I just got the Fiio Fh3. It sounds great right ootb. Was wondering if I should have bought the Aria instead .
As always, this review is also available in Spanish on my blog and on YouTube, links at the end of the review.
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 find links to the Aria via HifiGo by visiting the blog version of this review (follow the link at the end of the review).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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€.
Another excellent review @SenyorC. Moondrop don’t seem to be putting a foot wrong at the moment.
Thank you Paul and a very happy cake day!!!
Best wishes for your cake day mate.
Cake Day! Go do something fun, you’ve earned it Paul.
Happy cake day Paul!
Thank you very much everyone. .
How do these fare with the FiiO FH3? It’s one of the most popular iems under $150 and I think most people will consider these two of they have a $100ish budget.
Sorry but I am yet to try a Fiio IEM.
Moondrop Blessing 2: Dusk
As usual, this review is also available in Spanish and on YouTube, links at the end of the post.
I remember that, back when I did the review of the Moondrop Starfield, one of the first reviews on the Acho Reviews channel, I mentioned that 100€ was my limit for a set of IEMs due to the fact that I much prefer headphones and I only use IEMs when it is absolutely necessary.
Fast forwards a year and things have changed for me, at least slightly. I still much prefer headphones over IEMs, however, I have come to realize that I use IEMs far more than I actually use headphones, at least for 6 or 7 months of the year. The main reason is that I am someone who sweats a lot, added to the fact that I live in a place that is hot for the majority of the year, IEMs are just a lot cooler to wear than headphones.
If you would like to see my review of the Starfield, you can find it here: Review - Moondrop Starfield. Just to put this in perspective, I am still a big fan of the Starfield and together with the Moondrop Aria, they are still my favourite sets of IEMs for 100€. The Moondrop Blessing 2 Dusk is a set of IEMs that comes in at around 300€ and is a model that took me a while to actually decide to purchase but finally pulled the trigger after many positive reviews by people whose opinion I trust.
In case anyone is unfamiliar with the B2 Dusk (as I will refer to it from this point on), it is a revision of the Blessing 2 which has been re-tuned by Crinacle, someone who is well known for his work in measuring IEMs and headphones (crinacle.com), having already collaborated in the tuning of the Fearless Audio x Crinacle Dawn in the past.
I am not going to go into more details about Crinacle’s input, you can find that information both on his site and in many reviews already online, but let’s just say that he increased the bass slightly and touched the mids a little, mostly the higher mids, in comparison to the original Blessing 2.
Part of the reason it took me so long to actually decide to purchase the B2 Dusk is due to that extra bass. As anyone who follows my reviews will already know, I am not someone who likes exaggerated bass and it took me a while to decide if I should go for the original Blessing 2 or the Dusk version, as is obvious, I finally opted for the Dusk.
The B2 Dusk arrives in a grey cardboard box that has a white sleeve showing an Anime girl based (as far as I am told) on the Crinacle logo that many will be familiar with if they have visited his site. On the back of the sleeve there is a pencil style drawing of the IEM components with the phrase “True Fidelity Sounds Magnificent”.
Inside the grey box we find the IEMs, the cable, various sets of silicone tips, a user manual (completely in Chinese), a card showing the frequency response (measured by Crinacle), a few other QC cards (also in Chinese), a case, some replacement filters and a set of tweezers.
The replacement filters and tweezers were something that were also included with a couple of other models and I said they were appreciated, in the case of the B2 Dusk, they are appreciated even more but we will get to that in a moment.
Build and aesthetics…
As with all the Moondrop IEMs I have had in my possession so far, the B2 Dusk seems to be very well built. With a clear shell sporting a metal faceplate, everything is nicely put together and looks like a set of IEMs that are in the price bracket that it sits in. There is nothing really special about the looks and build but there is also nothing to complain about, it is simple and looks good. My version just has the model on one side of the IEMs, however, there is also a version that has the same Anime girl on the IEM as on the cover of the box, if that is something that interests you.
