disclaimer: Shenzhen Audio offered the Moondrop SSR for review and I gladly accepted. I have had the opportunity to try several other Moondrop models and find them to be a good value with performance typically outperforming their price point. I have no financial interest in Moondrop or ShenZhen Audio, nor have either had any input in this review. If you are interested in the SSR, visit the Moondrop Website or follow them on Facebook. The SSR can be purchased directly from Shenzhen Audio.
Unboxing / Packaging:
Those familiar with Moondrop will recognize the packaging as it has another of the highly stylized girls that grace the covers of their products on the front of the packaging. The box rear has the specs in both English and Chinese along with an exploded diagram and an FR chart. The kit is fairly sparse but we have to remember this was an effort to get reference tuning into as budget an in-ear as possible so most of the attention was spent on tuning and driver and less on fit/finish and kit. A small bag, cable, earpieces, and 3 sets of tips round out the package.
The first thing that jumps out is the industrial style vibe with the the single large screw holding the faceplate in place and the tip of that same screw visible on the under side as its exit combines with the venting. My sample is coated in a mint green epoxy paint that seems durable if not my favorite color. Other colors are also available. Basically this is a standard barrel shaped iem as the driver is entirely housed in the round portion of the case immediately behind the nozzle. The large projections marked L/R on the underside are solely a housing for the bi-pin connector and housing the vent for the driver. There is a very visible seam between faceplate and inner shell and the single screw is indeed all that is holding the faceplate as when I removed the screw to take the photos in the internals section, the faceplate fell off without having to break any glue or sealant lose. With the larger than normal seam and the single screw attachment point, it is possible for slight mis-alignment of components that could create an accidental vent and change the signature in the process. As an example I invite users of the SSR to remove the faceplates entirely and take a listen. It is a very different iem when configured as an open-baffle. At some point I am going to try putting a small amount of dacron or kapok in behind the driver to how it changes the signature too.
The SSR uses a single beryllium coated dynamic driver with a PU suspension. Moondrop does not specify the exact size of the driver so I did what any fool would do and took it apart to find out. The driver is entirely in the nozzle section and is roughly 7mm in size. I stopped short of trying to remove it from the tube as it appears to be glued in. The driver is reported to use an N52 strength magnet for additional speed. Nominal impedance is listed as 16Ω with a sensitivity of 115dB/Vrms @ 1kHz. Be careful when comparing this to others as the sensitivity is listed per volt rather than the more common per Watt measurement and while no quick conversion is available, the rough equal is 102 db/mW. The SSR should be very usable from a phone or tablet based on the numbers but did like a bit more power than a typical phone will provide. It does better with a dongle or external amp.
The provided cable with the SSR is a 4N Litz made of silver plated oxygen free copper in a clear outer casing. Starting at the southern end, it has a 90º jack with good strain relief. Cable is a single strand in the Tinsel style. The Splitter is a coin style in black plastic with moondrop logo. No chin slider is provided. At the northern end, cables terminate with pre-formed hooks, and 0.78mm bi-pin connectors. A red-ring immediately above the connector denotes the right hand side. The cable is about what we have come to expect with budget iems and is well constructed and functional, but lacks a few of the nicer touches of more expensive models (no front/rear reference on connectors or chin slider).
Sub-bass is not emphasized but is present in good proportion and has good texture. Roll-off really doesn’t become evident until the 30Hz range. Mid-bass follows the same pattern, not emphasized, but well proportioned and with good attack and decay speed that give it a natural feel as decay is a touch slower than attack but not so much so as to become blurred or thick. Because of the lack of emphasis, bleed into the mids is nonexistent and the transition is very clean. The SSR certainly wont please the bass head crowd, but for most of the rest of us it offers a fairly natural presentation of bass that is a rarity in the budget segment where elevated bass has become the norm.
This is where the SSR becomes a polarizing iem. Lower mids are on the same plane with the mid-bass but climb steadily as we move up with a peak in the upper-mids/lower treble that absolutely dominates every other feature of the SSR. The previous sentence probably gives it away, but I fall on the side of “Its too much” while others find it “mid-forward but likeable”. Because of this large elevation in the upper-mids, female vocals jump forward at the listener and seem artificially so, especially when in concert with lower voices that sit well behind them in the picture. This is unfortunate as clarity is good and strings are nicely rendered (if a bit too far forward for upper strings as well), and detail is quite good too. I find a bit of EQ required here to make the SSR more palatable and once I set a band between 2.5kHz and 4.2kHz with a -5dB change, I can really enjoy the SSR. Without that same EQ, vocals are shouty at times and a bit brittle.
Lower treble starts out at the same peak reached by the upper-mids, but drops back fairly quickly which helps keep the SSR from becoming strident as with the mids lifted it simply doesn’t need the added brightness that a lift here would bring. Once it falls back from its early peak, treble continues to dip a bit and while the SSR does have some top-end air, sparkle is limited by that fallback. Snare has good rattle and cymbals are not metallic but lack a touch of energy they need to sound entirely natural. Overall, the treble is very polite and might just be a bit too much so.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Stage is wider than deep with some height but overall no dimension is particularly large and it winds up feeling fairly intimate as a result. Seating the orchestra is fairly straight forward although at times things sound more side by side than front to back due to the lack of depth. Luckily instrument separation is quite good as I can see this becoming a mess quickly if it weren’t. Imaging is about average for the class with movement around the stage easily followed but precise location is a bit harder to identity at times. The SSR does show some compression as tracks get busy but it takes a lot to make it thicken up and slur the bass. It might be heard on slash metal or other super fast genre with lots of low end, but for most pop and rock it won’t be noticed.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
The SSR is quite a polarizing IEM as it turns out. The shells are very well made, but a bit industrial looking for some. The kit is a typical of a budget iem, but the carrying case is too small to fit the earpieces and cable in. The sound is near neutral with one glaring exception. You see where I am going here. Some will be willing to dismiss all of those short-comings and will find the SSR quite usable. Others will find it shouty, strident, or fatiguing. I find it a bit like a painting of a pretty landscape with one bald peak that is central enough to draw the eye toward it and away from the other features. The pronounced upper-mids distract from an other-wise very nice signature. The SSR has good speed of both attack and decay that helps lend a natural feel, great detail throughout, and is fairly neutral with that one glowing exception. I’ve had repeated conversations with another reviewer trying to figure out if we got an early release and a production model, or what else was accounting for the difference in our opinions of the SSR. At the end of all that what it comes down to is a matter of differences in tolerance for certain frequencies, and differences in personal tastes. The SSR is the first Moondrop product I can say wasn’t for me, at least without some EQ, but that doesn’t mean it might not be for you. It is definitely one to audition before purchase as the lines seem fairly clearly drawn with little middle ground on this one.
- Bass - 7/107/10
- Mids - 6.5/106.5/10
- Treble - 7/107/10
- Soundstage - 6/106/10
- Imaging - 6/106/10
Pros: small footprint, solid build, good detail, speed, and clarity.
Cons: upper-mids/lower-treble very forward/shouty, carry bag too small for realistic use, aesthetics are polarizing.