MOONDROP ARIA REVIEW: Harman Perfectionism

Pros: Big and Deep Soundstage, Realist Timbre, Smooth Tonal Balance, Clear and delicately detailed, macro-resolution, Treble extension, Clean bass, Safe but lively Harman tuning, Good transparency, a Step up from pricier Starfield, exquisite construction-design, price value

Cons: Lack of kick drum impact and presence, a bit thin timbre, lack of overall dynamic weight, lack some bite and edge in attack, not the most versatile sounding IEM

TONALITY: 8.5/10
TECHNICALITIES: 8/10
CONSTRUCTION&DESIGN: 9/10
SOUND VALUE: 8.5/10


Moondrop doesn’t need an introduction anymore, they are well known among the audio community for best-selling releases like their Hybrid Moondrop Blessing or numerous competent single-DD release like super budget Spaceship-SSR-SSP or flagship DD like KXXs, Starfield and now the ARIA that seem to get important recognition like all those mentioned before.

More time goes, more it’s evident that Moondrop has an ”house sound”, which is inspired by Harman acoustic target curve but with their own twist about finding the right balance between naturalness, crispness and dynamic weight. Rarely you will find fast punchy bass with proper kick drum presence and separation from Moondrop earphones, but rarely you will find bass bleed that hollow mids too. Most Moondrop IEM feels like the tuner try to find a compromise between W and U shape signature, thus the Harman target welcomes help.

Priced 80$, the Aria can be put in the same family than Starfield and KXX’s, and while some would think it’s 30$ cheaper price could mean it’s technically inferior to those 2, it would be misleading because the Aria are in fact superior to the Starfield in that aspect. Now, if we talk timbre and overall musicality, it’s another story because those 3 IEM doesn’t use the same type of dynamic driver. Aria is the only one using Liquid Crystal Diaphragm, while Starfield use Carbon nanotube diaphragm and KXX’s Diamond-like Carbon nanotube. If you wanna know where the secret of Timbre hides, I think you must give a look at diaphragm material. And having listened to Sony EX1000 that use Liquid Crystal diaphragm too, I can conclude that some timbre similarities do occur, especially in texture even if more emphasized than Aria, anyway, the tonal balance being very different similarities stop there, in timbre brightish and very transparent rendering.

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PACKAGING is as fancy as it can get for the price. The presentation is beautiful, with lot of care to details. The waifu is classy and meditative not too girly or erotized. The accessories are generous enough and of decent quality. 8 pairs of silicone ear tips to cover any fit. Nice carrying case. Decent cable. All in all, the whole presentation feel more premium than it should be!

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CONSTRUCTION is rarely disappointing with Moondrop, which gives good care to the design and esthetic of all their products. Their IEM never feels like an half-baked idea or design concept and unlike other less visionary Chifi companies, we never see Moondrop playing copycat of others IEM design. The ARIA is no exception and have a sturdy metal construction with a sober yet elegant design. The Matte finish is pleasant for the fingers and the eyes. 2pin connectors are solidly embedded and promise long durability and a secure fit. Design shape is similar to Starfield and very comfortable.

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When it comes to the CABLE, hum, i’m less sure if the choice to use nylon braided surface is a good one because it’s prompt to bending and tangling….still, i want to love this cable because it’s very light. 4 cores would have been a better choice. In fact, this cable looks very fragile and I have already seen consumers complain about it.

SOUND————————————————————————————————————-
(Using SMSL SU9-SH9 for desktop, Audirect BEAM2 for on the go streaming, Ibasso DX90 for the rest)


TONALITY would be what I describe as Bassy Crisp Neutral following a smoothed W shape signature, inspired by Harman Target. Sub-bass is notably boosted in rumble-resonance, and lower mids-upper bass is notably tamed.

So the BASS is smooth and a bit liquid but avoid any bleed even if it’s not what I would call thigh bass. The extension is impressive tough not very linear and a hint boomy, in a light way because bass hit lack leads and edge to the definition. Because of the lack of proper contour definition, the kick drum sounds hollow and lack energy and weight. To me, this is the Achilles heel of most ”Harman tuned” IEM, and something that i hope would be ”heal” someday (even Jasper doesn’t completely heal this part of the spectrum). Aria low end do well for jazz, classical, soul, some electronic even if it isn’t very textured, but it doesn’t do well for rock, metal, fast slap bass. As well, if you like your synth sub-like thick and dense in texture, Aria will lack body due to it’s mostly resonant type of rumble and slam and again lack of good separation within the low-end zone.

