Moondrop Venus planar-magnetic headphones evaluate: Second time’s the appeal

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What occurs when an esteemed in-ear monitor (IEM) firm decides to alter course and make over-ear headphones? Whereas it might sound easy, making the bounce from compact in-ears to full-size headphones isn’t any small feat. It entails an entire totally different method to participating the listener with a large soundstage and open design in comparison with small, self-contained earbuds. It’s the driving query behind one of the crucial thrilling private audio gear releases of 2023: the Moondrop Venus. 

Moondrop Labs, based in 2015 in Chengdu, China, and colloquially often known as “Moondrop,” grew to become a darling of the IEM scene (and specialised distributors like with standard releases like Blessing 2 and Variations. With Venus, the corporate’s second over-ear headphones after 2022’s Void, Moondrop leaves a extra direct sound and demure styling behind and embraces a daring design and tuning designed to shear the veil between you and your music. At $599, it faces stiff competitors from longstanding manufacturers like HIFIMAN. Nonetheless, if you happen to’re searching for open-back headphones that may reveal each nuance of your favourite tracks with ethereal aplomb, they’re a powerful contender effectively price contemplating.

The construct

The very first thing to know in regards to the Moondrop Venus is it makes use of planar-magnetic drivers. In distinction to dynamic drivers—which might effectively (and infrequently extra affordably) push air and make up many of the finest headphones for common listeners—the perfect planar-magnetic headphones can ship unimaginable ranges of element, extensive, enveloping soundscapes, and vanishingly low ranges of distortion to ship whole readability inside your music. 

Whereas dynamic drivers use a conical, transferring coil to generate sound (assume a miniaturized model of that bass-pumping woofer you’re accustomed to seeing in a freestanding speaker), planar-magnetic drivers use a big flat sheet traced with conductive parts (on this case, silver) that’s held poised by rows of highly effective magnets. When electrical energy is utilized, the diaphragm strikes quickly, creating sound. It’s a wholly totally different system, however when utilized appropriately, can lead to a number of the finest sound you’ll hear in a pair of headphones. (And on planars you’re far much less more likely to hear that “farting” you may get taking part in bass-heavy music on insufficient drivers … except you flip the music as much as deafening ranges.)

Take a look at the picture above and also you’ll see Venus’s 100mm drivers—a window into what gives you a portal into your playlists. They’re roughly twice the floor space of dynamic driver audiophile heavy-hitters just like the Sennheiser HD800S. Every is surrounded by 18 highly effective magnets and is constructed into specialised cavities to reduce house and weight and to steadiness out the heavy magnetic pull of so many magnetics on its two-micron-thin diaphragm. 

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As you may think, with two large drivers and three dozen high-powered magnets, the Venus isn’t precisely small. Actually, it appears clearly designed to draw consideration. The chassis is totally fabricated from metallic completed in a matte silver that avoids fingerprints. The earcups are round and huge sufficient to embody most ears. There’s a self-adjusting headband for consolation, and it really works effectively, however these aren’t precisely headphones that can mix into the setting.  

The Venus’s faceplates are wholly unique and eye-catching.
The Venus’s faceplates are wholly distinctive and attention-grabbing. Chris Coke

The grilles are the actual stars of the present. Every earcup is completed with a milled faceplate that may be proper at residence in BioShock—if Andrew Ryan cared somewhat extra about sound high quality, that’s. There’s a sample of V’s cross-milled with angled stripes that offers the headphones an entirely distinctive, one way or the other sci-fi, one way or the other classic look. There are just a few too many uncovered screws, nevertheless. The hints of “industrial” gained’t fairly jive with its different prevailing themes, nevertheless it’s clearly serviceable, which is a excessive level.

Regardless of its massive measurement and heavy weight (roughly 600 grams), the Venus is surprisingly snug. It makes use of a self-adjusting headband trimmed in fake leather-based beneath a perforated metallic arc to distribute its weight effectively and keep away from creating sore spots on the highest of your head. The ear cushions are leather-trimmed (probably pleather, no official phrase from Moondrop on the supplies used) and angled, tapering down towards the entrance of your ear. They’re plush and simply thick sufficient to offer ample padding with out further bulk. 

The match additionally hits the candy spot for clamp drive. The earcups have a restricted vary of pivot and angle changes to attain a correct seal. As soon as it’s in place, nevertheless, it’s secure: not too tight, not too unfastened. In comparison with maybe its most direct competitor, the $499 HIFIMAN Version XS (a svelte 405g with distinctive oval earcups), it’s noticeably safer. 

Whichever connector you like to use with your source, the Venus can connect you to your favorite songs.
Whichever connector you want to make use of together with your supply, the Venus can join you to your favourite songs. Chris Coke

Moondrop additionally makes use of an interchangeable cable design and gives two separate choices within the field to accommodate extra sources. Rated at 18Ω and 100dB/Vrms @1kHz in sensitivity, the headphones aren’t onerous to drive, however you’ll need a small amplifier (or USB DAC-amp combo, just like the iFi xDSD Gryphon or Questyle M15) to push them to their potential, so don’t anticipate to plug them into simply your MacBook. I did most of my testing utilizing the FiiO K7, which is a extra inexpensive possibility and supplied ample headroom. The primary is a typical 3.5mm cable sleeved in braided black cloth. The second makes use of a 4.4mm balanced Pentaconn connection (a typical adopted by the most recent DAC-amps and digital audio gamers) and a way more engaging translucent sleeve that reveals the silver-plated wires beneath. (The advantages of a balanced connection are usually extra out there energy and theoretically much less noise, however the Venus isn’t onerous sufficient to drive the place you must run out and purchase a balanced amplifier.)  Each hook up with the headphones with 3.5mm mono jacks, the identical as HIFIMAN, so discovering replacements is simple do you have to ever end up craving an improve or in want of a restore. 

