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V-MODA Forza Metallo Wireless Bluetooth Earphone/IEM review by Dale
on 21 May 2017
Sources: iPhone7-plus, iPod Touch, iPad Pro Mini, Macbook 12-inch.
I love technology. Hardly a year (scratch that, month) goes by without a new milestone reached or barrier breached. Well, this isn't Earth-shattering, but when I finally find an IEM (ear-canal earphone) that sounds as good as the Sennheiser IE800 I had, but costs a fraction of what it did - that's reason enough for celebration. Note that reviews of this V-MODA Forza Metallo Wireless (ForzaMW from here on) IEM will vary a lot in how the reviewers perceive them, and I already know the deal - eartips, eartips, eartips. V-MODA supplies 8 pairs, and I decided on the next-to-largest set, the orange (underneath the white exterior) set. The bass is strong and tight - not the easiest thing to find in a good headphone or earphone. While treble varies a lot among IEM users because of the vagaries of ear canals, the bass you hear should be very much the same as what I hear, if you get the proper eartip fit.
Final word on the bass (read more in the music samples below): The ForzaMW bass does not seem to have the overall power of the V-MODA Wireless2 bass, at least with the eartips I selected, and while I've heard IEM's that approach that level of bass, they don't do it cleanly unless they use multiple drivers (more on that below). That said, if there are any doubts about the ForzaMW's ability to play deep bass convincingly with a clean weighty impact, have a listen to the track by Hecq that I listed below - it will dispel all doubt.
Midrange: I make EQ test curves as I go when doing a review, and I didn't change anything for the ForzaMW, in other words, uncolored and crystal clear. Treble: All of the in-ears (IEM's) I've reviewed have sounded slightly bright to me, and the ForzaMW sounds like the best of those, examples being the Dita Answer/Truth, Final Audio FI-BA-SS, RHA T20i, Sennheiser IE800, and V-MODA's Forza Metallo wired edition. My best guess is that the ForzaMW will sound right to most users, with the correct treble balance, and even though this is a Bluetooth IEM, the sound quality with the Qualcomm aptX codec is as good as it gets.
I don't want to get into anything controversial here, but it's worth mentioning that multi-driver IEM's generally sound different from single-driver types. The rule, based on what I hear, is the multi-driver IEM's sound "bigger", probably due to phase anomalies between the various drivers in those earphones. Single driver IEM's sound "purer", with no acoustic interference from other drivers, and even if they don't sound as "big", the soundstage is still likely to be spectacular if they're tuned correctly. This ForzaMW sounds just right.
Another area of possible controversy is whether or how much a Bluetooth codec (in the ForzaMW's electronics) would reduce the resolution compared to a wired earphone such as the Forza Metallo original wired version. In my opinion this wireless version is superior because 1) The tuning is better, and correct tuning (for accurate tonality) outweighs a minor reduction in absolute resolution, and 2) The Bluetooth codec here is Qualcomm aptX - the latest and best hi-fi codec. If you listen to very well recorded and refined music in a very quiet relaxed situation, you can hear a difference between a wired connection and the aptX Bluetooth connection, if you're a critical listener, audiophile, etc. If your music isn't that level of quality, if you're listening in a non-ideal setting (noisy, not relaxed, etc.), or if you don't have experience in detecting those kinds of differences, then the point is moot. When I need critically perfect sound, I use a wired headphone, but that's only for at-home listening.
Isolation with the ForzaMW is good, but not a high isolation. That is, good enough for most outdoor use, but it may or may not be enough for the bus or the tube, depending on the ear-canal seal you get. Leakage is so low that even when playing the ForzaMW in a very quiet office or library at audiophile volume levels, people sitting next to you won't hear anything, unless they press right up to your ears. The ForzaMW is extremely light - less than one ounce total, and the wires going to the earpieces are thin, but V-MODA says these are very strong and they have strain-reliefs, so not a worry thing. This is my first Bluetooth IEM, so the configuration is all new to me. Basically, the very small strip containing the electronics goes behind the neck, the thicker cables going down to the control boxes sit on the sides of the neck, and then the thinner wires go from the control boxes to the earpieces. Remember that the entire weight is less than an ounce.
