In this review, I’m checking out the Moondrop Nekocake TWS earbuds. Nekocake has active noise cancellation (ANC) and 5 different EQ preset modes. It retails for $43.
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.
- Bluetooth version: 5.0
- Protocol supported: A2DP/AVRCP/HFP/HSP/SBC/AAC
- IPX4 water resistance
- Impedance: 32±15%Ω@1kHz
- Charging time: About 1 hour
- Charging time of charging case: About 1.5 hours
- Battery life: About 4 hours
- Battery life with charging case: About 12 hours
- Price $43
Package and Accessories
The Nekocake comes in a small black box with a white cardboard sleeve. On the front of the sleeve, there’s a waifu illustration and on the back, there’s a list of specs and a frequency response graph. Here’s what you get inside the box:
- Moondrop Nekocake TWS earbuds
- Charging case
- USB Type-C charging cable
- 4x pairs of silicone eartips
- User manual and warranty card
Nekocake adopts a stem design for its earbuds which is similar to the AirPods Pro or Astrotec S70. The earbuds are a subtle off-white colour with a matte finish. A rounded bud occupies the top of the stem in a familiar fashion that we’ve all seen before. But Nekocake stands out from the crowd via its subtle touches, such as the anime-style cat logo and Moondrop text on the stems.
As expected from the tried and true form factor, Nekocake is comfortable in my ears. Even though the largest of the stock eartips are a tad too small for me, the shape of the buds themselves actually helps in providing a pretty good overall seal.
The charging case is the same colour as the earbuds and has a Manga-esque pattern on top of the lid. It’s exactly the same shape as the Moondrop Sparks‘ case, albeit a little smaller. It sports the same cat head logo at the bottom front, just under the single LED battery/charging indicator. Located on the bottom of the case is the USB Type-C charging port. On the back of the case is a small button that shows the battery status when pressed or resets the earbuds with a long press.
As if the design didn’t make the earbuds unique enough already, Nekocake also sports cute unique voice prompts voiced by MITSUKI YUKI (a virtual anchor). The voice prompts tell you when you’ve enabled or disabled ANC and connected to your source.
Controls and Bluetooth Connection
Nekocake has a fairly standard control scheme. I found the touch controls to be responsive and didn’t experience accidental touches like what happens with some other TWS earbuds. Here are the available controls:
- Tap L or R to play/pause music
- Hold L or R to switch ANC on or off
- Double-tap R to skip a song
- Double-tap L for last song
- Triple-tap L or R to activate the voice assistant
These controls can be customized with the Moondrop Link app and can be mapped to your preference. However, there is no option for volume control via the touch controls.
As far as Bluetooth connectivity goes, I found the earbuds to pair quickly and easily. During my testing, I didn’t experience any cutouts or stuttering.
Calls, Video and Gaming Performance
Call quality on the Nekocake earbuds is somewhat disappointing. Voices sound thin and nasally. Furthermore, your voice sounds compressed and full of artefacts. You can get through calls just fine but if you regularly make calls using your TWS earbuds, you may want to look at some alternative options.
Games and videos have a slight sync delay in the sound and don’t line up exactly with what you’re looking at on the screen. It’s barely noticeable when watching YouTube on my iPhone but is more discernable during past-paced games.
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)
Nekocake has 2 ANC modes: On and Off. It doesn’t have an ambient mode to let you better hear your surroundings. As far as the ANC quality goes, quite frankly, it’s not very effective. It cuts out a little external noise but I can still easily hear my air conditioner in the background. Changing to some of my own larger eartips improved the effectiveness of the ANC but it’s still only mildly potent.
If there’s one area where the Moondrop Nekocake really stands out, it’s in its audio quality. I’d say this is one of the best sounding TWS I’ve heard under $50. The 13mm dynamic driver produces a clear, balanced sound where the bass, midrange and treble all play equal roles to deliver a high fidelity experience.
One advantage of having such a large driver is the effortless nature of its meaty bass response. Nekocake’s low frequencies are punchy and authoritative in both the mid-bass and sub-bass. The bass is powerful but not overpowering. It lends warmth and rhythm to the sound without overbearing it.
Nekocakes midrange is forward and slightly on the warmer side of neutral. Male and female vocals have good body and density with female vocals having slightly more presence and power. There’s good spacing in the mids, giving ample space for instruments without congestion.
Electric guitars have some bite and instruments like violins have a nice mix of body and strings. The clarity is good without being bright and delivers a smooth but detailed sound. Firing up Lucid Planet’s “Requiem”, the electric guitars in the later parts of the song have some crunch but still sound smooth. The vocals sound rich yet textured and have good note density.
The treble is crisp but smooth. There’s no sibilance or stridency in the high frequencies. Hi-hats and cymbals sound clear and airy but are slightly rounded for smoothness. Those who are sensitive to bright treble have nothing to fear from Nekocake, but those looking for a precise and forward treble will need to look elsewhere.
Stereo imaging is somewhat vague due to the inherent warmth and a fairly narrow soundstage but is perfectly acceptable for something in this price range. Instrument separation is fairly good and can be improved slightly using the EQ presets. Oh, I haven’t mentioned those yet? Let’s dive in.
Most of my testing was done using the Balanced EQ which, to my ears, sounds as I have described it above. There are 4 additional presets to choose from as well.
Moondrop Classic takes out some of the bass and lower midrange. As a result, the midrange becomes clearer and the treble extension is slightly improved. The upper midrange and female vocals become less pronounced but have added clarity.
X’ Dynamic elevates the bass significantly. It also brings the lower midrange forward. The result is a warmer, thicker sound. In this mode, there’s a noticeable loss of clarity and spacing in the sound and the midrange gets easily congested.
Nobass Despite the name this preset doesn’t really reduce the level of bass much. While the mid-bass is slightly attenuated, the sub-bass remains relatively unaltered. It sounds similar to the Balanced filter but with more recessed mids and muted treble.
Wennebostel brings the midrange forward. The lower mids gain extra body and weight, while the upper midrange is also boosted. The result is a thicker yet shoutier sound with added congestion and reduction in the soundstage size.
Astrotec S70 ($49)
The Astrotec S70 is a single dynamic driver TWS earbud with ANC. It has a similar design to the Nekocake but comes with transparent housings. S70 has a darker tonality with a thicker midrange. It sounds somewhat like Nekocake’s Nobass EQ preset, albeit with more mid-bass warmth.
S70 has less midrange clarity and inferior instrument separation compared to Nekocake. This is largely a result of S70’s softened and laid back lower treble, which, combined with an elevated mid-bass creates a thick, warm and congested sound.
Spacing is reduced on the S70 as there’s an abundance of warm air permeating its soundstage. In comparison, Nekocake sounds open and airy with a much improved overall resolution.
Moondrop has had a good run with its VDSF house sound and is sticking with it, at least for now. The Moondrop Nekocake falls a bit short on call quality, ANC and battery performance. But it’s one of the most balanced and best-sounding TWS you’ll find for under $50.