If you’ve read my Blessing 2 review, then you’ll know that I have high regard for Moondrop as a company. Moondrop is mainly known for two things: Their excellent taste in waifus and their incredible lineup consistency. And to the credit of the latter, they’ve proven time and time again that they know what they’re doing. In fact, they practically have a monopoly over the sub-$1000 range with their Starfield, Blessing 2, and S8 trio of IEMs. These IEMs are geared towards the mid-fi crowd though, and the SSR (Super Spaceship Reference) which clocks in at $40 is simply them revisiting the IEM budget-arena and attempting to further exert such dominance.
Disclaimer: I purchased this IEM with my own money, and I have no conflict of interest with Moondrop. As usual, everything that follows is my honest thoughts.
The SSR arrives in a square, cardboard box. Accessories include the cable, eartips, and a synthetic pouch. The IEMs themselves are made of metal and have an outer coating to prevent oxidation/rust. People hate on Moondrop’s cables, and production is halted because of a cable quality issue, but this is probably their best yet. Tragically there’s still no chin slider; it’s covered in a clear, plastic coating, so it won’t tangle as easily.
Fit, Isolation, and Comfort
Given the, let’s just say interesting, ergonomics of the SSR, I was somewhat worried about this aspect, but the minuscule size should mitigate most issues. Personally, I can keep them in my ears comfortably for several hours. Isolation is poorer than normal because they don’t fully seal off your canal like some larger IEMs might. As usual, standard disclaimer that fit is 100% subjective and that it’ll depend on your wholly unique ear anatomy.
But the SSR are absolutely tiny, and if you can’t at least fit them in your ear then you’re probably cursed and should just quit IEMs altogether.
- Stock cable and stock tips.
- FLAC files off of a Shanling M0.
- Burn-in – Don’t believe in it unless we’re talking about your brain and ears getting used to the sound. For what it’s worth, I rarely hear differences after the fact.
- SSR takes a surprising amount of power to drive. No trouble running it off of any of my sources, but I had to give it more juice than usual. I also rarely listen at more than 75dB, so take that for what you will if you’re a head-banger.
Bass: The SSR is very light on the bass; it’s good ‘ol DD bass with a distinctive punch and texturing. It runs close to neutral with a very slight boost and is pretty clean. If I have one real knock on the bass, it’s a lack of sub-bass extension. But I’m sorry, there also isn’t enough quantity. And hear me out – it’s not strictly a problem with the bass itself (which is very good), but an issue with the boosted upper midrange and treble that I’ll elaborate on more below. There just needs to be more bass to balance those higher frequencies.
Midrange: This is normally where Moondrop IEMs shine, and to a certain extent this is still the SSR’s standout, but it’s simply too pronounced. Whereas the other IEMs in their lineup already border on shouty-ness in the upper midrange, the SSR takes it not just one, but several steps further with a very liberal boost at 3kHz. I know what they were going for here – they’re tuning towards weeb music and anime OST tracks – but this is too much.
Thus, especially with female vocals, it has an inverse effect: The SSR comes off as almost shrill. Take for example “LIKEY” an upbeat, energetic track with a lot of synthetic sounds and higher-pitched vocalists by TWICE; it was almost painful to listen to. To be fair, I found it does work nicely with Aimer, a J-pop female vocalist with a unique, huskier voice and some SawanoHiroyuki[nZk] stuff whose vocals are normally too recessed with most IEMs. In typical Moondrop fashion, vocals are thin, lean towards smooth, and have good clarity for the price nonetheless.
Highs: Admittedly I don’t focus a lot on the highs while listening, and I’ve mentioned this in some previous reviews. As long as there’s nothing too out-of-place, I’m a happy camper. To this effect, I think the SSR’s treble presentation is actually fine. It’s clean, pronounced, and has a nice sparkle to it. Depending on one’s preferences, I could see this being either good or bad, but again – there’s nothing inherently wrong with it.
This is probably the most egregiously tuned Moondrop IEM yet; there’s an almost exponential rise to the mid-range at around 1kHz that extends to the treble region. It’s bright to the point of shouty-ness at times, and coming from the Thieaudio L3/L9 I recently reviewed – which are much darker – it was a real slap. I did grow accustomed to it after hours of listening, but I know that not everyone will. It’s not a laid-back tuning to me, and it’s a bit of a niche for sure. Maybe if you have some hearing loss in the upper frequencies this could be considered a pro – no, I’m serious.
Let’s briefly talk about technicalities because at least Moondrop hasn’t completely dropped the ball here. Timbre is good, and I don’t hear any issues here as should be expected with a dynamic driver. Soundstage is average, but imaging is particularly good, punching well-beyond it’s price point not unlike the Blessing 2. Something else I was pleasantly surprised by was the transient speed. Sure, it’s not BA fast, but for the price? It’s pretty darn good, and has no trouble keeping up with some busier tracks. Resolution and detail retrieval seem par for the SSR’s $40 price tag.
Test Tracks (some of the ones I went through)
- Aimer – Hakuchumu, i-mage <in/AR>, Brave Shine
- Brooks & Dunn – Red Dirt Road
- Eden’s Edge – Amen
- Eric Church – Springsteen, Hell on the Heart
- Keith Urban – Defying Gravity (Album)
- SawanoHiroyuki[nZk] – Best of Vocal Works (Album)
- Taeyeon – My Voice (Album)
- Tiffany – I Just Wanna Dance (Album)
- TWICE – LIKEY
The SSR is like that kid-brother you love to death, but won’t ever shut up. I really want to like it, but simply put, the tuning is too shouty for the vast majority of people. It’s not a very agreeable tuning in the most objective sense, and it’s just weird to see Moondrop do something so esoteric because they’ve played it safe so far. We knew it was going to happen eventually though, and it looks like Moondrop finally has a miss. For $40 I’m definitely inclined to say it could’ve been a lot worse, but the SSR still isn’t as good as it could’ve been with the solid “VDSF” tuning that they normally follow. Hopefully they don’t make the same mistakes with their upcoming SSP! For now though, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt plus the usual cultured, waifu art bonus points.
Given my blatant critique of the SSR, I doubt I’ll see this review grace the front-pages of Head-Fi like my last few reviews have. Make no mistake that the SSR’s still far from being horrible; in fact, it’s an acceptable entry point for someone interested in the Moondrop sound. But I do consider myself a straight-shooter, and I cannot in good faith cut Moondrop slack here despite my affection for the brand. Personally, I’d save my money for the Starfield or the Blessing 2 as they’re much better value propositions (relative to their respective price brackets) despite their higher cost of entry. So as much as I hate to agree with a certain reviewer who takes their cues from 2Pac DSD, this one should be a hard pass for most buyers and even die-hard fans of Moondrop.
Score: 3/10 (Average)
Understanding my score: This is a personal, subjective assessment of an IEM’s sound quality. I don’t take into account any other factors, and it’s relative to the absolute best sound I’ve heard. Take it with a grain of salt! I’m not going to lie; I have high standards. But I’m not telling anybody how they should hear something – it’s a reflection of what of me, myself, and I hear.