The Moondrop Aria 2021 IEMs are a perennial crowd favorite. The sequel, the Snow Edition, utilizing different drivers and tuning, have big shoes to fill.
For CHI-FI enthusiasts, the highly-acclaimed Moondrop Aria 2021 need no introduction. However, did you know that prior to the Snow Edition’s release, there were other “Moondrop Arias”?
Long before the Aria 2021, there was actually an older bullet-shaped Moondrop Aria, with non-detachable cables. The original Aria are sadly no longer in production. Back in those embryonic days, Moondrop wasn’t as established as they are now and this ancestor Aria flew under the radar.
After the success of the Aria 2021, a limited edition Elven Maiden Aria were released. These are a green-shelled version of the Aria 2021, featuring Hatsune Miku on the packaging. Moondrop confirmed that this Elven Maiden variant was just a reskin of the Aria 2021, with identical internals and sound.
Hot on the heels of these predecessors, we now have the new Snow Edition Aria, which feature a winter-themed shell and packaging with different drivers and tuning.
Read on below to see if the Snow Edition do justice to the famous Aria lineage! We will also compare the Snow Edition to seven other reputable single DD sets! Will Snow White dwarf the competition? Or will they be banished to eternal slumber and be forgotten in the fast-moving fairy-tales of CHI-FI land?
In This Article
Moondrop formed in 2015, and since then, it has come leaps and bounds and is now arguably one of the preeminent leaders in the CHI-FI industry.
Moondrop is popular among CHI-FI enthusiasts, and they have released several crowd-favorite IEMs, such as the CHU, Blessing 2, Dusk, Aria 2021, KATO, and Starfield (just to name a few). Moondrop has even ventured into earbuds, some considered best-in-class (eg Chaconne and Liebesleid). Moondrop recently entered the TWS game with the Sparks and Nekocake.
- Form: IEMs
- Drivers: 1 x 10mm diamond-like carbon diaphragm dynamic driver
- Impedance (Ohm): 32Ω +/- 15% (@1kHz)
- Sensitivity (dB): 119dB/Vrms (@1kHz)
- Frequency Response (Hz): 20 Hz – 20 kHz
- Removable Cable: Y
- Cable: 6N oxygen-free copper silver-plated cable
- Source Plug: 3.5 mm TRS, single-ended
- Cup/Shell Plug: 0.78 mm, 2-Pin
In the box
- Moondrop Aria Snow Edition IEMs
- 3 pairs of Moondrop Spring tips (silicone ear tips) (S, M, L)
- 3 pairs of standard gray silicone ear tips (S, M, L)
- Carrying case
The accessories are par for the course for a budget pair of IEMs and are quite serviceable.
YMMV, as we have different ear anatomies, but I find the Spring tips do compress dynamics somewhat, dampening the bass and treble. As such, they give a more mid-centric flavor when installed.
There are also standard silicone ear tips that do not compress dynamics as much as the Spring tips. They sound more conventional to my ears. Do tip-roll to see what best suits you.
A 6N oxygen-free copper silver-plated cable is included and Moondrop says it has high-permeability insulation. The cable is on the thinner side but is quite supple with minimal tangling.
The cable has surprisingly minimal microphonics. Disappointingly, there is no chin cinch.
I’m not a fan of MMCX connectors in general because they potentially have issues with frequent cable swapping, so 2-pin connectors are quite welcome in my book.
The Snow Edition shells are essentially identical to the Aria 2021 in shape and size. Like their predecessor, the housings are manufactured from precision mold casting and Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) milling technology.
Unlike the black-shelled Aria 2021, the Snow Edition are silvery with an intricate snowflake motif. There are multiple complaints on forums of the paint peeling or bubbling off the Aria 2021. Moondrop says they have used a different surface coating on the Snow Edition. It does remain to be seen if the paint will peel off this new iteration.
There are no left/right markings on the housings. While IEM addicts will be able to identify the respective sides with their eyes closed, those new to over-ear IEMs might have difficulty. As mentioned previously, there is a red band over the right cable terminal so that one can use this as a marker for the right shell housing.
The Snow Edition are very comfortable and ergonomic; I have used them for marathon-long listening sessions without any discomfort whatsoever.
I do not experience driver flex, but this may depend on the ear tips used and your ear anatomy.
Beyond using the same external housing, both the venerable Aria 2021 and the Snow Edition use the same internal acoustic structure. The former, however, use a liquid crystal polymer (LCP) dynamic driver, whereas the Snow Edition feature a first-generation 10mm diamond-like carbon (DLC) diaphragm.