The included cable is nothing spectacular but it does its job and is not a bad cable. There are many other cables that I would prefer but I would rather they include a decent cable and keep the price as it is, rather than include an amazing cable that may not be for everyone and drives the price up.
As far as comfort, these IEMs are on the large side, both in overall size and in the size of the nozzle. If you are someone with small ear openings, then you will probably find that you don’t get on well with the B2 Dusk. Personally I find them ok but they are far from being the most comfortable IEM I own. I can put up with them for longer stints (4 or 5 hours) but after a couple of hours I start to feel irritated. The Starfield (or Aria), for example, are much more comfortable and would be my pick if I was planning on wearing them for many hours straight
Now, usually I would just comment on my preferred tips, either here or under sound, and move on. In the case of the B2 Dusk, I feel that it deserves its own section as it is something that has really affected my use of them. I will move on to that next but before doing so, just to wrap up the build and aesthetics section, I have no complaints about build quality or aesthetics, I just have a bit of an issue with sound and with what I am going to mention next.
Tips and filters…
Now, in my recent review of the Aria, I said that I had been listening to the B2 Dusk for a while but hadn’t reviewed it yet due to “reasons”. Those reasons are the tips and filters.
The nozzle of the B2 Dusk is large, so large that the majority of tips that I have will not fit and the ones that do need massaging to get them on. The main problem with this is that the end of the nozzle has an almost transparent stick on filter, with replacement filters included in the package (as mentioned above). These filters do not stick well and each time they are touched by removing or inserting a set of tips, they either move or completely fall off. Because most of the tips that fit need massaging on/off, it is almost certain that a tip change will also mean a replacement filter will be needed (2 actually, one on each IEM).
As with all IEMs, I need to do some experimenting with tips to find the ones that work best for me with the IEMs in question. In the case of the B2 Dusk, after trying the included tips (good sound but not very comfortable for me), foam tips (comfortable but doesn’t give the best sound quality with the B2 Dusk), multiple other silicone tips (I didn’t find ones that were very comfortable and gave the best sound quality) and the the Xelastec tips, these last ones were the most comfortable and also the best sounding, in my opinion.
Although I love the Xelastec tips, on the B2 Dusk and many other IEMs, they are not the easiest tips to deal with. Due to the materials used in their construction, they are very comfortable (and usually sound great) but are also very delicate. They pick up all kinds of dust and debris, are not easy to clean and easily deform if they are left unused without storing them in their case (the tips case). If I was planning on spending a long listening period with the B2 Dusk, then I would have no doubt about choosing the Xelastec tips, however, I am usually either trying something out for review or inserting and removing IEMs throughout the day due to my work and other things happening around me.
If the filters coming off with each tip change is already an issue, with the Xelastec tips it is multiplied due to the stickiness and tight fit of these particular tips. So, removing the Xelastec tips each time they are not going to be in use is not only a pain to do, it also means replacing the filters each time.
I have continued to try out different tips and after trying multiple options (and replacing multiple filters), I seem to have found an answer with the Spinfit CP155. These tips have a larger opening (making them easier to install) and offer almost the same sound quality as the Xelastec and are not quite as comfortable but are a clear second place in regards to comfort.
I say “almost the same sound quality” as I think I prefer the sound with the Xelastec tips but the differences are subtle enough for it to be possible expectation bias due to the fact that I prefer the Xelastec tips. The comfort is good with both (Spinfit and Xelastec) but after an hour or two, I start getting tired of the Spinfits whereas the Xelastec just seem to disappear.
Another option, which seems to be chosen by many, is to leave the filters off the B2 Dusk. I am not a fan of this idea as, over time, particles of (wet and dry) ear way will start to build up inside the tubes and will have a negative effect on the IEMs. I also live in a depressingly dusty place, so leaving the filters off is not something I am willing to do.
