STEREO GUIDE Verdict
+ balanced sound tuning
+ rich, dry and contoured bass
+ ANC effective for low-frequency ambient noise
+ Bluetooth and wired operation with ANC possible
+ comfortable fit and good workmanship
Tonal balance / transparency7.5
Bass / Dynamics8.5
Ease-of-use / Connectivity8.5
Finland might be a country being used to experiencing some turbulence, but one thing is for sure: They never loose their sense of humour. While advertising appears to becoming increasingly feminine, diverse and politically correct, this brand from the north of Europe is staying true to their initial policy. Both in terms of slightly provocative communication and the product concept of their latest Valco VMK25, following pretty much what they did with the premiere Valco VMK 20. Since reviewing it in February 2022, we kept it as a reference sample which is allowing a direct comparison to the more posh model. The accompanying campaign for the VMK25 focuses on the well-known policy of non-conformism, putting a somewhat ironical ideal of an old white man a prime-mover of the Future-Fi movement.
Technical details of Valco´s VMK25
As for the design of the new mobile over-ear headphones, Valco is also maintaining the course. Basic features being pretty much the same, the foldable VMK25 is based on the VMK20, which is keeping its place in the product lineup. The designers of the “Big Brother” have tweaked all corners a bit – especially the frame – and changed the finish of the black plastic parts. The Fin’s top-over-ear eliminates the bright accent variance and features a matte coating for the plastic surfaces. However, the control concept with its four keys has not been touched. This is a good thing, because the concept had already proven itself in the VMK20´s review process.
And which other headphone brand offers an MFB button? The abbreviation stands for“Mudaf**in Button“, ao we´d better call it by its purpose: a multifunctional button. By pressing it for two seconds, it turns on the whole thing and by pressing it for four seconds, it shuts down.
What is MFB? RTFM!
While listening to music, there is more the MFB can do: answering/rejecting phone calls and activating the smartphone’s integrated voice assistants, may it be an Apple or Google variant. To learn the exact trick – how often and how long to press – it is worth looking at the manual. And not only for that: the manual is, as before, kind of a jester´s work. If the font of this cult publication is too small to read, you can download the manual for the VMK25 directly from Valco here.
The two buttons flanking the MFB located on the lower side of the right ear cup are used for volume control (press and hold) and track skipping (briefly tap). Apart from a USB-C port for charging the Bluetooth headphones with active noise-canceling (ANC), there is only one button on the left casing shell. It is used to control the ANC system by repeated pressure. Where the VMK20 had tiny LEDs at the bottom of the ear cups for visual feedback, there are now large light indicators behind the fabric cover inside.
Valco’s typical, slightly lusty male voice announces the activation of ANC and transparency mode for perceiving, for example, announcements at the train station or airport. Sensitive ears can also detect the condition by a slight hissing noise when no music is playing. “ANC On” produces very minimal noise, the announcement mode, as is also common for competitors, a bit more, and silence reigns when the noise-canceling functions are deactivated – at least as far as noise is concerned.
Active Noise-Cancelling pretty effective
Those who leave the quiet room with the Valco VMK25 will certainly feel the greatest peace with ANC activated. The active noise cancellation of the over-ear Bluetooth headphones is not only very effective in the mids, but also in the low-frequency range.
Valco relies on Qualcom’s QCC3034 chipset for Bluetooth transmission in the VMK25, just like in the VMK20. But the new wireless over-ear headphones now support Bluetooth version 5.1 (the VMK20 only 5.0) – as usual with the aptX HD, SBC and AAC audio codecs. Thanks to AAC support, the new Valco is also well suited for Apple aficionados. Their iPhones and iPads can then transfer the music usually encoded with the Advanced Audio Codec (that’s what the three letters stand for) not only without format conversion. Because Apple has nothing to do with aptX or aptX HD, they would otherwise have to switch to the not exactly exhilarating standard codec SBC.
