Moondrop Starfield Review – Harbinger

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Pros –

Refined VDSF tuning, Strong detail retrieval, Stunning design and build, Supple Litz cable

Cons – 

Somewhat sloppy bass reproduction, Average noise isolation

Verdict – 

The Starfield’s reasonable pricing, excellent versatility and minimal-compromise design make it a strong purchase for newcomers and seasoned audiophiles alike.


Introduction –

I was first introduced to the China-based company by my friend and fellow reviewer Klaus, who is certainly very knowledgeable about audio and whose opinion I hold in high regard. He was enthusiastic about a new company, Moondrop, and their first in-ear, the Kanas Pro. Though I never had the opportunity to demo this earphone, the company’s name stuck in my mind and seemingly, many others, as they’ve now climbed to international notoriety and are currently inundated with review requests. For the company has come far, delicately refining their interpretations of the famous Harman curve. The Starfield is one of their most successful ventures, tracing the curve just as religiously as its predecessors but at a more approachable $109 USD asking price. As we’re about to see, Moondrop makes every dollar count in their designs. You can read all about the Starfield here and treat yourself to one on HiFiGO and Apos.

The Pitch –

VDSF Tuning

Neutral has become a more subjective term over the years as more minds contribute to different curves simulating different acoustic environments. Most famous are the Diffuse and newer Harman curve, both have their share of fans and critics. Moondrop’s first IEMs traced the Harman Curve incredibly well, a selling point for the company and sound foundation for developing their own curve called virtual diffuse sound field (VDSF). Similar to its name, this is Moondrop’s appropriation of the diffuse-field neutral curve, the target hit by the famous Etymotic earphones. Comparatively, they’ve toned down the highs and upped the bass which is, to my ear, a combination between diffuse-field and Harman neutral.  Compared to Harman earphones, however, I do hear a smoother upper-midrange and uptick of energy within the lower-treble. Though both diffuse-field and Harman are considered by most critics not to showcase perfect balance, the VDSF curve is a refined and mostly natural-sounding tuning that is a pleasure to see at this price range.

Carbon Nanotube Driver

Where the former KXXS implemented a diamond-like carbon coating on the same diaphragm as the Kanas Pro before it, the Starfield employs a redesigned driver. It features carbon-nanotubes woven into a polymer film to create a combination of lightness and rigidity. Alongside, Japanese imported Daikoku CCAW voice coils, the Starfield’s driver is rapid accelerating, low in distortion and well-controlled, promising improved transient response in addition to strong end to end extension. Readers familiar with my work will know that I’m all for a well-done single driver over a model that fails to juggle the numerous variables involved in tuning a multi-driver design.

Litz Cable

The Starfield comes with a 24AWG 4N OFC cable with Litz structure. The Litz configuration consists of multiple thin strands of wire with individual insulation that minimises skin effect and transmission loss due to opposing EMF in other strands. This is said to be especially suitable for high-frequency signals. There are 6 Litz configurations in ascending order of complexity, though the exact configuration of the Starfield’s cable is not stated. Some also consider Litz wires to be more resistant to oxidation due to their more insulated design.

Unboxing – 

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The Starfield assumes a minimalist unboxing experience with a clean box adorned with appealing artwork. Inside is a hard box containing the earphones and accessories within a card inlet. Moondrop includes 6 pairs of silicone ear tips, all in various sizes to ensure a comfortable seal. As there is such a wide range of sizes, the user can also slightly alter the fit depth and sound to their preference. The Starfield comes with a solid zipper case for travel. It’s also good to see Moondrop providing additional metal mesh nozzle filters in addition to a pair of plastic tweezers to install them.

Design –

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The Starfield is a pleasure to look at, nailing the fundamentals with practicality and style. The housings adopt a 2-piece metal construction with gorgeous pearlescent blue paintwork. The central seem is prominent but smoothly finished and the earphones possess a premium density in the hand and ear. Two vents are visible on the inner face, as such, wind noise is not an issue when wearing these earphones outside. Though I’ve heard that chipping can be an issue, I didn’t experience any during my weeks of testing. This issue can be mitigated by wrapping the earphones around 4 fingers from the earpieces rather than the plug to avoid impact and chips in addition to using the included carrying case.

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Up top, it employs a 0.78mm 2-pin removable cable. As aforementioned, the cable is of excellent construction with 4N OFC conductors arranged in a Litz geometry. It’s a 4-wire braided unit with a soft, supple jacket. Alongside an over-ear fit, the cable carries no microphonic noise and coils easily for storage with no memory. The metal Y-split is very fashionable, featuring the Moondrop insignia printed on its surface and its weight takes the slack off the cable to keep it routed over the ear, a nice touch. Meanwhile, the right-angle 3.5mm plug demonstrates good construction with ample strain relief while the ear-guides provide comfortable and stable wear with their soft pre-moulded design.

Fit & Isolation –

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Though certainly on the larger side, the Starfield is ergonomically shaped with flattened rear and contoured inner face that conforms well to the curves of the outer ear. As the housings are thin, the Starfield provides a reasonably low-profile fit too. The nozzles are tapered and nicely angled to neutrally position the earphones, thereby, avoiding contact with the outer ear and hotspot formation over long listening sessions. Fit depth is medium but can be quite deep when sizing down tips. I found a slightly shallower fit provided a more balanced sound by preventing over-intimate vocals and a slightly warmer low-end. The earphones provide a strong seal but no driver flex or pressure due to their more open, vented nature. As a result, noise isolation is average, just suitable for general commute but definitely not adequate for loud environments such as air travel.

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About Author

Avid writer, passionate photographer and sleep-deprived medical student, Ryan has an ongoing desire to bring quality products to the regular reader.

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