Moondrop claims this DLC driver – also used in the Kanas Pro Edition – has high rigidity and damping yet is very light. In addition, the Snow Edition incorporate an ultra-fine Daikoku copper-clad aluminum wire (CCAW) voice coil to form a lightweight suspension system.
Moondrop Snow Edition Sound
The Snow Edition are relatively easy to drive, though robust amplification can give better dynamics and bass tightness.
The Snow Edition are unsurprisingly tuned close to Moondrop’s virtual diffuse sound field (VDSF) philosophy (their in-house variant of the Harman curve). The sound signature is close to neutral and very balanced, with no frequency impinging on the others.
Note weight is on the thinner side, though timbral accuracy for vocals and acoustic instruments is very organic and natural. Note edges and dynamics are somewhat blunted, but this adds to a relaxed and chill (forgive the pun) coloration.
While tonality and timbre are excellent, technicalities are bang average for a budget single DD pair. It’s nothing to write home about, and similarly-priced rivals, especially hybrids/multi-driver types, do this department better than the Snow Edition. As we will read below, some single DD types also fare better in technicalities.
Soundstage is slightly above average in all three dimensions, with height and depth more prominent over soundstage width. Clarity is quite good, but micro-details are not the most pronounced, and imaging and layering are just decent. There is occasional smearing of instruments with very complex riffs with competing instrumentation.
The Snow Edition go for an organic tonality and natural timbre over outright in-your-face technicalities. They are more analogue sounding than analytical.
With the stock gray silicone tips, the Snow Aria’s bass is very slightly north of neutral. This is a mid-bass focused set, with a sub-bass roll-off. As for quality, bass speed and texturing is above average, with no mid-bass bleed.
There’s just a small tickle of sub-bass in bass-forward music genres; this set is definitely not one for bassheads due to the lack of bass slam and extension.
The lower midrange is just a tinge depressed but is quite transparent without a big mid-bass encroaching into this area. The upper midrange is boosted but not too shouty or fatiguing.
The midrange is the star of the show, with the less pronounced bass and dampened upper treble giving the midrange a lot of room to breathe. This showcases vocals and instruments (eg, guitars) in this frequency band.
Vocals are quite nicely done, and mid-lovers will have a field day, especially with genres such as acoustic, classical, and jazz.
The Snow Edition’s lower treble continues on from the boosted upper mids. The upper treble after that drops off, and the Snow Edition isn’t very airy or sparkly. Sibilance is non-existent, but there’s some loss of clarity and micro-details. Treble-sensitive folk will like this tuning, but treble-heads might be left wanting.
The Snow Edition will be compared against seven other dynamic driver budget competitors below.
Hybrids and pure BA IEMs were left out of the comparison as the different transducer types have their own pros and cons.
Vs. Moondrop Aria 2021
The first comparison involves sibling rivalry, pitting the Snow Edition against their older sister, the Aria 2021.
While physically identical, the Aria 2021 have a very tangly and microphonic cable compared to the one included with the Snow Edition.
The Aria 2021 are easier to drive and have more sub-bass quantity and better sub-bass extension than their younger sibling on A/B comparisons. Bass texturing is not as good on the Aria 2021. Upper treble is also more extended and sparkly, although more grainy, on the Aria 2021.
Technicalities are slightly improved on the Snow Edition. The Aria 2021 have a hair better imaging, but the Snow Edition have better micro-details, clarity and a slightly better soundstage in all three dimensions. Timbre sounds more natural on the Snow Edition, with less aforementioned grain, though they have a bit less note weight than the Aria 2021.
It’s pretty common that the sequel to a highly-acclaimed movie usually can’t live up to the previous iteration. Suffice to say, the Snow Edition do hold their own against the Aria 2021, but they are mostly a sidegrade or marginal upgrade at best.
Aesthetics aside, those that want more bass in their music should opt for the Aria 2021, while those that want something more neutral can choose the upstart Snow Edition.
The two siblings are more similar than different.
Vs. Tripowin Olina
The Olina are touted as a mini Tanchjim Oxygen, and are one of the more technical budget single DD IEMs under a hundred bucks. The Olina have a sharper edge definition to notes and superior technicalities (soundstage, micro-details, instrument separation, and imaging) compared to the Snow Edition.
The Olina have more sub-bass and treble than the Snow Edition. Though, the Olina are more shouty and fatiguing in the lower treble region, with more sibilance. The Olina may sound a bit nasal for vocals in terms of timbre.
