Laptop Mag Verdict
The $399 V-Moda S-80 on-ear headphones deliver great sound, but they are an experimental failure with little else to offer for the price.
Terrific sound for on-ear headphones
Isolates noise surprisingly well
Heavy and uncomfortable
Lacks many popular features
Disappointing battery life
Speaker mode isn’t a game-changer
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V-Moda has been active as of late, releasing several wireless headphones and earbuds over the course of 24 months. We received the surprisingly good M-200 ANC last year, along with the impressive Hexamove Pro and unforgettable Hexamove Lite. Despite their current audio lineup being hit or miss, that hasn’t stopped the hi-fi headphone maker from putting out new models. Now, they just dropped their latest creation: the S-80.
Colors: Black, Rose Gold, and White
Battery life (rated): 20 hours
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1
Water resistance: None
Size: Not stated
Weight: 12.52 ounces
These on-ear wireless headphones were crafted to deliver premium sound and double as a portable Bluetooth speaker when twisting the earcups at a 90-degree angle. They also sport V-Moda’s signature hexagonal enclosure shape and support the brand’s customization service to deck out the magnetic plates on the front with personalized designs.
Unfortunately, this headphone-and-speaker combo is below the quality that many have come to expect from V-Moda. Not to mention it’s unjustifiably expensive.
V-Moda S-80 review: Availability and price
The V-Moda S-80 sells for $399 on the company’s website. Available color options are Black, Rose Gold, and White. Inside the box are a USB-C to USB-A cable, quick start guide, warranty, and an extra pair of shields.
These are some of the pricier on-ear wireless headphones out there. Other top-rated models in the category like the Jabra Elite 45h ($99) and Beats Solo Pro ($299) are more attainable. Several of the market’s best noise-cancelling headphones like the Bose 700 ($379) and Sony WH-1000XM4 ($349) go for less as well.
Be sure to bookmark our headphone deals page for the latest sales.
V-Moda S-80 review: Design and comfort
The S-80 looks like V-Moda’s other headphones, but with a slimmer and smaller profile and other unique details. Build quality is superb with construction consisting of aluminum, alloyed zinc, polyurethane leather, and solid plastic, all of which feel premium. Notice there is an arc-shaped pivot instead of a collapsible v-shaped frame, which was featured on the Crossfade 2 and M-200 ANC and connected the earcups to the extenders.
Customization remains one of V-Moda’s biggest selling points. Magnetic shields are installed on the front of each cup and can be swapped out or customized (laser engraving, color printing) for an extra cost. One key difference with these shields is that they don’t have bolt enclosures, giving headphones a cleaner appearance.
V-Moda headphones usually come with a carrying case. Not this one. I don’t know whether this was intentional, or due to supply chain issues, but it’s a chintzy gesture from a brand that wants four Benjamins for their headphones.
The choice in materials adds serious weight (12.5 ounces) to the headphones, which affects both comfort and fit. The S-80 feels heavy atop the head and when worn around the neck. The headband also applies pressure around the skull, primarily around the ears, where the soft padding provides little cushioning. Since the headband has some heft to it, one must adjust the extenders to the proper setting to prevent slippage. Otherwise, quick head movements will cause the headphones to fall off.
V-Moda S-80 review: Controls and voice assistant
The signature three-button module returns, only this time it’s placed on the upper corner of the right earcup. A multifunctional button used for playback/call management/digital assistance is flanked between volume buttons.
Not only is the module inconveniently placed, but it’s not user friendly. Each button is small and feels identical to one another, so unless you feel the embossed icons on each, which are also tiny, it becomes frustrating to differentiate them. There’s no way not to hit the extender every time you reach for the low volume button. Furthermore, the buttons aren’t very responsive to presses and produce subpar tactility that doesn’t assure the user of intended commands being met.
Only the power/paring button is placed in an ideal area (the bottom right earcup), and it also suffers from poor tactility.
There are no wear sensors to enable auto-pause when taking off the headphones. V-Moda could have at least added them when factoring in the high price tag.
At least there’s the digital assistant. Right? Well, the feature doesn’t operate as smoothly as many would like. Google Assistant granted satisfactory performance, with V-Moda’s mic array picking up every syllable spoken for accurate voice command execution. However, Siri wouldn’t always turn up when using my wife’s iPhone 12 and often misinterpreted words. It was also unusable on macOS devices; Siri would activate on my MacBook Pro, but it didn’t accept vocal input.
