Moondrop has been one of the biggest surprises of the year. We’ve looked at the Starfield and KXXS and were blown away by each. Those headphones were $99 and $189 respectively, though. Today, we’re looking at the brand new Moondrop SSR. Coming in at only $39.99, they’re targeting a whole different, and increasingly crowded, market. With Moondrop’s near unblemished record, we’re curious: is this the new budget IEM champion?
- Current Price: $39.99 (AliExpress)
- Frequency Range: 20Hz–20000Hz (IEC60318-4)
- Diaphragm: Beryllium-Coated Dome + PU suspension ring
- Housing material: Liquid metal alloy
- THD: ≤ 1%
- Cable: 24 AWG Litz 4N OFC
- Cable connectors: 0.78 2-pin
- Sensitivity: 115dB/Vrms (@1khz)
- Impedance: 16Ω (@1khz)
- Coil: φ 0.035mm-CCAW [Daikoku]
- Acoustic Filter: Patented Anti-Blocking Filter.
- Detachable 0.78 2-pin cable.
- 3 Pairs of silicone ear tips (S, M, L)
- Carrying case
Moondrop isn’t a stranger to the budget IEM market. If we break apart that acronym, SSR stands for “Super Spaceship Reference” which currently retail for $19.99. The SSR, then, is a kind of successor but absolutely stands on its own as a unique product. For roughly twice the cost of the original Spaceship, it needs to, but after spending a couple of weeks trying these as my daily driver, I can say that they’re well worth the cost of entry but won’t necessarily be for everybody.
For a sub-$50 IEM, the SSRs have a remarkably good build quality. The housings are made of a two-piece metal shell. The sides are kept together with a screw, so you don’t need to worry about adhesive giving way over time. Or, frankly, much of anything. Despite their tiny size, these earphones are built like tanks. I’m fairly confident I could drop them on the sidewalk and step on them, metal on cement, and still be able to use them. I wouldn’t recommend that, of course, but I’m confident pins on the cable will fail before the headphones themselves.
The housings have a look that’s fairly unique in Moondrop’s line-up. The metal isn’t mirror finished or even high-gloss, and the exposed screw absolutely cements an industrial look. I suspect this design will be more divisive among IEM fans as the trend is certainly tipping toward very artful, resin-based housings. These go in the opposite direction. At the same time, they’re so small that they nest right into your ear, so they won’t be catching much attention regardless. I like the simplicity of design here; the focus is on fit, comfort, and audio, which is exactly what should come first in an IEM — especially when it’s budget-aimed.
These IEMs are small. Really small. They’re made to fit even tiny ears without pushing on your concha. If you have smaller ears like me, then you probably already know of the soreness that can set in with larger buds or pairs that have retention fins to keep them locked in your ear. In fact, when properly fit, it’s the fit of the tips in your ear canal that holds them in place. Once they’re snugged in, they sit flush with my ear and I can even lay down with my head on a pillow without them pressing uncomfortably into my head. I often watch Netflix in bed, so I appreciate that I can doze off without waking up to a sore ear in the middle of the night. At the same time, this does make them prone to coming loose if used during exercise.
Inside the box, you’ll find a travel case, three sizes of silicone ear tips, and a very nice cable. This is, without exaggeration, the best cable I’ve seen on an IEM at this price point. It’s a silver-plated oxygen free-cable that ends in a 3.5mm connection. The braiding is held in a clear sleeve, so it avoids tangles well and is generally quite flexible. It also uses a 2-pin connection to attach to the earbuds versus the popular MMCX. This is another good move as, in my experience, pins tend to be more reliable than MMCX. This also means that you can easily swap over to a bluetooth band if you’d rather use them wirelessly.
Inside that metal body are beryllium coated dynamic drivers. Beryllium is an excellent fit for the sound profile Moondrop is targeting with these headphones as it’s higher stiffness results in improved high-frequency response. The use of dynamic drivers over balanced armatures also allows the sound to remain full-bodied, even though the bass is largely flat.
When it comes to sound, I find the SSRs to be quite revealing. In the frequency response graph below, you can tell that these are absolutely a mid- and middle-high centric headphone. There’s a slight bump in the mid-bass (100-300Hz), so songs still have a present low end, but the headphone is otherwise pretty flat until 1000Hz. The graph you’re seeing above makes these headphones look bass anemic, but that really isn’t the case. The bass is present enough to make songs sound good, but contrary to most headphones, these aren’t about adding energy or any cinematic quality. These are about delivering a reference sound — hence the “R” in SSR.
They do go off from that a bit in the mids and upper-mids. Moondrop has elevated these frequencies, which draws out more detail in the content you’re listening to. I find this especially evident in drums and synths. This is a headphone where you can clearly hear how a drummer hits a cymbal and how it rings out. You’ll hear the texture within electronic sounds like pads. If the bass were anemic, I wouldn’t enjoy this so much, but I find that they deliver just enough to be enjoyable. If you’re a bass-head, however, these won’t be for you.
For music, they’re fantastic, but for gaming, I was left wanting. Big moments in games lacked punch due to the flat sub-bass and the soundstage was fairly tight, even with Windows Sonic enabled. You certainly can game in them, and may even find the added mid-presence enhances your ability to hear competitive cues, like footsteps, but in general, I think the Starfields are a better fit for that type of use.
For $39, these headphones are impressive. Their rugged build quality seems like they could withstand almost anything and the small form factor is great for smaller ears. Their tuning is all about the details and doesn’t overemphasize the bass like many of its competitors. I really enjoyed this, but if you’re heavy into hip-hop or want that big, bombastic sound for your games, these might sound too bass-light for your taste. Overall, however, this is yet another winner for Moondrop at a price point that is accessible and won’t strain your wallet.The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.