capsule review

V-Moda Bass Freq

At a Glance
  • V-Moda Bass Freq

    Macworld Rating

V-Moda's Remix M-Class remain our favorite earbuds thanks to great sound, attractive design, and sturdy build quality, so we had high expectations for the company's new Bass Freq. And for the most part, the Bass Freqs succeed in filling those expectations.

Like Sennheiser's excellent CX300, with the Bass Freq V-Moda has taken the middle ground between in-ear-canal designs (such as those from Shure, Etymotic, Ultimate Ears), which fit deep inside your ear canals, and traditional earbuds, which sit lightly in your outer ear. We call these hybrid designs -- which include the Bass Freq, CX300, and a number of popular models from Sony, such as the EX7 and EX71 -- "canalbuds": Instead of sealing firmly inside your ear canals using foam or flanged-rubber eartips, these models have small rubber eartips that sit just inside the ends of your ear canals -- they don't fully seal out external noise, but they're easier to put in and take out and they're more comfortable for many listeners than full-fledged canalphones.

The Bass Freq earpieces are approximately the same size as Sennheiser's CX300 -- small and comfortable -- but with a longer plastic "arm," which I assume to be hollow for added bass response. They're also lightweight like the CX300, which means they don't fall out as easily as some of the other canalbuds I've tested. Six translucent rubber eartips are included -- three sizes, a pair of each -- to fit different ears. The Bass Freqs are available in eight different color combinations: black/silver, red/silver, orange/silver, green/silver, white/silver, teal/silver, purple/silver, and orange/green.

V-Moda advertises the Bass Freq as providing "revolutionary bass bliss." Although I don't know about the revolutionary part, I can't argue with the claim of bass bliss: If you get a good seal in your ears, you'll get better bass response than with any other canalbud I've heard, making the Bass Freqs great for working out or for those who just like to wallow in the low end. (In fact, you have to move up to XtremeMac's $150 FS1, a true in-ear-canal model, to get comparable bass response from such a small design.) At the same time, unlike Sony's EX70, Bass Freqs give you the whole frequency spectrum: there's actually midrange and treble. That said, these aren't the most balanced canalbuds on the market; you'll get better detail and slightly clearer midrange from the CX300. (The Bass Freqs give you sound shifted towards the low end -- a bit darker and with quite a bit more "oomph.") And, of course, you'll get better sound by moving up to higher-end canalphones such as Ultimate Ears' super.fi 3 Studio -- but you'll pay twice as much to get it.

(If you're wondering about "cable noise," the Bass Freq cables are similar to those of the CX300: bumps and scrapes to the cables can be heard, sometimes loudly, in the headphones. This is true of nearly all canalbuds and canalphones.)

Every set of Bass Freq headphones also includes a matching Modawrap cable manager to keep excess cable from getting tangled during your workout; this accessory is very similar to the Sumajin Smartwrap, which we've reviewed favorably here at Playlist. One missing accessory is a carrying case; considering that you stick the Bass Freq's eartips in your ears, I'd like a case to keep those tips clean when I'm not using them.

After spending some quality time with the Bass Freqs, they haven't bumped Sennheiser's CX300 from the top of my canalbud list. However, that list is focused on all-around listening. I easily preferred the Bass Freqs for working out at the gym, thanks to the additional bass, and readers whose taste in music leans towards bass-heavy genres will also likely prefer the Bass Freqs. And at $50, they're also less expensive than Sennheiser's offering. Bass lovers who also appreciate good overall sound finally have a reasonably-priced "canalphone" option.
--Dan Frakes

At a Glance
  • V-Moda Bass Freq

    Macworld Rating
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