This is my first post on Hifiguides, although I have been reading the forum for quite some time.
The reason why I am creating this thread is to hopefully share some of my reviews with you all. There are already some great reviewers on this forum and I don’t feel that my reviews are in any way better that those posted by the reviewers that are already present, I am just of the belief that the more information shared regarding a product the better.
I have a small YouTube channel where I post my reviews in video format, but only in Spanish, and I also have a blog where all my reviews are posted in written form, both in English and Spanish.
To be honest, I am not someone who likes to just drop links to my reviews on forums and websites where I am a guest, therefore I post the full review with only links to the Spanish versions in case anyone is interested. I also refrain from posting direct purchase links, even though I do not use affiliate links, keeping these links limited to the reviews posted on my own site and channel only.
Anyhow, I don’t want to create a mile long first post, so if anyone wants to know more details about how I create my reviews, further information can be found here: About my reviews.
I know that I just said that I don’t like leaving just links to my reviews and will post the full review, I will certainly do so moving forwards, however, I feel that the best way to get to know a reviewer is by reading/watching their reviews to get a feel for what they think of items that we already know.
Therefore, and I promise that this is a one time thing, here is a list of my previous reviews. You can click on any of the reviews and it will take you to the version of the review hosted on www.achoreviews.com or www.youtube.com/achoreviews
Here is my review of the Moondrop Quarks. This review, as with all of my reviews, is also available in Spanish on my blog and on Youtube, links at the end of this post.
The Moondrop Quarks are a new set of budget IEMs from a brand that I am quite fond of. Coming in at around 10€, there is no doubt that these are aimed at the most economical segment of the market, easily inside the sub 50€ category that I like to mention on Acho Reviews and well below the price of the previous budget offerings I have reviewed from the brand, such as the SSR and SSP.
As is to be expected for 10€, the presentation is very basic and the contents are limited, but they are still presented in a way that is superior to many budget IEMs.
Arriving in a simple, small, black cardboard box (without any sign of anime), the contents consist of the IEMs with their fixed cable, a couple of sets of silicone tips in various sizes, a small card explaining how to wear them correctly, a small carrying bag and a small Moondrop branded velcro cable tie.
I really don’t think much more can be expected at this price!
Build and aesthetics…
My first impression of the Quarks was that they are tiny, I think they are the smallest set of IEMs I have ever had, even smaller than the Hifiman RE line and even the Sony MH755. This means that the IEMs fit easily inside the ear, making them comfortable even when lying on one’s side. I have mentioned before that I like to keep a set of small IEMs with me, especially when traveling, in case I want to watch movies or just listen to music while in bed. The Quarks definitely fit the bill.
The build quality is also quite respectable for such a small plastic shell. The shells are transparent, allowing the internals to be seen, and are even colour coded on the backs so that there is no need to search for tiny letters which are usually printed in black on black, almost impossible to read in low light. I like this and congratulate Moondrop on doing something that is so simple but so useful at the same time.
The cable, which is not detachable, is not the highest quality cable in the world, however I don’t really have too many complaints. I do prefer the cloth covered cable of the Hifiman RE series rather than the grey rubberized cable of the Quarks but the amount of tangles seems to be about equal.
I really don’t have any complaints with the build quality for the price and I find them very comfortable, therefore I am quite happy with what I have received for 10€ in this respect.
I have reviewed a few of these style IEMs recently, such as the Tanya, E500 and EM205 (and previously the RE400 and RE600s) of which my favourites have been the Tanya and the RE600s (IEMs that are very different in terms of the sound signature). However, all of these IEMs, while economical, have been priced much higher than the Quarks. I will mention some comparisons in a moment but first I want to focus on the Quarks themselves in my usual procedure.
Starting with subbass, using my usual test tracks, I do find that there is a roll off in the lowest registers which, to be honest, is to be expected in something this size. However, there is enough sub bass to get a bit of a rumble and little tickling of the eardrum when listening to tracks like “Chameleon”, especially if volume is increased over my usual listening levels. I guess that “Chameleon” is a little exaggerated, so listening to something that is a little calmer like “Royals” by Lorde, there is a presence of subbass but not enough to be considered a sub bass heavy set of IEMs.
