V-Moda S-80 slider and earcup pivot close-up.
V-Moda S-80 slider and earcup pivot close-up.

V-Moda S-80 on-ear headphones

MSRP $400.00

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

Execs

  • Nice design
  • Prime-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 with regards to headphones, you get what you pay for. As costs go up, you may anticipate 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 stunning. At $400, they price as a lot as Sony’s WH-1000XM5, which we take into account to be the perfect wi-fi headphones proper now. At that worth, the S-80 must be distinctive, however as an alternative, they’re an oddity — a well-crafted however extremely restricted set of headphones that lean on a single concept for his or her enchantment: while you twist the earcups outward, they turn into audio system that you may supposedly use for private or small-group listening.

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

What’s within the field?

V-Moda S-80 seen with include charging cable.
Simon Cohen / By Tara

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 surface of the earcups, which I’ll clarify in a second. The massive lacking factor right here, particularly when you think about the worth, is any form of storage case or safety. Critically, V-Moda doesn’t even present a drawstring bag.

Design

V-Moda S-80 slider and earcup pivot close-up.
Simon Cohen / By Tara

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

V-Moda S-80 earcup next to magnetic outer shield.
Simon Cohen / By Tara

V-Moda’s signature design aspect — 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 every thing magnetic. As an alternative of bolting the shields to the earcups with a collection of tiny screws, they’re held in place by magnets. The corporate obtained the magnet steadiness excellent: they’re highly effective sufficient to maintain the shields from turning into by chance dislodged, however weak sufficient that you may pry them unfastened with no need a instrument.

I’d love to have the ability to say that after 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 simple to interchange.

In brief, the look splendid and the craftsmanship is top-notch. However there’s extra to design than seems. The earcups fold flat, however there’s no secondary hinge. So in contrast to most of V-Moda’s different cans that supply the corporate’s intelligent Clique Fold hinges (dramatically reducing their journey dimension), the S-80 stay actually huge when it comes time to stow them away.

Consolation, controls, and connections

Front view of man wearing V-Moda S-80.
Simon Cohen / By Tara

In the event you have been to guess how a lot the S-80 weigh, simply by taking a look at 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 choose to explain them. However they’re, actually, heavy. Loopy heavy. At 355 grams (12.5 ounces), they weigh excess of every 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 truth, they weigh greater than most over-ear fashions too.

I’d love to have the ability to say that after 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. Nevertheless it doesn’t, and I can’t. The headscarf merely isn’t huge sufficient or well-padded sufficient to distribute all that weight.

The three principal 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. In the event you maintain your head held excessive and don’t transfer round an excessive amount of, it’s not insupportable, however the second you lean ahead, the headscarf makes a dive towards your face. In different phrases, they’re awful for the fitness center and for exercises normally.

It is a disgrace, as a result of the ear cushions are sumptuously padded, and must be very cozy. However that highly effective clamping power provides a whole lot of stress, making them quite a bit much less soft. In the event 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 obtained sizzling shortly — one thing that must be much less of an issue with on-ears.

However what about once they’re simply resting round your neck, with earcups pointed upward in “speaker” mode? They’re nonetheless ludicrously heavy, and also you’ll develop bored with carrying them that means, however a minimum of it’s extra comfy.

V-Moda S-80 controls close-up.
Simon Cohen / By Tara

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

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

They supply a good click on response while you press them, however there’s so little journey on the mechanism, it may be troublesome to do double- or triple-presses. Nonetheless, all of the capabilities 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 form of auto-pause, as a result of there aren’t 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 a minimum of you gained’t be utilizing it as typically.

Bluetooth connectivity is robust and dependable, and you’ll pair as much as two gadgets concurrently due to multipoint help. Pairing is simple, however don’t anticipate any additional assist as there’s no Google Quick Pair or Microsoft Swift Pair.

Sound high quality

V-Moda S-80 earcup with earcushion removed.
Simon Cohen / By Tara

For a set of on-ear headphones, which might typically endure from a scarcity of bass, the S-80 sound excellent. There’s loads of kick within the low finish, good definition by means of the midtones, and respectable 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 position the music largely inside your head, solely peeking out for essentially the most excessive stereo mixes. Besides, the S-80 examine nicely to the Bowers & Wilkins PX5, a now-discontinued set of $299 on-ear headphones.

V-Moda provides 4 EQ presets in its Headphone Editor app (an odd identify given simply how few edits you may truly make) — rock, pop, hip-hop, and jazz, after which enables you to modify the EQ manually utilizing a five-band set of sliders. It’ll keep in mind your adjustment, however you may’t put it aside underneath your personal preset so you may 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 total constancy.

In speaker mode, outcomes are way more combined. In the event you use them for private listening, they are often kinda enjoyable. Twisting the earcups into speaker place boosts the quantity by what appears like 30% or so, however you may crank it louder when you like. Angle the earcups excellent, and you’ll 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 area with vibrant sound,” — I wouldn’t go fairly that far.

However as a gaggle listening machine, they’re mediocre at greatest — means worse than even the most cost effective, $25 Bluetooth speaker you should buy 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 stunning on condition that these are nonetheless headphone drivers. They’re merely being pushed to their absolute restrict by way of energy.

V-Moda S-80 earcups in speaker mode.
Simon Cohen / By Tara

And that’s the amusing (or perhaps 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, it’s worthwhile to be sitting within the headphones’ candy spot, which is a really small spot certainly.

Having sensors contained in the hinges that routinely change the drivers to speaker mode is useful, little doubt. However then V-Moda fails to maintain that comfort going: when you set a quantity degree that works for speaker mode, it impacts the quantity for headphone mode too. This forces you to regulate the quantity every time you mode change, which defeats the advantage of having that sensor within the first place.

Name high quality

Side view of man wearing V-Moda S-80.
Simon Cohen / By Tara

The S-80 ship excellent name high quality in quiet areas, with zero wind. Your voice will sound full and pure and really simple on your callers to listen to. It’s a super instrument for doing Zoom or Groups calls whereas at a desk, indoors. Outdoor, it’s a completely completely different ball recreation.

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

There’s additionally no side-tone choice for having the ability to hear your personal 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 range relying on the quantity degree you select for every. Realistically, when you max out the quantity on speaker mode, you’re most likely taking a look at about eight hours or much less.

Whereas there aren’t any different headphones with speaker mode to match to, there are many common headphones that may help for much longer play instances, 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 value noting that the S-80 don’t have a quick-charge characteristic.

What’s lacking?

At this worth, far an excessive amount of:

  • No carry case
  • No lively 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 respectable sound and very good craftsmanship. However their sky-high worth, brutally heavy weight, and nearly complete lack of normal options like ANC make them a troublesome 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 motive to spend that a lot. For $300, you will get the Beats Solo Professional, which provide related sound high quality, have ANC and transparency, are lighter and extra comfy, and so they fold up for simpler storage. Just like the S-80 although, they don’t have any headphone jack.

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

Alternatively, why not save your self a whack of Benjamins and purchase the superb and way more reasonably priced $100 Jabra Elite 45h? They’re tremendous cozy, have large battery life and although they don’t sound fairly nearly as good, they get every thing else proper.

How lengthy will they final?

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

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

Do you have to purchase them?

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

Up to date, written and revealed by By Tara