The MIDS are crisp, lean, a bit cold and very transparent and impressive in macro-resolution. Vocals are smooth yet clean in presence and realist in timbre. Female vocal sounds fuller and less distant than male vocal. In fact, that’s something with the whole Aria presentation, it isn’t very immersive in proximity and sounds a bit hall-like and emotionally underwhelming. Sure that’s subjective, but instruments sound thin and not very open in presence, making nothing stand out. Aria try to be vivid, but the weight isn’t there so the overall dynamic is light and neither the piano, violin or vocal have enough lushness and authoritative well-rounded presence to trigger intense emotion.

The TREBLE is the star of the show here and impresses by the level of extension it has as well as effortless micro-details rendering. It’s delicate yet snappy in attack, airy and open. Highs tend to capture your attention without sounding aggressive or over-emphasized. Its clean, have beautiful decay and sparkle, a hint of natural brilliance to it too, though it’s not the type of full-bodied highs that can benefit snare impact or percussion energy. It’s laid back without being rolled off, and the lower and mid-treble is very soft in edge. Aria has some extra boost in ultra-high that can dig background noise of badly recorded music, but this extended response can give extra presence and crispness to acoustic guitar too.

TIMBRE is smoothly textured, uncolored realist, and not very dense.

TECHNICALITIES are very good for the price, especially in terms of overall clarity, transparency, layering, and treble extension. The attack is fast but lacks lead and edge in impact.

SOUNDSTAGE is above average in wideness and deepness, but spatial positioning is not the most accurate due to the fact dynamic sound smoothed and bass-mids less snappy-airy and detailed than treble. Layering is very informative.

SIDE NOTES:
The ARIA doesn’t benefit from amping, at 122db of sensitivity near anything will drive them properly but it’s suggested using a clean audio source as well as good FLAC albums because the Aria is unforgiven of noisy background. As well, perhaps due to this high sensitivity, i find the Aria sensible to cable pairing. For a more objective review i use stock cable, but when i pair with full copper, pure silver, SPC or mixed SPC-copper, it was evident that it interferes greatly with overall sound rendering. I you want more silence go SPC or pure silver, if you want extra warmth and timbre density, go full copper.


COMPARISONS

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VS MOONDROP STARFIELD (1DD-110$)

These 2 are extremely similar and differences reside mostly in timbre and overall clarity. Aria sounds cleaner and more open than Starfield. Bass doesnt mix with lower mids as much with Aria, its cleaner and less thick. Overall tonality is warmer and less resolved with Starfield, vocals are lusher with a bit more body and warmth but not as well separated and crisp in presence. Treble has more sparkle-decay and dig more micro-details and extends further with the Aria. Soundstage is extremely similar, quite big for both but Aria is notably deeper. I find the cheaper Aria technically superior in attack speed and both end extension, so it’s hard to justify the 30$ price jump unless your all about thick lush vocal and rolled off treble. TBH, i love both but sometimes i feel the need to listen to my fav singer with Starfield over Aria.


VS HZSOUND MIRROR (1DD-50$)

Cleaner, more detailed and transparent. More intimate soundstage but better imaging cue. More neutral with lighter bass but better kick-sub separation and leaner extension. HZ treble is fuller, making snare weightier than Aria. The attack is faster-snappier too, with more impactful hit lead. Soundstage is more holographic though smaller, your inside the music while with Aria you a bit distant. Everything is crisper and more energic. Timbre while more textured is thinner than Aria and a bit less smooth. Tonality is brighter and more vivid with HZ while warmer and more laid back with Aria. HZ Mirror win in term of technicalities, for tonality it will depend on what your looking for but Aria timbre being a bit lusher and bass being more boosted I see some people preferring its musicality over the one of HZ even if less versatile and accurate sounding.

CONCLUSION

Moondrop seems to always perfect the same tuning target, so it’s rare that an IEM from them surprise you in term of tonality alone. While some might find this redundant, others will respect this dedication to absolute refinement and the Aria show that their more than one secret in tuning, here the type of special LCD drivers they use surely make the biggest difference by delivering an incredibly effortless treble response that theoretically can extend up to 40KHZ.

To my ears, the Aria is a big win and offers a mature audiophile sound that is very competitive in sub-100$ price range and put to shame IEM like Ibasso IT00 and, to a less extend, its big brother Starfield.

If you search for airy, open-sounding earphones with life-like timbre, resonant sub-bass, clean forwards vocal and mids as well as smoothly extended treble, I don’t think there any other IEM in this price range that can offer this type of sound so well balanced.


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PS: I want to thank HIFIGO for letting me review these IEM after I manifest my interest to compare them with Starfield that I like as well. I’m 100% independent and never have pressure from Hifigo to write a positive review. Respect to this honest audio store!
Please support them, they ship way faster than any AliX sellers and have excellent consumer service!
https://hifigo.com/products/moondrop-aria-2

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