Today, we review the Moondrop Stellaris which is a 14.5mm planar driver universal in-ear monitor featuring a sub-nanometer diaphragm. It is priced at $109.99.
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 Linsoul Audio for their support.
To read more about Moondrop products we have previously featured on Headfonics, click here.
Note, that this article follows our latest scoring guidelines which you can read here.
The Moondrop Stellaris is a musical and fun to use budget planar in-ear monitor. The qualities it lacks are made up for elsewhere. This is not a good generalist IEM; it is a specialist that I find most enjoyable in Jazz and slow genres.
It has been exceptionally hard to navigate Hi-Fi forums and YouTube videos without seeing something very prominently positioned for the new Moondrop Stellaris IEMs. Seems they are the talk of the town!
Today, we will be blasting off in a rocket to survey deep space fields and cosmic rays that are emanating from this $109 Stellaris.
This IEM is jam-packed with features and interesting tidbits. It is also generating a metric ton of buzz around the technology and tuning debate topics.
We’ve all come so far in the past few years and now that the Planar IEM sunspot wave is about to hit us, I think it is wise for us to have a chat about things and the potential future we are all going to experience soon.
The Stellaris utilizes a full Planar 14.5mm driver, which I cannot express how happy I am to both see and hear at this absurdly budget price point of $109.
Symmetrical 7+7 N52H magnet arrays adorn the interior, which Moondrop says balances out distortion potential, as well as aid in the efficiency factor of the driver’s voltage needs.
The Stellaris is rated a bit higher for load at 36Ω and reasonably sensitive at 117dB SPL so this one could require decent voltage to get it going. You can find out more about how it performed with various sources and amps on page 2 of this review.
The closed-back design of the Stellaris is standard, and this is where I am a bit confused. Yes, Planar IEMs can sound great in closed housings but we all know that the Planar tech bass experience is top-notch.
There should be some focus on that and to do it well if it is a real Planar driver that any company wants to use in their design. In this case, I think the ongoing concerns that some other reviewers expressed are due to this and this alone. I think this IEM should have had some ports or larger vents to allow some airflow to occur.
I bring that up because the design of the shells is massive. This is a huge IEM. It is fully metal and aluminum, but also thick cut and you can really feel the insane quality of the shells in your hands when you hold them. Like little lead weights.
And with that, I see plenty of room for an extra air vent in multiple places. The build is exceptionally great, and the IEM looks fantastic as well and similar to the Starfield, which I’ve reviewed sometime in the past.
Comfort & Isolation
These shells do not stay in my ear for more than a few minutes without flopping out, and there is nothing I’ve found that helps this. No foam tips matter, and no extra 3rd party cable replacement matters.
The design of the shells is like an upside down and rounded pyramid, which forces the very top side of the IEM when it is in your ears to simply fall down due to gravity.
For me, this IEM simply is too heavy and oddly shaped to stay in anyone’s ear for prolonged periods. If I stand up, it falls out. If I talk a walk, they will just plop right out. On a car ride as a passenger and you hit a pothole, they will dislodge.
They are overly top-heavy but I can safely say that the isolation factor when they are properly sealed and you are not moving is actually very good.
I think the solid design of the Planar driver makes the IEM simply akin to a few walls of solid metal and the exterior also being solid metal. It certainly cuts a very nice amount of exterior noise and that got better with foam tips in the mix.
The stock cable is actually gorgeous. The silver and blue mix with a clear sleeve are actually absolutely stunning in the right light. I really enjoy this cable and I will be fully honest I’m going to remove it and replace some more expensive IEMs that I own just to use this one on them. That cable is on point, no doubt!
Just as the last few Moondrop IEMs were cited, there isn’t much data on the cable type but we do know that it uses an SPC design and not a copper one. I think this was a mistake in regard to the treble experience, which I will go into shortly. This cable should have been entirely copper in typing.
What is there is really great though, I really love the design and some rumors say it is the same one that the Aria uses, but now with a small central slider piece installed.