The Olina are more technical and aggressive and are better for critical listening compared to the more subdued Snow Edition. The former, however, can be fatiguing and may not be the best option for treble-sensitive listeners.
Vs. Tanchjim OLA
The OLA are tuned to the unique head-related transfer function (HRTF) frequency curve. The OLA have slightly better clarity, imaging, and instrument separation but are weaker in soundstage.
The OLA have a thinner note weight, less bass, and are more shouty than the Snow Edition. OLA’s timbre is also noticeably less natural, and isolation is poor.
The OLA have a notoriously poor fit due to the round shape of the shells and short nozzles, and if not fitted well, they do not sound good and cause discomfort.
Though the OLA are more technical, they do not have a snowball’s chance in Hell of besting the Snow Edition in timbre, tonality or fit.
Vs. DUNU Titan S
The DUNU Titan S are a neutral bright pair that have a tinge better technicalities than the Snow Edition. However, the Titan S are a bit more shouty in the upper midrange and also display sibilance. The Titan S also have a bit less natural timbre than the Snow Edition.
Fit is a bit more awkward on the Titan S due to the long nozzles, and their cable is quite tangly.
These two sets are sidegrades in my book – the Titan S are a bit more analytical.
Vs. Tin HIFI T3 Plus
The Tin T3 Plus are more V-shaped, and they have much more bass quantity than the Snow Edition. Note weight is thicker on the T3 Plus, and they are more “fun sounding”. However, the bass on the T3 Plus isn’t as tight, with poor texturing and this region sounds “one-noted” and undefined.
The T3 Plus have a deeper and taller soundstage, and width is similar. In terms of imaging, layering, and micro-details, the T3 Plus win slightly. The midrange is less lush on the T3 Plus and markedly more recessed.
If one wants more bass and “fun”, opt for the Tin T3 Plus. If one wants something more neutral and uncolored (and white as snow), the Snow Edition is preferred – these two are sidegrades otherwise.
Vs. Final Audio E3000
The E3000 are an L-shaped warm and very bassy set of IEMs. These have a more flabby and nebulous bass, with much more bass quantity and note weight than the Snow Edition. The E3000 are darker in the treble too, with way less air and extension.
The E3000 have a more expansive soundstage and better layering and instrument separation, though they have less clarity and micro-details. Isolation is poorer on the E3000, and they have a more artificial timbre than the Snow Edition.
The E3000 are much harder to drive and require amplification due to their low sensitivity. The E3000 are meant to be worn cable down (bullet-style design) and have a noodle-thin microphonic and non-detachable cable, which may be a deal-breaker for some.
These two sets are opposites in tuning and are complementary rather than competing.
Vs. HZSound Heart Mirror
The Heart Mirror are a neutral-bright set; they have less bass and are much brighter in the treble than the Snow Edition. Note weight is thinner on the Heart Mirror, with more air and sparkle, but they are more fatiguing. There is more sibilance on the Heart Mirror compared to the smoother and more laid-back Snow Edition.
The Heart Mirror are much more technical and analytical, with better imaging, micro-details, and clarity, though they have a more intimate soundstage than the Snow Edition. The Heart Mirror are slightly harder to drive.
The Heart Mirror are colder and more sterile. In fact, they are more befitting of a winter theme than the Snow Edition!
Where to Buy
The Moondrop Aria Snow Edition are a worthy addition to the ultra-competitive budget single DD segment. They don’t reinvent the wheel but bring a sublime midrange, organic timbre, balanced tonality, and beautiful aesthetics to the CHI-FI table.
Compared to the other seven single DD competitors mentioned above, little Snow White do not dwarf the competition, as they are not the last word in technicalities. However, they arguably ace tonality and timbre and provide a well-balanced and well-rounded signature, perhaps except for bass-forward music genres.
I do consider both the Aria 2021 and the Snow Edition to be standout examples of good sub-USD$100 single DD IEMs.
For those that have not tried any of the Arias, you can’t go wrong with either of these models. The older Aria 2021 boast more bass, whereas the Snow Edition are more neutral. Different aesthetics may also play a part in choosing which sibling to purchase, but both sets do sound as good as they look!
thanks for the review and comparisons! I have a question or maybe more like seeking for an advice.
do you think Aria SE is a big upgrade from Chu? as for now I love the vocal/mid on the chu, I just find that Chu is just a ‘lil bit lacking on mid bass for my preference. And I wonder is the Aria SE has much better technicalities, dynamics and maybe timbre than Chu. Thanks~
The Aria SE is an upgrade over the CHU yes, in timbre, tonality and technicalities.
