The Variations IEM has a vivid, exciting, and fun sound signature. The first thing I noticed about the signature was the spacious presentation and the abundant sense of air. After that, I noticed the impactful sub-bass reproduction and crispy treble presentation. The Variations has a way to hype you up, excite you, especially when combined with uplifting tracks. Pharrell Williams’ ”Happy” is a great example of this. Listen to it via Variations and I guarantee you that you’ll tap your feet. Apart from that, the overall bass response is elevated with sub-bass being more slightly more pronounced than the rest of the bass range. The midrange is not majorly recessed and the Variations do a great job of conveying the micro details to you. The monitors sound coherent and that is really important in my opinion when it comes to tribrids. It is harder for manufacturers to get the tuning right with three different types of drivers compared to hybrid or singular designs. Now that you have a rough idea of the signature, I’ll go ahead and divide the sound quality section into a couple of paragraphs to describe it fully, to you.
The Variations IEMs have an elevated, impactful, and full-bodied bass reproduction. The sub-bass is slightly more prominent than the rest of the bass range, however, the bass feels abundant all together. The textured, powerful bass contributes to the fun factor of the IEM. The Moondrop tuned it carefully to prevent the bass from bleeding into the lower mid section. The detail level is also good. The Variations perform well in this regard, the bass is controlled, very powerful, and quite exciting to listen to.
Starting with the lower mids, Variations follow a recipe of linearity here. I would easily say that this smart move by Moondrop’s engineers ensures that the signature stays airy and a general sense of air is present. The overall signature feels quite spacious, as well as the stage and the space between the instruments. The midrange has a linear tonality and features a note-weight that is rather on the lighter side of the scale. However, the body of instruments and the body of vocals do not feel particularly thin and insufficient. The vocals feel breathy with plenty of details and they are quite engaging to listen to. The resolution and detail-retrieval are really good here, you can hear and track micro-details and individual instruments on the stage, easily. The slightly recessed midrange does not stick out at all, it feels quite alright, following the rest of the spectrum effortlessly. The Variations have a slightly elevated upper midrange with a crisper tone.
The treble range of the Variations follow the bass’ line, they are a little more pronounced compared to the lower midrange. The EST drivers do a great job of reproducing detailed, articulate, and clean treble. The resolution and detail level are certainly impressive and the extension is quite satisfactory. The dispersion of extended highs of the Variations helps stereo imaging and enhances the perception of stage height and width.
The Variations IEM is a capable monitor when it comes to technical performance. Despite being a tribrid, different types of drivers work in total harmony without any coherency issues. The transition between ranges is smooth and doesn’t feel disjointed. Moondrop states that they worked on this part quite extensively and managed to successfully create a proper sound field image with 3 different types of drivers. PRAT-wise it is impressive and the soundstage is definitely the strong suit of the Variations. The instruments have accurate positioning with ample space between them and you can easily track individual instruments on the stage. The Variations IEM also handles congestion quite well thanks to its well-tuned signature and technical prowess.
vs. Mangird Xenns UP
Compared to Xenns Up, the Variations IEM feels airier and slightly more effortless. The Xenns’ midrange feels slightly more bodied whereas the Variations feel linear in comparison. The clear advantage of the Variations over the Xenns is its imaging performance. The wide and deep stage of the Variations surpasses Xenns’ relatively more intimate stage projection. The transients of the Variations are sharper and more distinct, and the extension of the treble section is better. However, the Variations may not play well with sources that feature sharper upper midrange and treble sections. Both of the IEMs have differences in the lower end of the spectrum. The Variations offer a fuller, more bodied, and more impactful bass range whereas the Xenns offer agile, slightly less bodied bass with good impact. The reason for the significant difference is the quantity of bass. The PRaT-wise both of the units are impressive, however, the Xenns perform slightly ahead of the Variations thanks to the faster low-end response and slightly less crisp upper midsection. Both of the units are great tribrids and depending on your taste in bass, you could be happy with either. Just know that the Xenns Up costs 180 bucks more than the Variations.
vs. Tanchjim Darling
The Darling sounds sweeter and fuller in comparison. Let’s start with the presentation differences. Firstly, the Darling has a thicker note weight, therefore, it has more emotional, sweeter tonality compared to the Variations. Its treble is tamed and slightly rolled-off compared to the Variations’. The Variations presentation feels more breathy, more spacious and its imaging feels more precise and wide whereas the Darling feels a little intimate and compressed in a direct comparison. The Darling is more forgiving towards badly mastered tracks and hides the imperfections a little better. The technical ability of the Variations feels more solid, it handles congestion much better than the Darling thanks to a more spacious presentation and impressive PRaT. The Variations cost about $80 more but I think the cost difference is easily understandable by looking at the performance difference.
As you know, I reviewed the Moondrop Kato a while back and now I experienced their Variations tribrid IEM and I must say that I am impressed. I am impressed by their attention to detail, I am impressed by the material quality and material selection, I am impressed by the sound quality. I like being in this hobby because every passing day we see the limits of audio being pushed further away with the help of great minds and of course, technology. The Variations IEM sounds fun and engaging with plenty of details and it is made of high-quality materials. The included cable is impressive with its interchangeable plug system and the fit, form, and factor of the IEMs are brilliant. I honestly can’t wait to see what’s next from Moondrop as they raised the bar in my head by a good margin. I recommend you to try the Variations if you are shopping for a tribrid that has a solid performance.
Page 1: Intro, Moondrop, Variations, Packaging & Accessories, Design, Fit & Build Quality
Page 2: Sound Quality, Low, Mid, High, Technical Performance, Comparison, Last Words