Massdrop Plus Universal IEM Review

A quick note and some background: This is my first time ever writing a full review of an audio product so I’m not exactly the next Tyll Herstens, please bear with me :blush:. I’ll admit I am not the best at describing sound, but I plan to judge these IEM’s harshly and try not to let new toy syndrome influence my review. Keep in mind, I have a preference for Neutral and mid-centric sound signatures. YMMV.

My go-to Songs used to test:

Lake Street Dive – Mistakes

Metallica – The Unforgiven

Fleetwood Mac – Oh Diane

Lorde – White teeth teens

Post Malone – Stay

Childish Gambino – IV. Sweatpants

Yosi Horikawa – Stars

I have a very mixed library of music with just about every genre except for country and classical.

Source: iPhone 7 w/ Apple lightning to 3.5mm dongle (less than 1 ohm output impedance)

Overview: The Massdrop Plus IEMs come in a hard-shell case with a thick foam lining. In the box you receive three bags of tips containing double flanged, foam, and standard silicone tips of all sizes. You also receive a Velcro strap for tying up the cable and a small cleaning tool.

Fit and build quality: The MD+ sits flush in the ear and can only be worn over ear. I’m not someone who typically has comfort issues with IEM’s so take that for what it’s worth. I found the MD+ to be extremely comfortable. They just sort of disappear after a few minutes of listening. My only gripe is that the stock cable is a little more prone to microphonics compared to my beloved Pinnacle PX. When I am walking around or just moving my head a lot, I can hear the cable moving around a good bit but it’s not super noticeable. The PX on the other hand seems to handle moving around a bit better. Over all, the build quality is on par for what I’d expect at the $300 price point. The cable which is braided, doesn’t tangle easily and the 3.5mm connector has a nice knurled edge to it. The IEMs themselves have a hard plastic body with a dark blue color.

Now for the sound – I’ve done all of my listening with medium sized foam tips and a little bit with medium silicone tips. The sound doesn’t appear to change much with the different tips which is something I can appreciate.

Treble: This is my main complaint with the MD+. The treble is rolled off a good bit and lacks the sparkle that I think is needed for rock and metal. If you’re someone who is an HD650 and LCD-2 pre-fazor fan, this is something you could likely appreciate. There is a small peak at 8k and a dip at 12k. The peak however does not feel fatiguing in any way. Cymbals and high hats do not have that crisp “tss” sound that I think is needed for genres like rock and metal. I wouldn’t say anything feels missing from the mix but the treble region feels recessed. Though I feel the treble takes a step back, it does not lack any detail, all that is needed is a bit more air.

Mid-range: This is the star of the show. What blew me away with the MD+ was the richness and timbre of the mid-range along with the detail retrieval. Vocal clarity is comparable to (but not as good as) the HD600’s ability to reproduce vocals in a fashion that just makes them pop and gives you that sense that the singer isn’t just singing in the mix but is singing to you. Electric guitars have a rich sound with that bite that I go crazy for. If I had to sum up the mid-range in one word it would be: Natural. The lower mid-range has some body to it and transitions beautifully from the upper bass region. The upper mid-range however, is where things get a bit aggressive. There is a decent hump from 2k-4k that over shadows the treble too much for my taste. While the HD600’s upper mids in my opinion come close to that line of being shouty, I love that upper mid bite. It doesn’t fatigue me one bit and I find it to be exciting. The MD+ however, crosses that line. Female vocals have a touch of sibilance and can get shouty very easily. Luckily this can be fixed very easily with EQ. The mids were so close to being perfect to me but came up short.

Bass: Now this is something to write home about. The sub bass region extends surprisingly well and took me by surprise. This is something I have not heard in many IEMs. The bass is fast and doesn’t lack texture nor detail. It’s not over powering by any stretch but it will certainly make its’ presence known when called upon. It adds a lot of body and richness to the music which is something that I really love about these IEMs. The mid bass on the other hand is where I felt this IEM could use a boost. It doesn’t have the slam or the punch I was expecting but there is something there. This can be filled in very easily with EQ.

Sound stage, Imaging, and separation: The sound stage is beautifully done with these IEMs. It is not super wide but I much prefer something that is on the intimate side than a sound stage that is over exaggerated. The Imaging is spectacular to say the least. Easily the best I’ve heard in an IEM. It really feels like the sounds direction is very accurate. The separation is the cherry on top of the imaging. Every instrument has its’ place in the mix and nothing is fighting for my attention over the other.

