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All ears: Headphones from V-Moda and Able Planet

Today I'll be reviewing two headphones from two different companies that are targeted at distinct markets. The V-Moda Crossfade M-100 (at right above, US$310) is a noise-isolating over-ear folding headphone targeted at the high-end audiophile crowd, while Able Planet's Musicians' Choice (left, $69.99) is a capable, low-cost headphone that's affordable to everyone. Keeping that differentiation in mind, let's take a look at these two headphones.

V-Moda Crossfade M-100

I'm a real fan of V-Moda's headphones, having used a pair of the Crossfade LP 'phones since 2011. The new Crossfade M-100, according to Joe Pollicino at our sister site Engadget, is essentially a crowdsourced design. V-Moda owner Val Kolton worked closely with audiophile site Head-Fi.org to get input on what people wanted in a pair of headphones.

For audiophile headphones, the M-100 is amazingly slim. The 'phones come packaged in V-Moda's classic hardshell zipper case with two Kevlar-wrapped cables -- one with a microphone and single button for smartphone or tablet use, the other just a "straight shot" to your device. All of the plugs are gold-plated for good measure. There's an optional three-button cable available if you like your cables "Apple-style".

The "shields" on the outside of these headphones can be customized with a variety of colored metals, including gold if you want that bling look. The customization can also extend to a number of different engraved designs, or you can upload your own design for a truly one-of-a-kind design.

Your cable can be plugged into either the left or right side of the headphones depending on your personal choice, and V-Moda thoughtfully provides small plugs to fill the open socket.

The M-100 is supposed to be less bulky than the Crossfade LP or LP2, but the only difference appears to be on the amount of padding used on the earcups. The earcups click into place when you unfold the 'phones, attached to something V-Moda calls "cliqhinges."

The M-100s are very comfortable, even for those who wear glasses. I spent about an hour listening to music and they didn't cause any discomfort during that entire time -- even on my big head. You don't need to worry about dropping your M-100s, either -- they're "Tested Beyond Military-Level Quality MIL-STD-810G Test Standards" according to V-Moda.

You'll note that I referred to the M-100 as a noise-isolating headphone in the intro paragraph. That's because it does not use digital noise-cancellation technology to block out exterior sounds. Instead, those sounds are merely deadened by the ear cups. The quiet environment that I'm in is at about 43 dBA, and without music playing I could easily hear wind noise, cars driving by, etc... However, crank up the music to a tolerably loud level, and all of the background noise fades away.

I have to admit that the sound quality of the M-100 headphones is remarkably full across the entire frequency range. Bass lines thump along clearly, while high-frequency tones are crisply rendered. Although I'm sure these are designed for use listening to more modern music, my testing covered the range from classical to alternative and everything sounded great. In many cases, I felt like I was in a good-sized concert hall or room -- the sound presence was "big".

Who is it for?

Anyone who wants audiophile-class sound reproduction in an attractive, comfortable, and customizable pair of headphones

Able Planet Musicians' Choice Stereo Headphones

Now let's take a look at a headphone at the other end of the price spectrum. Able Planet makes some of the nicest noise-canceling headphones I've had the pleasure to listen to, so I was intrigued to hear that the company has come out with a line called "Musicians' Choice" that is much more affordable than the higher-end "Clear Harmony" and "True Fidelity" line.

The headphones I tested were not noise-canceling or even noise-isolating, yet I found that they did a remarkably good job of blocking outside sounds. I was listening to music while someone ran a vacuum cleaner right near my desk, and I was surprised with how well that sound was muffled. There's one removable cable that is shipped with the Musicians' Choice headphone, outfitted with an inline volume control wheel. Rather than the fancy-schmancy hard case you get with those V-Modas, you get a drawstring bag to carry your headphones in.

Style-wise, these are rather plain-Jane headphones featuring a circular earcup design. Since ears aren't necessarily round, I found that the earcups tended to mash into my ears and were less tolerable for long-time wear than other headphones I've used. The earcups are held together by a lightly-padded polycarbonate band that flexes to fit your head, and the cups can be adjusted up or down on each side. The earcups come in nine different finishes, so you'll be able to find one that matches your personal style. I went for a bright green pair just for the heck of it.

The reason you buy headphones in the first place is to listen to music, so how did the Musicians' Choice headphones sound? I wasn't expecting much, but the sound quality was actually pretty good. They obviously didn't have either the dynamic range or the excellent sound presence of the M-100 'phones, but once again, we're looking at two completely different markets. If you want a pair of Able Planet headphones that can stand up to comparison with the V-Moda M-100 in both comfort and sound reproduction, you should probably look at the Clear Harmony Noise-Canceling Headphones (NC-1150, $350) instead.

For a low-priced pair of headphones, the Musicians' Choice Stereo Headphones do a pretty good job of isolating your ears from outside noises and letting you listen to music.

Who is it for?

The bargain-oriented music fan who wants a good set of headphones with fairly good sound quality and doesn't want to pay an arm and a leg in the process.

Giveaway

We have a pair of the Able Planet Musicians' Choice Stereo Headphones to give away. Here are the rules for the giveaway:

  • Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
  • To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.
  • The entry must be made before February 21 11:59PM Eastern Standard Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • One winner will be selected and will receive a pair of Able Planet Musicians' Choice stereo headphones valued at US$69.99.
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.


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Accessories

Today I'll be reviewing two headphones from two different companies that are targeted at distinct markets. The V-Moda Crossfade M-100...