Moondrop S8

ngoshawk

Headphoneus Supremus
Moondrop S8: How much does a flagship really have to cost?
Pros: Gorgeous looks
Excellent build
Very good fit
Sound fitting for a flagship
Should make others look hard at their price
Cons: Not as well known as some flagships?
Not mine
Not much else
Moondrop S8 ($699): How much does a flagship really have to cost?

S8


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Intro: The S8 and Blessing 2 were sent to me as part of a tour set up by @Wiljen. As such the units will be passed along to the next lucky participant. I thank Moondrop and Will for the tour units.

My first (and only) intro into the Moondrop was the Kanas Pro, which I liked quite a bit. Much has been written about the Blessing 2, but not enough about the S8, the flagship. Of the two, I could not choose a favorite, due to too many differences and the prices. Both have worthy points, and will be dealt with individually, except in the comparison part (familial heritage). Needless to say, I was excited to get both, as Moondrop is a company that seems to be going a bit different path than the typical Chinese HiFi manufacturer. Tuning of both is distinctly “western” but not without losing the familiarity of the Far East vibrancy. It definitely was my treat.



Specs:

Impedance: 16Ω±15%@1Khz
Frequency: Response 20-40kHz
Effective FR: 20-20kHz
Sensitivity: 122Db/Vrms
Channel Mismatch: ±1dB

Drivers: Dual High, Quad Mid, Dual Low.
Socket: 0.78 2pin flat (Legacy Westone)
Housing: Medical UV Acrylic
Cable: Litz 6N OFC 1/8" Jack


Gear Used/Compared:

Dunu SA6 ($549)
UM 3DT ($399)
Noble Savant ($499)
Phonic BW4 ($500)
Fearless S6 Rui ($425)

MBP
Cayin N6ii mk2
Shanling M6 Pro
XDuoo XA-10
EarMen Eagle
iFi Zen CAN/DAC



Songs:

Alex Fox
Pink Floyd
Buena Vista Social Club
Elton John
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Shane Hennessy
Jeff Beck
Dave Matthews



In The Box:

The unit came to me on a tour, so the unboxing/in the box may vary. That said, Moondrop is well known for their presentations. The S8 takes a more luxurious note with the box.

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Technicals:

Per the Moondrop site: MOONDROP S8 has redesigned its crossover to go along with the 8 balanced armatures per side. Featuring the Sonion37 series dual driver with added bass response, a Knowles SWFK dual unit for the highs, with midrange covered by two of their proprietary customized Softears D-MID-B dual drivers. Its triple crossover changes respectively, tuned with precision for audible prominence. Another nice feature is that the cabling inside the shell is of OFC variety, a Moondrop requirement and much appreciated. Much has been stated lately about cables, and what they can/cannot do. The doubters cite the weak interconnect cables inside the shells as an example. I for one appreciate that Moondrop has taken the extra step to make for quality innards throughout.

The cable is a 6N oxygen free copper cable wound semi-tight. A plastic 90-degree jack adorns the end with soft flexible ear guides on the other. A round, metal y-splitter adorns the cable complete with Mandarin script.


Build/fit/finish:

A good thing over the last several years, from what I will call “budget brands,” is the quality of their construction including materials. Early iterations may have sounded OK, but in terms of looks and build quality were truly average. Moondrop from the off promoted a quality shell and form to their products.

With a two-part all-resin shell, polished even, you get a clear look into the inside showing off the drivers, crossover and wiring. The opacity of the edges gives a frosted look like one might find on a fine winters shopping foray in Norway. The kind where you are doing that last-minute Christmas shopping, but stop to admire the fine bakery wares (and smells!). The nozzle sits at a forward angle, and the larger shelled body sits further back, so isolation with the wrong tip can be a bit tedious. Silicon tips isolated well, better in fact than some much more expensive IEM’s I happen to have at the moment. No feeling of the two halves is had, so the smooth nature belies the look of a single unit. A slight “bump” mimics a custom feel and fits nicely inside the ear for support. To me this is the right size, allowing good fit, without being intrusive such as, “I know you feel me!!!”

Fit inside my average-sized ear is good, but the unit does stick out a bit. Using the included silicon’s, I was afforded a good seal and fit, with no change in seal as I rotated my head naturally like we all do. Top quality as one would hope from this price range.

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Sound:

Synopsis: Providing a thoroughly pleasant character, the S8 give good bass response when needed, and source provided. On songs such as Alex Fox’s live version of Guitar On Fire there is a point about 1/3 the way through the song where a very strong bass guitar kicks in. And this can be felt through the S8. Not a visceral thump, but the presence of it provides for quality of sound. Mids come along very well, and on Dave Matthew’s Here On Out, his voice sound is sweet and melodic. The stunning solo voice on Pink Floyd’s The Great Gig In The Sky sounds marvelous if a bit thin as well. Definition of instruments is quite good and layered. Not the most expansive of sound but thoroughly satisfying. Vocals of both male and female are quite good, with a bit of treble sparkle up top. The “western tuning” is definitely present here, with nothing too bitey up top.

Further:

Bass while not too punchy and overbearing makes its presence felt when called upon as mentioned above. I liken this to a more “reference” tuning, but not without that lower end. Reach is fairly deep but not as punchy as the Hero or 5x5 or Gae Bolg. This isn’t a slam against the S8 for the level of bass response compliments the tonality quite well. On Virginia In The Rain, this presence plays nicely with Dave’s vocal presentation and the percussives, which move into the nether regions. As a result, mid-range presence on Again And Again comes across as vibrant and thorough. There is a tendency to be slightly behind the character of the rest, but not enough to bother me. Of late I have had many with a slightly to more than slightly lifted mid presence, so this is a nice change.

Throughout all of this, there is good timbre presented from the male vocals and to me the rest. Guitars played nicely as well in this range, with good definition. I am on a kick of Spanish guitar work of late, and Alex Fox along with Ottmar Leibert sounded quite nice through the S8. Nothing of note lacking. Treble comes across as clean without being shouty or lacking in quality. Sometimes with a midrange defined like the S8 has, the treble can suffer from thinness. I did not find this to be the case on the S8. Because of this synergy I find good presence and detail retrieval. Clarity comes across as very good as a result.

I get a more expansive soundstage than deep but think of a western scene on Panoramic screens and you get a good impression. Not lacking in depth, just broader than deeper. Height is good, but not extraordinary to me. As a result, instrumentation is good, even above average, but not excellent. No matter, this is not a hinderance to me either. I find the presentation quite good when you combine all of the above. Separation comes across as above average as witnessed on Dave Matthews Do You Remember, especially when you get the acoustic guitar solos, which pop in and out. Layering is very good as well, and this song helps define that characteristic to me. A thoroughly pleasant presentation when all is combined. Of late, pretty much all I have heard have good to very good to excellent characteristics and the S8 thankfully continues this trend.

