Last week, we looked at the Moondrop Starfield in-ear headphones and were blown away. Today, we’re looking at their mid-range flagship, the KXXS. At $189, they’re more expensive but does the sound scale with the price? Join us as we find out!
- Current Price: $189.99 (AliExpress, Amazon, Official Site)
- Frequency Response: 10-80000Hz (Free Field. 1/4"MIC,-3dB)
- Effective FR: 20-20000Hz (IEC60318-4)
- Impedance: 32 Ω (@1kHz)
- Sensitivity: 122dB/Vrms (@1kHz)
- Channel Mismatch: ±1dB @1kHz
- Diaphragm Config: Diamond-Like-Carbon & PEEK
- Coil : 0.035mm-CCAW?Daikoku?
- Housing: Pressed-milled, polished, electroplated zinc alluminum alloy
- Transducer: 10mm moving coil transducer
- Cable: Litz Silver Plated Copper Wire 4N-OFC with 0.78-2Pin
The KKXS in-ear monitors (IEMs) began their life as a successor to Moondrop’s Kanas Pro. In the headphone world, these IEMs were widely regarded as being an excellent value for audiophiles who wanted exceptional sound without spending exorbitant amounts of money. As the development process went on, Moondrop discovered that the new design was quickly taking on its own identity and, in fact, surpassed its previous in-development prototype in every way. As a result, what we have is a headphone that looks a lot like the Kanas Pro but that has its own identity.
Starting with the packaging, Moondrop does an excellent job of making the KXXS feel like a premium product. The outer sleeve features the company’s unique anime-inspired artwork. Inside, you’re greeted with a plentiful package.
Inside the box, you’re given a nice semi-rigid storage case, a selection of silicone tips, a beautiful braided cable, replacement filters, tweezers to apply them, a stereo adapter, and a second velvet bag to carry it all in. It’s a plentiful package. I especially appreciate that they’ve included a whopping six pairs of replaceable ear tips to help you find your perfect fit. For these headphones in particular, it’s an especially important part of achieving the best sound. Speaking generally, however, I consider $189 to be quite expensive for a pair of headphones and always look for little extras like this to help justify the cost. Small touches, like the high-quality carrying case, replaceable filters, and excellent cable go a long way toward that goal. They’ve done a great job.
The headphones themselves are made of a pressed Zinc-aluminum alloy that’s polished to a mirror finish. I have to admit, I wasn’t sold on it at first. In pictures and product pages, I’ve always found them to look clean but bland. In real life, though, that mirror finish gives them a unique look that can be downright cool depending on your surroundings. They’ve actually become one of my favorite earphones to photograph because they’re so dynamic — especially when there are colored light sources around. Now, you won’t be seeing that, of course, but when you’re paying this much for a headphone, you want them to look good without being gaudy and these definitely accomplish that. The downside is that they show fingerprints very easily, so you’ll have to wipe them down often.
As an all-metal IEM, the KXXS does have a bit more weight to it. The shells are formed like a traditional IEM to match the form of your ear, so I found them very comfortable and to stay in place well for normal listening. That said, they’re not the best fit for a workout headphone. If I jostled around too much, they definitely came loose.
Like the Starfield, the KXXS uses a single dynamic transducer in each IEM, though make no mistake, the two earphones are quite different. Unlike that other earphone, the KXXS uses diamond-like carbon to form its diaphragm — the same material found in some of the best over-ear headphones we’ve ever reviewed. The stiffness of diamond-like carbon allows for an improved high-frequency response and makes the KXXS particularly good at resolving high-end detail. I’m quite impressed to see that level of material in-use here. Each of the Audio-Technica headphones I reviewed which used it came to market at more than twice the cost, hovering around the $500 mark.
Given that, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that these headphones excel for genres and content that leans into the highs. They offer excellent clarity and articulation in the upper range that is great for acoustic music and fine details in movies and games. Using the KXXS with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, I was surprised at how clearly fine sounds like falling bullet shells or sprinkling shards of glass came through.
The bass is also slightly elevated, which lends the KXXS’ a full sound with moderate sub-bass responses (low rumble that makes bass notes and cues sound full and textured). That said, these aren’t a bass-centric headphone. Listening to I’m Ready by Sam Smith, they offer enough power and punch to make the thrum of the synth bass sound rich and fun. When the ending harmonies kick in, however, the KXXS’ about took off. The same was true in I Hope by Gabby Barrett and Charlie Puth, where the slightly relaxed mids made their vocals just settle into the middle of the mix in a superbly comfortable way.
Taking the advice of other users on headphone forums, I tried to pair these with a pair of memory foam ear tips. Sound is always subjective, but moving to foams reduced the bass enough that they sounded bass anemic. I would recommend sticking with the silicone tips Moondrop provides unless you’re interested in EQing the bass back.
The detail, excellent tuning, and wonderful stereo separation also make these an excellent headphone for competitive gaming. Stereo separation is excellent, so identifying the direction of audio cues like gunshots is very easy. As an IEM, they soundstage is more narrow than what you’ll find on a good gaming headset; however, enabling Windows Sonic widens it immediately on top of adding full surround sound.
Like the Starfields, the KXXS headphones punch well above their class. Between the two, I prefer the tuning of the Starfield, but the build quality and materials used on the KXXS is undeniably better. For the money, they offer an excellent sound profile that makes listening to music genuinely fun. Paired with the accessories and great detachable cable, and the Moondrop KXXS earn their place as a value winner.
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.