Fresh off of its CES 2021 debut, the V-Moda M-200 ANC has finally left the assembly line and hit store shelves. The long-awaited sequel to the original M-200 serves as the company’s first-ever noise-cancelling headphones, blending superior sound, new features, and strong ANC into a gorgeous and nearly indestructible design. A hefty premium does come with such amenities, and, sadly, with several performance issues as well.
Color: Matte Black
Battery life (rated): 20 hours (with ANC on)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Size: 5.5 x 3.5 x 8.7 inches
Weight: 11.8 ounces
These are some of the priciest headphones in the category, even next to Apple’s AirPods Max. Whether you’re a brand enthusiast or someone who wants to splurge on a flashy pair of ANC cans, our V-Moda M-200 ANC review will determine if these sound-silencers are worth the investment, and whether they can beat the best noise-cancelling headphones like as the Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000XM4.
V-Moda M-200 ANC review: Price and availability
It costs $499.99, but is currently listed for $454 on Amazon, and only comes in one color: Matte Black. Buying from V-Mode lets you add customizations, including laser engraving and changing the earcup shield color to any one of six options: Atlas Blue, Brushed Black, Laser Red, Moss Green, Rust Orange, and Titan Gray. You can also add accessories, from the fan-favorite BoomPro Microphone to the SharePlay Extended Audio Cable to daisy-chain two headphones together for shared listening.
Bear in mind that all customizations and add-ons cost extra. Not to mention the M-200 ANC is priced higher than the Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000XM4.
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V-Moda M-200 ANC review: Design and comfort
V-Moda has always placed emphasis on design, and that trend continues with the M-200 ANC. Outwardly this is basically the M-200, only in cordless form. Nonetheless, it's still a handsome pair of cans that looks as opulent as it feels.
The M-200 ANC is built like a tank, mostly comprised of robust metal construction and supple synthetic leather. Staples like the aluminum shields remain intact with the V-Moda logo, small vents and bolt enclosures. The rest of the exterior is incredibly sturdy, especially the frame that connects the earcups to the extenders; it takes a lot of strength to bend the material. The hinges are also well-built and fold inward for portable convenience.
V-Moda placed a three-button panel at the top of the right earcup, along with the USB-C port, headphone jack, and two buttons at the bottom, one on each side for power/pairing (left) and ANC (right). A mic was also discretely integrated into the same area. Everything does blend nicely into the design, specifically the buttons.
Another trademark novelty of the brand is the turtle-shell-shaped carrying case. It stores and secures the headphones better than any case out there. The bulging shape adds to the product’s distinctiveness too, along with cool additions like the carabiner.
As stylish as the M-200 ANC is, it isn’t something you’ll wear for long stretches. The headphones are weighty (11.8 ounces) and are much heavier than the Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000XM4, both of which are weigh 8.95 ounces. However, the padding provides quality comfort on the ears and skull with very little clamp force.
I was fine wearing the cans for about 1.5 hours daily, but I wouldn’t recommend going any longer. The extenders are lengthy and accommodate different head sizes, though they have to be adjusted properly or else the headphones flop off your head and hit the ground hard.
V-Moda M-200 ANC review: Controls and digital assistant
In the M-200 ANC, it feels like V-Mode was such a stickler for design that it lost focus on practicality, and by that, I mean the controls. Don’t get me wrong, I love how clean and flush the button layout appears. Unfortunately, this makes identifying each button difficult, and adversely affects tactility. I didn’t always feel reassured that intended commands would execute whenever pressing the multifunctional or volume buttons. In fact, there were times when the MF button got stuck and didn’t allow me to skip forward or skip back songs.
Just because the M-200 ANC takes on a more traditional control scheme doesn’t mean it lacks smart features. Instead of motion sensors to automatically pause music whenever removing the headphones, V-Moda developed what they call a “Voice In” function to lower volume to about 10 percent and pause ANC by covering the left earcup with your hand. It’s innovative and works well, though it wouldn’t have hurt to add on-ear detection as well.
