In this feature, we review the MOONDROP PARA, which is a new set of full-size planar magnetic headphones featuring a 100mm FDT diaphragm. It is priced at $299.
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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The MOONDROP PARA is the brand’s second planar magnetic technology-based headphones, equipped with a 100mm large driver and MOONDROP’s FDT and TBT technologies.
With a full metallic chassis resembling the more premium Venus model, the PARA undergoes weight reduction treatment with several enhancements applied that strengthen its technicalities. The PARA is available at a very affordable price of $299.
Full Drive Technology (FDT)
The PARA incorporates a 100mm driver membrane featuring Full Drive Tech (FDT) technology, which ensures even placement of the entire membrane within the magnetic field.
This arrangement enlarges the effective area that would be uniformly driven by the magnets, resulting in enhanced efficiency and performance.
To further optimize the design, the PARA incorporates an array of 36 large N52 magnets that cover the membrane area. The design process utilizes Finite Element Analysis (FEA) optimization, a computerized method that predicts how the design will respond to real-world forces and vibrations.
The inner framework of the headphones is made of transparent plastic material, which fuses securely with the metallic frame, creating a unified and visually appealing unibody design.
This transparent construction allows users to see through to the internal components, creating a fun and cool demonstrator-like effect if one wishes to take a peek at the internals.
Tension Balancing Technology (TBT)
Planar designs are often associated with more challenging drivability due to their inherent characteristics that require more current.
However, MOONDROP addresses this by implementing innovative solutions in the PARA. One such solution is the utilization of a newly developed composite material for the membrane, which improves its responsiveness to power.
Additionally, MOONDROP incorporates a silver etched circuitry with a special 2D topology design that significantly mitigates the adverse impact of the more rigid material on the tension of the membrane.
This implementation not only further reduces unwanted distortions but also enhances the overall efficiency and accuracy of the driver.
Upon initial observation, the PARA exhibits a notable resemblance to the Venus. However, upon closer inspection, several improvements become apparent.
For instance, the earcup hinges on the PARA feature a more robust mechanism securely fastened with screws, as opposed to the Snap-On design found on Venus.
Furthermore, the PARA features a user-adjustable headband. Despite its more affordable price, the PARA’s headband feels even more durable and provides a comfortable fit while minimizing stress.
When removing the earpads, the internal structure of the PARA is revealed. According to MOONDROP, this choice of material is specifically selected for its strength, capable of withstanding the vigorous movements of the membrane while allowing users to peek into the components.
The PARA includes two sets of earpads, and it is important not to mistake them for extra replacements. The second set of earpads features a distinct vented design with a larger, round cavity with more vents, resulting in a cleaner presentation due to marginally reduced sub-bass intensity.
Due to its open-back design, the PARA offers limited isolation. While it is capable of blocking out a considerable amount of noise and sounds more natural with some ambient leaking through, you may need to listen in a relatively private environment as what you play sounds as loud on the outside.
The Extra Earpads
As mentioned earlier, the PARA comes with two pairs of pads, and each pair has a distinct material and design that results in an audible difference when paired with the headphones. For those seeking stronger bass, the inner-oval-shaped stock pads would be preferred.
However, it’s worth noting that using these pads may sacrifice some of the airy and spacious sound characteristics found with the other pad. The second pad, which has a physically larger cavity and a more permeable, vented design, provides a more open staging experience but has slightly less emphasis on bass.
The PARA comes with a 3.5mm terminated cable and is interchangeable, it has a fabric sheath and quite a large gauge which makes it feel very durable. The stock cable is identical to the one that comes along with the Venus.
The PARA sounds slightly warmish with good openness using the stock cable and you may switch to balanced cables to enjoy stronger driving power from a balanced configuration, which would likely enhance separation as well.
Packaging & Accessories
The unboxing experience of MOONDROP’s products is as enjoyable as the products themselves as they do unique cover art for each item. When you remove the sleeve of the box, you will have access to the different sets of earpads that are included, a 6.3mm converter, the cables, a small postcard, and the user manual.
Truth be told I am quite impressed by the tuning on PARA and how it renders the harmonics. It is fairly extended at both ends, transients are nicely captured, and has a small tilt to the upper frequencies which gives the vocal good energy and intimacy.