Packaging and Accessories
The Moondrop Stellaris comes with a standard cardboard box, which has some anime-style sketching on it.
I really enjoy this sort of thing. Someone took the time to outsource an artist just to sketch box art for them. It is small things like this that make me smile because someone somewhere was passionate about this and wanted to invoke some type of specific emotional response from it.
Anyone can just flop down a black sheet and paint a font over it. I am glad they didn’t do that. Included in the package is yet more art on the manual, a few sets of tips, and a small folding carrying case.
The Stellaris tuning lends this experience a rock solid and heft bass weight, which is typical only in planar drivers. Tonality factors for planar are what I love, so meaty and heavy. Weighted. Sturdy.
For $109, this is a rare thick experience for an IEM. In this price range, 99.9% of everything out there is a dynamic driver in design and lacks that heft that only a planar magnet array can offer.
But there is a downside in this case. The experience is severely lacking responsiveness. While the experience is warm and right on the line of bass light-bass moderate in quantity, the texture is unyieldingly unchanging. It sounds the same no matter what I do and what track I am listening to. One note bass.
Quantity is fine, but the bass weight and quantity should be better even though the quantity factor was specifically tuned to be easygoing and mild at best.
This is akin to an electrostatic headphone removing its hyper smooth and effortless tonality, which is the entire point of the product: to sound a specific way and induce a very expected sound field type.
In this case, the Stellaris lower side ended up being almost what I’d consider bass-light. As far as fidelity goes, the purity factor is not lacking but not as nice as some other offerings in the pricing tier that I’ve received recently.
The Stellaris midrange has a recessive tendency in terms of physical placement, and it feels just like the measurements chart looks. There is a noticeably scooped feeling in the primary portions of the midrange, but this is odd because the low end is also fairly mild in quantity.
The upper mids are lacking the proper energy to make the midrange feel enthralled and engaging. I was not able to fix this with any EQ toggling and changes in my software. This is a stubborn IEM that does not change, but then again this is sort of a trait of pure planar headphones to not change too much when you change the EQ settings.
The Stellaris upper mids are lacking energy and feel dropped off in terms of physicality factor. The purity factor is actually very nice for the price of $99 or so and in this tier. I feel like the vocal experience is so musically vivid and “planar” that it is hard for me to stop using it with certain tracks.
However, the instant we get anything beamed at us from the Stellaris upper mid-frequency area, we begin to feel like someone has removed that frequency or severely dropped down an EQ bar suddenly.
The Stellaris top end needs a re-tune. No questions and no buts. The top side drops right off a cliff and then suddenly spikes higher than Mt. Everest on the coldest day of the year in a snowstorm.
There are instances of pure ice and brightness, but the physical impact is not engaging or severe. It is actually soft on the physical strike factor, which is one hell of a strange experience when you hear screaming guitars.
When someone is riffing up the guitar neck or taping, someone like Tim Henson of Polyphia, my favorite current band, taps very bright and high-pitched notes at the same time low pitched ones are hit on his guitar. It is a total washout on this IEM that does not happen on something like the IKKO Audio Gems OH10s or really any of the other IEMs I have in the price tier.
This makes the Stellaris difficult to listen to, but not painful, or stressful in a physical way. You can somewhat reduce this with proper EQ settings but you can’t really buff that out.
In terms of the fidelity factor, the treble is actually pretty good for the price, dare I say great. Its biggest issue is that everyone seems to have been with tone and texture, not fidelity.
The very highest range of the treble feels overly lacking energy, while the rest of the spectrum between the upper mids and the middle areas of the treble all feel highly energized. Tuning needs some work.
Akin to mostly all planar designs, depth of field is the star of the show, and depth of realism and stage forward is the highlight. Where staging left and right lacks, the experience is still coherent and perfectly fine overall. This is a $109 tier IEM, don’t expect a mini HD800.
Coherency is the most important factor here and what the Stellaris offers is really nice there. I cannot help but feel what this design would have yielded for us if it were more like the Audeze Planar IEMs from a few years ago, something with a fully open-back design, or at least a large vent.
