Note: This article is based on the video "Moondrop's NEW $80 Aria IEM!" made by Joshua Valour on his YouTube channel and is printed here in partnership with Joshua Valour. The review was originally posted on April 30th, 2021. Edits have been made for clarity and length.
Joshua Valour gave the Moondrop Aria a glowing review, saying that "a lot of wallets are going to be crying over" this $80 IEM. Watch the video below or scroll on for a lightly edited transcript.
Hey! What’s up, guys. My name is Josh. Real quick disclosure before we get into this. Apos, the audio store, did send this out for a review. Moondrop themselves had nothing to do with this review. Nobody is paying, asking, or otherwise influencing me to say anything good or bad about these products. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I think my very first thought when I first heard this headphone was: “There’s gonna be a lot of wallets crying over this, for sure.”
I think you should look at this as sort of the Moondrop Starfield--which is another very popular IEM from Moondrop--this should be seen as the counterpart to that. It actually comes in at a little lower cost, but I think one of the things I’m gonna recommend right off the bat here is an ear tip change.
I’m gonna link the eartips I recommend. They’re from Final Audio, but they’re used by a few different brands. I’m not sure who the actual maker of the eartips is. That’s just the brand I’m most familiar with. They’re about $20. Now those bring this $79 IEM up to about $99, so this is about a $100 IEM. And for $100, this thing is killer.
Now, the Aria being the yin to the yang of the Starfield: Starfield is kind of a neutral-leaning sound signature that’s a bit more mid-forward. [The Aria] leans a little bit more towards the warmer sound.
This is a little more bass-heavy, a little more fun-sounding than I think the Starfield is. The Starfield might be a slightly better reference point. I think [the Aria] might lean a little more towards peoples’ preferred sound signature for enjoyment, rather than neutrality and evenness.
The Aria is not so buttoned-up, reducing a little bit of the sparkle up top but adding quite a bit of guts down low, so you’re getting a much warmer experience. And I think a lot of people might prefer this sound signature over the Starfield. But you definitely have to make a decision of your preference of sound: cleaner and faster (Starfield) or slower and warmer (Aria).
Now, funny enough, with this IEM: it’s cheaper than the Starfield, but the build quality is better. I do like the blue sparkly look of the Starfield. It’s a unique look that I actually really love, but the build quality itself isn’t as good.
The Aria actually uses a metal-injected chassis, which feels dense and really high quality. If I handed this to most people and told them that this costs $200, I think they would easily believe it.
Now this added density doesn’t actually come with too many drawbacks. I don’t think it’s a big enough uptick in weight to be a concern for most people. And it seems like the inner ear side is the same as the Starfield, which I already found to be a generally safe shape for most ears.
I also think the canal stem and the actual general fit of it, for most general users, is not going to be a problem. If you’re a more unique user, you’ll know it, and you’ll know what to look for.
Now, internally, this does use a slightly different driver called a Liquid Crystal Polymer Diaphragm. This is just a fancy way of saying it’s a dynamic driver. It’s a single dynamic driver per earbud, which I personally am a big fan of historically.
Now, despite the price, and the warmer-leaning sound signature, I want to make a note about the resolution here. It’s better than you might expect. And I actually don’t find there to be any problems with the resolution.
I don’t find that any of the areas were glazed or swiped over or smeared in any really negative way. I actually find the resolution to be quite pleasing. It’s more a matter of tuning that will go into your preference.
Bass response. I can confirm: it’s got the bass. It’s got the bass for sure. The intro to “Seventh Heaven” from Angelina Jordan has a really nice, thick sustained bass note right at the beginning, and the Aria takes it on without budging at all.
Now, for bass at this price, the emphasis, like everything else, is not perfect. It is not the absolute cleanest, craziest bass response that you’re going to hear on any headphone at any price point, but it is very good.
But it does have a little bit of bass bleed, depending on the song, into the lower midrange. This is typical for bassier headphones that are kind of on the lower-tier. As you get higher and higher, this usually becomes less of a problem, but it is one--at this price--that I would consider to be typical, unfortunately.
