V-Moda M-200 ANC review: Overpriced over-ear headphones

V-Moda M-200 ANC

“An ambitious set of ANC headphones that don’t quite deliver on their promises.”

  • Superb build quality and materials
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Effective transparency mode
  • aptX HD codec for Android
  • Expensive
  • Weak ANC performance
  • Poor call quality
  • Awkward controls
  • Glitchy mobile app

MSRP $500.00

When V-Moda debuted its $500 M-200 ANC headphones at CES this year, I assumed that they were a wireless version of the company’s $350 M-200 wired studio headphones with active noise cancellation (ANC) thrown in. That seemed like a reasonable assumption — not only are the names virtually identical, but so are the headphones themselves.

As it turns out, just about the only thing these two models have in common is their overall design. The drivers are a different size (50mm in the M-200, 40mm in the M-200 ANC) and their tuning is quite varied as well.

So let’s get that out of the way right now: If you were hoping for a wireless set of the M-200, your wait is not yet over. The M-200 ANC, with their different sound signature and lack of a balanced audio cable option, should be considered as very much their own product — not a set of M-200s with Bluetooth and ANC.

And yet, V-Moda appears to have priced the M-200 ANC as though this were exactly what was going on.

Can V-Moda justify such a hefty price premium for these wireless cans? Let’s check ’em out.

What’s in the box?

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The M-200 ANC’s box uses a lot of foam and black plastic, which isn’t ideal in terms of recycling. Inside, V-Moda includes everything you need for both wireless and wired operation of the M-200 ANC, including a hard-shell carrying case, a carabiner to clip it to your backpack, a 3.5mm analog cable, an airplane adapter, and a USB-C charging cable.

Design

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Over-the-ear headphones tend to look and feel bulky, but V-Moda’s designers continue to do an amazing job at minimizing their size and shape. Their instantly recognizable hexagonal earcups are sleek, with a thin profile.

Build quality is superb. The M-200 ANC feel like they’re built to take a lot of abuse.

Despite the fact that the M-200 ANC are wireless and thus need some kind of controls for things like play/pause, track-skipping, etc., V-Moda has managed to incorporate them without interfering with the headphones’ clean lines. The five buttons all sit flush to the edges of the right earcup. At a distance of a few feet, there’s simply no way to distinguish between the M-200 and the M-200 ANC.

In fact, V-Moda has preserved all of the design elements that made the M-200 compelling: A robust and comfortable headband, a clever “CliqFold” folding design that makes them smaller for traveling, magnetically latched ear cushions that are a snap to remove and replace, and removable/customizable aluminum “shields” that adorn the outside of each earcup.

The one feature that didn’t survive the transition to the wireless model is the M-200’s optional balanced audio cable, but given that the M-200 ANC’s primary mission is wireless listening, that’s not really a surprise.

Once again, build quality is superb. Between the shields, the rigid metal sliders/forks, and V-Moda’s “FlexSteel” headband, the M-200 ANC feel like they’re built to take a lot of abuse.

Comfort, controls, and connections

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Because of V-Moda’s extensive use of non-plastic materials, the M-200 ANC tip the scales at a fairly hefty 11.3 ounces. That’s slightly less than the Apple AirPods Max (13.5 ounces) but considerably more than the Sony WH-1000XM4 (8.8 ounces). The good news is that this weight is really well distributed and the headphones feel much lighter than those numbers suggest.

V-Moda uses deeper ear cushions than those on the M-200, which makes them more comfortable despite the added weight (the M-200 are 10.2 ounces).

The downside to the extra weight is that they are not going to be very good companions when taking part in any activity more strenuous than a brisk walk.

People with small heads should take note: The M-200 ANC has a slightly larger headband than the M-200, which means that at their smallest size, the M-200 ANC have a bigger fit. Though it’s only a few millimeters different, I found the M-200 ANC crowded the tops of my ears while leaving a small gap at the bottom.

The buttons have a bit of a mushy feel, and it can be hard to know if you’ve successfully pressed them.

Another consideration for those who like to wear their headphones around their neck when not listening to music: Without a pivot that would let the earcups sit with their cushions against your body, those rigid metal earcup forks can become a bit uncomfortable — especially for people like me with pronounced collar bones.

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

I mentioned above that V-Moda has beautifully integrated the M-200 ANC’s controls into the outer shell of the right earcup. As slick as this looks, it’s a bit of a challenge for usability. The buttons all sit flush to the surrounding plastic, which means you’re dependent on the slightly raised icons to find them with your fingers.

This is less of a problem with the three main buttons that sit atop the earcup (which control play/pause, volume, and track skipping), but the perfectly smooth, dedicated ANC button on the lower front edge takes some getting used to. The buttons have a bit of a mushy feel and it can be hard to know if you’ve successfully pressed them.

Curiously, the ANC button can only be used for turning the ANC function on and off. There is no way to permanently engage the headphones’ transparency mode. Instead, V-Moda provides a temporary conversation mode that gets triggered when you place a hand over the lower portion of the left earcup. When that happens, your music is muted (not paused) and outside sounds are let in.

Also absent is any kind of wear sensor to automatically pause music and resume playback when you remove the headphones.

The M-200 ANC’s Bluetooth connection is quite strong — I was able to keep it alive even when separated from my phone by two stories in my house.

After a few false starts when I had to reset the paired devices list, I was able to connect the headphones to two devices simultaneously and switch between them easily.

The M-200 ANC are a great choice for critical listening, whether you use them wired or wirelessly.

However, I had a hit-and-miss experience trying to work with the V-Moda app on iOS and Android. On the iPhone, the app sometimes recognized the M-200 ANC and I could then use it to adjust ANC, EQ, and do firmware updates. But at other times, I’d simply be faced with an endless spinning wheel as the app looked for the headphones. At least the iOS app sometimes worked — the Android app never located the headphones at all.

Also somewhat frustrating was the app’s desire to continually show me that a firmware update was available, even after I had successfully installed it.

The M-200 ANC uses USB-C for charging, but sadly, that port cannot be used as a digital audio connection for computers.

Sound quality

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The M-200 ANC certainly sound nothing like their studio namesake, the M-200, and I’d argue that’s a very good thing. The M-200 are precise to the point of being almost painful, especially in the higher frequencies. Because they’re wired, there’s no way to tweak the EQ into a more pleasing signature, unless your specific source device lets you do that.

The M-200 ANC, on the other hand, have been tuned with a much more accessible sound signature, and even though they have smaller drivers than the M-200, they’ve got a much stronger bass response.

But regardless of whether you stick with the factory EQ settings or tweak them using the available presets or manual options in the app, the M-200 ANC deliver a clear and accurate sound that brings out the best in a wide range of musical genres.

That clarity really becomes evident when you switch back and forth between these cans and the Sony WH-1000XM4. The XM4 also sound terrific, but compared to the M-200 ANC, they can feel a bit soft, perhaps as a result of Sony’s digital signal processing (DSP). The V-Moda, by contrast, are razor-sharp and they have a knack for maintaining that clarity even as you ride the EQ settings to emphasize or deemphasize certain frequencies.

They also get remarka

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