Moondrop Variations: Unboxing

Table of Contents

Introduction

With the rising popularity of the tribrid, looks like even Moondrop cannot resist its allure.

Enter “Variations”, Moondrop’s first foray into the tribrid space. Though it’s to be noted that this isn’t the first time that Moondrop has used the Sonion ESTs in one of their IEMs; that honour goes to the somewhat obscure Solis which, while officially their $1,100 flagship, clearly not their most popular model.

The Variations sits right in the middle of the $320 Blessing 2 and the $700 S8 and so occupies a somewhat awkward $500 price bracket, more recently revitalised by hot new entries like the ThieAudio Oracle and Kiwi Ears Orchestra. Like its competitors that price point also makes the Variations one of the cheapest (EST) tribrids in the market today.

But enough exposition, you’re all here to get one burning question answered. How good is the Variations actually?

Product page: https://shenzhenaudio.com/products/moondrop-variations-earphone-1dd-2ba-2est-tribrid-technology-in-ear-monitor-with-interchangable-cable

MSRP: $520

Driver configuration: 2EST + 2BA + 1DD tribrid

This Variations was kindly provided by ShenZhenAudio.

Non-audio opinions

My unboxing posts are pretty much the only times I’ll ever talk about build quality, accessories and the like. I’m not really the person to ask about these things as I don’t really care about them that much.

Accessories

  • Hard case
  • Interchangeable 3.5mm SE connector
  • Interchangeable 2.5mm balanced connector
  • Interchangeable 4.4mm balanced connector

Cable: 2-wire configuration in a twist braid. Good flexibility and skinfeel, nothing much to complain about.

Connection: basically-flush 2-pin. Again, not the most secure style and I’d wish it was recessed.

Build: smoky-translucent resin body with metal faceplate. Largely the same (or at least similar) to the Blessing 2’s build.

Fit: pseudo-custom. If you’re had the Blessing 2, this is similar.

Isolation: above average; fine for outdoor use.

Initial impressions

  • At $520, the Variations competes against some relatively fresh faces in the “$500 tribrid” bracket, namely the ThieAudio Excalibur, ThieAudio Oracle, and the DUNU EST 112.
  • The Variations is easily the sub-bassiest model within Moondrop’s lineup, and perhaps their closest match to Harman 2019 as well.
    • Slightly cleaner bassline hits overall compared to the Blessing 2 as well, which is a nice surprise.
  • Slight shout; but overall actually a little less intense than the Blessing 2 and the S8. 
  • EST implementation is pretty good though the usual caveats still remain, i.e. somewhat blunted and “wispy” presentation, especially next to something like Moondrop’s own S8.
  • Overall, seems to compete closer to that of the Clairvoyance with a slight edge over the Oracle in resolution.

Measurements

All data has been uploaded to the Graph Comparison Tool.

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11 thoughts on “Moondrop Variations: Unboxing”

  1. Tone curve looks very similar to the Monarch, with the bass shelf extended slightly further into mid bass and a slight bump at 3k.

    Overall, can we expect this to sound like a Monarch with a bit more thump balanced by a bit more shout? How close are the technicalities?

    1. I mean, the monarch has more BAs. Like crin said, it’s more comparable to the Oracle though early impressions from other reviewers (bggar) agree the Oracle has more pleasing tonality overall.

      1. The number of BAs doesn’t exactly change the way an IEM sounds. That is totally up to the tuning.

        1. It changes the technicalities such as resolution and detail which is what I was referring to when saying the Monarch has more BAs.

          1. E-stats actually have the upper hand when it comes to sheer resolution, but yes, multiple BAs may outperform e-stats. Let’s see what’s crin’s take on this

          2. Both have E-stats, though. Both have the same driver combination except Monarch has an ADDITIONAL FOUR BAs. So Monarch will have better resolution simply going by the specs.

  2. Sounds like a minor refinement to the already-great Blessing 2. My guess the final score is either A+ or S- (tone S, tech TBA).

    1. i guess A, tone grade might be lower than S- and tech wont be as high as A+ (A probably)
      crinacle mentioned that variations competes closer with clairvoyance, which got its tech grade lowered to A recently, and variations has slight edge in resolution over oracle, which has a tech grade of A-
      the ‘slight edge in resolution’ won’t make a two sub grade difference

      1. Disagree with you on the tonality part. The Blessing 2 scores an S, and the Variations solves the problems of the B2 being a bit shouty and having only acceptable amounts of bass and sub-bass. On the tonality part, it is at least at the same level of the B2 and maybe even higher.

        Good points on the tech part though. Thanks

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