Now, notably, I don’t think this is actually something that’s a big enough problem that most general users would notice it without somebody calling it out (which I just did).
Moving on. Now, this does hit hard and it does hit low, but it’s not some loosey-goosey type of bass response that’s going to give your ears a massage. It’s pretty well-controlled and well-defined and what I would consider to be a pretty good example of sort of the bassier side of a higher quality bass sound. But it results in a bass response that I think is actually really pleasing.
Now, treble response is not as forward as the Starfield, but I do think it’s pretty well-defined and not completely folded into the dark, where it’s unrecoverable. That being said, I do think that this still fits the role of an easy-listening, enjoyable, sit-back-and-relax type of headphone. This is going to be oriented towards those types of users.
Now, this is a detailed headphone, but I wouldn’t expect it to blow your mind with its treble transience or anything. That being said, you can listen to things like hardcore audiophile tracks (like “Long After You’re Gone” by Chris Jones), and things like the guitar are going to be brain-tickingly crispy, but they’re not going to be super, super forward.
Now, on Apos’ info, they say that this is subtle and glittery, and despite this being a straight-from-the-marketing-team type of phrase, I actually agree with it. But I would kind of flip those. It’s glittery but subtle. It’s not a super forward treble response, so I wouldn’t expect that. But it’s not bad either.
Now, unlike the Starfield, the midrange really takes sort of a backseat here. And if it’s not popping in the music, it’s not going to pop on this headphone. It’s not gonna force anything to the forefront like the Starfields might. If it’s recessed in the music, it’s gonna be recessed coming out of this IEM.
Now, while I don’t dislike the performance coming out of here, I have heard better IEMs for midrange at this price. If you like midrange, I would probably just stick with the Starfield.
Now, regarding the overall timbre of voices: I think this can really take advantage of a lot of the different vocal properties from different artists. But I think that the forwardness is really going to depend on how that artist comes across, depending on genre and song.
A different song may have the same timbre capabilities for voice, but it may have forwardness properties. So even within the same album, you’re probably going to get different performances for vocals and sometimes it’s gonna be really enjoyable, depending on the song. Sometimes it might be a little bit lackluster for voices specifically. Though, generally speaking, everything else is pretty good.
Now, soundstaging is overall fairly good, but I do have one bone to pick. It’s got sort of a pill shape in that it’s more on the sides than on the front and the back. This can be enjoyable, just depending on what type of music you listen to, what soundstaging shape you prefer.
It’s not really a spherical shape. It’s more kind of stretched out on the sides. And I’m just kind of being picky here. I think for the price, this is perfectly acceptable.
One thing I will say though is that on certain songs--I would say maybe one in every fifty songs I listen to--the right side and the left side can feel somewhat disconnected, and you can kind of feel like you get two blobs and not a whole lot in between.
This doesn’t happen with everything, but I did find that it did happen occasionally. It’s not really a big concern, and again I’m nitpicking here, but it is something that I did notice.
That being said, when you play an insane imaging song like Yosi Horikawa’s “Fluid,” the imaging on here is fantastic. Granted, a lot of that work is done by Yosi himself. But this headphone can take advantage of a track like that and play it pretty well.
Now, in conclusion, I think this is a great counterpart to the Starfield, with some aspects being a legitimate upgrade. Would I replace the Starfields with this? I would say that this doesn’t enhance what the Starfield is good at so much as counters it. It fills in some of the gaps that the Starfield has.
So with this, I would say that this is a much better addition to that setup than a replacement of that setup.
But if you don’t have either, which one should you go for? That’s pretty easy. Do you like bass or do you like mids? Just decide which one you want and go for the Aria for bass or the Starfield for mids. And I wouldn’t look back.
Okay, guys. Thank you, Apos, for sending this out. Thank you very much for watching. And until the next video, my name is Josh, signing off. Bye.