Consumer Electronics, Gadgets & Accessories

Valco VMK25 test – top-of-the-range wireless ANC headphones tried out

The VMK25 from the Finnish company Valco is the supposedly long-awaited successor to its much-sold predecessor VMK20 and expands on it with a new design, magnetic cloth covers, better sound, ANC hybrid chipset and, according to Valco, a “silly” but customer-requested listening-through function.
Who at this point has now become a bit suspicious, must know the following: Anyone who takes a quick look at Valco or any of their products quickly realizes that they are not just an ordinary electronics company.

Valco sells mid-range and high-end headphones and speakers, so as a company they can obviously afford to have a philosophy…. and can afford a joke or two. In addition to such important points as a repair service even outside the warranty and a tree planted by Valco itself for every product purchased, they generally place value on sustainability, ethics and transparency.

All this is underlined by an omnipresent satirical humor, with which they denounce the prevailing conditions in the electronics industry and vow to do it better themselves or are already doing so. Wherever possible, Valco loosens up communication with customers and doesn’t take itself too seriously. We find this quite likeable and at least have the impression that there is not only marketing behind it, but also real ambition.

Technical features

Bluetooth 5.1 APTX HD, SBC and AAC. Analog via included 3.5mm aux cable.
Chipset Qualcomm QCC3034 with custom DSP setup
ANC Active hybrid noise cancellation
Amplifier Class AB
Driver New 45 mm composite drivers
Frequency Response 20-20000Hz
Impendance 32 ohms
Weight About 300g
Battery 1,050 mAh
Charge time 2-3h, USB-C port
Battery life Up to 50 hours with ANC on, 45 hours on phone calls
Assistants Siri and Google Home
hands-free feature CVC8 noise reduction
Price € 189.00 *
€ 189.00
N/A
Buy now* Valco

Packaging and scope of delivery

True to the intention of reduced packaging, the VMK25 are shipped in a bubble envelope and apart from a plastic bag without any other packaging material. They are already in their own storage bag, which, who would have thought, is perfect for transport.

  • 1x VMK25 headphones
  • 1x storage bag for VMK25
  • 1x 3.5mm aux cable
  • 1x 3.5mm stereo splitter
  • 1x USB-C charging cable
  • 1x user manual

Design and finish of the Valco VMK25

Valco describes the visual concept of the VMK25 as Finnish design or “Ratamo industrial design”. In its own words, we would describe its design as simple but modern, clearly setting it apart from more complexly built models.

Discreet and unobtrusive, the absence of external LEDs also fits in with this. These are located in the earcups, where they indicate various states in color. The matte black of the soft-touch surfaces does the rest. In any case, we think the VMK25 looks very good.

The nylon fabric-covered side panels of the ear cups are each fitted with three magnets and are thus removable, which should make redecorating and cleaning easier.

As you would expect, the build quality of all the parts is impeccable. As well as the 9-position adjustable headband, the ear cup hinges are also made of metal.

Accessories and storage bag

The storage bag of the VMK25 is made of dense nylon fabric and a zipper made of polished metal, among other things. Both have a high-quality appearance. Accessories can be stored behind a mesh.

The accessories are unspectacular but still decently manufactured, consisting of an 80 cm long USB-C to USB-A charging cable, 140 cm long AUX cable and a jack adapter. The purpose of this adapter is to merge two 2-pin jack plugs to a 3-pin jack socket.

However, with a 13mm gap between the two permanently connected plugs, we couldn’t use it on our desktop PC at least, whose audio ports have a 9mm gap. The relatively short AUX cable alone wasn’t much fun to use either, so it would be more of an emergency solution, for example, on the road.

Synthetic leather and soft touch

Most of the VMK25’s outer surfaces are covered with a soft-touch surface, with which we have had bad experiences in the past with a wide variety of products. Of course, we cannot say whether this would also apply to the VMK25. In terms of a long life, however, we would definitely have done without such a material and used more durable alternatives from the start.

The same goes for the faux leather used, which does feel really soft when fresh from the factory and is therefore comfortable to wear. However, we know from experience that imitation leather has a low durability of sometimes even only 1 to 2 years, depending on usage. Therefore, we cannot understand Valco’s choice here as well. For the predecessor VMK20, replacement ear cushions can be purchased later, so we assume that this will also be possible for the VMK25 in the future or that these will also be suitable for it.

