V-Moda S-80 on-ear headphones review: a heavy, expensive gimmick

V-Moda S-80 on-ear headphones

MSRP $400.00

“They’re gorgeous, but too expensive, heavy, and lacking in features.”


  • Great design
  • Top-notch materials
  • Good sound quality


  • Expensive
  • Heavy and uncomfortable
  • No ANC/transparency
  • Mediocre battery life
  • Speaker feature is underwhelming

It’s generally true that in terms of headphones, you get what you pay for. As prices go up, you’ll be able to expect higher materials, higher craftsmanship, more and higher features, and higher sound quality. That’s why V-Moda’s latest S-80 wireless, on-ear headphones are so surprising. At $400, they cost as much as Sony’s WH-1000XM5, which we consider to be the very best wireless headphones at once. At that price, the S-80 must be exceptional, but as a substitute, they’re an oddity — a well-crafted but highly limited set of headphones that lean on a single idea for his or her appeal: whenever you twist the earcups outward, they turn out to be speakers which you can supposedly use for private or small-group listening.

Is it possible that this one feature can justify such a lofty price? Here’s what we found.

What’s within the box?

V-Moda S-80 seen with include charging cable.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The S-80 are available a really nice, big box. Unfortunately, inside that box, you’ll simply find the headphones, a USB-A-to-USB-C charging cable, and V-Moda’s signature magnetic shields on the skin of the earcups, which I’ll explain in a moment. The massive missing thing here, especially when you concentrate on the value, is any type of storage case or protection. Seriously, V-Moda doesn’t even provide a drawstring bag.


V-Moda S-80 slider and earcup pivot close-up.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

I actually have at hand it to V-Moda — the corporate has never didn’t offer really good-looking headphones. The S-80 are quite striking of their minimalist design, with fully integrated, single-sided aluminum earcup pivots that reach up into the scarf on tubular sliders. The headscarf itself is adorned with slash-cut aluminum endcaps, which give a really sleek appearance. Our review unit featured a black/rose gold color combo (though frankly, it looks more like copper to me) but it’s also possible to get them in black/silver and white/silver combos.

V-Moda S-80 earcup next to magnetic outer shield.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

V-Moda’s signature design element — the hexagonal earcups — are present and accounted for, though smaller than the corporate’s other models due to the on-ear design. It has also kept its other signature design feature — swappable outer earcup shields — however the S-80 has embraced the present trend to make every thing magnetic. As an alternative of bolting the shields to the earcups with a series of tiny screws, they’re held in place by magnets. The corporate got the magnet balance good: they’re powerful enough to maintain the shields from becoming by accident dislodged, but weak enough which you can pry them loose without having a tool.

I’d like to have the opportunity to say that after you place them on, all of that weight magically goes away, but I can’t.

The identical thing goes for the ear cushions, that are also magnetically latched, making them very easy to switch.

In brief, the look splendid and the craftsmanship is top-notch. But there’s more to design than looks. The earcups fold flat, but there’s no secondary hinge. So unlike most of V-Moda’s other cans that provide the corporate’s clever Clique Fold hinges (dramatically decreasing their travel size), the S-80 remain really big when it comes time to stow them away.

Comfort, controls, and connections

Front view of man wearing V-Moda S-80.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

For those who were to guess how much the S-80 weigh, just by taking a look at them and comparing them to much larger, over-ear models, you’d be tempted to think they were quite light. Perhaps not featherweight, however the word “heavy” wouldn’t be the primary you’d pick to explain them. But they’re, actually, heavy. Crazy heavy. At 355 grams (12.5 ounces), they weigh way over every other on-ear model you is perhaps considering, including the Beats Solo Pro (9 ounces), Beats Solo 3 (7.5 ounces), or the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8i (7.5 ounces). In truth, they weigh greater than most over-ear models too.

I’d like to have the opportunity to say that after you place them on, all of that weight magically goes away — something that Apple’s very heavy AirPods Max (13.6 ounces) manage to mostly achieve. However it doesn’t, and I can’t. The headscarf simply isn’t wide enough or well-padded enough to distribute all that weight.

The three important control buttons are beautiful, but impractical.

