Review - Moondrop Quarks (sub 50€)

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Intro…

The Moondrop Quarks are a new set of budget IEMs from a brand that I am quite fond of. Coming in at around 10€, there is no doubt that these are aimed at the most economical segment of the market, easily inside the sub 50€ category that I like to mention on Acho Reviews and well below the price of the previous budget offerings I have reviewed from the brand, such as the SSR and SSP.




Presentation…

As is to be expected for 10€, the presentation is very basic and the contents are limited, but they are still presented in a way that is superior to many budget IEMs.

Arriving in a simple, small, black cardboard box (without any sign of anime), the contents consist of the IEMs with their fixed cable, a couple of sets of silicone tips in various sizes, a small card explaining how to wear them correctly, a small carrying bag and a small Moondrop branded velcro cable tie.

I really don’t think much more can be expected at this price!


Build and aesthetics…

My first impression of the Quarks was that they are tiny, I think they are the smallest set of IEMs I have ever had, even smaller than the Hifiman RE line and even the Sony MH755. This means that the IEMs fit easily inside the ear, making them comfortable even when lying on one's side. I have mentioned before that I like to keep a set of small IEMs with me, especially when traveling, in case I want to watch movies or just listen to music while in bed. The Quarks definitely fit the bill.

The build quality is also quite respectable for such a small plastic shell. The shells are transparent, allowing the internals to be seen, and are even colour coded on the backs so that there is no need to search for tiny letters which are usually printed in black on black, almost impossible to read in low light. I like this and congratulate Moondrop on doing something that is so simple but so useful at the same time.

The cable, which is not detachable, is not the highest quality cable in the world, however I don’t really have too many complaints. I do prefer the cloth covered cable of the Hifiman RE series rather than the grey rubberized cable of the Quarks but the amount of tangles seems to be about equal.

I really don’t have any complaints with the build quality for the price and I find them very comfortable, therefore I am quite happy with what I have received for 10€ in this respect.



Sound…

I have reviewed a few of these style IEMs recently, such as the Tanya, E500 and EM205 (and previously the RE400 and RE600s) of which my favourites have been the Tanya and the RE600s (IEMs that are very different in terms of the sound signature). However, all of these IEMs, while economical, have been priced much higher than the Quarks. I will mention some comparisons in a moment but first I want to focus on the Quarks themselves in my usual procedure.

Starting with subbass, using my usual test tracks, I do find that there is a roll off in the lowest registers which, to be honest, is to be expected in something this size. However, there is enough sub bass to get a bit of a rumble and little tickling of the eardrum when listening to tracks like “Chameleon”, especially if volume is increased over my usual listening levels. I guess that “Chameleon” is a little exaggerated, so listening to something that is a little calmer like “Royals” by Lorde, there is a presence of subbass but not enough to be considered a sub bass heavy set of IEMs.

Moving into the mid and higher bass frequencies, again I find that these are not really bass boosted, or at least not to the level of being considered a bassy tuning. With my usual test tracks like “No Sanctuary Here” by Marian Herzog feat Chris Jones, or “Sun is Shining” by Robin Schultz & Bob Marley, there is enough bass for me to find the tracks enjoyable but those that like a bit of boost in their music may find the Quarks a little below their target.

The transition into the lower mids is fairly clean, with no obvious bass bleed, this is helped by the fact that the bass regions are not overly boosted. As we move through the mids, there is a bit of a dip in the center but the fall and rise that lead in and out of this recess is smooth and does not exaggerate the dip in the mids. In general the mids are clean and well balanced, allowing the presence of both vocals and mid centric instruments to be present without being harsh or seemingly over compensated in any of their frequencies.

Moving from the mids up into the higher ranges, there is a peak around the 3kHz mark that could be a little problematic for some but in my case I find that it brings back some of the presence that would otherwise be lost by the dip in the mids and it does so without seeming to create harshness nor make voices come across as nasal.

