Moondrop Aria VS Dunu Titan S

On the docket for what is ostensibly a pair of impressions and reviews that became a budget shootout are two IEM that are, of course, within the same price bracket. Both being priced at what I’d generally consider to be an affordable $80 (USD) which puts them within the range of many people new to the audio hobby looking to escape the lower budget offerings. Or even within the range of being a true first-time blind buy.

The Moondrop Aria

And the Dunu Titan S

Some, if not many readers will likely be aware of the Moondrop Aria, if not by experience then at least by name. It is at the time of writing well proven, and considered one of the safest IEM purchases a newbie with little to no experience and expectations to go for as their first-time purchase (at least in regards to their first time venturing out of the ultra-budget ranges). Which isn’t to say it’s necessarily the best at anything it does, but rather to say that it does most things well enough, and most importantly, has a tuning that is in my experience hard to dislike.

The Dunu Titan S on the other hand is a far newer IEM on the market by comparison, though the name behind the Titan S is well known enough that when this IEM hit the scene people keeping up with the industry took note. Does it stand against the Aria as a true price-point competitor? Well… That’s what I’m here to weigh in on!

    THE SETUP

All my listening, both casual and analysis for the purpose of review is being done on a Samsung Galaxy Z-Flip 3, using an apple usb-c dongle DAC through USB Audio Player Pro. Bit Perfect mode, so no EQ during testing and comparison. I did for a brief period apply some EQ to the Titan S to bring it more in line with my tuning preferences (and to see how well it took EQ) but I’ll get into that in the Titan S section. For now, keeping it relatively simple.

    CONTENDER #1: MOONDROP ARIA

Given that it was first to the post, both to my own collection and to the market, it makes sense in my mind to give the rundown of my experiences and takeaways from my time with this IEM and how I feel about it beyond what makes it an easy sell for beginners or people who aren’t looking for anything too specific. To spoil one of my conclusions early, I still believe it’s a safe buy for beginners.

I’ll glance by some of the details unrelated to sound. The packaging is nice, if you aren’t a fan of the anime girl the sleeve can be removed to show a very (in my opinion) classy box design. Presentation in general is something Moondrop seems to nail in my experience. Most are probably aware of impressions on the stock cable that comes with the Aria. It’s functional, but it does tangle easily, the braid is loose, and it can be a touch microphonic.

Everything I’ve already written to describe the Moondrop Aria, both in the preceding paragraphs as well as the introduction of both IEM, is more or less all that can be said that is of most interest about the Aria. Which perhaps speaks more to the current state of the sub-$100 budget range than it does about the Aria itself, but while you can find better performance in some areas, especially bass presentation, it seems that this comes with not insignificant tradeoffs that can make or break the experience.

As noted in particular however, bass presentation. This is admittedly something I didn’t quite catch on to until after I got my hands on more IEM within and beyond Aria’s price range, but the bass on Aria has a very… Pillowy impact. I’d stop short of calling it bloated. It isn’t, at least not by my definition. But on tracks where the bass is meant to hit like a swift punch I find that things do smear a little. 

To its credit when it comes to midrange, and upper-mid presentation, I’ve no complaints beyond personal preference. The vocal presence is fine but nothing to write home about as somebody that prefers a more vocal-forward experience. There’s an adequate degree of separation between instruments. Stage isn’t something I prioritize so long as music doesn’t sound completely boxed in and smooshed together, and Aria achieves at least that much compared to some cheaper IEM I own.

I find Aria timbre to be… Passable. Neither egregiously metallic or plasticky, but Aria isn’t the most natural sounding IEM I’ve heard to date. One of my go-to songs for getting a sense of timbre presentation is “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac. A mix of strings, drums, vocals, and cymbals all providing their own textural contributions that has basically become the timbre benchmarker for me. The Aria passes the benchmark, but it does feel like something is lost in the experience. Perhaps the nature of how Aria handles decay? The smaller textural details sound a bit too sanded down for my liking.

 And as a side note, the Aria does seem to push things toward the center. Elements that should be more to the left or right sound not quite where they should be.

CONTENDER #2: DUNU TITAN S

To apparently make it a pattern of spoiling my conclusions section in the first paragraph of my IEM writeup, between the Aria and the Titan S, were they my only two choices, I would personally take the Titan S every time.

