Hi! I was looking at getting a nice pair of iems which I could keep for a long time, if I bought these I would have no plans to upgrade so in that sense it is my iems endgame. I was looking at the blessing 2 dusk or the fdx1. My budget is 250-300, can go abit above.I’m need a mic but I couldn’t find any iems cables with mics built in for a reasonable price so when I use my iems would the built in mic on my phone work? I don’t want something which is overtly warm. I want something with accurate and relatively tight bass. I want something which is somewhat analytical but doesn’t bring it to the extreme, like the dt 1990 pro. I listen to: rock, alt rock, heavy metal, rap, pop rock
I really like the Dusk and think they are a great set of IEMs and well worth their price (you can see my review further up in this thread).
Your phone mic should still work when plugging in set of IEMs without a microphone, at least the ones I have/had do/did.
It is difficult to find decent cables with inline mics as most people who want higher end IEMs don’t usually want the mic. KZ sell them but the quality isn’t great and the connectors are usually the C type which need modifying to fit. For the price of a KZ cable with mic, you can probably even pick up a set of IEMs with a mic that you can steal the cable from. I currently have the cable from the Kinera BD005 Pro in my bag as a backup for when I need a cable with mic.
Qudelix 5k has a mic and does a wonderful job with the blessing 2 dusk. So much so, that qudelix 5k is the only dac/amp I currently own (until that jot 2 arrives next week).
I use qudelix 5k with my IEMs and my easy to drive over ears. And all of them are now uber conference headphones. Just plain awesome. Qudelix 5k is the best $109 I have ever spent in audio.
How’s the sound quality of that microphone?
Does this also work when you connect the Qudelix via USB or only when it connected via BT?
The sound quality is at least comparable to the macbook pro. Which is to say pretty good. I keep the qudelix clipped to my shirt.
It works over BT and USB. I typically use BT on my phone and wired on my mac so I don’t have to deal with BT switching (though, it might do this well too. Since it handles everything else smoothly. I just haven’t tried). You do need to choose to enable the mic in the settings. It can’t do the mic and 24/96 music (even over usb). However, when on my macbook, I am also fine with using USB output for the headphones and macbook mic. Works fine.
The qudelix also supports mic passthrough, making it easier to use with IEMs (You can hear yourself a bit). You can also use that when just listening to music. It’s nothing like airpods max transparency mode, but it is useful.
The qudelix is the standard for features. I don’t understand why every other company can’t implement something this good when they do it for $109. There just isn’t an excuse.
I’m going to put it on my birthday wishlist.
Moondrop A8 Review
Written by Chrono
Moondrop is an audio company that needs no introduction, as it’s currently one of the largest players in the IEM market. My personal IEM journey has been brief, but if there is one thing I can say with certainty, is that of the IEM’s I have tried over the past few months, Moondrop’s offerings have been standouts; both the Blessing 2 and Starfield provided delightful listening experiences and were amongst my favorites in their respective price brackets. This article, however, is not about me reminiscing on my past experiences with Mooondrop. Instead, this time around I’ll be talking about a rather nifty IEM I recently had the opportunity to listen to–the Moondrop A8.
Now, the A8 is a midrange IEM that comes in at a retail price of $666.66 (very peculiar number), and it is powered by eight balanced armature drivers. It is worth noting that this A8 does have some differences when compared to the $699.99 Moondrop S8; and whilst I have not yet tried the latter, I will at least point out some of the spec and physical differences that set these two IEM’s apart as we move along.
All the listening for this review was done on the Astell & Kern SR25, and the Astell & Kern Kann Alpha. For the listening tests I used music from a wide variety of genres including Rock, Jazz, Classical, Acoustic, Hip-Hop, and latin. I played tracks from my own FLAC library, as well as from Qobuz and Tidal via Roon when using the Kann Alpha in DAC mode.
The A8 comes packaged in a rather small, but nice, wooden box. Some Moondrop fans may be disappointed by this design, but worry not, as when you slide off the top cover you’ll be greeted by the more “traditional” Moondrop artwork, which in this case depicts a manga-style character in a forest. Moving onto the box’s contents though, you of course get the A8, a fairly-pocketable, blue carrying case, six sets of silicone ear tips, and a braided 3.5mm to 2-pin connector cable.
