Powerful sound signature with deep lows and solid clarity in the highs. Secure in-ear fit. Water-resistant design ideal for exercise.
Could use a little more high-mid presence on some tracks.
- Bottom Line
V-Moda's gym-friendly Forza earphones deliver a bass-forward yet balanced sound signature in a traditional wired design.
V-Moda's latest gym-friendly earphones, the Forza, ring in at $100, though you can customize and bling them out to the tune of several thousand dollars if you're looking to kick things up several notches. Sticking with the gym-friendly baseline model for our review, the wired earphones deliver some dialed-up bass response that manages not to go too far in the thunder department—there's solid balance here, even if we'd like to hear a tad more in the high-mids. Add in a very secure fit and a water-resistant design, and there's little to complain about for the reasonable (starting) price.
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Available in black, orange, or white models, the design is simple and lightweight at its core, but can be optimized with accessories for a very secure fit. Intended for exercise, the earphones are resistant to sweat and durably built. The fit is quite comfortable and secure—given all the extras to help you keep things in place, the earphones should be able to withstand the most intense workouts you throw at them without falling out.
The inline microphone and remote control compartment is located at chin level on the right wire. The remote is of the three-button variety, with a central button that controls playback, call management, and track navigation, and two dedicated buttons for raising or lowering volume.
The mic offers excellent intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, we understood every word we recorded. There were no audio artifcats, and clarity was top-notch, even providing a little bit of low frequency presence that inline mics often lack.
V-Moda includes quite an array of accessories, most of them in the ear-fitting department. There are four total pairs of silicone eartips, in XS, S, M, and L sizes, as well as three pairs of earfins that rest against the ear for better stabilization during exercise, and a pair of ear hooks that fasten over the ear for an even more stable fit. A shirt clip and padded drawstring protective pouch round out the bundle.
Beyond this, there's one easy-to-miss accessory—four tiny circular rubber rings that fit inside the outer ends of the earpieces. These are meant to stabilize the optional 3D-printed custom caps for the Forza. Available through V-Moda, there are several options to choose from, and they can end up costing only a little extra ($20 or so) or quite a lot extra if you opt for 14k gold or platinum instead of, say, acrylic. As mentioned, we stuck with the standard, non-blinged out version with no additional artwork.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," the earphones deliver powerful low frequency response that will appeal to bass lovers. At top, unwise listening levels, the drivers do not distort, and at more reasonable volumes, the bass is still quite powerful—if deep lows help motivate your workouts, you won't be disappointed.
Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track without much deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Forza's sound signature. The drums on this track can sound overly thunderous on earphones that push the lows too far forward in the mix. While some bass boosting is definitely added to the equation here, it's not over the top—the drums sound full and round, but not ridiculously heavy. Callahan's baritone vocals also receive some solid richness in the low-mids. We'd like to hear a little more treble edge on his voice, or high-mid and high frequency presence bringing out the guitar strums and higher frequency percussive attacks, but generally speaking, this is a balanced, clear sound.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop's attack gets slightly less high-mid presence than we'd hope to hear, but it's not dulled, it's just not quite as punchy as it can sound through brighter earphones. The sustain of the loop is given some nice weight in the lows, beefing it up a bit, and the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with serious power. The vocals on this track have decent brightness to them, as if they're getting some high frequency boosting, but not quite as much high-mid presence as we might want. Again, they never sound dull, and they have solid clarity—so we're nitpicking a little, but some added high-mid presence wouldn't hurt.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, sound fantastic through the Forza. The lower register instrumentation is given some extra body without pushing itself too far forward in the mix. The higher register brass, strings, and vocals are delivered with a more crisp presence than we hear in the other genres—much of this has to do with how classical music is recorded and mixed versus modern pop music.
If deep bass motivates your workouts, V-Moda's Forza earphones do a solid job of delivering it without things becoming unbalanced—clarity is never sacrificed in the name of bass. For the price, we have few complaints—though we'd probably think twice before adorning the earphones with hundreds of dollars of jewelry. Most of the gym-friendly earphones we test these days are wireless. In the wired department, we're also fans of the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear, the Klipsch Reference X6i, and for a little more money, the Bowers & Wilkins C5 Series 2. For far less, JBL's Reflect Mini are solid, exercise focused in-ears that won't disappoint.
By 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. More »
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