The Aria is the latest single DD IEM from Moondrop. Like the previous Starfield and KXXS models, it uses a 10mm dynamic driver but the diaphragm material is now liquid crystal polymer (LCP) rather than carbon nanotube. The Moondrop Aria features an N52 Neodymium magnet and CCAW voice coil and there is also a dual-cavity brass chamber and high frequency waveguide. Sensitivity is quoted as 122dB/mW and an impedance of 32 ohms is specified. The Aria retails for around $80 (£60), which is considerably less than the previous models.
The Aria comes in Moondrop’s traditional style with an outer sleeve featuring a cute romantic waifu figure on the front and a list of specifications and a frequency graph on the reverse. Removing the sleeve reveals a black box with a design of curved gold lines surrounding the name “Aria” in a classic script font. Inside, the earpieces are presented in a foam cut-out. A flap with similar graphics to the box lifts up to reveal the black textured case which contains the cable and tips. The contents comprise: Moondrop Aria IEMs, 0.78mm 2-pin cable, round zipped case, 6 pairs of silicone eartips, 6 pairs of spare nozzle filters, plastic tweezers (for filter replacement) & documentation.
The packaging and presentation has a premium feel and is commensurate with a much higher price.
Build and Design
The earpieces are made from CNC formed aluminium finished in matt black and decorated with curved gold linear accents similar to those on the box. They are fairly weighty but perfectly balanced. The name “Aria” is written on the side of the earpiece and the 2-pin sockets are recessed. There is a circular vent for the dynamic driver on the inner surface and another at the base of the nozzle, which is fitted with a replaceable mesh cover. The faceplates are smoothly contoured and the build quality is excellent.
The supplied cable is a two-core silver plated OFC type with a braided fabric wrap. It has a black metal 90° 3.5mm plug, Y-split and chin slider. The 2-pin connectors are made of black plastic and feature channel identification. The pre-formed earguides are supple and comfortable. Although it had a nice feel, the cable was rather prone to tangling and I also encountered a problem with the connection as the left earpiece constantly became detached. The sound impressions below have been described using the stock cable, but because of this insecure connection, I did also listen with a TRI Through silver plated cable. Using this, the soundstage became more expansive and the bass gained some more impact.
Fit and Isolation
The Aria was tested using the stock cable and medium stock silicone tips which provided an excellent fit and seal and the earpieces were secure and snug. Isolation was acceptable for most situations.
An Xduoo X20 DAP was used as the principal source and the recommended burn-in period of 100 hours was carried out. Moondrop have tuned the Aria to their in-house target curve called Virtual Diffusion Sound Field (VDSF) which is broadly similar to the classic Harman profile.
The Aria sounded excellent straight out of the box with an open, clean and lively sound which was very engaging. The profile was a gentle W or U shape with a moderate sub bass emphasis and a lift in the treble which was set a little higher than in the standard Harman curve. Bass was tight and well textured, midrange was clear and expressive and treble detailed and extended. There was a good balance between the technical and the musical. The rich harmonic reproduction was responsible for a very natural timbre, especially on piano and cello. After the recommended 100 hours of burn in the sound became tighter and more focused and the soundstage became more extensive. I also listened via a CD player and a Sony NWZ A15 DAP and found the Aria reproduced the differences in the sources very accurately.
The bass was slightly elevated in the sub-bass region and gradually transitioned into the midrange with no evidence of bleed. There was a moderate amount of rumble at the lower end of the spectrum. Mid bass had plenty of verve and immediacy, texture and resolution were nicely judged and the timbre was very natural. There was a tuneful, musical quality throughout. Transient response was very impressive with believable attack and natural decay and the separation was also laudable with the different timbres of bass guitar and bass drum playing together clearly differentiated and bass lines in complex productions easy to follow. Recorded ambience was convincingly portrayed as evidenced in cathedral organs where the decay of pedal notes was very spacious and in orchestral bass drums where the initial strike was clean and incisive and the rebound of the skin and decay handled very naturally. The only criticism I have of the bass is that I would have preferred just a little more weight in the sub bass which lacked that last bit of impact and authority.
The lively and clean presentation continued into the midrange which was open, expressive and largely neutral in tonality with perhaps just a hint of coolness. There was a notable transparency and due to the lack of bass bleed and the shifting of the treble emphasis up the frequency range, the midrange gave the impression of being more forward. There was a wealth of detail and occasionally I noticed elements I had not heard before in familiar pieces. The clarity was outstanding and once more there was a good balance between technical prowess and musical expression. Vocal performance was excellent with male soloists displaying good weight and character but set back a little and female singers sounding especially clear and articulate and a bit more forward in the mix. There were few occurrences of sibilance and lyrics were easy to discern.