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Comparisons:

Moondrop S8 ($699) v Dunu SA6 ($549):

When given the chance to review the SA6, I agreed without hesitation. To say that I was blown away at the departure (to me) of the typical Dunu sound is an understatement. Pushing all of my right buttons, the SA6 continue to impress me, especially for the price and it is my current go-to at this price. Especially since you can semi-tune the unit with the pair of switches on the side. Gorgeous looks with sound to back it up make the SA6 a superb example of what Dunu is striving towards. Fit is a bit easier on the S8, with a more “custom” approach coming from the SA6. To me the SA6 does fit further into my ear, without pain.

The S8 goes deeper and has a bit more presence than the SA6, but the mids are sublime on the SA6. This alone might be a major selling point, but back it up with wonderful treble to boot and you have a winner. This one comes down to whether you want a bit more open, airy sound like the SA6; or one, which presents itself in a more overall character. Not that the SA6 is a one-trick pony mind you, but bass is a bit lacking, and hence falls a bit behind. I really could not decide on either if given the choice.


Moondrop S8 ($699) v UM 3DT ($399):

I included this even with the price difference due to massive respect for UM and how they approach innovation. To say the 3DT is also gorgeous would be the same as the SA6. Not shouty in looks, but that understated elegance that draws more hushed ooows and aaaahs from the crowd than a shouty WOW!

I am struck by the clarity of note emanating from within the 3DT. I really hate to state, “it punches above its weight,” but a more apt description might be, “why do others at this price not sound so good?” That would be better. Some manufacturers are noted as standard bearers and to me the “uniqueness” of UM might be one of them. Their flagship of yore, the Maestro V2 still graces my abode, and it shall for a good long time. The 3DT represents what has transpired since, and at this price I am hard pressed to find another that can compete. Bass almost on par with the S8, but faster (yes, it is) makes for a taut signature, but not without emotive effects. The mids and vocal treatment are well, a treat. I find this aspect to be at the top of the game in this price and we are very lucky to have such items on hand with which to compare and test.

I would state that the S8 is ever so slightly presented with more vibrancy in the tonality, but not by much. It will be a good comparison when I hit the Blessing2.


Moondrop S8 ($699) v Noble Savant II ($499):

The Savant came about after a conversation with a reviewer colleague. I took the plunge and do not regret it. Not having the bass of the S8, but thoroughly satisfying in tone, the Savant presents a more mature sound than the S8. That is, it is warmer and richer of tone. This is one that would be a great end of the evening listen. Narrower and more intimate in sound as well, there are no large cavernous concerts here. Intimate but not miniscule. Comparatively the S8 is wider and more open between notes and soundstage. That should not discount what Noble has done for the mid-fi market, though. The Savant definitely has made its mark in that richness of tone and warmth provided. A cohesive even tone results and for this, I do appreciate the tuning.


Moondrop S8 ($699) v Phonic BW4 ($500):

A pandemic conversation led to the connection with Kenneth, the proprietor and maker of these fine wooden IEM’s. choosing reclaimed wood for the shell, Kenneth led me through the choices, highlighting and recommending what he thought would be appropriate for my tastes. He did not miss. Sending picture throughout the process, I was amazed by his skill as a craftsman and photographer. Then I gave a listen. With 4 BA’s the BW4 provides a quick bass and vocals pushed a bit forward, but still centered as opposed to lifted (as per many of today). This is one made for acoustic work or female vocals. It also happens to work well with rock and EDM for the bass belies its BA character. Wide, deep and high the BW4 provides an excellent scale for the sound to bounce around in. I find myself turning the music up to enjoy it much of the time. Thankfully the treble is bright, but not overly so. I do find that I cannot take that voluminously loud sound for too long, where with the S8 I can. I find this due to the tuning and the push of the midrange, but it certainly is not off-putting.

The Phonic is one I wish more would look at for Kenneth makes some fine wares, not the least of which is the use of reclaimed wood. I had a pair of one model made for my wife, and she will barely let me listen let alone review them. I consider that a win on all fronts.


Moondrop S8 ($699) v Fearless S6 Rui ($425):

The S6 is an “older model” in the Fearless line up but bestows the history of Fearless Audio nicely. Excellent construction is had and could be thought of one of the earliest to raise the bar of Chinese fidelity with regard to top notch quality. To me it is a mid-centric oriented sound, with the treble and bass as support. Almost hourglass in sound, but reverse (pear?) the S6 provides excellent air between notes and a clarity that is at or near class leading for the time (and now). Bass is rumbly and does bleed into the mids, which have an air of artificiality to it. But I do not mind for the sound is one for getting you up and going. Were this more weatherproof, this would be the one to take to the gym (except all take TWS now...). A bit too midcentric for raising the volume for long periods (to me) it is the easiest to drive of the models here. For an older model, the S6Rui still holds its own and would be worth a look in the secondhand market for excellent string and guitar work.

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Finale:

What you get in the S8 is a thoroughly satisfying sound, with excellent build quality. I enjoyed the bass push, even though it was not deep or rich enough for me. It was quite satiating when taken as a whole within the tonality. And Moondrop should be commended for making an IEM, which sounds this good, is affordable and happens to be their flagship. Yes, affordable is a relative term, but we see that level of return price-wise drop almost by the month. Just three short years ago, the price at which these sell would be the realm of true flagships. Now we have stupid rich prices but the S8 eschews that for what I will call a bargain. You get top notch sound, excellent build, good looks, which aren’t garish or gaudy and a good fit to boot. What more do you need? I call this a winner.


Thanks to Moondrop for the loan of their flagship, it really was a treat.

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ngoshawk
shenzhenaudio
shenzhenaudio
Nice review! Thank you.
etlouis
etlouis
I would note that gold-plated silver cables play well with S8. Bass boost + brings warmth to mids + brings shimmer down.

jcslone

New Head-Fier
Moondrop S8 Review - God-tier performance
Pros: Incredible stage, imaging, layering, and tonality
Cons: Could use a better selection of tips in the box, maybe a slightly wider stage
Moondrop S8 IEM Review

All listening was done with the S8s powered by the Chord Mojo DAC, fed Tidal Hifi track from my iPhone.

