Headphones provided by Shenzhen Audio for evaluation.
It’s no secret that currently Chinese brands are producing some of the best value products in the in-ear headphone (IEM) space. This segment is a growing trend that’s highly competitive, and Moondrop is a brand that’s known to be at the forefront of this wave.
But up until now, these well-regarded IEM-centric brands like Moondrop haven’t had product releases with the same acclaim or recognition of value in the over-ear headphone space. That’s not to say they haven’t tried, with brands like Thieaudio, Goldplanar, HarmonicDyne and others coming out with headphones that have been met with mixed reception, depending on where you look for information. I suppose you could consider HiFiMAN, a well-established over-ear headphone brand also based out of China to be the exception, but they’ve been making them for years and aren’t really part of this new wave in the IEM space.
The thing is, when you spend a lot of time evaluating the IEMs, you realize they’re all so much better than IEMs used to be with a lot of deep understanding of what goes into making amazing sounding products behind them. It makes it easy to see why there’s so much hype surrounding these products. Because of this… everyone paying attention has been waiting for them to make a truly successful jump to over-ear headphones. In my view, the Moondrop Venus is going to pave the way for this jump to happen.
Measurements done on an upright GRAS 43AG with RA0402 coupler and KB5000 pinna.
You can think of the Moondrop Venus as being mostly neutral with just a hint of brightness or upward tilt to it. In many ways the tuning is ‘HiFiMANesque’ in the sense that it’s got a good amount of ear gain, which is the region amplified by the physical ear, and why you see the frequency response rise up in the raw graph.
The bass is subdued, but well extended, which is a common trait of large diaphragm front-sealed open-back planar headphones like these ones. Driver mode issues or ‘wibbles’ in the mids you sometimes see are kept under control here - not something that’s necessarily going to be better or worse but it sure makes the graph look nice. Then you get a midrange and upper midrange tuning that’s very similar to what you get with the HiFiMAN Sundara (2020 version). That means… no shoutiness or glare to vocals! Hooray!
This is also aided by a slight emphasis to the treble. But this is also where the Venus gets into trouble a bit. I can only really describe the Venus’s treble as a bit ‘splashy’ or ‘zingy’, as it ends up having a bit much presence above 10khz. But once again, this isn’t all that dissimilar from many well-regarded HiFiMAN headphones.
For subjective remarks about intangibles, I find the Venus to also be… decent, that is to say, not the last word in incisiveness or technical capability, but certainly reasonable and competitive for the price point. I think a good comparable is actually somewhere around the Edition XS, just maybe not quite as wide for the staging. It’s also not a particularly intense or ‘slammy’ kind of sound like what you get with the Focals, but once again I’d point to the familiarity of the HiFiMAN models for these qualities. Not in all aspects, but in some.
Overall, I find the Venus to have a sound that’s very well done, and competitive for its price point. It has a highly competent tuning free from any major harmonic imbalances or weirdness to the sound signature, leading to a pleasant and natural - if a tad bright - presentation but one that most people should be able to get on board with.
- Build feels solid but it also looks kind of like a torture device… but in a kind of cool way?
- The suspension style headband is a bit stiff for the elastic, this may loosen over time.
- Comfort is overall acceptable but I think there’s still a bit of work to be done on ergonomics, as the strap piece pushes down a bit strongly on top of my head.
- Not overly difficult to drive, most headphone amps will be able to pair well with the Venus.
- 3.5mm connectors for the cable.
So the Moondrop Venus has some minor quirks and some may be put off by the slightly leaner presentation overall. But, I can confidently say that out of all of the recent releases to come from the Chinese manufacturer IEM-centric brands, this is the most solid one so far. To me, it’s also an indication that this wave has now arrived in over-ear headphones, with Moondrop setting the standard. Regardless of how the Venus will be thought of in the long-term, I have to imagine things are soon going to get very competitive in the over-ear headphone space because of it.