MOONDROP CHU Review: Mature tuning with niche tonality

THE PLUS:
-High resolution and clarity
-Good imaging
-Decent soundstage
-Good transparency
-forwards male and female vocal
-fast treble attack with nice snap and sparkle
-generous package for 20$
-good sound value

THE MINUS:
-compressed dynamic
-dry anemic lean boxy bass
-thin dry timbre
-slight treble and timbral imbalance
-light note weight
-slightly trebly-shouty
-cold distant tonality
-tend to put background hissing of tracks on front
-cold uneven musicality

TONALITY: 7/10
TECHNICALITY: 8/10
CONSTRUCTION: 8/10
SOUND VALUE: 8.5/10

MOONDROP are well known by chifi audio enthusiast and begin to be recognize too by more closed minded audiophile, thanks to their Blessing 2 solid fan base. This company seem to have 2 tuning target, the Harman target aiming for natural balance which is used for IEM like Aria, Kato and Starfield, and their DF-neutral target take, call VDSF target, which aim for neutrality with high resolution, which is used for their Spaceship, SSR and their new ultra budget IEM i will review today the CHU. Priced only 22$, the CHU is an all metal cable IEM, with a 10mm titanium-plated dynamic driver.
The hype around the CHU is already very noisy, so let’s see if i will enter the CHU CHU hype train with this review or not.

Harman Aria vs VDSF Spaceship

CONSTRUCTION

Packaging is minimalist, yet elegant and beautifull. The waifu imagery used is classy and aesthetic care for presentation is appreciate. In term of accessories, its quite a generous package we get for 20$, which include the high quality Moondrop Spring ear tips, which sell for 15$ by their own. We have as well a carrying pouch and silicone ear hook. Nice package for the price, no doubt.

Now, when it come to construction, the small price is only reflected in the fact the CHU is cabled IEM and the cable is of very basic quality, similar to what we have with KZ cabled IEM years ago. A sticky tangly cable that keep it’s bent and look everything but elegant, making a clash with the very beautifull and well crafted IEM housing. This housing is made of thick metal, similar to Aria, and have a bulbous yet organically shaped form which i find comfortable. These are more thick than big and overall look is very Moondrop’ish. All in all, even if I would highly prefer a 2pin IEM, the construction is very good, though the cable choice is questionable.

SOUND IMPRESSIONS

(gear used: Questyle M15, Tri TK2, Ibasso DX90 and Xduoo Link2 Bal)


TONALITY is gently bright neutral with focus on full treble region and high resolution rendering that doesn’t boost texture or feel spiky. It’s an open crisp sparkly sound, with cold bass and mids and vivid highs. Imagine a bass light Aria, with hint of Kato treble and leaner mids, and your not far from CHU sound rendering.

TIMBRE is dry, thin and smoothed in texture. Transparency is good, their no grain, but something hint of timbral imbalance can occur due to over focus of high harmonic compared to low harmonic that affect density roundness-fullness.

BASS is the weakest part of the CHU and notably lack dynamic in impact and slam, making it sometime overshadow by mids and highs. To my ears it’s plain wrong and ruin whole musical experience when we need slam, rumble or kick drum well define punch. As well, it can go easily muffled when we have sub bass and kick going on at same time, making some electronic music like Kanging Ray OR album plain unlistenable. It seem rumble can make distortion at high volume too. In term of texture and resolution, when we can hear the bass, it’s very good in fact, refined and linear with some interesting natural resonance. So, the CHU aren’t made for basshead nor bass lover, due to a body less presentation and lack of energic punch and well rounded presence. For instrument like cello and even acoustic bass, it can pass, as well as very simple kick drum, but presentation will be dry and not vibrant nor dense.

MIDS are clean, crisp and lean with good transparency and amount of details and decent imaging. They are rather smooth and free of sibilance, but a bit cold and distant in dynamic feel due to light note weight which is more problematic for piano than vocal. About vocal, both male and female aren’t recessed and have forwards open presence, yet, male vocal will be a bit effiminate due to lack of low harmonic body and fullness. When it come to female vocal, i’m very severe and while they are fowards and clean enough, definition is a bit too softed so they struggle to fully open and be well extract from other mid range instruments, ill say they are gently shouty, and sometime gently trebly too, with Arianna Savall sopramo high pitched voice, i did get border line ringing for ex. Perhaps this is due to lean dynamic of mid range that struggle to offer a sens of amplitude articulation as if all instrument play in same loudness scale. Apart treble section, which we will talk about right now.

TREBLE is the most vivid and lively part of the CHU, all energy and dynamic impressions come from this spectrum range, yet, CHU isn’t particularly bright or agressive, avoiding dangerous peaks in specific region like upper mids and 8khz section.We are in well done boosted clarity territory here, crisp and vivid, snappy and sparkly, the highs are very impressive especially in this price range. Refined and adding a sens of air, the highs are stars of the show as well as stars in an overall cloudy sky if we can say, in the sens bass and mids seem very static compared to highs. CHU love folk and instrumental music, especially acoustic guitar which sound brilliant and have nice attack lead and delicate presentation with addictive natural resonance, though sometime a bit of lack of low harmonic. Harp and clavichord sound good too, though a hint dry metallic and thin, still presentation is clean and well detailed. Percussions are hit or miss, showing limit of treble snap and attack control, cymbals can sound a bit shrill.