My apologies for the long rant about tips and filters but it has really been my only despair with the B2 Dusk and I feel that it is something worth mentioning (in detail) as it may or may not be relevant to you.
So, finally, on to the sound!
Let me get straight to the point, the B2 Dusk are the best IEMs I have heard until now.
That is obviously something that is relative to only myself and the fact that these are also the most expensive IEMs I have heard (except for some Shure versions that I am not going to discuss). This doesn’t necessarily mean they are better because they are more expensive, and also doesn’t mean they will be the best IEMs you will have heard, so I will work my way through my usual points and descriptions.
In the subbass there is good extension and presence down to the lowest registers. The detail and speed in these lowest registries are very good and don’t seem to suffer even when a recording is already overly boosted in these lower frequencies. Songs that have need a good representation of subbass, such as “Royals” by Lorde or even my usual test track “No Mercy”, are presented in a way that does the subbass justice. Even when trying out some fast moving metal tracks in dropped tuning, the B2 Dusk dealt with these easily and didn’t seem to blur anything out.
As far as the mid and higher bass regions, these are again very good. I was doubtful about choosing the B2 Dusk over the regular B2 mostly due to the tuning in these lower regions. As you may be aware, I am not a great fan of the Harman curve and the sub bass and bass of the B2 Dusk is very similar to Harman whereas the normal B2 is much more reduced in these areas. It turns out that I had no need to worry as I find the bass regions of the B2 Dusk very enjoyable.
I think most of this is due to the quality of the drivers used in the Dusk. Usually I will be testing IEMs that are more economical and this usually results in lack of cleanliness when the lowest regions are boosted as per Harman but the detail and speed of the driver used for the lows in this case does not make me feel that there is too much bass.
As I have been listening to them for a while now, I have had chance to listen to all kinds of music, from low hitting bass drops in electronic music through to simple vocal based tracks, and have not found the B2 Dusk to be overly exaggerated with anything except the most V shaped recordings, which are not usually my preference in music anyway.
The transition from the bass into the lower mids is clean and detailed, without any sensation of the bass muddying the lower mids. It is easy to differentiate between instruments such as bass guitars and normal guitars in these ranges, without them seeming to interfere with each other at all. Even with songs that have effects that dirty the low end, such as “Bombtrack” by Rage Against The Machine, are still well defined and make it easy to appreciate bothe the instruments and their effects.
Songs such as “No Sanctuary Here” or “Sun is Shining” have great power in both the bass and lower mids, with non electric instruments, such as the double bass in “Back it Up” by Caro Emerald sounding natural in the lower mid range without the lows overpowering the tone of the instrument.
There is no real dip throughout the center of the mids, keeping a good presence in the fundamental tones of vocals and acoustic guitars, making tracks like “All Your Love (Turned to Passion)” come across as enjoyable and natural. I don’t know at what point the crossover happens between the dynamic driver and the multiple BA drivers but wherever it happens, the transition is smooth and does not stick out.
The higher part of the mids climbs towards a peak around 3kHz and presents the higher part of vocals in a very balanced manner. They do not come across as shouty or nasal and the transition into the lower treble is implemented as well (or better) than the transition from bass to lower mids.
Moving into the treble, sibilance is not added to tracks, although it is not reduced either. If a track is sibilant in its recording, the B2 Dusk will not hide the fact but it doesn’t make things like “Code Cool” become overpowering. I have listened to “Code Cool” on many set ups (IEMs, Speakers, Headphones) and the B2 Dusk are a set that is verging on the hot side but does not reach into the uncomfortable territory, at least for me personally.
The extension in the highest ranges is not amazing but is decent enough to not feel that there is a huge roll off (like in the case of a single DD set of IEMs). There is enough air for them to sound clean and articulated but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the highest ranges are excellent. As I said, these are the best IEMs I have heard up until now and I know it is not fair to compare these to over ear headphones, but I do get the sensation that they could be a little better in the highest ranges. This is not to say they are not good, I just think they could be better.
