Or, Moondrop Droplet 1BA Earbud Review: A Unique and Affordable Option for On-the-Go Listening, with a flaw.
- Introduction and Design
- Package and Comfort
- Sound Quality
- Single song comparison I: “The Heresy” by Mushroomhead
- Single song comparison II: “Body Bag” by I Prevail
- Single song comparison III: “Cold Water” by Damian Rice
- Heavy Playlist for IEM Tests
- Availability and Price
Introduction and Design
The Moondrop Droplet 1BA Earbud (probably the ED29689 1BA) is a unique and solid earbud, but it has unfortuanately for me a design flaw. I pre-ordered it and The Droplet was shipped directly from Chengdu to Nanjing after its launch. It features a DSP and amp built into the USB-C connector, a big v splitter, volume and microphone controls, and a fixed cable. The earbud has a glossy silver exterior with a pointed front end and is inspired by the popular Chinese science fiction novel “Three-Body Problem” by Liu Cixin. It is expected to be popular among fans of the book and audio enthusiasts alike. “Three-Body Problem” is a novel that describes the exchange of information between humans and the three-body civilization on Earth, the fight for life and death, and the rise and fall of two civilizations in the universe. “Three-Body Problem” is well known and loved by many science fiction fans. It was the first Asian novel to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel and was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel.
Package and Comfort
From my perspective, the Moondrop Droplet’s compact size and lack of fixation make it fit comfortably in the ear like other bullet earplugs. The earbud provides excellent isolation, making it an ideal choice for commuting. I realized that the Droplet is an easy fit if I am not moving. If I am moving from the Bus to the Metro, the fit changes easily and with this also the sound. The package comes with a compact case and three different types of foam tips, as well as additional fan merchandise. The cable quality is decent but slightly thin, but do not tend to tangle. On a positive note, I appreciate the inclusion of volume control and pause functions in the remote, as well as a microphone.
The Moondrop Droplet has great / safe tuning for high-resolution sound, perfect for acoustic music, rock, and metal. However, in busy metal songs, the Droplet can struggle to keep up and the low frequencies may bleed into the low mids, making the sound quality less pleasing. The bass is elevated, but too light for EDM or synthetic low frequencies. You may want more punch for this type of music. For listeners of “real” instruments, the kick drum will sound great (40Hz to 100Hz). The sound stage is good but small, and the layering is limited. The details are clear but only average in resolution.
Initially, I was impressed by the sound of the Droplet, but after spending more time with it, I realized that it aims for a wow factor but doesn’t offer much after that. I couldn’t hear more details, only better overall sound quality compared to stock earbuds. This may be because the tone and timbre are low in dynamic, which is typical for a balanced armature (BA) sound. For personal listening, I prefer a less emphasized bass response, especially in public transport. The mids are elevated, but in busy tracks, they may move to the background due to the elevated low frequencies. Male vocals have great presence and presentation, while female vocals are a bit laid back, but great for female rock or acoustic tracks. The treble has good energy, and is short in extension, but not fatiguing, making it enjoyable to listen to.
External link to the frequency response graph: Link to Moondrop Droplet
Slight Hissing Noise / White Noise Floor from USB-C Dongle with Android
When connecting the Moondrop USB-C to my Android devices (phones or tablet), I noticed a slight hissing noise / white noise floor. The sound is not present in the recordings, leading me to believe it’s due to a low-quality decoupling of the USB-C Amp DSP implementation. I contacted Moondrop customer service and they recommended returning the unit for a refund. They initially claimed that my devices were not compatible, but I tested it with three different Android devices with various Android versions (OnePlus9, Fairphone 3, and a Samsung Tablet).
The hissing noise is audible in quiet environments when playing quiet songs, but it’s generally not noticeable in noisy public places. When stopping a song, I sometimes hear a higher-pitched hissing noise that disappears after a few milliseconds. The noise is less audible on a Lenovo Laptop docking station or when connecting the USB-C headphone to a MacBook Air M1. I’ve reached out to Moondrop’s customer service for a final reply and will update you once I receive it. If you have similar experiences or ideas, I’d love to hear about them. For me this noise is a design flaw I cannot ignore.
Single song comparison I: “The Heresy” by Mushroomhead
The Song: “The Heresy” by Mushroomhead is a Nu-Metal and Alternative Metal song. The style is characterized by a heavy and aggressive sound, with prominent distorted guitar riffs, and a mix of clean and screamed vocals.
Difficulties for headphones in this song: Playing this song on headphones or IEMs can be challenging due to the high levels of bass and low-end frequencies in the song. This can put a strain on the drivers, and cause distortion or muffled sound, especially in budget headphones or IEMs. Additionally, the dynamic range and intensity of the song can be difficult for headphones to accurately reproduce, leading to a lack of clarity and detail in the sound.
I compared the sound quality of the Moondrop Droplet and the AudioSense DT600 (+ FIIO KA3 at 4.4mm) using the song “The Heresy” by Mushroomhead as a test track. My impression was that the DSP in the Droplet had to choose which frequency range to prioritize, whereas the DT600 was able to provide all details with its BAs to give my brain control over the sound. The result was that the DT600 offered more details and instrument separation, and the female vocals were always very prominent and clear. On the other hand, the Droplet sometimes moved the female vocals to the background and did not fully capture all the drum and cymbal strikes. Despite this, the Droplet was still enjoyable to listen to without an A/B comparison. However, the Droplet tended to bleed from low frequencies into the low-mid range, which made the sound a bit “muddy.” It’s worth mentioning that the AudioSense DT600 and its accompanying DAC/AMP cost approximately 7 times more than the Moondrop Droplet, but it does not sound 7 times better. 🙂 Same is valid for the following comparisons with the 7Hz Timeless.
