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Four full-size headphones for affordable audiophile luxury

R. Matthew Ward | Aug. 14, 2013
Your ears deserve better than the cheap cans you've been using all these years. Luckily, $300 or so can buy world-class quality.

Velodyne includes two cables: one with an Apple-style, three-button remote/mic module, and one without. Both versions terminate in a 3.5mm, L-shaped connector; you also get a 3.5mm-to-1/4-inch adapter. Both cables use a split design, plugging into both earpieces—a one-sided design would have been more convenient. That inline remote is a step backward from the one on the vPulse, as the vTrue's buttons are small and almost flush with the surface of the remote, making them difficult to press. The package also includes a small drawstring carrying bag, but getting the headphones in and out of it can be difficult.

In my testing, the headband's size-adjustment mechanism felt a little loose. The earpieces are sufficiently heavy that they can accidentally slide down, giving you a larger fit. On the other hand, the vTrue's relatively strong clamping pressure made the headphones feel a bit tight over longer listening sessions, though this may not be an issue for listeners with average-size heads. Overall, the vTrue's ergonomics are quite good, considering the weight involved.

The vTrue's audio balance is similar to the vPulse's: Bass is aggressive, but clean, detailed, and mostly well-behaved. Despite being the star of the show, it generally doesn't dominate midrange and treble frequencies. Performance in those parts of the spectrum is good, though not at the same level as with V-Moda's M-100. For example, the vTrue's sound gets a little crowded on certain recordings, where the M-100 clearly separates individual sounds and preserves instrumental textures. High frequencies are also a little more restrained than I would like.

But these are minor criticisms relative to the vPulse's overall performance, which is ultimately very satisfying. And the vTrue, like the vPulse, offers a propulsive sound that makes music exciting and vibrant. (It's worth noting that, as with many higher-end headphones, sound quality on the vTrue suffers somewhat when the headphones are used with the weak headphone jacks on portable devices. Specifically, bass is looser and mids and highs sound more distant than they do when you use the vTrue with higher-end sources.)

Given that the vTrue is the most expensive model here, I'd like better midrange and high-frequency performance, but the vTrue does bass like no other headphones I've used, while still managing to be very good across those other frequencies—all in a striking, beautiful design.

Mic check
It's a sign of the times that higher-end headphones like the ones reviewed here now include an inline remote and microphone: Even people who demand great sound can appreciate the utility and practicality of such features. However, I've found that inline microphones are often an afterthought, offering mediocre performance at best.

I tested the microphones included on these models to determine whether they're amenable to the task of taking phone calls and handling voice-memo duties. I used Apple's EarPods, which has a surprisingly good inline mic, as a benchmark. I found that all four models' microphones were quieter than the EarPods's mic, and though they varied in clarity, none matched the EarPod mic's full-bodied, natural sound. The Momentum's microphone sounded the best, followed by K551's. The vTrue's mic sounds a bit muffled, the M-100's microphone even more so. Still, all are acceptable for their purpose.

 

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