Does that mean the Titan S is superior? In a few ways. Does that make it the better sub-$100 recc? Not necessarily.

Before we get into that, the glance at stuff unrelated to sound. The packaging is perfectly adequate, the IEM also comes with a pretty neat little carry pouch, though it’s a bit too large for my liking it’s a nice extra. The Titan S come with a few different types of tips, so you can play around and figure out which suit you best. And, this being something I perhaps only take such note of because of my experience with the Aria cable, the cable that comes with the Titan S is actually quite nice. It feels nice, it’s tightly braided, doesn’t tangle terribly, wraps well, and doesn’t hold memory causing it to want to spring out in different directions when you just want it to sit neatly.

Now, to preface the reasons I like this IEM more, let’s talk a little about why it also frustrates me. Which in earnest entirely comes down to the tuning. In a word; Shout.

To pull back on that almost immediately, despite how it graphs in the frequency response chart sourced from Crinacle, I find it to not be nearly as egregious as it appears. Perhaps because the tuning is still quite smooth? No bizarre pinna nipple, no wonkiness between the 1k-5k range. It doesn’t sound wrong in any ways that bother me.

But despite that, these IEM are still on the brighter side, no doubt. Perhaps overly so for a not insignificant number of people. And with the tuning of the bass and midbass being significantly leaner than the Aria as an example of a tuning I quite enjoy, that makes it all the more present. While it may not be too much of an issue for me, for anyone more sensitive to the upper frequencies it could be an unpleasant experience that unfortunately holds me back from saying we should all be recommending this IEM to the inexperienced instead.

For the experienced, however? Or even (perhaps more likely) the more seasoned newbies ready to play with tuning that are willing to experiment with tools such as EQ? Let me tell you why I like this IEM so much.

Without EQ it already does a lot of things I like a lot better than the Aria. Bass for one, while the Titan S has less of it to be sure, the actual presentation, the impact sounds much less inaccurate and pillowy. While it won’t win any awards for slamming, it punches when it’s supposed to punch, and it rumbles when it’s supposed to rumble.

Timbre is also on the nicer, more pleasant side compared to the Aria. Decay sounds more natural. Vocals are nice and forward, strings are nice and plucky, cymbals and high-hats have a nice ring to them without ear-ringing sibilance, all in all the texture is not so smoothed down. Not only did it pass the benchmark, of all the sub-$100 IEM I’ve used the Titan S is the first (so far) to not make me feel overly saddened by how it handled these things.

EQ is not something I’ve often ever played around much with admittedly. But when I got my hands on the Titan S, I knew that for the sake of any who are willing to run these things with EQ to make the experience worth the price tag despite the daunting upper-mid tuning and lean bass, I had to look into it.

There isn’t really much I can say admittedly. This isn’t really my wheelhouse. I can’t provide any EQ profiles, I mostly played it by ear myself. But bringing it more in line with the Aria on a bass and midbass level, while taming the upper-mids a touch, didn’t cause any problems I could hear. It was enjoyable, the punch of the bass wasn’t lost, I didn’t experience any audible distortion.

Admittedly not the most detailed addition I know, but I still feel like taking note of how well I felt the Titan S responded to EQ was important to do in order to best explain my conclusions. Which…

    CONCLUSIONS

Sometimes loving something means embracing it warts and all, while recognizing that while you can see past its quirks and make a grand case for why it’s worthy of people’s time, that doesn’t make it the best choice for everyone.

And that’s ultimately what it came down to between these two IEM. I’ll be keeping the Titan S in my collection for a while. The Aria? They’ll more than likely end up in the hands of a friend before long.

If you know that the tuning of the Titan S won’t bother you, is actually appealing, or you’re willing to put money into something that needs just a little bit of polishing to shine, then it’s an easy recommendation for me, over the Aria no doubt.

But for people stepping into the hobby, who don’t have much in the way of experience to go off of beyond their pack-in earbuds and want a good, solid, community tested and approved baseline to spring forward from, I can’t fault Aria for remaining to the day of the publishing of this review the safer pick.

Thank you for reading. This is actually (or maybe obviously) the first proper review/impressions/comparison writeup I’ve ever done and while I know I have a lot to learn, I feel like I’m learning a lot just jumping in and giving this a shot! 

-Sidh

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started