Moondrop S8 Review

Alec
Alec
May 23 · 7 min read

INTRODUCTION:

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The Moondrop S8 is an in-ear monitor (IEM) utilizing eight balanced armature (BA) drivers per housing retailing for $699.99. After being impressed by the Starfield I decided to take a chance on the S8 as an upgrade to my Tanchjim Oxygen. I purchased the S8 at HiFiGo and have been using the S8 as my daily driver since early April.

SOURCES:

I have used the Moondrop S8 with the following sources:

  • JDS Labs The Element
  • Apple USB-C to 3.5mm dongle
  • Meizu HiFi Pro dongle

I have tested these headphones with local FLAC and Spotify Premium. Visit my last.fm page to get an idea of what I listen to.

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:

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The Moondrop S8 comes in a rectangular grey cardboard box with a white slipcover. The front of the slipcover is printed with a depiction of Moondrop’s infamous anime girl mascot raising a mitt-wearing hand in greeting. The back of the slipcover displays a diagram of the BAs used in the S8. A small sticker on the back of the slipcover lists technical specifications for the S8, mostly in Chinese. The Moondrop logo is printed in white on the front of the box.

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The package includes a detachable 2-pin cable and 12 grey silicone eartips in three sizes (S, M, L). Also included are a quality control pass chit, an instruction booklet written in several different languages, and an airline adapter.

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A Moondrop-branded semi-rigid zippered carry case is included in the package as well. The carry case is made from grey textured pleather and is much roomier than the one included with the Starfield. It has a small mesh pocket on the roof of the lid for storing small accessories. Fit and finish of the case is excellent. However, I use Fiio’s waterproof HB1 hard case for the S8 out of an abundance of caution.

BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN:

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The Moondrop S8 has clear acrylic housings with inverted teardrop-shaped faceplates and a pseudo-custom fit. The seam between the faceplate and the shell body is nearly invisible. The faceplates are backed with polished metal. The left faceplate is engraved with the text “Solution S8” while the right faceplate reads “S8 MOONDROP.” The type is subtle, understated, and elegant. The top of each housing is faintly engraved with the text “MOONDROP S8” followed by the serial number. The BAs, wiring, crossover, and BA tubes are all visible through the shell. The 2-pin connectors are flush with the surface of the housing. I prefer this to other types of connections because it allows compatibility with the most third-party cables. The nozzles have three circular openings. The nozzles do not have a mesh cover, but Moondrop does make a mesh dust cover specifically for the S8. The nozzles lack a lip for securing eartips but I have not had any issues with eartips coming loose thus far. The nozzles are thick and wide, which could limit their use with aftermarket tips. In addition to the stock silicone eartips, I have used AZLA SednaEarfitLight eartips, EarrBOND EBT Standard eartips, Symbio W eartips, and Moondrop MIS eartips with the S8.

The 6N oxygen-free copper Litz 2-pin cable included with the S8 is a bit more premium in appearance and feel than the cable included with the Starfield, but shares some of that cable’s limitations. While not quite as tangle-prone as the Starfield’s cable, it is still more prone to tangling than I would like. This is exacerbated by the absence of a chin-adjustment slider. The cable is also fairly microphonic. It has a right-angled 3.5 mm termination with clear rubber hardware and good strain relief. The Y-split is a black metal disc marked with the Moondrop logo. There is no chin adjustment slider or strain relief at the Y-split. The cable uses preformed clear plastic earguides. The minimalist 2-pin connectors have faintly raised markings to indicate left and right, but the markings are so small and unobtrusive that they require scrutiny to distinguish. I would prefer to have some type of colored indicator to distinguish the right side channel at least.

COMFORT / FIT / ISOLATION:

The Moondrop S8 is intended to be worn cable-up. They have a deepish insertion depth, and for the most part I found them to be comfortable. I did occasionally experience some discomfort in my right ear after wearing the S8 for extended durations after not having worn them for a while, but this discomfort seemed to pass after a day or two of recurring use. I attribute this to the thickness of the nozzle. I have small ears and my right ear canal is narrower than my left, so your experience may be different. Secureness of fit and isolation are excellent.

