V-Moda has a reputation for stylish headphones with thoughtful design touches and a fun, bass-heavy sound. Although the $100 Remix Remote ( ) was the chronological successor to the company’s older $120 Vibe II ( ), V-Moda’s new $130 Vibrato is the Vibe II’s direct descendent, updating that model with a three-button remote and a few minor design tweaks. Notably, the Vibrato is sold exclusively through the Apple Store.
Like its siblings, the Vibrato is a canalbud-style headset. Canalbuds essentially split the difference in design and price between traditional earbuds and in-ear-canal (“canalphone”) models. (See our in-ear-canal headphone primer for more details.) Since they fit partially in the ear canal, canalbuds block some external noise and form an acoustic seal that improves bass performance. However, they don’t block as much sound as true in-ear-canal models, and, as with those in-ear-canal models, getting a proper fit can be tricky, the cord can produce unwanted microphonic noise in a listener’s ear, and using the headset function can be weird due to the occlusion effect of having your ears plugged while talking.
The Vibrato’s jewelry-like earpieces are almost identical to those of the Vibe II, though the Vibrato combines the Vibe II’s lovely cloth-wrapped cable with the kevlar reinforcement found in the Remix. While the Vibe II’s single-button remote/microphone module was located in a chrome-like housing where the left and right cables come together, the Vibrato’s inline module is positioned more conveniently on the right-hand cable, higher up, and has been upgraded to an Apple-style three-button (Volume Up, Play/Pause, Volume Down) version. (A chrome-like housing remains at the cable junction for decorative purposes, although I find it creates a pull on the earpieces.) I mostly like the remote, and its position and housing are improvements over the modules of the Vibe II and Remix Remote. However, as with the Remix’s remote, the center button is slightly difficult to press due to the way it’s recessed between the volume buttons.
The Vibrato comes with the same stylish faux-leather case as the Vibe II and, like both previous models, includes a shirt clip and ear hooks for active use. The Vibrato’s eartips—included are extra-small, small, medium, and large sizes, in black or clear—are a new hybrid design with a stiffer core than previous V-Moda eartips. The new tips are easier to fit on the earpieces, a convenient touch that’s been used before in canalbuds from Apple and Moshi. These tips are also conveniently color-coded by size. A V-Moda representative said the new eartips were designed to be more comfortable, but I didn’t notice much difference from other V-Moda tips I’ve used, which have all been comfortable and easy to insert.
V-Moda claims that the Vibrato’s inline microphone is improved from that of the Vibe II. I couldn’t compare the two microphones directly, but compared to the iPhone 4’s internal microphone, the Vibrato sounded a little muffled and distant. However, performance was fine for making phone calls—it just wasn’t on par with the best headset microphones I’ve tested.
The Vibrato’s earpieces use the same driver (speaker) found in the Vibe II, and indeed I found that the Vibrato sounds very similar to the Vibe II, although I couldn’t compare the two directly. Like the Vibe II, bass, midrange and high-frequency performance are good, with a bit of exaggerated bass that gives the Vibrato V-Moda’s signature punchy sound. Compared to the Remix, I found the Vibrato’s sound to be more detailed and natural, although I preferred the Remix’s slightly lighter bass balance.
I also compared the Vibrato to the Thinksound ts02+mic ( ) and found the Thinksound model’s overall detail and sound quality to sit squarely between the V-Moda Remix and Vibrato. The ts02 also has a more-natural bass balance, but lacks a three-button remote. In comparison with the Vibrato, I found the $80 Maximo iMetal iP-595 ( ) to offer better overall sound quality and balance, but the V-Moda headphones have the edge in physical design and bass quantity.
Notable is a lifetime guarantee that offers a 50-percent discount on new headphones if the Vibrato breaks outside of its generous two year warranty.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
The Vibrato offers clear design improvements over both V-Moda’s Vibe II and Remix. The Vibrato also offers overall better sound than the Remix, though the two models differ in subjective ways, including the Vibrato’s more-pronounced lower bass and flashier appearance. It’s also worth noting that the very similar Vibe II is still available from some retailers at a substantial discount over the Vibrato and in more color schemes; however, that model does not have the Vibrato’s three button remote, hybrid eartips, or kevlar-reinforced cable. All in all, both the Vibrato and the Remix are winners, but the Remix may offer better value, as may some of our less-expensive favorites, such as the ts02+mic and iM-595.