The Moondrop Starfield is a universal monitor that uses a carbon nanotube diaphragm 10mm dual cavity dynamic driver. It is priced at $109.
Disclaimer: The Moondrop Starfield sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at Shenzhen Audio for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about universal dynamic driver monitors we reviewed on Headfonics, click here.
Note, this review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2020 which you can read up on here.
A few weeks ago, Moondrop lobbed their Starfield IEM at me for review. The 2019-2020 portable season has been absolutely beyond absurd in great deals and interesting tech releases.
Sufficed to say, I am a bit overwhelmed by it all. It seems like every other week, I get a great new IEM in the mail. Let’s see how the Moondrop Starfield compares to the heavy-hitting competition in the sub-$200 tier!
Packaging and Accessories
Oh, sweet audio deities. I absolutely love the designs on this box. Ding ding! We have a winner. The text is stunning and something I’ve been just letting pander on my desk for others to see that are nearby…just because it is so gorgeous to look at.
Yes, the box is only cardboard, but in all honesty, I have a weakness for Asian lettering such as this. I like symbolism and less clutter in my visual presentations so this was something I really enjoyed from an artistic standpoint. A+ on this box, Moondrop. I love it.
I wish more companies like this would produce a very simple, but elegant and high-quality offering. It amazes me how just a few pieces of text can showcase and exude high quality. Sometimes, less is more, as we see on this interior box. The outside is quite flashy, and that fades away into an elegant and simplistic design on the inside box that houses the product.
Art in a Box
The deeper philosophy behind that makes me wonder if the artists and production company intended this, or not. I play with the notion that a visually complex and colorful exterior print will pass into midnight and reveal a more simple and stunning “starfield” design afterward.
I like these concepts, it makes the product seem more like someone’s actual attempt at art instead of just a product tossed together randomly. This, as a whole, appeases me quite a lot and makes me appreciate the product even more.
Someone took the time to invest in this and likely didn’t even tell anyone that is what might have been the desired intent. I like theorizing about this sort of thing: the motives of the artist, what they were thinking at the time, and if there are any hidden meanings or easter eggs in their works.
Design and Cable
The exterior design of the Starfield is also quite stunning. In fact, I think it is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever played with that came stock. I’ve had to invest a lot of cash into getting customs to look this way in the past, so having this front and center as soon as I buy it was a real treat for me.
One small gripe, I don’t like that both housings do not match in design and I would much prefer the absence of the glowing star on one of the shells. Subjectively, maybe silver would have been the way to go there instead of that color? Minor gripe.
The Starfield stock cable is absolutely my favorite stock budget cable I’ve ever seen and I just played with the idea of buying a spare, only to use as a custom replacement cable for some other larger full-size headphones.
Yep, I enjoy it a lot. It is thin but strong also, it doesn’t have too much slack when you hold it, so it doesn’t flop around. But, it also does not feel rigid. It is right in that “just right” tension factor that I’ve wanted in my cables.
I am going to try to buy a few more and maybe ask them to remove the Y split piece. While it is visually nice, I would prefer it to be more like a bead or something small and less intrusive. Again, a minor gripe.
Build Quality and Comfort
Holy hell. This is without a doubt the densest and heavy small IEM I’ve ever used in this price tier. The Starfield is significantly heavier than the FiiO FH1s I have just received, about 3x as heavy as the Alpha and Deltas too!
This feels like a literal solid chunk of aluminum and might be the new standard for build quality in a budget IEM for my foreseeable future. I simply have nothing else to compare this to that is nearly as solid feeling as these are. It is quite something to hold in my hand and another to wear them.
Usually, I am not startled by the presence of something in my ear (IEM’s, I mean), and having something his heavy and dense feeling in my ear feels very strange. It isn’t negative, I am just not used to having something not made of acrylic or, perhaps, a lighter and thinner aluminum material.
The overall comfort of the Starfield is sublime, due to the tiny shell size. Not only is the build incredible, but the fit for me specifically is absurdly good. In my opinion, because it is such a small universal IEM, this should fit the majority of general consumers exceptionally well.
The Starfield is not a basshead IEM. If you want that, check out the FiiO FH1s instead. If you want something more pure and clean feeling, but with excellent density factor in tonality and presentation, then this is for you.
This IEM has a smooth feeling on the low end, lacking a strong sense of dynamic and physical impact (strike and wince factor). The IEM is non-fatiguing for me after hours of usage and it doesn’t require much amplification to max out its low-end potential.
Opt for source/amp quality and not power with this one. It really sounds quite good through the Hiby R6 portable music player and with just a little EQ and throttling of the low end, you can boost up the bass quantity a bit.
Directly out of my Sony ZX1 Compact’s 3.5mm output, the experience is lackluster and much better when I pair the Sony with the Xduoo XDA5+, either via 3.5mm standard amping, or the digital output option.
I do not consider this a good option if you want to introduce a lot of EQ. The Starfield is hardly moderately responsive to alteration on the low end and requires a fair bit of added dB down yonder to start hearing a difference.
Thankfully, I am able to retain good quality even upward of +8dB of bass and with some serious low-end alteration via Hiby’s MSEB system, which is a system of DSP that really is quite detailed in what type of presentation you’d like to alter your headphones in an attempt to morph into.
Even with +8dB, the increase in physical quantity is only moderately bumped at best. That means the IEM doesn’t respond much when you EQ it.