Sibilance is avoided for the most part, although it does sometimes seem to be on the verge. It doesn’t present an amount of sibilance that is too uncomfortable but there are occasions when there is too much emphasis on the “S”, mainly in songs that are almost sibilant in their own recordings. If you listen to tracks that are already sibilant in their mastering, then the Quarks will not tame these, but they don’t really make them unlistenable either (unless the song is already beyond the point of being listenable itself, like some of the Marilyn Manson stuff for example).

As far as extension, there is a fair amount there, especially for a single dynamic driver in this budget category. Yes, it could extend more (which is the case with almost all single DD budget IEMs that I try) but in general it is acceptable and there is a reasonable amount of air that helps give the sensation of clarity to the IEMs without overly boosting the lower treble areas.

As far as detail, speed, dynamics and all those kinds of things, well, it is certainly not bad for a 10€ IEM. It is definitely not a set of IEMs that will be used for scrutinizing audio tracks and it is not a detail monster but it is more than capable of keeping up and presenting details that are enough to enjoy the music and not feel that half of the information is missing. This is helped by the fact that the tuning is rather clean and, as I mentioned, the upper treble helps give the sensation of clarity and detail that would not be present if it was more rolled off.

As far as soundstage and image placement, I’m afraid I am just going to say what I say in 95% of my IEM reviews, it’s around average for a set of budget IEMs. In fact, I could probably just copy and paste my impression of soundstage and placement across the majority of IEMs that I try, as there are very few that surprise me in this aspect (and many of those surprise me for the worse). In the case of the Quarks, they are not incredible, you are not going to feel that you are immersed in a musical space, however, they are acceptable enough to enjoy the music.



Comparison to the Tanchjim Tanya…


I find that the Tanya and the Quarks are very comparable overall but are a totally different approach to how the music is presented.

With the Tanya, there is more emphasis on the lower end of the spectrum, adding an overall warmth to the sound that is very pleasurable to many. In the case of the Quarks, the overall tuning is more balanced, more neutral, resulting in a sound that seems to be clearer in general.

Now, the sensation that it is clearer is actually due to the tuning and not necessarily the actual performance. Neither of the two IEMs are highly detailed, in fact, I would say they are about on a par with each other, the overall performance is very similar, it is just that the Quarks can give more of a sensation of detail due to the reduction in the lower frequency emphasis.

I would say that comparing the Tanya to the Quarks is like comparing the Porta-Pro to the KSC75, both are very similar but the overall tuning is what will make someone have a preference towards one or the other. By this I am not saying that these IEMs are similar to the Koss offerings, just that they sort of compare to each other in the same way.

Personally I prefer the tuning of the Quarks but either one is enjoyable as a simple BGM set of IEMs.



Comparison to the Hifiman RE600s…

This is not really a fair comparison as the RE600s have a retail price that is 20x the Quarks but I am mentioning it as I find the overall presentation to be similar. Yes, the RE600s is more detailed, making it something I would prefer if I am focusing on music and wanting to use a set of tiny IEMs such as these, however, for basic background music or a relaxed listen in bed at night, I find that the Quarks perform more than adequately.



Conclusion…

I am more than happy with what the Moondrop Quarks offer for the price, in fact, I am happy with the Quarks overall. They are not a set of IEMs that intend to compete with higher range IEMs, nor are they IEMs that attempt to be something they are not. They are a simple set of cheap, comfortable and easy to listen to IEMs.

Personally I have too many IEMs but as I have mentioned in the past (and in this review), I like to have a small set of IEMs that live in my bag and get used at random times for simple, no frills, music (or movie) enjoyment. The Quarks are a set that fit this no problem.

I can also see them being a set that many people will enjoy as their only set of IEMs, offering a great value for money for those who just want a simple set of cheap IEMs for daily use, far superior to those included with cell phones (do they even include earphones with cell phones nowadays?). In fact, both the Quarks and the Tanya fit this use case perfectly, which one someone will enjoy will only depend on their tuning preferences.

I think that this is the 6th set of Moondrop IEMs that I have reviewed and I must say that the relation quality/price always seems to be very fair with the brand. The Quarks are another example.

SenyorC