Moving into the mid and higher bass frequencies, again I find that these are not really bass boosted, or at least not to the level of being considered a bassy tuning. With my usual test tracks like “No Sanctuary Here” by Marian Herzog feat Chris Jones, or “Sun is Shining” by Robin Schultz & Bob Marley, there is enough bass for me to find the tracks enjoyable but those that like a bit of boost in their music may find the Quarks a little below their target.
The transition into the lower mids is fairly clean, with no obvious bass bleed, this is helped by the fact that the bass regions are not overly boosted. As we move through the mids, there is a bit of a dip in the center but the fall and rise that lead in and out of this recess is smooth and does not exaggerate the dip in the mids. In general the mids are clean and well balanced, allowing the presence of both vocals and mid centric instruments to be present without being harsh or seemingly over compensated in any of their frequencies.
Moving from the mids up into the higher ranges, there is a peak around the 3kHz mark that could be a little problematic for some but in my case I find that it brings back some of the presence that would otherwise be lost by the dip in the mids and it does so without seeming to create harshness nor make voices come across as nasal.
Sibilance is avoided for the most part, although it does sometimes seem to be on the verge. It doesn’t present an amount of sibilance that is too uncomfortable but there are occasions when there is too much emphasis on the “S”, mainly in songs that are almost sibilant in their own recordings. If you listen to tracks that are already sibilant in their mastering, then the Quarks will not tame these, but they don’t really make them unlistenable either (unless the song is already beyond the point of being listenable itself, like some of the Marilyn Manson stuff for example).
As far as extension, there is a fair amount there, especially for a single dynamic driver in this budget category. Yes, it could extend more (which is the case with almost all single DD budget IEMs that I try) but in general it is acceptable and there is a reasonable amount of air that helps give the sensation of clarity to the IEMs without overly boosting the lower treble areas.
As far as detail, speed, dynamics and all those kinds of things, well, it is certainly not bad for a 10€ IEM. It is definitely not a set of IEMs that will be used for scrutinizing audio tracks and it is not a detail monster but it is more than capable of keeping up and presenting details that are enough to enjoy the music and not feel that half of the information is missing. This is helped by the fact that the tuning is rather clean and, as I mentioned, the upper treble helps give the sensation of clarity and detail that would not be present if it was more rolled off.
As far as soundstage and image placement, I’m afraid I am just going to say what I say in 95% of my IEM reviews, it’s around average for a set of budget IEMs. In fact, I could probably just copy and paste my impression of soundstage and placement across the majority of IEMs that I try, as there are very few that surprise me in this aspect (and many of those surprise me for the worse). In the case of the Quarks, they are not incredible, you are not going to feel that you are immersed in a musical space, however, they are acceptable enough to enjoy the music.
Comparison to the Tanchjim Tanya…
I find that the Tanya and the Quarks are very comparable overall but are a totally different approach to how the music is presented.
With the Tanya, there is more emphasis on the lower end of the spectrum, adding an overall warmth to the sound that is very pleasurable to many. In the case of the Quarks, the overall tuning is more balanced, more neutral, resulting in a sound that seems to be clearer in general.
Now, the sensation that it is clearer is actually due to the tuning and not necessarily the actual performance. Neither of the two IEMs are highly detailed, in fact, I would say they are about on a par with each other, the overall performance is very similar, it is just that the Quarks can give more of a sensation of detail due to the reduction in the lower frequency emphasis.
I would say that comparing the Tanya to the Quarks is like comparing the Porta-Pro to the KSC75, both are very similar but the overall tuning is what will make someone have a preference towards one or the other. By this I am not saying that these IEMs are similar to the Koss offerings, just that they sort of compare to each other in the same way.
Personally I prefer the tuning of the Quarks but either one is enjoyable as a simple BGM set of IEMs.
Comparison to the Hifiman RE600s…
This is not really a fair comparison as the RE600s have a retail price that is 20x the Quarks but I am mentioning it as I find the overall presentation to be similar. Yes, the RE600s is more detailed, making it something I would prefer if I am focusing on music and wanting to use a set of tiny IEMs such as these, however, for basic background music or a relaxed listen in bed at night, I find that the Quarks perform more than adequately.