The A8 is rocking a completely transparent resin chassis that allows you to peer into the IEM’s components, is visually appealing, and is remarkably sturdy. Something to point out is that the exterior design is where the A8 and S8 most obviously differ, as the A8 is completely transparent, whereas the S8 has a metal faceplate with the “S8” logo branded on it–easily setting them apart.
As for comfort, the A8 was just a little rough for me. I still found it to be more comfortable than–for example–the Atlas and the Polaris, however I personally didn’t get as good a fit as I did with the Dunu SA6, or even with its younger sibling, the Blessing 2. Now, the chassis is actually well contoured, and has no awkward edges. The problem, then, lies in the A8’s size, as it’s noticeably the largest IEM I’ve personally worn. Towards the rear-end of the unit, it’s got a bit more depth when compared to the SA6, which is not that surprising when considering that it’s housing eight drivers, but this did mean that over time it did tend to apply a bit of extra pressure for me. I definitely would not say that they were outright uncomfortable by any measure, but it’s something to be wary of if you’re sensitive to that kind of stuff, or if you’ve got small ears.
As I mentioned earlier, the A8 is utilizing eight balanced armature drivers per ear piece and, again, this is where the A8 and S8 differ. The A8 is using two Knowles drivers for the bass tones, four custom Moondrop midrange drivers, and two custom Moondrop high-frequency drivers as opposed to the sonion bass drivers and knowles high-frequency drivers in the S8.
Immediately, upon my first listen, I found the A8 to be a very enjoyable and superbly-tuned IEM. It had a great tonal balance that, to me, sounded “neutral” and organic. Unfortunately, I will admit that in this review it may sound as though I’m repeating myself quite a bit, but that’s because I was actually shocked at how similar the A8 and the Dunu SA6 sounded. Still, there is one aspect that in my experience made the two greatly distinguishable from each other, and we’ll talk about what that is as we discuss the A8, and how it performed in my experience.
The A8 has a bass response that is both highly enjoyable, and properly textured. It’s got a pronounced bass shelf under 150hz that is almost identical to that of the SA6 (with “Atmospheric” bass boost enabled). This means that it offers quite a bit more bass than the Blessing 2, which I found to be closer to my personal preference for IEM’s, and it gave the bass region more depth and warmth when comparing the two. Despite the very present bass response, however, the A8’s bass is nimble, and cleanly details the lowest of bass tones.
I really don’t have much to comment on when it comes to the A8’s mids aside from saying that they were similar to those of the SA6–and that’s a good thing.
From the midrange’s lower bounds at around 300hz, all the way up to 5khz, the A8 was linear with a tonality that accurately delineated all the different instrument fundamental tones and harmonics. Needless to say, I felt as though midtones were robust with a rich body and lush overtones that made for an organic listen. So if you’re a mid-centric listener, or you’re coming from something like an HD600, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by these.
Ah, yes, the treble range. Now this is where I think the A8 impressed me the most, and it’s what made all the difference to me personally between it and the Dunu SA6.
Whilst it does have some slight unevenness at around 7-8khz that introduces some minor mid-treble sibilance, it’s nowhere near as noticeable as the emphasis that the SA6 has at 6.5khz. This, for me, was a great improvement, as the lack of a low-treble peak similar to that of the SA6 allowed the A8’s higher frequencies to more accurately nuance all the harmonics that lie in this region of the frequency response, making it sound more accurate. Additionally, this was the first IEM of which the upper treble extension really impressed me. It had nice air qualities above 10Khz, which, for me, gave vocals a nice, natural glisten, and the splash of cymbals more closely resembled what I’d expect in a live-listening experience.
The A8 provides very good performance when it comes to detail retrieval and overall image clarity. For internal resolution, I think that it’s on-par with the likes of the Dunu SA6 and Sennheiser IE900, which is very good for its price range. I will note, though, that since it doesn’t have the lower treble glare that the SA6 has, and because it also has the great treble extension, I did find it to seemingly deliver a higher degree of perceived image clarity and transparency.
As with most IEM’s I’ve tried, the A8’s presentation is a fairly forward and intimate one. Nonetheless, it does play well with its compact soundstage as it has excellent instrument separation; it keeps all vocal and instrument lines clear and properly spaced from one another. Additionally, the A8’s got decent left-right localization; though I did find it to have stronger left, right, and center images, whilst font-left and front-right were slightly subdued.
