to assume they have been fairly gentle. Perhaps not featherweight, however the phrase “heavy” wouldn’t be the primary you’d decide to explain them. However they’re, in actual fact, heavy. Loopy heavy. At 355 grams (12.5 ounces), they weigh way over some other on-ear mannequin you could be contemplating, together with the Beats Solo Professional (9 ounces), Beats Solo 3 (7.5 ounces), or the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8i (7.5 ounces). In actual fact, they weigh greater than most over-ear fashions too.

I’d love to have the ability to say that when you place them on, all of that weight magically goes away — one thing that Apple’s very heavy AirPods Max (13.6 ounces) handle to largely obtain. However it doesn’t, and I can’t. The scarf merely isn’t vast sufficient or well-padded sufficient to distribute all that weight.

The three foremost management buttons are stunning, however impractical.

The clamping power is appreciable and tries valiantly to make up for all of that mass, however in the end fails. The issue, as close to as I can determine, is that many of the weight is concentrated within the headband, not the earcups or their helps. When you hold your head held excessive and don’t transfer round an excessive amount of, it’s not insupportable, however the second you lean ahead, the scarf makes a dive towards your face. In different phrases, they’re awful for the health club and for exercises typically.

It is a disgrace, as a result of the ear cushions are sumptuously padded, and must be very comfortable. However that highly effective clamping power provides quite a lot of stress, making them loads much less soft. When you put on glasses, as I do more often than not, you’ll be in ache inside 20 minutes as that stress sandwiches your glasses limbs between your ears and your head, like a vise. Maybe due to that stress, I discovered that my ears additionally received sizzling rapidly — one thing that must be much less of an issue with on-ears.

However what about after they’re simply resting round your neck, with earcups pointed upward in “speaker” mode? They’re nonetheless ludicrously heavy, and also you’ll develop uninterested in carrying them that approach, however not less than it’s extra snug.

Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

V-Moda continues to favor kind over operate on the subject of the controls on its wi-fi headphones. The three foremost management buttons (a multifunction button flanked by quantity up/down buttons) sit atop the precise earcup, the place they’re mounted nearly completely flush to the sloping edge. It’s stunning, and utterly impractical. Every button may be very small and every has a raised icon so you’ll be able to really feel them together with your index finger. Downside is, all of them really feel equivalent to your finger, and so they’re so shut collectively, it may be difficult to inform them aside in that second whenever you attain as much as pause your tunes or reply a name.

For a set of on-ear headphones, the S-80 sound superb.

They supply an honest click on response whenever you press them, however there’s so little journey on the mechanism, it may be tough to do double- or triple-presses. Nonetheless, all of the features you want are right here: play/pause, observe skip ahead/again, name reply/finish/reject, quantity up/down, and voice assistant entry. What you don’t get is any sort of auto-pause, as a result of there are not any put on sensors constructed into the earcups.

The ability/Bluetooth pairing button on the underside edge is simply as finicky as the highest controls, however not less than you received’t be utilizing it as typically.

Bluetooth connectivity is powerful and dependable, and you may pair as much as two gadgets concurrently because of multipoint help. Pairing is simple, however don’t count on any additional assist as there’s no Google Quick Pair or Microsoft Swift Pair.

Sound high quality

Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

For a set of on-ear headphones, which might typically endure from an absence of bass, the S-80 sound superb. There’s loads of kick within the low finish, good definition by the midtones, and first rate if not crystal clear excessive frequencies.

I discovered that the ear cushions did an excellent job of passively blocking exterior sounds (most likely due to that clamping power I discussed). The soundstage is slim for a set of premium cans, which tends to put the music largely inside your head, solely peeking out for probably the most excessive stereo mixes. Besides, the S-80 evaluate properly to the Bowers & Wilkins PX5, a now-discontinued set of $299 on-ear headphones.

V-Moda presents 4 EQ presets in its Headphone Editor app (an odd identify given simply how few edits you’ll be able to truly make) — rock, pop, hip-hop, and jazz, after which enables you to regulate the EQ manually utilizing a five-band set of sliders. It would keep in mind your adjustment, however you’ll be able to’t reserve it beneath your individual preset so you’ll be able to attempt one thing else.

The S-80 help the AAC codec on iPhones and Android gadgets, in addition to Qualcomm’s aptX HD on appropriate Android telephones. AptX HD does present a small however noticeable enchancment to general constancy.

