Moondrop Kato Reviews & Discussion

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by shotgunshane, Sep 28, 2021.

  1. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    Kato in hand/ears. As SS has intimated, these are an easy recommendation at 190. They are really well tuned, and from memory have better staging and treble (smoother, well extended) than other DD IEMs I've heard. I feel they're a little smooth/vailed in the mids, and lack the details there of the FDX1 and the texture/timbre of the 3DT. Bass is somewhere between those two - not quite as limp/one note as the FDX1 and not quite as taught, impactful and textured as the 3DT.

    But at 190 again they're a really easy recommendation. I can't imagine them offending or boring many listeners, regardless of preferred genre.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 31, 2021
  2. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Moondrop Kato Review

    [​IMG]

    Gear
    iPod Toch 7th Gen -> iFI Nano BL -> regular headphone out -> Kato

    Build
    These are some of the prettiest iems I’ve ever seen. Pure, simple shape, with plain polished metal. They look really nice and they’re pretty small and so don’t stick out or draw too much attention.

    The cable feels fine though it’s ab it stiff. I can’t help but wonder how these would sound with a nice occ copper cable. It might fix many of the subtle issues pointed out below. I don’t think silver is a good match for these iems.

    Fit
    The nozzles are the correct size to fit most tips properly. But they fit shallow, so my go to tips are a bit loose. I had to use some monster 15mm silicone tips (only tips on the market that large) to get a good seal. But once I used these tips, they fit well.

    [​IMG]

    They come with two nozzles for different tunings which I forgot about when I reviewed them. So I added a bit at the end about the brass nozzle.

    SILVER NOZZLE

    Sound in Brief
    This is one of those very rare headphones of any kind that just sounds right. They sound very normal. Almost no sins of commission and sins of omission are mostly resolving ability - masking fine details. They’re pretty neutral in the true sense (not bright, bass lite neutral). Very balanced. Nothing sticks out in any part of the FR. They have no resonances or etch (see next sentence) or peaks of any kind. If I’m nit picking, I hear a bit of etch in vocals, but it’s very subtle. And the treble is very slightly elevated but you don’t hear it unless you’re listening to a well known test track. It’s not peaky, just slightly elevated. Vocals are also a bit recessed, but equal in presence to most other headphones like the HD650. Not an issue for most people.

    They’re not very resolving. My Solaris SE (abalone inlay) is much much more resolving and better in every way and also very neutral even straight out of an iPod. But these are 190$ and you don’t need tons of resolution to enjoy music. For me, bothersome artifacts (sons of commission) get in the way of musical enjoyment. These iems get out of the way, it’s very easy to just enjoy music with them.

    Treble
    Probably the weakest part of this iem. It’s a tiny bit elevated, and kind of hard sounding. But this is using my brutal treble test track. With other music, I don’t hear a treble emphasis, it usually just sounds very natural and neutral. Extension seems like it could be better but it’s plenty good enough. Timbre is a little off like I said, it’s a bit hard sounding but this is due to the elevation I believe. Note: this is very subtle and nit picky. Not something for most people to worry about at all. Like I said, with non treble test tracks, the treble sounds natural and neutral.

    Midrange
    Good tonality for the most part. Vocals are a bit back in the mix but only slightly. It’s in the realm of being neutral, which is why I would call it back in the mix and not recessed. There are tons of headphones that have the same vocal presence and are not known for having recessed vocals. But for example, Bill Callahan’s voice is not as full, rich and upfront as it should be. I would say there’s a bit of a haze over vocals as well.

    There can also sometimes be an etched tone to the vocals. Just slightly sharp sounding, but never harsh in the slightest. Just not quite natural. The slightly back in the mix presentation helps to hide it and make it so that it’s not bothersome.

    I would say vocals are good and pretty normal sousing but not great.

    Bass
    Tight, punchy, layered, but not TOTL in these respects, but very good, just a bit bass light. Generally very well balanced. Extension all the way down with no flabbiness or farty-ness at all. Nicely coherent with the rest of the spectrum. No bleed into the midrange. I wish there was just a bit more bass quantity. But with most music, it is perfectly fine.

    BRASS NOZZLE

    I forgot about the two nozzles when I wrote the above, so I’m going to have to be a bit brief and summarize the differences.

    The brass nozzle is definitely the way to go with the Kato. I don’t know why they come with the silver one, or why it even exists. The brass nozzle fixes the slight treble emphasis so that it is neutral, brings the midrange up, reduces but doesn’t eliminate the slight etch, and brings the bass up to neutral. The slight tinny quality to the sound is greatly reduced but not eliminated. They sound really good with the brass nozzle. I would now call these neutral with no caveats. Very balanced. My only complaint is that slight etch in the vocals and the slight tinny tone, but it’s very minor and better with the brass nozzle. Bass articulation still isn’t TOTL but it’s good enough especially for the price.

    I understand wanting to give people different tunings, but the silver nozzle doesn't just change the FR, it creates tonality issues and shouldn’t even exist.

