Moondrop Variations IEM Review
Moondrop Variations IEM Review
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 Variations is the first TriBrid IEM of the company that features a driver combination of 1x10mm Dynamic Driver (Bass) + 2xBA Driver (Midrange) + 2xEST Driver (Treble) per side that are integrated in to a 3D printed monitor shell made of medical grade resin material which has a finely sandblasted design for more skin-friendly surface.
- Moondrop Website: https://www.moondroplab.com
I would like to thank Moondrop for providing me the Variations IEM 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 Variations is around $520,00 USD. More information’s can be found under the link below;
Package and Accessories:
The Moondrop Varitions comes in a black box with the Moondrop logo on the top, which is wrapped with a fancy white cardboard sleeve that has some product related illustrations on its surfaces.
The box contains the following items/accessories;
- 1x pair of Moodrop Variations In-Ear Monitor
- 1x Detachable PCC coaxial Single Crystal Copper Cable with 2-Pin Connectors
- 3x Headphone Plug Adaptors (3.5mm Single Ended/2.5mm balanced/4.4mm Balanced)
- 3x pairs of Silicone Ear Tips
- 3x pairs of Foam Ear Tips
- 6x pairs of spare screens and filters
- 1x Tweezers (for filter installation)
- 1x Zipper case
- 1x Print Material (Warranty Card, Product Instruction, etc.)
Design, Build Quality and Fit:
The Moondrop Variations is a beautiful looking In-Ear Monitor with a semi-custom shape that has a pretty unique design character. The monitor shell is produced with the latest DLP 3D printing technology from “Heygears Technology” with the use of medical-grade UV resin to archive a precise, transparent and a solid appearance.
Inside the monitor shell is a very sophisticated Hybrid Crossover Design and a Tri-Brid Driver Configuration. The Tri-Brid setup is a combination of 1x 10mm Diameter DD with LCP liquid crystal diaphragm (Lows), 2x Softears-D-Mid-B Customized Balanced Armature Driver (Midrange) and 2x Sonion Electrostatic Drivers (Treble).
On the front of the monitors is the Stainless Steel faceplate that is one of the main design elements of the Moondrop Variations.
At the back side of the monitor shells are the slightly angled sound nozzles with three openings on the top that are part of the 3-Way Crossover Design.
One of the openings on each monitor nozzle has a special Knowles Acoustic Damper.
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 overall build quality of the Variations is decent, which fulfills the expectations from a product at this price level.
The Moondrop Variations comes with a 6N High Purity PCC Coaxial Single Crystal Copper detachable cable with 0.78mm diameter 2-Pin connectors. Each cable core has an independent insulation.
The cable itself has a soft PVC insulation that shows a very low microphonic effect.
The 0.78mm diameter 2-Pin connectors do have a semi-transparent plastic housing.
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 chin slider and metal Y splitter in black color. The Y splitter has a Moondrop branding on its surface.
The main attraction of the cable is the Patented Interchangeable Plug design that is a combination of a female connector that is located on the located at the end of the cable and the detachable male plug adaptors.
The cable comes with three plug adaptor options, which are 3.5mm Single-Ended (TRS), 2.5mm Balanced (TRRS) & 4.4mm Balanced Pentaconn (TRRRS) adaptors.
The adaptors do have an L-angled profile and do come with a soft but durable plastic housing in black color.
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 Variations has a quite ergonomic monitor design thanks to its semi-custom inner surface shape that fits to my average sized ear concha’s without to hurt them even after long listening periods.
The passive noise isolation on the other hand is above average with the right tips selection. It is efficient enough for the use in fairly noise environments such like public transportations including bus, metro, or trains.
Paring & Drivability:
The Moondrop Variations has an impedance of 15.2Ω @1kHz and shows a sensitivity of about 118dB/Vrms @1kHz, which can give the impression of an easy to driver IEM. However, the Variations can be driven with Smartphone’s or Tablets that do have a 3.5mm headphone jack, while it shows its true potential if you pair it more powerful sources such like DAP’s (FiiO M11 Pro, HiBy RS6), DAC/AMP Dongles (ddHiFi TC35 Pro, iBasso DC03) or Portable Amplifiers (FiiO Q5s).
