Moondrop Moon River 2 Portable USB DAC & AMP

corgifall

500+ Head-Fier
Lighting up the River
Pros: Wonderful design, accurate sound, lightweight.
Cons: Bright LED, brighter sound.
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While I mostly use a DAP or battery powered portable DAC/amp, I do use wired dongles for my iPad and laptop. When I heard Moondrop was releasing a dongle I was fairly surprised. I love a lot of their recent IEM releases so I was very interested in checking out their first shot at the dongle world. I heard there was a prototype moon river in the past and it supposedly never made it to production so now we have a moon river 2 for consumer release. More confusing than I would like but I’ve had my unit for about two weeks and I’m ready to give my take on this little dongle. The Moon River 2(going with MR2 for the rest of the review) uses a set of CS43198 DAC chips from Cirrus Logic and comes in at $189.00.

Quick shoutout to @shenzhenaudio for hooking me up with a review unit. While I always appreciate stuff being sent in to test and review, It never affects the rating of my review.

Info and purchase links for the moon river 2 can be found below

https://shenzhenaudio.com/products/moondrop-moonriver-2-cs43198-portable-usb-dac-amp-headphone-amplifier-hifi-device-specs

Gear used​

Lotoo PAW S1, iFi GO Blu, Shanling M3X, IKKO OH10, THIEAUDIO Clairvoyance, UM MEXT, Moondrop Variations and Sennheiser HD560S.

Looks and Feel​

The MR2 looks really neat in person. It looked 3D printed when I first saw the pictures online and I didn’t realize it was all metal till I got it in my hands. They went with a cool design that I actually really like. I personally love 4.4mm Pentaconn but a lot of the dongles that support 4.4mm are all thicker devices. Not the MR2!! You can tell they took the board and connectors and just made a unique design in order to have the whole dongle be as thin and lightweight as possible while keeping an all metal design. The only thing I don’t like from the design is the bright LED that blinds you whenever the unit is on. I’m not sure how this ever made it past the design team when they made such a pretty device then ruined it by blinding the users.
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Accessories and unboxing​

The box has a nice plastic sleeve around a box that looks and feels like it was made from recycled cardboard. The PCB layout is printed on the box and the back of the box has a sticker with tech specs. It also has Moondrop’s Mascot(Waifu for you degens) drawn with the old school line art. When you flip open the box cover, you get the MR2 dongle presented in the foam. Under the foam you get the transparent flat USB-C cable, a simple USB-C to USB-A adapter, QC card and a nice user guide. I think this set of accessories is fine but I would have liked to see a lightning to USB-C cable included as well.
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Sound(overall)​

These final impressions were done wired via my Apple iPhone and iPad Pro. This will be what the MR2 sounded like with all the headphones I used. Things like headphone pairings will produce different results and impressions vs what my ears hear on my specific gear.

The Moon River 2 goes for a brighter sound signature overall. I however wouldn’t call it clinical or thin sounding. It handles the bass fairly well with a more natural sound that lacks a little impact/slam but it does produce decent thumps when called for. The mids go for a clarity over neutral tuning and this can be heard in the instruments. Everything sounds clean and there is a perceived sense of detail. Vocals for the most part come in clear but lacking a little detail to my ears. The treble is the “star of the show” and there is a bigger focus on brightness and cleanliness. I can’t quite call it clinical since It doesn’t sound terrible and lean but it just has extra energy and speed. Everything is nice and sharp and I found the treble off the MR2 to be really enjoyable and I think Moondrop did well with the sound signature of the Moon River 2.

Imaging/Soundstage​

Soundstage and imaging tend to be headphone specific(at least to me) but DAC/amps can add a little extra on occasion. While the amount added is extremely small, it can sometimes make a bigger impact on headphones and IEMs plugged in the DAC/amp. The MR2 is average when it comes to both staging and imaging. Average is fine as the headphones will be doing most of the wow factor in the staging department. The imaging was accurate as I expect it to be on a DAC/amp.

Wired connectivity​

So what can the little MR2 handle via max sample rates you ask? Well it can handle all the normal sample rates and it can upscale all the way up to 32bit 768 kHz which is very impressive for a dongle. It can do DSD whether its native or upscaling to DSD256 as well with zero sound issues or clipping. I won’t get into whether or not upscaling is worth it. If a device says I can run it at a certain max sample rate, I let Audirvana run it max since why not. I can’t tell a difference in upscaling honestly nor have I attempted to A/B test upscaling but I was still impressed the MR2 worked fine at the top sample rate of 768 kHz. It does heat up a little when pushing it hard but for normal samples rates, it stays mostly cool.