Overview:

First, the Moondrop Blessing 2 redefined what an IEM could do. Stunning tonality, stage, and just very good all around. The Moondrop S8 improves significantly on the sound signature and sound quality of the Blessing 2, delivering a pleasing experience that’s suitable for all genres and listening habits. Combine this with wonderfully comfortable fit in the ears and build quality, the S8 has easily earned itself a place on my list of IEMs that I will eventually own.

Treble:

The treble is something I had to think about at length. It’s very airy and spacious, detailed, and well-extended, but stops a hair short of being truly “bright” whilst retaining energy. There isn’t the crispness of the beryllium coated dynamic driver in the Fiio FD1 (one of my other favorite IEMs), but there’s more detail and the treble is utterly smooth without a hint of harshness or sibilance. Instruments that traditionally have very shrill tones and can be irritating to the ears, such as higher-pitched brass, string, and woodwind instruments, as well as synthesized tones, are delivered with incredibly soaring extension, all without inducing listening fatigue.

Midrange:

The S8s’ present the midrange with a density, fullness, and level of detail that is frankly on the level of floor standing speakers (JMLab Chorus 715 are my reference). Lower octave electric guitars have incredible crunch and growl to them while remaining clear and well-articulated, and Valkyria by Follow The Cipher’s guitars are wonderfully dense and clean. Female and male vocals are neither forward or recessed, but rather are placed where they are supposed to be depending on what each track calls for.

Mid bass:

Mid bass is something that is rarely well done in both full-sized headphones as well as IEMs of various driver configurations and tunings. I’m happy to report that the S8 delivers mid bass that’s appropriately impactful and powerful and enriches the lower midrange rather than oddly coloring and distorting it. The note-to-note articulation is especially precise and detailed, even on tracks such as Monsoon from Enemy AC130 Above, which has a preponderance of double bass pedaling, heavy lower midrange electric guitars, as well as intense mid and sub bass lines.

Sub bass:

Well-tuned subwoofer in your head. No joke. The sub bass is palpable when called for, extremely quick and detailed, and doesn’t induce any uncomfortable increase in pressure on the ear drums. The sub bass fills the stage evenly and is a perfect backdrop to the midrange and treble. God from Code: Pandorum is a soul-punching, growling sub bass experience that the S8s’ handle without distortion whatsoever, delivering authoritative bass that rivals flagship dynamic driver headphones such as the Fostex Purplehearts.



Soundstage and Imaging:


When I first put the S8’s in and hit play, I was stunned. Instead of the typical “inside the head” kind of presentation most IEMs bring to the table, I actually perceived the stage as being truly in front of me with real depth and pinpoint imaging. When tracks call for sounds around the head, they’re placed accurately and they make sense, something that none of the other IEMs I’ve tried to date do very well (even the Moondrop Blessing 2 struggles with this at times). Each element in the music is layered perfectly, being clear and distinct without overwhelming or coloring other elements in the track. This results in guttural vocals in metal songs being incredibly clear and intelligible as well as outright fun and toe-tapping double bass pedaling.

Tonality:

Perfect, just perfect. There’s none of the weird BA upper midrange and treble coloration that can make high hats, snare drums, and female vocals sound unnatural. Piano notes in particular are striking, if one takes a listen to Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown,” the fine distinction between pianissimo, piano, and mezzoforte/forte notes is well rendered and emotionally stirring. Male vocals such as those in Ma fin est mon commencement from Guillaume de Machaut have appropriate weight, air, and decay.

Comfort and Quality:

The S8s’ are marvelously comfortable, owing to the semi-custom and slightly smaller-than-average molded housing. They seat deeply, so small tips that are very comfortable are required.
I was expecting an 8-BA per side IEM to have much larger shells, but it’s a credit to Moondrop’s R&D team that they pulled off such a fantastic IEM in a small form factor. The build quality is undeniably premium, with the resin shells having a soft, luxurious feel to them with perfect fittings and seams.

Conclusion:

While their price tag may give some pause, you absolutely get your money’s worth in the S8s. An experience that comes very close to a high-end, 2-channel stereo system, with no listening fatigue or discomfort from long-term wear. The included cable is of good quality, though lacks the luxury feel that a product at this price point commands. The zippered, soft-touch leather carry case is one of the best I’ve come across to date, and the zipper is of high quality and will not fail under repeated use.

A heartful thank you to Dave and the Moondrop team for providing me with this opportunity to review their products!
Wretched Stare
Wretched Stare
Greg review 👍

DallaPo

New Head-Fier
The neutral adult
Pros: audiophile through and through
natural and accurate sound
technically very potent
relaxed and gentle mid-range, without real weaknesses
Cons: somewhat boring
the bass could use more bite
Rating: 9.1
Sound: 9

Intro
The MOONDROP S8 is the successor to the A8 and with its accurate, natural sound reproduction has long since ceased to be an insider tip. You don't often come across IEMs that manage to make a neutral tuning sound musical and authentic without slipping into sterility. The S8 is a very mature IEM, which has a lot in common with the BLESSING 2, but does not sound quite as technical, but is more full-bodied and natural.
An audiophile IEM through and through with stage qualities, also due to its high efficiency.


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Handling
The scope of delivery is surprisingly spartan in the price range.
There is a selection of silicone tips, a 4-core copper cable and an aircraft adapter.
The cable is valuable, but also a bit fragile. But the transport case is a nice accessory and quite roomy. In addition it is haptically attractive because of its leather imitation and structure. But that was it.

The case is very successful in design, optically, as well as in the choice of material. It may look a bit clumsy, but it is extremely ergonomic and fits perfectly. However, I can well imagine that owners of smaller ears could get problems, or that the IEMs protrude a bit too much out of the ear. It is also a bit heavier than IEMs that are not cast or made of heavy metal, but this does not change the very good wearing comfort.

The S8 seems to be made of one piece. The drivers are completely surrounded by resin and you can easily follow the "path of the sound" to the end of the sound tube, where you can also see the used filters.

In contrast to the BLESSING 2, the S8 is a bit more compact despite the higher number of drivers, because the dynamic driver in the B2 requires more space. There is also no ventilation opening in the housing, which might cause negative pressure in some cases and thus be a bit uncomfortable. However, this allows to achieve almost complete isolation.

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Sound
Those who have already had the opportunity to listen to the BLESSING 2 may be a bit disappointed, as the S8 does not reveal any new sonic dimensions, but those who find the B2 too technical and analytical and long for more warmth and relaxation without wanting to sacrifice the technical and sonic quality of the B2 may have found their audiophile companion for the next decade in the S8, which more than justifies the price then.