Siri and Google Assistant are both available and can be enabled by holding down the MF button for 3 seconds. The M-200 ANC comes with voice activation too, but only for Google’s AI bot, so you’ll be able to fire it up by saying “Hey Google.” iOS/macOS users have to enable Siri directly on their device. This is a bit annoying, but either way, digital assistant support operates well on all platforms, especially Android. V-Moda’s mic array picked up every word and registered voice commands with ease, spitting out results in a quick manner.
V-Moda M-200 ANC review: Active noise cancellation
For a first attempt, V-Moda did well with active noise cancellation. The M-200 ANC neutralizes external sounds at an incredibly high level, placing it right below the Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000XM4 (slightly above the Bowers & Wilkins PX7) on effectiveness. Volume should be set to 50 percent in order to get a feel for ANC performance; these headphones get harmfully loud at max volume.
Using the M-200 ANC in my office, I was immersed in my playlists and work, as common distractions like Amazon deliveries, cat meows, and iPhone ringers went silent. Even when trying to soothe my newborn during naptime, I barely heard him whimpering for comfort. His feed-me cries weren’t so avoidable and made their way onto the soundscape, though it wasn’t blaring to the point where I lost focus on my tasks.
I was also stunned by how effective V-Moda’s ANC technology was outside. Garbage trucks went unnoticed during morning walks, and wind resistance was on point, keeping the noise produced by gusty winds and whisking cars to a minimum. The only speeding vehicles that caught my attention were ones that zipped down the street at about 60 mph or higher.
The M-200 ANC comes with 10 ANC levels that can be adjusted in the companion app, but unless you’re an audio engineer who specializes in noise neutralization, you’ll only notice a difference when moving the slider from Level 1 to 10 and vice versa.
Voice In does serve as the Transparency mode on these headphones, but V-Moda doesn’t advertise it as such. As previously mentioned, it does a nice job of lowering the volume to hear what’s happening around you.
I do feel it is necessary to address the notification tones when enabling and disabling ANC. After playing with the feature a few times, you should be able to tell when turning it on/off, but it is easy to confuse one for the other. Voice prompts would have been the more ideal indicator.
V-Moda M-200 ANC review: Audio quality
If you’ve ever owned a pair of V-Moda headphones, then you know that exceptional sound is to be expected from any of the brand’s over-ear models. The M-200 ANC comes equipped with dynamic 40mm drivers that pump out high-quality audio, feeding your ears warm bass, along with bright mids and highs. I suggest listening with ANC on to enjoy some extra oomph.
V-Moda sound is usually engineered for EDM, so it only seemed fitting to give Daft Punk a spin. “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” sounded immaculate, showcasing stellar reproduction that gave every instrument and effect prominence as the track played out. The hi-hats were striking and that double-kick drum elevated the low end. I was mainly impressed by how crisp and well-balanced the synthesized vocals sounded, blending nicely over the heavy bass presence minus any distortion.
As a hip-hop connoisseur, I always put headphones through a ‘90s hip-hop test to determine their audio performance. The M-200 ANC aced it. On boom-bap bangers like Gang Starr’s “DWYCK,” the drum sample and bass line knocked hard, as the trio of Guru and Nice & Smooth rhymed casually over the upbeat production. But what sold me most was how well the M-200 ANC performed on Jazz records. Double bass on Ahmad Jamal’s “I Love You,” while smooth, was also pronounced and tickled my ears with pleasant reverberation.
If you’re the old-school type who loves listening to music in wired mode, you’ll be satisfied to hear that V-Moda bundled the M-200 ANC with an aux cable. Personally, I found audio more enjoyable when streaming music wirelessly, as bass and volume were raised higher. Something you should know is that the controls are disabled when plugging the M-200 ANC into an audio source.
Always take volume into consideration because the headphones blast music really loud, and increase sound leakage when raised to max volume. On the plus side, they isolate noise decently well when listening in passive mode.
