There has been a real resurgence in single dynamic driver (DD) earphones recently and for good reason. Single DD IEMs tend to have a very cohesive sound and a natural timbre (if tuned correctly) compared to multi-driver hybrids. In this review, I’m checking out the Moondrop Starfield, which has a single Carbon Nanotube (CNT) dynamic driver and comes in a stylish metal housing. Of course, all this means little if the earphones don’t sound any good. So how do they sound? Let’s find out.
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Moondrop Starfield Review
Great looking earphones
Good build quality and comfort
Detailed, balanced sound
Value for money
Cable is prone to tangling
Durability of paint is questionable
Package and Accessories
I received an early review unit without any packaging so can’t complete this section. If you want to see what’s in the package, I’m sure a little digging around online will yield results.
Build Quality and Design
At the heart of the Moondrop Starfield is a single 10mm Carbon Nanotube (CNT) driver, enclosed in a metal housing. The shells are a metallic dark blue colour with a star-like sparkling finish. Faceted faceplates, similar to the ones on the KXXS are simple but attractive ( In fact, the housings are identical in shape and size to the KXXS). The left earpiece has a gold image of a star on the faceplate while the right side has ‘Starfield’ printed on it.
There are two vents on the housings, one near the base of the nozzle and another towards the rear of the inner shell. One complaint I had with the KXXS was the lack of a ridge on the nozzles and sadly it’s the same with the Starfield too. This isn’t really an issue except with some third-party tips that have a larger or looser core which might come loose. The 2-pin sockets are recessed for increased stability and security.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
Starfield’s shells have a smooth finish all over and at least for my ears, are extremely comfortable. I’ve had them in my ears for hours at a time and never felt any discomfort whatsoever.
Sound isolation is above average. With these in your ears, you won’t hear most things going on around you. These are ideal for commuting, noisy public transport and just about anywhere.
Starfield comes with a 24AWG Litz structure 4N purity OFC cable. It’s a 4-wire braided style cable in a rich blue that matches the colour of the earphones. At the top are transparent plastic 2-pin housings and flexible, heat-shrink ear guides.
The Y-split is a black aluminium disc with the Moondrop logo printed on one side. The cable terminates in a right-angled 3.5mm plug. Although it looks great and handles well, the cable is prone to tangling and lacks a chin slider.
In terms of general presentation, Moondrop hasn’t strayed far from their Harman-ish house sound. In fact, the Starfield sounds remarkably similar to the Moondrop KXXS (more on this later).
It has a balanced signature with the bass, mids and treble all playing together fairly evenly. The tonality is a touch on the warm side with a slight emphasis on the bass and upper midrange. Clarity is good, as is the detail retrieval and overall resolution.
Although Starfield’s bass is moderate in level, it still carries authority and impact. Leading edges are well-defined and there is good texture throughout with underlying warmth. The transition from sub-bass to mid-bass is very linear, giving the Starfield plenty of low-end grunt and at the same time letting it fall off early enough in the lower mids to keep them clean and uncongested.
Bass extension is impressive and sub-bass notes can reach low, creating a satisfying rumble in my dainty ears. Note size and decay are done really well, as the CNT driver is able to deliver significant weight without any signs of bloat.
In Whale Fall’s “The Madrean” there is a bass guitar with really long, lingering notes, plus a thick, heavy kick drum. The Starfield reproduces the bass in all its thick glory but the midrange instruments are still clearly audible and lift out clearly from the bass.
Starfield’s midrange is clear and articulated. The amount of warmth carried over from the bass is right in the Goldilocks zone, giving the mids a natural density without any significant bass bleed. Midrange note size feels just right too: lean enough to be nimble yet full enough to sound musical.
Instrument and vocal timbre are excellent, as is the instrument separation and clarity. Vocals stand out clearly from the music despite having a neutral stage position. They’re not overly silky or rich but are nicely detailed, textured and emotive.