EMI noise?​

None! I had no noise when the MR2 was near my iPhone from the stock cable or other cables I had. I did have to use a different adapter however as the cheap one I normally used did get static noise once in a while. The DDHIFI adapter I had showed zero issues with EMI. I have a lot of audio devices that seem to all have a meltdown with EMI noise when my iPhone 12 Pro gets anywhere near them when I have it running off cellular data. My Hiby R6 2020 gets angry and buzzes intensely and the Lotoo PAW S1 I have also starts buzzing when it is near my iPhone. Not having any noise break through the MR2 tells me it was properly shielded(for the most part) when it was designed.

Personal grips with the Moon River 2?​

So right off the bat, I really don’t like the bright LED. I Believe this is something that can be fixed via a firmware update so I have high hopes this will be something solved later on. It isn’t a deal breaker but it's irritating when this device is used at night and it lights up the whole area.

The other grip I have is that the MR2 doesn’t have a memory of the last gain you used. Devices from Apple remember the last volume used and it sets back once it detects the MR2. The MR2 always goes to high gain when it powers on. I use IEMs mostly and I believe most people will use the MR2 with IEMs in general. I think it should start on low gain if the MR2 is unable to retain a memory of the last used gain.

Both of these personal gripes can be fixed via a firmware update or at least I think a dimmer LED brightness and starting the device on low gain can be done via firmware. Luckily they promote the MR2 being firmware upgradable so I look forward to seeing how they handle customer suggestions going forward.
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Single ended and balanced power output​

I love me some power numbers via mW into 32 ohm loads. The MR2 claims no normal power output numbers and it drives me crazy. They talk about the MR2 being super capable with hard to drive cans but the only time they have mentioned actual power numbers was during the announcement video for the MR2. So the only thing I have to go off of is an engineer mentioning “up to 250mW into a 32 ohm”. More than likely that is from the 4.4mm Pentaconn jack. The MR2 can power everything I have just fine. I’m more of an IEM person so most dongles work just fine for my use cases. Even the 120 ohm Senn HD560S and 300 ohm ZMF Atrium were able to reach comfy volume easily.

IEM pairing opinions​


Moondrop Aria​

I found the Aria paired really well with the MR2. It has a punchier and dynamic sound overall which is interesting as I found the MR2 somewhat brighter sounding on most of the hybrid IEMs I tried. The aria and other single DD IEMs seemed to perform slightly differently when paired to the MR2. I found the lows to be accurate but I felt there was a little extra punch when it was called for. The mids stay clear and strong on the Aria but it never came in too hot. Vocals had good speed and I felt the Aria was performing correctly on the MR2. Same thing with the treble. It was good detail wise and everything sounded controlled with just a hint of extra zing up top.
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Moondrop Variations​

I had originally planned to only do only one Moondrop IEM but I love the Variations so here we go! I found this pairing a bit too bright for my tastes which is interesting as I liked the Aria off the MR2 which I feel is a little brighter for an IEM in general. I thought I might be hearing things but when I plugged the Variations into a different portable, I could tell the MR2 has just a brighter sound signature overall. I think the bass is better controlled off the MR2 and it still has good impact, but with a slightly quicker decay. The mids were accurate if not a little brighter. The vocals come in pretty well though I find the speed a little too fast and somewhat artificial sounding with this specific pairing. The treble has a lot of sparkle and it gets a little strong at times for me. I find the Variations a little picky on source gear for my personal preferences but I think this pairing works fine.
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THIEAUDIO Clairvoyance​

The Clairs are my benchmark IEMs and they continue to be my favorite tuning even though I have some IEMs at double the price. The MR2 gives off a slightly brighter if not simply a cleaner sound. The Lows don’t sound as impactful but it doesn’t sound lean or overly lacking. The mids have a nice clarity and I found instruments had the right amount of detail. Vocals also come in well though I did feel they sounded just a hair congested and lacking some detail with this pairing. The treble was boosted and I thought it was fine since the Clairvoyance is a bit more natural sounding so the added brightness up top was welcome. I think this combo worked perfectly fine and I have no issues using the MR2 with the Clairvoyance.
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Over ear pairings​


