Review: v-moda Remix M-Class Earphones
Pros: A visually distinctive, affordable alternative to Apple’s classic iPod pack-ins, made from solid metal and available in three good colors. Very nice sound balance and detail for the price - better in our view than Apple’s - with a bit more high- and low-end detail. Includes three sets of good foam covers and a separate cord manager.
Cons: No carrying case. Though we found bass and comfort preferable to Apple’s standard buds, there are further benefits in silicone rubber in-ear designs.
As we noted in our earlier review of Aural New York’s Earbuds for iPod (iLounge rating: B-) today, Apple’s packed-in iPod earbuds (iLounge rating: B) have become ubiquitous, and the standard by which inexpensive replacement headphones are generally judged. Aural demonstrated that it’s fairly easy to copy Apple’s look, but like many companies, they found it harder to duplicate or improve upon Apple’s sound. New headphone maker v-moda took a different approach: rather than merely copying Apple’s buds, it has actually improved upon them with the Remix M-Class ($50 including tax and shipping, street price $40 and up).
In short, v-moda’s approach is refreshing: rather than going cheap and aiming for a near-Apple experience, it looked at the $50 and under headphone market and aimed to deliver something better for the dollar than the rest of the pack. Given the three most common complaints about Apple’s earbuds - bass, color, and comfort - it has addressed at least two, and gone a bit further, besides. For the asking price, the company includes one set of earbuds, three sets of white replacement ear foam covers that are a bit more resilient than the easily torn ones we’ve seen from some other companies, and a clear, boomerang-like cord manager. All that’s missing is a carrying case.
Obviously, the star attraction here is the earbuds themselves. Color aside, fans of the iPod’s packed-in buds will find certain elements of Remix M-Class’s shape and design pleasantly familiar. Like many other earbuds, Remix houses its small speaker drivers inside of buds that are attached to prominent, stick-like stems and matching cables. Unlike the others, however, v-moda uses metal throughout its components. The buds are made from polished aluminum, which is more expensive (and resilient) than the plastic used in most earbuds; a hard rubber ring is used for the innermost portion that makes contact with your ear. Each includes appropriately thick translucent plastic and metal cables, plus a gold-plated headphone plug. Three colors of the earbuds are currently available - mirrored silver (called “bling-bling black”), hot pink, and metallic blue - all nice alternatives to Apple’s standard white offerings, the silver version going well with the metal backs of full-sized iPods and nanos. We’d still like to see darker black and brighter white versions, though.
Each Remix earbud is ever so slightly smaller in diameter than Apple’s, but the foams and rubber together actually made them feel a little more comfortable in our ears. They also didn’t fall out like we’d expected; we tried them on a few quick runs outside, and had zero problems keeping them in place. The metal stems felt and looked good - a classier twist on Apple’s plastic theme.
Our Aural review noted that matching or beating Apple’s sound quality was a major challenge for low-end headphone makers; that’s why we were impressed that v-moda succeeded where Aural failed. Remix M-Class doesn’t just match Apple’s standard; it legitimately sounds a bit better, most notably delivering added bass and treble detail, with an overall sound balance that made listening really enjoyable. Though this isn’t an audiophile-quality earpiece, and hard-core bass fanatics may prefer something more exaggerated - both types of listeners will surely do better with silicone-tipped earbuds that offer more external noise isolation, particularly if they’re willing to spend more money - we found Remix’s slight bass extension over Apple’s earbuds to be appropriate, and quite welcome.
Overall, we were on the edge of A- and B+ ratings for the Remix M-Class - mostly because of the initially surprising $50 price tag - but in the end, that number is mitigated by the fact that v-moda includes both tax and shipping in the price, and ultimately delivers earphones that sound, feel, and look worthy of a premium over Apple’s. We were also reassured by the company’s avowed concerns over manufacturing quality and consistency, which have sadly been lacking of late in other comparatively inexpensive headphones we’ve tested. While not perfect, the Remix M-Class’s metal bodies and sound quality offer nice steps forward for fans of more traditional ear buds, and are worthy of our high recommendation.