Rich, bright sound signature is sculpted but balanced. Companion app lets you adjust EQ. Secure, comfortable in-ear fit.
Sculpted sound signature might not appeal to those seeking a more accurate mix. DSP can sound too strong at times.
- Bottom Line
The Moshi Vortex Air earphones deliver a full, bright wireless audio experience with an app that lets you tune the sound signature to your liking.
In contrast to the exercise-focused models we tend to find in this price range, Moshi's $119.95 Vortex Air Bluetooth earphones concentrate on audio performance above all else. They deliver a crisp, bright sound signature with some rich bass depth. It's a sound that some might find a tad too bright or sculpted, but that's where Moshi's excellent user-adjustable EQ app comes into play, letting you tweak settings exactly to your liking. If your priorities are less about finding a sweatproof design and more about audio performance, the Vortex Air will not disappoint.
In a word, the Vortex Air's design is clean. Available in black, there's nothing flashy about the earphones, but most of the design decisions were made with ergonomics and ease of use in mind. There's no more cable slack than necessary connecting the steel alloy earpieces to the black plastic compartment that rests behind your neck. An included shirt clip affixes to this compartment magnetically and clips to the collar of your shirt, providing instant stabilization.
Inside each earpiece, Moshi employs an 8mm full-range Neodymium driver. Along the clothbound cable, near the right earpiece, the inline remote control houses buttons for volume up and down, and a central multifunction button that operates playback, call management, and track navigation. The buttons are raised and easy to feel without seeing them. On the compartment in the middle of the neckband, there's a power/pairing button, an LED status indicator, and a micro USB charging port with a snap-shut cover to protect it when not in use.
The earphones ship with three pairs of silicone eartips in small, medium, and large sizes, as well as a pair of Comply foam eartips, which create an excellent seal for added security—they also block out ambient room noise and can increase the perception of bass response. Once you determine the proper eartips, the in-ear fit is secure and comfortable. Moshi also includes a longer-than-usual micro USB charging cable.
The mic offers so-so intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, we could understand every word we recorded, but the recording was a little fuzzy and faint. This is more or less par for the course with Bluetooth earphone mics, so it's not a major negative for the Vortex Air.
Moshi also offers a free app for Android and iOS that works with any of the company's Bluetooth headphones. One feature of the app is called DJ4two, which allows you to share whatever you're listening to with an in-range pair of Moshi headphones. It also has the aforementioned EQ settings so you can fine-tune the sound signature to your taste, as well an alarm you can set to notify you when battery life is waning, and the ability to control auto-shutdown mode.
Moshi estimates battery life to be roughly eight hours, but your results will vary with your volume levels.
We ran our initial tests with the default sound signature. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," the earphones deliver powerful bass depth, and at top, unwise listening levels, don't distort. At moderate levels, the bass still sounds quite full on this track, and is balanced by a bright overall presence in the highs. At higher volumes, you can hear the digital signal processing (DSP) kick in and limit the peaks, especially in the lows—something purists might not love, but it prevents distortion.
Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better overall sense of the Vortex Air's general sound signature. The drums on this track can sound overly thunderous on bass-forward in-ears, but here they have a fullness and roundness that manages not to dip too far down into overkill territory. Callahan's baritone vocals receive a crisp high-mid presence, giving them added definition to match their low-mid richness. The guitar strums and higher register percussion are also given plenty of bright, airy presence. This is not really a flat response sound signature, but the boosted bass depth and the crisp highs complement and balance each other nicely.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church In the Wild," the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence for its sharp attack to retain its punchiness and cut through the layers of the mix. We also hear more of the high frequency vinyl crackle that's typically relegated to background status, telling us there's plenty of higher frequency sculpting at work. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with laudable depth—the deep lows don't overwhelm the mix, nor are they ignored. All the vocals on this track are delivered with solid high-mid clarity. Perhaps there's more high frequency sheen over the whole mix than some listeners will enjoy, but it's in the name of clarity, it never seems to add too much sibilance to the equation, and it's anchored by solid bass depth.
On orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, the lower register instrumentation receives some added presence, but not so much that the lows are pushed beyond their supporting role. The spotlight belongs to the higher register brass, strings, and vocals, and they are all delivered with crispness—there's plenty of detail in the high-mids and highs.
For those who want a little less brightness, that's where the app can come in handy. Dialing back the 5kHz and 10kHz bands a smidge softens the brightness. We also found that boosting the middle bands of 500Hz and 1kHz eliminates some of the scooped, sculpted sound signature and restores a little more of a flat, equal presence across the board. And while there's no real need to, you can boost the bass here (or cut it). The EQ allows you to save your settings, use presets, and return to the default sound signature.
For $120, Moshi gets most things right with the Vortex Air, including a secure, comfortable in-ear fit and a vibrant sound signature. If you're looking for bright, rich wireless earphones for everyday use, this is a very strong option. If it's a gym-focused pair you're after, consider the Jaybird X3, JBL Reflect Mini BT, or JBL Reflect Fit. The V-Moda Forza Metallo Wireless is another excellent alternative, albeit a bit more expensive.
Other Moshi Headphones
About the Author
Tim Gideon Contributing Editor, Audio
Contributing Editor Tim Gideon has been writing for PCMag since 2006. He specializes in reviewing audio products, and is obsessed with headphones, speakers, and recording gear.
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