ZMF Atrium​

Whenever I have an expensive or unique headphone in, I’ll usually include it into the source reviews I’m doing at the same time. First of all, the Atrium is the same cost as 13 Moon River 2 units so I think this isn’t quite realistic for most users of the Atrium. It does sound a bit rough off the MR2. The Atrium loses a lot of its sweet sound and “soul” when paired to the MR2. The MR2 does feel a little underpowered at times. This could be due to the brighter signature or lack of power output. I always felt the Atrium sounded lean off the MR2 however. The lows lack any real impact. Mids sound bland and lacking any real energy. The treble is mushy and comes in rough with no real details. I know how good the Atrium can sound from my desktop stack. So in other words, maybe don’t use the Moon River 2 with super power hungry headphones.
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DAC/Amp comparison​


Khadas Tea​

The Khadas is a warmer sounding portable and the sound signatures between the two are mostly noticeable. The Tea has a super sweet and warm sound that gives a lot of flavor to leaner sounding IEMs I use with it. The MR2 has a much brighter presentation in comparison. I would say the Tea is more colored for a source than some might like but MR2 is a very nice dongle to use for those hunting a more accurate sound with some added brightness. The detail retrieval overall is much better off the MR2 IMO.

Lotoo PAW S1​

The PAW S1 is my go to dongle since it has a smooth yet detailed sound, nice display and it just feels like a step above a normal dongle. Both the S1 and MR2 have different sound signatures. The S1 goes for a warm and natural signature but still produces wonderful detail retrieval. It sets the bar for me personally when it comes to dongles. The MR2 has its brighter and faster sound that works well but I mostly like the S1 over it at the end of the day. I like the weight and looks of the MR2 over the S1 though. It won’t be replacing my S1 but it’s being used way more than I initially thought after comparing the two. I will also say the MR2 is mostly free of EMI noise that my S1 heavily suffers from.
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Overall thoughts​

Moondrops first dongle is a winner in my books. I don’t use dongles outside of my iPad or laptop these days. So for me, the MR2 will be in rotation and carried alongside the Lotoo PAW S1 when I need something for my iPad or laptop when I’m using those instead of my desktop setup. I have some small gripes with MR2 but overall I like the sound and looks. The Moon River 2 gets a full recommendation and thumbs up for putting some effort into their first dongle and not just throwing something together for the heck of it. I love most of Moondrops audio offerings and I’m always looking forward to their new releases. Thanks for reading!
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inventionlws
inventionlws
Great review! Can you share how quick the power draw is from your phone? Also, if the lowest volume is too loud for sensitive IEMs?
Backbeat
Backbeat
Thank you for the thorough review @corgifall . I second @inventionlws ' question: what is the power draw of the MR2 on your iphone? How does it compare to the power draw of other dongles? Also, have you tried the Lotoo Paw S2 or the E1DA? Would be interested in how those compare to the MR2. Thanks again.
Z
zlayde
Does this device require a particular kind of usb-c to lightning cable? I've tried 3 diff cables and none worked.

crabdog

Headphoneus Supremus
Reflections in the moonlight
Pros: Dynamic range and low THD+N
Dual DAC chips
Dual gain modes
Onboard volume controls
Cons: Expensive
Chassis has sharp corners
No MQA support
In this Moondrop Moonriver 2 review, I’m looking at the brand’s new dongle DAC. The Moonriver 2 features dual CS43198 DAC chips. It has a very impressive dynamic range and extremely low distortion. The price is $189.

Disclaimer: This sample was provided by Shenzhen Audio for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.


https://shenzhenaudio.com/collectio...dac-amp-headphone-amplifier-hifi-device-specs
Moondrop Moonriver 2
Box front
Box rear

Package and Accessories​


For some reason, Moondrop decided to go with a more mature approach for Moonriver 2’s packaging. There’s just a small black and white waifu character on the back of the box along with the unit’s specifications. On the front of the box, there’s an illustration of the internal circuitry. Inside the box is the Moonriver 2, a USB-C to USB-C cable, a USB-C to USB-A adapter and a user manual.

What's in the box

Design​


Adopting an unusual steampunk design – a blend of modern and classic elements, the Moonriver 2 stands out visually from its peers. The top of the unit has a raised section where the headphone jacks reside and then a sloped, ridged cutaway tapering down to a thinner section.

On the back of the device is a diagram of the internal circuitry which makes the device look even more unique. I find it to be an unusual and utilitarian aesthetic but that’s just my subjective opinion.