Standard issue with the ForzaMW are 8 sets of eartips in 4 sizes, 3 sets of in-ear stabilizers ("Sport Fins") in 3 sizes, a cloth bag, some small O-rings that work with the optional 3D-printed customization earpiece caps, and the usual literature and warranty. I've had quite a bit of experience with earphone users on audio forums who purchased cloned or fake (fugazi) earphones, and it rarely has a good outcome. Be sure to get the genuine Forza Metallo Wireless.
In previous reviews I've included music examples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to other reviews and see how the ForzaMW compares to other headphones with each track. Note that the ForzaMW was evaluated above and below without tone controls or equalization.
Above & Beyond - We're All We Need (feat. Zoe Johnston): A very nice tight but impactful bass with crystal clear vocals - the ForzaMW plays this with great ambiance.
Anamanaguchi - Planet: A complex mix of percussion sounds and hummed vocals. The bells and other high-frequency percussion are highly detailed, the bass line has a moderate impact, and the bass detail is surprisingly good.
Armin van Buuren - J'ai Envie de Toi (Orig Mix feat Gaia): Decent bass impacts, breathy vocals, lots of fun noise - the ForzaMW makes this sound real.
Avicii - Feeling Good: Classic female vocal in movie-theme style - the ForzaMW brings this to life like few other earphones I've heard.
Carl Kennedy-Tommy Trash ft Rosie Henshaw - Blackwater (Original Master): Nice strong tight bass impacts, female vocal, rendered delectably by the ForzaMW.
Crystal Castles - Wrath of God: Atmospheric tune with vocal sound effects and strong bass line, plus some interesting treble percussion sounds. The ForzaMW brings these unique sounds to life.
Digitalism - Pogo: A driving beat with a detailed bass synth and great vocals ("There's something in the air...") - the ForzaMW makes this very enjoyable.
Dino Lenny-Lino Di Meglio - We Will Make It: Atmospheric tune with mixed vocals and a good beat - the female vocal is a special treat with the ForzaMW.
DJ Shadow - Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt: High-pitched tones and strong deep piano chords with a hummed female vocal - ultra-cool with the ForzaMW.
Fairmont - Poble Sec: Awesome detailed bass impacts with some nifty pingy guitar/synth effects. I discovered this tune at the time I purchased my 3rd M100 - the ForzaMW renders this perfectly.
Giuseppe Ottaviani - Lost for Words (On Air Mix feat Amba Shepherd): Strong bass impacts behind a female voice - a large-scale sweeping sonic image reminiscent of epic adventures in an exotic land. The ForzaMW is playing on a whole new level here.
Hecq - Enceladus (With Skyence): Prodigious deep bass and clean at that. This tune's melody is more abstract than most of the others here, but the ForzaMW makes it a real adventure.
Katy B - Crying For No Reason (Tom Shorterz Remix): Oh myyyyy, I love Katy B. The vocal mix here is awesome and the bass is solid. This is the ForzaMW at its best.
Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch: I first heard this in The September Issue film and soundtrack, as the backdrop for the opening catwalk (watch Andre grinning at 1:51 - all you need to know) - the ForzaMW plays this amazing tune perfectly.
Lee and Malinda - Truth Will Set You Free (V-Moda Mix): Lee Kalt is the master, this is the masterpiece. The drum (or tom-tom) hits here have a very realistic skin-tone, the female vocal is seamlessly integrated into the driving beat, and the synth effects also blend well - the ForzaMW just owns this.
Markus Schulz - Mainstage: The granddaddy of bass is in this track, and the ForzaMW plays it smooth and clean.