Timbre is more natural on the SE, tonally, the SE is less shouty also. In technicalities, the SE is superior in soundstage, imaging, micro-details and instrument separation. You get a set with detachable cables too and a case, in the SE.
But considering the CHU is 4x cheaper than the SE, the SE is not 4x better, as per diminishing returns in this hobby.
Thanks for the reply. I’m still kinda new to this hobby. I planned to get IEM sub $100 like the Aria 2021 ,titan S or this Aria SE. For vocal/mid lovers and maybe a lil bit critical listening, which one would you recommend? or maybe any other recommendation? thanks~
For a sub $100 good single DD, these are my recommendations:
1) Tripowin Olina – very good technically, great soundstage, imaging, micro-details and instrument separation. However, it can be a bit fatiguing for those who are treble sensitive due to a boost at the lower treble region.
There are mods that u can do to tame this area (eg stack the provided damping filters in the packaging or use a Tanchjim Tanya filter), but if you are not adventurous to do mods, then the stock tuning is a bit bright for some.
2) Aria 2021 – warm balanced set with good timbre and tonality, but not the most technical. Quite smooth and non-offensive.
3) Aria Snow Edition – a bit more technical than the Aria 2021, but with lesser bass, not for bassheads.
4) Dunu Titan S – analytical neutral/neutral bright IEM, good for critical listening, quite all rounder. Nozzles a bit long so might affect comfort for some. May also be a bit fatiguing in upper midrange region.
5) Tin HIFI T3 – the weakest of the lot IMO. Mild V shaped, bassy set, quite fun sounding. But it has a one-noted undefined bass, so it loses points in my book. The mids are also the most recessed of all the above, so might not be best for vocal lovers.
If you are looking for a set for mid-lovers and vocals, I think the Aria 2021 or SE can be good for those. DUNU Titan S is also good in this area, but it is a bit more analytical. Go for Olina if you want the most technical set, the midrange is not too bad also, but be aware it is not the best for treble sensitive people, unless you want to play with the filter mods.
Thanks for the recommendations! gonna do some research on Olina before putting the final decision
I’ve been looking into getting a pair of IEM’s in the sub $100 category to use for competitive gaming as I get headaches when wearing a headset for long periods. Would the Aria Snow be good for hearing footsteps and the direction sounds are coming from?
Honestly, I am not into gaming, but my 2 cents is that the Aria Snow is not that technical or that great in imaging, so I think that is a big requirement for footstep localization.
You might be better off going with a Tanchjim OLA (they are very technical with good imaging) for gaming, although the caveat is that the fit is very iffy (due to a short nozzle and very round shell). The stock tips are bad for fit, but if you can get some longer nozzle eartips eg Spinfits or Final E black tips, they really made the fit better (though this adds to costs).
But going back to your question, I think the Snow Edition ain’t too technical and imaging is fuzzy during complex music passages, so it might not be the best option for gaming IMHO.
Thank you for the review! I truly love the mids on these! What upgrade path do you suggest for this sound signature? Happy weekend!
A good upgrade over the Snow Edition would be the Tanchjim Oxygen. The Oxygen is harmanish with more subbass/treble extension and less upper mids than the Snow Edition.
Oxygen has better timbre and has better technicalities – imaging, transients, instrument separation, clarity and micro-details are improved.
hi, right now im using HZ sound heart mirror without DAC or DAP. i like my hz sound heart mirror, but i feel like the staging are too small and the bass are lacking a bit.
are aria SE a good upgrade for me? or buying DAC are better for me?
also can you give me some recomendation for DAC and also IEM for my upgrade sub 150$ for each
The Heart Mirror ya it has quite a small soundstage, especially when not amplified. The stock tuning of the Heart Mirror is bass lite as it is a neutral bright tuning, so it is definitely not for bassheads.
The Aria SE has a bigger soundstage than the Heart Mirror, but in other areas of technicalities – clarity, imaging, instrument separation, micro-details, the Aria SE loses out. Bass quantity is more on the Aria SE, but it has less bass quality.
So in essence, the Aria SE is poorer in technicalities than the Heart Mirror, so you might want to consider the Dunu Titan S, which is also neutral bright, but has slightly better bass quantity than the Heart Mirror. Technicalities are quite close between the DUNU Titan S and the Heart Mirror.
Buying a dac/amp might also help with the Heart Mirror. The Colorfly CDA M1 is quite a nice little dongle, has good power, and has both 3.5 mm and 4.4 mm (balanced) output.
