Moondrop is a unique brand that’s brought many great IEMs to the market. With a model in nearly every price range, Moondrop has made quite the name for itself in the audiophile world. I’ve finally gotten my hands on the Variations, a “tribrid” IEM available for $520. Does it meet the standards Moondrop has set?
What You Get
3x pairs silicone ear tips (s/m/l)
3x pairs foam ear tips (s/m/l)
Spare filters & tweezers
2-pin 0.78mm cable
2.5mm/4.4mm adapters for the cable
I want to note the presentation here. The packaging slip has colorful art that is a sort of staple for Moondrop, and the box itself reminds me of the puzzle box from Hellraiser. Definitely one of the Variation’s most notable pair of items is its set of balanced adapters. I love whenever manufacturers do this, and Moondrop tackles them differently from many other brands. The end of its cable has male four-pin prongs, and each adapter is attached through female four-pin prongs. This makes the cable have no real standard termination, which makes swapping out the adapters more encouraged.
Look and Feel
For its outer shell, the Variations consists of an interesting structure. It’s a similar design to the Blessing2 or even one of Vision Ears models. The cavity is much larger than expected, and might not be ideal for some listeners. I thought the fit was actually a lot more ergonomic than the Vision Ears IEMs, but you still always feel the presence of the housing. It’s a fairly solid earpiece, with a semi-see-through body. By far its most identifiable feature is its front faceplate, which is a matte stainless sandblasted panel.
I mentioned that the Variations is a “tribrid” design. This is because its driver configuration uses a dynamic unit, two balanced armatures, and two electrostatics. The dynamic driver is a 10mm unit that uses a liquid crystal diaphragm with a copper inner cavity. It acts as a bass driver to relegate low-end frequencies separately. The dual balanced armatures control most of the midrange information, and the electrostatic drivers reproduce the high-frequency signal.
When I played my first track to test the Variations for the first time, the soundstage immediately engulfed a huge portion of my headspace. These IEMs take full advantage of every position within their stereo field, displaying a great mass of instrumentations and effects to immerse yourself in. There’s a lot of meat to the imaging, showcasing scale and spaciousness successfully. The left and right channels of each mix feel like an accurate representation of what you’re supposed to hear, giving each sound element a strict placement with plenty of headroom to move around.
Listening to the track “Afraid to Die” by The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid to Die starts slow until it blasts a grandiose wall of sound that appears fast and gripping on the Variations. It features a quick response that fills out the shape of each instrumental and opens up a wide headspace that you can easily get lost in.
While the bass frequencies act as a focal point to this sound signature, it gives you the right amount of resonance. Its tonality is very bodied and incredibly impactful, with stray frequencies appearing in the mid-bass and low-mids. This has the potential to create an issue with bleed in other headphones and IEMs, but on the Variations, the response is always kept clean and controlled. The sub-bass creates this vibrating core to the timbre, expanding the frequency response for a greater heft. This works out for the Variations, as the mid-bass is kept to a tighter response that compliments the subs texture. In effect, this produces a low end with a significant amount of depth and knows when to slam.
After hearing the striking low-end response, the mids are hard to define in comparison. This doesn’t mean they aren’t clear, as the midrange of the Variations still displays exceptional transparency. However, the timbre isn’t as rich as the lows, instead, leaning more toward a neutral tonality. Musically, the mids feature fine details that highlight the sound signature nicely, although some of the more accentuated elements can appear a little too thin for my taste. Vocals are a big standout here, as they tend to be with many different IEMs like the Variations. They take a dominant place in the mix, adding a strong layer of presence that’s hard to deny.
The treble region doesn’t immediately stick out at first, but listening closely, the high frequencies contain subtle details that really add a lot to the sound signature. Certain accents appear with a soothing ring, with a sparkly tone that both adds energy and color to the timbre. One of its best qualities is how much more height it adds to the image, creating a layer of spaciousness for even more clear detail retrieval. It’s extremely well balanced with the rest of the frequency response and works to add a pristine finish to the earphone’s musicality.
The Moondrop Variations is a fantastic mid-priced IEM. Finding another IEM at this price with the same type of bass response will prove difficult especially with how clear and detailed the rest of the timbre is. It’s a unique IEM that packs quite the punch, with a full-bodied sound and an accurate, spacious image to boot. This tribrid IEM is well worth the price and is sure to bring you many hours of engaging listening.
The Moondrop Variations is available at Audio46.