Note: This article is based upon the video "Moondrop Starfield is one of the best IEMs for the money!" made by Joshua Valour on his YouTube channel and is printed here in partnership with Joshua Valour. The review was originally posted on December 21st, 2020. Edits have been made for clarity and length.
Josh Valour reviewed the $109 Moondrop Starfield on his YouTube channel, touting their excellent build quality and pleasing, easy-going sound signature. Check out the video below or scroll on for a lightly edited transcript.
So I’ve been working on this theory for a fair bit now, and the theory is this: if you’re looking for the best sound quality that you can buy for $100 or less, I actually think that the headphone you should be looking at is an IEM.
The top players in IEMs at that price sound better than the top players in full-size headphones.
Now, when you get over that price it’s a little bit different, but below that I think there’s a lot of choices that are really, really good. And I think a lot of the top players do sound better, both personally and technically, than their full-sized headphone counterparts.
And I think the Starfield is a pretty good consideration for a hundred dollar IEM. I actually think it’s quite nice. It does have some technical limitations, and we’ll get into that, but I think you should at least consider it.
All right, before we get started, Apos did send this out for a review. They are not paying, asking, or otherwise trying to influence me to say anything good or bad about this IEM.
Build and Fit
Now, the first thing to cover, as always, is going to be the build and fit. And the build is awesome here.
You’ve got this blue--really kind of honestly a beautiful paint job on this. The paint, I’m not sure how long it’s going to last or how resistant it will be to chipping, but in terms of the fit and finish of this paint, it’s awesome.
It’s got this pearlescent sparkly blue and purple color--this shifting paint--and it’s really quite a good-looking IEM. The chassis is I think plastic and is split up into two main segments.
And the ear tips are, you know, kind of average circumference. So they’re not particularly small nor particularly big, but the ear stem is actually fairly decently long. The termination is a two-pin cable.
Now, normally I don’t actually like the forced ear shape of these cables. I actually prefer a completely free cable--they’re just more comfortable on average for me--but on this particular headphone, for my particular ears, it doesn’t really bug me that much. So I’m going to leave the stock cable with no problems.
It does terminate to a 90 degree right angle, 3.5mm on the other end. And the overall cable quality is decent but not great.
The braiding is a little bit loose, but it does fold up nicely, and it doesn’t get tangled very easily.
Now, for sound quality. This is a very easy-going IEM. It avoids some of the known pitfalls of most IEMs in this price category.
While not providing the most technical performance in some areas, I think the overall sound signature is going to be quite pleasing, quite enjoyable, and definitely fitting into that more easy-listening category.
The treble response does have a little bit of sparkle and a decent bit of resolution, but it certainly isn’t standing out or jumping out to me as being kind of a standout feature for the frequency response.
I think that’s more reserved for the upper ranges of the bass and throughout the mid-range.
But for treble response, I think if you’re seeking a very active, very technical, precise treble, this isn’t going to be it.
Now, while this does fall into the more easy-listening category, I don’t think that the sound signature is so dark that’s it’s muffled, but it’s also not on the other end--super open and airy-sounding like some other IEMs can be--and it’s also definitely not a sharp sound signature.
It’s a softer approach without being muddy.
I would say the mid-range is what impresses me most on this. It does avoid some of the most known pitfalls of most IEMs like shoutiness and grittiness.
It’s smooth but not too smooth. And I actually consider it to be right on the money for tonality flexibility.
You’re going to be getting not necessarily perfectly accurate timbre, but you’re going to be getting a large amount of timbre flexibility throughout this IEM, especially in the mid-range.
The vocal forwardness is not super strong. This is a bit of a catch-22. One of the things that this headphone is really good at is staging and separation and giving everything a specific place in the sound staging.
Now, sound-staging is not super wide--and we’ll talk more about that in a second--but the staging and separation capability is pretty good.
Now, vocal separation, in terms of forward separation and kind of seeming like it’s not within the staging environment, is more on its own layer. This doesn’t really have that effect.
That effect would be more tailored towards something like the TINs or the Blons. I think this falls a little bit behind compared to those, but the separation from side to side and having a specific outline for the vocalist it does pretty well at.
I just wish it was a little bit more forward. But, notably, some people are seeking that more backed-up delivery. I though do personally prefer the more forward delivery that some other IEMs can offer.