Currently I have a pair of Ola, Tanya and Chu. I love Ola for its technical performance and it is especially great for live instrumental tracks and female vocals that are clean and transparent, which is what I listen mostly.
However, I also listen to other genres as well such as pop and rock, which unfortunately doesn’t sound as good on Ola due to the lack of bass. Ola also struggles to portray male/deep/bassy voices and some string instruments that is on the bass-ier side “correctly” to me.
Tanya on another hand is like an antithesis to Ola where pop and rock will sound great on it, although I do wish that the bass can be tamed down a little, and less so on live instrumental tracks and female vocals.
Personally, I’m not a fan of Chu because of the treble that goes hot and the soundstage is very lackluster when compared to Ola and Tanya. I must admit that it has great separation even with little to no soundstage, which left a very odd impression on me.
I think I am looking for an all-rounder where:-
> the bass is in the middle of Tanya and Ola. I prefer a well-controlled bass that punches more than a boomy texture. But not too less of quantity where it feels lackluster until it makes thing less life-y, which is happening on Ola.
> it is similar to Ola when it comes to midrange and treble region where instruments and vocals are portrayed cleanly. It doesn’t have to be forward but I prefer it not to be recessed.
> the technical performance that gives life to live instrumental tracks where it can captures micro-details, has good separation and a good sense of imaging.
With that say which one do you think that will fit my needs more? I’m guessing Dunu Titan S based on the comparisons you laid down in this review but it seems like Aria Snow is very close as well.
I fully agree with your impressions of the Chu versus Tanya versus OLA.
The Moondrop Snow Edition is actually quite bass lite, and it has weaker technical performance than the OLA , so I don’t think this may be the pair to fulfil your criteria. The OLA are a step ahead in technicalities, so in this aspect, you might find the Snow Edition to be a downgrade.
Perhaps the Tripowin Olina and Dunu Titan S may fulfil your requirements. These 2 sets are a bit bright and perhaps treble sensitive folk may find them sibilant or a bit shouty, but otherwise they are very technical and have more bass than the Snow Edition/OLA. There are some easy mods that can be done on the Olina too (eg pasting filter nozzles) to tame the brightness if you wish to experiment.
Otherwise, if you can still find it, the Tforce Yuan Li also fulfils your criteria, very good mix of tonality, timbre and technicalities. It needs amplification though, sounds a bit meh from a low powered source. Whereas the Titan S and Olina are easier to drive.
Thank you for the reply!
There is 1 seller who have Tforce Yuan Li but since it requires amplification, I think I’ll skip that since I use a USB dongle only. It is also far more expensive (about $125) for my budget.
I read your review on Olina but I’m still having a hard time deciding on which one to get because it seems like Olina has great technical performance but it is also commented that it brings out female vocal more than the male vocal, which is something I wish to fix here from Ola.
To recap what is my need, I need an all-rounder that works good on all genres, including live instrumental tracks (which include everything from piano solo to jazz to symphonies), female and male pop/rock, some orchestral pieces, anime/VGM OST, while excepting rap and edm.
I don’t need it to excel on any field particularly but I would love it if it sounds good on anything I throw at it because if I really want to go technical/musical I still can use my Ola/Tanya in worst case scenario. Or perhaps a “correct” IEM which portray everything as they should be?
Price point wise, Olina costs about $100 while Dunu Titan S costs about $65 from where I am. Considering the price difference and my needs, which one do you think would suits me more?
Yes, you are quite right that the Olina has female vocals more forward than male ones, but there are some easy mods that can be done – eg paste a Tanya filter over the nozzle of the Olina, or stack a second filter of the Olina (included in the package) over the first, to tame this area.
These mods are reversible and easy to be done, and a lot of folks prefer the Olina with these mods over the stock form (which I think it quite good except for a bit of shoutiness/treble brightness).
The Dunu Titan S is quite a nice set for orchestral/BGM/instrumental genres, but lacks sub-bass, so it isn’t the best option for EDM/rap, which you have said is not a criteria, so yes, it can be an option. However, in terms of technicalities, Titan S is a bit behind from the OLA. But the Titan S has better timbral accuracy than the OLA. For $65, the Titan S is definitely worth a consideration, that’s a great price.
I have seen the Tforce Yuan Li go around $80+ USD during sales, but I think it is now not in production, so probably the limited stocks will jack the pricing up. Yeah and if you are not going to give it an amp, then it sounds quite meh, so maybe look at other options.