The lower treble sits roughly in line with the bass before dipping and evening out until around 9kHz. After that, there’s a dip until about 14kHz, where it peaks and falls off again. This is an uncommon treble tuning that is seen more often in high-end IEMs but it’s executed masterfully by the Starfield.
The lower treble accent adds clarity to the midrange and presence to vocals and definition to percussion. It then deftly avoids any sibilance or overt brightness but comes back at 14hKz to add sparkle and air.
Casting the audiophile jargon aside, the Starfield’s treble is crisp, sweet and airy. It’s like gazing up at a starry night sky, where the stars cheerfully sparkle but are never glaring or fatiguing.
The soundstage is above average in size and laced with airiness. It is slightly elongated, so it has a bit more depth than width. Despite the fullness of the bass, the treble extension and airiness make the stage feel open and spacious. The slightly diffuse notes mean that imaging is not pinpoint precise but it’s certainly not bad and the instrument separation is choice.
Moondrop KXXS ($189)
The KXXS has identical housings in terms of size and shape. However, it has a Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) driver compared to the Carbon Nanotube (CNT) driver in the Starfield. Both are tuned almost identically but the Starfield’s CNT driver is slightly more efficient.
When it comes to sound, the two are very similar with the KXXS just having a very slight edge in treble extension and detail retrieval. It sounds a tiny bit smoother too, which could be a good or bad thing depending on your preferences; for some, the small amount of extra contrast with the Starfield might make it sound more exciting.
I’m surprised Moondrop tuned these so closely. The difference in sound is only very slight but the Starfield comes in at around $80 less and that’s a big chunk of cash you could save. My genuine recommendation would be to go for the Starfield because unless you listen to them side by side with the KXXS, you probably would not hear the difference.
Tin Hifi T4
What’s interesting here is that the T4 (review here) is selling right now on AliExpress for between $87 and $99, even though the MSRP was originally stated as $109. It makes me wonder what the reason is.
Controversy and conspiracy theories aside, the T4 bass is closer to neutral with similar low-frequency extension. While on the graph, the two look fairly close in the upper midrange and lower treble, you have to keep in mind the T4 also has less bass to balance things out. The result is the T4 can get a bit glaring in the higher frequencies and yes, it does improve the detail a bit, it can also be fatiguing, depending on your personal preferences.
The other key difference is the upper treble, where the T4 is less pronounced. This gives the Starfield an edge in airiness and sparkle, while the T4’s lower treble brightness sometimes results in some sibilance and harshness. In addition, T4’s soundstage feels smaller and less open.
TFZ No.3 ($109)
Like every other model from TFZ, the No.3 (review here) is extremely efficient and gets extremely loud. It has a lot more bass presence than the Starfield, bordering on basshead territory. It is a nice, clean bass though with good definition and slam.
It is more recessed in the midrange but comes with extreme clarity that few other earphones in its class can match. Instrument separation and the resolution in the midrange is excellent, with leaner, denser notes than the Starfield.
The No.3 also has more lower-treble presence, making it more V-shaped than the Starfield. However, the upper treble falls off quite severely which leaves it with a fairly small, cramped soundstage.
My personal preference leans towards the Starfield but for those who crave extreme detail and bone-shattering bass, the No.3 is a great option.
This one is a no-brainer. You’re basically getting all the performance of the KXXS for a margin of the price and in a (subjectively) more attractive housing. The Moondrop Starfield is an earphone that simply outperforms the competition at this price point.
The build quality is outstanding, as is the fit and comfort (at least for my ears). But it’s the sound that really sets this one apart. Moondrop’s Starfield is musical, detailed and airy. It has strong technical performance and a sound signature that’s engaging yet silky smooth.
If you’re shopping for a $100 earphone, you would be crazy to overlook these. It’s only January, yet I’ve already found a second new addition to my “Best earphones” list. Bring it on 2020!
Check the latest price for the Starfield on HiFiGo.