Summary – Frankly, Moondrop has become one of my favourite companies with me having reviewed a lot of their IEMs and having liked almost every one of them. Spoiler Alert! – Aria is no different. I can probably just end the review here by saying that Aria is KXXS in a thinner shell, different paint scheme and a better feeling cable for less than half price. Their sound signature is almost indistinguishable. So, I’d recommend just getting the Aria if you’re wanting to get a Moondrop or Harman Target-neutral IEM below $200. But for people who are new to Moondrop and haven’t heard the KXXS, read on.
Aria sports a Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) dynamic driver and is tuned to their house target curve called Virtual Diffusion Sound Field (VDSF), which is their extremely close take on the Harman Target curve. So, it comes as no surprise that Aria sounds very similar to its older sibling KXXS since that is tuned to VDSF too. Aria too has a nice 6-7dB sub-bass shelf, very neutral and linear lower-midrange, very nice 9-10dB primary pinna gain forward upper-midrange peak at around 2.75kHz, very well balanced treble tuning which is exciting but smooth and fairly good upper-treble extension, which is very well done for a sub-$100 IEM.
Bass – Aria has well-tuned and natural sounding sub-bass rumble and impact. It has a tiny bit (1-1.5dB) more mid-bass presence than Moondrop’s more Harman neutral IEM, the S8. The sub-bass and mid-bass boost is well controlled and is hardly ever overwhelming but is oh so satisfying with nice bass oriented songs. Yet, this is far from bass head levels of bass boost and is in fact very tastefully done. Bass has good attack, resolution as well as precision for the price.
Mids – Midrange overall has a very reference and neutral presentation like most Harman-neutral IEMs. Upper-midrange has a forward presentation with around 10dB pinna gain while lower midrange is very clean and linear. Aria presents vocals as well as all instruments very naturally and accurately tone and timbre wise.
Treble – Treble is well-balanced and smooth while keeping clarity and details intact. It always sounds natural without any harshness or sibilance creeping in. It has a peak around 5kHz, one around 8kHz and an upper treble peak around 14kHz with good extension till 20kHz. I personally quite like the treble tuning for the price and wouldn’t have any complaints living with Aria as an EDC IEM if I have to.
Soundstage, imaging and separation – Soundstage sounds very clean and has good width and depth, especially considering the price segment. Aria, like the KXXS, has very good separation, especially considering both are single dynamic driver IEMs. Imaging is fairly good, nothing to complain about.
Moondrop KXXS – They are almost indistinguishable sound signature wise. I can feel them fitting slightly differently but I don’t think I’d be able to tell them apart in a blind test when it comes to sound. Aria has a slightly slimmer and smaller shell whereas KXXS’ shell fills up my concha a bit better but both fit me very comfortably. I personally like Aria’s design as well as cable more and would recommend going for the Aria at less than half price of KXXS.
iBasso IT01 – IT01 is a v-shaped fun sounding IEM with a graphene layered 10mm dynamic driver whereas Aria has a more reference-ish sound signature. Quickly, IT01 has more bass overall, fuller lower midrange, a bit less forward upper-midrange, much brighter lower treble and less upper-treble presence and air. Aria is more refined when it comes to balance, more tonally accurate as well as has better timbre. Aria also has a more defined soundstage with better imaging and instrument definition.
Tanchjim Oxygen – Oxygen has a smaller shell than Aria with a short and stout nozzle which leads to a shallower fit. I like Aria’s medium deep fit much more. Again, these two are very similar sounding IEMs owing to their Harman Target tuning. Oxygen has slightly less sub-bass and a bit more upper-treble and as a result, it’s soundstage sounds ever so slightly cleaner and wider. I personally would just go for the Aria over the Oxygen since they are very similar sounding, it is less than 1/3rd the price and I personally like its fit, cable as well as shell design more.
Who in the world beats their own IEMs by releasing a newer IEM with an even more attractive shell design, the same sound signature and a better looking and feeling cable at less than half the price of its older sibling? MOONDROP! They keep blowing my mind with every new release and have become one of my favourite brands in the world. Aria not only has very well built metal shells, an attractive shell design, an easy comfortable fit and a nice fabric covered stock cable but is also tuned to Moondrop’s in-house VDSF target curve which is closely based on the Harman Target curve and fits my preferences very well. I thought KXXS was very good value at $180 when I reviewed it two years back. It became one of my rough use OTG IEMs (because of excellent tuning and metal shells) as well as scored a permanent spot in my daily rotation of IEMs but Aria now sets the benchmark as one of the best tuned and VFM IEMs below $100. At $80, it is extremely affordable and I highly recommend it!
Gear used for testing and review.
- DAPs- HiBy R6 2020 & iBasso DX160
- Phone – Oneplus 7 Pro
- Laptop – Apple MacBook Pro 15″
Reference Songs list.
- Normandie – White Flag album
- Dave Matthews – Shake Me Like a Monkey
- Foo Fighters- The Pretender, Best of you & Everlong
- Coldplay- Paradise, Up in flames & Everglow + Everyday Life Album
- Ed Sheeran- Thinking out loud, Bloodstream & Galway Girl
- Chainsmokers – Somebody, Sickboy, This Feeling & Closer
- John Mayer- Slow dancing in a burning room, Stop this Train & Say
- Gavin James- Always & Hearts on fire
- Switchfoot- Meant to live & Dare you to move
- Our Lady Peace – Do You Like It & Innocent
- Linkin Park- Papercut, Somewhere I belong & Talking to myself
- Maroon 5- She will be loved, Payphone & Lost stars
- Lifehouse- All in all & Come back down
- Breaking Benjamin – Diary of Jane
- Karnivool- Simple boy & Goliath
- Dead Letter Circus- Real you
- I Am Giant- Purple heart, City limits & Transmission
- Muse – Panic station
- James Bay – Hold back the river