I am more than happy with what the Moondrop Quarks offer for the price, in fact, I am happy with the Quarks overall. They are not a set of IEMs that intend to compete with higher range IEMs, nor are they IEMs that attempt to be something they are not. They are a simple set of cheap, comfortable and easy to listen to IEMs.
Personally I have too many IEMs but as I have mentioned in the past (and in this review), I like to have a small set of IEMs that live in my bag and get used at random times for simple, no frills, music (or movie) enjoyment. The Quarks are a set that fit this no problem.
I can also see them being a set that many people will enjoy as their only set of IEMs, offering a great value for money for those who just want a simple set of cheap IEMs for daily use, far superior to those included with cell phones (do they even include earphones with cell phones nowadays?). In fact, both the Quarks and the Tanya fit this use case perfectly, which one someone will enjoy will only depend on their tuning preferences.
I think that this is the 6th set of Moondrop IEMs that I have reviewed and I must say that the relation quality/price always seems to be very fair with the brand. The Quarks are another example.
It is not a review but I have posted a written interview with a reviewer that some of you may know, Precogvision.
You can see the interview here:
I also posted one with Antdroid a few weeks ago, in case you are interested:
I hope to continue to post these now and again, making them a series of interviews. I feel that getting to know some of the reviewers a little better helps understand their tastes and where they are coming from.
As always, this review is also available in Spanish on my blog and YouTube, links at the end of this post.
Review of the Marshall MID ANC
The Marshall MID ANC have been sent to me for review by a subscriber of the Acho Reviews YouTube channel. As a follower of the channel, I hope that it is clear that my reviews are as honest and sincere as possible, independently of who sends me the item. However, as always, it is always good to be clear on the fact that it hasn’t cost me anything to test these headphones.
Marshall is a brand that I have known for many years in the guitar world, anyone who has done live music or played with a band will have heard the brand and anyone who has listened to any music that contains electric guitars will most definitely have heard a Marshall amplifier being used (whether they know it or not).
Although their main focus has always been guitar amplifiers and cabinets, Marshall also makes quite a few other things, some of them focused on the personal audio space, such as bluetooth speakers or, in this case, headphones.
The MID ANC are a set of headphones that are quite commonly found in electronics stores and are a bluetooth (and wired) set of headphones with Active Noise Cancelling.
To be totally honest, although I had briefly tried a couple of Marshall headphones in the past, I have never really spent any time with them (until now) and I really didn’t have any idea of the price of this particular model. I did a quick check online and I have found them to be anywhere between 190€ and 260€ in various places. The price does not affect my opinion of the headphones in general but it is relevant to certain aspects, for example, it is not the same to have issues with a cable at 50€ as it is at 500€ (I am not referring to any issues with the MID ANC here, just making a general observation).
So, the price bracket they sit in is quite a populated segment in the bluetooth headphone world, with or without ANC, but I don’t really have many reference models of BT headphones in general tocompare with. Yes, I have tried quite a few, but that has been mostly in stores and isn’t really enough to be able to compare them directly, therefore I will just give my own general opinion of them.
These headphones have been sent to me with all the original packaging and contents (at least I believe so), therefore I didn’t get to unbox them but I did get to see all the included bits.
They arrive in a square black box with an image of the headphones and the branding on the cover. There are details and specs distributed around the exterior of the box but the important bits are obviously inside.
Inside we get the headphones, a micro-USB charging cable, a headphone cable (for using them wired) that has an inline microphone, a nice carrying case and a user manual. Nothing out of the ordinary but enough to not be missing anything.
I actually like the carrying case quite a bit as it is a simple square shape, with a faux leather finish resembling the Marshall amplifier and cabs, with the Marshall logo in gold. As it is a simple squar, instead of some molded shape, I find it easier to store and carry. The finish of the carrying case also hits a soft spot with me after so many years surrounded by guitar and bass amps.