- Driver Configuration : Tri-Brid
- Driver Types : 1x DD + 2x BA (Softears-D-Mid-B) + 2x Sonion EST
- Frequency Response : 9-40kHz (IEC61094,Free Field)
- Sensitivity : 118dB/Vrms @1kHz
- Impedance : 15.2Ω @1kHz土15%
- THD : < 1% @1kHz
- Cable Length : about 1.2m
Sources used for this review:
- IEM’s : Moondrop Variations, Oriveti OH500, Final Audio B1
- DAP/DAC’s : HiBy RS6, iBasso DX220 MAX, FiiO M11 Pro, ddHiFi TC35 Pro
Albums & tracks used for this review:
- Adele – My Little Love (Spotify)
- Randy Crawford – On Day I Will Fly Away (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- 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)
- Elton John – Rocket Man ((Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- 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)
- Bro Safari, UFO! – Drama (Deezer HiFi)
- Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (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)
- 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 Variations is the Tri-Brid IEM from Moondrop that shows the characteristics of the companies VDSF frequency curve target, which shows some similarities to the actual Harman Neutral curve. The Variations shows some mildly colorations in the subbass, upper midrange and treble regions. The bass is fast, dynamic and controlled; the midrange is transparent, detailed and lively, while the treble region is reproduced with a good sense of clarity, definition and extension without to sound sharp or unnatural.
This review is has been written after a burn-in period of 100 Hours. I have used the stock silicone ear tips and the stock cable that are included to the package. My main sound source are the HiBy RS6, iBasso DX220 MAX, FiiO M11 Pro and the ddHiFi TC35 Pro.
The Bass of the Moondrop Variations is produced with a newly developed 10mm liquid crystal diaphragm composite copper inner cavity diaphragm dynamic driver.
This driver is able to produce an impressive subbass performance with a powerful, deep and well extending presentation. The subbass area of the Variations shows a good amount of intensity without to affect the overall clarity and offers also a nice sense of rumble when I do listen to songs such like Lorde’s “Royals”, Massive Attack’s “Angle” or Bro Safari, UFO! “Drama”.
The midbass area of the Variations is slightly less highlighted compared to the subbass region; however sounds tight and controlled. This area is able to produce a good level of impact and body when I do listen to instruments such like drums and trumpets, while I would wish a tad more intensity for instruments such like cellos and violas. The Variations offers solid performance in this area with a wide variety of genres, from pop to jazz, from electronic to metal music.
The general bass performance of the Moondrop Variations is decent, especially in terms of speed, clarity and layering, which will be more noticeable after some burn-in.
The Variations shows an impressive midrange performance same like any Moondrop product that I have listened to date. It shows a slightly warmer than neutral tonality and is produced with a great sense of clarity, airiness and detail retrieval with almost any song that I have listen to it.
The midrange of the Moondrop Variations creates an ideal atmosphere for vocals that do sounds in general quite intimate and musical to my ears. Both male and female vocals do sound pretty natural, transparent and lively. The lower midrange a moderate level of depth and intensity that is sufficient to show a good sense of warmth and fullness when I do listen to vocals such like Sting, Elton John or David Bowie up to Barry White and Isaac Hayes.
When it comes to female voices, the Variations sound nicely realistic and effortless to my ears with good sense of detailed retrieval and realism. I can easily hear emotions such like saddens, happiness, etc. when I do listen to Adele, Sertap Erener, Randy Crawford or Sarah McLachlan.
Instruments on the other hand are slightly more in the background compared to vocals. The tonality is mildly warm, while the timbre natural timbre is one of the highlights that the Moondrop Variations offers. Instruments like violins are slightly bright in tonality towards the top end, while guitar strings are reproduced in a pretty clear and detailed manner. Other instruments such like a piano are reproduced with a good level of extension along with a natural touch of brightness. One other strength of the Moondrop Variations is the decent sense of authority, which was pretty audible even in quite complex passages, such like those in jazz or metal music.
Upper Midrange & Treble:
The Moondrop Variations shows a pretty natural upper midrange presentation that is transparent, controlled and detailed. The transitions of this region towards the lower treble area are controlled and fatigue-free with most tracks and genres I have listen to it.
The upper midrange tuning of the Moondrop Variations adds the overall presentation lively, transparent and airy atmosphere when I do listen to vocals and instruments such like violins, flutes and pianos.
The EST drivers that are also described as capacitive electroacoustic transducers are responsible for the treble presentation of the Moondrop Variations, which sounds pretty energetic, fairly bright and detailed. This makes it successful with a wide variety of genres from pop to jazz, from metal music to electronic music.
The lower treble region is one of the highlights of the Moondrop Variations that offers a good sense of intensity and extension when I do listen to instruments such like hi-hats and crash cymbals. This area sound natural and detailed, and is also able to produce a decent level of clarity and definition without to sound overly bright, dry or sharp.