Assistants on call
Speaking of Apple: Siri can be called up with the MFB button, and Google Assistant on an Android device. As for making calls, a hands-free function with CVC8 noise suppression is available for this. Here, Valco takes its cue from the VMK20, which is, however, outperformed by the new flagship in terms of drivers. The new VMK25 uses two 45 mm diaphragms, which is 5 millimeters more diameter per transducer. The new over-ear has also increased in weight: At 300 grams, it outweighs its little brother by 50 grams. On the other hand, the size of the battery is the same. With a capacity of 1050 mAh, it promises up to 45 hours of music listening with ANC(!) and still a solid 40 hours on the phone.
The features of the VMK25, which in contrast to the VMK20 is only available in black at a price of 200 Euros according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, leave nothing to be desired. The round hard case contains a USB cable for charging the ear-enclosing folding headphones, a 3.5 mm mini-jack cable for using the VMK25 on an analog headphone output even when the battery is flat, and a so-called airline adapter for the on-board infotainment systems in airplanes.
This is how the Valco VMK25 sounds
The smaller Valco Over-Ear had already left a very good impression in the review over a year ago. For its moderate price, the very functional, well-equipped Bluetooth headphones sounded very coherent and precise. Since there is no difference in the equipment, the VMK25 had to justify its higher price by the sound alone. But unlike some competitors, the mobile ANC headphone did not rely on superficial effects to manifest its status. The larger drivers do not produce more bass fullness, but more bass precision. This makes drums sound even more authentic and gives them more substance.
For pop music with electro beats, this doesn’t even make the VMK25 sound more spectacular than the VMK20. But in the higher pitches, there are no two opinions: The new Valco flagship convinces with finer, better resolved and more brilliant treble reproduction. Compared to the pleasantly rounded but somewhat compact VMK20, the transparency also increased at least as much as the price difference would suggest. Thus, the VMK25 sounded more audiophile and quite a bit more spacious. This also increases its suitability for serious music from the jazz and classical genres.
Some brutal jokes, very balanced tonal performance
With its increased neutrality, detail resolution and spatiality, the new Valco thus serves illustrious circles. Discerning contemporaries who would at best react with eye rolls at the continued uncouth crude jokes. For example, the warning on the back of the user manual not to use the handset as toilet paper. (We will not go into more detail about the possible risks and side effects here, just in case such woke*ins get lost on the website of our HiFi magazine).
Test conclusion and alternatives to the Valco VMK25
The most exciting question for Valco fans is of course VMK25 vs VMK20. Despite the overall finer, more spatial and more audiophile tuning of the new top headphone model, this question is not as easy to answer as one might think. This is because it is necessary to justify the extra price of the VMK25 with basically similar, natural tuning. And that already requires a certain listening experience and is also related to the quality of the recordings. The more trained, the more demanding the hearing and the more complex the music played back through the mobile over-ear, the more the new star in the Valco range underlines its moderate premium of 30 euros to the standard model.
If you like to listen to rock or even jazz with your Valco, you shouldn’t hesitate for a moment to give preference to the VMK25. It then also sounds much more spatial, transparent and finer, more detailed in the highs, especially in live recordings. But there is another aspect that should influence the choice: bass reproduction. For many, primarily younger music listeners, the low-frequency foundation is an important argument – especially if you opt for an ear-cupping headphone with larger drivers than in-ears. And it is precisely here that the VMK25, with its more powerful drivers compared to the VMK20, focuses not on more boom, but on more precision. With its slight upper bass emphasis, the less expensive Valco can therefore often make more of an impression on electronic beats than the VMK25 with its deep, dry bass.
Valco VMK25: Specifications
- Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: 200 Euro
- Type: Over-Ear
- Transducer principle: Dynamic
- Weight: 300 g
- Features: Hard case, folding bracket mechanism, active noise cancelling, hands-free microphones, 40 h battery life, airline adapter, passive cable operation possible (connection cable included).
- More at: valco.io