Note: This article is based upon the article "Moondrop VENUS Review - An Unpolished Gemstone” made by Sandu Vitalie on his website SoundNews and is printed here in partnership with SoundNews. The review was originally posted on January 10th, 2023. It has been edited for clarity and length.
I'm back with another review for a beautiful-looking open back planar magnetic headphone that is called the Moondrop Venus. Everybody knows about Moondrop by now. They're making one of the most affordable and good-sounding IEMs, and I do believe that they are one of the fastest-growing IEM makers out there. After being impressed by their Starfield and Kato IEMs, I couldn't wait to test out their newest Venus planar magnetic headphones. So here we are. These are going for $599 and I do believe it is the right time to check them out.
Build quality-wise there is a lot to like about this and very little to nitpick about. Actually, everything you see is made from either aluminum or leather and that's pretty much it. The aluminum parts are much thicker compared to a lot of other headphone brands. Everything feels really sturdy, solid, and well put together. If you put them around some flagship headphones they will blend nicely because the build quality is actually quite high on these. They also have a 100% symmetrical look, which I personally like.
The only thing I don't like about them is this headphone connector which is shooting directly into your shoulders. So if you have some third-party cables that have a longer headphone connector, they might touch your shoulders so that is not so great. My cables are working great but there is very little space left, so keep that in mind.
Having so much metal all around, these are on the heavier side of neutral, so you'll find them quite heavy compared to plenty of headphones but luckily they have soft ear pads and a very even distribution of weight. I can wear them for about an hour or so, maybe a little bit more, but after about an hour I can feel a higher pressure on top of my head. Comfort-wise, these are staying somewhere in between Audeze and HIFIMAN.
I appreciate the size of the massive ear pads. Just look at how big these ear pads are. You have just a huge void space, like a black hole in the middle, that should fit even elven ears. So, if you have big ears, don't worry, these will be hugging your ears pretty easily and providing a nice comfort.
They have two detachable cables in the package, but the 4.4mm balanced one seems of a higher quality, having a silver-plated single crystal copper wires, compared to the 3.5mm cable that probably uses some oxygen-free conductors.
As for the tech inside them, these are open-back planar magnetic headphones that use some sort of wave guides–-pretty much what all the newest Audeze and HIFIMAN headphones are using nowadays.
They have 18 magnets paired on either side of their diaphragm so they have 36 magnets per single driver working in an old school push-pull configuration.
As for the drivers, at a diameter of 100 millimeters and at a thickness of two microns, these are incredibly thin and super large drivers, pretty much in line with the biggest headphone drivers out there like LCD-4 and LCD-X.
With a sensitivity of 100dB and having an impedance of 18 ohms, these are not so easy to drive, although you can drive them with a portable device pretty easily. However, at 18 ohms, these are mostly current driven and not voltage driven, like high impedance headphones, and you'll definitely feel quite a massive difference in sound versus say a portable device and a desktop headphone amplifier that can provide a higher current.
I will start by saying that this will need a few hours of burn-in time, because they are sounding right now clearly quite different to how I heard them on the first day. I’m not sure if it’s my brain or their drivers, but clearly there is a difference.
I expected that the Venus would sound pretty much the same as the Starfield and Kato IEMs, which were quite full-bodied, warm, and mid-range and mid-bass forward. Surprisingly, the Venus are not like that. These are not pushing forward anything. Basically, they’re going for a more linear and neutral type of sound with a higher emphasis placed in the treble region. They’re actually cleaner and more resolving than the Edition XS and Sundara by HIFIMAN.
Dynamics and transients
Connected with a USB dongle to a Bluetooth DAC/Amp, the Venus sounded plain boring. There wasn’t much life, especially in the bass. The dynamics were not that impressive.
The good news is that they work much better with bigger units, like the FiiO Q7, which made them sound livelier, more fun, and just overall better.
There’s an even bigger difference when listening to a desktop headphone amplifier. Not only that, but they sounded very different from one amplifier to another, so you'll need to experiment to find which amp sounds best to you.
Because the Venus are very linear-sounding with a bit of roll-off in the sub bass and a roll off in the upper mid-range, my advice is to use a warmer setup like an old discrete Class A headphone amplifier.
Another highlight was a quite massive sound stage. The sounds were not only coming from my left and my right. I was listening to Lorena McKinney, and I remember looking very often at the door of my office, because a few sounds were happening somewhere from around there, which was quite interesting.
I was listening to “Labyrinth” by Sonar, and I remember hearing those sounds at different altitudes and distances from my eardrums, creating a very defined 3D map of the song. It didn’t feel like stereo music but a binaural recording.
There’s a mild roll-off in the sub bass that makes them a little ethereal, a little lightweight sounding in the bass. The mid-bass region is not elevated by a single dB so, again, these will not impress a bass addict or headbanger. Without a desktop headphone amp or a powerful portable unit, these are quite gentle and soft-sounding in the bass.
The mid-range performance is there but it never tries to get your full attention. Between 500Hz and 1kHz, there’s a roll-off, so everything happening in that region is not very playful or meaty or warm. Female voices and string instruments are not very real sounding.
The treble is both amazing and also weird. On the one hand, you get plenty of shimmer, detail, and nuance. On the other hand, it’s very uneven. There’s actually a 20dB difference between 5kHz and 8kHz, with too little information at 5kHz and too much energy at 8kHz. So they can get a little bit bright, but I didn’t find them very distracting in the treble. I didn’t find them harsh-sounding with my setup. It isn’t a problem with tube amplifiers. They can be a problem with ultra linear amplifiers though.
The Moondrop Venus has a great build quality, and there’s plenty of things to like about it and very little to nitpick. All things considered, I give it an 85/100.