All of the above impressions are formed with the supplied A8 cable and so I wanted to include some impressions with different 2-pin cables for this review.
Lear Audio C2 MKIII: This is nowhere near an upgrade cable. It’s just a stock cable from Lear Audio of which I had a spare in my possession. This cable not only looks better with the earpieces with its black color, it also provides a more balanced presentation. You might take this as a surprise, but yes, I think it sounds better. You have more body in the sound, and the same qualities of the IEM in a more balanced way. Treble takes half a step back, and creates a little bit more relaxed and consistent sound. This cable alone proves that the A8 craves for a better cable.
Effect Audio Leonidas: Leonidas is a mid centric cable. That’s very obvious. So what it gives to the A8 is closer and a little denser mids, with a better midbass section as well. Dynamics are one step ahead compared to with the A8’s own cable, and once again the presentation is more balanced. The sound stage width is a little smaller, but to me it’s a realistic presentation compared to the Lyre Acoustics cable.
Effect Audio Ares II: As a copper cable, the Ares II is a wonderful choice if you want to add a little body and warmth, and not sacrifice the overall qualities. And it does just that. The only difference with the Leonidas to me is that, the mids are not as close and dense. Leonidas puts a certain quality and touch to that mid section with almost every IEM.
So as a result, I honestly think any good quality cable is better than the stock cable of the A8.
vs. iBasso IT04: The IT04 gives a better bass body and kick, whilst the A8 lacks in that department. The A8 has livelier mids and treble. The overall transparency level is also better on the A8. Sound stage-wise everything is on the A8’s side.
vs. Oriolus MK2: Much better bass in the Oriolus here, and the mids are also denser with more musicality. The A8 gives more emphasized treble when compared, and its sounds wider in terms of sound stage. However the MK2 has a better tonality and it’s more controlled. The A8 has a much better fit and isolation though. But the sound part goes to the MK2.
vs. FiiO FA7: The FiiO unit sounds much, much warmer when compared. The A8 is better in every way possible in terms of sound. Better resolution, better staging and transparency are enough to give the A8 the edge. The only thing they have in common are the fit and isolation, they’re both great in that regard.
vs. Kinera Odin: The Odin shares the same fate with the A8 in terms of bass. The Odin has more quantity which is nice after hearing the A8, but it lacks the quality side of the bass. So they both have bass problems from different reasons. The mids of the Odin are the star of the show. They sound more organic and warm with better tonality. The A8 has better treble and a bigger sound stage together with better resolution. They both fit and isolate great.
The Moondrop A8 is a great IEM with some details they have to work on. I think first and foremost, the company should get rid of that cable immediately. Secondly, the bass response, kick and body needs to be improved. Last but not least, the treble section needs to be a little more relaxed and extended in my opinion.
Other than those points, this IEM is certainly very impressive from a technical standpoint. I’m sure Moondrop will eventually release a better version, or a completely different IEM with better qualities. If you look at the success they’ve made with the Kanas Pro, there’s definitely more to come from them.