Source pairings: Finding a good source to pair with the MD+ may be difficult If you haven’t had prior experience with sensitive IEMs. The MD+ has an impedance of 10 ohms. I would not recommend listening to the MD+ with anything that has more than a 3ohm output impedance since it will over power the sound with the bass and may even hiss. If you’re on an iPhone like me, a $9 Apple lightning to 3.5mm adapter will work perfectly. If you’re not on an IOS device, the iFi IEMatch or Earbuddy will fix any impedance issues you might run into.

Conclusion: If you love a warm, rich sound and you’re someone who can appreciate rolled treble, look no further. In my opinion, this is one of the best IEMs under $1000. The MD+’s combination of superb detail retrieval, separation, and imaging along with its’ natural tonality makes it a dominant contender in its’ price point. The MD+ in my opinion is the perfect complement to the Pinnacle PX (as many people online have asked to compare these two). The PX (w/ foam tips) is a neutral, bordering bright IEM, the MD+ picks up where the PX falls.

Thanks for reading guys! I’d appreciate some constructive criticism on how I could improve my reviews since I am looking to contribute to the forum more often.

7 Likes

Very nicely written up. Your descriptions of their sound paint a vivid picture.

I’ve heard that their sound, especially sibilance, is very dependent on insertion depth. Have you played with that at all?

I’ve noticed the foam tones it down just a hair but the silicone brings out the treble just a tad bit more. Nothing drastic though. A few people have recommended JVC Spiral dots but I have yet to try those.

Nice review.

Have you tried the Massdrop X Noble X Universal IEMs ($250)? I’m curious how they compare. I bought the Noble IEMs last year, and–as with many others–have fit issues that result in weak bass. The tips have to be large/tight to keep them from falling out; some also modify the ear-hooks to keep then closer to the head.

I have not but I would like to hear them in the future. IEMs are something I haven’t explored much in this hobby and I plan to try more and more.

1 Like

Anyone have any suggestions for a good aftermarket cable for this? I really like them so far, but I don’t like the cable rumbling noise while moving around even the slightest bit.

You want something like this. 0.78mm 2 pin cables.

Thanks for the suggestion. I notice it’s balanced. Will that be an issue if my entire chain is SE right now?

There’s different options you can click. It doesn’t have to be that cable either, you can use any 0.78mm 2pin cable.

1 Like

I have the MMCX version of this cable. It’s a very good cable for the price. Very well made. Sounds fine.
-Paul-

1 Like

So this just happened to my cable:

Had it plugged into my phone, which was in my pocket as I got into the car. Cable snagged on the seat or something, and Bam. Looks like it’s terminated using plastic to house the connector, which is pretty weak. Good thing I have a null audio cable on the way. Guess I won’t be ABing the cables…

Any way I can reterminate that?

Ouch, my condolences. Just as an aside, are you able to order another cable from Massdrop? When I got my Massdrop Plus iem’s I bought the extra balanced cable and wouldn’t mind another. I bet they don’t sell them separately. Anyhow good luck and I hope you like your new cable.
-Paul-

Yup it’ll be like a 5 min job just get a new 3.5mm plug and solder it in.

Nice. I do have a soldering iron from my Keyboard building times, so that can work. Is it easy to remove the current one, usually?

Don’t think I can order the cable separately. :confused: I also don’t have any balanced dacs or amps in my chain, so yeah.

Yup just take some scissors and snip it off. Then you’re gonna have to remove some of the shielding from the wires and solder them in. You probably won’t know which wire goes to which terminals so you’re going to have to do some trial and error. I’m still in the process of making my cable making guide because I wanted to have as many connectors as I can before publishing it, but I can try to make a .gif today of the process.

And yup that soldering iron should be fine

2 Likes

@Ishcabible to the rescue! I’m very excited to read your guide!

1 Like

Great review. Very easy read and I feel I got a good sense of your listening preferences, and the sound of these IEM’s. I also picked up Lake Street Drive, who I have been listening to (and loving) for the past hour. Thanks!

Thank you :slight_smile: I found that bad on someone’s review of a headphone a while back (I can’t remember who) but I fell in love instantly.

Fantastic review. These are something I really want to get my hands on based on the love they’re getting.