MOONDROP STARFIELD REVIEW
THE PLUS: Smooth neutral sound, Perfectly balanced tonality, Natural&Nuanced timbre, Transparency, Wide Soundstage, Versatile sound, Not a hint of harshness, Fluid layering, Bass control, Transient response, Male&Female vocal, Delicate treble, Excellent Construction, Overwhelmingly sexy look, Price Value
THE SO-SO: A hint of extra edge to the definition and clearer imaging and we got one of the best single DD IEM ever made in sub-500$ price range.
There was a time MOONDROP was mostly known for creating earbuds that stand apart in terms of design and sound quality, but now they are mostly known for their earphones line up that goes from 20$ budget like Spaceship to TOTL high end like 1100$ Solis. Their biggest seller is the Kanas Pro and KXX, which like the legendary Vsonic VS7, is a single dynamic driver IEM that pass the test of time and still is praised for it’s balanced tuning 2 years after it’s launch.
Moondrop isn’t you normal Chi-Fi company, their products are unique and cannot be mixed up with other less mature Chinese company. They have an ”house sound” often inspired by Harman target frequencies curve and a singularity in earphones design that try to be elegant and beautifully presented.
In the past, I have reviewed their entry-level NAMELESS earbuds, which I love, and their entry-level SPACESHIP earphones, which I find maturely tuned but not musical enough.
I was always curious about their Kanas Pro and KXX that both use high-end DLC dynamic drivers, but was rather skeptical about the price value of those. When I heard they create the STARFIELD, a more budget-oriented earphone with similar tuning than KXX and using Carbon nanotube diaphragm drivers, my curiosity was triggered and I begin my quest to find a review sample.
Priced at half the price of the KXX, the STARFIELD hasn’t stopped being praised since its launch. People are as much impressed by its design and construction as the refined sound they deliver. But is it just an ephemeral hype that will go back to dust in some months or did the STARFIELD really is an IEM that surpass others in term of both musicality and technicalities?
Let’s see in this review what the STARFIELD really worth.
You can buy these earphones for 110$ from Moondrop official store HERE.
Driver: Carbon Nanotube diaphragm-10mm Dual cavity dynamic driver
Detachable cable standard: 24AWG Litz 4N OFC 1.2M
Cable Interface: 0.78 2pin interface
Impedance: 32Ω±15% (@1khz)
Frequency response: 10Hz-36000 Hz (free field. 1/4 inch MIC)
Effective frequency response: 20Hz-20000 Hz (IEC60318-4)
The STARFIELD uses a ”super sequential carbon nanotube diaphragm” for their dynamic driver. This technology permits to mix together carbon nanotube micro material with a polymer to have a diaphragm of only 6 microns thick that is highly rigid, solid, light and flexible for a fast undistorted transient response. For the voice coil, they import from Japan a high-quality lightweight Daikoku’s CCAW. Inner acoustic cavity too is meticulously designed with a brass-plated inner cavity that has 5 pressures relief holes to cancel any unwanted resonance and distortion. The highly sophisticated audio engineering and acoustic design is a serious proof of how professional Moondrop company is.
The construction is just mind-blowing, not only it feel very solid but the design and paint job is just too sumptuously beautiful. These do not look like 100$ iem, more TOTL iem from the quality of craftsmanship. The Starfield is 100% thick metal with night blue color full of starry sparkle and shimmering gradient that enlight the subtle angle work of housing. It’s heavy in hands but comfy in ears. 2pin connector are solidly stocked between 2 parts of housing, so the cable is thighly connected without risk of benting from left to right. The pictures you see on the net do not fully capture the complex beauty of this earphone, depending of the light they will have different nuance as well as blue tone, even if the drawing of a big star on them isn’t the best esthetical choice, I still consider the Starfield to be among the nicest looking earphones of my collection.
The CABLE too is of good quality enough, and again, esthetic play a big role as it have same blue color that fit perfectly housing look. It’s a nice 4cores 24AWG 4N oxygen free copper cable, light, smooth enough with preshaped ear hook that are flexible enough to be comfy. In terms of conductivity and sound, they do not affect negatively the Starfield at all and do not justify an urgent cable upgrade at all.
At 32ohm of impedance, one might think these will seriously benefit amping, but the very high 122db of sensitivity cancel this obligation. Starfield is easy to drive, not 9ohm high sensitivity kind-of super easy to drive, but any DAP will be able to open their dynamic sound. While I do not use a portable amp with them, I still find they sound the best out of my ultra-clean Ibasso DX90 or through Xduoo X20 DAC hooked to my JDS Labs ATOM amp. What I mean the Starfield merit high-quality audio source so you can hear all that they have to offer.
