Review: Moondrop Nekocake – Can the Cat Have Their Cake and Eat It Too?

Look what the CAT dragged in?
Look what the CAT dragged in?

Moondrop continues their foray into the TWS market with an eye-CATching cat-themed set!

Thank you, Shenzhen Audio for providing the Moondrop Nekocake review unit.
General Usage 60.2
Audiophile Usage 52.7

Score Breakdown

73.9
What We Like
  • Good fit and comfort
  • ANC available
  • Moondrop Link App allows configuration of touch buttons and 5 preset EQ settings
  • Good timbral accuracy
What We Don't Like
  • Below average technical performance
  • Poor passive isolation lets in wind-noise
  • Hiss present
  • Mic quality not the best
  • No fast charging/wireless charging
  • No support for aptx, aptx HD, LDAC
  • No customized EQ options
  • No waterproofing

Where to Buy

The Moondrop Nekocake are available at:

Introduction

Moondrop formed in 2015, and since then, they have come leaps and bounds to now be considered one of the preeminent leaders in the CHI-FI industry.

Moondrop generally tunes their IEMs to their in-house sound signature, the virtual diffuse sound field (VDSF), which is kind of an amalgam between diffuse field and Harman tuning.

Moondrop is highly popular among CHI-FI enthusiasts, and they have released some crowd favourite IEMs, such as the KATO, Blessing 2, Dusk, Aria 2021 and Starfield (just to name a few), and even ventured into earbuds, some of which are considered best-in-class (eg Chaconne and Liebesleid).

Moondrop recently entered the TWS game with the Sparks and the Nekocake here are their most recent TWS entry.

Case

The case features a cat’s paw on the cover and a cat silhouette at the bottom, in keeping with the “Neko” (猫) namesake, which means “cat” in Japanese.
The case features a cat’s paw on the cover and a cat silhouette at the bottom, in keeping with the “Neko” (猫) namesake, which means “cat” in Japanese.

Battery

  • Battery Life: up to 12 hours
  • Connector: USB-C
  • Wireless Charging: No
  • Battery Capacity: 380 mAh

The Nekocake does not support wireless charging nor fast charging, and this set only operates via a standard USB-C charge port.

There is a charging port (USB-C) at the bottom of the case.
There is a charging port (USB-C) at the bottom of the case.

UX

  • Can be open easily with one hand: Yes
  • Pass the shake test: Yes
  • Light Indicators: One light indicator on the front of the case

There is an LED light in the centre of the case to indicate the charging status: when the battery level is > 10%, the LED is green, and when it is < 10%, the LED light turns orange.

Letting the cat out of the bag: the case opens and shuts with ease.
Letting the cat out of the bag: the case opens and shuts with ease.

Interestingly, there is a “function button” at the centre of the case (on the posterior side) that allows for resetting and reconnecting of the Nekocake; just put the earpieces into the charging case and long-press this button until it enters pairing mode.

These are the parts of the case as mentioned above (photo from Nekocake manual).
These are the parts of the case as mentioned above (photo from Nekocake manual).
Speaking about the function button, one can also press this to get the LED charging light activated.
Speaking about the “function button”, one can also press this to get the LED charging light activated.

A magnetic hold grips the earpieces well, and only on hard shaking do the earpieces get dislodged. This strong grip may be a double-edged sword, as the Nekocake earpieces are difficult to be removed with just one hand, as the long stem is embedded deep into the case.

Design

  • Shape of the case: Cuboidal
  • Material: Plastic
  • Build Quality: Average

The case is made of plastic, and there are no sharp edges. Admittedly, in terms of quality, the plastic casing feels a bit on the cheaper side, but no biggie considering this is a budget TWS set.

Portability

  • Weight: 44g (With earbuds inside)
  • Volume: 6.5 cm length x 2.6 cm x 4.4 cm (74 in cu)
  • Portability: Good

The Nekocake (with the case) weigh in at 44g, which is lighter than a newborn kitten!

Earbuds

Battery

  • Battery Life: up to 4 hrs
  • Charge Time (15mins): around 60 mins playback time

The Nekocake battery life is as advertised, reaching 4 hours with a single charge, and 12 hours with the charging case (when used at moderate volume). The battery life is also dependent on whether the ANC function is on.

Admittedly, such numbers are average at best for a TWS set, and I’ve used other TWS sets with more robust battery life (e.g. Tronsmart Apollo Bold). Additionally, you should bear in mind that with repeated charges, you should expect battery life to decrease.

The Nekocake require around 1 hour to get fully charged, so this cat isn’t as fast as a cheetah!

UX

  • Control Mechanism: Touch
  • Touch Accuracy: Good
  • Control Symmetry on both earbud: Can be customized on the Moondrop Link App
  • Mono Use: Yes (both sides)
  • Cannot turn on/off TWS outside the case

The touch control of the Nekocake is quite accurate and I didn’t find the controls to be overly-sensitive.

These are the default controls (photo from Nekocake manual).
These are the default controls (photo from Nekocake manual).
The Moondrop Link App allows one to customize what the buttons do.

Design

  • Profile: Low
  • Material: Plastic
  • Comfort: Good
  • Fit: Good

No complaints with the ergonomics or the weight on this set, and as a result, comfort is top notch. In fact I didn’t even notice the Nekocake were inside my ears for hours. They do not drop out even with vigorous head turning, but of course this is a YMMV situation, as we have different ear anatomies.

The Nekocake are light and small enough in profile to allow one to take a cat nap with them!
The Nekocake are light and small enough in profile to allow one to take a cat nap with them!

Mic

  • Noise Cancellation: Average
  • Voice Pick-up: Average

Unfortunately, it may seem like the cat has got your tongue during calls.