Another option to consider is the TRI Starsea. This is a very technical hybrid that has 4 tuning options via switches. So it can be tuned to be U shaped to neutral, and is pretty versatile as such. It has very good technical performance at the $100 bracket, the only thing is even on the bassiest switch setting, it isn’t a basshead set still.
Thank you for the reply again!
Now you’re opening up more doors for me to consider lol. I’m a bit iffy on the TRI Starsea because of the BA driver, which I wasn’t a fan of XBA-1 from Sony way back in the past due to its terrible treble that pierces through the black hole, but had a very long and pleasant journey with TDK-BA200 which had a very “antithesis” tuning for a BA IEM.
I think I should simplify stuffs by asking you to do a scale for me, if it isn’t too much to ask from you. I’ll just pick whatever that is closest to my need based on the scale. The scale will just be a simple A>B>C, do use “more > (as an emphasis)” or “=” as you see fit. It doesn’t have to be dead accurate but a “more or less” approach will be very helpful.
In consideration of OLA, Tanya, Olina, Dunu Titan S (let’s just abbreviate it as DTS lol) and the Starsea (assuming neutral setting), from least to most :
Bass quantity (from non-existent to boomy) :
Bass quality (how fast/controlled/textured it is) :
Bass cleanliness (whether if it bleeds into mid) :
Tonality (from dark to bright) :
Vocal Timbre (from metallic/coloured to organic) :
Instrument Timbre (same as above) :
Vocal forwardness (from right on your face to far away) :
Instrument forwardness (same as above) :
Separation (from a mixed bag to individual highlight) :
Soundstage Width (left and right) :
Soundstage Height (front and behind) :
Soundstage shape (from flat to oval to circle) :
Detail retrieval (from nothing to everything) :
Imaging (able to pinpoint the source) :
This would be my last question. Sorry for the indecisiveness in me and thank you so much for your help!
Here are some quick comparisons between the IEMs you are interested in:
Bass quantity: (least to most): OLA < Starsea = Olina = Titan S < Tanya
Bass quality/bleed (worst to best): Tanya < Titan S < Olina = OLA = Starsea
Tonality (bright to darkest): OLA < Olina < Titan S = Starsea < Tanya
Timbral accuracy (vocals + instruments; worst to best): OLA < Starsea < Olina < Titan S < Tanya
Vocal/instrumental forwardness (most forward to least) OLA < Olina < Starsea = Titan S < Tanya
Separation (worst to best): Tanya < Titan S < OLA < Olina < Starsea
Soundstage (3Dimensions; worst to best): Tanya < OLA < Titan S < Olina = Starsea
Microdetails (worst to best): Tanya < Titan S < Olina < OLA < Starsea
Imaging (worst to best): Tanya < Titan S < OLA = Olina < Starsea
The TRI Starsea is a pretty underrated IEM. It is very technical and has great isolation, with the aforementioned 4 tuning switches that can give it various sound signatures (mild V shaped all the way to neutral).
However it has some flaws: even on the bassiest switch, this is not a basshead set, the bass is just a tinge north of neutral. And it may have driver flex (or pressure build up sensation in the ears) for some users.
Lastly, it has a very low impedance of 9 ohms, so it requires a source with output impedance around 1 ohm or less, based on the audiophile rules of eights: https://www.headphonesty.com/2019/04/headphone-impedance-demystified/#:~:text=The%20term%20'rule%20of%20eighths,had%20with%20a%20greater%20range.
Otherwise with a source with higher output impedance, the sound signature may be skewed on the Starsea.
Looking at your requirements, I actually think the Olina with filter mods (either tanya filter or double stacking the Olina filters) may be possibly an option to consider.
In stock form for the Olina, perhaps it may be a bit too bright/fatiguing for treble sensitive folks, but if you like the forwardness of the OLA, the stock Olina has a similar forwardness but with more bass.
Thank you so much for the comparison! This gave me a clearer image on what to pick. I can’t reply to your latest message for some reason so I’ll reply to this.
I decided to go with Titan S in the end. Reason is that, based on the comparison you gave I have divided it into 2 categories with OLA/Tanya as benchmarks on which IEM falls in-between the two because I’m trying to find a middle point here but not an upgrade/substitute to what I own.
I found that Titan S is what fall in-between the two. Olina and Starsea seems to be an upgrade over OLA while adding more bass while retaining or even exceeding OLA’s technicalities, which kinda go against my initial point of finding an all-rounder that sits between OLA and Tanya.