The high frequencies carried on the trend of the bass and midrange and were especially clear and open with very good extension. They displayed a tonality just on the cool side of neutral. Detail retrieval was admirable with a good deal of subtlety on offer and resolution was of a high standard, with subtle harmonics, for example in violins and high woodwind, being reproduced faithfully and micro-detail very much in evidence. Speed and agility were also notable with a sprightly rhythmic performance worthy of mention. There was an airy quality to the treble arising from the low distortion and once more, musicality was the keynote.
Soundstage and Imaging
The Aria’s soundstage displayed impressive width with the image extending well beyond the ears. Height was also impressive and endowed the stage with a spacious quality. The depth was not as extensive because of the forward nature of the mids but it was still acceptable and this was further improved by the airy nature of the Aria’s presentation. This showed in the layout of orchestras where the perspective was reduced and where percussion and brass did not display the expected sense of distance. Imaging was of a higher standard with good placement and stereo movement, and layering was also very good, especially in electronic music. Separation was well handled and it was easy to follow strands in complex productions.
Whizzer HE01 ($79)
The HE01 has a 10.2mm DD with a 1.2 Tesla magnet. It has a clean, very transparent sound with excellent detail. The bass is impactful, the mids are clear and forward and the treble is detailed and extended. There is a large, spacious and open soundstage. A notable feature is the “dynamic shading” or ability to display subtle changes in volume. The general tonality is warm. The Aria sounds cleaner and more ‘airy’ and even more transparent with a very natural timbre. Resolution and clarity are a step ahead of the HE01 and there is an almost perfect balance across the frequencies.
KBEAR Believe ($180)
I have chosen the Believe to compare with a sound in a higher tier, it is no longer available but illustrates what a high quality single DD model can achieve. It has a 9mm pure Beryllium diaphragm which is unusual in its price range.
The Believe’s sound profile might be described as “natural and effortless”. The timbre is authentic and the overall effect is neutral with a gentle U shape. The bass is nicely judged and well-textured with the focus between the sub- and mid-bass. The mids are neutral and transparent and the treble very smooth and silky-textured with good extension which lends a very natural tone to strings. With the correct tips, the soundstage shows a good extent in all three dimensions and layering and imaging of high quality. It does require robust amplification to give of its best. Though it cannot match the speed, separation and imaging of the Believe’s beryllium driver, the Aria gives a very good account of itself and almost equals the Believe’s resolution. Apart from depth, the Aria’s staging is comparable to that of the Believe. The Aria may be considered more musical rather than majoring on technicalities as the Believe does.
Tin HiFi T4 ($79+)
The T4 possesses the traditional Tin Hifi sound, that is a neutral profile with good extension in the treble and a slightly brighter tonality with good detail, but the bass has more sub-bass weight and power than previous models. The midrange is particularly articulate and expressive, and the treble clear and very transparent. Soundstage is very spacious and airy and better than the Believe, but the Aria displays an equally attractive panorama and is more relaxing to listen to. The T4, like the Believe, excels in technicalities rather than musicality. The Aria is more focused on musical enjoyment and is therefore preferable for long-term listening.
The Aria is very impressive in all departments. It has sumptuous packaging and generous accessories, an impressive build quality and a well balanced, near-neutral profile. It stands out from its competitors by dint of its extremely clean and airy presentation, natural timbre and exceptional clarity. Sub bass could perhaps have been more potent and soundstage a little deeper but these were minor issues, and with a change of cable these were largely resolved. I would recommend that some cable rolling be experimented with to unlock the true potential of the Aria.
With its even-handed presentation it suits multiple genres but I did find it particularly impressive with classical music. The Aria possesses an attractive musicality which encourages further listening and therefore must be considered amongst the top choices in its price bracket.
Moondrop Aria Specifications:
- Driver Unit: LCP liquid crystal diaphragm-10mm diameter double cavity magnetic diaphragm dynamic unit.
- Headphone Socket : 0.78mm 2-pin.
- Sensitivity: 122dB/Vrms (@1kHz)
- Impedance: 32Ω
- Frequency response : 5Hz-36000Hz.
- Effective frequency response: 20Hz~20000Hz.