Headphone preference is almost as contentious and divisive as the phones they connect to. But one thing that isn't up for dispute is the proliferation, often by necessity, of the "hi-fi" Bluetooth headphone.
V-Moda isn't a particularly well-known brand, but it's been around for just over a decade. The company, like many others in the space, began building earbuds and cheap headphones to replace lost Apple EarPods and other cheap in-box headphones, but again, like so many others in the space, saw the burgeoning potential of the audiophile market.
The Crossfade 2 Wireless are the company's flagship Bluetooth headphone, modeled after its popular Crossfade M-100 wired model released a couple years back. It improves upon the original, released last year, in almost every way, with larger drivers, more reliable Bluetooth, better battery life, and more comfortable pads. And while the over-the-ear headphones' looks may be divisive, their sound won't be: these are incredibly good for the $349 price (though I've found them for nearly $100 less during sales).
While the Crossfade 2 Wireless looks a bit aggressive with its hexagonal cups and contrast-forward dual-toned finish, I rather like the overall aesthetic. My rose gold version is the only one (for some reason) that supports Qualcomm's aptX codec, which is increasingly being supported by most phones, for higher-quality audio, but I would have gone with this tone either way — I just think it looks good.
They look a bit aggressive, but they sound so, so smooth.
The cups themselves pivot gracefully on two hinges, making it easy to get the right fit around even the most stubbornly-shaped ear. Similarly, there is plenty of length within the customizable headband to accommodate even the largest heads. This is a headphone for all seasons. V-Moda considers the so-called SteelFlex headband to be "virtually indestructible," and while I don't plan on testing that theory, the whole outfit appears to robust and then some.
That the cups can be pushed upwards towards the headband to form a portable "pebble" shape is even better — V-Moda includes a carrying case to ward off abuse, but I've regularly thrown these in my bag sans protection with no ill effects.
There is a physical On switch on the rightmost cup along with three buttons — volume down, play/pause, volume up — and once learned they're simple to press while wearing. And these things get loud. V-Moda aims the Crossfade series primarily at DJs, which would imply a bass-heavy sound, but the default sound profile is fairly flat, with punchy bass, buttery mids, and smooth, sibilance-free highs. I am in love with the sound from these (though I'll admit to slightly preferring the sound from the slightly lighter wired V-Moda Crossfade M-100s, which appear to be nearly identical but for the wireless componentry).
The Crossfade 2s have almost no Bluetooth noise floor, which is impressive given that nearly every other pair I've tested, from Blue's Satellites to Phiaton's BT460s produce a fair amount of low-level static when they're connected to even the cleanest of sources.
The soundstage is wide and inviting, with clean separation on even the most challenging of jazz or vocal tracks. But the headphones do come with a cable that includes phone volume controls and a microphone and, when plugged in, bypass the wireless components completely.
Comfort is a bonus here, too: I've worn these for hours at a time without noticing, especially since I can get 14 hours of battery from a charge. Yes, they charge with Micro-USB, but I have to plug them in so seldom it doesn't really matter. And they work with the cord even when the cell is depleted.
Finally, despite not having active noise cancellation, the firm seal over the ears provides a fair amount of passive isolation that, while not great on planes, is good enough for the outside world. I'd rather wear these sitting in a coffee shop than the vast majority of larger, bulkier, heavier ANC headphones.
I've worn these for an entire eight-hour day without realizing it.
I've yet to encounter the company's post-purchase warranty program (and I hope not to) but I hear that it's quite good. It features a standard 1-year defective parts replacement schedule, which is normal, but there's also a 60-day return policy for those who don't like them, and an "Immortal Life" feature, which provides 50% off a replacement pair should they break out of warranty. Pretty generous if you ask me.
What needs works
My biggest gripe with the Crossfade 2 Wireless is the fact that the aptX codec, which enhances the quality of audio when connected to devices that support it, is only available on one model, the rose gold color that I picked up. The all-black or all-white models, which are some $20 cheaper, don't come with it installed.
Now, of course, aptX is licensed for a fee and V-Moda is merely passing it on to the customer, but it's short-sighted and confusing to the average person who knows little about the stuff but would benefit immensely from its presence. As much as I like the combination of black and rose gold, the other hues are inevitably going to be the most popular colors, and many buyers are going to miss out.
Others may find the lack of next and back buttons to be frustrating given that most headphones in this price range include such functionality, be it on the chassis itself or, like with Sony's MDR1000X, a touch-sensitive gesture area. I didn't much mind, but I did miss the ability to call on Google Assistant, which would allow me to skip tracks, adjust volume and do a whole bunch of other things without having to look at my phone.
The headphones, because they use a physical switch to turn on the wireless elements, have no auto-off functionality; more than once (in fact, nearly every time I leave the room) I forgot to turn them off, only to return to a pair of dead cans. While they only take three hours to recharge to full, I bemoan the auto-off functions that other, more intelligent (read: less analog) headphones have. I also wish the damn things charged via USB-C, but I've yet to find a pair of wireless headphones that do, so I guess I'll just keep waiting. Also useful would be a battery indicator; it's unclear when the Crossfades will die until I get the indication while I'm wearing them.
At between $320 and $350, depending on the model, many people are going to balk at this price, especially when you can get something like the aforementioned Sonys, or the popular Bose QC35s, for the same or less — and those come with Active Noise Cancellation.
Should you buy them? Definitely
I have been a big fan of V-Moda's headphones and overall sound signature for a long time. When the company put out a wireless version of its Crossfade M-100s, I bought it sight-unseen and haven't regretted the decision for a moment.
There are pieces of technology that just fit seamlessly into your life, and the Crossfade 2 Wireless headphones are such an example.
From an audio perspective, I have almost no complaints: they are punchy, accurate and fun. I don't profess to be an audiophile, but I'm a discerning listener of nearly every genre of music, and I have yet to find an album that doesn't sound fantastic. Moreover, I have a rack of headphones at my disposal, cheap and expensive, wired and wireless, and find myself constantly returning to the Crossfades. This isn't by accident; my ears know what they like.
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