SOUNDSTAGE is average wide and deep, not very tall nor hall like or gigantic. It’s open in an intimate way. It have a 180degree frontal presentation too.

IMAGING is above average for the price, but seem to focus on treble separation while bass and mids have compressed layering but decent transparency that permit to locate static instruments. Separation doesn’t have lot of space between instruments and the CHU struggle with busy tracks and get blurry in proper instrument separation-definition.

TECHNICALITIES are very impressive for the price, attack is fast but not perfectly controlled after impact (sustain-release). While bass is rolled off, treble extend quite far. Transparency and resolution are high too.

COMPARISONS

VS TANCHJIM TANYA (25$-1DD)

Tanya is warmer, thicker and more V shape. Timbre is lusher and more natural, less thin. Dynamic impact have more weight and overall balance is more cohesive and less sharp and treble obsess. CHU is colder, more clinical and analytical with anemic bass and thinner dryer timbre. Resolution is notably higher with the CHU and spatiality is more airy and open. Bass bleed more on the mids with the Tanya too, which have more slam and rumble, yet slower attack it seem. Mids are fuller and more natural yet not as clean. Treble extension cut faster with Tanya, making clavichord sound all about low harmonic, here the CHU is clearly superior with higher amount of details and more snap and sparkle and air. Soundstage is a bit wider yet not as deep with the Tanya. Technically the CHU is superior, though the dynamic is very tamed and overall musicality is miles ahead with the Tanya to my ears but this is subjective, still, wonky dynamic presentation isn’t subjective and timbral imbalance is more evident with the CHU too, affecting timbre naturalness and….musicality again!

VS HZ SOUND WAIST DRUM (32$-1x 6mm DD)

HZ is slightly more V shape and warmer, with thicker timbre, thicker weightier slam and overall rounder less crisp neutral tonality. Resolution seem higher and cleaner with CHU, this is due to more tamed bass impact that doesnt move air nor touch the mids, which are notably lusher and more natural with HZ as well as more organic in timbral balance.
CHU is colder dryier brighter with more artificial sounding vocal (high harmonic unbalance) that are thin and uneven compared to HZ W. Treble is more agressive and detailed, highs have more sparkle and snap as well as faster attack it seem, here HZ seem a bit dark on top and less abrasive and boosted in upper mids, so while male vocal are more fowards and full sounding with HZ, female vocal are just a hint less energic and upfront yet lusher and more bodied and overall more pleasant as said.
Imaging is more precise with the CHU, soundstage is wider and deeper too.
Technicaly, this is a hard comparison since dynamic weight as well as sens of layering is better with HZ while attack speed and control is better with the CHU.
While tonality is better balanced, more cohesive and musical with the HZ Drum, resolution and overall technical performance is slightly higher with the CHU, yet less refined in presentation.

VS MOONDROP ARIA (80$-1xLCP DD)

So, some audacious reviewers proclaim the CHU is on par or even better than those mythical Aria….what a funny joke! Aria is from another league both in technical performance and tonal balance, but I guess the boosted clarity and tamed rumble can impress some auditor. Tonaly wise, Aria is warmer and more U shape, smoother and more cohesive, darker in treble region yet fuller too, in the sens transparency is better and permit a greater amount of sound layers articulation.
Bass of Aria have more slam, rumble and weight and embrace the mids more too, resulting in denser and more natural timbre. Mids are wider in presentation, fuller lusher in timbre, less shouty and more dynamic in note weight. If you were finding Aria thin sounding, the CHU will horrify you in that regard since its less meaty than Aria for sure. Now, treble is more boosted-upfront with the CHU and have more snap and brightness, yet it doesn’t present as much nuance in sound layers and details and seem very unbalanced compared to more organic and fluid balance of Aria, it’s more trebly too, so sometime you tend to lower or higher volume which doesn’t happen with smoother more naturally balanced Aria.
Their not a single doubt that Aria is superior to CHU technically, and better balanced as a whole too, making the CHU very wonky and unatural sounding with compressed bass and mids and invasive treble presence that kill it’s versatility.

CONCLUSION

The MOONDROP CHU are excellent value earphones, especially if you seek for boosted clarity with above average technical performance in sub-50$ IEM market. When it come to tuning musicality, it will surely please a niche crowd that favorize analytical presentation over well balanced and full sounding tonality. If you are a bass head or bass lover, you should stay way from those, as well, if you are very sensible to dynamic presentation, bass and mids will feel too lean and cold. Timbre too might not please everyone due to a thin and dry presentation.
But does it mean it’s all bad? Not at all, since the treble stole the show here and it’s not just about one spike that wow you with micro details but a full sounding crisp presentation with impressive speed, high clarity and beautifully open presentation. I just wish i can say bass and treble doesn’t feel compressed under this fizzy liveliness.
So, while i do not highly recommend those due to lack of versatility (and musicality) of it’s tuning, I do think it’s a legit upgrade for the fans of Moondrop SSR and Spaceship (unless you are seeking more bass than those 2).

———

PS: This review sample was provided to me by Hifigo. I have no affiliation nor any money compensation, so this is all time i loose volontarily to offer my subjective appreciation of an ultra budget IEM.
You can buy the Moondrop CHU here:
https://hifigo.com/products/moondrop-chu

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