In regards to speed and detail, they have absolutely no issue here. They keep up with busy tracks and do not give a blurred sensation no matter where the instruments are stacking up in the frequency range. Details such as echos, reverbs, background effects, etc. are all clearly defined and are easy to locate and appreciate. Again, in comparison to other IEMs that I have tried, these are above them all in this respect, while I have heard better from overear headphones, this is neither a fair comparison nor are they even in a similar price bracket.
The soundstage is not the strongest point of the B2 Dusk. It is about average, maybe slightly better, in comparison to other IEMs I have tried. It is not terrible but it does not give the sensation of a wide open space. The placement of images in the soundstage is very good though, allowing both correct placement of the main details and the smaller details behind them. I am not complaining about soundstage, it is large enough to be enjoyable, and the placement of images makes up for the lack of space.
Going back to what I said at the beginning, or rather, what I said during my review of the Starfield almost a year ago, about not spending more than 100€ on a set of IEMs, I definitely need to eat my words in that regard. At a price of 300€, the B2 Dusk is by far the most expensive set of IEMs I have purchased but I don’t regret doing so.
I wouldn’t say that the Dusk are a set of IEMs that are perfectly neutral and great for analyzing music, they are more of a set that are meant to be enjoyed and I certainly do enjoy them.
They are not the most comfortable set of IEMs I own, as I already explained, but they are the set of IEMs I reach for when wanting to enjoy good sound quality while using IEMs. They work well with almost all of my usual music choices and even with the ones that aren’t their strong point, they still resolve them well enough for me not to complain.
I would like to say that they are good enough for me not to want anything better in the IEM world, however, I already had to retract that statement once, so I am not going to make it again. I will say that they are more than enough for me to use as my main set when travelling or when being mobile, as I don’t dissect music during those times, but I may find myself wanting something a little more capable and comfortable if I am to use them for 8 hours a day every day.
I would be interested in comparing the original B2 to the Dusk, however, I am not going to spend another 250€ to do so as I am already pretty convinced that I made the correct choice (based on various discussions with people who’s ears and tastes I trust and have heard both).
At the end of the day, I have no regrets spending 300€ on these IEMs and I think that is the most important part. There is always going to be something better out there but the main thing is to be happy with what you have and not worry about what you don’t, in my case, I am happy with the Moondrop Blessing 2 Dusk.
You always do such fantastic and thorough reviews! And this is spot on as a dusk owner.
One comment: my experience as I went above this price point resulted in more catering to preference than technical performance. I haven’t heard anything like the odin or u12t yet, but, what I have heard slammed into the diminishing returns wall pretty hard. I would not cry if the b2 dusk were the only headphone I could have for the rest of my life.
I am itching to try the ie900 though.
The Sennheiser’s are excellent
But in the ChiFi world, Moondrop is certainly one of my favorite manufacturers.
How are the mids? My concern is that they might be too V-shaped for my tastes…
Hmm, I’ll try to briefly describe the IE900 converted into familiar headphones.
Bass ~ Hifiman Arya
Mids & Airiness ~ Grado GS3000e
Heights ~ Hifiman Ananda
Space & Stage ~ HD800
If you take this description with a bit of caution, pack it in an in-ear format, then you have roughly my description of the 900’s.
Other reviewers may see it differently, but for my taste I have found my endgame.
But actually this comment belongs in another toppic, sorry!
Does the bass have impact. (For me, the arya did not)
Also, how do you have them already?
Another cracking review @SenyorC. As always it’s packed full of details that matter to me. I know you say you prefer headphones to iem’s but you really should commit full-time to the darkside. .
This sounds like an iem I need to hear. Thank you for the low down.
The bass is very clean, precise and in terms of frequencies very deep, but not boomy. If you want more impact and less precision, I recommend the IE300.
I live in Germany, the release was on the 27th, on the 28th I got it.
And almost never taken out of my ear since then
It was a pleasure