Compared to the BLESSING 2, the bass of the S8 subjectively sounds somewhat muted. This is not untypical for BA basses, but in comparison the S8 is neither anemic nor sterile. The pressure of the B2 is missing in the subrange, but in return we have a slightly more accentuated mid-bass range, which gives the signature a bit more warmth, gives the notes more weight and makes the S8 in total a bit smoother, softer and more emotional.
This makes the bass not quite as clear and precise as on the B2, which acts more dynamically, but is in no way inferior to it in terms of detail and texture.

In the midrange the S8 presents itself very mature. Here the neutrality of the B2 adds a spark of naturalness. This gives voices and instruments an authentic timbre without coloration and you can indulge in music without restriction. I have to admit, however, that I like the separation and transparency of the B2 a My better, but in comparison this does not make me forget the B2's slight tendency to "shout".
The mids are not exactly bursting with liveliness, but (I repeat myself) they are absolutely correct and authentic. In addition, they manage to transmit emotions and don't overdo it in the upper midrange. I'm convinced that it will be difficult to find errors in the sound reproduction, as well as in the technical components. If you look for the hair in the soup here, you can accuse them at most of a somewhat boring presentation, or lack of positive hardness.

The high frequency brings everything to warm the audiophile heart. Not quite as sparkling as the BLESSING 2 and also rolling a bit too early to rapture trebleheads completely, but instead with an enormous depth of detail and transparency. The sibilants are a bit better in grip than on the B2, but still slightly present. But I find the high tone of the S8 more natural and mature, since the BA timbre doesn't stand out as much either. The S8 is not about showing off, but about reproducing musical content in a natural way. It does this excellently, even if some people might long for a little more ectase and excitement. But it's not quite enough for the absolutely unsparing high frequency with convincing micromanagement of the UE RR, as well as for the level stability of a CAMPFIRE SOLARIS, or TIA TRIO. Still great cinema!

As with the B2, the stage and the imaging are truly remarkable. But you feel a little more comfortable with the S8 than with the B2, because it manages to create intimacy despite the fantastic resolution, airy expanse and the above-average three-dimensional presentation.

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Outro
The S8 costs well over twice as much as the BLESSING 2, but do we now also get the quality of the B2 to the power of 2? No! The B2 already has an outstanding price/performance ratio and sets something like a benchmark in the segment if you are looking for a neutral and tonal correct signature.
We get all this with the S8 in the same way, but the S8 is a bit more mature for my taste and passes my long-term hearing test better, with rare exceptions.
In addition I attest the S8 a slightly better resolution in the high frequencies and a more relaxed, but tonally and technically almost flawless midrange.
But these are all just small nuances and personal preferences. Basically, the B2 already has everything that the S8 has to offer, except that the S8 has more depth in personality.
For me, the S8 is a technical, relaxed and self-confident IEM, with which I like to explore music a bit more closely, but which also allows me to let go and simply enjoy it.
But you definitely have to know what you are getting into with the S8, otherwise you might be disappointed. Compared to the B2, I would classify the S8 as more audiophile and definitely a suitable tool for the stage, but the B2 more technical, a bit brighter and more in the direction of studio reference.

Many thanks to OARDIO for the demo-in-ear!

https://www.oardio.com/moondrop-s8-iem.html

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Hddad70

Head-Fier
Moondrop S8 impressions…...sort of.
Pros: Excellent detail retrieval
Wide soundstage
Good imaging
Excellent instrument separation and placement
Excellent Build quality
Cons: Stock cable
Eartips
Lack of vent
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My YouTube Review -
The Devil's in the details

I will be focusing on my impressions of the S8. However, I will also be doing a comparison with the FH5 in hopes of answering a larger question. Does the S8's insreased level of performance over FH5 or any similarly priced iem, justify spending an additional $450? This comparison between the Moondrop S8 and Fiio FH5 is not to determine whether one is better than the other. But merely to determine the extent of the “diminished return” imposed by the additional cost of the Moondrop S8 over the FH5.

I think we can all agree, especially if you're married with kids and on a limited budget, that there is a degree of guilt that can come with this hobby. It made me almost quit altogether. Am I an “irresponsible, reclusive, wastrel who blows money on unnecessary crap?” or “Is it an investment in my personal well-being?” These questions seemed to be part of a reoccurring conversation in my head, no doubt, brought on by the guilt I would feel after spending money on portable hifi.

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I remember as a kid, growing up in a small family church in Central California, sitting on the third-row pew not far from the stage. My Uncle Charles was the pastor. The building was so small there was no need to mic the drums. My ears were subjected to the bowelless assault of raw drums my entire childhood. No processing, just pure, unadulterated wood on skins and metal. My brother's and I would sit and watch in amazement as "Brother Scott" would play. He was a jazz drummer but he could play anything.
I was so close I could hear the wood of the drumsticks as they struck the cymbals and drum heads. His throne squeaked when he would shift his weight. "Brother Havner" our guitarist sat on a metal folding chair on the opposite end of the stage. The pulpit stood stubbornly right between my ears and his amp, leaving me only with the scraps of reflected sound. David Leonard on the Hammond B3......my God, the Hammond B3. The distinct whirring sound of the Leslie #122.......no words. Simply amazing. And they weren't crappy church musicians. They were good, really good. Sunday after Sunday. Year after year, I sat there. Raw sound. Raw energy. But it wasn't just the sounds and the emotions. It was more than that. It was the shared experience of music with others. It wasn’t just how the music made me feel, but how it made us all feel. I've found myself chasing after that feeling ever since. I catch glimpses at times. Like, at a Yellowjackets concert, almost 20 years ago, In Seattle.....the murmuring of the crowd. The legs of the bench sliding across the wood floors as Russell Ferrante pulled up closer to the piano. The squeaky foot pedal. The sound of the microphone stands being adjusted. The energy that filled the room. The people. The people. The people. The shared experience. I'll never forget it. It was the best small venue concert I've ever been to.

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The other night I was doing a side by side comparison of the $259 FH5 and $699 S8. Obviously, there is a huge price difference. But that was the whole point of this session, to determine whether or not my listening experience with the S8 compared to the FH5, justified me spending an additional $450. Again, my goal wasn't so much to compare the sound quality as it was to compare the immersion and emotion.

