MOONDROP ARIA SNOW Review: High sound Benefit return

THE PLUS:
-Refined and mature tonality
-smooth organic balance
-great resolution and transparency
-well textured and punchy bass
-good imaging accuracy
-fast transient speed
-extended treble response
-safe tuning that avoid treble peaks
-less boring sounding than first Aria
-great sound value

THE MINUS:
-dryish and a bit thin timbre
-lean mid range that lack weight note and dynamic presence
-lack of lower bass extension and rumble
-cold musicality (subjective)

INTRO

Moondrop is now well known by audio community and have a solid fan base too. This chinese audio company always been serious about sound quality and tuning refinement, pursuing a tonal balance ideal inspired by Harman target acoustic calibration curve.

Their best seller like Moondrop Blessing 2 and Aria have proove to have past test of time and can be now call classic. The last IEM I review and appreciate from this company is the Kato, which you can read a detailed review HERE.

As a big fan of the Aria, I was so intrigued by the Snow version that I decide to buy it with my own money, even if i absolutely don’t need more IEM, even less so following the Harman curve.

Priced 80$ like the first Aria, the Snow don’t use a LCP (liquid crystal polymer) dynamic driver like it’s older sibling but a first gen DLC (diamond like carbon) dynamic driver which is suppose to be very same one as the Kanas Pro model which sell for 180$. While the use of this driver doesn’t promise similar timbre than first Aria, it sure promise high sound to price performance.

Let see in this review if the Aria Snow distinguish itself from other Moondrop offering.

CONSTRUCTION: 8.5/10

The Snow use exact same housing than first version Aria, but with a matte grey finish and beautiful snowy logo for backplate design. First Aria get complaint from consumers about paint chip issue which question aesthetical durability of it’s housing, I haven’t encounter this with my Aria which is still in perfect shape after 2 years of intense careless use. So, my theory is that it’s perhaps an issue that occur only in very hot and humid environment.

Personaly, i find the construction very good, sturdy and durable, Housing is made of thick solid metal and 2pin connector are recessed for secure connection.

Packaging is OK, the waifu on the box is quite beautiful and elegant, but overall presentation is mi nimalist as well as number of accessories. You have 6 pairs of silicone eartips including the very usefull Spring tips. You have a carrying case. But the cable included is only average as expected in this price range. Its the very same entry level silver plated cable found with their SSR and SSP IEM.

SOUND IMPRESSIONS

(Gear used for this review: Tri TK2, Ibasso DX90, Questyle M15 and Xduoo Link2 Bal)

TONALITY: 7.5/10


Vivid neutral to crisp W shape with light bass, the Snow is not exactly cold as winter but sure mature and serious in it’s sound presentation.
Tonal balance is of an inversed L shape to me, where both bass and mids feel a bit lean and softed in attack edge while whole treble follow a slight lift and extend far to add sens of air and openess.
We can call the Snow, big CHU brother, certainly an upgrade both in technical and tonal aspect, and even a hint more punch to otherwise lean and dry bass.

The Snow have mature audiophile tonality, focusing on sens of clarity and attack snap, that avoid to be plain boring or dull by adding a hint of punchyness to it’s mid bass and alot of snap energy and treble intrigue. When big bass occur, like with Soul and R&B music, result can be what i would call a fun high fidelity balance. The mid range is all about clean and vivid presence, yet with a restrain sens of openess and distant dynamic impact apart the upper mids part wich are on borderline shouty time to time, avoiding sibilance and harshness with a softed edge in definition, just a gentle one. Treble is the whole Snow Show here, it’s the tour-de-force that merit applause since it achieve very crisp and lively clarity and extract micro details like an humble champ, not overly pushed fowards yet the highs snap tend to attract our attention and entertain the listener with a captivating and refined musicality.

