Aria is the third Moondrop model I encounter. The first and the most expensive one was Starfield priced at 100 USD, and those had some very nice quality. The second encounter was with a Moondrop SSR, with a much more affordable 40 dollars price tag. Unfortunately, I was not that happy with their overly thin and analytical tuning. Today, we have an 80 dollars model called Aria, and I’m very curious to see if it will surprise me positively like its slightly more expensive cousin, or will it be just another average performer similar to cheaper SSR.
Build and Comfort
Moondrop Aria is coming in a stylish black box that resembles something a luxurious perfume could be put in. Aside from the earphones and detachable cable, you’ll find several pairs of ear-tips as well as a nice-looking carrying case. Aria is your typical in-ear meant to be hooked over the ear, and that leads me to the first matter – cable. Ear hooks are mildly curved, unlike so many overly curled ones that are simply unruly and difficult to place, so positive points for this one. The rest of the cable is twisted and coated with some kind of textile that looks like cotton. It feels very soft to the touch and it is almost completely free of any microphony. At the first glance, it feels like it’s going to tangle very easily, but fortunate that’s not the case. Even when it looks all messy just out of the pocket, it unravels quite easily. So, no microphonics, no tangling, cotton surface looking stylish – this is probably one of the best cables I’ve ever encountered at a similar price point.
Earphones themselves are made of aluminium, they feel very well made and sturdy. The black color with subtle gold details looks very stylish too. Earbuds are not too thick and don’t need to be inserted deep, so I feel that comfort is quite good.
Finishing this section, I can only say that packaging, built, and cable all passed with very high grades. I’ve seen much more expensive models cheeping out on some of these, but Moondrop really went all out on this front.
I hooked Moondrop Aria to my Android phone and its internal DAC first, achieving quite decent volume levels. I quickly inserted great mobile EarMen Sparrow DAC in-between, realizing quickly that Aria cama alive and more punchy, definitively deserves to be fed with a good DAC. But how does it actually sound?
Let’s start with the bassline that is deep and weighty, quite punchy too. Mid-bass is present and accounted for, but too prominent or thick in any way. This helps the bassline sound deep but quick and precise. I never heard any bass note sounding sluggish or overblown and I like it. These are Harman curve tuned in-ears, meaning that there’s a dip in the lower midrange and very prominent higher midrange. This translates to vocals and instruments sounding present and detailed, but not full-bodied. For the same reason, note edges and transients sound very crisp and quick. Despite this upper-midrange presence, the tuning of these in-ears is such that sibilance rarely occurs, and I can’t be happier about it since sibilance in voices is my enemy number one. The highest frequencies are well extended but not overly so, and I never got the feeling that Moondrop Aria sound excessively bright. Summing the part about frequency response, I would call it a masterfully tuned Harman-style response that successfully avoided all of the pitfalls lesser earphones tuned this way often face.
Tonality aside, Aria has a great sense of timing and microdynamics. They sound agile, quick, and snappy. Lower bass is present and deep enough to lend much-needed boldness to the sound, not letting Aria sound too aggressive and tiring. Soundstage is reasonable, probably not the best in class but not far behind either. Inside of the soundstage, Aria will place instruments with precision and clear distinction where one ends and the other one begins.
Cat Ear Mia is a similarly priced earphone I really liked. It’s smaller and slightly more expansive, offering a thicker midbass that lends some fullness to the midrange. But the same midbass sounds touch slower too, taking away some speed and clarity when compared to Aria that offers more lower bass kick too. When it comes to sheer resolution and crisp transients, Aria has a slight edge too. All in all, Aria feels like a slightly more competent earphone at a slightly lower price. That said, Cat Ear Mia can still be a very good choice for someone looking for a somewhat softer presentation with more midbass fullness, they’re also smaller and not over the ear, so I’m sure they’ll have their fans still.
Moondrop Starfield is an older and just 20 USD more expensive model coming from the same house. I’ll make this comparison only as long as it needs to be. I feel that Aria offers slightly more deep bass presence, and maybe a touch more resolution. Cable is superior too, and all of that at a lower price. As much as I loved Starfield back in the day when they first appeared, the successor is here, it’s great, and Starfield can calmly go to the deserved retirement.
Tin Audio T3 – It’s time for Tin Audio to do some soul searching and come up with something better. Overly bright and tonally thin T3 has nothing to offer compared to Aria. Yes, it’s 20 bucks cheaper but it’s not worth it. Aria easily justifies that price difference with a much more rounded performance.
I have to say this – I’m not a big fan of U-shaped (Harman-style) tuning as I prefer my vocals full and lush. That said, I never heard In-ears under 100, and maybe even under 150 dollars that had so many qualities and so few things to complain about. Both build and audio quality are superb for the price, making Moondrop Aria one of the easiest recommendations that should be considered even if you’re not a fan of this kind of tuning, but especially if you are.
|MOONDROP ARIA – CHARACTERISTICS|
Driver Unit: LCP liquid crystal diaphragm double cavity magnetic 10 mm Dynamic Unit