The preface: Recently I was on the hunt for another not-too-expensive set of in-ear style headphones that could replace my Sony EX71 earbuds. Despite the Sony units only costing $35, they have better bass and better sound than most of the much more expensive earbuds you find out on the market these days. Several months ago I purchased a set of Shure e3c earbuds from an Apple store thinking “Hey, they’re expensive, they must sound good too!”. I was disappointed. Disappointed to the point of returning them, and back to the Sony pair I went.

Just a little rant/side note: For whatever reason Apple stores sell near-reference quality earbuds with the intent of you using them with iPods… they must think expensive headphones means “good for average consumer”. They are being mis-marketed. Most people are going to absolutely hate near-reference earbuds… Why? Because they don’t sweeten (or barely sweeten) the low-end or high-end frequencies (otherwise known as flat frequency response).

Which brings me to these: The V-Moda Vibe earbuds don’t even attempt to be reference quality, which I love. They retail for $100 and are also sold at Apple stores and at amazon.com, among other places. I was sent a review set by a nice person at a PR firm and decided to try them out.

Right off the bat, the box and design of the earbuds grabs you. They sell these in several different varieties such as “Flashback Chrome”. They are very stylish and design-conscious. The earbuds themselves are made of some kind of alloy metal, not plastic like the Sony phones. The marketing on the package tells me that these should sound as good as they look. Do they?

Well… to be honest with you, in my totally non-scientific testing comparing them to the Sony EX71 — they almost sound the same to me. This really isn’t a bad thing per-se… but they cost $60 more than the EX71 at retail. They definitely have better build quality than the Sony earbuds… but it feels like the Sony earbuds block out external noise better. I do seem to notice that the high-end is less muddy on the Vibe phones, but it may all be in my head.

Other than sound, the V-moda phones have a shorter, thicker, more durable cord than the Sonys, but sometimes I find that it’s almost too short if I have the iPod in a lower coat pocket. The Sony EX71s have a cable extension which is practically required to use them, but it does give you a nice long cord (on the positive side, The V-moda phones headphone cord does not get tangled up nearly as easy as the Sony). The V-moda phones come in a small leather case with a piece of plastic to wrap the cord around so it tangles less… I don’t use that particular item, but it’s a neat idea from a company who seems like they’re really trying to break into the budget headphone market.

Similar to the EX71, the V-moda Vibe phones include several sizes of silicone ear fittings, to try to get the best fit you should experiment with all of them. I ended up taking the smallest size I believe, they fit perfectly without falling out of my ears.

Other than that, I don’t have much else to say about them. If you already own a set of Sony EX71 phones, I would tell you to maybe try these out and see if you like them better (Apple stores let you return headphones if you don’t like ‘em). If you don’t own a decent set of earbuds, have $100 laying around, and would like to try ones that are damn pretty (and pretty good sounding), I recommend giving these a shot.

Pros:Good build qualityStylin’Less tangle/more durable than Sony headphone cords

Cons:Kind of expensive compared to similar models (Sony EX71)Headphone cord may be too short for youPossibly blocks less external noise than EX71 (this may just be my imagination!)

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