Now, I consider that aspect just okay. I think what is very impressive on this IEM is the lack of fatiguing features in the vocals.
A lot of IEMs have an upper range shoutiness, and I don’t know if this comes down to typical IEM tuning that seems to be kind of consistent, where a lot of brands seem like they’re going for the same sound signature.
It could also be a physical property of a lot of balanced armature drivers, because that’s where I notice it the most. But this doesn’t have that. It doesn’t have that upper range vocal fatiguing shouty sound that’s like really spiky and uneven.
This is very smooth and clean all the way through the mid-range. The vocals are nuanced.
This is far from what I would consider to be a bassy IEM, but it is a satisfying enough amount of bass to make things sound bassy when they need to be. But the keyword is need. This isn’t going to overreach its bounds really in any particular area of bass response.
This might be a little bit more saturated than some users will prefer in bass response, and, on the flip side, a little less than some users will prefer. The mid-bass is really the strongest aspect of bass reponse on this IEM.
It’s strong enough and clean enough to provide a decent amount of kick and punch without too much boxiness, but what this really does lack is some of the low-end sub-frequency rumble that I personally really like.
I would prefer the low-frequency stuff over the kind of mid-bass stuff. Now, to be fair, that’s not really something that any IEM at this price has done super well that I’ve heard.
But I do think that technically the performance could be a little bit better here if you’re just playing like a 20 or 30 hertz tone. You can hear the 20 or 30 hertz just fine.
It does produce those frequencies but it gets overshadowed quite easily by the mid-bass. As soon as you’re playing bigger, more active mixes, the sub bass is gonna get a little lost here, so the music that I think this mixes well with is music that have a large range of frequencies in the bass.
That way you get a little bit of that mid-bass kick, and you can even include some of the sub-bass in there. [...]
I think this performs best when you have a broader attack on the bass response rather than a singular one.
For sound staging, the actual staging aspect of it is pretty good. It’s one of the standout features that separates this from a lot of the competition and puts it right up there with the best headphones at this price category.
It’s not overreaching those, but it’s definitely fairly good. Every instrument is going to have its own specific place in space.
Now, the sound stage width and how far out things can be is a little bit limited. I think this can be mitigated with EQ, but I think this is more of a limitation of the frequencies in the top end not being so forward.
If they were more forward, you’d have some benefits and detriments. The benefits would be: the sound staging would probably be a little bit wider and things would be a little bit further out, because you get that more open and airy sound.
The detriments would be: the sound would be a little bit more fatiguing and you’d probably have a fair bit of unevenness at this price range for the treble response. So you might have some quite strong peaks and dips--and that’s just a theory, of course--but that would be a potential circumstance of providing more sound stage.
So, if you’re going to listen to a sound staging album like Ain’t We Got Fun by Alexis Cole--that is almost an over-emphasized sound staging album where things sound wider than they usually would--if anybody else recorded it--and you can definitely see kind of the wall of limitations of width--but you get the excellent presentation of where things are meant to be, and every instrument has its own specific placement.
So it’s very good for placement and imaging strength and specificity, but not totally great for width. And the room shape is fairly good on this. You get a fairly even spread, and it doesn’t just jump from left to right.
You actually get a fair bit of evenness between all of the different degrees of attack for an instrument. It’s quite nice.
So, my conclusion. I’m going to reiterate the statement that I said in the beginning of this. If you’re looking at just a hundred dollars for good sound quality, I think IEMs are probably an area you should at least consider.
And there are a ton of great options. You’ve got the KZs, the Blons, the TINs, and the Starfields. While I don’t know if this is necessarily the best IEM at the price, it is certainly a consideration and probably will be the best for specific users.
So I would at least consider this and think about what you want from your music and what you want from your IEMs.
I think this IEM definitely has some technical limitations--not really very many technical issues that I consider to be problems, but limitations. But I’m still going to recommend this IEM for a couple of reasons.
One: the build is really nice. Two: I think the sound signature is a safe sound signature that doesn’t have any issues more than just preferential things that people will like and things that people may not like.
And, ultimately, I land on the fact that I think a lot of people are just going to simply enjoy this IEM, and that’s what I’m here to tell you: whether or not I think you’ll enjoy it. And I think a lot of people will.
So that’s going to be my review of the Moondrop Starfields. Thank you very much for watching again. Links to Apos and this product are in the description.