Moondrop KATO IEM Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moondrop KATO IEM Review

 

 

Introduction:

 Moondrop is a popular Chinese Portable Audio brand that was once a small studio by several hobbyist engineers, which has been emerged in 2015 with focus on products like Earbuds and In-Ear Monitors.

Their first product was the VX that was an Earbud, while the company gained popularity after the “Liebesleid” in 2017. Moondrop released some IEM’s including the earliest “IX” with unique design and interesting sound, the “KANAS” series and other IEM’s like the “Blessing”, “A8” and “Reference” who justified Moondrop us as premium IEM manufacturer. The KXXS is also a very popular IEM of the company that came with a 10mm Dynamic Driver and Diamond like Carbon (DLC) Diaphragm.

The KATO that I will now review for you adopts modernist & aesthetic design elements from KANAS and the KXXS, while it comes with some remarkable new features such like the Brand New 10mm Diameter Super-Linear Dynamic Driver with the so called Ultra-Linear-Technology (ULT) that is equipped with the 3rd Generation DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) composite diaphragm. The other new feature is the use of the so called “MIM powder metallurgy technology”, which makes the irregular three-dimensional appearance of the KATO shell design possible.

 

 

 

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank Moondrop for providing me the KATO In-Ear Monitor for review purposes. I am not affiliated with Moondrop beyond this review and these words reflect my true and unaltered opinions about the product.

 

 

 

 

Price & Availability:

The actual price of the Moondrop KATO is $189,99 USD and is available in two options, which are “Matte Steel” and the “Mirror Silver” one like my review unit. More information’s can be found under the link below;

 

 

 

 

Package and Accessories:

The Moondrop KATO came inside a very attractive black box that has on both ends foldable lids with the KATO branding in the center. This box is wrapped white a cardboard sleeve that has some product related illustrations such like an Anime character and the Kato logo on the top, while the rear surface shows specifications and technical details about the product.

 

Inside the box are the following items/accessories;

  • 1 x pair of Moondrop KATO In-Ear Monitor
  • 1 x Detachable Cable with 2-Pin Connectors
  • 3 x pairs of Moondrop Special Spring Silicone Ear Tips
  • 3 x pairs of Foam Ear Tips
  • 2 x pairs of Sound Tuning Nozzles (2x Stainless Steel & 2x Brass)
  • 1 x Leather Case with Magnetic Lid
  • 1 x Carry Pouch1 x Print Material (Warranty Card, Product Instruction)

 

The box of the KATO comes with a pretty rich set of accessories, which includes 6 pairs of ear tips. 3 pairs are Moondrop’s Newly Self-Designed Silicone Tips with a unique diffusion structure, while the other 3 pairs are regular but quite comfortable foam tips.

The KATO comes also with some nice additions such like a stylish leather case and a small carry pouch.

The stylish leather case is of high quality, which has a magnetic lid.

 

 

 

Design, Build Quality and Fit:

The Moondrop KATO is nice looking IEM that continues the design elements from Kanas to KXXS. However, the Moondrop Design Team add this time a three-dimensional surface layering to create a nice shadow and light effect on the surface. This was possible to archive with the brand-new MIM technology, which is powder metallurgy process that made it possible to create the unique high-intensity and irregular appearance of the KATO. Each monitor has been hand grinded and polished to give the surface a mirror like smooth effect.

Inside the heart of the Moondrop KATO is a brand new 10mm Diameter Super-Linear Dynamic Driver with the so called Ultra-Linear-Technology (ULT) that is equipped with the 3rd Generation DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) composite diaphragm.

On the front of the monitor shell that is called also called “faceplate” is the KATO logo with description “Moondrop Presents”. If you look a little bit closer to the logo, you will see a nice detail, the O letter of the KATO logo has L (left) and R (right) markings depending of monitor side.

The inner surface of the monitor shell is one of the main attractions in terms of design, which has these unique irregular shapes that does cerate a nice shadow and light effect.

Here is also a vent hole for the 10mm Diameter Super-Linear Dynamic Driver an the interchangeable sound tuning nozzle that can be unscrewed to replace it with the second filter that offers a slightly different sound signature.

The sound nozzles are made of two different materials one from steel and one from brass material. The KATO comes with a metal plate where you can screw in these nozzles, which is a nice addition.