In speaker mode, outcomes are way more combined. When you use them for private listening, they are often kinda enjoyable. Twisting the earcups into speaker place boosts the amount by what looks like 30% or so, however you’ll be able to crank it louder for those who like. Angle the earcups good, and you may nearly get a poor man’s spatial audio impact, with the sound feeling prefer it’s hovering throughout you. V-Moda says “it envelops your house with vibrant sound,” — I wouldn’t go fairly that far.

However as a bunch listening system, they’re mediocre at greatest — approach worse than even the most cost effective, $25 Bluetooth speaker you should purchase on Amazon. Although they will get loud sufficient to be heard throughout a room (assuming the room is pretty quiet), there’s zero bass response. That isn’t shocking on condition that these are nonetheless headphone drivers. They’re merely being pushed to their absolute restrict when it comes to energy.

Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

And that’s the amusing (or possibly simply unhappy) half in regards to the S-80 when used as a so-called speaker. Once I ran them facet by facet with my iPhone 11 in speaker mode, I truly discovered the iPhone did a greater job. It’s a purely mono expertise, versus the S-80’s stereo, however to get even a touch of that stereo imaging, you could be sitting within the headphones’ candy spot, which is a really small spot certainly.

Having sensors contained in the hinges that routinely swap the drivers to speaker mode is helpful, little doubt. However then V-Moda fails to maintain that comfort going: for those who set a quantity degree that works for speaker mode, it impacts the amount for headphone mode too. This forces you to regulate the amount every time you mode swap, which defeats the good thing about having that sensor within the first place.

Name high quality

Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

The S-80 ship superb name high quality in quiet places, with zero wind. Your voice will sound full and pure and really straightforward to your callers to listen to. It’s a super device for doing Zoom or Groups calls whereas at a desk, indoors. Open air, it’s a very totally different ball sport.

Even the slightest breeze (or simply the motion of air attributable to operating) will create a whooshing sound by the mics, and the second there’s any competing seems like site visitors or quite a lot of loud dialog, your voice high quality will endure significantly.

There’s additionally no side-tone choice for with the ability to hear your individual voice extra clearly.

Battery life

V-Moda charges the S-80’s battery life at 20 hours when in headphone mode, and 10 hours when in speaker mode, however these will fluctuate relying on the amount degree you select for every. Realistically, for those who max out the amount on speaker mode, you’re most likely about eight hours or much less.

Whereas there are not any different headphones with speaker mode to match to, there are many common headphones that may help for much longer play occasions, from 30 hours on the Sony WH-1000XM4/XM5 to 50 hours on the Jabra Elite 45h, an excellent light-weight $100 set of on-ears. It’s additionally price noting that the S-80 don’t have a quick-charge characteristic.

What’s lacking?

At this value, far an excessive amount of:

  • No carry case
  • No energetic noise cancellation
  • No transparency mode
  • No put on sensors
  • No analog enter (they’re wireless-only)
  • No quick-charge

Our take

The V-Moda S-80 are an elegantly designed set of on-ear headphones that supply first rate sound and excellent craftsmanship. However their sky-high value, brutally heavy weight, and nearly whole lack of normal options like ANC make them a tricky promote. Worse nonetheless, their signature twist-to-listen-out-loud characteristic simply isn’t very spectacular.

Is there a greater various?

On-ear headphones are one thing of a rarity within the premium audio market, so discovering one other $400 set to match the S-80s to has been a problem. That stated, I simply don’t assume there’s any cause to spend that a lot. For $300, you may get the Beats Solo Professional, which supply related sound high quality, have ANC and transparency, are lighter and extra snug, and so they fold up for simpler storage. Just like the S-80 although, they don’t have any headphone jack.

However when you have $400 to spend and also you really need an excellent set of wi-fi headphones, look no additional than the Sony WH-1000XM5. They’re higher than the S-80 in each approach however maybe model.

However, why not save your self a whack of Benjamins and purchase the wonderful and way more inexpensive $100 Jabra Elite 45h? They’re tremendous comfortable, have large battery life and although they don’t sound fairly nearly as good, they get all the pieces else proper.

How lengthy will they final?

The V-Moda S-80 are very properly constructed. Tremendous-sturdy and constructed from top-notch supplies. However as wireless-only headphones, their helpful life shall be decided by their rechargeable battery. And since that begins at simply 20 hours, and can conceivably drop to 50% of that capability inside a couple of years, you’ll most likely be in search of new cans sooner fairly than later.

V-Moda backs its wi-fi merchandise with only a one-year guarantee, so that may not assist with longevity.

Must you purchase them?

No. Regardless of their beautiful appears to be like and distinctive twist-to-listen-out-loud speaker system, there are many wi-fi headphones that may price much less and carry out higher. Then you’ll be able to spend that extra cash on an actual Bluetooth speaker.

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