Three years have passed since we reviewed V-Moda’s fashionable metal Vibe Earphones, which were followed several months later by the microphone-laden Vibe Duo, then months after that by Vibe Duo with Control-Playback, and finally in late 2008 by Vibe II. Though we’ve liked or loved the looks of all of these models, we’ve had some reservations regarding their sound, and have watched as their build quality has improved from model to model as V-Moda has studied common types of cable and connector failures. The latest model, Remix Remote ($100), is really the culmination of everything the company has been working on since the original Vibe was in development: a stylish, highly functional, and apparently extremely durable design with arguably better sound than its predecessors.
One point worth making up front: though there are actually three different versions of Remix in our photographs, we’re only reviewing the $100 Remote version, which includes both a microphone and a three-button Apple-authorized remote control that adds in-line volume and play/pause buttons to iPods and iPhones released at or after September 2008. A base model called just Remix ($80) omits both the remote and the microphone, and a version called Remix Vocal ($90) includes a remote and a one-button play/pause remote. All three will come with the same drawstring fabric carrying case—a downgrade from prior V-Moda cases—plus workout-ready stabilizing sport earhooks, and four sets of opaque and translucent silicone ear tips. The tips in the Remix Remote package were pure black and smoke translucent black, rather than pure black and translucent white in the preliminary Remix Vocal set we received for photographic purposes.
Like Vibe II, the Remix earphones represent a big change visually from the original Vibes, which continued to appear in a wide variety of impressive colors and cable permutations over their two-year evolution. Vibe II went upscale, evolving Terminator-like enclosures with faux jewels inside, and Remix goes downscale, losing the diamond-cut color accents found on all of the Vibe and Vibe Duo housings. Remix’s casings are now almost entirely smooth metal, alternating between silver and black in the standard Nero model, and black and grey in a second version that our remote-less preliminary Remix sample arrived in. They’re less jewelry-like than their predecessors, but still have all of the solid metal feel, with distinctive turret-like machining and a little X-shaped etching on their outward-facing edges. They’re similar to Klipsch’s Image S4, but feel and look nicer.
Sonically, Remix Remote is closer to our ideal sound signature than the original Vibes and Vibe Duos, which V-Moda continued to produce for years with Darth Vader-like bass levels in an effort to create a “clubby,” DJ-like sound. Like Vibe II, Remix steps back a little from the old overwhelming, ear-flooding bass levels, but it preserves enough of the really low notes that you still feel like you’re hearing your music with greater warmth than, say, Apple’s In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic. At the same time, Remix offers better treble definition and more dynamic overall sound than the Klipsch S4, which we found to be overly flat and a little bloated on the low end.
On the other hand, Remix Remote has some problems in the microphone department. V-Moda’s original Vibe Duo design placed the microphone in the same compartment as its remote control, and Vibe II decoupled the components, letting the microphone hang next to your mouth and the remote sit lower at the Y-joint—an improvement. Unfortunately, Remix Remote has relocated the microphone to the Y-joint remote compartment, and though we were initially impressed by its intelligible, clear sound—only a hint too high in treble—we quickly noticed that the mic was picking up all the friction of the remote housing against our clothing, creating noisy audio that callers didn’t like one bit. This issue is the only reason that Remix Remote fell short of our high recommendation; the three-button remote was otherwise trouble-free in our testing, highly tactile, and better located than Apple’s own design.
One major benefit of the Remix design is something that mightn’t be evident for some time: reliability. We were amongst the first people to note that early Vibe earphones had connector and cable-related issues, and after a brief period of protest, V-Moda went to work on remedying them with much-improved designs in subsequent models. The results are a raygun-shaped headphone plug and a brand new cable design that show how serious the company has become about the durability of its products. Remix’s cable is slightly thicker than in past V-Moda models, and noticeably so relative to the S4’s, using a new central strain-relieving wire and Kevlar coating to keep the slightly rubbery cabling working even after tens of thousands of flexes—machine-tested in the 60,000 to 120,000 range, according to V-Moda. Competitors are less specific about their testing and durability findings, but the industry’s standard has been roughly 10,000 flexes, and three-button remote-laden headphones are more susceptible to cable failures than their predecessors. From earbuds to headphone plug and everything in between, Remix’s entire design feels sturdy in a satisfying way, and has a two-year no-questions-asked warranty to back it up.
Overall, Remix Remote is another very solid earphone from V-Moda; apart from the microphone issues we encountered, it represents the very best combination of features, performance, and build quality we’ve seen from this company—and most others—for the $100 asking price, a nice and complete package. Though the carrying case could stand to be better, and the microphone really needs some tweaking, those without a need for in-line mic and remote functionality may find the basic version of Remix to be even more satisfying than the deluxe one that we reviewed. When the final version of that model becomes available, we’ll update this review to let you know our impressions.
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Compatible: iPhone, All iPods