Moondrop Aria: some serious value
Hello! And welcome back to the Neighborhood everyone! It’s Your Friendly Neighborhood Reviewer with another Moondrop IEM review for ya! The Moondrop Aria or Aria 2. I’m uncertain exactly what to call this iteration of the Aria, as there was a bullet style variant a number of years ago, but it looks like Moondrop has decided to update that IEM with a detachable cable, a new, yet somehow familiar, shell, and more contemporary anime girl. But, for the sake of simplicity, I’ll just refer to it as the Aria from here on out. So, the Moondrop Aria, let’s… get InToit!
The Aria was sent into the channel by Shenzhen Audio, in exchange for an honest review. But, as per usual, all thoughts and opinions included here are my own. The Aria can be found on shenzhenaudio.com for $79.99. And for that limited investment, I think you get more than what you pay for here with the Aria.
The shell is fashioned through metal injection and CNC carving, and appears to be made from brass. According to a number of websites, it is then sprayed in matte black metal coating, and the gold accents are etched atop. The style of the shell should look pretty familiar to a lot of Moondrop IEM fans, as this is a similar shape to the KXXS, KXXX, and Starfield. But, in my hands, it feels pretty light weight, and appears to be somewhat slimmer in profile, less heavy, and less chunky in its fit compared to my memory of the Starfield. Furthermore, fit was extremely comfy for me, and I think the ergonomic shape will fit most people comfortably. The Starfield had many complaints of its paint chipping off with frequent use or abuse, but the matte black paintjob here appears to be anodized in an attempt to prevent similar complaints with this set. So, Moondrop appears to be listening to its consumers with its design choices here.
The cable initiates at the IEM in a recessed, 2-pin connector and terminates in a strain-relieved, right-angled, 3.5mm jack. Unlike the Starfield, which came with a more traditional cable, the Aria’s cable is a woven, cloth design, which is actually decently pliable, plays really well when in use, and remains kink-free in most scenarios. Moondrop also finally added a chin slider to one of their cables, and I love it, as this one both functions and integrates into the cable extremely well. Adding a chin cinch is something that I’ve urged Moondrop to do in the past, so again, Moondrop appears to be listening to the feedback and implementing recommendations from reviewers or its customer base.
A small, rounded, zipper sealed carrying case also comes in the package. This appears to be the same case that came with the Starfield, and I like the size and the form factor here. 6 pairs of silicone ear tips, 2 small, 2 medium, and 2 large pairs, also come in the box, so not matter which size fits you best, you’ll always have a back-up.
The Aria is driven by a single, dynamic, liquid crystal polymer diaphragm. This is the same driver technology that the Tanchjim Hana uses. And by now, we all know how I feel about the Hana. She’s my best girl… And, while the Aria may not be able to keep up with the magic of that set; keep in mind the Aria is about half the price of the Hana, and, like the Hana, the Aria also performs extremely well within its price-range.
But, let’s move onto the sound. The Aria has somewhat of a thicker, denser sound profile, yet never goes overboard with this at the same time. For someone who wants somewhat of a fuller sounding IEM, the Aria might just be their girl. Timbre is mostly neutral with hints of warmth emanating from its low-end response. It does well with a wide-variety of musical genres, but I particularly enjoyed metal tracks on this one. For some reason, I’ve often been asked for a budget IEM recommendation for metal specifically, and from here on out the Aria will be that recommendation until something better comes along. With metal specifically, the Aria has a rich, chunky, and authoritative style without compromising detail. This maybe due to its solid mid-range performance.
In fact, the mid-range maybe my favorite part of this set, as it is generally present, with good definition, and mostly without overly heightened character or fatigue. To my ear the upper midrange is forward, but, unlike the SSR (which was a tad bit for some, and had to be slightly tuned with RHA Dual Density Ear Tips), the Aria never crosses the line into shout, sibilance, or vociferousness.
Having said that, there is limited representation in the early mids that does result in a midly scooped sound to the ear, here or there, on certain tracks. The Aria generally follows a Harmon tuning, with some mild recession between 400 Hz to 1K Hz, and a mild elevation from 1.5 to 3K Hz.
Vocals are also always centered, and presented as somewhat larger in their scope than the rest of the mix- both for male and female vocals alike, even if female vocals do have some additional energy to them.
The treble appears to extend well enough to the ear, but does lack some brilliance here or there, as its presence does fall from 8K to 12K before it begins to rise again in the air region. This gives the Aria a sense of space, enhances its agreeability, and limits its harshness. With that said, it may also contribute to a mild sense of thinness in the Aria’s top-end. Air in the Aria is decent, but I wouldn’t characterize the Aria as an airy set either.
The bass is well-defined, and adds a mild warmth to the overall presentation. It’s not quite as articulate as the bass in the SSR, but there is nice, soft, dynamic detailing here, which politely lends itself to variety of musical genres. Impact is generally average, but also non-fatiguing.
Unlike what is being portrayed by Moondrop, and some others, the Aria is not a staging monster. The stage of the Aria is only slightly larger than that of the Starield and KXXS, but there is also some additional depth to its presentation. Furthermore, the circular stage of the Aria is decently immersive despite its intimate presentation and limited size.
Oddly, transients have a steep, fast, and hard quality to them. And while peripheral decay was mostly fine, general decay almost resolve too quickly. The cadence of the Aria almost reminds me of someone speaking German on occasion, but this is also a subtle quality, which may bother me more than most.
Positively, the Aria is also very easy to drive, and can be ran off of just about anything and still sound good. I enjoyed the Aria off my phone, FiiO BTR 3K, and Centrance DACport HD almost equally, but the Aria really opened up a bit with the Burson Playmate 2 that I also have in for review at this time. So excessive power isn’t really essential here with the Aria, but it can come in handy with the right synergistic pairing. Nevertheless, the Aria’s drivability makes it pretty versatile for both on-the-go and at-home use.
Compared to the Starfield, I find the Aria to be the superior set, despite its cheaper price. In general, the Aria is less grainy, and does not suffer from smearing or treble glare in the same way the Starfield does. It’s also more well-controlled across the entirety of the frequency response range. For example, the bass in the Aria may be less voluminous, but is also less sloppy and more well-defined.
In summary, the Aria is a safely tuned IEM, which makes good use of an up-and-coming driver technology, and delivers where its predecessor may have failed in both build and sound- all for a cheaper price. The accessories provided here are sparse, but sufficient, and I suspect that this will become many people’s defacto recommendation for an entry level IEM due to brand recognition, a more robust build, and appealing aesthetics.
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And with that, I’m out, for now…
*Thanks to Shenzhen Audio for sending me the Moondrop Aria for review: https://shenzhenaudio.com/collections/headphone-earphone/products/moondrop-aria-high-performance-lcp-diaphragm-dynamic-driver-iems-in-ear-earphone
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