This is the Moondrop Droplet, and it’s been awhile since we’ve seen a high-profile release like this from ChiFi heavyweight Moondrop; the brand is certainly not just resting on its laurels. Sure, there are the Venus and Void headphones, but those were met with…well, lukewarm response.
But the $15 (about RM65) Quarks DSP, on the other hand, was quite well-received, which is probably why Moondrop saw fit to release a costlier DSP option in the form of the Droplet. Instead of a dynamic driver, Moondrop has opted for a single balanced armature driver with the Droplet, and it costs $49.99 on HiFiGo – that comes up to about RM225.
At this price point, the Droplet isn’t the most budget-friendly option, especially when it’s compared to other ChiFi offerings in today’s market. But whenever Moondrop has a new…drop – sorry, I had to do it – it’s almost always a banger.
What It Is
As mentioned, the Moondrop Droplet is a single balanced armature earphone with a built-in DSP profile and microphone. It also has a USB-C termination, so it’s quite evident that this IEM is meant to appeal to mobile users.
The shell of the Droplet itself is teardrop-shaped and made of chrome-plated brass. The material is also reflective and glossy, so it’s quite a slippery IEM. Thankfully, it has a small footprint, and its lightweight nature allows the buds to sit comfortably in my ears. However, I’m not a fan of the included foam tips – they feel oily and itch in my ears (a tad) after some time.
Packaging of the Droplet feels quite premium and surprisingly hefty. Sliding the box open, you’re greeted by a shiny “dog tag” of sorts. On said dog tag is the name of the earphones, “The Droplet,” along with a Chinese quote that roughly translates to…”if I destroy you, what business is it of yours?”
Yes, it’s quite peculiar, and on the back writes “three-body” in both English and Chinese.
It was only after looking up the aforementioned quote did I learn that the Droplet is actually inspired by a popular Chinese science fiction novel by Liu Cixin, The Three-Body Problem. This somewhat explains the fact that the earbuds’ shells look like space ships. Coincidentally (or not), Moondrop also has another pair of IEMs called the Spaceship with very similar-looking shells.
Also included in the packaging of the Droplet are several cards that I assume are the inspiration for the design of the Droplet within the context of The Three-Body Problem novel. There’s also a card with more images from the novel, along with a small leather carrying pouch holding three pairs of foam tips in different sizes.
The cable of the Droplet is non-removable, but it does feel quite nice. It also has an MEMS microphone and volume controls on the cable itself, which is convenient. The Droplet has a built-in DSP chip too, so audio signal is run through its DAC. In a way, this IEM has its own EQ profile, and I find this quite interesting.
How Does It Sound?
Similar to other Moondrop offerings, the Droplet is tuned to the VDSF target, which is the brand’s own take on the more common Harman-tuning. If you’ve listened to a Moondrop IEM before, then it’s likely you’ll find the tuning familiar. But it’s worth noting that there’s something of a “pre-tuning” or EQ that’s applied with the DSP in the Droplet.
For the most part, the Droplet has a relatively neutral sound signature with just a hint of brightness to my ears. But they never get too sharp or shouty; far from it. The first thing you’ll notice upon listening to the Droplet is the presence of the balanced armature timbre, but it isn’t too metallic or unnatural.
Compared to the Joyodio Shine I just reviewed, the Droplet sounds more accurate with a touch more warmth and control in the treble region. This is despite the fact that the former has a more sophisticated 1DD + 2BA configuration, while the Droplet is able to perform better with just a single balanced armature – well done Moondrop.
What immediately caught me by surprise was the amount of sub-bass the Droplet can produce from just a single BA. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still inherently a balanced armature driver, so it can’t produce the tone and impact of bass nearly as well as a dynamic driver can. But the punch and extension of the bass is still respectable nonetheless.
Mid-bass is elevated as well, but it’s not particularly lean or controlled, and even comes close to muddying some male vocals. There’s just a looseness in the bass that makes it fuzzy and not that well-defined. Despite that, the speed of the bass is fast and snappy – courtesy of the BA driver.
In the mids region, the Droplet is noticeably forward with upper mids that sound like it would be too shouty, but it remains controlled and never reaches those heights. Male vocals have good presence and decent amount of warmth, though note weight is a bit on the thinner side of things.
The same can be said for female vocals on the Droplet; more weight and warmth would’ve helped in producing vocals that are more organic and close to natural-sounding, in my opinion. Remember when I said that the mids never get too shouty? Well, this also means that the amount of air is cut off. This does make vocals in the upper-mids smoother, but also more laid-back and flat-sounding.
Despite sounding slightly bright to my ears, the treble of the Droplet is smooth and very well-balanced. The highs are also energetic without being too fatiguing. Things do get a bit messy and overwhelming at higher volumes, but as long as you control your volume output, the Droplet will respond with the same amount of control.
Speaking of control, the Droplet has surprisingly good technicalities. The balanced armature driver is able to retrieve good amount of details and produce solid imaging. Soundstage is horizontally wide with clear instrument separation, though depth and verticality is a little lacking.
Is It Worth It?
The Moondrop Droplet has a pleasant, inoffensive sound signature that’s great for most genres and use cases. The built-in MEMS microphone makes it ideal for Zoom calls, online meetings, or even gaming as well. Its DSP chip and Type-C termination also eliminate the need for a portable DAC or 3.5mm dongle if you’re listening on your phone…unless it’s an iPhone. You’d need a USB-C adapter for the Lightning port then.
Anyway, for $49.99 on HiFiGo, I’d say the Droplet is worth the price, though not necessarily a steal by any means. You can get better value for your money with the $15 Moondrop Quarks DSP, especially with its more familiar dynamic driver and tuning. Let’s not forget about other sub-$50 IEMs like the excellent QKZ x HBB Khan, which costs merely $40 (approximately RM180).
Considering its competition, the Droplet can be seen as a mere drop in the highly competitive ChiFi ocean. I suppose it’s pretty cool that the IEM is inspired by The Three-Body Problem, especially if you’re a fan of the science fiction novel. In fact, after looking it up, it has gotten me rather interested in picking up the novel for myself. I imagine it’d be a good read – book in hand, Droplet in each ear…
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