The clamping force is considerable and tries valiantly to make up for all of that mass, but ultimately fails. The issue, as near as I can figure, is that the majority of the burden is concentrated in the scarf, not the earcups or their supports. For those who keep your head held high and don’t move around an excessive amount of, it’s not intolerable, however the moment you lean forward, the scarf makes a dive toward your face. In other words, they’re lousy for the gym and for workouts usually.

It is a shame, since the ear cushions are sumptuously padded, and must be very cozy. But that powerful clamping force adds a whole lot of pressure, making them lots less cushy. For those who wear glasses, as I do more often than not, you’ll be in pain inside 20 minutes as that pressure sandwiches your glasses limbs between your ears and your head, like a vise. Perhaps due to that pressure, I discovered that my ears also got hot quickly — something that must be less of an issue with on-ears.

But what about once they’re just resting around your neck, with earcups pointed upward in “speaker” mode? They’re still ludicrously heavy, and also you’ll grow bored with wearing them that way, but not less than it’s more comfortable.

V-Moda S-80 controls close-up.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

V-Moda continues to favor form over function in terms of the controls on its wireless headphones. The three important control buttons (a multifunction button flanked by volume up/down buttons) sit atop the appropriate earcup, where they’re mounted almost perfectly flush to the sloping edge. It’s beautiful, and completely impractical. Each button may be very small and every has a raised icon so you’ll be able to feel them along with your index finger. Problem is, all of them feel equivalent to your finger, they usually’re so close together, it could possibly be tricky to inform them apart in that moment whenever you reach as much as pause your tunes or answer a call.

For a set of on-ear headphones, the S-80 sound superb.

They supply an honest click response whenever you press them, but there’s so little travel on the mechanism, it could possibly be difficult to do double- or triple-presses. Still, all of the functions you would like are here: play/pause, track skip forward/back, call answer/end/reject, volume up/down, and voice assistant access. What you don’t get is any type of auto-pause, because there aren’t any wear sensors built into the earcups.

The facility/Bluetooth pairing button on the underside edge is just as finicky as the highest controls, but not less than you won’t be using it as often.

Bluetooth connectivity is robust and reliable, and you’ll be able to pair as much as two devices concurrently because of multipoint support. Pairing is easy, but don’t expect any extra help as there’s no Google Fast Pair or Microsoft Swift Pair.

Sound quality

V-Moda S-80 earcup with earcushion removed.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

For a set of on-ear headphones, which may sometimes suffer from a scarcity of bass, the S-80 sound superb. There’s loads of kick within the low end, good definition through the midtones, and decent if not crystal clear high frequencies.

I discovered that the ear cushions did a superb job of passively blocking external sounds (probably due to that clamping force I discussed). The soundstage is narrow for a set of premium cans, which tends to position the music mostly inside your head, only peeking out for probably the most extreme stereo mixes. Besides, the S-80 compare well to the Bowers & Wilkins PX5, a now-discontinued set of $299 on-ear headphones.

V-Moda offers 4 EQ presets in its Headphone Editor app (an odd name given just how few edits you’ll be able to actually make) — rock, pop, hip-hop, and jazz, after which helps you to adjust the EQ manually using a five-band set of sliders. It’s going to remember your adjustment, but you’ll be able to’t put it aside under your individual preset so you’ll be able to try something else.

The S-80 support the AAC codec on iPhones and Android devices, in addition to Qualcomm’s aptX HD on compatible Android phones. AptX HD does provide a small but noticeable improvement to overall fidelity.

In speaker mode, results are way more mixed. For those who use them for private listening, they may be kinda fun. Twisting the earcups into speaker position boosts the quantity by what appears like 30% or so, but you’ll be able to crank it louder for those who like. Angle the earcups good, and you’ll be able to almost get a poor man’s spatial audio effect, with the sound feeling prefer it’s hovering throughout you. V-Moda says “it envelops your space with vibrant sound,” — I wouldn’t go quite that far.