The sound tuning nozzle is equipped with a brand-new improved third-generation patented anti-blocking filter, which has better anti-blocking effect, and can prevent dust or ear-wax from blocking the filters, which could damage the internals over time.

On the top of the monitor shell is the recessed 0.78mm diameter 2-Pin female connector that offers a tight and secure fit to the male connectors.

The monitors do show a solid build quality same like other Moondrop products I have reviewed before.

 

 

Cable:

The Moondrop KATO comes with a High-Purity Silver Plated Copper cable with a 4-core “Star Stranded Structure”, which effectively reduces microphonic and proximity effect.

This cable is coated with improved high-permeability mixed materials, which offers an low dielectric coefficient and also a nice appearance.

The 0.78mm diameter 2-Pin connectors do have transparent plastic housings with Left and Right markings.

Near the connectors are PVC heat-shrink ear guides that are useful for a comfortable over the ear wearing experience.

The cable sports a metal Y splitter in silver color that has the Moondrop branding on its surface.

The 3.5mm Single Ended (TRS) headphone plug comes with a straight profiled metal housing that sports a plastic strain relief for extra durability.

I do like the cable that looks pretty durable and that doesn’t shows any negative experiences such like microphonic effects and/or mixings.

 

 

 

 

Fit, Comfort & Isolation:

The Moondrop KATO has a pretty small shaped monitor design that fits perfect in to my average sized ear concha’s, which makes it ton an ideal IEM for long listening periods.

The passive noise isolation of KATO is on a moderate level when I use them with Moondrop’s Special Spring Silicone Ear Tips, which are efficient enough for the use in fairly noise environments such like public transportations including bus, metro, or trains.

 

 

 

Paring & Drivability:

The Moondrop KATO is fairly easy to drive In-Ear Monitor that has an impedance of 32Ω and a sensitivity of about 123dB, which makes it compatible with relative weak sources such like Smartphone’s or Tablets.

 

 

 

 

Technical Specifications:

  • Driver Type                 : 10mm Diameter ULT dynamic driver
  • Diaphragm Type         : 3rd Generation DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) Composite
  • Frequency Response : 10Hz-45kHz (IEC61094, Free Field)
  • Sensitivity                   : 123dB/Nrms (@1KHz)
  • Impedance                 : 32Ω±15% (@1KHz)
  • Distortion                    : < 0.15% (@1khz, AES17 20khz, A-weight)
  • Cable Length              : about 1.2m
  • Cable Plug                  : 3.5mm Single Ended
  • Socket/Connector       : 0.78-2Pin Sunken Design

 

 

 

 

 

Sources used for this review: 

  • IEM’s              : Moondrop KATO, Whizzer HE03AL, Final Audio B2
  • DAP/DAC’s   : iBasso DX300, FiiO M11 Pro, iBasso DC03, ddHiFi TC35 Pro, FiiO Q5s

 

 

 

 

 

Albums & tracks used for this review:

  • Hayley Westenra – Odyssey Album (Dezzer HiFi)
  • Dionne Warwick – Walk On By (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Sarah McLachlan – Angel (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Sertap Erener – Aşk (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Edith Piaf – Non Je Ne Regrette Rien (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Diana Krall – So Wonderful (DSF)
  • Aretha Franklin – I Say A Little Payer (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • David Bowie – Heroes (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Barry White – Just The Way You Are (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Isaac Hayes – Walk On By (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Sting – Englishman in New York – (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Really Slow Motion – Deadwood (Deezer HiFi)
  • Jo Blankenburg – Meraki (Spotify)
  • Lorde – Royal (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Toutant – Rebirth (Deezer HiFi)
  • Portishead – It Could Be Sweet (Spotify)
  • Charly Antolini – Duwadjuwandadu (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Chopin – Nocturn No. 20 In C-Sharp Minor (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Fazıl Say – Nazım Oratoryosu (Live) (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Deezer HiFi)
  • Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Lunatic Soul – The Passage (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Deftones – My Own Summer (Shove it) (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Opeth – Windowpane (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Rush’s – Leave That Thing Alone (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Slayer – Angel of Death (Spotify)s
  • Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Spotify)
  • Yosi Horikawa – Bubbles (Spotify)

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sound:

The Moondrop KATO shows a sound signature that is pretty close to the Harman Neutral frequency curve with minor tweaks of the Moondrop Team, lower midrange, lower- and upper treble regions, which is called the VDSF target.