V-Moda M-200 ANC review: App and special features
The M-200 ANC is compatible with the V-Moda app, but it’s very buggy. Whenever paired to my Google Pixel 2 XL or Pixel 3 XL, the app would not recognize the headphones and give me a connection error message. I kid you not when saying that I spent 30 minutes troubleshooting this.
When finally granted access, you’ll see the home screen has a graphic of the headphones and a battery level indicator, along with the Sound and Settings pages. Select the former to access the ANC adjuster and Equalizer, which has five presets (Rock, Pop, Podcast, Hip-Hop, Jazz) and a custom preset (Manual) to fine-tune sound to your ear. Honestly, the default EQ lends itself well to most music genres, though Podcast does accentuate voices to hear dialogue clearly on podcasts and videos.
The Settings page is barebones, with the Auto-off timer and firmware updates option being the only serviceable features. I downloaded the latest software update thinking there would be more to play with, or that the connection issues would be fixed, but was met with disappointment.
V-Moda M-200 ANC review: Battery life
V-Moda rates battery life at 20 hours on a single charge with ANC on. By comparison, this is the same playtime as the Bose 700 and 10 hours shorter than the Sony WH-1000XM4. Factor in volume, voice activation, and max-level ANC, playtime drops to 18.5 hours, which is slightly above the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 (about 16 hours), a class that no new ANC model wants to be in. Turning off ANC should extend use, but V-Moda has yet to divulge what the estimated playtime is when disabling the feature.
This could be a deal-breaker for some, mainly those who find themselves on long road trips, but for casual listeners, not as much. I was given a sufficient amount of playtime throughout my testing: an entire workweek (3 hours daily) before recharging. Quick charging is available to get you 1.5 hours of use on a 10-minute charge, another area where the M-200 ANC underperforms versus its stiffest competition; the Bose 700 can do 5 hours on a 10-minute charge and the Sony WH-1000xM4 can get you 3.5 hours on a 15-minute charge.
V-Moda M-200 ANC review: Call quality and connectivity
The M-200 ANC didn’t do much for me as a calling headset. According to my wife, my voice was muffled, no matter what location I was calling from. She could barely make out what I was saying, and the mics picked up a lot of background noise, making note of passing cars and wind. She also heard her voice echoing during calls, something that has never occurred when I have taken her calls on a test unit. The headphones are OK for video conferencing, but you can get better call quality from the Bose 700.
For headphones equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, the M-200 ANC performs more like a model running Bluetooth 4.0. The initial pairing process was simple, but re-pairing to known devices was more miss than hit; the headphones would mainly recognize my MacBook Pro and needed to be paired manually on my Android smartphones most of the time. On top of that, I encountered a bug that removed the headphones from my previously connected list whenever the app started to act up. Wireless range was even more frustrating, as audio stuttered terribly whenever I was about 20 feet away from my audio source: 30 feet is the standard minimum these days.
V-Moda M-200 ANC review: Verdict
The M-200 ANC sticks to V-Moda’s strengths of audio and design, and both are superbly executed. Bringing powerfully effective ANC into the mix certainly strengthens its case as a top performer that can tame ambient noise with some of the best headphones out there. It’s also surprising to see V-Moda let users tweak sound on their headphones via app, especially knowing just how perfectionistic the company is about sound.
However, while V-Moda worked hard on developing its noise-cancelling technology and maintaining signature hallmarks, it did little to refine other key areas. For the M-200 ANC's battery life to not even surpass that of the Bose 700 is a serious letdown. The control scheme isn’t properly executed either, and I’m also not sure what’s going on with all of the bugs and whether they affect the very short wireless range either.
But let’s talk about the elephant in the room: price. V-Moda wants you to know that your $499 is going towards elite design, sound, and noise cancellation. Fair enough. However, you can really go all out and spend $50 extra on a model like the AirPods Max that offers much more in functionality, or spend less and get better overall performance from the Bose 700 or Sony WH-1000XM4.
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