I do apologize if I wasn’t very clear on what I wanted since my initial comment does have the impression that I’m just looking for an OLA with more bass while over-emphasizing the technical performance. It’s only after this discussion that I realize what I actually wanted.
The price is also a consideration for me as well where Titan S is $65 against the $100-$105 Starsea/Olina. Aesthetic wise I do prefer Titan S over Olina/Starsea as well, especially the Silver version! So I think I won’t regret for this purchase unless for some extraordinary circumstances.
Again, thank you so much of staying in this discussion until the end!
Hi Jo Jo
Glad that you have narrowed it down to the titan S. Yeah it is quite a nice neutralish single DD, does most areas above average at least. There’s some sub bass roll off, and it is not as technical as the OLA or Olina, but yeah I think it is a midpoint between the OLA and Tanya.
$65 is a great price for it, look forward to your impressions when u get it!
Hello, it’s me again. Unfortunately my Titan S got stuck for some reason and the whole refund process took me for a month. That got me thinking for a while and I looked on something else like the very much hyped 7hz Salnotes Zero. However, the jump on Chu’s hype train didn’t really left me a good impression and I started to avoid Moondrop as a whole in return. Well, it’s more of a me problem.
Anyway, their frequency graphs are eerily identical with very slight differences past 4k, and that is what pique my interest. Do you think $20 is going to compete with $60 (I found another Titan S that is $5 cheaper)? I am guessing that technicalities performance wise Titan S should be able to blow 7hz Zero out of water but I have no opportunity to audition them. If you have tried 7hz Zero, do let me know how does it compare to Titan S. Or you can just simply tell me Titan S is just worth the $60 price tag over everything around it haha.
As a side note, and I have been wondering about this myself for a good while now, when we are moving upward in price, should we be actually more concerned about the technicalities performance or tonality (FR) that we are paying, especially when the budget IEMs are so competitive on the tonality department nowadays? Sometimes I can’t help but stare at the screen and wonder which should I prioritize when I’m looking to upgrade.
Granted my Ola was more expensive than my Tanya and it clearly blows it out from the technical performance, but I believe Ola was quite a unique case that is different to the norm. I am not too sure on how many returns I can get from going upward and that is making me a bit afraid of blind buying.
Sorry for the questions again and thank you!
Sad to hear the Titan S didn’t make it to your mail.
I just managed to get a Salnotes Zero today, give me a few days of testing and comparisons and I’ll get back to you on how it fares. Will probably drop a formal review for it on Headphonesty perhaps end of the week.
As for upgrading down the rabbithole for IEMs:
This is just my 2 cents, generally the sweetspot is in the midFI region (which I classify as $100 – $500ish USD).
From budget -> midFI, the sonic improvement is quite noticeable, but from midFI -> TOTL, one is generally paying about 10x more for 10 – 20% improvement. So huge diminishing returns are involved. Budget gear gives great price to performance ratio, but there are generally compromises to be made (tonally or technically) there, though having said that, even TOTL gear have weaknesses.
I learnt this the hard way, but buying multiple budget IEMs will add up to a midFI or even TOTL IEM soon. And most will end up as sidegrades and be unused. Budget gear is very useful to test the various sound signatures and see what you like, but once you know what you want, it is best to just buy a good midFI set and call it a day. You save money in the long run haha.
As for what to look out for when upgrading. This really depends on you, cause some people prioritize tonality, whereas some want outright technicalities (eg soundstage, imaging, instrument separation, micro-details). It kinda depends on your preferred music genres too. Personally I’d go for better timbre/tonality any day over technicalities, if I have to choose. It is not difficult to find a technical monster, but finding something with good tonality is more difficult IMO.
But at the $100+ region, I think an IEM should at least be above average in both technicalities and tonality. You can’t be a one trick pony and just ace tonality and have bad technicalities at $100, and vice versa. If it is a $20 IEM like the BLON BL-03 which has good tonality but lousy technicalities, I can close an eye. But at 100 bucks, I won’t accept that. For example the Audiosense DT200 has superb tonality, but bad technicalities (it costs $100+), so for that reason, I can’t recommend it.
Hope this helps, and if anyone else can chime in to help your queries, we are all learning and hope we can learn from each others’ experience!
Thank you for the reply! And yes that is basically what I have experienced as well. I bought Tanya, Ola and Chu just to try different signatures (well perhaps not Chu and it is just as you say it becomes a side-grade that it doesn’t see much uses at all) to see what I actually prefer because all the IEMs I had were mostly V-shape where the mids are nowhere to be seen.