Moondrop Moonriver 2 design


One thing I don’t like about this dongle is its sharp corners; that doesn’t seem very practical for an object that’s likely to spend a significant amount of time in one’s pockets.

On one end of the unit are the 2 headphone jacks, one 3.5mm single-ended and one 4.4mm balanced. On the opposite and is the USB-C port for charging. Included with the dongle is a transparent flat USB-C to USB-C ribbon cable.

There are 2 volume buttons on the side of the Moonriver 2. These buttons have different lengths making it easy to determine which is which by touch – handy when the dongle is in your pocket. Unfortunately, the volume controls are not discrete and will change the volume on your source rather than the device itself.

Pushing both the volume – and + buttons at the same time switches between low and high gain modes. The small LED on the top of the unit glows red in low gain mode and green in high gain. Be advised that the unit defaults to high gain mode every time it’s plugged in so that’s something to be wary of.

One last thing to note is that the unit gets pretty warm when in use. This happens even in the low gain mode so there’s no way to avoid it unless something changes in a future firmware update. This isn’t unique to the Moonriver 2 but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Volume buttons on the Moondrop Moonriver 2

Internals and Functionality​

Internally, the Moondrop Moonriver 2 hosts dual CS43198 DAC chips. This is my first time hearing this DAC so I was curious about how it would sound but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Supporting up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD 256, the Moonriver 2 is geared to handle any format you throw at it unless it’s an MQA file (there’s no MQA support). In terms of output power, the unit can push up to 4Vrms in high gain from the 4.4mm balanced output and 2Vrms from the 3.5mm jack. That’s enough driving power for everything but the most demanding full-size headphones.

Moonriver 2 with iPhone

Sound​


Gear used for testing includes the Moondrop Chu, FiR Audio 5×5, Meze 99 CLassics and Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro.

As far as power goes, the Moonriver 2 had ample drive to push everything I tested with it. There was even plenty of headroom left for the DT990 Pro in high gain mode and I rarely went over 50/100 volume on most tracks. All the other gear listed above was driven in low gain mode.

I’m a fan of the CS43131 and now I can say that I’m a fan of the CS43198 as well. There are similarities to the sonic character of the former DAC chip such as neutrality and end to end extension.

From the lows to the highs, Moonriver 2 sounds natural and earthy but super clean. There’s no audible noise floor even in high gain mode. It’s a balanced sound full of nuance and emotion coupled with the signature Cirrus Audio DAC smoothness.

Listening to the vocals of Anneke van Giersbergen in The Gentle Storm’s “New Horizons” with the DT990 Pro, I’m impressed by the natural note weight and precise placement. The bass is impactful and the spacing between the instruments is a joy to behold. Here the soundstage is wide and expansive but the vocals, strings and percussion maintain lifelike density and presence.

Continuing with “Upside Down (Live)” by Gazpacho, the expansiveness of the soundstage is apparent right from the start. The Moonriver 2 puts you right there at the concert and gives you a clear image of where every instrument is placed. The hi-hats sound tangible but airy and the kick drum has just the right mix of thump and slam. Throughout the song, the guitar notes are textured and crisp and the vocals shine with a lifelike timbre. I’m reminded of what a great recording it is.

Comparisons​

xduoo link2 bal news featured

xDuoo Link2 Bal ($149)​


The xDuoo Link2 Bal (review here) has dual CS43131 DAC chips and shares a similar sound signature as the Moonriver 2. From my very brief research, it seems that the CS43131 and CS43198 are essentially the same except that the former has variable operational power consumption (6.25-40.2mW) versus the latter’s fixed rate (26mW).

So instead of pretending they sound vastly different, I’m going to focus on other factors in this comparison. First of all, the Link2 Bal has additional features; It has a play/pause button plus a switch to select either USB UAC1.0 or UAC2.0. It also has a switch to change between gain modes compared to the Moondrop where you need to press the volume + and – simultaneously.

Furthermore, the Link2 Bal has 2.5D glass covers on both sides whereas the Moonriver 2 has a futuristic steampunk aesthetic. I personally prefer the look and feel of the Link2 Bal but that’s purely subjective on my part.

In terms of output power, they’re close too, although I don’t know exactly how many mW the Moonriver 2’s 4Vrms converts to. But testing the 250Ω DT990 Pros nets close to the same resulting volume.

