Moondrop Chu is the latest entry-level IEM from the Chinese manufacturer. Moondrop has quickly become a force to be reckoned with in the IEM world thanks to its affordable but exceptionally well-functioning products.
Moondrop Chu is the sequel to the Moondrop Spaceship, which we had looked at before and were generally impressed with, at least as far as sound is concerned. Chu comes in at the same price tag of $ 20, which is nothing in the current IEM landscape, with products costing up to 100x that price. But Moondrop has a reputation to cherish, which means that even if you pay the absolute offer price, you can still expect good performance.
With that said, let’s see how well the new Moondrop Chu performs.
Moondrop Chu comes with a pretty decent packaging despite the $ 20 price tag. Along with the earphones, you get three pairs of Moondrops premium Spring Tips. These tips cost $ 13 in themselves, so it’s quite surprising that they just come in the box.
In addition to the tips, you also get a pair of ear hooks. The chu cable does not have built-in ear hooks, so you will need to manually attach the hooks if you want that functionality. There is also a small velcro strap to tie the earphones.
Finally, there is a rather meaningless bag. This thing is basically just wide enough to hold a single credit card and can not comfortably fit the earphones. Even if you manage to push them in, you will never be able to close the lock. The material also feels like recycled cat hair. Not quite sure why they bothered with this.
As mentioned before, the cable is attached to the earphones, so there is obviously no cable in the box unlike most other IEMs out there.
Design and comfort
Moondrop Chu has a very simple and minimalist design. The earphones are quite small and fit completely inside your ears. On the back is a single gold pattern on a black body. It is the only color available.
The earplugs are made exclusively of metal, which gives them a very hard and light feel. Realistically, these are not much more robust than plastic knobs for everyday use, but they feel a lot nicer.
Chu comes up with Moondrops spring tips. These are specially designed silica gel tips with a peculiar waveguide structure. Moondrop claims that this design and material makes the spring tips more reliable, more comfortable and provides a better seal. They also claim to attenuate high-frequency resonance, providing a smoother treble roll-off.
Granted, I was not particularly impressed with these tips compared to your regular, garden-variant silicone tips. I found them harder to insert and easier to just jump out, and the sticky texture was not comfortable. I also found no difference in the sound quality of using them compared to regular ear tips. I just think they look cooler and that’s all.
Yet the ear tips are forgivable and, more importantly, interchangeable. What can not be replaced is the fixed cable which I think is the biggest weakness of Moondrop Chu.
Unlike the Moondrop Spaceship, the Chu earphones are designed to get the cable out of the top and arch around your ears. However, the cable has no built-in kicks to hold it in place. Moondrop provides ear hooks in the box that you have to mount manually, but they are not as comfortable to wear. And without the hooks, the cable often struggles to stay in place around your ears and requires constant adjustment.
Fortunately, the cable itself is not terrible. By far the worst thing about the spaceship was the cable, which had gruesome microphones that turned it all into a stethoscope. The chu cable is significantly better. I would still like to have the opportunity to replace it.
While I have the standard model here, for $ 2 extra you can get it with a microphone built into the cable.
Once you get past the cable, Moondrop Chu’s overall comfort is pretty great. They are very light and quite small so you do not even feel like you are wearing anything. It’s really only the cable that keeps making you aware of the earphones.
Moondrop Chu has excellent sound quality for the price. The overall tonality is quite neutral with a slight bias towards the treble.
The basic service is unique. The frequency response tracks mostly close to the reference line, with absolutely no bloating in the middle and upper bass. There is some audible bass amplification in the low bass, but it is usually not noticeable on most tracks, and when it does appear, it is quite a pleasant surprise, with a deep rumble that adds just that little bit of oomph to the sound.
The performance in the middle class is also quite good. The mid-region never sounds so slightly pulled back to my ears, pushing the vocals back into the mix and giving a very faint V-shaped tonality to the sound, but it is still very smooth overall and goes strongly into the treble range.
The tweeter performance can make or break these earphones for you. While the lower treble is good, the sound gets a harder, more shiny tone in the upper areas. It almost feels like the audible response to applying a sharpness filter to an image, giving an extra edge and south to vocals and instruments.
Depending on the source, I found this to be more or less acceptable. However, there are tracks where the treble response resulted in a very nasal and metallic vocal timber that does not sound very comfortable. For example, Drake sounds extra nasal in all his music, but it can easily be remedied by listening to better artists.
In terms of technical performance, the Moondrop Chu does well for a few $ 20 IEMs. The level of detail in the sound is good; not necessarily $ 100 + good, but you get a level of transparency and resolution in the sound that previously would have been hard to find in this price range.
Imaging and sound image are less impressive. The sound is pretty wrapped up and does not quite have the feel of space or articulated placement of more expensive earphones. These would not be my first choice for gaming earphones, but they perform just fine in a pinch. Moondrop SSRs are still the better IEMs in this regard.
Overall, I am very impressed with the sound coming out of Moondrop Chu. While it’s not impossible to hear where it’s lagging behind more expensive IEMs, they still sound great for the price. Despite the very budget pricing, the sound is aimed at an existing or a budding audiophile. This also means that if you are more of a casual listener, then you may not like the neutral sound and you will probably look elsewhere.
Despite the competitive nature of the current IEM market, it seems that Moondrop often just competes with itself because of how good its products are. Chu is another colossal win for Moondrop, this time at just $ 20. The only complaint I have is with the cable; I wish the product was $ 25 instead and came with a proper, detachable cable.
Other than that, I really do not have much else negative to say about Chu. For the price, it’s a great way for someone to dip their toes into the world of audiophile IEMs or a good second, third or fifteenth pair for someone who is already into this hobby and wants another pair cheaply without going on compromise with the sound.