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I was listening to "Jazz at the Pawnshop" - "Lady, be good". It was recorded in 1976, at Jazzpuben Stampen in Stockholm, Sweden. It's one of my top five favorite recordings. When "Lady, be good" starts, the first thing you hear isn't a piano or a saxophone. It isn't an instrument at all. The first thing you hear is a room filled with people. The listener is instantly transported from their couch to the best seat in the house at one of "Jazz History's" most unforgettable nights. Next, Bengt Hallberg begins to play the intro on piano, then Egil Johansen does some accents on the cymbals. He uses different parts of his sticks and different areas of the cymbals to achieve different sounds. The tips of the sticks, close to the edge, on the surface of the cymbal, make a light delicate sound while the edge of the stick on the outside edge makes a darker sound. The cymbal accents slowly intensify as the song progresses and at the 43-second mark, Egil strikes the cymbal with a little more intensity using the tip of the stick. At about the 1-minute mark, Egil switches over to brushes. At 3.35 it sounds like a microphone is adjusted and the balance suddenly shifts to the right but is corrected after a few seconds. 3.51 Egil switches back to sticks and then back to brushes during the transition out of the xylophone solo at 7.51. A few times during the recording he probably uses the medal retractable handle on the opposite ends of the brushes (8.40) for additional symbol accents.

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Sound Comparison

I listened to the FH5 first. Everything was there. Overall, even with the W sound signature, FH5 sounded quite good with slightly above average Imaging and Instrument Separation. There is a peak at about 7kHz but it rolls off fairly quickly giving it a more relaxed presentation but also resulting in some loss of detail. There is an upper-mid hump around 2kHz resulting in a more intimate vocal presentation but can cause some instruments to have an unnatural timbre. The mid-bass is clean and organic, never encroaching on the mids. The bass is fairly controlled and deep extending down to 10 Hz. I listened to the song at least eight times with the FH5 replaying various sections. One section I particularly focused on was the cymbal strike at the 43-second mark. The soundstage is not very wide. It’s intimate but it’s holographic enough to make them enjoyable. The FH5's did a fine job and are every bit worth the $259 price tag.
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Then it was the S8's turn. Moondrop developed its own modified version of the Harman curve, calling it VDSF (Virtual Diffusion Sound Field) resulting in an overall smooth and easy listening experience. The treble is resolving with an abundance of air. The soundstage is wide. The imaging is excellent and the instrument placement is precise. The detail and clarity are exceptional. Although the upper-mids can, at times, come off as forward they never sound unnatural or peaky. The mids are balanced with great detail retrieval. The bass is controlled, with excellent attack, speed, good layering, and texture.

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I pushed play and rested my arms on my legs, closed my eyes, and began to listen. First, the murmuring, followed by the piano then the drums. There I was, sitting in the best seat in the house. Completely immersed. Remember the cymbal accents I talked about at the beginning of the song? They were different in the S8’s. I replayed a section at the 18-second mark and another at the 43-second mark focusing on the sound of the cymbals. And it didn’t require me to listen to the song eight times before noticing it. At the 18 second mark, I could actually hear the sound of the wood from the drumsticks as it struck the cymbals. At the 43 second mark, when Egil strikes the cymbal with the tip of his stick with a little more force the S8 reveals something the FH5 does not. On the FH5, the initial strike is intense and well represented, but it overshadows the following symbol body resonance. The resonance is present but is lost quickly. The S8 presents not only the full intensity of the attack but the appropriate amount of cymbal body resonance as well. You can almost hear the thicknesses of the cymbal as the vibrations travel through its metal body. I caught myself mid-smile when I noticed it. Who would've thought these tiny little details would be the difference between a good listening experience and transcending one? But are those details worth the extra cost? Absolutely.

Okay, Let me try and sum this up. For me, proper representation of the sound of a drumstick or a cymbal is more than just a sound. Ultimately, those little details are responsible for triggering a memory that is attached to an emotional experience, that ultimately brings me joy. Because I spent the extra $450 on the S8, that joy is something I can experience any time, anywhere, and is only an arm's length away. For me, the joy is in the details.
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ewetcr
ewetcr
We're all after the first experiences of pleasure and chasing memories aren't we? Thanks for the impressions
fabio19
fabio19
Has anyone made a comparison between Dunu SA6 and Fearless Audio S8Z or Moondrop S8?
HarlanDraka
HarlanDraka
Which cable is that? Looks amazing!

darmanastartes

500+ Head-Fier
Pros: overall tuning, instrument separation, detail retrieval, soundstage, build quality, speed, articulation
Cons: occasionally harsh treble with stock eartips, cable is underwhelming at this price point
INTRODUCTION:
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The Moondrop S8 is an in-ear monitor (IEM) utilizing eight balanced armature (BA) drivers per housing. 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.

This review is also available on my blog: https://medium.com/bedrock-reviews/moondrop-s8-review-f9c664e1e3b7

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.

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 3D-printed 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 compared with Moondrop 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.
LostnAmerica
LostnAmerica
Super review! A question, if I may: My ears are similarly designed (as yours) smaller right, etc...What would you recommend in a small uiem with similar quality and with a slightly warmer sound signature? I thank you for your time and info.
Cheers

jwbrent

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Beautiful workmanship, great tuning with no problem areas, comfortable fit for an 8 BA design, nice case
Cons: No lips on the nozzles make non-stock tip use somewhat problematic, slight texture on included tips may cause discomfort for some, no cable cinch, lack of venting makes listening for long periods at higher levels an uncomfortable experience
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Introduction

When I first saw the above picture of the MOONDROP S8, I was mesmerized by its beauty. I've been late to the party on specialty Chinese-made IEMs, and intrigued by @Animagus' review on the S8, I decided to buy it. I'd like to thank @IrisYuki for making my purchase so easy.

I really don't know much about MOONDROP other than they have been in business for about five years, and yet they have received lots of acclaim for its offerings. This stellar reputation gave me the confidence to buy the S8 ($699) blind about three months ago.

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Performance

The gear I primarily used for my evaluation was the Astell&Kern AK240SS loaded with hi-res files and an iPhone SE connected to an iFi nano iDSD Black Label. The latter was for web streaming of my favorite internet music station, Radio Paradise, which streams lossless files. No EQ was used during my listening sessions.

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The S8 is an 8 driver balanced armature design tuned to follow somewhat closely to the Harman frequency curve. Let me point out now that MOONDROP has created a tuning that, to my ears, is spectacular in its ease of portrayal of all genres of music I tried, a tuning that is highly coherent with little to no phase anomalies.

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Since I've given away my appreciation of the S8, let me now address some particulars:

Bass Performance

I really love the bass tuning! There is a wonderful sense of sub-bass performance that is articulate with great body and depth. The mid-bass and upper-bass, to my ears, is neutral, and as the frequency graph would suggest, there is no intrusion on the lower mids. Really stellar bass performance, but by no means a bass-head's dream.