As expected with thick metal housing of this type, the Starfield does a wonderful isolation job and will cut outside noise drastically. Sound leakage is present dut to 2 front venting port, but minimal and less loud than IEM with open back or with back venting hole.
I don’t think it’s possible to dislike the mellow near-neutral full-bodied sound of the Starfield, and for amateur of Harman target curve tuning, this might be the affordable high fidelity dream come true. In fact, even those who hate Harman target tuning could possibly fall in love with these. The DLC driver used is both excellent in technicalities, tonal balance, and timbre. The sound is transparent with a hint of warmth and gently elevated mid-range and lower treble that offer exquisite presence to most instruments and types of voices. Though not V shape, the bass extends beautifully wich even a lot of pricier bassy iem can’t achieve, this bass is perfectly articulated, have a natural body and flat but lively response. While the treble isn’t super sharp or sparkly, it doesn’t feel dark or lacking in detail either. Yes, the hype is justified about these highly refined and well-tuned IEM, but it’s not created for a sudden wow effect, like a perfectly cooked meal with just a hint of natural spice, the Starfield is made for long time degustation, it’s not a Mexican or Indian meal, more like high-class French cuisine.
SOUNDSTAGE is vast, airy without being hall like or distant, it’s very circular in its wideness, tallness and deepness, creating an immersive experience. It sounds out of your head, but like if you have 4 bookshelf speakers around you.
IMAGING is good, not particularly high definition or analytical, instrument separation has good space between them and placement is spacious but the definition isn’t edgy enough to be vividly accurate. In real life, imaging is not sounding clinical anyway.
TONALITY is perfect. Smooth, natural with a hint of warmth. Tonal balance is fluid, balanced and cohesive, with no awkward boost or tamed range.
TIMBRE is a beautiful mix of transparency, nuanced texture and sweetness.
BASS is sumptuous in both balance and quality. We have here a flat bass response without being tamed, rolled off or dry sounding. Sub-bass has an unforced natural rumble that does not bleed on anything, separation with the mid-bass is natural and organic. By flat, it doesn’t mean the Starfield bass is shy and lacks weight, in fact, it’s a little boosted and has some authority to it, this helps to offer a high level of articulation and well-rounded slam. The texture is soft, free of unnatural grain, but with good nuance in details, with the Starfield you will be able to make the difference between electric bass, acoustic bass, and synth bass timbre. The same goes for the cello instrument, wich sounds tonally right and very clear. The kick drum is round, punchy, never too aggressive or bright but never dull or too liquid as well. Again: perfect balance for perfect all-arounder. Even when I tested the Starfield with super fast and busy JazzRock like Elephant9 ‘’Dodovoodoo’’ album, the bass line wasn’t shadowed or bloated and keep its fast articulation which it’s sincerely mind-blowing for a single dynamic driver earphone.
MIDS are for me the highlight of Starfield, free of any tonal imbalance, artificial timbre or sibilance, they are smooth, yet have a good edge and effortless presence. Should it be a male singer like Timber Timbre or female vocals like Agnes Obel or Susanna Wallumrod, the mid-range flexibility and full covering permit an exquisite transparent musicality of any type of vocal. The timbre is smooth but full and natural, instrument or vocal have above average definition without favoring any part of the edge like it can happen when we overly head texture details or lower harmonic emphasis. Never shouty, harsh or dull, the mids have a grand extension and soft resolution. It’s a little light in impact compared to mid-bass weight but nonetheless has a snappy attack to it, which is shown better with guitar, cello, violin than piano or saxophone, which both sound good, airy and well defined but not as edgy as other instruments. Again, fast transient response of the DLC drivers used shows its high speed and accuracy with music that plays a lot of different instrument, like it show in ‘’Adam Baldych&Helge Lien Trio’’ Bridge album, the violin is very lively and well defined, it does not shadow piano work neither the drum and percussion, everything is cohesive, realist and highly musical with a light agile touch to its volatile snapyness.
TREBLE is well balanced with the rest of the audio spectrum and has a delicate crispness to it. It has smooth decay to it and not shrill or harshness whatsoever. Highs aren’t particularly vivid or snappy, but got good nuances to them, avoiding to sound artificial, metallic or overly forwards. Percussions and cymbals have realist presentation, free of any splashiness or tonal discordance, they stay in the back and never stole your attention. An instrument like harpsichord sound full, beautifully textured and quite thick, but it lacks a little hint of brilliance to sound perfect. Nonetheless, the relaxed treble sounds full and lively.
