ThieAudio Oracle MK2 vs Moondrop S8 Comparison Review
If you’re looking around at IEMs in the $500 – $600 range right now, you’ll be pleased to know that you have a lot of recently released, premium options to choose from – though with the competition being so stiff, it’s not an easy decision to make. I compared two such IEMs, the iKKO Asgard OH5 and Moondrop’s Variations, in a recent comparison review. I’m following that up with a comparison between ThieAudio’s Oracle MK2 and Moondrop’s S8, IEMs that are a pinch more expensive but still within a similar bracket ($589 and $595, respectively). Let’s take a look at some of the style and design that makes these special before we jump into what they sound like.
What’s In The Box?
-Moondrop S8 in-ear monitors
-Headphone Cable (2 pin to 3.5mm)
-5 pairs of ear tips (XS/S/M/L/XL)
ThieAudio Oracle MK2
-ThieAudio Oracle MK2 in-ear monitors
-Headphone Cable (2 pin to detachable 2.5, 3.5, and 4.4 mm jacks)
-3 pairs silicone eartips
-3 pairs foam eartips
-Semi firm carrying case
Look and Feel
It’s pretty safe to say that you can’t go wrong with either IEM in regards to style and comfort. Usually these comparison reviews are a case of the beauty and the beast, but these two units are as flashy as they are different. The Moondrop S8 has completely transparent housing aside from the silver “Moondrop S8” decal on the back, leaving its 4 balanced armatures (and much more) fully visible. I’ll start talking about sound quality and EQ in a moment, but this transparent design is a satisfying aesthetic representation of the S8’s balance. As far as fit is concerned, the S8 strikes me as a perfected version of the Moondrop Variations – not that the Variations were uncomfortable, but a little extra care went into shaping the ear-side of the housing on the S8, which gripped my ear with an exceptionally isolating fit.
ThieAudio’s Oracle MK2 has the classic, bedazzled and fiery gemstone look that is, at this point, a company signature. Frankly, ThieAudio makes some of the most beautiful IEMs I’ve laid eyes on, and the Oracle MK2 is no different. The IEMs are also particularly comfortable and isolating, though I have to say that the S8 takes this round by a very slim margin.
Design and Technical Specifications
The Oracle MK2 is part of ThieAudio’s “tribrid” line, meaning it contains three types of drivers: a dynamic driver dedicated to low end, two balanced armature drivers for mid range, and two electrostatic drivers for the highs. The S8 driver design consists of four balanced armatures on either side, with one dedicated to lows, two to the mids, and the last one for the highs. On paper, I have to admit I was a bit more excited about the Oracle MK2’s driver set up, but I’ll just say that I’m very glad that I judged the S8 on its sound rather than on its technical design.
ThieAudio Oracle MK2
-Driver:1 dynamic, 2 balanced armature, 2 electrostatic.
-Impedance: 11 ohms
-Sensitivity: 100 dB
-Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 40 kHz
-Driver: 4 Balanced Armatures
-Impedance: 16 ohms
-Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 40 kHz
While there are some very obvious differences between these two IEMs that I’ll be getting into in the following sections, they also have quite a bit in common, including staging. While neither the S8 or Oracle MK2 seemed to have a particularly wide stage, they were both exceptionally fluid and accurate. The S8 might slightly edge out the Oracle, for my ears at least, as it had a moderate effect of creating an internal 3d image inside of my head. The contest here is so close, however, that I’m not willing to call a winner. It should suffice to say that one of the premium qualities you’ll be getting out of both of these IEMs is some very accurate and entertaining staging and imaging.
As for layering in terms of EQ, we’re once again dealing with two extremely pristine IEMs – however, the S8 carves out some of its balance with a heavier hand than the Oracle MK2. While I found this to kill some of the realism in its sound, it undeniably left an extremely delicate and spacious balance in its wake that gave every idiosyncrasy in every track of a song tons of room to be heard. Once again, I’m reluctant to say the S8 “wins” in this category, as this decision came with some draw backs that I’ll get into below.
I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the S8 didn’t blast my ears with subs to mask a heavy mids scoop – a common trait for Moondrop that frequently leaves me critical of the company. The low end on the S8 was tastefully and evenly boosted to include its mid bass as well as its subs, and struck me as more smooth than impactful. While the Oracle MK2 also has a fairly modest and wide boost across its lower frequencies, subs and low bass are given a little more love. This resulted in a moderate about of slam and rumble that wasn’t quite present on the S8. In short, bass is heard on the S8 but felt more on the Oracle MK2.
Yes, the S8 scoops some of its center, but it was probably the best version of this EQ profile that I’ve heard from Moondrop. It seemed to attenuate its center frequencies far more cautiously than the Blessing 2, or even the Variations, but ultimately reminded me of a premium version of the Kato’s mids profile. That being said, the middle frequencies slanted towards the high mids and brought down low mids. At its best, this resulted in sweet and twangy acoustic guitars and a very spacious balance, but at its worst resulted in a loss of body in guitars, pianos, and other traditionally supporting instruments. Vocals seemed to make it out just fine, with their fundamentals cleanly and clearly expressed. Though the Oracle MK2 attenuates some of it center frequencies as well, it’s pretty mild, and leaves in much more of its low-mids in tact. This gives its tone much more body and warmth, and ultimately, a more realistic sound (particularly for acoustic instruments). Low mids are frequently one of the touchiest areas in headphones and IEMs, but the Oracle MK2 really found a way to make use of them without muddying its balance. I found vocals, guitars, and snare drums came through with a sturdy quality that tapped the inside of my ear along with the Oracle’s low end. While the scooped low mids on the S8 led to a more spacious balance, I preferred the full and driving qualities in the Oracle’s mids profile.
This is the comeback round for the S8, which heavily leans into a carefully crafted high frequency profile. Vocals were given a very intimate quality, highlighting delicate mouth clicks and air while mostly avoiding harsh sibilants, and hi hats found a tight emphasis in their granular upper overtones. What impressed me the most, however, was just how much clean and pristine high end the S8 left in even the most subtle reverb tails. The Oracle MK2 still has impressive highs, though takes a more natural and restrained approach that mostly serves to preserve a realistic crispness rather than add air. The S8 colors its highs in a very tasteful and delicate manner, while the Oracle MK2 is more about transparent high frequencies that serve a supporting role in the overall balance.
The Oracle MK2 and the Moondrop S8 might be within a few dollars of each other, but are tailored to significantly different EQ preferences. If sweet, bright, airy, and delicate is what captivates you, you’re going to find an abundance of that in the Moondrop S8. If warm, full, and balanced is more your thing, you should be taking a good hard look at the MK2. I came into this review expecting to like the Oracle MK2 more than the S8, and I have to admit, my expectations were right – however, this was a much closer contest than I though it would be. The S8 is probably my favorite Moondrop release that I’ve tried to date. I usually like to hint at a winner, but if you’re choosing between these two, I’m sorry to tell you that you have a very tough decision in front of you for some very good reasons.