Note: This article is based on the video "WOW! Moondrop Venus Looks CRAZY!" made by Joshua Valour on his YouTube channel and is printed here in partnership with Joshua Valour. The review was originally posted on December 26th, 2022. Edits have been made for clarity and length. You can purchase the Moondrop Venus on Apos Audio
Disclosures: Apos sent this out. Moondrop has nothing to do with this review. All thoughts and opinions in this video are, like always, all my own. All I can say is, wow, this is one of the most unique-looking headphones. One of the strangest headphones I've come across in a while. This is the Moondrop Venus.
This thing looks like a mad science project gone astray. Let's talk about the build. A large portion of the chassis design feels unique and very, very well-built. The CNC'd aluminum here is really fantastic in terms of the precision that seemed to be used to create it. It is very well machined. Taking off the grille reveals some of the best looking driver chassis designs that I've seen, revealing a beautiful mirror finish that you would see on something like the newer Odysseys. Like the LC5 has this kind of mirror finish substrate look and I think it looks great here.
They are using high quality components like dual sided N52 grade magnets, which is one of the highest grades you can get and therefore very expensive. So I'm glad that they spent the extra cost on really, really nice magnets here.
There are some quality control issues that I think need to be addressed and need some work though. One is, I had to cut the box cover off of the box here because it was so tightly on there that I actually couldn't get it off without either ripping or cutting it off, which is kind of crazy. This headphone also had the ear cup completely off the yoke when I opened the box. Now it clicked back on fairly easily, but I think it clicks off a little too easily. And the name and the grille design makes me believe that they took influence from something. You spot the difference.
The big benefit to this design is the pads are enormous. They are really, really big pads. If you have ear fitment issues with most headphones, you will not with this. It's not quite as big as something like an HD800, but it's much bigger than most planars are these days. The downside to the pads is that the pads and the headband itself are kind of stiff. And because this is such a big and heavy headphone, weighing in at 615 grams, you kind of feel the pressure a lot here. The clamp pressure is maybe a little bit too strong, the weight is an issue, the headband is not quite soft enough, and the pad material is not quite plushy enough to be what I would consider comfortable. In fact, when you put this on, you pretty much feel the weight and the heft of it and the size of it basically immediately.
There's also one thing that I would just straight up change about the design. Since this is such a big headphone, having this kind of dropped section for the input for the cable directly at the bottom, I think was a bit of a mistake. I understand that visually they want it to align with the rest of the grill design, but I really think that putting it back here, kind of like in an HD800 style design, or at least kind of forward tilting like an Odyssey design, would have been a good benefit because especially with aftermarket cables, you're going to be bumping into your shoulders a lot with the cables. It's just kind of one of those slight design tweaks that I think would be a big kind of quality of life improvement.
Now my overall build impression is: some good and some bad. I am impressed with their CNC capability, the looks of this device like sitting on a shelf is very impressive, but the quality of life things like I mentioned and the usability is a little bit low. It's not exactly the most comfortable and I think things like the quality control for the grilles for the box need to be addressed. I think for the $600 asking price in some areas this headphone just straight up exceeds expectations for build quality and sound quality, but in other areas it does fall short.
If you are a details guy, this headphone is extremely detailed and I think a lot of people who are more specifically detail focused for this price range are going to really like this. But when it comes to some specifics for the sound quality, I think that there's some good in this headphone but a lot more areas for improvement than there are areas of impressiveness.
The way that I would kind of put the general sound quality of this is it's somewhere in between a cross of an HD 800 and a Sundara. Soundstaging is straight up brilliant on this headphone. A mixture of the available information from the top end that you get and just the properties of how the soundstaging and imaging is presented just makes for this extremely clear environmental space that sounds can come at you from. It's very, very impressive in that category.
Now, the brilliance in the treble response for things like instruments and that environmental information, like I was telling you about, that is very impressive again with this headphone. Details, of course, like I mentioned before, are also a big benefit especially in the treble response and timbre. Specifically in the treble, it is very, very good. But there are some tuning problems with this headphone that I'm not quite a huge fan of.
These tuning issues really start with the treble response. It is simply, in my opinion, too bright. This mixed with the base delivery, which isn't substantial, just makes the headphones seem a little bit too bright too often for me to really enjoy. And while some of the technicalities and the detail and the precision of the top end is very impressive, it's also punishing at the same time and it especially isn't great when you mix in how the mid-range and the treble kind of collide together.
The lower mid-range is quite nice. It has this great forward delivery, it feels very lush and deep, and it feels like it's got a lot of guts to it. Now when you get into the upper mid-range, things thin out a little bit and don't quite keep up with that lower mid-range, so some of your female vocalists seem kind of sucked out and far away and they don't seem to have a lot of that depth to their voice that they really need to sound in my opinion, very, very good. But then there's sort of a peek back between about 6K and 8K, which makes things seem again sharp. So you've got this decent lower mid-range, this kind of sucked out upper mid-range, and then a sharp kind of transition into your upper treble response.
Now that makes voices sound both thin and sharp, especially for female vocalists, which I listen to a lot. Most female vocalists just straight up have a bad delivery on this headphone. Male vocalists can actually come across fairly okay, though I have seen better implementations from cheaper headphones like the hd6xx, which has better female and male vocalists in my opinion. But it does not nearly have the sound staging potential or the bass quality or the treble brilliance that the Venus has. So don't consider it a direct competitor.
This definitely performs better with lower octave instruments, but when you get into the upper mid range, some instruments like cellos can sound not great and not very detailed. You know, when you get into violins, the brilliance of the treble response starts to pick back up some of that slack. But yeah, it's kind of just okay for instruments for the most part.
Bass is disappointing on these headphones. The website suggests there is a bass boost, but when compared to a typical frequency response, it seems to be slightly reduced. The bass does seem detailed and fast, but it doesn't hit hard with punchiness. While it is detailed, the details are not forward enough to be extremely enjoyable for bass heads. This is an area where the headphones could have used the bass to level out and balance the treble response and even land on a v-shaped sound signature, which would have been preferable given the lack of mid-range. If the base had been built up a little more, it would have had a better overall sound signature.
I think you would have had a more substantial low end that wouldn't have made the headphones sound bright and thin. It could have still felt fulfilled in the low end but just a little bit sharp in the top end. Unfortunately, they did not elect to go that route so that's an area for improvement for the future.
That is kind of the theme of the conclusion: there's a lot of improvement, there's a lot of potential. I really like Moondrop and I've reviewed a lot of their products and, generally speaking, I actually really like their house tuning, which I don't think that this quite follows compared to their house tuning for things like their IEMs. I think that they should have tailored a little bit more towards that sound signature and I would have liked it a lot more.
But as of right now, while this is a detailed headphone and it's got a very unique take on build, which is refreshing to see, I have a hard time recommending this headphone for $600. I think it's definitely got some areas that need to be improved, especially with quality control for some components to be really worth it and then I think I'd like to see some tuning adjustments as well.