Changing an ear cushion or “earmold” is, if you know about it, very simple. To do this, we take the ear cup and the ear pad firmly in one hand each and then turn the ear pad to the left, i.e. counterclockwise. This then comes loose and can be replaced or cleaned. As far as we could see, however, the covers cannot be easily replaced, as they are glued.

Valco VMK25 review: control buttons, LEDs and connectors

For external operation, the VMK25 has a total of four buttons. The bottom of the right earcup houses the 3 buttons for headphone and media control, as well as the three-pin 3.5mm jack socket. The left ear cup has the button for switching the ANC function and the USB-C port for the charging cable. Haptically, the buttons are easy to feel and provide a clear feedback when pressed. Unfortunately, we found the buttons for volume control partly impractical and would have liked a wheel control for this function.

A message is played for 2 of the active states when the ANC button is pressed, but not when it is turned off. The other keys also have no acoustic feedback, apart from turning the headphones on and off. The media keys can be used to remotely control media functions on devices like cell phones and computers, i.e. start/pause, position to beginning, next and previous track. The remote control only worked via Bluetooth, not via AUX cable.

The VMK25 uses LEDs in the earcups to indicate certain states in addition to acoustic messages. Active charging via USB cable is indicated with a steady red LED in the left earcup, active ANC and transparency mode with a green LED also on the left and flashing blue, respectively, and Bluetooth pairing mode in the right earcup alternately flashing red and blue.

Ergonomics of the Valco VMK25 in test

The adjustment of the headband is said to have been adjusted compared to its predecessor. On both sides, the temple can be extended by 3 cm each, for a total of 6 cm. We noticed that we would have liked to reduce the headband a bit more when we first put the headphones on at the lowest possible setting. Otherwise, the VMK25 fit well.

The earcups cover the ears and seal them well, but they really shouldn’t have been a bit smaller for us. The earcups can be folded, rotated and tilted in three places, which improves ergonomics and simplifies compact storage of the headphones.

The Valco VMK25 in a field test

Operation via Bluetooth 5.1

While the VMK25 has an AUX port, it is designed primarily for wireless operation via Bluetooth 5.1, and it also cannot be powered by USB cable to other devices, only charging from a USB charging port. We were able to connect our VMK25 to various Bluetooth-enabled devices such as Android smartphones and Windows 10 desktop PCs, as well as to Creative’s BT-W3 Bluetooth dongle. The BT-W3 does not establish a classic Bluetooth connection, but streams the audio output directly to the Bluetooth-connected device and can use various aptX codecs for this at the push of a button.

This way, we could try out all Bluetooth codecs available there, which the VMK25 also supports. At this point, it should be said that the VMK25 is aimed at music fans. Apart from the SBC standard, which is used everywhere and transmits data at 328 kbit/s, there is also the AAC codec with 250 kbit/s, which is more aimed at Apple users, and aptX HD, which offers the best audio quality with up to 576 kbit/s and also transmits it more stably than with AAC or SBC. Not included is a low latency codec, for example aptX LL, with which you could have conversations or consume movies and games with a low delay.

Specifically, we could connect the VMK25 to the BT-W3 dongle via SBC, aptX and aptX HD. The delay was then about the same for all codecs, namely 280 to 290 milliseconds. These values only serve as a rough classification, since they might have turned out higher due to technical reasons. We could not detect a perceptible quality difference between the codecs in this simple test.

Using the VMK25 with a 3.5mm AUX cable

If you connect the VMK25 to an output device via the included 3.5mm AUX cable, the headphones disconnect the Bluetooth connection. Active noise cancellation and transparency mode can still be used, but are no longer announced acoustically. The media remote control of the buttons also no longer worked here.

Battery runtime and charging time

50 hours of runtime should hold out the 1,050 mAh battery with activated ANC according to Valco, respectively 45 hours with telephony. The charging process should then be done in 2 to 3 hours. It is pointed out that it is better not to use a fast charger, since damage can occur otherwise. We used the VMK25 in the test over two days until the message about the low battery level sounded and consider that more than sufficient for all conceivable purposes.

ANC and transparency mode of the Valco VMK25

The VMK25’s active noise cancellation (ANC) does an excellent job with mid and low tones. When it is turned on, we first hear a whispered “Silence”. Then, for example, we still perceive higher sounds, such as finger snaps and hand claps, in a reduced way, and a quiet murmur, reminiscent of a distant brook, is still audible. However, the loud ventilation of our desktop PC is completely muted with activated ANC. The system seems to achieve the best results with even low tones.