    Soundstage with both nozzles
    Pretty good. No stuck in your head feeling. I’d say it’s above average or an iem.

    Final Thoughts with SILVER NOZZLE
    As you can see, every part of the spectrum has some nit picky issues, but the whole of this headphone adds up to a really nicely balanced iem with pretty good tonality. Normal is the word I keep coming back to. I think given the lack of resolution and the minor issues, they are worth the price. They’re not giant killers. Most iems just really suck so these stand out. Headphones should be cheaper by having sins of omission, not sins of commission, which is the opposite path the headphone market has taken. You should be paying more for less omission, not fewer issues. So these are nice in that way.

    Final Thoughts with BRASS NOZZLE
    I would recommend these if you’re on a budget and want a balanced, neutral iem that gets out of the way and let’s you just listen to music. I don’t recommend these for critical listeners as they’re just not resolving or refined enough.

    But, if you’re super sensitive to BA timbre, these seem like the most well controlled, balanced and sin of commission free DD iems on the market at any price.

    I’m not sure how easily I could live with them after using the CA Solaris for a year and a half. The Solaris is so much better in every way and has hardly any BA timbre to my ears. The lack of resolution from this driver makes them sound a bit dull, which gets more annoying the longer I listen.

    But in the landscape of iems and for the price, these stand out, and they’re DD which will appeal to a lot of people.

    I think I prefer the Drop EDC3 for the better resolution but then they have BA timbre. Not sure which would win in a comparison it would probably come down to what you’re more sensitive to - lack of resolution or BA timbre.
     
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  3. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    I followed your advice and idea to go with the bronze nozzles and a pure copper cable. Some combination of those two changes and burn in (I'm about 10 hours in) have improved the timbre. The hardness or slight etch is gone and and replaced by a more organic or natural sound. The slight treble emphasis is gone and the bass is phatter. I can't be bothered to see how much is nozzle, cable or burn in but it is noticeable. If anyone does want to go down the copper cable route, I can vouch for the good fit with the Kato and solid ergonomics of this affordable model.
     
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  4. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    I’m not positive this cable would fit but the connectors look exactly the same. It’s the best iem cable I’ve heard. OCC copper and a bit thick but super flexible so the thickness doesn’t matter. It’s so flexible it literally flops around and won’t hold its own shape. It sounds as good as 400$ cables from the big boy cable makers (I’ve tried it on Audeze headphones and compared).

    But it’s 45$ for 1.2m

    https://a.aliexpress.com/_mKBsUfg

    You might want to request ear hook to make sure they put one on.

    I just got a couple for my Solaris and it fixed so many issues with them I hardly have to eq them anymore.
     
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  5. RestoredSparda

    RestoredSparda Acquaintance

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  6. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    if the cable I mentioned fits, it’s a much much nicer cable. Way more flexible. And cheaper and probably sounds better but I’m not sure it fits…
     
  7. econaut

    econaut Facebook Friend

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    My only IEM reference is the OG Andromeda. Can you elaborate on bass quantity comparing the two (with the respective nozzles if necessary)?

    Many thanks in advance.
     
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  8. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    I don't have enough experience with the og Andromeda unfortunately. But with the brass nozzle, it is probably just a bit less bass quantity than the Andromeda 2020, but better quality. Less miidbass mostly. The Andromeda 2020 is kind of bassy though.

    It's pretty neutral. I'd say HD650 level but more linear and with better extension. Less mid bass.

    I'd be willing to bet with the brass nozzle the bass quantity would be about the same as the og Andromeda but that's a lot fo speculation.

    If you need to know for sure before buying and you're in the US, sign up for the loaner tour! :)
     
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  9. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    What tips are people rolling with? I've had most success fit and SQ wise with the Symbio W Peels.
     
  10. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Tonight I tried the Azla Sedna Earfit light. Since these run big and are on the longer side, they helped immensely with the really shallow fit. Too bad the stock tips don’t come bigger sized because they are super comfy.
     
  11. scapeinator1

    scapeinator1 Once You Go Black You'll Never Go Back

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    I’m not sure I have much to add, but I do largely agree with shotgunshane’s and rhythmdevil’s assessments on the Kato.

    I used the largest stock tips and listened with my RME-ADI2 DAC into a Jot 1. The stock tips fit me fine, but YMMV.

    The overarching feeling I have about the Kato is that the value for money here is impressive. I didn’t really think there was anything “wrong” about the Kato. I would recommend these if this is your price range, and you want a DD.

    My biggest complaint, like rhythmdevil’s noted, is the rough treble texture. The treble here is definitely toned down compared to the blessing 2 dusk I heard a few months ago, which is great. And it isn’t fatiguing though it sits on the upper limit of treble for my personal preferences (my ears are particularly treble sensitive with IEMs for whatever reason). The issue is with the quality of the treble.