V-Moda S-80 review: Audio quality (Headphone Mode)
Most on-ear headphones are designed to deliver natural sound, but the S-80 ups the ante. Music doesn’t just have an organic presence – it’s versatile and well balanced too. This is achievable through powerful 40mm drivers and Bluetooth 5.1 with aptX HD codec support for high quality 24-bit audio.
On tracks with headbanging basslines like Metallica’s “Orion,” the low end was aggressively effective and had the right amount of punch to it that leveled my eardrums without damaging them. Reverberation was excellent, with the bass guitars creating an everlasting echo that diminished delicately during the song’s mid-section. I also found the highs striking; the crashing cymbals sounded crisp and dynamic.
De La Soul’s “Ego Trippin’ [Part Two]” delivered the funk-infused rhythm I desired from a 90’s hip-hop classic. Each snare struck with ferocity, and the deep bassline was reproduced exceptionally well. The shawm instrument sample also sounded prominent in sections where it was sprinkled.
V-Moda’s sound profile is outstanding on its own. However, you have the option to tweak it in the Sound Settings via companion app. You’ll discover four presets – Rock, Pop, Hip-Hop, and Jazz – each one slightly improving the performance on music tracks from their respective genres. The Manual setting lets you adjust V-Moda’s five-band EQ.
Noise isolation was surprisingly good. Oftentimes, on-ear headphones allow in more noise than they passively block out, but the S-80 managed to hush most distractions. Conversations that occurred several feet away from me went unheard, though my toddler’s screams and the loud noises coming from his electronic toys were transparent.
Sadly, V-Moda chose not to include an analog input.
V-Moda S-80 review: Audio quality (Speaker Mode)
Based on V-Moda’s ads, they’re also pushing the S-80 as a wearable speaker system. The weight alone makes this a hard sell because no one wants to strain their neck to hear music that’s being projected from the earcups hanging on their shoulders.
In terms of audio quality, the feature doesn’t sound that bad. But I must emphasize that the S-80 will not replace any of the best Bluetooth speakers or even your smartphone speaker. A realistic expectation is that you’ll hear music clearly, but only at max volume. You’re not going to get the Wonderboom bass, nor the sophisticated sound from the Sonos Roam. I’d say it’s just good enough to entertain a small group in a conference room.
V-Moda does make enabling the feature ridiculously easy. All you need to do is turn the earcups flat on their back.
V-Moda S-80 review: App and special features
Extended functionality is limited in the V-Moda app. All you get are a battery level indicator, auto-off timer, firmware updates, and the ability to enable presets. On top of that, V-Moda put very little effort into designing the app, which is a vanilla template with their color scheme.
Consumers deserve much more for $400. At least some form of noise cancellation or other smart features that enhance useability. Not having a Find My Headphones function isn’t the end of the world, especially when V-Moda could have attempted to make Google’s Find My Device compatible with their headphones, but they chose not to either way. Competitors in the same price range come with many more features.
V-Moda S-80 review: Battery life
V-Moda rates battery life at 20 hours. That is acceptable for some noise-cancelling headphones like the Bose 700, but not standard for wireless headphones. For comparison, the budget-friendly Elite 45h can pull off 50 hours per charge. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about having to recharge the S-80 after five days of use (4 hours daily).
What about speaker use? This feature is capped at 10 hours. Listening at high volume drops playtimes by 2 to 3 hours. Adding more insult to injury is the lack of quick charging, which is something found on most headphones.
V-Moda S-80 review: Call quality
The S-80 is adequate for voice and videos. My biggest concern was the design allowing noise to come through on calls, and that’s pretty much what occurred when chatting in front of the house. According to my wife, rush hour traffic and wind were audible and caused muffling. Taking her call in the backyard led to clearer results, though there was still some muffling. Using the S-80 indoors delivered the best results; two clients mentioned how loud and crisp I sounded.
Bluetooth 5.1 performed decently. While I enjoyed lengthy range (up to 50 feet) for wireless listening, auto-pairing wasn’t always on-point. The S-80 would only recognize my last used device and not previously paired ones. Google Fast Pair does not come part of the package.
Multipoint technology is supported and lets you pair the headphones to two devices at the same time. It doesn’t function well. The connection becomes scrambled and jumbles audio whenever switching between audio programs on both devices. YouTube audio won’t always play on the secondary device either.
V-Moda S-80 review: Verdict
Despite its terrific sound and craftsmanship, the S-80 is an overpriced over-ear headphone with too many flaws to overlook. I wouldn’t even recommend it if the price was slashed in half. The mediocre performance from Speaker Mode isn’t a deal-breaker, but the S-80’s long list of functional flaws, missing features, and low playtimes make it a hard pass.