VS AUDIOSENSE AQ3 (180$)
Both of these are rather mid centric, but the biggest difference is in how the sound expands in the air, Starfield having bigger soundstage to offer more spacious rendering.
SOUNDSTAGE is notably wider while the AQ3 has a strange mix of tallness and deepness making spatiality a little awkward. IMAGING is more holographic with the Starfield, which is due to a mix of better transparency and spatialization realism. BASS is thicker and more punchy in mid-bass with the AQ3, but its warmer and less detailed and do not extend as well in sub-region as Stardfiled bass, which is more transparent and have a better transition to mid-range too. MIDS are more intimate and slightly more forwards with the AQ3, but they are less wide and airy and lack the definition edge of the Moondrop, which in the end is tonally more accurate. TREBLE of both these iem is rather soft, but I feel the Moondrop is better balanced in highs and has more natural decay too.
All in all, the AQ3 cruelly lacks bass control and extension of Starfield, as well as soundstage spaciousness and overall tonal cohesion refinement.
VS FINAL AUDIO E4000 (140$)
Very similar in tonality and timbre, the Starfield biggest difference is it’s notably bigger soundstage and slightly more natural tonal balance. IMAGING is more spacious, articulate and holographic with the Starfield, making the E4000 sound quite compressed and intimate, lacking in instrument separation space. BASS is thicker and little more boosted and weighty with the E4000, but it is less extended and a little boomy compared to the better controlled low end of Starfield. MIDS has a wider presence and fuller timbre with the Starfield, they are smoother in the upper mid-range too and offer better transparent layering free of subtle grain. E4000 sounds a hint breathy and vocal sound thinner and more distant. TREBLE is more laid back and delicate with Starfield with longer decay than slightly more detailed and snappy highs of E4000.
As a big fan of E4000, I’m sad to conclude Starfield offers a more immersive and cohesive musicality with richer timbre even if overall less energic and detailed on top.
VS KBEAR DIAMOND (80-110$)
This two iem are rather similar in sound signature but less so in tonal balance and timbre. The STARFIELD offers thicker, fuller and more natural timbre while the DIAMOND is more transparent and airy. SOUNDSTAGE is very similar with both but slightly wider with the Diamond. IMAGIN too is a hint sharper with Diamond. BASS is more controlled and extends naturally to its bottom end with the STARFIELD while the DIAMOND is a little more punchy and boomy, with thinner timbre and hint of dryness. MIDS is fuller, has more presence and natural timbre with the STARFIELD, the DIAMOND mids are thinner as well as little more shouty and edgy, this can be good for instrument attack in this range but affect tonal balance negatively. TREBLE sound again fuller and more life-like with the STARFIELD, but lack extra sparkle and decay that add air to DIAMOND presentation. Still, highs sound little more artificial with a hint of metallic brilliance compared to perfectly balanced STARFIELD.
All in all, STARFIELD is pricier and offer a more balanced, natural and refined tuning that enlight DIAMOND micro-imperfection.
VS BLON BL-03 (30$)
These two have pretty similar sound signature, but BLON is slightly brighter and bassier and more delicate and balanced Starfield. SOUNDSTAGE is bigger with Starfield and imaging has better transparency and layering. BASS is slightly more boosted and punchy with the BLON but it’s more muffled and extends less naturally, as well it bleed more on the lower mid-range making the MIDS more recessed. MIDS are thinner and brighter with BLON with more energy in upper mids making it more edgy and shouty, as well, the imaging is less accurate and more prompt to congestion in very busy track prooving transient response is faster with the Starfield. TREBLE is smoother and better balanced in tonality with the Starfield, where the BLON is slightly harsher-grainier, though the attack is more snappy, it’s not as refined in definition than the Starfield.
All in all, while it’s hard to justify paying 3 times the price to get a more balanced, refined and articulated sound, the musicality improvement with Starfield is evident and free of all BLON imperfection.
It’s extremely rare to have this type of accomplished mature tuning within Chi-Fi audio market, and I can even imagine Harman Kardon envying the vastly nuanced and highly musical STARFIELD inspire by their very Harman target response curve.
Not only the Starfield has fabulous construction and mesmerizing unique look, but the sound flow naturally through its refined and smooth musicality. Everything is articulate effortlessly in its highly transparent imaging and has an addictive immersive yet inoffensive tonality.
For the fan of Final Audio E series or warm neutral rich-sounding IEM, this could be the IEM they dream to own, and you know what: anybody can afford them. At 110$, I consider the Starfield as nothing less than the new 100$ dynamic driver earphones Benchmark for reference sound.