    As a broader point, I think this is one of the key things that is holding back a lot of these “budget” DD IEMs. I’m specifically thinking of the ones that I am very familiar with: ER2XR, FDX1, Starfields. I’ve seen a lot of words used to describe this treble issue: hard, rough, splashy, sibilant, etc. A lot of these IEMs including the Kato and Aria have clear technical limitations in their treble resolution and texture. This is why I still prefer my multi-BA IEMS (IERM7 + Andro S) despite their BA timbre. The BA IEMs I own have faster and smoother treble, which gives them more “lifelike” presentation. Even though the FDX1 can achieve uncannily realistic sound with proper timbre for things like isolated piano notes, it is unfortunately marred by its treble roughness as soon as drums and vocals come into the picture.

    I would argue that the Kato has not yet overcome this technical hurdle. Certain vocal syllables that have “S” sounds or more percussive syllables are somewhat unnaturally emphasized. Cymbals/hi-hats sound a bit too splashy and rough. These nitpicks are most apparent on “busier sounding music” like 2009 Paramore or “Smells like Teen Spirit”.

    Because the Kato sounds a bit more treble forward than the Starfields, I find that this can somewhat interfere with my enjoyment of vocals. The Starfields had treble limitations for sure, but the treble took a backseat in those and the focus of those IEMs was always bass and low mids. The Kato definitely shifts your attention to upper mids/treble, and in so doing, highlights weakest part of the IEM. The “body” of vocals sound great but the Kato emphasizes vocal details in a way that doesn’t do the Kato any favors. I find that Adele’s music is more enjoyable on the Starfields despite the fact that that the Kato is obviously technically superior. At the end of the day, I would prefer a rolled off or shelved down treble if it doesn’t meet a certain performance threshold. That being said, the Kato gives vocals a more energetic, forward, and somewhat intimate presentation compared to the vocal-recessed Starfields, which is nice.

    Everything else about the IEMs including the bass speed and quantity is great for the price, no negative comments.

    If you already have a high performance kilobuck IEM, I maybe wouldn’t pick these up. I still prefer the Starfields out of all the budget IEMs. If you are going for a more neutral sound though, I would pick these over the FDX1. The treble is not as distracting here as it is on the FDX1, and the bass is more enjoyable on the Kato. Another option to consider would be the Aria, which is similar sounding to the Kato, just a cheaper downgraded version (great value though).
     
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    Last edited: Nov 15, 2021
  12. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    @scapeinator1 The removable nozzles are empty and ripe for simple modding for someone like yourself who wants a little less treble presence. Perhaps some dried alcohol swab mods similar to the @james444 JVC FD01 mods or simply some cotton stuffed in there or even a filter sticker from other Moondrop models.
     
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  13. luisdent

    luisdent Facebook Friend

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    I'll have a video review soon, but my impressions match SGS almost perfectly. i find at times the bass treble balance to be slightly shifted to what i would describe as a gentle darkness. but this is often a result of a certain recording.

    i find illumination is more tonally balanced from top to bottom, and yet kato smooths out all the humpty bumps of the illum lower treble for me. making it less masked and more natural. but illums balance of bass mid treble allows the treble details to seem more apparent or forward. a simple shift of the upper half of the kato could restore the illum balance while maintaining the improvement in smootheness. i have verified this with eq.

    as it stands, this is probably on the whole my favorite iem. while illum and er4s can surpass it in some ways, they lack in some ways, particularly bass response shape and treble extension. kato shifts the tonal balance a bit towards low bass but fixes every other issue... very impressed...
     
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  14. econaut

    econaut Facebook Friend

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    How long did you guys give these time to burn in? Got mine and find them quite underwhelming if not disappointing, to be honest. I already expected too little bass quantity and slam/impact for me, especially because in the meantime after ordering I found out that I am probably a bass head. Never realized or admitted that, although I should have known. Or maybe it's a learning process.

    Anyway, my main gripe is actually with the mids. They don't sound at all as I expected from your reviews here. But maybe it's just to early to tell after a few hours? Kato manual says 10 - 100 hours for burn in.

    I am using the brass nozzles and if I can't expect a rather dramatic change in the mids, I'd sell them again immediately.
     
  15. JayC

    JayC Resident Crash Test Dummy

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    I just got mine, Matte finish. I didn't notice there was an "L" and "R" on the earpieces themselves. Ended up plugging the cable switched and spent a good 10 minutes wondering why the fit was so terrible.

    Once i got it right, the seal got better and so did the sound. Switched between these and the JVC and i see why @shotgunshane likes them so much. The staging is a definitely upgrade and i feel like the extension is better too. It could maybe do with a touch more bass (i don't know why i expected it to be more bassy than it is) but nothing too much to complain about. The only thing annoying me about the sound is that there's a bit of an etch or roughness on the kato that makes me still switch to the JVC. I also do prefer how guitars make me feel on the JVC.

    Smaller annoyance - i wish these cables were a bit more stealthy (for want of a better word). They probably go well with the shiny kato but with the matte i would have liked a darker and less shiny cable.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 27, 2021 at 7:04 AM

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