The Starfield IEM is moderately forward in physical presentation, meaning it is not relaxed feeling, nor overly engaging in forwardness. I consider this the normal average for most IEM’s out there, most headphones really, in general terms. The experience is not what I would consider dense or hefty, it is again…moderate in tonality and physicality.
I do not hear and lushness of velvet thickness to the notes as they are presented to me, regardless of what source produce or amp I am paired with. The experience remains pretty much the same regardless of what I use to feed it. Moondrop’s IEM here remains quite smooth, slick feeling, and fast on the draw.
I denote no hiss or static when paired with sources and amps, so I consider the IEM very quiet. This for me is an issue because sometimes older Jazz recordings have a hiss in the background, but thankfully, the Starfield doesn’t exaggerate that and bring it out into my eyeballs, full force.
The Starfield midrange purity factor is excellent, absolutely noticeably superior to the FiiO FH1s and the last-gen Alpha and Delta/Kinera’s as well for the same price. In my opinion, Moondrop “shoots for the stars” and lands on their target somewhere out there in the void.
With regard to the literal quality of the midrange vocal experience, this is my go to for the price now. I do not have a cleaner sounding sub $200 IEM that can beat it. I have a few that come damned close, but so far, nothing I’ve reviewed lately offers fidelity on this level for this type of a price tag.
The experience is highly neutral to my ear, but never annoyingly so. There are no nasal tendencies, but I do notice some issues in the upper mids that make the IEM feel just a bit offset when compared to the treble just above.
I find that there is some upper mid energy that does not parallel the treble quantity and bite factor, which makes me either want more treble, or less upper mids to balance that out.
The Starfield top end is quite stunning. In fact, I’ve spent hours listening to YouTube rips of my favorite guitarists because the experience is just that pleasant. That mythical gentle brightness and bite factor, but one that never gets annoyingly painful, is present in this IEM’s top end.
As mentioned, it oddly contrasts with the plentiful upper mid energy, which is clearly more potent and bloomed in comparison. The top end is not gentle, not painful in physical dynamic impact. I actually kinda’ love it. It is physically fun but tonally neutral in flavoring.
The impact factor is yummy and musical, but the raw tone of the upper end is on the clinical side, prone to some gentle brightness. Quality though, no doubt about it. For most listening experiences, I find this to be very enjoyable.
Especially so, if I am after having some fun with Fusion guitarists. I cannot say for certain that many IEM’s in this price range are this physically fun, but also present a clearly clinical tonality. How odd. But, enjoyable none the less.
The Starfields stage-depth is the star of the show, which is on point and par with the excellent FiiO FH1s and noticeably better than the Alpha and Delta IEM’s from last year. This IEM has a very interesting physical setup, I’ve found it to offer a taller than wide sound effect, almost like standing next to two loudspeakers at a concert.
As a result of this physical presentation, the stage width takes a nosedive and live recordings are not as fun as I would like them to be. Any wide-field recordings sound a bit too congested in width factor. But, vocalists and Jazz, Rock, and similar genres without a focus on wide-field recording presentation offerings end up sounding superb.
Do you enjoy Sinatra? You’ll go nuts for this IEM. Seth McFarlane, Tony Bennet, and Lady GaGa’s Jazz Album and similar are immensely enjoyable for me on a subjective level. The physical presentation of this IEM is setup, clearly, for this type of a studio recording and not for something like a live concert.
Overall, the stage depth is vividly enjoyable and the tall image is something I don’t get to experience often in IEM’s these days. The last I can recall like this, that did it well, was the Fischer Audio Eterna from ages ago.
As mentioned before, stick with something clean and neutral, something regarded for an exceptional treble response. Avoid over amping with too much power, you don’t need it. The low gain should be more than enough.
Something like the Hidizs AP80 series is right on track with quality for this Starfield, maybe even the Hiby R3 and R5 are capable of maxing out the quality of this IEM, at least, in my opinion. Using my Hiby R6 vs using the Hidizs AP80 Pro does not result in much of a noticeable fidelity differential between the two pairings.
The only part of the spectrum that alters, is the smoothness factor, which is surely better on the much more expensive R6. So, pick your poison intelligently or ask for recommendations from those who actually have it, because the Starfield will alter in tonal smoothness with superior sources.
I hear no difference between my Burson Conductor 3, a full-size amp that costs quite a lot of cash, vs the R6, which is just a great portable music player.
I’m a believer. I’ve never heard anything from Moondrop before and the Starfield is highly enjoyable for me. I absolutely love the treble response and feel like they really nailed that “shimmering star in the night sky” appeal.
That gentle brightness factor is hard to get right, but they managed it. The Starfield is also absurdly stunningly well made and presented. If you like taller than wide sounding headphones, this is one of the better options out there. It looks great, sounds great and the price is on point.
This Moondrop Starfield IEM is an absolute pleasure to use. From excellent build and fit to absurdly good treble tonality, the Starfield is one of the budget champs of the 2019-2020 season, no doubt.
Moondrop Starfield Specifications
- Driver: Carbon Nanotube diaphragm- 10mm Dual cavity dynamic driver
- Detachable cable standard: 24AWG Litz 4N OFC
- Interface: 0.78 2pin
- Sensitivity: 122dB/Vrms(@1khz)
- Impedance: 32Ω±15% (@1khz)
- Frequency response: 10Hz-36000 Hz (free field. 1/4 inch MIC)
- Effective frequency response: 20Hz-20000 Hz (IEC60318-4)