In November of last year, we heard about three new headphones coming from V-Moda, including the V-Moda Forza Metallo Wireless. The Milan-based premium audio firm excels in sound, but exercise buds usually sacrifice audio quality to be lightweight, using tiny and often tinny drivers.
Given that they’ve got a reputation to keep up, we figured V-Moda wouldn’t take exercise headphones lightly. That proved to be true when I reviewed the wired Forza in-ears last year — despite having tiny 5.8 mm drivers, the headphones had enough bass presence to produce a pleasant, balanced sound.
The V-Moda Forza Metallo Wireless grew from the same tree as those wired buds, adding Bluetooth connectivity and metal housings. While the audio seemed like a sure thing, going wireless presents a ton of new challenges that more than a few headphones we’ve reviewed have stumbled on. Fortunately, it seems like V-Moda has done some watching and learning — they’ve avoided virtually all of those missteps, putting out an excellent set of exercise headphones as a result.
The wired Forza in-ears are a good place to start, because the Forza Metallo Wireless use the same drivers. That’s good news, because it’s still impressive to hear what V-Moda got out of these tiny 5.8 mm neodymium magnetic drivers. While you won’t get the usual bass-heavy sound from V-Moda, the amount of bass response these in-ears are capable of just can’t be found in most other headphones of this size. There are larger in-ears that do bass better, but the small drivers help keep these light, which is ideal for running. Bass lines do get lost sometimes, but overall they sound rich and clear — if you prefer a more balanced sound, you might even like these better than some other V-Moda headphones. They might not get as loud as you’d like, either, but hey — they’re 5.8 mm drivers.
With the drivers being equal, the only thing that could have sunk these headphones was the wireless quality. We’ve tested plenty of wireless headphones with good sound quality ruined by spotty or low-quality Bluetooth connections. V-Moda used the AptX codec for audio transmission, which helps ensure there’s no drop in sound quality, but what about stability?
No complaints. After a couple weeks of use, including a few runs, I never had a problem with the Bluetooth connection cutting out for a second, and that’s something I can rarely say about wireless headphones. Battery life is usually the other stumbling block, but V-Moda nailed it here, too. They advertise a 10-hour battery life, but from my testing, that’s a conservative estimate. Using it frequently for calls might burn the battery a little faster, but if you’re just using them to listen to music at half volume, they can last about 12 hours.
There’s one more thing that V-Moda got right where others have gone wrong. There are generally two kinds of Bluetooth wireless in-ears (excluding true wireless buds) — in-ears that put the Bluetooth antenna and battery in the casings and in-ears that put those components in an in-line box, usually located behind the neck. There are pros and cons to both. Having the components in the housings doesn’t put unwanted weight on the neck, but it also means shorter battery life and heavier housings that can fall out of ears easier. Having the components around the neck enables longer battery life, but usually results in a dongle that either sags down the back or smacks you in the back of your neck while running.
V-Moda put the components in the back, but they were fully aware of those cons, and it led to some terrific design work. That back unit is contoured to the curve of the neck, and the rubberized surface causes it to stay in place, even while running. I almost forgot that unit was on the back of my neck while running, which wasn’t at all what I expected going into the review.
V-Moda has done a good job as usual with their silicone eartips, too. Once you get the right fit (the headphones come with eight pairs of different shapes and sizes), the buds stay in securely and create a great seal. There are also six pairs of inner ear hooks to keep the buds stable while exercising. The Forza Metallo Wireless are sweat-resistant and have military-grade protection against drops and shocks, too. The only design misstep I noticed is that the cable is a bit too long — the cables coming down from the buds can extend out enough to get into your line of sight.
I’ll also repeat the criticism I had of the wired Forza in-ears — sometimes exercise headphones benefit from letting in some background noise to allow runners to be aware of their surroundings. A little background noise will come in using these if you’re by a busy street, but maybe not as much as you’d like.
There are some cool extra features, too. The neckband vibrates for incoming calls or when the headphones are turned on or off — the latter is a really nice feature for anyone who’s never quite sure whether or not they’ve actually turned off their wireless headphones. They can also be paired with custom 3D-printed caps that can be ordered separately. Those caps are just for decoration, though, and if these are meant as exercise headphones, I’d rather use the slip-on inner ear hooks.