Moondrop S.S.R.: E.Q. or instant classic?
Updated: Jul 14, 2020
Welcome back to the Neighborhood! It’s Your Friendly Neighborhood Reviewer coming at you with a super, special review on the Moondrop Super Spaceship Reference (S.S.R.)!
I also covered the O.G. (Original Gangster) Spaceship, so how do these stack up?
Let’s get InToit!
So, the S.S.R. has run into some issues as of late. After an initial release, and some positive reviews, production has all but come to halt due to “issues with the cable.” Apparently, some units were shipped with cables that “negatively influenced the sound;" however, for the package that I received, the cable was fine, and I tested the cable in comparison to high-quality, aftermarket cables to make sure of it.
Alternatively, conspiracists have speculated that Moondrop could be using this opportunity to re-tune the IEM, as some reviewers have suggested the S.S.R. does not have true reference levels of bass, because it did not stand up to their limited, personal library of music.
So, what do I think of these little IEMs. Well I think that are “smol,” built rather robustly, and produce excellent monitor-like sound for their price point. If that sounds like an IEM that could interest you, then read on!
The build for $40 bucks is quite impressive. They have a small, metal housing that is somewhat “heart-shaped.” The 2-pin connection takes place at the top of the non-rounded side of the “heart.” And when I say small, these things are seriously tiny. Each one is about the circumference of a dime.
The nozzle for an IEM of this size is fairly long, at least for an IEM of this size, and it juts-off the back of the unit somewhat awkwardly. Because of this, despite its tiny size, one should expect a rather long insertion, and the insertion is rather key to the sound; especially with regard to its bass response. But more on that when we get to the sound.
For now, let’s talk about the cable. It’s “alright,” and it behaves mostly well. The wire is braided inside, and appears to be a silver-lined copper, but, in this case, it is surrounded by a clear, plastic sheath.
As already stated, the connector at the right and left initiation of the IEM are 2-pin, and there is a red-rubber ring on one to denote the difference between right and left. The hook is appropriately aggressive for the shape of this particular IEM, and due to its small weight, miniature size, and general ear-clearance (meaning that the silicone ear tip itself mostly keeps this IEM suspended in your ear without excessively touching it) the Moondrop S.S.R. is one of the most comfortable IEMS to wear, period. While some may not like the depth of the insertion needed for a proper seal here, it is less of an issue for me in the case of the S.S.R. than it is for something like an Etymotic.
Generally, these things sound very similar to the O.G. Spaceships; however, after burn-in, they are also less assaultive at 3K, have a smoother and more well distributed bass response, and are tonally much warmer in comparison- but remain pretty neutral in a vacuum.
Most accurately, I would describe the timbre as predominantly neutral with hints of warmth. To put this in perspective, I would say that in comparison to something like a Koss KPH30i, which also has a relatively neutral presentation with mild warmth; the S.S.R. is significantly less warm, and leaning even more towards neutrality. Timbre is a particular strength for the S.S.R., and I can’t think of another set anywhere near this price point that nails the timbre as well as the S.S.R. does. Perhaps this is why Moondrop has labeled this version of the Spaceship as the Super Reference.
And let me tell you, unlike some others have reported, these do have reference levels of bass. It is just that the bass is not over emphasized or additive to the sound as others have come to expect. I will also note, that one has to achieve a certain insertion depth and seal if they are to accurately observe proper the S.S.R.’s bass presence.
In general, the bass is accurate, detailed, and well textured, with monitor levels of sub-bass roll-off. In fact, I observed levels of detail in the bass on this set, which is astounding to me for the price point. However, this does not mean that the bass is overly forward in anyway, and on tracks that are not recorded with elevated bass levels, the bass might be perceived by some as lacking; however, in this case, it is most likely lacking on the recording itself. In other words, the bass is at reference level, even if it may be placed back a DB or two to enhance listenability. For example, on certain classic rock tracks it may seem like the bass is deficient, but classic rock is not really a bass heavy genre, and the bass is generally not over accentuated. For this set, one should not have unrealistic expectations regarding the bass reproduction on music that is not sound engineered to have a low-end focus.
Somewhat unreferenced-like, vocals and mid-range presentation is rather forward, and, to a certain extent, artificially accentuated on the S.S.R. In fact, like the O.G. Moondrop Spaceship, the S.S.R. also has a rather large 3K peak. But, unlike the O.G. Spaceship, the S.S.R.’s 3K peak bothers me less, and calms down a bit after a few days of use. Nevertheless, there is some intensity here, which might come across as aggressive or potentially shouty to some; and it does grate on me on occasion if my ears aren’t in the mood for the particular presentation of this set. Regarding tip selection, I really only found the provided stocks or RHA Dual Density tips to be acceptable. Dual density tips brought up the bass a tad, and lessened the forward nature of the mid-range if those become issues you wish to adjust.