Midrange Performance

The midrange is expressive and well balanced with great low level detail retrieval as would be expected in a BA design. MOONDROP emphasizes it employs custom-made BAs for this critical juncture in the frequency range. There is a purity to vocals that is euphonic, and instrument fundamentals and harmonics are captured with aplomb. Some users may take issue with the 3K bump in the frequency range, but this has not been a problem for me.

Treble Performance

The trebles are fairly transparent, but please understand my reference for transparency is the final A8000 which, in my view, hits a home run in this area. Additionally, there is a slight softening to the trebles that allows for lengthy listening sessions without fatigue, and as such, the S8 has become my daily driver. Of the three main frequency ranges, my view is the trebles are less noteworthy, but I should add this trait is more prominent with hi-res recordings; with lossless CD recordings, the slight lack of air isn't as noticeable.

Soundstage / Imaging

There is great soundstage width extending out beyond my ears, not quite as much in depth and height. Imaging is magical at times, with precise placement within the sound field. I really like this area quite a bit, and compared to all the IEMs I've owned in the past in a similar price range, an area of elevated performance.

Incidentals

First off, let me address the quality of workmanship. I am highly particular in this area having spent my career in High End Audio. I've owned nearly a hundred different components over my career, many of which were built to the highest standard. My love for beautifully built products stem from this experience. The S8 easily has the best attention to detail of any IEM I've owned at a similar price point. With that said, the one letdown is the included cable, not performance wise, but build wise. The absence of a cable cinch is inexplicable to me since I view it as fundamental in maintaining a great fit, especially when out and about and during exercise routines. I ended up modifying my S8 cable with a cinch of my own, but I shouldn't have to do that. I do hope MOONDROP remedies this issue in the future.

The other area I want to address is the comfort. The 3D printed shells made from acrylic (I believe) fit beautifully into my ears, and the light weight of the shells allow me hours of listening comfort with two caveats: the included tips have a fine texture to them and I find sometimes my ears get itchy with prolonged listening. Using other tips to address this can be problematic due to there not being any lips on the nozzles, so they can come off on removing the S8 from my ears. Lastly, the S8 is not a vented design, so listening to music at higher levels for long periods of time creates some discomfort, but others may have a different experience.

Conclusion

I am delighted with my blind purchase, perhaps the best experience of this type I’ve had to date. MOONDROP has produced a relatively affordable winner that has few weaknesses. Now that MOONDROP is developing a lending program for interested users, I strongly recommend trying the S8 out. Perhaps you too will come away from the experience with as much appreciation as I have.
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shenzhenaudio
shenzhenaudio
Thanks for your recommendation! indeed! not only in its precise workmanship but in the triple frequencies, It is well-deserved!
Hddad70
Hddad70
Great review! Absolutely in love with S8's!
fabio19
fabio19
Has anyone made a comparison between Dunu SA6 and Fearless Audio S8Z or Moondrop S8?

etlouis

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Pleasurable tuning on a good balance of excitement and laid back resolution
Details on top of details
Looks great
Cons: Accessories seem to be on a budget
No vents, so prolonged wear could lead to eardrum discomfort
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Leaving just a quickie here since there’s not a lot of reviews for the S8.

Sound-wise: Harmon tuning. Or so they say, I wouldn't understand what it means. It’s omnivorous and there are plenty of details. Tuning is laid back and not overwhelmingly exciting, so you could leave these in your ears for a while. I can let the S8 run through 95% of my playlist without changing tracks. The trebles are rolled off when it gets intense. This seems more for audiophiles to enjoy, rather than for-reference. It’s equally great for any music genre, and extra smooth for ACG (Japanese doll vocals) and metal (constant distortion and cymbals) because of how it removes unpleasant hissing. Bass sinks deep and slaps with energy, but still BA flavored.

The accessories are a bit of a minimalist. Pouch. Tips. Wire. I don’t care about those really. Cable rolling is not necessarily an upgrade in this case, since the stock ones compliment the tuning of S8 perfectly. Aftermarket cables sometimes shifted that delicate balance. Nozzle size is also very large and the packaged tips seem to be custom made. It could be difficult to find comply / spinfit tips for these earphones.

So there you have it. The Moondrop S8 is a good iem to chill with. Technical but not clinical. Fairly forgiving towards bad recordings, but loves to dig details out of good ones.
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Animagus

Reviewer at Twister6
Pros: Build quality, slightly deeper fit, noise isolation, tuned to Moondrop's refined version of Harman Target curve, likeable and addictive fun sound signature, sub-bass reach and rumble, natural lower mids tonality, forward upper mids help in instrument definition, smoother and natural treble, soundstage depth layering, imaging and instrument separation, roomy carry case.
Cons: Nothing substantial really as sonically S8 does most things right for the price but I think Moondrop should've included a more premium cable and a few different types of ear tips for versatility in the package.
Disclaimer.
I would like to thank Moondrop for sending me the S8 to test and review. I am not affiliated with the company or any of its sellers and write this review with an unbiased opinion regardless of how the review turns out.

My background.
I am a professional musician, producer and audio engineer with experience in the performing, recording and pro-audio industry. I test products on a technical and musical level but try to write reviews as simple as possible from a music fan’s perspective.

Genre preferences.
I majorly listen to rock, acoustic, pop, metal, and sometimes popular EDM songs doing the rounds on the charts.

About Moondrop.
Moondrop is one of the most popular brands to emerge out of China in the recent years. They're based out of Chengdu, Sichuan and quickly became fan favorites with products like Kanas, Kanas Pro, KXXS, Blessing1 and A8, and good value for money products like Crescent, Spaceship, etc. Most of their entry level products are made out of metals like brass but their upper range are majorly resin based IEMs with semi-custom shells like Blessing2, S8 and Solis, which are also offered as CIEMs. They even make earbuds named ShiroYuki, Namesless, VX, Liebesleid and Chaconne. They like to dabble with popular target curves and have received critical acclaim and appreciation for the same.

Links - Moondrop S8 (Shenzhen Audio) | Moondrop S8 (Official AE Store)

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Technical Specifications.
  • Impedance - 16Ω±15%@1Khz
  • Frequency response - 20-40khz
  • Effective FR - 20-20khz
  • Sensitivity - 122Db/Vrms
  • Channel mismatch - ±1db
  • Drivers - Dual high, Quad mid, Dual low.
  • Socket - 0.78mm 2-pin
  • Shells - Medical UV Acrylic
  • Cable - 6N OFC Litz with 1/8″jack
Features.
  • Redesigned 8 driver triple crossover architecture.
  • Selected high/low frequency drivers.
  • Proprietary customized midrange driver for “MOONDROP” style midrange tuning.
  • 6N OCC internal wiring.
  • Unblemished craftsmanship.
  • Efficient and accurate crossover design.
  • 0.78mm 2-Pin universal connector.
  • Focused on hase coherency.
Here is some information from the company about some of the technology behind S8.

