The cheapest way to get Monarch Mk2 tuning
Umm…nice ear tips?
Cons: Flat sounding across the board
Terrible non-detachable cable
The Zero exists
Was good value for a few months
Up for review today is Moondrop’s cheap-o IEM. At $18 off Amazon, there are not a whole lot of expectations for this IEM set. I picked these up as part of the under $30 IEM shootout with the 7Hz Salnotes Zero (Zero), KZ x HBB DQ6S (DQ6S), and the TRUTHEAR HOLA (Hola.) Moondrop is of course known for the Aria and the Blessing 2 in addition to the Variations, etc. Moondrop has had some major hits on its hands over the years, and the Chu gets a lot of attention, especially at this price. The Chu has 10mm Nano-titanium crystal PVD coating composite diaphragms – whatever that means (titanium at this price?) So, the real question is: how does it sound? If you don’t feel like reading the whole review below: pretty good, but there are some serious caveats.
Build Quality / Comfort:
Build quality…yeah…this is an $18 IEM set. I have to keep reminding myself this isn’t a $2,400 Vision Ears VE8. So, what kind of build quality does $18 buy you? A plastic body, the world’s worst permanently attached cable, nice ear tips, and that’s it. Oh, and a waifu if that’s your thing (why?) The IEM shells feel like decent quality for the price, and really, you’re not expecting a whole lot from these right?
Comfort-wise, the Chu is very comfortable. It is extremely lightweight and the smallest IEM I’ve ever encountered. The cable sucks, it just really does. There are not even hooks built into it, you just kind of hang the cable over your ears and stick the chu in there. It’s weird, and I’m not used to it. $2 more would have bought an ear hook cable – just saying. Heck, the $29 DQ6S has a silver-plated copper cable, and the Zero has a really nice cable for only $23. So…yeah…put a detachable cable with ear hooks on here Moondrop. Like…why? The ear tips are more comfortable and of higher quality than the Zero, so that’s a win for Moondrop, but the DQ6S has even better tips. The Chu is an enigma – it could be better for an extra $5 – it SHOULD be better for an extra $5. Instead, I’m stuck with 3.5mm for the under $30 shootout while every other IEM can use a 4.4mm balanced jack. OK.
Sound / Source / Comparisons:
Check out the squig.link frequency chart below. It’s pretty crazy how close the Zero and the Chu are. Yet, for $5 more, the Zero has nicer accessories, a removable cable, and better sound. $5. That’s all that separates these almost identical IEMs. The only difference we really see between these two is that the Chu has less sub-bass and more recessed highs at 10k (which hardly matters.) Who stole who’s tuning here? (The Zero stole the Chu’s if you care.) Once again, this is an example of companies attempting to copy the Thieaudio Monarch Mk2’s (MMk2) tuning, but for much cheaper.
I am powering these off my Shanling M3 Ultra (M3U) at 36/100 on the volume. The Chu are relatively easy to drive, though they would be even easier to drive if they had the ability to connect a balanced cable. They sit at the exact same volume level as the Zero. These require some power to sound at their best – lower levels of power make them sound flat and 1-dimensional.
I don’t like breaking down headphones solely by frequency range since every song has bass, mids, and highs (and I can’t tell the difference between vocals at 1900 Hz and 2100 Hz.) So, I will start with bass-heavy songs, and break down each song by how all the pieces are presented. You can find my Tidal test tracks playlist in my signature if you want to compare them to your headphones. The first song I will be using to test is a bass-heavy song – David Guetta’s “I’m Good (Blue).” I’m using this song because some of the other songs I tested these with sounded a bit hollow and flat in the bass, but “I’m Good” does a great job as a recording of presenting all of the frequencies. The bass…is flat, and not in a good way. There is almost no thump or impact. It’s just really bad as the frequency chart above shows. There is no rumble in the sub-bass, barely any kick to the mid-bass, and just a terrible bass representation. The mids sound pretty good here, with the vocals coming through clearly, though the synths sound subdued and everything sounds flat and 2D. This is NOT the Chu’s song at all. I don’t even want to listen to another bass-heavy song because this one is represented so poorly.
Thousand Foot Krutch’s “I See Red” come in OK on the Chu. The vocals feel a little thin, and the guitars are OK as well. The bass drums sound very flat in this song as well. As someone who is not a basshead, these IEMs are still really disappointing in the bass department (get the DQ6S for that.) The mids are decent, but you can do better with the Zero. Once again, I don’t want to listen to this anymore.
Panic! At The Disco’s “High Hopes” finally has some good news for the Chu – no sibilant “S” sound. The lows are still missing and the mids still sound flat, which is funny because they’re the same tuning as the MMk2. But hey, non-sibilant highs in an $18 IEM is pretty surprising. Michelle McLaughlin’s “Across the Burren” comes in sharply and it does not sound good at all – please don’t make me listen to these anymore.
This is the worst IEM I’ve heard – ever, even ignoring the price. Get the Zero if you want MMk2 tuning at a really low price – it’s $5 more and much better.
These are not good. You can do better, skip a Starbucks run, avoid Mcdonalds for a week, sell your kidney – whatever. Don’t buy these – but the Zero. It has the same tuning, but it’s just better across the board. It has better accessories and better sound and no waifu (maybe you’re paying for the waifu?) If all you have is $18 and you really need a set of IEMs and you don’t see an extra $5 coming in anytime in the future, then the Chu makes sense. With the Zero in the wild though, there’s no reason to get the Chu. If you want bass, definitely don’t get the Chu, get the DQ6S. The full comparison will be in the shootout in a week or two, I expect the HOLA will be better also, but only time will tell.
|Headphone Scoring – Each category can be split into quarter points:|
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