We review the Moondrop Joker which is a set of brand-new closed-back 50mm dynamic driver headphones designed for professional monitoring. It is priced at $79.99.
Disclaimer: This sample was sent to us in exchange for our honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or status. We thank MOONDROP and Shenzhen Audio for their support.
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Priced at $79.99, the Moondrop Joker presents an appealing combination of attractive aesthetics and build quality. Its spacious and clean tuning makes it a nice choice for daily gaming and multimedia needs.
While it may not provide the same level of accuracy and openness as other open-back studio headphones, it offers an affordable alternative for prosumers seeking clear vocal reproduction or smoother treble response.
The Joker closed-back headphone from Moondrop was leaked a few months ago and left more than a few audiophiles intrigued by an appearance that mimicked the earcup design of the legendary Sony MDR-R10 headphones along with a lower price tag.
The overall package presents an enticing proposition given its affordability, but the ultimate question remains: how does it sound? We are here to find out!
Featuring a sleek design, the Joker headphones incorporate a 50mm dynamic driver. The driver unit is designed using the contemporary Finite Element Analysis (FEA) technology approach.
Inside the driver unit houses N52 Neodymium magnets and a lightweight CCAW coil. The driver also employs a flexible damping suspension ring around the membrane and in the middle, fusing together a partially rigid alloy-coated dome composite diaphragm.
Moondrop drew inspiration from the renowned Sony MDR-R10, specifically its tilted ear-cup design recognized for its ability to enhance the acoustic qualities of closed-back structures. This design influence can also be seen in other headphones like the Hifiman HE-R10D, another tribute to the MDR-R10.
Additionally, dampers and pressure-regulating vents are utilized to further improve precision, enhance tonal character by minimizing standing waves, and increase the Joker’s ability to retrieve finer details and clarity.
The Joker offers premium features regardless of its positioning, including interchangeable cables and ear-pads that are equipped with a convenient quick-release lock mechanism.
On the earcups, you can see a smiling face that looks more like Koro-sensei from 殺せんせーQ! (Koro teacher quest) than Joker to me. Nevertheless, this subtle artwork does help to add some fun factor to the design.
The headband on the Joker is wide and allows for easy adjustment. While there may not be markings on the extendable parts, it is still easy to gauge the number of steps pulled out. The build quality is satisfactory and the aesthetics reminiscent of the Sony MDR-R10 is awesome.
Additionally, the package includes a piece of sandpaper, which enables users to reveal the brass beneath the paint, reminiscent of the worn-out black-paint Leica cameras.
This is quite a unique move for personalization, and you can try sanding off all the paint and polishing the brass surface, or laser engraving the ear cups.
Comfort & Isolation
The Joker is quite large in size but feels very light, similar to the original Beats headphones with a rather loose headband that doesn’t press against the head too tightly. The shape works well for me and my friends but for those who have a smaller head circumference, it is recommended to give it a try first, or else it may feel too loose.
Comfort-wise, I didn’t feel any stress after two movies, but the downside is it does leak a bit more compared to headphones that clamp harder, so you can still hear a bit of the ambiance.
On both sides of the earcups, you will find a socket to plug in the cable supplied. In other words, it means that you can swap it out for other aftermarket options such as a mic cable if you are using it for gaming.
The stock cable feels strong and has molded parts and a 3.5mm termination. The cores are quite soft but with a fabric sheath around it is resistant to tangling and eliminate microphonics.
Packaging & Accessories
The Joker comes in quite a big box as the headphones do not have a foldable design. As always, you can expect an artistic cover and when opening it up, the accessories box is also nicely decorated. You will find a user manual booklet and a 3.5-6.3mm converter for connection with amplifiers.
Last time when we checked on the Moondrop Venus the headphone unit didn’t feel too secure for long-haul transport. This time the packaging seems to have fixed this issue with the compartments inside filling up the space and helping the headphones to stay in place more securely.
The Joker exhibits a W-shaped response with plenty of bass energy and dipped mids. Compared to quite some studio cans the Joker has a larger driver that allows its bass to deliver a stronger punch. There is clearly more warmth in the tuning than in average studio monitors.
Due to the higher impedance, the Joker sounds quite consistent on different gears, but a powerful source is definitely preferred, or the vocal may sound compressed and hollow. Around 100 hours of burn-in is given to the unit before impressions are made.
The bass on the Joker is well present. It impacts cleanly and speedily with a soft decay, which sounds quite airy with fast, rhythmic gaming BGMs and symphonic bass. The sub-bass reach is not too deep and allows more room for the upper frequencies to be clearly heard especially string instruments.
Putting the Joker on my MacBook Air and HiBy R3 Pro II, some elevation in the lower bass can be clearly detected though the 4-500hz area closer to the mids feels a bit scooped out. This promotes clarity but pushes the drums away from the listener.
The bass and the vocal are clearly separated without bleeding over, especially for light and sweet voices though the body for drums and guitars may sound slightly thin.
To make it sound more dynamic and engaging I would recommend bringing down the fundamental bass frequencies down a bit and tuning up the mid-bass frequencies. This helps bring the vocal body as well as the supporting drums and basses further forward.
The mids on the Joker are smoothly rendered and the vocal sounds upfront as a result of the dipped mid-bass response and elevated upper mids. Breathy details are well present which gives lighter voices even more energy, while darker voices with more body may sound slightly curtained and overtones are slightly lacking.
Guitar picking and other nuances such as the sound when pressing on a flute’s button from the recordings can also be heard more clearly as a result of the tuning focus.
This is a double-ended blade as the tuning works well with clean-sounding tracks, but when there are more elements across the mids, depth and layering are somehow lacking.
The detail retrieval power is sufficient for simple monitoring or sound editing as you can clearly pick out the vocal line cutting through mixes of higher complexity, though you may find the weaker mids hampering the dynamic range and naturalness.
The Joker has a pronounced upper register with ample energy around the 5k range, and it remains free from sibilance and handles energetic brass and ‘metallic elements’ without peaking. It doesn’t bring out sparkles or harshness and maintains fair transparency.
The treble demonstrates good detail retrieval and effectively captures transients. However, due to the lack of an accompanying body, the tonality may come across as somewhat unnatural if the track focuses on the lower frequencies.
Lighter and more powerful voices tend to stand out more than when listening with quite some other headphones, though lower-pitched and thicker voices may suffer, and sound veiled.
This limitation becomes more apparent when reproducing classical music. Particularly with larger ensembles where the body of the sound is constrained and forces the listener to focus more on the upper vocal range.
When watching some walkthrough vids on YouTube I also noticed that gunshots and footsteps can be easily picked out on the Joker, which is a merit for its tuning.
The Joker sounds wide like in a small hall which is no surprise since it is a closed-back design. However, when used with less powerful devices, the perceived stage of the Joker may feel flat and less natural.
This is primarily due to its weaker subs and the laid-back midrange, which pushes back instruments and makes the listener focus more on the upper vocal range, while the staging depth is hampered.
Vocals have a centered, clear stereo image thanks to the good transient response in the treble that brings about a stronger sense of resolution. You can also clearly detect different sound elements that pan across the headroom, with good width and moderate depth.
It is recommended to pair the Joker with more powerful sources and to swap out the 3.5mm cable for 4.4mm balanced ones so you can enjoy the stronger swings on balanced outputs. Doing so can enhance the depth of the bass and enlarge the perceived soundstage, also adding to the control in the treble.