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I’d like to talk about this in a bit more detail. As many of you may know, Moondrop likes to play with established target curves like Harman and Diffuse Field target and develop products with their take on the same, changing some areas of those curves as per their taste. In case of S8, it will come as no surprise that they played around with the Harman Target Curve and tweaked it to develop their own target curve, calling it VDSF (Virtual Diffusion Sound Field). For this they used a Knowles SWFK treble driver and Sonion 33QP bass driver but developed custom middle drivers in collaboration with a local factory so that they could hit their intended VDSF curve precisely. S8 also focuses on maintaining good phase coherency between drivers removing phase difference artifacts around the crossovers which greatly helps in case of multi-BA IEMs maintain overall coherency. Moondrop also used 6N OCC wire for internal wiring. Now, such materials majorly make a difference when the length of the wire is much longer but a manufacturer should always be lauded for using good quality internals. So, kudos Moondrop!

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Included in the box.
Moondrop S8 comes in nice Anime style packaging. It comes with the necessary accessories which are simple and all you really need. Though I think they should've offered more variety in eartips and a better cable to perfect the premium-ness quotient of the overall package.

Here is a list of what is included in the package:
  • Moondrop S8
  • 6N OFC Litz cable
  • Silicone Eartips - 6 Pairs of different sizes
  • Carry Case
  • Airline adapter
  • Manual
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Build Quality.
Stock S8 has clear shells and are blemish and bubble free. They are made up of medical grade resin and are constructed like how most resin based shells are; a bottom shell with a faceplate lid glued on top. The faceplates have concentric teardrop shaped brushed metal plates with ‘S8 Moondrop’ engraved on one and 'Solution S8' on the other. The borders of the faceplate are clear and integrate seamlessly with the bottom shell.

Cable – Sadly, the cable is a bit of a letdown, as is the case with most Moondrop IEMs. It is made up of good quality wire which is 6N OFC Litz, but is fitted with cheap quality jack and connectors. It doesn’t even have a chin slider. Why Moondrop why? They should’ve included a higher quality premium looking cable in the package especially since S8 is not cheap by any means. IEMs half the price come with better cables these days. Moondrop, come on! Make it happen!

Nevertheless, the stock cable has minimal microphonics and S8 actually sounds pretty good with it. But I’m sure if you try some upgrade cables, like I did, they can make S8 even more enjoyable for you.

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Case - The included case serves its purpose pretty well as it has enough space to easily store the S8 with a cable as fat as the ISN C16 and also has a small net pouch which can hold ear tips and a cleaning brush.

Fit and Comfort.
S8 has an extremely comfortable fit, owing to a very ergonomic semi-custom shell design. The nozzles help with a slightly deeper insertion, which makes them feel almost like how CIEM shells do. As a result of this, it isolates outside noise extremely well. They’ve included same ear tips in multiple sizes for you to achieve a very comfortable fit. I kinda like these ear tips as they feel very comfortable for long periods.


Sound Analysis.
Summary – As I mentioned earlier, S8 follows the Harman Target Curve closely but Moondrop developed their own modified version of the curve, calling it VDSF. S8’s bass boost is a few dBs lesser than the original HTC and the upper 3-6kHz range too is a bit easier. As a result, S8 makes for an easier and smoother listen where the bass is precise, fun yet always in control, lower mids have accurate natural tonality though pushed slightly behind in the stage, upper mids are forward while maintaining the natural tonality and the treble is relatively natural and smooth. But, I have a minor complaint with S8 that I have with HTC in general. S8's upper mids or Harman upper mids in general have the tendency to come off as forward and slightly peaky in the first listen. Though acclimatizing to them doesn’t take much time and they become enjoyable very quickly and start sounding quite natural, something you then start wondering if is the true natural. Nevertheless I think HTC can do with a few dBs less of gain in the primary upper mids peak, which will help it sound even more natural and even. Of course this is subjective and will heavily depend on one's preferences and/or the kind of IEMs one has been listening to and likes.

I also want to mention that I read some initial impressions on the internet where people were complaining about S8’s treble. Well I don't think it is the treble really, it's again the perception of the upper mids peak. S8’s treble, i.e. post 5kHz is in fact quite natural, smooth and kinda shadowed by the forward upper mids peak but the treble is certainly NOT rolled off by any means. It is tuned to have enough energy required for an unhindered smooth listening experience, just the right amount required for the details and clarity. S8’s upper mids peak actually starts a natural incline at around 1kHz and declines at around 5kH where the highest point of the peak is 10dBs more than the bottom bed of the lower mids. This is exactly what makes S8 and HTC in general sound slightly peaky when you first start listening to it, especially coming from something like a CA Andromeda or Fiio FH7, which do not have the upper mids as forward.

With that said, S8 is actually a very good IEM and is surely one of the nicest that I’ve heard at its price point or under $1000. So, let’s dig in deeper and see how it sounds.

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Bass – So much fun! It has slam, punch but always sounds in control with good attack and speed. There is no perceivable roll-off and so the sub-bass is well present and the energy is available from quite low. Bass goes pretty deep with good rumble. The sub-bass post the 3:27 mark in Hans Zimmer’s ‘Why so serious’ plays out very well with the sub-bass giving the rumbly effect which is intended to sound like the calm before the storm (before the big drums kick in). S8’s bass is more sub-bass dominant than mid-bass as it has the Moondrop signature curve's gradual recession which starts post 60-70Hz. Yet crunchy overdriven bass tones which are mid-bass and upper bass dominant are still a lot of fun and quite well presented in the center. All in all, S8’s bass is going to keep the bass lover in you happy and satisfied as the quality and quantity are both pretty good considering all things.

Mids – Lower mids are pushed slightly behind in the soundstage owing to the recessed character of Moondrop’s house tuning as well as the HTC. They have a clean lower-mids character and accurate tonality which makes most instruments lying in the range, especially drums and deeper vocals, a joy to listen to. As I mentioned earlier, upper mids are forward and present which pushes the vocals, guitars and string instruments forward, though keeping the overall tonality of the instruments intact. With the lower mids pushed slightly behind and upper mids being forward and prominent, it helps give a 3D-ish layering to S8’s soundstage. Though I feel that even though heavy distortion guitars are a lot of fun, they are ever so slightly more forward than they are supposed to be. Nevertheless, it does not take away from the fact that S8 does most things in the midrange right (very well in fact) and very little wrong.

