Guys we’re in absolute pain. The Moondrop Alice – we had a lot of expectations, but we are in physical, spiritual and emotional pain.
It’s not a secret that wireless earbuds are a convenience product first and foremost and an audio product second. So while you can have great sounding products that only sound good and do nothing else there is still a certain level of basics that we expect. And that’s why this is quite a painful video for us to make. We were very excited to get the MoonDrop Alice and we weren’t the only ones. What we’re especially excited about was the fact that it had drivers from the MoonDrop Kato which are one of the best sounding IEM at $200. Or so we’re told. But let’s start with the basics…
Buy the Moondrop Alice | Buy the Final ZE3000 | Buy the Edifier NeoBuds Pro | Buy the SoundCore Liberty 3 Pro | Buy the Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay EQ | Buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro | Buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
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…and Moondrop has gotten a lot wrong here. Starting with the build and the portability of the case – this is not great for 2022. The case is big and if that’s not enough you also get a case for the case. I suppose you don’t have to use it so that’s not really a criticism of the product as such. The earbuds are also on the larger side and I’ve spent about 15 minutes trying to figure out how they go into my ear. I thought these were more of Sony WF-1000 XM3 kind of style. But turns out these are more a thicc boy airpods kind of design.
You get two kinds of tips in the box – spring tips and these clear tips. Unfortunately this is kind of a deeper insertion IEM and one where we have been struggling struggling to find the right tip size for our ears.
When we did find the right size, we struggled to figure out the software. we downloaded the official app from the Play Store. After another struggle with it for about 15 minutes, we Googled only to find out that the sideloaded app apparently works better than the official app. So at the risk of losing all our private data, we downloaded an APK which asked me to download another APK from a site that was half in Chinese and then after about another 10 minutes struggling the MoonDrop Alice finally updated to its latest firmware 1.2.0. Great – we were now ready to go! Unfortunately when the going got going, the going got tough. We faced constant disconnects from the phone – the sound would randomly change in the middle of watching a video. The lady announcing that the earbuds were connected or disconnected seemed to be rather mad at us.
And last but not least we had to tap different Chinese words to figure out where the powerful parametric EQ of the MoonDrop Alice resided. These can do Touch control, but the touch was quite sensitive and definitely feels like it’s something from 2016 rather than something from 2022. The battery life is decent – 8 hours, with about 40 from the case. But remember these have ZERO extras – no ANC, no transparency, no in-ear sensor to pause your music and NO ability to change what the touch controls do. No IP rating – so control your sweat glands. Heck – there’s no wireless charging or even fast charging on board.
And what about calls? Well – they ain’t great. If it’s noisy outside – everyone you talk will know it’s noisy outside. And if there’s a bit of wind – no one’s gonna be able to hear what you have to say. In quiet conditions – these are ok. MoonDrop saying that this is sound and no gimmicks is like selling you great looking sneakers with no sole. You have gotta nail the basics, otherwise an audio product just doesn’t make any sense.
So fine – you wanna know about the sound right? Well let’s start with the bass – because we really struggled with getting any kind of decent bass response in everyday use because: a. These are neutral audiophile buds, not particularly tuned for bass and b. The fit of these buds is different. After hurting and violating myself for quite a while, I figured out that you had to twist the stems forward. To be fair, this was more my stupidity than the fault of the MoonDrops’. We were really struggling to hear the sub bass before we figured these out. We remember when we reviewed the Final ZE3000, we thought that those were a little light on bass and when I tried to A/B test these – the Final seemed like bass monsters.
The good thing here is that you can get some solid bass – but you’re gonna have dig into that very non user friendly, but powerful parametric EQ. The technical performance on these is insane. We found that we missed the bass punch – boosting the 50 to 80hz range gave the sound some much needed weight. Even though don’t expect JBL kinds of sound here!
The rest of the sound on these earbuds is very solid – but there’s a certain MoonDrop character to the sound that affects the timbre a little. It has to do with a slight peak in the lower treble. But we’re nitpicking here, the mids especially do a fantastic job. Voices sound clear and they do a good job of being neutral with a slight bias towards brightness, while still avoiding being annoyingly sibilant. Something like Nat King Cole’s ‘Orange colored sky’ sounds great and so does Misha Mansoor’s solo project Bulb’s Fuf Redux – a very busy track with a lot of things constantly going on and changing. These are also LOUD – so for you volume junkies slash hard of hearing slash masochistic viewers, you’re gonna love these. They also have a nice virtual soundstage algorithm that you can get to by long pressing the buds which we thought wasn’t as extreme as Apple or Samsung’s implementation, but adds a nice little bit of width to the sound.
When we thought of writing this review, we started with giving the Alice quite the bashing – there are so, so many things it gets wrong. But sound is not one of them. Together with capable drivers, a solid codec and a fussy but powerful parametric EQ – you can do a lot with these. For us these are not a super fun experience, but closer to a neutral or clean experience. They also sound a smidgen cleaner than the Final Audio ZE3000. But the Final Audio is cleaner in terms of its noise floor – so if you listen to music at lower volumes, you’re not going to as much white noise. The Final Audio also has more bass – still not super bassy mind you, but enough to make it felt. On the other hand, it’s less flexible due to the lack of a first party app.
But since we’re talking about these two products – as a product, the Final ZE 3000 is easily the better pick. A compact case – lighter and more comfortable, more reliable touch controls and wayyy less buggy and glitchy than the MoonDrop. If you want earbuds that just do sound, the ZE3000 is a better pick, the difference in sound isn’t massive. But if you’ll indulge us – why not consider the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro? Or the Oppo Enco X2? Or even the older Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro? Or any of the buds we talked about in this article? These are also very good sounding buds, but give you SO much more for about the same price or a bit more.
True wireless earbuds are about portability, convenience, comfort and are meant to be used out and about in the world – to shut out the world using noise cancelling or talk to it using transparency or microphones. When it’s late in the evening and you sit down at home with your drink and listen to music – get a PHAT amp and DAC stack with a wired set of IEMs or wired headphones or speakers and audiophile away. But remember that wireless audio is getting really, really good as is evidenced by all these audiophile brands entering this space. So why bother with a one-trick pony? MoonDrop has brought the sound, now it just needs to bring everything else.