Timbre is as said on the dry and cold side, even with warm euphonic dongle like the Xduoo Link2 Bal, the Snow keep and icy feel to the female vocal for ex. Density is on the thin side too, yet well textured and nuanced in colors…but far from lush or full bodied. Let say we have more presence of timbre skin than meat (or tofu if your vegan)

TECHNICAL PERFORMANCE: 8.5/10

The Snow offer high resolution with very extended crispy treble. Attack speed is very fast and it have a tigh speedy sustain too, that add crunch and snap when needed. Even with ultra busy and fast excited jazz rock track like Skink from Elephant9, the Snow keep up it’s pace and it’s clean resolution, yet not in the most dynamic way, in a cold slightly distant way, free of disortion and with slight emphasis on treble.
This dynamic part is always hard to explain, but let say Moondrop tend to be light in weighty impact, especially in mid range which seem tamed in loudness scaling, since bass is light too here, dynamic is more felt in upper range, which tend to be more open, airy and edgy-snappy-bity.


Again, clarity is mind blowing with the Snow, it’s clean too, a hint airy, level of micro details will be high with a source like Questyle M15.
Imaging is excellent, vividly accurate and precise, yet the lean mids make us focus more on higher range instrument or sound positioning.
Spatiality being clean, it tend to add deepnest to IEM soundstage, but not so much wideness.


MUSICALITY APPRECIATION: 7.5/10

This is the subjective part of my review, and it can’t be just black or white in conclusion, it would be too vulgar since i’m open minded about different tonality flavors.
For me the Snow is like fine wine with cheese, depending of the pairing you do, the yumyness will differ. With electronic like drum&bass, Snow will not cut it and sound too dull, lean and dry and lacking lower extension and rumble in low end, with classical, it will depend since symphony will be very accurate and precise yet strings quartet will sound a bit dry and distant as well as not lush and vibrant enough in timbre.
In fact, personally I don’t find the musicality of Snow appealing, it keep me emotionaly distant due to dryish brightish vocal, borderline shouty sometime as well as light note weight for piano or lack of warmth and lushness in overall timbre. I do feel tone is affected by higher harmonic presence sometime too, yet not to the point of making any instrument sound wonky…just a bit ”unbodied” if we can say.

COMPARISONS

VS HZsound Hearth Mirror (1DD-50$)

Yep, my love for these sub-50$ budget serial killer isn’t done yet, far from it in fact…and again the HZM show how Elite he is in its technical perfomance here, yet it doesn’t offer same tonal balance, being notably more crisp W shape and energic in bass and mids too.
Bass extend deeper, have more rumble and well define body than dryer lean Snow where it feel notably less vibrant, resonance and physicaly present than HZM but more focus on mid bass thickness where HZM is sub bass resonance and lead impact of mid bass which isn’t chunky and as textured.
Mids are brighter and more spiky with the HZM, it have better sens of openess and heavier note weight as well as better define attack edge, female vocal jump at you and are a hint more prompt to sibilance with bad source but more resonance and wide in presence, more bodied too and less saturated in texture-tuby sounding. Here, it will be a matter of taste, since Snow is more relaxed as a whole too.
Treble is interesting fight, again, HZM is more spiky and snappy, but deliver more sparkleand longer and more natural decay-resonance too, this add a sens of transparency the Snow is lacking with it’s more gently crunchy treble that seem to deliver different part of micro details and have more polished definition. We have more sens of air and cleaned space between instrument with the HZM, yet treble is a hint fuller with the Snow.
Soundstage is wider with Snow and deeper with the HZM.
Imaging is great with both, but bass and mids have better layering and sharper separation with HZM.
All in all, in term of technical performance, HZsound Mirror haven’t been detrone by this 30$ pricier Moondrop Snow which offer on par resolution capacity with a more laidback dynamic. HZ being sharper and more W shapen in balance than the Snow, your tonal preference will decide which is your favorite, for me the bass being more resonant, mids more alive and treble more sparkly, it sincerly prefer my beloved Hzsound Hearth Mirror. If the Snow would have deliver lush and appealing vocal that surpass the HZM, might opinion would have surely change.

VS BQEYZ TOPAZ (1DD-80$)

The Snow is cleaner, clearer and more neutral sounding. Bass is faster in attack and leaner in response, not as opaque and textured and a bit less dynamic. Mids are biggest difference here, it sound wider, fuller and more open, as well it’s less recessed but a bit leaner in attack too. Seem like the Snow are more prompt to sibilance while the Topaz more at risk of slight shoutyness.
Resolution and imaging is notably superior with the Snow. Treble is more extended too, more snappy, airy and crisp, you have greater amount of clean micro details with the Snow. Soundstage is wider and deeper as well. Timbre is thinner, colder and with greater sens of transparency and less fuzzy texturing.
All in all, the Snow sound more technical and have cleaner resolution but isn’t as immersive and musical to my ears as the lusher and more energic Topaz.