Treble - The peaks post 5kHz are not as prominent as the upper mids peak and as a result, the treble is pretty natural and smooth. That helps instruments like guitars and orchestral instruments sound exactly how they are in real life or were recorded in the track without any artificial boosting of treble for that extra sparkle or sizzle as that artificial treble makes string attack and guitar slides sound much more prominent than they actually are in real life. There is no sibilance or any other intrusive treble issues.

Soundstage, Imaging and Separation.
S8’s soundstage width is wider than average, though not as wide as some TOTLs out there. If only it was that wide but 'you can't always get what you want' (cue fade in Rolling Stones song's chorus). Jokes apart, it does depth very well though with a nice black background and that helps with a nice layered 3D-ish imaging of the song. Imaging precision is also very good and resolution and instrument separation is commendable.

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Comparisons.
ItsFit Fusion – Well they have very little in common. Fusion has a modern signature whereas S8 sounds relatively smoother. Fusion relies on its treble for the details and clarity whereas S8 relies more on its upper mids for the same. Both Fusion and S8 have a very enjoyable bass presentation where S8 has more sub-bass rumble and a more organic presentation whereas Fusion’s bass has more snap with equally good extension down low. Fusion lower mids sounds more modern but are pushed slightly back in the soundstage whereas S8’s sound more organic and natural relatively. S8’s upper mids are more forward and prominent whereas Fusion’s treble seems more present and snappy. Fusion’s soundstage is larger but S8’s sounds more natural and organic overall. Both have very good imaging and instrument separation capabilities.

Shozy Pola39 – Again, Pola39 too sounds quite different from S8 with Pola39 having modern treble and attack and S8 sounding more natural and smoother relatively. Both Pola39 and S8’s bass is super articulate and fun. Pola39 has a dynamic driver handling bass whereas S8 has a Sonion BA handling the same, but S8 still parallels the dynamic driver’s performance quite competitively. Surprisingly S8 has more bass punch, attack and better sub-bass impact and rumble. Pola39’s lower mids are slightly fuller than S8 whereas S8 has better clarity and resolution there. S8’s upper mids on the other hand are more forward which allows majority of instruments to have better attack and presence whereas Pola39’s treble is more unique and present owing to the EST driver on duty and as a result sounds more modernistic. Pola39’s soundstage is airier and slightly wider whereas S8’s sounds more natural and deeper. S8 has better resolution and instrument separation capabilities owing to 8 balanced armatures at work.

Moondrop KXXS – Now since S8 is the oldest sibling in Moondrop’s lineup, I reckon a lot of people would like to know how both these siblings play alongside each other. Both KXXS and S8 are tuned close to the Harman Target curve with some creative liberties. KXXS has a single dynamic handling the full frequency range whereas S8 has 8 balanced armatures. Loosely, both have a similar bass presentation, KXXS’ lower mids are slightly fuller, S8’s upper mids are ever so slightly forward and more present, and KXXS has more presence in treble, particularly the 5kHz and the sizzle around 12kHz. But because of different driver technologies, they have a different feel and flavor. Now since S8 has 8 balanced armatures, it has better resolution, better instrument separation and is even more precise in imaging. S8 has a slightly warmer and a more organic touch to the presentation whereas KXXS feels sparkly and airier because of the treble character. Besides that, they are both tuned to hit Moondrop’s house sound and hence feel like blood brothers sharing some of the DNA.

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Conclusion.
Well, so there you go! Another IEM from Moondrop that is tuned with a better and more refined take on the Harman Target curve. It does a lot of things right and very little wrong. It is built very well, comes in a nice Anime style box, has ear tips in multiple sizes for one to nail the perfect fit as well as has a nice carry case which serves its purpose well. The cable, even though has good 6N OFC Litz wire, is a bit of a letdown because of the cheap jack and connectors. Nevertheless, S8 wins big in the sound department and that is the first and foremost requirement of an IEM. It sounds very good and with an extremely comfortable fit, is highly addictive. Moondrop makes great products and KXXS has been in my list of all-time favorites for a while now. Now I think it is time to add S8 to the list too. If you want Moondrop’s take on the Harman Target but only have $200 to spare, I highly suggest you get the KXXS. But if you have the budget and want a smooth, more resolving and highly refined take on the same, I highly recommend getting the S8! It is certainly one of my favorite IEMs under $1000 now. I'd love to see Moondrop's take on more varieties of sound signatures that tap into different segments of the audiophile crowd next. With Moondrop's proven technical expertise, I'm hoping that's not far away.

Gear used for testing and review.
  • DAPs- Hiby R6 Pro & iBasso DX160
  • Oneplus 7 Pro
Reference Songs list.
  • Normandie - White Flag album
  • Dave Matthews - Shake Me Like a Monkey
  • Foo Fighters- The Pretender, Best of you & Everlong
  • Coldplay- Paradise, Up in flames & Everglow + Everyday Life Album
  • Ed Sheeran- Thinking out loud, Bloodstream & Galway Girl
  • Chainsmokers – Somebody, Sickboy, This Feeling & Closer
  • John Mayer- Slow dancing in a burning room, Stop this Train & Say
  • Gavin James- Always & Hearts on fire
  • Switchfoot- Meant to live & Dare you to move
  • Our Lady Peace - Do You Like It & Innocent
  • Linkin Park- Papercut, Somewhere I belong & Talking to myself
  • Maroon 5- She will be loved, Payphone & Lost stars
  • Lifehouse- All in all & Come back down
  • Breaking Benjamin - Diary of Jane
  • Karnivool- Simple boy & Goliath
  • Dead Letter Circus- Real you
  • I Am Giant- Purple heart, City limits & Transmission
  • Muse - Panic station
  • James Bay - Hold back the river
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xxAMAROKxx
xxAMAROKxx
Great review, thanks!
Astranaganz
Astranaganz
@Animagus thanks for the review! Finally i can dethrone my er4p after 8 years. I notice that S8 is not doing well with positive eq (increase gain) on low and high. Does this happen to yours? Its just habbit of mine to go positive first then invert eq.
Animagus
Animagus
Hey @Astranaganz ! I didn't get what you're wanting to do exactly. Are you wanting to boost a bit of upper treble and cut a bit of bass? PM me as it'll be easier to message back and forth.
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