Build and aesthetics…
The headphones also follow the Marshall aesthetics. The cups are plastic but they are also textured to resemble the Marshall leather look, with the logo again embossed in gold letters, as is to be expected. The yokes are metal, as is the headband, which is covered in faux leather on the top but has a velour type interior to the headband, a nice little touch. The cables that run from the headband to the cups are of the spiral type which adds to the retro-style look of them.
These headphones are on-ear, not over ear, and are rather small and square shaped. I am not overly fond of on-ear headphones (except for some Koss) and the MID ANC are no exception, in fact, I find the square shape of the cups to be rather strange and I am not really keen on how they feel while wearing them. There is a nice extension on the headband, which is good, and they also swivel, so at least they do sit correctly, but I still don’t find them very comfortable. I can still feel that I am wearing them even after long sessions.
The cups fold so that they fit inside the carrying case, making it more compact, but they do not swivel enough for them to lay flat, therefore you won’t be able to lay them flat against your chest if wearing them around your neck.
In general, the quality of the finish and build seems to be decent and look like they should withstand the general day to day abuse. I don’t know how long the person who has sent me these has had them but, other than some slight marks on the gold Marshall lettering, they seem to be in very good condition. Also, being honest, some signs of wear adds to the coolness of Marshall products.
The headphones have a small gold knob on the right cup which serves to control them. It is actually a very simple but functional design which I like. By pressing the knob, it controls play/pause, a long press turns on/off (or enters pairing mode), up or down is volume +/- and backwards or forwards is track +/-.
On the left cup there is a switch to turn ANC on or off, which allows you to use ANC even with bluetooth disconnected (at the risk of depleting the battery if you forget to turn off). Also located on the left cup are the micro-USB charging port and the socket for using them wired.
The connection with my phone was very quick and is instant when turning them on when already paired. The main issue is with the codecs, there is no LDAC on these and the maximum seems to be AptX, something I will discuss more in the sound section.
To be honest, I like the easy functionality of the Marshall’s with the little knob/joystick type control. It makes them very easy to use and there is an audible notification each time a function is performed.
There are a couple of things to consider here, but to get straight to the point, I am not a fan of the sound. The overall sound is very consumer orientated, which is not a bad thing but is not my thing, and could be mistaken with many other headphones of a similar style. Added to that, we need to factor in the AptX codec which, to be honest, is not great. This headphone can be used with a cable, which does improve it a little, but is still not something I would rave about.
As I have mentioned in the past, I am not really a huge Bluetooth fan, I much prefer cable, except for the commodity that it brings. I have various TWS IEMs that I don’t really use, and the only Bluetooth item that sees regular use in my case is the Shanling MW200 because I can just connect any IEMs to it that I want to use wirelessly (although lately it seems to be permanently connected to the Arias). I have used the MID ANC via Bluetooth but I find that the SQ difference between BT and wired is enough for me to just use it with a cable, so I have been using it with the JDS Labs Atom on my desk.
We also need to consider the ANC functionality. There are multiple headphones that improve when ANC is switched on, due to DSP correction being implemented in the DAC stage, and others that actually get worse with ANC on. In the case of the Marshall’s, there is a difference between on or off, but it is not better or worse, at least not across the whole range. I would be inclined to say that I prefer it with the ANC on, but it is also dependent upon what I am listening to.
The ANC itself is not bad. It is not on a level of some of the well known brands in the noise cancelling world, such as Bose or Sony, but it does reduce noise considerably. Another thing that stops it from being great is the fact that they are square on-ear headphones, so they aren’t able to block as much noise passively, making it tougher for them in the first place.
Anyway, let’s get on with the usual sound impressions…
In the subbass department there isn’t a huge amount of subbass. This is something to be expected, again due to the nature of an on-ear headphone. You can feel a little of the rumbling when playing sub bass heavy tracks but I would say that it is not something that will appeal to those looking for the lowest of rumbles.
In the midbass and higher bass regions is where these headphones present a bit of boost that will appeal to lots of consumers. In fact, I would say that the midbass to the lower mids is the best part of these headphones. It is also the part that most seems to come alive when ANC is switched on. There is a noticeable increase in these regions with the ANC activated and I must say that it sounds pretty good. I wouldn’t say that they are excellent, again, on-ears do struggle, and the increase in bass does push the mids back a little, but this frequency range does seem a little more “alive” with ANC. It seems to work well especially with rock and other electric guitar/bass centered tracks. Who would have thought Marshall would tune towards a rock sound?
