Review : Moondrop SSR
Moondrop has just dropped (pun intended) a new earphone that actually has a different tuning than its usual lineup. Let's look at it today!
Disclaimer : This unit is a personal unit purchased at retail price
Moondrop is one of those brands that never cease to amaze me with its value-for-money, good sounding earphones. It has a sound signature that never disappoints and would most likely be the go-to brand for most people. This time round, Moondrop has released the Moondrop SSR, a new budget earphone that takes a different direction than the usual "Harman-tuned" earphones, with the SSR sporting a neutral sound. As an enthusiast, I was super intrigued by it and decided to get one to try because, why not?
As the SSR faced some cable issues during production, Moondrop suspended the sale of the SSR but has since re-launched the SSR with 3 new colors on top of the default silver. I have gotten myself the white ones after the re-launch due to some miscommunication with the seller but it still looks good.
Sound : Neutral/Balanced
Driver : 1 x Dynamic Driver
Socket : 2-pin (0.78mm)
Price : 39.99 USD
Where to buy it : Shenzhen Audio
Very balanced, non-fatiguing sound
Sound is very coherent
Natural sounding vocals
Good build quality and premium feeling
Can sound dull to some listeners and on high-energy songs
Isolation can be better
Eartips provided not the best
Suitable Genres : All-rounder but a tad better with jazz or vocal tracks
WHAT'S IN THE BOX
1 set of each different sized eartips (S, M, L)
1 x Moondrop SSR
1 x Silver-Plated 4N-Litz Oxygen-Free Copper (OFC) cable
1 x Water-resistant carrying pouch
I am glad that Moondrop has provided just enough accessories for the average user, with the pouch and the eartips. However, if you lose the eartips, then you should get some spares. The pouch feels like it is made from a water-resistant material and it feels like it will not break easily. Though one point I have to make is that since the earphones are packed in a felt-like material, some of the felt has fallen off and got itself stuck onto the earphones, which is hard to remove and is very visible since the felt is black and the earphones are white. Maybe Moondrop can consider using a white/grey felt instead of black instead to make it less visible.
Overall, I feel that the accessory pack is adequate, though it would be nice to include another extra set of eartips just in case.
The SSR feels like a very well-polished earphone as it is made from "liquid metal alloy" (information pulled from Shenzhen Audio). It also comes in 4 colors, silver, white, pastel green and pastel pink.
Pink, White and Green Colors of Moondrop SSR (Image obtained from Shenzhen Audio)
Though I can still see the gap at which the earphones are being joint at, it still does feel very premium with its smooth glossy finishing. These earphones also have a substantial amount of weight to them though it does not look like it, adding bonus points to the premium feeling of these earphones . The 2-pin connectors are also recessed, so you can be sure that the cable fits inside the earphone very firmly. Overall, you can tell that these earphones are very well-built despite their 39.99 USD price tag!
COMFORT AND ISOLATION
The earphone is smaller than most and despite its odd heart shape, it actually sits nicely in my ears though if I were to tilt my head, I can feel the earphones moving slightly though seal doesn't break. Switching the stock eartips to the SpinFit CP100 does help the earphone to have a better grip of my ears. I would recommend getting an eartip that has a shorter nozzle since the nozzle on the SSR is already longer than most earphones and might jut out even more with a longer nozzle eartip.
Isolation is decent enough that I generally tend not notice any outside noises when listening to music. However if I were to listen out very closely, I can still hear the faint noises of my keyboard while typing or when someone calls me from the door of my room as I am using these earphones. I did notice that there were 2 vents on each side of the earphones so these could have attributed to the slight lack of isolation.
The SSR is a very balanced earphone that does not color the sound. Despite that, you can still enjoy a life-like sound in all segments of the music. Everything is at an equal volume with no bias, so you get a comfortable listening for long hours. Coming from my usual V-shaped sounding earphones that have more treble and bass, it does take me some time to adjust myself to these pair and hence I took a while to get myself used to it before writing this review. However once you adjust to these, you start to appreciate the way Moondrop has tuned these earphones.
Highs on these pair sound very realistic with some thickness in them. Highs have decent extension but does not sparkle as much and hence might not sound as exciting. I also noticed that the highs also have a decent amount of air in them, giving the high hats a crisp sound still with enough space in them.
Testing on Polyphia's "The Worst", the high hats are definitely there but when the cymbals crashes, you definitely don't get that level of energy/excitement as compared to an earphone that has a better treble extension. As mentioned previously, the high hats still retains that space between notes so you can still distinctly tell each beat of it.
POLKADOT STINGRAY's "Free" also has a ton of high hats which you can clearly hear though slightly laid back with all the instruments and vocals ongoing. However, as with the previous song, there isn't as much energy to the high hats and cymbals.