For dynamics, the A8 surprised me quite a bit. Despite not utilizing a dynamic driver, I found to deliver a pretty decent punch in lows. Whilst it definitely did not kick as hard as something like the Polaris, it still managed to deliver a satisfying impact in the low-end. In the upper registers it also had noteworthy tactility that enhanced the presence of many instruments, as the playing of piano keys had more pressure behind them, and various percussive instruments had their energetic snap and attack more accurately reproduced.
At the time of writing this, I can confidently say that whilst I still hold the SA6 as my benchmark, it is the A8 that I’ll declare as my personal favorite IEM. Whilst I did struggle a bit at times with the extra-large fit, it was ultimately what the A8 offered in terms of its sonic experience that really won me over. It delivered great technical performance for the price, and the additional treble region contouring it offered over the SA6 was something that I both highly valued and enjoyed. Without a doubt, this is a headphone that will rank highly amongst my list of recommendations, and I think that it’s particularly worth keeping an eye on for those who are looking for an upgrade from something like the Blessing 2 without having to completely break the bank.
Really great review Chrono. Quality throughout and a great read.
Great review and as a S8 owner it has been very interesting. Two very close but stille different IEMs. Thanks for sharing.
Nice review, and especially nice photos. Would like to see a paragraph on what you used to take them and your choices in contrasting materials in the Off Topic Photography thread. The basket is interesting - shares some of the techniques from baskets we picked up in Charleston at the Suetto festival years ago, but has different materieals.
What basket? All I see is an extra thick premium set of cables! I can’t see the ends…2.5mm, 3.5mm, 4.4mm, 1/4", XLR?
I’ve had the Dusks for almost a week now. I’ve had plenty quality IEMs before (OG Andro, ER2XR, Senn IE8, Triple.fi 10 etc.), but daymn these are just straight up awesome for my tastes! Was totally not expecting a 320€ pair of IEMs to sound this enjoyable. I’ve got Clear and LCD-2 right next to me, doesn’t seem right
This tuning is just a chef’s kiss for me: a non-OTT low bass boost (I hate bloom), great mids with maybe some hint of extra energy at their upper regions (crack & bite) and very smooth highs. Also these stay in my ears great and even the cable I have no problems with. There’s a real possibility of a honeymoon period going on still, but never have I liked an IEM this much out the gate, not even close.
I’m not one to gush over stuff (nor am I a friend of Crin or affiliated with Moondrop btw), but this pair just fits my needs oh-so-well. I was thinking about SA6 too, but I’ve learned my lesson with BA bass with the Andro. Probably not for me.
The Moondrop Variations is a great tribrid and a great IEM period, and is worth taking a look at for anyone interested in tribrid IEMs or thinking about making a jump out of the budget end of the IEM pool. That said, I am not convinced electrostatic drivers offer any real benefits over balanced armatures.
My full review is up on my blog:
I know I always say this but I’ll say it again, this review is also available in Spanish on my blog and YouTube, links at the end of the review.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These really appeal to the “Skinflint” in me. I’ve been looking for a set of IEM’s that I can pocket and carry around with me for use with my LG 51. Simple & Inexpensive with decent sound. The Quarks appear to fill the bill, I may splurge and buy two just to have a spare set / gift set.
There is no doubt that they are worth their price and make a great set of beater IEMs that take up absolutely no space!
I find a benefit of the Quarks and Tanya is the fit / comfort that small, bullet shape IEMs provide.
It takes the whole ear shape / shell shape interaction out of the picture and the small IEM’s can sit at whatever angle / depth works, even if your left and right side are a bit different.
Are all the higher-end IEMs using the large shell shape? The only one I can think of is the Etymotic but those insert very deep which seems a bit risky.
I did see an expensive set of bullet shaped IEMs recently but I can’t remember what they were.
It’s hard to tell just from pics but the Tin T4 looks to be a similar size and maybe a step or two up.
Always tricky when going from about $20 to about $100. It’s not a huge price tag but still a factor of 5.
Excellent review again @SenyorC. These look like a bargain. I really dont know how the make them for the price