The tonality of the KATO is slightly warmer than neutral that is produced in the lower midrange area. Bass notes are pretty controlled clean and do show an above detail retrieval. The midrange is quite natural, transparent and airy, while the treble region shows a nice sense of clarity and definition with moderate level of extension.

 

Differences between Steel & Brass Sound Nozzle:

The Moondrop KATO comes with two Sound Tuning Filter that are placed to an metal plate, which are the Steel and the Brass nozzle. The main difference between the Brass and Steel filter is the treble response. The treble region, especially the upper treble register of the Steel nozzle is slightly more highlighted and shows a bit more airiness and sparkle compared to the Brass nozzle. The treble extension is a tad shorter when I use the KATO with the Brass nozzle.

 

This review has been written after a burn-in period of 65 – 70 Hours. I have used the KATO with Moondrop’s Special Spring Silicone Ear Tips and the stock Silver Plated Copper Cable that are included to the package. My sound impression below are mainly based with “Steel Sound Nozzle”, paired with source like the iBasso DX300, FiiO M11 Pro and ddHiFi TC35 Pro (Eye).

 

  

Bass:

The Moondrop KATO offers a pretty exiting bass response, which shows the right amount of quantity, coloration and depth for a versatile presentation in this area. This tuning makes the KATO suitable for a wide variety of music genres such like jazz to rock, from metal to electronic music without to sound overwhelming or the opposite boring or dry.

Both the sub- and midbass area adds the overall presentation a nice sense of dynamism and weight without to affect the clarity and naturalness. The subbass region of the KATO is able to produce an efficient level of depth, intensity and rumble when I have listen to songs like Lorde’s “Royals”, Massive Attack’s “Angle” or Jo Blankenburg’s “Meraki”. This area stands out with its authority and clarity, while the depth and rumble should satisfy most listeners, except true bass heads.

The midbass region of the KATO shows pretty natural tonality along with a good level of depth, impact and decay. For example, string instruments like acoustic guitars and cellos do have a good amount of fullness and weight, while drums like snare and kick drums are impactful without to sound veiled or muddy, even in complex bass passages.

The bass of the KATO adds the overall presentation a nice mount of warmth and fullness without to lose the sense of control, clarity and detail retrieval, which is one of the highlights in this area.

 

 

 

Midrange:

The Moondrop KATO has a slightly warmer than neutral tonality that comes from the mildly pronounced lower midrange region. The midrange shows a very good sense of openness, transparency and detail retrieval for a Single Dynamic Driver IEM at this price level that moreover satisfies with its quite natural timbre when I do listen to both male and female vocals and to a wide variety of instruments.

The upper midrange of the Moondrop KATO is more highlighted and energetic compared to the lower midrange area. The lower midrange shows a moderate level of body and depth when I do listen to male vocals such like Isaac Hayes, Sting or David Bowie and to instruments like strings or snare drums, while the transparency of this area does increase the sense of detail.

The upper midrange is one of the highlights that the KATO offers. It’s detailed, energetic and shows a good level of clarity and extension when I do listen to instruments like violins, flutes or pianos. Female vocals like on the other such like Edith Piaf, Sertap Erener or Hayley Westenra do sound pretty lively and emotional without to show any remarkable sibilance or harshness.

The Moondrop KATO will impress you with its natural and lively midrange presentation, which shows also a decent sense of clarity and resolution, without to have any remarkable weaknesses such like unnaturalness, sharpness or dryness.

 

 

 

Treble:

The treble range of the Moondroop KATO shows a moderately bright, fatigue free yet detailed tuning with mildly peaks that are visible in some graphs around the 8 kHz and 12 kHz region that do add presence and brilliance to this area.

The transitions from the upper midrange towards the lower treble area are fairly controlled for example when electro guitars in metal do play with high level of distortion.

The lower treble area is moderately emphasized that shows a controlled roll-off after the 4 kHz region. Instruments like hi-hats or snare drums are reproduced with a sufficient sense of presence and definitions, while the extension is slightly short. Sporano vocals and instruments like violins and pianos are reproduced with a good level of clarity and detail retrieval.

