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V-MODA Faders Performance


Faders_budsThe immediate issue I had with the V-MODA Faders was the marketing material. On the back of the box it says, "crystal-clear music & speech". That's setting the bar pretty high. So, my first test, after determining the correct tips for the Faders, was to put them on and try to have a conversation with my wife.

Well, it didn't go as I'd expected. As I've experienced with other earplugs, overall sound was muffled, conversation was difficult but not impossible, and, in general, "crystal-clear" wasn't the way I'd describe the Faders. But there were some rays of hope. First, I noted that there was a lot more intelligibility at higher frequencies. Around the upper midrange. I definitely felt like I was hearing more from outside than I had with the traditional foam earplugs.

The next step was to see how they performed in loud conditions. My plan was to take them out on the motorcycle with some of my friends with obnoxious bikes but I couldn't get them to reliably stay in my ears with my helmet on. So, instead, I grabbed my Denon AH-D1000 and Audio-Technica ATH-M50s over-ear headphones and used them in conjunction with the V-MODA Faders. I turned up the volume to ear-bleed levels and put the headphones on.


To be honest, I wasn't expecting much. The V-MODA Faders promise 12dB of noise reduction which, in comparison with other, traditional, earplugs, isn't that impressive. Most of the foam earplugs I found would reduce between 18dB and 23dB. But I still found the level of noise reduction from the Faders to be very good. Not only was the overall sound muted, but there was a lot of the vocals that were maintained.


At that volume level on my computer, even changing the volume (specifically, the accompanying "click") is painful. With the V-MODA Faders installed, I found the experience to be quite... pleasant. While the overall sound was muted, there was enough of the dynamics maintained so that I still felt that emotional connection to the music that I love so much. But, of course, this is only half of the story.


V-MODA claims that they spent over 2 years developing the Faders so that they would perform "better than expensive custom earplugs." Well, I don't have expensive custom earplugs but I do have cheap foam ones. So, switching as fast as possible, I compared the two. Remembering that the foam earplugs naturally reduce the volume more than the V-MODA Faders, two things were clear. First, that the Faders reduced the volume to a safe level and second that they Faders sounded better. Vocals were definitely clearer and less muted, the highs, usually the worst offenders when the volume is too loud, were well controlled, and the bass, while present, didn't overpower.


One additional test I did was to watch a few YouTube videos with the two different types of earplugs. Without any sort of hearing protection, I can't turn the volume up past 1/3rd. With this test, I turned it all the way up and compared. While the V-MODA Faders reduced the volume, it still seemed pretty loud while the foam earplugs reduced the volume to very comfortable levels. But, again, the Faders sounded more natural and less muffled. This indicates to me that the 12dB of reduction should be fine for most situations but, in extreme ones like industrial settings, trips to the shooting range, or up front at a heavy metal concert, the Faders probably won't be enough. When I compared directly to the source without either of the earplugs (and the volume reduced), the Faders sounded most like the source while the foam earplugs made the presentation much less natural and more robotic (specifically the vocals which completely changed in timbre).


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