Staging is another particular strength of the S.S.R., and it is appropriately wide (without any smearing or stretching), with good depth and height to it. In fact, the S.S.R. really excels with its stage in mind in comparison to other competing IEMs in this price range, such as the new Tin HiFi T2 Plus. While both are excellent sets for your money, the S.S.R.’s staging is much more accurate, less cluttered, and not as boxed-in. In fact, this aspect of the sonic presentation boarders on having an expansive quality to it- a characteristic that I have only observed in much more expensive IEMs- such as the Campfire Andromeda and the Final Audio B3. Bear in mind, that it is not quite as expansive as those sets, of course, but for $40 dollars, these are a phenomenal in this regard. Like the S.S.R.’s tonality, the stage is rather flat, with vocals dead-locked in its center, and consistency across the auditory plane from left to right.
Instruments have good separation and distinction to them, and image with specificity and accuracy within space. Transients are also extremely excellent and natural in their presentation. Furthermore, peripheral details are accurately placed, and very nicely done as well. Uniquely, there is a certain dimensionality to the sound, while both tonality and staging remain rather flat and accurate to the recording despite its favor towards mid-forwardness.
Resolution, on the other hand, is “just good enough” to be considered excellent for its price-range, and it is not as resolving as some full-scale dynamic drivers or other balanced armature driven sets. It reminds me of a Sennheiser HD600 from the headphone world, not only with regard to its tonality, but also in terms of its level of resolution. In other words, the S.S.R. isn’t the most resolving IEM on the market, or even “best-in-class”, but it is plenty resolving, nevertheless, and resolves better than others beyond its price point. It may not turn your head immediately in this regard, but it will satisfy in the long-term. Rich textures and sonic details are more the S.S.R.’s foray.
The treble presentation is, to some degree, unremarkable. I would never call the treble presentation sharp or aggressive, or, on the other hand, dull or muted, but like the mid-range, there can be some intensity with specific regard to its forwardness, here or there, which seems to be mostly track dependent. Nevertheless, there is a roll-off in the top-end near 10K. In the end, I would describe the S.S.R.’s treble presentation as one that mostly stays out of the way, and despite its forwardness, remains rather neutral in its presentation, without any addition or subtraction from the sound. If you are a treble-head, these might not have enough sparkle for you, as like I have been saying, these are a rather flat set, especially in this domain.
At first, I generally preferred to EQ-up the bass a DB or two to enhance its presence, and EQ-down its mids and treble by a similar margin to restrict their forward character, but, after some time, I have come to appreciate this IEM’s particular presentation without EQ as well. Today, I find that I generally do not need, or require, equalization for portable carry, and due to this IEM’s sonic capabilities in combination with its small size, general comfort, and seemed ruggedness, the S.S.R. has become my everyday carry (EDC) at this point. Whether you prefer to EQ it, or not, will ultimately be up to you, but it does stand-up to equalization quite well, nevertheless. For example, I found the S.S.R. to be a good fit with the Centrance DACportable, which has both treble and bass boost switches; each of which alter the sound of the IEM in pleasurable ways.
Overall, the S.S.R. is a “smol,” neutral, but mid-elevated set with a relaxed, but detailed, bass, accurate timbre, and forward vocals, which, in the end, comes across rather enjoyably flat to the listener. In other words, it is a diffuse-field tuning, with aspect of warmth, who’s tonality generally keeps it inline. For $40 dollars, these are imaging and staging monsters with sufficient resolution and a moderately expansive soundstage. Like the O.G. Spaceships, their tuning is inconsistent with what most companies are putting out in IEMs right now, but their sonic textures are reference, and Moondrop has produced an instant classic, at least from this reviewer’s point of view.
While these are my favorite IEMs under $50 dollars right now, I also understand that their neutral, reference, monitor-like character may be considered "less HiFi" in comparison to something like the T2 Plus from Tin HiFi. Therefore, I suspect that the majority of people will most likely prefer that IEM if given the chance to pick between the two. Nevertheless, I look forward to the S.S.P. (Super Spaceship Pop), and what Moondrop can do with that unit! If this IEM is any indication of what is possible, then that could be a special one, which might be tuned in a manner to appeal more towards mass market expectations rather than my own.
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