Practically everyone in the ChiFi scene have heard of Moondrop. Having released a wide range of earphones at different price points, the company has amassed something of a cult following. This may or may not have something to do with the anime girls (or “waifus”) often flaunted on the packaging of Moondrop’s products.
Among Moondrop’s many well-received IEMs, the Aria 2021 is arguably the most popular. Priced at a mere $80 (about RM355), the Aria 2021 has been revered as a well-tuned, affordable IEM. As often as the term “excellent value for money” has been thrown around – especially in the budget ChiFi scene – it’s no denying that the Aria’s sheer value proposition is one of its best qualities.
In a bid to capitalise on the popularity of the Aria, Moondrop released the Aria Snow Edition, which is also priced at $80. This is actually not the first time the company released a different version of the acclaimed Aria. Earlier this year, there was the Aria Elven Maiden Edition themed after vocaloid Hatsune Miku.
But unlike that version of the Aria, the Aria Snow Edition is more than just a reskin of the original. The latter features a different driver, a different tuning, and of course, a different-looking – and arguably sleeker – shell.
So the question is: can the Aria Snow Edition repeat the success of the esteemed Aria 2021?
What It Is
Right off the bat, the Aria Snow Edition distinguishes itself from the original with a new packaging, and in true Moondrop fashion, it features a new anime girl. The layout and contents of the Aria Snow’s packaging are similar to that of the Aria 2021, just finished in a snow white theme. That means you still get the round case and three pairs of silicone tips.
However, there are a couple of new features with the Aria Snow Edition, including a 6N oxygen-free copper silver-plated cable, which complements the white theme of the IEM very well. There’s also the welcome addition of Moondrop’s own Spring Tips.
As mentioned, the Aria Snow Edition also comes with a different driver, specifically a “diamond-like diaphragm” dynamic driver found in Moondrop’s higher-end Kanas Pro IEM. This also means the tuning of the Aria Snow will differ from the regular Aria, and it’s not as simple as having the Kanas Pro’s sound signature in the shell of an Aria.
How Does It Sound?
The tonality of the Aria Snow Edition, compared to the standard Aria, is neither an improvement nor a setback. There is, however, a reduction in mid-bass and lower-treble, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Tuning wise, the Aria Snow Edition is in line with Moondrop’s own Harman-esque curve – the VDSF target response. They’re evidently balanced and neutral-sounding with a laid-back tonality, though I wouldn’t necessarily call it boring.
While I’d love to compare the relaxed listening experience of the Aria Snow Edition to being out on a cold winter’s day just to achieve the “snow” metaphor, the IEM doesn’t exactly sound that…frosty. The experience is more akin to being in a field of hyacinths on a chilly autumn day.
Speaking of seasons, let’s talk about the Spring Tips now.
While it’s great that Spring Tips are included with the Aria Snow Edition, they might not actually be the best choice sonically. They seem to have a tendency to tone down both ends of the frequency spectrum, causing the Aria Snow to sound less dynamic than it should be. It’s quite a shame as the Spring Tips do fit securely and comfortably in my ears, though the normal silicone tips do get the job done as well.
The following impressions of the Aria Snow Edition were carried out with the standard silicone tips as I personally prefer how they sound over the Spring Tips. That being said, the latter tips are still worth trying if they fit both your ears and your sonic preferences.
The bass of the Aria Snow Edition is clean and quite detailed. Sub-bass is rolled-off, but the slight bump in mid-bass does make up for this. It’s not a boomy mid-bass; far from it, though there is a certain tightness and control to the bass that make it strangely addictive.
Seconds into a track like Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, for example, and I find myself tapping my foot to the beat. The speed of the bass and the solid reverberations make up a combination that’s just…again, addictive.
The mid-range of the Aria Snow Edition is pushed forward and stands out from the frequency range, though it still maintains a comfortable distance within the soundstage. Male vocals are presented smoothly, but could do with a bit more body. Glimpse of Us by Joji, for instance, has a tendency to sound a bit thin and unnatural.
Female vocals, on the other hand, have a tint of warmth and an accompanying weight that’s just right to my ears. But the slight dip in the lower treble region does affect the breathiness of female vocals, and I find myself yearning for a bit more air.
For example, the lower frequency of the guitars on Solar Power by Lorde are incredibly organic, but Lorde’s raspy vocals seem a bit too constrained here.
The neutrality presented from the Aria Snow Edition can also be a double-edged sword to some as the treble on certain tracks can sound a bit dry. As I’ve mentioned in the previous section, there’s a lack of air and even sparkle due to a dip at the 10kHz region.
This also means that the Aria Snow lacks quite a bit of detail and clarity in the upper treble region, but the more blunt presentation may be a blessing to those who are treble-sensitive – maybe.
The width of the Aria Snow Edition’s soundstage is just a tad wider than what your average dynamic driver is able to resolve. That being said, it can actually produce a surprising amount of vertical depth when I paired it with my Grace Design M9XX DAC/Amp.
Instrument separation is exceptional too, and positioning instruments around the stage is a breeze for the Aria Snow. On an orchestral track like The Scavenger by John Williams, I can hear the placement of the flutes in the back and the horns to the right. Unfortunately, clarity and detail do exponentially decline when the track swells in the second half.
Is It Worth It?
In a vacuum, the Moondrop Aria Snow Edition is worth every penny. At only $80 – well, $79.99 – on HiFiGo, it’s one of the easiest IEMs to recommend in the sub-$100 price range. Not only are you getting a solid, aesthetically-pleasing metal shell, the Aria Snow also offers a relaxed and natural-sounding tonality.
It’s not a detail monster or a basshead’s best friend, and there’s also the matter of which tips to use as I personally prefer the standard silicone tips over the decidedly more expensive Spring Tips, though your mileage may vary. Regardless, the Aria Snow is an IEM that belongs among the single dynamic driver greats.
I wouldn’t say it’s an upgrade over the Aria 2021. Rather, the Aria Snow Edition is more of a…side-grade. If you want an IEM that is a little more dynamic, then the standard Aria is the way to go. But if you’re looking for a more relaxed, mid-centric tuning, then the Aria Snow is the one for you.
It can be tough to pick between the two IEMs, but it’s an easier decision if you have a preference for which “waifu” you like more on their respective packaging boxes.