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The sound 

The Venus is revealing in all the fitting methods. Moondrop tuned the headphones with an consideration to element—actually. In audiophile phrases, element retrieval is a headphone’s capability to tug these tiny nuances from music that make it sound vibrant and alive: the sound of a bow transferring throughout a cello string; the feel of an oscillating synth; precisely how a drummer faucets a cymbal and the nuance to inform if it’s a stick, mallet, or brush. Placing on the Venus after listening to a pair of mainstream headphones just like the mids-centric Bose QC35 II is like eradicating a veil between you and your music that you could be not have even identified was there. 

The sound is brilliant however not sharp. It reaches low into the bass however isn’t bass heavy. Vocals are pure, easy, and ethereal—a standout however not a show-stealer all on their very own. It’s a tuning emphasizing listening to all the things in a monitor with out sacrificing enjoyment for chilly analytical listening. It will want a bit extra bass to be thought of balanced, nevertheless it’s shut, and if you happen to’re the type to EQ, a slight increase to the low finish thickens issues out for pop and rock.

The planar drivers don’t have any hassle reaching low and sustaining velocity, delivering wealthy sub-bass with robust element and interesting texturing. Nonetheless, the bass on the Venus delves deep however tapers off earlier than it will get into the meat of bass guitars. In comparison with the HIFIMAN Sundara and Version XS—notable for their very own spacious, mid- and high-centric home sound—the Venus is a bit thinner. Nonetheless, it makes up for that with higher readability and their open, ethereal sound and smoother treble. 

Left: Bass, Center: Mids, Right: Highs
Left: Bass, Heart: Mids, Proper: Highs. Moondrop Moondrop

Judging by its extensive 6Hz – 80kHz frequency response and graph that leans closely towards the treble, you may anticipate the Venus to sound overly brilliant and too sharp to take pleasure in. Nothing could possibly be farther from the reality. Moondrop has integrated a specialised waveguide system that stops the excessive frequencies from overlapping and turning into overemphasized earlier than they hit your ears (just like the Fazor in a few of my favourite, dearer Audeze headphones, just like the LCD-2, LCD-3, and even the ultra-premium LCD-5). This dramatically smooths out their sound, even in comparison with its competitors from HIFIMAN. The result’s a glittery treble that brings out cymbals and acoustic guitar strings however replaces fatigue with air and spaciousness.

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Imaging and soundstage are wonderful. The Venus locations every instrument, every vocalist, every audio cue in your online game by itself layer. It’s resolving and spacious sufficient to make each sound supply completely audible, even in busy tracks or cacophonous multiplayer matches. There’s no masking or lack of element from overwhelmed drivers. The soundstage is extensive sufficient to really feel immersive, outperforming the Sundara, however falls a contact wanting the depth supplied by the Version XS.  

On their very own, the Venus performs finest with acoustic and string-driven music. The strings in Johann Johannson’s A Mannequin of the Universe or Eydis Evensen’s Wandering II had been haunting and evocative. Different genres that depend on highly effective bass, like hip-hop and metallic, require a little bit of EQ to fill out and convey as much as type. D.R.E.A.M. by Jonny Craig sounded a bit anemic out of the field, its underlying bass line a bit too quiet to hold the music. Likewise, the blasting double kick drum intro of Atreyu’s My Curse lacked affect. With out touching something, orchestral music performs to its pure strengths, highlighting its spaciousness and nuanced particulars. EQ permits it to ship the perfect of each worlds, nevertheless, and breathes new life into dynamic genres like progressive and math rock.

Whereas I did point out the Venus needing an amp to attain optimum efficiency, needing energy doesn’t essentially imply these headphones want excessive quantity. Whereas listening at very low ranges drops the bass even additional, it solely takes reasonable ranges to extend the headphone’s dynamic vary. Like most headphones, the Venus sound “finest” at an elevated output (a working trope within the audiophile group is that greater quantity equals higher sound). Nonetheless, these headphones are additionally good for a nice, relaxed pay attention earlier than mattress.

The Moondrop Venus has a uniquely appealing sound signature, and aesthetic, for fans of detail.
The Moondrop Venus has a uniquely interesting sound signature, and aesthetic, for followers of element. Chris Coke

The conclusion

The Venus is barely the second pair of headphones ever launched by Moondrop Labs, however you wouldn’t guess it based mostly on its development and sound high quality. It’s coming into a aggressive market the place shoppers have powerful decisions on what sound profile will work finest for them. It falls quick on bass presence with out making use of your personal EQ, which you may argue shouldn’t be mandatory at this value level. However you probably have the means to tweak (whether or not with software program by way of EqualizerAPO and Peace EQ or {hardware} just like the Schiit Audio Loki Mini+) you’ll discover they’re fairly resilient to a low-end bump. Even with its greatest opponents from HIFIMAN readily available, I reached for the Venus for its higher match and distinctive presentation of my favourite music. If you may get behind its tuning, the Moondrop Venus is a set that’s effectively price seeking out and getting misplaced with.