Lastly, the Link2 Bal stays cool during use while the Moonriver 2 gets warm. I’m not stating that as a con – just letting you know. At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with either one. But if I were choosing, I’d go with the xDuoo based purely on the physical design and enhanced usability because I honestly don’t think I could tell them apart sonically in a blind test.

Moondrop Moonriver 2 with headphones and iPhone

Verdict​

There’s no doubt that the Moonriver 2 is currently among the best sounding dongle DACs. Its self-assured assertiveness is tempered with a controlled composure and its neutral presentation means it stays true to the music. Whether or not the physical design appeals to you (or even matters at all) you can be sure that the audio quality is top-notch.

Specifications​

  • Specifications:
  • Size Volume: 56.8×19.4×12.5mm
  • Earphone Jack: 3.5mm Single-ended, 4.4mm Balanced
  • Frequency Range: 6Hz-85000 Hz (±1dB)
  • USB interface: USB Type C
  • Noise Floor: 4.4mm: 1.5μV (AES17 20K Hz) / 3.5mm: 1.2μV (AES17 20K Hz)
  • THD+N: 3.5mm: 2Vrms 0.0008%@32Ω / 4.4mm: 4Vrms 0.00013%@300Ω
  • SNR: 4.4mm: 131dB (A-weighted) / 3.5mm: 123dB (A-weighted)
  • Firmware Upgrade: Supported
  • Gain Control: High/ Low
  • Line Out: 4.4mm: 4Vrms (High), 2.8Vrms (Low); / 3.5mm: 2Vrms (High), 1.4Vrms (Low)
Z
zlayde
What cable is that being used with an iPhone? I've tried 4 different cables and none worked.
crabdog
crabdog
I think it's the Cayin one. I've tried a couple of cables with the Moonriver 2 though and didn't have any problems.

OspreyAndy

500+ Head-Fier
Moondrop Moon River 2
Pros: -
- Superbly well balanced neutral and natural sound
- Top notch technical prowess
- Great driving power
- Highly versatile and adaptable to any partners
Cons: -
- Clunky volume adjusters
- Less than ideal volume loudness gap between levels
- Battery drain to the host fell short of competitors
- Stock USB Cable prone to RF interferences

Moondrop Moon River 2​

Review Date: 15 April 2022
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SPECIFICATIONS
DAC: Dual Cirrus Logic CS43198
Headphone Ports: 3.5mm Single-ended and 4.4mm Balanced.
Power (3.5mm Single Ended): 2 Vrms
Power (4.4mm Balanced): 4 Vrms
Frequency Response Range: 6Hz-85kHz(±1dB).
Background Noise(4.4mm): 1.5uV(AES17 20K Hz).
Background Noise(3.5mm): 1.2uV(AES17 20K Hz)
SNR(3.5mm): 123dB(A-weighted).
SNR(4.4mm): 131dB(A-weighted).
Line-Out(3.5mm): 2Vrms(High-gain), 1.4Vrms(Low-gain).
Line-Out(4.4mm): 4Vrms(High), 2.8Vrms(Low).

Test Equipment

IEMs and Earbuds:

  • Etymotic ER4SR (Single BA, 45 Ohm, 96db Sensitivity)
  • Shure KSE1500 (Single Electrostatic 200V, KSA1200 Energizer)
  • Kinera Idun Golden (3BA + 1DD Hybrid, 32 Ohm, 112db Sensitivity)
  • Tripowin HBB Olina (Single DD, 32 Ohm, 110db Sensitivity)
  • VE ZEN 2.0 SLQ (Single DD, 320 Ohm)
  • VE Monk GONE SPC
Headphones:
  • FOSTEX T40RP MK3 (Magnetic Planar, 50 Ohm, 91db Sensitivity)
  • Beyerdynamic DT880 (Dynamic Drivers, 600 Ohm, 96db Sensitivity)
Sources:
  • Windows 10, Foobar 2000 (USB 3.0 Power)
  • LG V50 ThinQ (UAPP USB Exclusive Mode, Bitperfect)
  • Sony Xperia X Compact (UAPP USB Exclusive Mode, Bitperfect)
  • HiBy Music Player App (USB Exclusive Mode)

LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING

Moondrop caused quite a stir in the Audio community (especially ChiFi) when words got out that they are releasing their first ever DAC/Amp dongle. Already immensely popular and successful in the IEMs segment, the anticipation for Moondrop flagship Dongle is probably one of the most exciting thing to happen in quarter 1 of 2022.
Named Moon River 2 (was there a Moon River 1?), it is set to enrich the premium Dongles option for the consumer. Seemingly at least two new models being released every month.