But as a bunch listening device, they’re mediocre at best — way worse than even the most affordable, $25 Bluetooth speaker you’ll be able to buy on Amazon. Though they will get loud enough to be heard across a room (assuming the room is fairly quiet), there’s zero bass response. That isn’t surprising provided that these are still headphone drivers. They’re simply being pushed to their absolute limit when it comes to power.

V-Moda S-80 earcups in speaker mode.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

And that’s the amusing (or perhaps just sad) part concerning the S-80 when used as a so-called speaker. After I ran them side by side with my iPhone 11 in speaker mode, I actually found the iPhone did a greater job. It’s a purely mono experience, versus the S-80’s stereo, but to get even a touch of that stereo imaging, you want to be sitting within the headphones’ sweet spot, which is a really small spot indeed.

Having sensors contained in the hinges that robotically switch the drivers to speaker mode is handy, little doubt. But then V-Moda fails to maintain that convenience going: for those who set a volume level that works for speaker mode, it affects the quantity for headphone mode too. This forces you to regulate the quantity every time you mode switch, which defeats the advantage of having that sensor in the primary place.

Call quality

Side view of man wearing V-Moda S-80.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The S-80 deliver superb call quality in quiet locations, with zero wind. Your voice will sound full and natural and really easy on your callers to listen to. It’s a great tool for doing Zoom or Teams calls while at a desk, indoors. Outdoors, it’s a very different ball game.

Even the slightest breeze (or simply the movement of air brought on by running) will create a whooshing sound through the mics, and the moment there’s any competing appears like traffic or a whole lot of loud conversation, your voice quality will suffer considerably.

There’s also no side-tone option for with the ability to hear your individual voice more clearly.

Battery life

V-Moda rates the S-80’s battery life at 20 hours when in headphone mode, and 10 hours when in speaker mode, but these will vary depending on the quantity level you select for every. Realistically, for those who max out the quantity on speaker mode, you’re probably taking a look at about eight hours or less.

While there aren’t any other headphones with speaker mode to match to, there are many regular headphones that may support for much longer play times, from 30 hours on the Sony WH-1000XM4/XM5 to 50 hours on the Jabra Elite 45h, a brilliant lightweight $100 set of on-ears. It’s also price noting that the S-80 don’t have a quick-charge feature.

What’s missing?

At this price, far an excessive amount of:

  • No carry case
  • No energetic noise cancellation
  • No transparency mode
  • No wear sensors
  • No analog input (they’re wireless-only)
  • No quick-charge

Our take

The V-Moda S-80 are an elegantly designed set of on-ear headphones that provide decent sound and superb craftsmanship. But their sky-high price, brutally heavy weight, and almost total lack of ordinary features like ANC make them a tricky sell. Worse still, their signature twist-to-listen-out-loud feature just isn’t very impressive.

Is there a greater alternative?

On-ear headphones are something of a rarity within the premium audio market, so finding one other $400 set to match the S-80s to has been a challenge. That said, I just don’t think there’s any reason to spend that much. For $300, you’ll be able to get the Beats Solo Pro, which supply similar sound quality, have ANC and transparency, are lighter and more comfortable, they usually fold up for easier storage. Just like the S-80 though, they haven’t any headphone jack.

But when you may have $400 to spend and also you really need an impressive set of wireless headphones, look no further than the Sony WH-1000XM5. They’re higher than the S-80 in every way but perhaps style.

Alternatively, why not save yourself a whack of Benjamins and buy the wonderful and much cheaper $100 Jabra Elite 45h? They’re super cozy, have massive battery life and though they don’t sound quite nearly as good, they get every thing else right.

How long will they last?

The V-Moda S-80 are thoroughly built. Super-sturdy and comprised of top-notch materials. But as wireless-only headphones, their useful life will likely be determined by their rechargeable battery. And since that starts at just 20 hours, and can conceivably drop to 50% of that capability inside a number of years, you’ll probably be searching for latest cans sooner fairly than later.

V-Moda backs its wireless products with only a one-year warranty, so that may not help with longevity.

Do you have to buy them?

No. Despite their gorgeous looks and unique twist-to-listen-out-loud speaker system, there are many wireless headphones that can cost less and perform higher. You then can spend that extra cash on an actual Bluetooth speaker.

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