Using the Nekocake on a few Zoom and conference calls, the feedback I received was that the words were intelligible, but sounded muffled as though I was speaking through a towel. The mic quality on the Nekocake isn’t the best.

The ANC is decent enough, and this can be activated with a long press on the earpiece. It isn’t as good as the ANC on the Tronsmart Apollo Bold, but the Nekocake’s ANC can counter a huge chunk of lower frequency outside noise (e.g. vehicle engine rumble), but higher pitched or sudden sounds (e.g. children shouting) can still filter in.

There is some latency when switching between ANC on and off.
There is some latency when switching between ANC on and off.

Passive isolation on the Nekocake is disappointing, with external noise being able to get in easily and overwhelming the ANC’s good work. Wind noise also easily enters in and creates a whirlpool of unwanted cacophony, so using them in a windy place or cycling with them is a fool’s errand.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a hiss with the Nekocake on various bluetooth devices I paired them with. The hiss is more obvious with the ANC activated. While this hiss is not obvious on the go, or once music starts to play, in a quiet place and in softer parts of the music, it may rear its ugly head.

Mic Demo

Sound

  • Driver: 13mm dynamic driver (titanium dome composite diaphragm).
  • Sound Signature: 5 presets available – see below. Stock setting is a basshead L-shaped tuning.
  • Sub-bass: Good
  • Bass: Good
  • Mids: Average
  • Treble: Average
  • Sound Detail: Bad
There are many ways to skin a cat, and there are 5 pre-set EQ settings on the Moondrop Link App. Once a preset EQ is chosen on the App, the Nekocake will keep this EQ setting subsequently (without needing to reopen the app).

Unfortunately, the app does not allow for a customized EQ. We’ll go into detail on what the 5 preset EQs bring to the table (no pun intended):

Preset EQ sound impression table

PresetDescriptionNotes
BalancedL-shaped (basshead)The stock tuning is called “balanced”, which is a misnomer in my opinion. This tuning is far from being balanced, and it features an L-shaped basshead signature with huge bass quantities (crescendoing in a huge visceral sub-bass rumble).
Moondrop classicVDSF (variant of Harman curve)This setting features Moondrop’s famed virtual diffuse sound field (VDSF) tuning philosophy, which is their in-house variant of the Harman curve. Bass is much lesser in quantity (with a sub-bass roll-off), but the bass is much tighter and faster.
X dynamicV-shaped (basshead)This setting features a V-shaped sound signature with big bass.
No bassNeutralThis features a neutral bass, with a rather neutral overall sound. Clarity is great on this setting, though it may sound a bit undynamic and boring.
WennebostelL-shaped (basshead)The last EQ setting, Wennebostel, features huge bass quantities with a drop in treble > 10 kHz. So this setting has not much air and can feel a bit compressed and “lowFI”.

Some TWS buds are tuned with a boosted bass to offset bass losses outdoors, as this is the first frequency that is lost in a noisy environment. 3 of the preset EQs here have thunderous bass, so non-bassheads might want to check out the “Moondrop classic” or “no bass” configurations.
The Moondrop classic configuration is my most favored and used setting of the 5 presets, and should have been christened the “balanced” moniker in my opinion!
The “Moondrop classic” configuration is my most favored and used setting of the 5 presets, and should have been christened the “balanced” moniker in my opinion!

Overall, the Nekocake have good timbral accuracy for acoustic instruments and vocals, but they fall short in technical chops; imaging and micro-details are below average, soundstage is also bang average.

A similarly priced competitor, the Tronsmart Onyx Prime has better technical performance, and offers a customizable EQ to boot.

Connectivity

  • Audio Codec: A2DP/AVRCP/HFP/HSP/SBC/AAC
  • Bluetooth Version: 5.0
  • Auto-connect when: Case cover is opened
  • Average drop-outs in an hour: 3 – 5 times
  • Multi-point connection: No

Unfortunately the Nekocake does not support aptx, aptx HD and LDAC, which may be a deal-breaker for some.

I do not own any apple products, but I did my tests on an android phone and 2 DAPs (Shanling Q1 and Sony NW-A55). The Nekocake has decent enough bluetooth connection range and stability, the effective range is about 10 meters or so (assuming no huge obstructions), though I had occasional stutters in a crowded location and rarely, drop outs.

Waterproof

  • IP Rating: N/A

One negative area to highlight, is that the Nekocake have no advertised waterproofing specs. I would hesitate to use them for exercising.

Software

Mitsuikiyuki's voice prompts are there to greet you! Source: https://shenzhenaudio.com/products/moondrop-nekocake-tws-true-wireless-earphone-optimized-13mm-dynamic-driver-bluetooth-5-0-touch-operation-5-tunings-push-button-reset
Mitsuikiyuki’s voice prompts are there to greet you!
Source: https://shenzhenaudio.com/products/moondrop-nekocake-tws-true-wireless-earphone-optimized-13mm-dynamic-driver-bluetooth-5-0-touch-operation-5-tunings-push-button-reset

For our anime otaku fans, you’d be pleased to know that in tying in with the quintessential Moondrop anime packaging, there is a squeaky high-pitched anime voice to greet you for voice prompts! Definitely not a “warm voice” as advertised and it might seem irritating for some!

Source: Moondrop Link App. Just select your preferred EQ setting and click request, thereafter it will be saved every time you use the Nekocake.
Source: Moondrop Link App. Just select your preferred EQ setting and click “request”, thereafter it will be saved every time you use the Nekocake.
Source: Moondrop Link App. One can customize what the touch buttons do from the app.
Source: Moondrop Link App. One can customize what the touch buttons do from the app.

Leave a Reply