Diminishing return is exactly the word that I was trying to say and you coined it. This is especially true when the IEM nowadays can easily rival the IEM in last generations with little to no money at all. This is possibly why I’m a bit wary on how $20 IEMs fare up against ~$100 IEMs nowadays since the progression is moving perhaps a little too fast. Sometimes I think it even rivals mobile gacha games’ banners release schedule.
Honestly, I think I am trying to buy one last IEM and stick with it for a few years just like my TDK BA200 instead of months during my Tanya>Ola>Chu acquisition. I kinda wish I can listen to music once again instead of gears haha. After this purchase I guess I should stop looking at audio gears in general until my IEM breaks.
Anyway I’ll be waiting for your view on 7hz Zero and some comparisons between it and Titan S. Do take your time though since I’m not in a hurry now due to the fact that I’ve already been waiting for so long already so a couple more days/weeks won’t make a difference to me now.
Hello, I’m sorry for the urge but there is 9.9 sales going on which is going to expire tomorrow. Have you give the Zero a listen and have some idea how does it compare to the Titan S?
Yes I have just finished my draft of the Salnotes Zero and the review will be published soon.
In a nutshell, the Salnotes Zero is good for twenty bucks, but it doesn’t best higher end single DD like the Olina and Titan S in technicalities and tonality. The Zero is a bit hot in the treble region with sibilance, so if you are treble sensitive, best to avoid. It also has bang average technicalities (soundstage, instrument separation, imaging, microdetails).
The Zero is probably more for beginners who are new to the hobby, but if you own or are intending to get more premium single DD sets, then best to just save up and upgrade higher up the ladder. Having. Said that, the Salnotes Zero has good price to performance ratio, and the it is not 4-5x inferior to the Olina/Titan S despite the price differential (as per diminishing returns).
Thank you for the reply! I A/B-ed Tanya and Ola again and I think I really cannot go back to worse technicalities anymore. The difference is especially prominent when it comes to busier genres like rock.
With that said and looking at the options you have suggested again, I think Titan S will still be the one with all the discounts going around where Titan S costs $60, Olina $88, Tri Starsea $110. I gave Olina a serious consideration for the discounted price but the major complain/praise I have for Ola/Tanya was the timbral accuracy. Live violin and viola can sometimes sounds like they are played on buttered strings on Ola at times but they have a lot more weights on Tanya.
I have placed an order on Titan S (once again!) and thank you so much for the journey until here. I hope it will arrives this time (fingers crossed) haha! I will give your 7hz zero a read when it’s published!
Thank you once again! 🙂
Hope u enjoy your new Titan S ($60 is a great price), and really look forward to your impressions!
Hello! I just received my Titan S! First impression is that it sounds tonality correct (much more correct than Ola until I begin to pick up some details I’ve not heard before due to how rolled-off Ola is in the sub-bass region) while still have more than enough technicalities.
It does sound a bit lean while still being forward only when necessary though, which is something I didn’t expect. It has a nice balanced tuning for my ears.
It is still a first impression after a couple of songs without A/B-ing but at least it doesn’t disappoint on first listen like how I did with Chu.
Thank you for the discussion leading to this ending!
Wow I am really happy for you Jojo! At the price you got the Titan S, that is a steal!
Anyways yes I find the Titan S veers to the leaner side, but this can be mitigated by using a warmer or bassier source or using eartips (eg foam or final E black tips).
I still take the Titan S out for rotation now and then even though I have other IEMs that are priced higher!
Good day! I am currently using the legendary Blon BL03 and planning to upgrade. I am confused between the standard Aria and Aria SE. I am not a basshead but I also don’t want a flat sounding IEM like Moondrop SSR. Which one should I go for and which one is less shouty (ear piercing female vocals etc)?
Thanks for your message.
The standard Aria 2021 is not as “flat” as the Aria SE. The Aria SE has a thinner note weight, and less bass, and it is just a tinge better in technicalities and clarity. I think the BLON BL-03 is closer to the Aria 2021 in sound, and it is also less shouty.
TBH, a direct upgrade of the BL-03 in terms of technicalities, timbre and tonality, would be the KBEAR Aurora.
It is also harmanish with a mid-bass bump, has better fit but similar timbre to the BL-03. Technically, it is a tinge better than the BL-03, and Aurora I’ve seen it on sales at $80ish USD sometimes.
For other single DD IEMs with better technicalities than the BL-03, but is also not “flat”, do read about the Tripowin Olina Special Edition, DUNU KIMA, Moondrop KATO.