Beautifully designed mid-level IEMs with an easy-going nature.
They say looks aren’t everything, and beauty should be more than skin deep. But, what if I told you you could pick up a pair of beautifully designed, well-built, AND great-sounding IEMs for under $100? Getting all of this right at such a good price point isn’t easy, and there are plenty of examples out there of products that only nail one or two of these attributes. Not many manage to hit the mark with all three.
- Beautiful, sleek, and light design
- Rich, punchy bass
- Well-balanced for a wide variety of music
- Top end roll-off might be a bit too smooth for some
- The cable is on the short side
Following their early days as a studio of hobbyist engineers, Moondrop evolved into designing and building earbuds in 2014, and have been building a solid reputation ever since. The company prides itself on its willingness to employ new technologies and push boundaries with its products. Moondrop explicitly claims not to be a trend follower, and shuns the ‘snake oil’ that’s so common in high-end audio, instead positioning itself as a pioneer in the marketplace.
Moondrop was so proud of the original Aria model that they kept the name with this refreshed version.
- Form: IEMs
- Drivers: LCP liquid crystal diaphragm
- Impedance: (Ohm): 32
- Sensitivity: (dB): 122
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20KHz
- Removable Cable: Yes
- Mic: No
- Plug: 3.5mm TRS
The first thing you encounter with the Aria is the image on the front of the box. This is the first set of IEMs I’ve encountered with an anime character on the packaging! I’m not sure why they decided to use the image, but it’s a fun touch, and at least the character’s black clothing with gold stripes matches the design theme of both the packaging and the earbuds themselves.
Once the outer box is removed, the inner packaging is thoughtfully designed and classy looking, in black with gold highlights. Unboxing these reminded me of opening up packaging for a fine watch, or a piece of jewellery.
The Aria themselves – continuing the black and gold theme – are surrounded with a velour effect material. I like the thought that went into all of this. The unboxing experience is part of the fun of acquiring something new, and Moondrop nailed it with these.
In the box
- Aria IEMs
- A 1.2 meter braided cable
- Six sets of silicone ear tips
- Tweezers and replacement earbud nozzles
- Carry pouch
- Booklet and Quality Control card
The carry pouch is one of the nicer ones I’ve seen, with a rugged exterior and gold embossed Moondrop branding, with a matching gold zipper handle. A touch that I’ve not encountered before, and one that will extend the life of the Arias, are spare nozzles for the earbud speaker ports. There are two different kinds, and a set of tweezers for handling them, which is just as well because they’re tiny!
I also appreciated the included booklet. Moondrop took some time to think about what they wanted to say about the IEMs, and I got the sense that they care about the experience of the owner. The booklet contains sections covering the eartips, burn-in (quite long with these, at 100 hours), storage, comfort, and safety.
As already mentioned, Moondrop definitely knows how to make a sleek and beautiful set of IEMs. The look is classy, yet understated. They don’t shout ‘look at me’ but if anyone does notice them they’ll appreciate the aesthetic. For me, they strike the perfect balance, and I’d be happy wearing these anywhere without feeling self-conscious.
The metal body has been CNC machined into the classic moulded IEM shape. They have a nice weight to them (10g each), just heavy enough to let you know they’re there, but not distractingly so, once fitted.
I found the supplied silicone tips to be more comfortable than average among the IEMs I’ve tried, and it was easy to get a good fit with these. I also tried them with some Comply foam eartips which fitted on the IEMs perfectly, stayed in place well, and were a little more comfortable for longer listening periods.
The supplied braided cable has a nice nylon material feel to it, and is terminated with a right-angled 3.5mm plug. There’s no microphone on these, so if you’re wanting to make calls you may have to look at an aftermarket solution. I found the cable a little on the short side because of its tendency to curl, and it was a little microphonic with my setup, but acceptable.
The insides of the IEMs feature a 10mm dual cavity dynamic driver, with a Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) diaphragm. There’s also a strong neodymium magnet, brass inner cavities, and a copper-clad aluminum wire voice coil. Moondrop also references a high-frequency phase waveguide system that effectively reduces high-frequency phase interference and distortion, leading to a smooth treble response.
Moondrop Aria Sound
If you’re the kind of person with widely varying tastes in music, then this just might be your ideal set of IEMs. The Aria are well balanced across the frequency range, with rich bass, neutral mids, and a smooth treble response that rolls off at the top end. Listening to these for hours at a time is no problem at all, and I experienced no fatigue from the sound.
For testing, I paired the Aria with a Sony NW-WM1A Walkman, and the Topping D30 Pro / A30 Pro DAC/Amp that I reviewed last time. I also tried them with my Macbook Pro. In each case the IEMs were very easy to drive, and quickly got me relaxed into my listening.
Rich bass and a smooth sound signature make for easy long listening sessions.
Moondrop has done an excellent job with the low end on the Aria. They reach down easily into the sub-bass, and have a full, colorful, and rhythmic bass response. What impressed me was how well these Arias captured the intimate powerful bass typical with IEMs, without becoming overbearing. Instead of blowing me away and tiring my ears, the Arias delivered their bass at just the right intensity to keep me listening for longer.
I tried various genres, including hip hop, jazz, rock and electronic, and the bass performed well across all of them, accentuating the lower registers, but without ever getting bloated or losing detail. An old electronic favorite band of mine, LFO (literally standing for Low Frequency Oscillation) tests the bass pretty well, and the Arias did a fine job of letting me distinguish the super deep bassline notes on Shove Piggy Shove.
I found the mids to be the standout strength with these IEMs. They were well balanced and neutral to my ears, providing just the right level of detail to allow vocals to shine, without ever sounding nasal or shouty.
Well reproduced mids can provide a real sense of intimacy with your music, and this was beautifully illustrated for me on I know I dream by Stacey Kent. It really sounded as though she was singing right in front of me: a joy to listen to.
Even on more densely packed recordings, the mids never got out of control or distracting. A lot of inferior audio gear begins to fall apart on tracks like Go To Sleep by Radiohead, but not the Arias. I was able to follow all the threads in the track, and actually enjoy all the layers of sound battling for my attention.
If there’s one area where the Aria will divide opinion, it’s at the top end. On the plus side it’s a very easy going, creamy sounding treble response, meaning you can happily listen for hours without fatigue setting in. For others, the rolled-off top end will diminish some of the excitement of brighter sounding recordings.
To be clear, these are not dull sounding IEMs at all. It’s just that if you enjoy brightness and sparkle in your listening, then it’s just a little more muted here than with others on the market. As always, a test drive will quickly help you decide where you fall on this topic.
Personally I think this is a very easy pair of IEMs to live with, and I didn’t miss the more tiring top end I’ve heard on some other models.
Suitable for widely varying musical tastes, the Aria are great all-rounders.
Where to Buy
There’s a lot to like about the Moondrop Aria, and it says a lot about the pride the company has in them that they decided to reuse the name of the first generation. They’re stylish looking, comfortable, solidly built, and have a well-balanced frequency response.
The Aria are easy to live with and easy to recommend.
As always, some will prefer their music delivered with more character, favoring more prominent mids, or brighter highs, and there are plenty of options on the market to meet every need. However, if you’re someone who listens to a wide variety of music, like me, and you’re looking to spend under $100 on your IEMs, then I’m confident you’ll love the Aria.