Does Joshua Valour Prefer the Moondrop Aria OG or the Moondrop Aria Snow?

Note: This article is based on the video "What is the Aria Snow" made by Joshua Valour on his YouTube channel and is printed here in partnership with Joshua Valour. The review was originally posted on August 4th, 2022. Edits have been made for clarity and length. You can purchase the Aria Moondrop Snow on Apos Audio.

Intro 

The Moondrop Aria is one of my favorite IEMs. The video I made about it about a year ago has gotten over 200,000 views and a ton of positive feedback, which means that not only do I like it but a lot of you do as well. So today we’re going to be covering an iteration of the Aria: the Moondrop Aria Snow.

I’m going to be reviewing this headphone as its own individual thing, but I’m also going to be comparing it to the original Aria. Despite the fact that these are both exactly the same price at $80, this isn’t just a color change. There are actually quite a bit of differences between the two.  

OG Aria vs Aria Snow

Let’s go ahead and jump into what those differences are.

Visual differences and similarities

Now, the visual changes are obvious. The Snow has a snowflake theme on the outside of the chassis, of course, and a lighter rubberized clear cable, whereas the OG Aria has a braided cable.

There are a lot of similarities between these two, including the general shape, which is exactly the same, as far as I can tell. The chassis material is identical, as well, so the fit in your ear should be the same.

Driver differences

Internally, though, the original Aria has a liquid crystal polymer diaphragm, and the Snow has a DLC, or diamond-like crystal, diaphragm. I know that this sounds like a marketing gimmick and “diamond-like” sounds a little cheesy, but it’s actually a real thing. It is a diamond-like carbon.

Sound tuning differences

Now, one of the bigger changes here though is the tuning differences between the two. The Snow has the VDSF target, which is Moondrop’s typical tuning, while the Aria OG leans a little bit more towards the Harman Curve. We’ll get into that more in the sound section.

Build differences

As far as build, for $80, these are both pretty good. They’re not the top-of-the-pack, but they’re also not far behind from that top either.

Sound quality differences

Now, for sound quality, I wanted to give these things an equal shot at sounding their best, so I actually put them on a completely overkill amplifier, the TOPPING A90D.

I should say though that the differences between these two headphones is not substantial in terms of sound quality, and neither of them really needs a dedicated amplifier. I would definitely say that the dedicated amp is completely optional, and these can both sound awesome off of a phone or a laptop.

Treble

The Snow is a pretty detailed headphone, for the cost. It doesn’t have a ton of upper air extension that you might see with some other headphones. A Dioko, for example, has a lot more treble extension above 10k, and it sounds a lot more detailed in that area because of it, but throughout most of the frequencies it does come across as fairly detailed, though detail retrieval does not necessarily seem to be the absolute focus of either the Aria or the Snow.

The OG Aria, though, does have a little bit more treble extension at about 10,000Hz. You can definitely capture a little bit more room information from that headphone, a little bit more background information, and that actually helps sell the illusion of soundstage a little bit on the OG Aria, though some of the tuning differences in some other regions make for a slightly better separation between mid-range performance and treble performance because of how the mid-range happens on the Snow.

As for soundstage differences due to the treble response, if you look at the larger picture of all the frequencies combined, they both kind of trade blows for different reasons and have different benefits to the sound staging.

Initially, I was actually expecting the Snow to sound a little bit cleaner in the treble, and it does seem a little bit faster-sounding, but in terms of frequency forwardness, I do feel like the Aria OG is a little bit more forward in the upper extension area for treble response.

Mid-range

Now, I think a lot of people are going to focus on the bass differences, because they are notable, but I actually think that one of the most slept-on benefits of the Snow here is the mid-range.

The mid-range has been, in my opinion, improved over the standard Aria. The Snow has a slight boost to the upper mid-range right before the S and T range that the OG Aria didn’t have.

Now, there is a perfect track that can isolate this difference exactly, and I want to talk about it for a second. The song is “I Drink Wine” by Adele. In the song, the s’s and t’s are a little bit harsh. They’re not sibilant. They’re just a little bit sharp in some areas.

Now, the classic Aria has most of the body of Adele’s vocals, but then it kind of dips down in the upper mids until the S and T range, and then it kind of shoots back up and comes across as fairly harsh.

Now, the difference between the s’s and t’s between the two headphones is not that substantial, but what is substantial is the upper mid-range leading up to that s and t range.

The Snow has a little bit more boost there, which actually makes her voice sound way more fulfilled and accurate. In the mid-range, the Snow felt much more fulfilled in that upper mid-area than the OG Aria, and it made the song sound really, really good, and it made the S and T range sound more tolerable. Adele didn’t come across quite as sharp, which I thought was wonderful.

Now, in general, this is applicable to almost every female vocalist that I’ve heard on these two headphones. I think the Snow is a lot more fulfilled and a lot more accurate-sounding to what an actual voice sounds like just in that slight difference in frequency tuning action.

This isn’t a substantial frequency difference between the two, but it’s enough to make, I think, the end experience a lot more fulfilled-sounding and correct-sounding on the Snow.

Bass

Okay, bass response. This is what everybody’s going to be asking about. This is going to be the biggest sticking point for most people, and this is going to be where your decision is going to have to be made.

Putting it plainly, the OG Aria has more bass.

Now, there are pros and cons to this. The OG Aria is bassier in both the mid-bass region and the sub-bass region, so it does hit harder for both of those. It feels more filled-out, in my opinion. It’s a little bit more fun because of it.

The original Aria, though, does have a slight problem for a little bit of a mid-bass bloat. But here’s where I think Moondrop missed a big opportunity for tuning adjustments. If they had cleaned up that mid-range but kept the sub-bass quantity that the original Aria has, this would have been a 10 out of 10.

For $80, the mid-bass bloat on the standard Aria is totally worth the compromise due to all the other benefits of the sound and, you know, slightly bloated mid-bass. I think a lot of people actually like that sound signature, so it’s really not a problem. It’s only audiophiles. We’re going to complain about something like that.

The mid-bass bloat is cleaned up and actually pretty much gone on the Snow, but they didn’t have a resurgence in sub-bass quantity, and it’s a little bit lower than the OG Aria. The effect that this has is that the bass just comes across a bit flatter than it would on the OG Aria.

But, honestly, I think that most people are going to prefer the bass response of the OG Aria even though it’s not technically perfect.

The Snow just doesn’t have enough to really feel fulfilled in this comparison, though it is really notable that the tips make a huge difference for bass. So I put final Audio Type-E tips on the Snow to enhance a little bit more of the high end and enhance a little bit more of that bass response, and it sounds pretty wonderful. That is also something that I might suggest for the OG Aria as well.

Sound Staging

Now, sound staging. I’m actually not hearing a massive soundstage difference between the two. Both the imaging and sound staging are great for both models. I don’t think one is vastly superior to the other.

Conclusion

Throughout this video, I was only talking about the differences in the areas that are different, but I didn't talk about all the areas that are the same, which is the majority of the sound signature actually.

These headphones are surprisingly similar, given the differences, in not only tuning and tuning style but actual material choice of the driver.

I’d lay it out like this: if you like fuller, more clean-sounding, realistic vocals, and you’re less focused on bass and airy treble, then I would get the Aria Snow.

If you prefer bass and slightly smoother treble response but more recessed mids, then I would get the OG Aria.

Like I said, bass is going to be the deciding factor for most people. Personally, I would stick with the OG Aria, but I definitely really enjoy the boost to the upper mids that the Snow has.