VS TRI KAI (1DD-80$)

The SNOW is more neutral and refined, with greater sens of transparency and clarity as well as notably less boosted bass. KAI is more U shape, with thicker sub bass and more physical slam, warmer and less textured and more prompt to bass bleed than the Snow which offer leaner dryer bass response, less boomy, faster and more articulated in attack.
Mids are clearer-cleaner and more present in definition with the Snow, but leaner in dynamic and bit thinner in vocal timbre, especially male vocal which are more bodied and upfront with the KAI, for female vocal, its a bit more shouty and fatiguing. With fast busy music the Snow keep its clarity and accuracy unlike Kai that can go messy and unbalanced, especially if their heavy bass line or hit.
Treble is fuller with the Snow, and offer more texture nuances and sound info, definition is cleaner and sharper, transparency doesn’t get messy, percussions are more detailed and fuller restored while KAI can pick up part of it and let other part in the dark, swallowed by bass and mids boost.
Soundstage of both is similar in wideness tallness, but notably deeper with the Snow.
Imaging is without a doubt superior with the Snow, more accurate due to more transparent sounds layers and sharper static definition of instrument positioning, as well, separation have cleaner space.
All in all, if you find your Snow boring, the KAI seem a logical sidegrade since it follow similar tonal balance with more bass and more lively dynamic presentation. Technicaly it’s inferior especially in resolution, attack speed and control, treble isn’t as well balanced and lack mature refinement of the Snow.

VS NICEHCK YOUTH (1 DD-90$)

Firstly, the Youth is notably brighter and more V shape, it’s balance is more wonky and unbalanced in treble part. Snow is notably more refined and balanced, sounding neutral to mid centric yet with higher resolution, especially in mid range. Treble is better controled and more linear, making Youth feel dark in some part and overly boosted in other, more spiky and shouty.
Bass of Youth is chunkier and move more air, yet isn’t as realist in timbre. Male and female vocal are better with the Snow, with richer timbre and fuller body as well as cleaner presence.
Treble is a mess with the Youth, it feel more airy and snappy than Snow still, but in an unbalanced way while Snow deliver a smoother yet richer treble, less overly focus on higher harmonic making instrument like acoustic guitar tone more realist in timbral balance with fuller restitution of presence. Both these doesn’t offer biggest soundstage but the Youth feel wider and deeper due to extra treble air. Imaging is unrealistic with the Youth and become muddy in mid range faster than Snow, which have better transparency and more appropriate instrument placement and separation tough they can feel more compressed than the Youth.
All in all, the Moondrop is from another league here, both in tonality and technicalities and offer a more refined and mature neutral tuning which could be consider less fun and exciting for basshead and treblehead.

SOUND VALUE CONCLUSION: 8.8/10

The SNOW high performance and refined mature tonality it offer wasn’t findable under 100$ some years ago. I remember 3y ago that Starfield was praise as good value, which now feel from a very lower league in term of plain performance. The dynamic driver used in Snow is excellent and deliver fast transient with clean resolution and effortles detailing. While I still prefer Aria timbre and more wide open and smooth presentation, especially due to fuller and more natural female vocal, the Snow deliver crisper resolution and more accurate imaging, and have a more dynamic and textured mid bass punch that will feel like an upgrade for those finding the first Aria boring or too organic.
All in all, while Moondrop IEMs begin to feel like more of the same again and again, they continue to improve their dynamic driver tech to deliver high sound benefit value.

——–

PS: I wanna thanks Keephifi for the gentle 50% discount they offer me even if Moondrop wasn’t willing to send free sample to me. This is a proof of respect towards my independance of mind when it come to critical audio impressions that isn’t make in a promoting format nor emphased on hyping positivity. As always, this is my unbiased audio impressions.

You can buy the Moondrop Aria Snow for 80$ here and enjoy fast free shipping (unlike Aliexpress):https://keephifi.com/products/moondrop-aria-snow-edition

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