This upper treble region has a peak around the 8 kHz region, which is a popular adjustment these days that has added a nice sense of brightness /sparkle to the Moondrop KATO when I do listen to woodwinds like a flute or oboe, to brass instruments like a trumpet or strings like violins and cellos.

The treble range of the KATO shows in general a good level of resolution and separation, and is free of sharpness and oversaturation which makes it ideal for a wide variety of genres and for longer listening periods.

 

Soundstage & Imaging:

The Moondrop KATO has a pretty suitable soundstage atmosphere for a nicely precise separation and placement of instruments and vocals for a product at this price level. The soundstage shows a good sense of wideness and airiness, while the depth is on a moderate level

 

 

 

Some Comparisons:

 

Moondrop KATO versus Meze Audio RAI Solo:

The Moondrop KATO and the Meze Audio RAI Solo do come with a solid and esthetic looking metal shell and do offer a pretty good fit and comfort.

The RAI Solo has a warmer tonality compared to the compared to the KATO which has a Harman neutral tuning.

The subbass region of the KATO shows a better level of depth, intensity and rumble, while both IEM’s do offer a good sense of control in this area. The midbass area of the KATO is a bit more impactful, while it is superior in terms of resolution.

The midrange of the Meze Audio RAI Solo has a slightly warmer tonality than those of the Moondrop KATO which comes from an additional elevation in the lower midrange area. The KATO on the other has a more natural, transparent and detailed midrange presentation due to the more accented and energetic upper midrange character.

The lower treble region of the RAI Solo is noticeably more highlighted which gives it the slightly edge in terms of presence and extension in this area, while the KATO shows a better level of resolution and extension in the upper treble register.

When it comes to the soundstage performance, I can say that the Moondrop KATO is more successful in terms of airiness and wideness, while both IEM’s are pretty equal when it comes to the depth of the stage.

 

 

Moondrop KATO versus Final Audio B2:

The monitor shell of both IEM’s has an irregular appearance and is produced with the same MIM (Metal Injection Molding) metallurgy process. The comfort of the KATO is slightly better, while both IEM do have an average passive noise isolation performance.

The Final Audio B2 has a slightly warmer tonality and sounds smoother fro the highs up to the lows. The KATO has a more dynamic lower frequency response with better sense of subbass depth and rumble. The midbass area of the Final Audio B2 shows less intensity, depth and impact while the both IEM’s are controlled.

The midrange of the Final Audio B2 shows a warmer tonality and a more lush sounding character, while the Moondrop KATO has a brighter and more neutral presentation with better level of clarity and airiness. The lower midrange of the B2 shows slightly more body and depth, which gives it an advantage for male vocals and with instruments such like guitars or violas. The upper midrange of the KATO offers a better level of clarity and resolution when I do listen to female vocals or to instruments like violins and pianos.

The lower treble region of the Final Audio B2 is more highlighted, while it slightly lacks in terms of clarity and definition in direct comparison to the Moondrop KATO. The upper treble region of both IEM’s is smooth and controlled, which makes them ideal for longer listening periods.

The stage of the Moondrop KATO sounds in general slightly more airy and has also the upper hand in terms of wideness. The Campfire Audio Comet shows less width but offers a bit more sense of depth.

 

 

 

Conclusion:

The KATO is a solid piece of audio gear with its beautiful polished “Stainless Steel” monitor shell, which shows a pretty unique appearance due to the irregular shape that looks very classy. When it comes to the sound performance, I can say that the Moondrop team created another winner. The well implemented highly versatile Harman Neutral tuning with its VDSF target frequency cure offers a pretty mature bass response, clear and detailed midrange character and a treble presentation that is suitable for a wide variety of music genres. All this aspects do make the KATO to a great IEM choice in this price range.

 

 

 

Pros & Cons:

  • + Well Implemented Harman Neutral Tuning (VDSF Target)
  • + Pretty Balanced & Controlled Bass Response
  • + Transparent & Detailed Midrange Presentation
  • + Smooth & Natural Treble Character
  • + Beautiful & Comfortable Monitor Design
  • + Good Cable & Rich Set of Accessories (Leather Case, Spring Silicone Tips, etc.)

 

  • – Polished metal surface may prone for scratches
  • – No other for such a good sounding IEM at this price range

 

Thank you for the Read!

 

 

 

 

 

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