Moving into the lower mids, the transition is cleaner (in my opinion) with ANC deactivated, mainly because the DSP pushes the center of the mid range further back. Vocals especially seem to take a step backwards when the ANC is on, something that I noticed in tracks like “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin or “Killing in the Name” by RATM, tracks that one would expect to go well with the Marshall tuning.
The higher end of the mid also seems to take a little step back when flipping the switch. Not as pronounced as the center of the mids, but it is enough to seem a little veiled in this aspect. If listening to something like “Crazy” by Daniela Andrade, a very simple acoustic song, I find that the change is something that takes away from the whole presence of her vocals, at least to the level that I prefer, but going back to something in the rock genre is far more acceptable.
The treble suffers from some roll off in the higher regions and doesn’t really provide the extension or sensation of “air” that I would like to hear. The positive side to the treble is that sibilance is pretty much absent, “Code Cool” or “Hope is a Dangerous Thing” are quite tame and do not get harsh at all. However, I would not say that the treble is great.
All of the above is related to tuning more than anything else and will be a case of preference as to whether someone likes or dislikes these headphones, however, it is the detail that I find to be the weakest link of the Marshall MID ANC.
There is no real sensation of detail, things just seem to be smoothed over, leaving me missing many of the details that I enjoy in many of my simple acoustic style tracks. Don’t get me wrong, I have heard much worse, but I find the level of detail to be more inline with what I would expect from a sub 50€ IEM rather than a >200€ set of headphones. There are also times when I feel that there is distortion in the details that are present. This is not continuous but there are times when I will be listening to a track that I have heard a 1000 times and something will just sound dirty, as though the headphones are being pushed too hard, even though I am at my normal listening levels (which are by no means loud).
The soundstage is mediocre, although it is not terrible, we do need to remember that these are on-ear closed backs, but again it is more inline with what I would expect from a set of IEMs. The placement of images is also something that suffers due to the lack of detail itself, making it perform decent enough for simple left to right imaging but there are no real specifics as far as placement of small details, the intro to “All Your Love (Turned to Passion)” by Sara K. just sounds flat.
In my opinion, Marshall has been rather intelligent with these headphones, cashing in on various things that work in their favour. First of all, their brand. The looks and design immediately identify these as a Marshall product, a brand that has been seen everywhere since the 60’s. Second, Bluetooth, something that is certainly popular and gaining more and more popularity as headphones jacks disappear and people also move away from cables. Additionally, they have also opted for a very safe tuning, something that many consumers that are just music listeners and not really interested in reading specs and reviews like this one, will enjoy.
As far as sound, well, they just aren’t for me. Mainly they are not tuned to my preference. They also have faults such as the lack of detail and that slight distortion that appears now and again, but we need to consider that I have been lucky enough to listen to some excellent headphones which, for better or for worse, show me things that can’t be ignored at a later date.
If they were cheaper, let’s say around 100€ or less, then I would probably be more lenient towards their final sound, although that still wouldn’t solve the issues that I found with them. But let’s say that at 190€ (the cheapest I have seen the MID ANC), there are things like the (much cheaper) Hifiman HE400se that run rings around them. Ok, no bluetooth, no ANC, you need an amp, they are open back, so I guess they are two different worlds. But there are also the AKG K371 for less than the Marshall’s, or the K361 for even less, which could be paired with a BT dongle and result in much better sound quality and comfort, although you would still be missing the ANC feature. If we consider the MID ANC for over 200€, you can probably still find a Sony WH1000XM3 for 220€ which is a similar tuning but with better comfort, better ANC and better details.
I think I will end my rant here because I don’t think I am the right person to be giving my opinion on these headphones, or rather, the people who these headphones are aimed at are not really the same people that would be reading a review from someone like me.
Thank you to the subscriber for sending these in, it is much appreciated, and I hope you continue to enjoy them, as that is the most important thing, enjoy what you have and enjoy the music you listen to.