Review - Moondrop Aria

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Also available on YouTube in Spanish: Acho Reviews YouTube 

The Moondrop Aria was offered to me with a discount by HifiGo, for which I am grateful as this was an IEM that I was very interested in trying due to my previous good experiences with Moondrop.

I have not received any specific requests from HifiGo, so, as always, these will be my own opinions, keeping them as honest and unbiased as possible, but it is always good to take into consideration that I have received a discount in exchange for this review.

You can visit the HifiGo store here: www.hifigo.com and can purchase the Aria from them here: HifiGo - Moondrop Aria.


Intro…

I just said that I have good experiences with Moondrop, I have not yet heard an IEM from them that I dislike. Yes, some are better than others, as is to be expected, but the general tuning curve that they follow is one that I do not find offensive in any way. They do have slight variations of the tuning on different models, such as the difference between the SSR and SSP, where both IEMs are decent but are flavoured slightly different for different personal preferences (or moods).

I have also been listening to the Moondrop Blessing 2 Dusk for a while now, although I have not yet reviewed it due to reasons that I will explain in its review, when I finally get it done! Taking advantage of this brief mention of the Dusk, let me quickly say that the Aria are not in the same playing field as the Dusk, however, that is not surprising seeing that the Dusk are four times the price of the Aria. I will go more into detail on the Dusk once I get that far.

However, one set of IEMs that I have been listening to for around a year now, and is totally relevant to this review, are the Moondrop Starfield (review here). The Starfield have been my go to IEMs for a long time and have always been my personal recommendation for IEMs around 100€. The Aria are the closest contender yet and come in around 30€ cheaper than the Starfield. 

So, do the Aria replace the Starfield as my “go to” IEMs under 100€?

I will make some comparisons throughout this review in order to find out.


Presentation…

The presentation of the Aria is very reminiscent of the Starfield, although the box shape is slightly different.

The box is another cardboard sleeve, with an anime girl on the front, from which box slides out from the inside. In the box we find the IEMs, the cable, a transport case and various sets of silicone tips..

For a set of 70€ IEMs, there is plenty of content and the presentation, while I am not someone interested in Anime, is pretty decent.


Build and aesthetics…

Starting with the IEMs, the build and shape is very similar (although not identical) to the Starfield. There are a few less curves on the Aria, with the faceplate being a little flatter. The size is also almost identical, with the Aria being just a little thinner overall. I find both sets very comfortable, again, almost identical, although the Aria does seem just a mm or two smaller, making them that tiny bit more comfortable.

One thing that is completely different is the finish on the IEMs. The Starfields have a beautiful sparkly blue/purple finish which is very delicate. My Starfields have a few chips in the paint and I have never dropped them, it is just from the usual random clicks together while using or storing them. The Aria opts for a much simpler matte black finish with gold highlights (lines) on the faceplate. While they don’t look as impressive as the Starfield, they do look like they will withstand the usual scrapes a little better.

I have absolutely no issues with the build quality, or aesthetics, of the Aria. The cable, however, is not quite the same story.

I have seen people praise the Aria cable and say they much prefer it over the Starfield cable but my experience does not match I’m afraid. The cable included with the Aria is a fabric covered cable which spends more time being untangled than actually in use. Due to the type fabric used to cover the cable, this not only keeps the general form that it was packed with (at least for the few weeks I have had them) but also decides to adapt any form that is not the one I want. After dealing with untangling it every time I wanted to use it, I finally gave up and started using the Starfield cable. The Starfield cable is not excellent but it is a 100 times better than the one included with the Aria, at least in my opinion.


Sound…

Now, if the aesthetics and build of the Aria and Starfield are almost identical, the sound is just as close. I am going to go through the usual steps of my reviews but I will say that, when using foam tips on both, it is very difficult to notice the difference between, although there are a few noticeable differences when comparing them directly.

As is the case with the Starfields, I prefer the Xelastec tips but due to the hassles of using them for comparisons, I have performed the detailed listening and comparisons for this review using foam tips on both.

Subbass

The sub bass extension is very good, reaching quite low and with a presence that is very similar in quantity to the Harman target, although it is portrayed in a different way due to differences in the higher bass regions that I will mention in just a moment.

There is enough subbass to present the necessary rumble in those areas on tracks that need it, such as “No Santuary Here” by Marian Herzog feat Chris Jones. I have switched back and forth between the Starfield and Aria and really can’t notice a difference when the same tips, cables and sources are used. 

While the subbass does have good presence and quantity, due to the differences against the Harman target in the higher bass regions, it does not portray itself as overly boosted and may not be enough for those who are looking for a lot of subbass.

Bass

The bass of the Aria, as with the Starfield, is elevated in comparison to the midrange, offering an overall V shape style tuning, similar to the Harman target but with one major difference in the low end. 