The transparency mode, annotated with “Transparency Mode”, is accessed by pressing the ANC button on the left ear cup again. This picks up sounds with the headphones’ microphones and mixes them into the audio output. We felt the difference between disabled ANC and enabled transparency mode to be clear. We heard especially mid and higher tones particularly bright and clanging via this. This helped us whenever we wanted to perceive ambient noise as well as wear the headphones and/or listen to music.

The Valco VMK25’s audio and microphone quality

“New and bigger and better” headphone elements are what drive the VMK25, according to Valco. Adjusted by Jasse “Jazmanaut” Kesti, they are said to deliver a studio-neutral sound profile, just like their predecessor. To get an idea of the VMK25’s audio quality, we played music on both the cell phone and desktop PC and adjusted them to our taste with equalizers. The VMK25 already produces impeccable sounds without further adjustments. If you prefer booming basses, you can help and get a lot of depth out of the 45 mm drivers.

As already mentioned under the point “Bluetooth 5.1”, we could not detect a noteworthy difference in audio quality with our untrained ears and normal use in any of the codecs used. We compared the codecs SBC, aptX and aptX HD. Connecting via 3.5mm AUX cable resulted in a higher volume, but also no perceptible change in audio quality.

The built-in microphone

The built-in microphone has a so-called CVC8 noise reduction, but we cannot judge to what extent this influences the quality of the microphone recording, since it is presumably always active. To give you an idea of the recording quality, we have recorded two samples for you, one with our usual condenser microphone and one with that of the VMK25.

Device Recording
Condenser microphone
Built-in microphone VMK25 (+CVC8)

As with all microphones of this type, air blasts quickly cause the recording to malfunction, though in this case we also held it directly in front of our mouths. Using it in stormy weather will logically be problematic. In the end, we were nevertheless positively surprised as far as the quality is concerned, as it is only a bit flatter than the reference apart from the crackles.

Summary of the Valco VMK25 test

In addition to the undisputed excellent sound, there is a very good active noise cancellation, ergonomics, transparency mode, stable and high-quality Bluetooth codecs, unobtrusive industrial design, intuitive usability and sufficient battery life and accessories and all this is qualitatively also well processed. We also consider Valco to be an ethically acting manufacturer with good intentions without having reviewed it, however, we would still like to criticize.

The advantage of a product from the upper price range, especially one from a manufacturer that is oriented towards sustainable values, should be reflected in the longevity of the product itself, in addition to better customer service and long-term support, which we absolutely consider to be a given with Valco. In this context, we are surprised that Valco did not focus on endurance when choosing materials for the upholstery covers with faux leather. While we assume that replacement ear cushions will be available, as they were for the predecessor, we do not expect this to be the case. Upholstery covers made of durable materials, which can also be easily changed, would have been mandatory from the start in our opinion.

Apart from that, we noticed a few small negative things. For example, we would have imagined a wheel control for volume control to be much more practical, some acoustic feedbacks were missing, and the AUX cable is relatively short at 1.4 m, but sufficient as an emergency solution for on the go. We could not connect the included jack adapter to PC cases due to the plug spacing of 9 instead of 13 mm and thus could not use the microphone as well. We consider the removable side panels a nice gimmick, but nothing more.

The VMK25 from Valco is available for 189€. Those whose budget for audio devices is generally higher and who value the aforementioned advantages will definitely not go wrong with the VMK25 in the end.

Valco VMK25 Review: Gold Award

Valco VMK25

Workmanship
Comfort
Sound quality
Recording quality
Features
Value for money

94/100

The Valco VMK25 offers excellent sound, ANC with transparency mode, good ergonomics, unobtrusive design, intuitive usability, good build quality and a long battery life. The long-term support and a more sustainable company policy also stand out positively. The use of artificial leather disappointed us a bit, but could not significantly tarnish the otherwise good impression.

€ 189.00
N/A
Buy now* Valco

Simon Lüthje

I am co-founder of this blog and am very interested in everything that has to do with technology, but I also like to play games. I was born in Hamburg, but now I live in Bad Segeberg.

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The VMK25 from the Finnish company Valco is the supposedly long-awaited successor to its much-sold predecessor VMK20 and expands on it with a new design, magnetic cloth covers, better sound, ANC hybrid chipset and, according to Valco, a „silly“ but customer-requested listening-through function. Who at this point has now become a bit suspicious, must know … (Weiterlesen...)

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