The upper treble region of the Moondrop Variation is slightly less highlighted compared to the lower treble area, and shows a mildly peak around the 8 kHz region. This region shows in general a good sense of presence with a wide variety of instrument such like strings, woodwinds and pianos. The upper treble region adds the overall presentation a nice sense of airiness and sparkle that was especially audible when I do listen to crash cymbals and snare drums in metal and jazz music.
Soundstage & Imaging:
The Moondrop Variations offers solid performance in terms of separation and placement of instruments and vocals with its pretty wide and deep soundstage atmosphere. The openness of the stage gives the overall presentation a good sense of airiness while listen to songs with high instrument density.
Moondrop Variations versus Oriveti OH500:
The Oriveti OH500 is a Hybrid IEM with a 4BA+1DD driver configuration that shows a smoother, denser and warmer overall tonality. Both the OH500 and Variations are pretty successful In-Ear Monitors in terms of subbass depth and rumble, however the Moondrop Variations has the edge when it comes to the control and decay in this area.
The midbass region of the Oriveti OH500 is more highlighted, since it shows a higher sense of intensity and impact. The Moondrop Variations on the other side is superior when it comes to the clarity, resolution and level of tightness in this area, while the speed is pretty equal.
The midrange of the Moondrop Variations has a more natural tonality and realistic timbre, than those of the Oriveti OH500, which shows more coloration in this area with its warmth and fullness. The Variations has also the upper hand in terms of transparency, airiness and general resolution in this area that is especially audible in songs with many instruments. The Moondrop Variations is superior when I do listen to female vocals or instruments like flutes or pianos with its highlighted upper midrange character, while the Oriveti OH500 is more successful with male vocals and instruments such like violas and acoustic guitars.
Both the upper midrange and treble region of the Moondrop Variations is more highlighted and detailed compared to those of the Oriveti OH500, which has an overall smoother presentation. The upper midrange and treble region of the Variations shows a better sense of extension and resolution. Both the lower and upper treble region of the Oriveti OH500 is smoother, fuller and warmer than those of the Moondrop Variations, which makes it ideal for longer listening periods.
Both IEM’s are successful in terms of separation and placement of instruments and vocals while the Moondrop Variations has the upper hand when it comes to the wideness and airiness of the stage, while both are similar in terms of soundstage depth.
Moondrop Variations versus Final Audio B1:
The Final Audio B1 comes with a 1BA+1DD hybrid driver configuration, but has a higher price tag with 699 USD.
The subbass region of the Final AUdio B1 is less highlighted compared to the Moondrop Variations, which offers a better level of depth and rumble in this area. The Variations has also the upper hand when it comes to the decay and speed in this area, while the difference is not very high.
The midbass region of the Final Audio B1 is noticeably more pronounced and full bodied than those of the Moondrop Variations, which shows a more natural and balanced tuning in this area. The midbass of the B1 is also more impactful and has higher level of depth than those of the Variations. However, the Variations is superior when it comes to the speed, control and resolution in this frequency region.
The Moondrop Variations has a more natural and balanced midrange tuning, with a better sense of transparency and airlines. Both vocals and instruments so sound more realistic and detailed when I listen to the Variations. The Final Audio B1 on the other hand has a warmer and fuller midrange character, with a higher level of coloration in this area.
The upper midrange and the lower treble area of the Moondrop Variations sounds more detailed, rich and vivid than those of the Final Audio B1, which is smoother and relaxed in this region. The B1 has a slightly more highlighted upper treble tuning that adds it a slightly better sense of airiness and sparkle in this area.
Both IEM’s are pretty successful in terms of separation and placement of instruments and vocals. The main difference is that the Moondrop Variations shows a better level of airiness and soundstage wideness, while the depth of the stage is fairly similar.
The Moondrop Variations is a decent looking and sounding Tri-Brid IEM, which offers a very natural, balanced and musical presentation thanks to its well-adjusted VDSF Target Frequency Response. This sound character makes it to a highly versatile In-Ear Monitor that shows a great performance with a wide variety of music genres. Moreover, it comes with a beautiful carry case and an interchangeable headphone plug design that are also some nice additions.
All in all, highly recommended!
Pros & Cons:
- + Highly Versatile Sound Tuning (VDSF Target Response)
- + Subbass Depth, Overall Bass Speed & Authority, Control
- + Midrange Tuning (Clarity, Resolution, Tonality)
- + Natural and Detailed Treble Response
- + Look & Feel
- + Rich set of accessories (Case, Interchangeable Headphone Plugs, Silicone Tips, etc.)
- – Not an Ideal Choice if you are a Basshead
- – May not ideal for ears with a small ear-concha
Thank you for the Read!