Boy, it is
tough being retired! Since I was 16, I've worked just about every summer and
vacation from school, and usually 60 hour weeks as an obstetrician-gynecologist.
And I still found time to write an article a month for the last 12 years for
this rag. Then all of a sudden, I'm retired and can't find an hour or two to
write. Between going on a month-long trip to Europe, entertaining friends we
made on our trip, and going in for knee replacement surgery, the days have just
Then, this month, while recovering from the knee
surgery, I realized that my wife and I will be doing more traveling and will be
away from my system for several months at a time. While at our winter retreat in
the Caribbean, I'll be able to use a computer, Stax headphone and the Smyth
Realizer, which will allow emulation of my home system, but during traveling, a
decent reproduction system will be needed.
Thus the search was on for a proper method of
travel entertainment. A way was needed to improve on the computer's and
headphones' failures at fairly reasonable cost, at least by audiophile
standards. The system had to be compact to allow it to be brought on board
without filling my carry-on, be able to remove the distracting noise, be
compatible with my tablet computer, be able to last an entire flight, and
deliver audiophile level sound.
Until several months ago, fulfilling all of the
requirements would have been impossible as most of the portable systems failed
at least one of the criteria. While there are many high quality headphones out
there, most are too expensive, too bulky or too uncomfortable for travel. The
sources, either portable phones, laptops or digital playback units, had poor D/A
converters or amplifiers which mucked up the sound.
a United States company begun by a musician, Val Kolton and designer Joseph
Bucknall have produced the
The headphone kit consists of the over-ear
metallic cased foldable headphones called the Crossfade M-100, Exoskeleton carry
case, carabiner, Kevlar reinforced SpeakEasy Microphone control cable, Kevlar
reinforced SharePlay audio cable, 1/4" pro adapter, V-CORK (2), instant
six-star support code, and V-MODA Sticker, for $310. One of the cables allows
two persons to attach headphones, while the second cable has a button which
allows one to switch between the music and a phone call.
The headphones body and strap are all metal and
well padded, fit comfortably on the head and ears and remove as much ambient
noise as the sound mufflers I use with my tractor. They have a 50 mm diameter
dual diaphragm sound reproducer, much like KEF and TAD speakers and supposedly
they were tested by audiophiles for sound quality.
Enough of the statistics. How do they work and
sound? I first listened to the headphones on my home system through the analog
outputs of my HTPC, Burson solid state and Electraprint 300B SET Headphone
amplifiers, using both two channel and surround with the Smyth Realizer. Sound
was compared with my Audeze LCD-2, Etymotic Research and typical Sony
inexpensive portable headphones. While they didn't quite match the Audeze units
at three times the price, they sure beat the other three for sound that
surprised me with its tight bass, clean and clear midrange and high frequencies.
Using the Realizer, I got a very close to a perfect match with the sound coming
from my 7.7 surround horn speaker system.
Even more surprising was the sound quality coming
from the Vamp Verza. It was recognized without flaw by my three Windows
computers, Android Tablet and cell phone, and a borrowed Apple i-phone 5. It
powered all of the headphones with plenty of room to spare in its low gain mode,
and combined with the M-100 headphones, produced the best portable sound I've
heard. It compared favorably with the more expensive Burson and Electraprint
headphone amps, with an advantage in that its so-called 3D spacializer did add
some realism to sound-staging on two channel recordings.
Second, the supplied unit would not switch on its
bass boost function just to try it out on the Etymotic earphones which have too
little bass and too much high end for my present tastes, a small matter. It
turns out that the bass boost only works on i-phones, but this was not mentioned
anywhere that I could find.
Are the headphones, and Verza worth their price? To me, if they fix the android shut-off glitch, yes, as they are the only portable units out there that work with both the Windows and Android systems, and sound great to boot. I'm sure there will be others in the near future, possibly at lower price points, but for now V-Mode leads the pack.