I must thank HiFiGo for their customary superb services in fulfilling my order with priority and sending me the unit literally the next day after they received it.

At the time of this review, I have already spent over 300 hours on my Moon River 2. Using it regularly – with all of my listening equipment.

Build, Functions, Usability​

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Moon River 2 introduced to the world with bold and unassuming design. Seemingly CNC machined from solid aluminum block, it offers unique angular design which reminded me a lot to Sci-Fi stuffs like Blade Runner etc. Some hint of Aztec ziggurat too, with the “sloping stairways” on one side. All finished in solid black powdercoat. Moondrop opted not to use any bling element here. Just spartan and bold design that I find very appealing.

As with the normal standard nowadays, Moon River 2 has two ports on one end – 3.5mm SE and 4.4mm BAL. The other end being USB Type C female, which will then allow for replacement of any USB C (OTG compliant) cables to be used. The stock cable included, is nothing like I have ever seen before. Totally transparent from plug to plug. Design wise I can appreciate the creativity here. In real life the cable itself looked beautiful and unique.

However, I must say that Moondrop should have paid more attention towards conventional cable design instead – thicker and better shielded. You see, the cable being flat, it is also somewhat thinner than ideal. For one, I need to be careful to NOT subject that cable to excessive movement as it seems to be somewhat flimsy. Secondly, my Moon River 2 will pick up RF interferences a few times whenever my phone (which is my primary device for audio) experience fluctuations on the GSM/LTE/4G signals. And this can be bothersome when moving about. A better shielded cable would have been able to mitigate these two issues.

Moon River 2 has hardware volume adjusters on the left side. At first it confuses me a bit as the way they are designed, I thought it was a combo of slider and push buttons. However upon reading the manual, they are just two buttons – volume up and volume down. Unfortunately they are NOT independent. The buttons serve as remote control of the host volume.

Now. Personally I see two issues here with the volume adjusters. Issue number one, they are not as tactile as they should be. I need to press them slightly harder than normal to get it to shift to the desired levels. On top of that, the response seems to be sluggish as sometimes I need to press twice to get it moving. This is consistent on my two phones of LG V50 and Sony Xperia X Compact. It behaves similarly when connected to my laptop as well.

Secondly, the jump between volume levels are not refined. Jumping from volume of 6/32 to 7/30 on HiBy Music App will emit sudden surge in loudness that can be more than tolerable. The same can be said for usage on YouTube Music and Tidal App – both of which runs on Android stock SRC and honestly I find it annoying that the loudness levels exhibiting big gaps. The only way to mitigate this issue is to use UAPP or any custom ROM Android host which will allow for the user to define the volume steps. HiBy Music App can be configured to do finer adjustment too, by setting it to Software Volume mode (not automatic). Nonetheless, I had hoped that Moondrop would have paid more attention to this. Getting the ideal volume level is one of the major factor for enjoying music.

On the aspect of power drain, I am a bit surprised that Moon River 2 only manage to score 4 hours of usage from 100% to 1% on my Sony Xperia X Compact (2700 mAH battery, Android 8, Airplane Mode). Driving 32 Ohm IEMs. To make sure that this wasn’t a fluke, I run the test 3 times and the results remained the same. In comparison, Cayin RU6, iBasso DC05 scored 6 hours and the likes of xDuoo Link2 BAL and HiBy FC5 scored almost 7 hours. Ovidius B1 scored 10 hours!. The results will still be the same running on 3.5mm SE. All in all, it is below my expectation on this subject.
Last but not least, Moon River 2 does get a bit warm after 2 hours of usage. But this is absolutely normal for a Dongle of this specifications. Most DUAL DAC Dongles will exhibit similar behavior.

Sound Impressions​

Let me put it this way. All the Cons on design and features I ranted earlier? all complaints gone when it comes to the sonic performances of Moon River 2. From the get go I was already impressed on how well it synergizes with my Etymotic ER4SR. The sound being truthfully neutral, natural and near organic – almost analogue.
There’s richness and proper weight in dynamic transients. The output is wholesome as it is properly dense. So very well balanced from end to end in the entire frequency range. No attempt to overdo any segment. Bass, Treble, Mids all sounding in harmony with fluid vibrancy that remains neutral, smooth and crisp.