Where the Harman target has a more pronounced drop above 80/100Hz up to the higher bass regions around 250/300Hz, the Aria is a much smoother descent. The Aria is more of a slow slope rather than a dip and doesn’t actually meet up again with the Harman target until we are way into the lower mids. This gives the Aria more presence in the mid to higher bass regions, showing around a 3dB difference at the 200Hz mark.

I have repeated many times that I am not a huge fan of neither overly exaggerated bass nor the Harman target, and whilst the Aria has more in the higher bass regions (and lower mids), this actually smooths out the response in the bass region, making it not seem quite as boosted due to it being a smooth roll off from the subbass into the lower mids.

I actually like the frequency response of the Aria (and the Starfield) in these areas and whilst it is not exactly my most preferred, it is a presentation that I find enjoyable and creates a very easy listening experience.

Mids

The transition from the bass into the lower mids is clean due to that smooth descent that I have mentioned. The Aria don’t give a sensation of bass bleed, nor do they come across as recessed in the mids, even if these are at their lowest point around 1kHz.

Vocals are nice and present, without any sensation of lacking presence in their low end, with the majority of mid centric instruments presenting a nice tone and being overall well done.

Female vocals, such as those in “Down To The River To Pray” have a nice body to them while deep male vocals, such as “These Bones”, do not seem overly done in their lower end.

The rise from the center of the mids to the higher mids is more pronounced than the descent from the lower regions, and they don’t drop off immediately after their peak around 2.5 to 3kHz, keeping a similar presence up into the lower treble, which can sometimes make IEMs sound shouty or nasal, but in the case of the Aria this is not the case.

Treble

The Aria present quite a decent extension in the treble range, not seeming to suffer from the typical single DD roll off as much as many other alternatives. There is enough extension and sensation of air for me to find the high ranges enjoyable. It is not on the level of a decent BA treble range but if I had to choose between the single DD of the Aria (or the Starfield) against a not great BA, I would have no doubt about choosing the Aria. However, there are a few times, especially when listening to things like the higher ranges of violins etc., where they can come across as a little harsh in these regions.

They also manage to avoid sibilance, or rather, they don’t add sibilance to the equation. In songs like “Code Cool”, there is just a hint of presence but nothing that is uncomfortable in my opinion.

Speed and detail

Until now, I have only really mentioned tuning, which is something that you will either like or not, depending on your preferences. When we get into the speed and detail, this is where we are reminded that these are 70€ IEMs. 

It is not that they are terrible in regards to speed, far from it, they perform very well for their price category and do not seem lacking in comparison to the Starfield, but there are times when very complicated and busy tracks can show the limitations of the single driver.

I don’t want to put too much emphasis on this lack of speed, like I just said, they are very good for their price range but other well implemented hybrid IEMs will perform better in this regard.

In the details is where they do suffer slightly, but again, depending on what we are comparing to. Compared with the majority of IEMs in their price range, I would say that the presentation of details is pretty much equal or better than the majority. However, when listening to IEMs that are more capable, admittedly more expensive, the limitations do show.

Soundstage and imaging

My biggest surprise with the Aria was how increased the soundstage width is in comparison to the Starfield and to many other options in this price range. Now, it is not night and day, the Aria do not have an extremely wide soundstage (as is the case with most IEMs, especially in this price bracket) but they are noticeably wider than the Starfield and I would place them above average for the IEMs that I have reviewed.

The placement of images inside the soundstage is decent but is not spectacular. I mean, you can easily locate instruments and position them in the soundstage, it is the details behind them that are more difficult to appreciate. 


Conclusion…

Back when I reviewed the Starfield nearly a year ago, they were the first IEMs I purchased that broke the 100€ barrier and they have remained my reference and recommendation for IEMs costing 100€ or less. I have reviewed other IEMs at similar (or cheaper) price points that have been better in a specific category but not as an overall package… until the Aria.

The Aria, in my opinion, is almost a clone of the Starfield as far as sound and comes in at 30€ cheaper. When doing direct comparisons between the Aria and the Starfield, with all else equal, I do sometimes notice small differences but not enough to stand out without direct comparisons. There are obviously also small differences in aesthetics, build and the cable included, with me preferring the Starfield as a personal choice but I would say that you are paying 30€ more for a nicer cable and paint job (that chips easily).

Once thing to also note is that, as with the Starfield, I feel that the Xelastec tips do improve it overall in comparison to the foam tips I used in this review. They seem (with Xelastecs) slightly more open and the details are slightly easier to appreciate. Again, not night and day but certainly a noticeable improvement.

I am very pleased with the Moondrop Aria and have no doubt that I would recommend it (along with the Starfield) as my preference under 100€.

SenyorC