Even driving with less powerful sources doesn’t sound hollow in the midrange and maintains good speed in the bass when handling complex basslines.
If you switch to the other pair of pads, you’ll notice that the upper vocal frequencies are further empowered. They ride slightly above the mid-bass, providing the vocals with more penetration power, and air.
This adjustment results in enhanced energy and overall clarity, further empowering the vocal performance.
Without switching to a 4.4mm connection I find the tuning enjoyable on various DAPs and with stronger current-drive setups it will get better. About 100 hours of run-in is given to the PARA before the below impressions are put down.
The bass on the PARA doesn’t extend very deep, but you can still feel some satisfying rumble with the stock pads. Acoustic guitars sound rich and you can feel the resonance in the chamber nicely reproduced, while there is good detail retrieval power and air in the sustaining bass.
I like how It maintains good speed and a solid punch even when connected to less powerful devices. The fundamental vocal frequencies have a sufficient bite and there is ample weight for pop music.
The clarity is also commendable, as it remains well controlled even during consecutive impactful bass impacts, thanks to its fast recovery. The bass also exhibits good airiness and an elaborate decay, resulting in a vivid and lively tonal quality.
When switching to the other pad, the bass becomes less prominent and more spaced, shifting the overall tuning towards the upper frequencies.
Despite this, the intensity of the bass remains adequate, with satisfactory separation from the other frequencies. The polite and transparent response of the PARA works well for electronic music, allowing for a dynamic and energetic response, also clear positioning.
When the PARA is adequately powered, the midrange frequencies exhibit a delicate and natural quality with good intensity for intimacy. The midrange is rendered smoothly, and there is a notable presence in the upper vocal range, enhancing clarity for vocals and string instruments.
This emphasis on the upper vocal range contributes to a heightened sense of detail and allows for greater articulation and separation of elements across the midrange, as well as enabling subtle nuances to be picked up.
As mentioned before, if you prefer a cleaner signature, switching to non-oval-shaped pads is recommended. With these pads, the frequencies above 5kHz are energized, resulting in a more forward presentation that works great with lighter voices, as well as enhancing depth.
This allows vocals to cut through the mix distinctly and enhances the transient response and overall openness of the sound. While this may introduce a slightly sharper tonality, it provides improved clarity and detail.
On the other hand, if you stick with the stock pads, there may be a slight muffling effect, particularly in the midrange frequencies.
The treble on the PARA has good intensity and is smoothly executed, it is adequately controlled and isn’t peaky to prevent it from sounding harsh. It effectively manages and minimizes unwanted sibilance, while still allowing for the reproduction of good air and spaciousness.
This contributes to a balanced and controlled transient response with good brilliance, enhancing the overall sense of openness and accuracy. The harmonics of vocals and guitars are clearly heard, adding to the naturalness of the vocals, and the airiness is strengthened when it comes to woodwinds and string instruments.
During testing with game BGM, new age, and fast electronic music, the treble on the PARA was found to sound prominent without being fatiguing. Additionally, the PARA reproduces voices clearly, making it suitable for listening to podcast content, as it ensures good clarity in vocal reproduction.
The non-oval-shaped pads favor treble reproduction. Though it may sound sharper, it has a stronger sense of spaciousness and much-strengthened penetration power.
The dynamic range is well maintained without peaking even when trumpets and flute solos are played while adding a stronger sense of realism for these instruments.
The PARA benefits from a broadened soundstage, particularly with the round-shaped earpads, resulting in a more expansive audio experience.
However, the layering may be considered average, meaning that while you can still distinguish individual instruments in a string quartet clearly, larger orchestral arrangements may sound slightly flattened or less separated.
Regarding vocal imaging, when using a 3.5mm terminated cable, the positioning of vocals exhibits good intimacy, and the image feels focused and centered. However, with balanced cables, the vocal image widens and spreads more along the X-axis.
Using the round-shaped earpads will also enhance the perceived depth and height, and help separate the vocal more from the backing track.
Increasing the gain slightly, without necessarily reaching the highest gain setting, can potentially solidify the vocal image and provide a firmer presentation of the midrange frequencies.