MEASUREMENTS:

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Moondrop S8 with stock eartips
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Moondrop S8 with stock silicone eartips vs MIS foam eartips

My measurements were conducted with a Dayton iMM-6 microphone using a vinyl tubing coupler and a calibrated USB sound interface. The headphones are driven using my Element, which has an output impedance of no more than 1 ohm. The measurements use a compensation file derived from relating my raw measurements to published measurements from Crinacle and Antdroid. The measurements are presented with 1/24th smoothing. There is a resonant peak around 8k. Measurements above 10k are not reliable.

SOUND:

Note: These impressions are based on use with the stock eartips.

The Moondrop S8 has a Harmanish tuning.

The S8 has a polite and precise bass presentation that emphasizes sub-bass over mid-bass. The S8’s bass is resolving, well-articulated, and textured. Bass notes are delivered with immediacy, which prevents low-end muddiness and clutter. However, I do occasionally wish there was more body, note weight, and impact to analog percussion in rock music.

As with other IEMs I have reviewed with Harmanish tunings, I perceive the S8’s midrange tonality as dead neutral. I can understand how this presentation may come across as thin or bright to listeners accustomed to IEMs with warmer tonalities, but for me, the clarity this approach brings to the midrange is more important. The S8’s midrange is more detailed than any other IEM I have ever heard. Vocal intelligibility is excellent and male and female vocals are perceived evenly. Vocals are slightly forward of midrange instruments, but the S8 does a better job than the similarly tuned Tanchjim Oxygen of maintaining the audibility of the instruments under vocal lines. Female vocals are clear and presented without a hint of sibilance. Like the Starfield, the balance struck between presence and smoothness is exceptional. Midrange timbre is very good but there is a hint of BA plasticity compared to the Starfield and Oxygen.

The treble is energetic and resolving, with abundant air and sparkle. Although generally unfatiguing to my ears, I experienced occasional harshness with cymbal delivery on poorly produced records with the stock eartips. This led me to experiment with a variety of aftermarket options. After extensive tip-rolling, I found that Moondrop’s own MIS eartips did the best job of smoothing out the S8’s treble response while retaining detail retrieval. Transient delivery is fast but not unnaturally so.

The S8’s soundstage is above average in both width and depth. Imaging is pinpoint accurate. Instrument separation is astonishing.

AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS AND SOURCE PAIRING:

I recommend using a dedicated source with the Moondrop S8. While it is possible to drive the S8 to an adequate listening volume with the Apple dongle without using the UAPP workaround, I preferred having the extra headroom provided by the Meizu HiFi Pro and The Element. I did not notice hiss with the Meizu HiFi Pro dongle or the Apple dongle.

CLOSING WORDS:

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Up until now, I have been skeptical of the value of IEMs above the $200–300 price point. My experience with the original Campfire Audio Polaris was lackluster and even after ordering the Moondrop S8, I doubted it would represent a clear and unambiguous upgrade from the Tanchjim Oxygen. I was wrong. From the moment I first listened to the S8, I have felt that it was worth the price I paid for it.

The strength of the S8 comes down to the unity of its musical presentation combined with the insight it provides into individual aspects of a musical piece. On a track like Deadmau5’s “Seeya,” where instrument after instrument stack up in the mix as the song progresses, the S8’s maintains both the instrument separation necessary to distinguish each sonic thread and the overall cohesion of the full tapestry. This is no easy task, and the S8 clears this bar effortlessly. Highly recommended.

Hyperbole-free reviews of audiophile IEMs, headphones…

Alec

Written by

Alec

Bedrock Reviews
Alec

Written by

Reasonable audiophile product reviewer.

Bedrock Reviews

Hyperbole-free reviews of audiophile IEMs, headphones, digital source and amplification products, and other consumer electronics.

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