Excellent audio performance. Generous array of included accessories. Sweat-resistant design.
Too much cable slack isn't ideal for exercise. Expensive.
- Bottom Line
The V-Moda Forza Metallo Wireless earphones deliver fantastic sound quality in a design that's better suited for everyday listening than working out.
We've tested our fair share of Bluetooth earphones intended for exercise, but few as costly as the $170 V-Moda Forza Metallo Wireless. From an audio standpoint, the earphones sound fantastic, and justify their high price with excellent bass depth balanced by high frequency clarity. Their design, however, simply isn't ideal for exercise. The earphones earn a four-star rating on audio performance alone, but know that you should buy them for casual listening and not trips to the gym.
Available in black or white and silver, there's no denying the sweat-resistant earphones look cool. V-Moda offers multiple customized earpieces, so you can also really bling them out. You'll pay a boatload of money to do so, though, up to and including a $6,750 platinum option.
The in-ear fit is quite secure, thanks to three pairs of ear fins that slip over the ends of the earpieces, as well as silicone eartips that do a great job of sealing off the canal. In all, there are eight total pairs of ear tips in various sizes, which is quite a generous array. You also get a nylon drawstring carrying pouch. Internally, the earpieces house 5.8mm neodymium dynamic micro drivers.
Controls are divided into two compartments on the left and right sides. There are controls on the right for volume up/down, and a central multifunction button that operates playback, track navigation, call management, and voice control. On the left, there's a power/pairing button as well as a status LED. Both sides house microphones.
The collared design is problematic for exercise, no matter type what type of "TrapLock ergonomics" are involved. Let's start with the collar itself, which is more rigid than the cables connected to the earpieces, but less rigid than many collars we've tested. It presents a bit of challenge if you're wearing a collared shirt or, worse, a hoodie—but these obstacles can be worked around.
The problem is the cabling that's attached to the collar and leads to the earpieces—there's far too much of it. To give you an idea of just how much extra cable there is, there's enough to actually loop the slack over the top of your ears. In fact, if you don't do this, you'll have a bunch of cable hanging right next to your face on either side. If your head moves quickly from side to side at any point during your workout, the cable might get caught on something at the gym.
This design also leads to more cable thump (the sound you hear when the cable moves or brushes against your shirt) than usual. Nearly all exercise-focused wireless in-ears are designed to keep cable slack at a minimum—often with the help of cable cinches that gather up and secure extra cable behind the neck. But the V-Moda adds cable slack to the equation. And while looping the cable over my ears got rid of the extra slack, it raised the collar and the controls to press against the bottom line of my jaw.
The mics offer average intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, we could understand every word we recorded, but voices sounded fuzzy, and the mics far away.
V-Moda estimates battery life to be roughly 10 hours, but your results will vary with your volume levels.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," the Metallo's drivers deliver solid bass depth that will appeal to those looking for some bass presence without losing the balance of the mix. These lows are counterbalanced by a bright, well-defined presence in the highs.
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Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the overall sound signature. The drums on this track can sound overly thunderous on bass-forward earphones, and through these drivers, they definitely pack some serious deep bass thump. But just as notable is the high frequency presence—the tapping of the kick drum is just as clear and airy as it is deep; Callahan's baritone vocals possess a richness and a treble edge that compliment each other wonderfully. This is not a flat, reference-style sound signature, but it is a vibrant, rich, and clear sound that will appeal to those who like a little extra bass thump without sacrificing balance and clarity.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop's attack gets an ideal high-mid presence, allowing it to retain its punchiness and push through the layers of the mix. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with serious deep low frequency presence, but are not overdone—just as prominent are the raspy top notes. The vocal performances get an ideal high-mid presence without ever veering into overly sibilant territory. If you're going to sculpt a sound signature, providing subwoofer-like bass depth balanced out with excellent clarity in the highs is a great way to approach it.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, are crisp and bright with some added bass depth that brings out the lower register instrumentation a bit more than purists might like, but it never approaches unnatural territory, and the higher register brass, strings, and vocals retain their prominent place in the mix. Again, the drivers deliver ideal clarity across the frequency range.
V-Moda's Forza Metallo Wireless earphones will make music lovers happy, but gym bunnies less so. Buy these in-ears for general everyday use, and you won't be disappointed. For less money, the Bose SoundSport Wireless, BeatsX, JBL Reflect Fit, and Jaybird X3 all deliver superior exercise-friendly designs. Most of them sound pretty solid for the price, too, but we give the Forza Metallo Wireless the edge in that realm.
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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