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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.
- Comfortable and good fit
- Beautiful shells
- Very balanced tonality
- Sublime midrange and vocals
- Organic timbral accuracy
- Middling technicalities
- Not for bassheads
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?
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 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!