Since the highs lack energy, I decided to try it out with some soothing jazz songs. From the Shanghai Jazz album track 12, "情人的眼泪" sounds very soothing here. The subtle cymbals in the background and guzheng really calms you down after a long day of work and makes you want to lay in bed while listening to this song.
In conclusion, I like that the highs have a semblance of thickness to it which makes it sounds more realistic and that you can still tell apart each note. Highs tend to lack that high energy required in certain genres of songs such as rock due to it not having that much of an extension. However when paired with the right genre of songs, the highs can actually sound really suitable for it.
I actually think that the mids here are very decent for its price. Upper mids are decent with enough bite to it, while the lower mids are comfortable to listen to as the SSR generally has a thicker sound. Vocals are also very realistic and I think they are great for vocal tracks.
When I listen to Vulfpeck's "Darwin Derby", I always listen out for the electric guitars (whether they have enough of bite to it) and for the snare drums (for its attack). For electric guitars, they sound good enough, it could use a little more bite to it though. However snare drums tend to be a little lacking, there's not enough impact for it to be fully felt, only heard. This could be slightly mistaken for kick drums if you're not paying attention to it.
Decided to then try it out with something heavier such as Kana-Boon's "Worry Hero" and the first thing that somehow came to my mind was "This sounds comfortable". I was able to hear everything; the drums, guitars and vocals. However, as the separation is not the best, the music does sound like one unit which is not ideal in situations when you're trying to tell each layer apart.
Shifting the focus to the vocals, I personally feel that vocals perform the best in the mid range. VoicePlay's "Love on Top" is a great demo track for vocals as you get a bit of everything in the vocal range. The vocals on this track are very realistic and comfortable to listen to, and when the vocals go higher, you are still able to feel the intensity of the vocals! In fact, in any genre of song that I have tried on this, the vocals are always the ones that stand out the most to me as being the nicest and most realistic as compared to the other sounds playing.
Overall, mids are done in a way that allows the listener to be very comfortable with it, providing just enough energy for higher vocals and electric guitars but not so much for drums. Vocals tend to outperform the rest of the instruments so I would recommend this for vocal tracks!
Bass on the SSR is alright if you are light on the bass. Bass does not go very deep. It has enough for it to be felt but it doesn't overwhelm. Mid bass is just enough and most of the time, you would actually hear this more than the sub bass.
On Masaki Suda's "Soft Vinyl Figure", you actually hear the bass more clearly because most of it don't go very deep too. Even when it does, it tends to fade out quickly and doesn't linger for long.
So with more mid bass in mind, I decided to test this out with Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Hump De Bump", and it sounds good because you get to feel more of Flea's bass as it's supposed to be more quick-fire in this song, filling in the gaps of the music. Though I have to admit that the bass doesn't go deep on the SSR.
If you're a light bass listener like me, then listening to bass-heavier songs would be more comfortable to listen to. "Tarinaieye" by Frederic is a great example of this. When I am tired, I don't want the bass of this song to overwhelm and just want some light bass in my listening sessions. The SSR achieves that, but of course if you want more bass, then it doesn't provide that quantity as it has a neutral tuning.
Overall, bass on the SSR is more of a mid bass. It does not go deep, but still provides decent quality bass that is very comfortable to listen to.
The soundstage is generally wide on the SSR and sounds like you're listening to music in a hall. On several instances, these earphones still do reproduce certain sounds of the music in a out-of-head experience, though most of the time it still sounds beside you.
Separation on the SSR is not the best as the sound produced comes out as a single cohesive unit. You are still able to tell apart instruments by listening more closely, but not as easily as with more technical earphones where each instrument is a layer in itself.
One question that I commonly get after telling people that this earphones are neutral sounding is : "Why would anyone want this kind of sound?". In response to that, I would say that music composers and even audio engineers might want this kind of neutral sound, where each frequency sounds the same to the listener. This is so that they can properly listen out to all the sounds in their music without any coloration to the music and hear the music as a whole. You would want a neutral sounding earphone/speaker when dealing with music production and this is the same reason why studio monitors are used as they generally have a flat/neutral sound.
This is a very interesting take on a balanced sound done by Moondrop. Though I still prefer a V-shaped sound, this is still a very comfortable listen and I can tell that they are actually experimenting with it. If you are someone that wants a very comfortable listen for any music genre but with a slight edge in vocals, then the Moondrop SSR is for you! Actually even without vocals, if you want a balanced sound for a budget price, then this is the one for you! To Moondrop : keep up the good work on these tuning, I can't wait to see how you evolve the SSR in the future!