Moon River 2 is totally free from any sort of coloration. It is also totally free from any element of Pinna Glare commonly heard from ESS Sabre devices. Moon River 2 does not exhibit any unsavory edginess or sizzle in the upper Mids or Treble. There’s no chance for the paired partners to end up being sibilant no matter how resolving and transparent they are. Such is the case with my ultra resolving Shure KSE1500 and the bright-ish Beyerdynamic DT880. The same can be said of my Tripowin Olina, which shines beautifully with that 4 Vrms of power from the 4.4mm BAL port.
On the other hand, Moon River 2 worked amazingly well with “warmer” sounding partners too. In fact I am hearing some of the best output coming from my Fostex T40RP MK3, Kinera Idun Golden and VE ZEN 2.0 – all of which are the more organic sounding unit natively. This is how a great and properly tuned DAC/Amp should behave, It does not care if the paired partners are bright or warm. This versatility and adaptability is probably one of the biggest strength of Moon River 2.

Technically, Moon River 2 is right up there with the very best of performers. It has wide spacious soundstage to equal xDuoo Link2 BAL and CEntrance DACport HD. There’s good sense of openness and space. The imaging being sharp and precise. Spatial stereo spread so holographic that when I was playing Fallout 76, using my open backed earbuds, I almost thought that the sound were from my surroundings.

Moon River 2 has the expected competencies when it comes to resolution, transparency and details. The limit set by what the paired partners can stretch. Which means on my KSE1500, the sonic performance is nothing short of breathtaking and mesmerizing. So very fluid and believable with no hint of artificial reproduction. It was effortless to track individual layers. The speed and resolution being clean and distinct.

It is also worth to note that Moon River 2 seems to be quite forgiving to Lo-Fi as well. With more than half of my songs collection being Black Metal and obscure music productions, I was actually surprised how well the combo of Moon River 2 + Kinera Idun Golden/Olina with those rough music/recordings.

Driving Power​

Moon River 2 did not disappoints. That 4 Vrms of goodness is not just for show. It has the power even to drive my Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm properly. The same can be said of Fostex T40RP MK3, both of which are super hard to drive.

Comparing Moon River 2 against my dedicated desktop DAC/Amp stack of iFi ZEN DAC V2 + ZEN Can, I will say that Moon River 2 performs close to 95%. The loudness alone more than enough with the volume set at 40/100 on my Windows 10 laptop, if I crank any higher and it can be very loud. But what’s more important, the output is rich and fluid. About the only thing that I would say the ZEN stack performs better would be the energy level and attack which appear more vibrant. Otherwise if not comparing side by side, Moon River 2 totally can serve as a worthy substitute.

The difference between 3.5mm SE and 4.4mm BAL thankfully is quite marginal. Which means that the sound quality itself is consistent on either port. However, especially for scalable pairing partners, the BAL will then exhibit crisper imaging, transients and openness. Loudness difference between the two ports are also marginal, with my Olina, I set it to 6/32 of volume on the 3.5mm SE, and 5/32 when switched to 4.4mm BAL.

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VERDICT​

All things considered, Moondrop lived up to the expectations with this Moon River 2. The key elements, Moon River 2 being so exquisitely well balanced to be neutral and organic – with some hint of analogue touches depending on which partner being paired. As I said earlier, the measure of a great DAC/Amp is that they don’t care what type of partners being paired to, be it warm or bright, it just works. Versatility is what makes a great source highly sought after. Moon River 2 also lived up to the 4 Vrms power rating, easily driving stubborn partners properly and satisfactorily. While at it, of course Moon River 2 being agile enough to be delicate with highly sensitive IEMs, totally free from any background noises.

What I do wish that could have been done better, the way Moon River 2 handle volume adjustments. The hardware buttons are not user friendly at all, and the step gaps between levels could use more refinement. Not forgetting less than impressive battery endurance at just 4 hours when competitors offers 6 hours objectively. Last but not least, Moondrop should have forgo the fancy transparent USB C cable and went for something more robust and less likely to get RF interferences.

Well, despite all the Cons which are all on features, I will say that Moon River 2 is among the best released this year yet. The sonic performances can easily make me forget any grouses, immersed in sheer sonic bliss we are fortunate to experience in such compact form factor nowadays.

https://hifigo.com/products/moondrop-moon-river-2-moonriver2


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Best Pairing: Anything up to 600 Ohms​

#donglemadness
Last edited:
shenzhenaudio
shenzhenaudio
Nice review!
F
Fourier transformer
flat usb cable lul
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