Single song comparison II: “Body Bag” by I Prevail
The Song: “Body Bag” by I Prevail is a metalcore/post-hardcore song that features aggressive vocals, heavy guitar riffs, and fast-paced drumming.
Difficulties for headphones in this song: It is challenging for headphones or IEMs to play this song due to the need to accurately reproduce the high energy, powerful instrumentation and vocals. This requires a headphone or IEM that can handle the dynamic range and provide a good bass extension to convey the intensity of the music. Additionally, the headphone or IEM must have good separation and clarity to keep the various elements of the song distinct and well-defined, especially during the fast and complex passages.
The 7Hz Timeless delivers a powerful and engaging experience while playing “Body Bag” by I Prevail, with an impressive start, great shout, and great double bass audible. The stage is bigger, but the source sound seems closer, which enhances the overall experience. On the other hand, Moondrop Droplet has bass that is very much in the foreground and bleeds into the mids, leading to lower separation audible. The gain drop is good, but the stage is in your head, creating a different type of experience. Overall, 7Hz Timeless provides a more balanced and powerful sound for this song, while Moondrop Droplet focuses more on bass.
Single song comparison III: “Cold Water” by Damian Rice
The Song: The song “Cold Water” by Damian Rice is an acoustic ballad that showcases male and female vocals, as well as string instruments.
Difficulties for headphones in this song: It is a challenge for headphones and IEMs to play the song because of the need to accurately reproduce the delicate instrumentation and vocals. This means that the vocals must be well-presented and well-balanced with the rest of the mix, in order to maintain the emotional impact of the song. Poorly tuned headphones or IEMs may produce an overly bright or bass-heavy sound that detracts from the delicate balance of the mix and therefore makes it difficult to fully appreciate the song.
The 7Hz Timeless and Moondrop Droplet both have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to playing “Cold Water.” The 7Hz Timeless presents Damian’s voice closer to the face and with a bigger room sound. However, the bass drum is too present, making the snare strokes sound thin. Both voices are on closer layers, but Damian’s voice is a little bit further away, yet still evenly sounding. The 7Hz Timeless delivers a very nice surrounding sound and a great separation of vocals and instruments. On the other hand, the Moondrop Droplet has a noticeable low amplitude hissing noise 7 white noise floor, which is audible in this quiet song. The male vocals are very close and separation is more left or right, with no depth or layers. The low kick sounds good together with the female vocals but is always very present. The Moondrop Droplet presents the mids well and the treble is well-defined. The snare drum, however, sounds far away.
In conclusion of this song, both the 7Hz Timeless and Moondrop Droplet have their own unique presentation of “Cold Water” by Damian Rice. It is up to the listener’s preferences on which presentation they prefer. If I could choose, I would definitely go for the 7Hz Timeless.
Heavy Playlist for IEM Tests
Put my Apple Music playlist to the test with your IEM or headphones and see how they handle high-resolution (heavy) audio!
Availability and Price
The Moondrop Droplet 1BA Earbud is now available for purchase both in China and the United States. In China, it is priced at 299 RMB which roughly converts to 40 Euros. Meanwhile, in the US, it is priced at $49.99. With its unique design and built-in DSP and amp in the USB-C connector, the Moondrop Droplet is a solid and affordable option for those looking for a good quality earbud for commuting or on-the-go listening.
In conclusion, the Moondrop Droplet is a good earbud for those who want decent sound quality on the go. It is not the best for analyzing each detail of a song, but it is an easy first step into the high-resolution world and eliminates the need to worry about your source chain as it only requires one USB-C connection. When compared to the full balanced armature (BA) AudioSense DT600 with an FIIO KA3, it is clear that the DT600 delivers more details and a better sound stage. For those using public transit, the Moondrop Droplet works exceptionally well due to its very good passive isolation and good sound. In comparison to the 7Hz Timeless, the Timeless will give you much more long-term listening fun compared to the Droplet. In addition, with the mentioned hissing noise I cannot recommend the Moondrop Droplet. Customer service was until now not able to answer the question if this is a single false sample, or if it is a design flaw. I will report here, as soon I will get a more clear picture.
Update May 2023: After getting some feedback on forums, it looks like it’s a problem with these USB-C dongles. Also other people are reporting the white noise or hissing problem 🙁
In the beginning, I was considering using the Moondrop Droplet for my daily commute instead of my current setup of a DAC/AMP dongle and the AudioSense DT600 if the hissing noise could have been solved. I believe that the Droplet’s passive isolation, combined with its built-in DSP and amp, will provide me with good enough sound quality, especially in the presence of surrounding noises during my commute. The convenience of having everything integrated into a single, compact package is also appealing, as I won’t have to worry about carrying multiple components or cables with me. In addition, the Droplet drains noticeably less energy from my phone compared to the FIIO KA3. However, with the current recommendation by customer service that the hissing of the Droplet is related to the incompatibility of my various Android devices I cannot recommend this product at this moment.
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As always: I purchased all mentioned components myself and with my own money. Everything I report here is my own honest opinion and based on my own listening experiences. I have no personal or business relationship with any company or person mentioned. This post is neither paid nor sponsored.