For this price tier, the Stellaris imaging is just fine. The experience feels box-shaped, of equal width and height.
The Moondrop Stellaris simply requires a small star to power it the right way despite its seemingly efficient rating. It claims only 36Ω, but if you drive this IEM, as most planars seem to share this quality, it will yield much better results. More power equals better Planar sound, at least in most cases. In this case, that is true.
However, an interesting thing happened to me during my review process. My favorite portable amplifier is the XRK Uber. It is just so warm, musical, and fun with a treble that is simply the best tone I’ve ever heard by far.
The problem is it has a low voltage output and cannot drive planar headphones or anything even slightly moderately needy. In this case, the XRK did wonders for the Stellaris in tone but still felt vastly underpowered.
The Stellaris doesn’t have much bass there unless you jack up the bass dial on EQ, so does it even matter? Yes. It does. Despite not having much there, the extra warmth made the Stellaris very fun and enjoyable for specific genres that lack a washout of treble instances. For slow Jazz, YouTube, and Podcasts, this is a fun IEM just grab a powerful cheap amp and enjoy.
But the Stellaris doesn’t jive with anything I toss in. My TempoTec V6 DAP is on the neutral side, and that removed the lush bass and weight of the IEM entirely versus the XRK being sourced from just my phone.
This means I liked the phone and the XRK much more than the V6. However, physicality, fidelity, and most of the experience does not change with other amplifiers and DACs used. It takes something oddly specific to alter the sound traits of this IEM, something like a very musical tone amplifier, or a dead neutral source.
In that case, the A/B comparison is noticeable. I bring this up because the difference between my XRK portable amp and my expensive home Burson amplifier is something I failed blind testing with. It was really hard to get a different sound out of the experience.
The Shuoer Tape is about $100 now and uses a hybrid electrostatic treble driver with dynamic everything else. The experience is hyper-smooth, effortless, and just a pleasure to use for extended periods of time.
So too, it doesn’t change much with more power so you can use it on anything and get a great sound. The Stellaris hunts for what meshes will be infinite and highly subjective.
The Tape has more bass quantity but also feels thinner in tonal heft from top to bottom. The planar design of the Stellaris is so heavy and yummy though, addictive even. It is hard to swap between them and keep listening to the Tape unless you are specifically interested in a supremely relaxing and soft experience.
Yay for Black Friday deals, they are now much closer to $109 right now! The size difference between these is humorous. The SeekReal Airship is immensely tiny, light, and comfortable. The Stellaris is beefy, huge, and refuses to stay in my ear for more than a few minutes.
The Airship trounces the Stellaris in purity factor across the board, but also sounds paper thin and lacks an engaging substance factor. The Stellaris offers more musicality, more fun, more velvet-like tone.
However, the Airship plays nice with any gear you toss it on while the Stellaris will take a while to find something that meshes with it for you, depending on your preferences.
IKKO Audio Pure Gems OH10S
The OH10S is sublimely bassy and engaging, it hits much harder and reaches much deeper than the Stellaris, but it also holds a beautiful tone on treble.
The midrange of the Stellaris feels overly recessed compared to the forward mids of the OH10s. However, I very much prefer the Stellaris’ overall warmth factor and substance, weight carried from a Planar design.
I dislike the OH10S’ dynamic thinness heft and tonal presentation. If only these two would get married and have a child, that would be my favorite IEM.
The Moondrop Stellaris is a musical and fun-to-use budget planar in-ear monitor. The qualities it lacks are made up for elsewhere. This is not a good generalist IEM; it is a specialist that I find most enjoyable in Jazz and slow genres.
It is large and cumbersome, but it is also high quality and gorgeous to look at. The stock cable is lovely, and the overall Planar substance factor is quite literally addictive.
Despite its shortcomings elsewhere, it is almost impossible for me to swap between a solid-feeling planar and a dynamic driver IEM and continue to want to use the dynamic driver in this price tier.
Planar heft is just so yummy, that I am totally fine with the treble issues and the lacking bass quantity. For general PC usage, this is a good option.