Pros: Cheap, Cute, Decent Tuning, Build Quality and Aesthetics
Cons: Mids Tonality Slightly Off, Microphonics, No Microphone, Broken Pouch
Driver Setup: Single 6mm Dynamic Driver
Disclaimer: I received the Moondrop Quarks from ShenZhenAudio at no charge in exchange for an honest review of my experience. Should you find yourself interested in a pair, they are available here. The thoughts and impressions in this review are my own and will be strictly objective.
At this point, the brand Moondrop needs no more introduction. I’ve tried many of their Single Dynamic Drivers under $200 and they have mostly been excellent options. At this point, Moondrop hasn’t missed in terms of their tuning for single dynamic drivers in ears. The Moondrop SSP and SSR are excellent budget options at around $40. Moondrop has decided to push the limit further with the Quarks at $12.99. Will they be able to pull it off once again?
Accessories and Build Quality (Score: 7.5/10)
Accessories are bare minimal. Even the packaging is probably the most barebones yet environmentally friendly one (read 100% cardboard/paper). I have no qualms with that personally, in fact, I’m all for it. What I’m not a fan of is the pouch. I have seen this packaged with the older products like the KXXS and Kanas Pro, just that this time, it’s without a logo. Mine came with the seams coming undone and gave off the vibe that Moondrop didn’t really put any effort into the pouch. In that case, just leave it out of the package.
The build quality of the buds though is excellent. I especially like the minimalistic aesthetic of the buds, with a transparent housing revealing the micro driver and the wiring. The cable is thick and sturdy, and will probably last the test of time, which is important considering the lack of replaceability.
Fit (Score: 7.5/10)
Fit is decent, it is extremely low profile and for those who are looking especially for an IEM with this form factor, they would certainly fancy the Quarks. They are even smaller (shorter) than the Final Audio E-series buds and nearly disappear when put into the ear. The buds are practically weightless, with the majority of the weight coming from the thick cables. Tip wise, I used the Final Audio E tips which fit super snugly. It gives a nice boost to the bass to prevent the upper mids from coming through too aggressively.
The only problem I faced was microphonics when walking with these buds. Perhaps a cable clip would help, but I’m not a fan of having to walk around with a cable clipped to my tee.
Sound (Score: 6.6/10)
Frequency Response Graph of the Moondrop Quarks
- Lotoo Paw S1
- Hiby R5
- SMSL M200/Schiit Magnius
Music listened to
- Chicago Symphony Orchestra – Beethoven Symphony 7
- Boston Symphony Orchestra – The Nutcracker Suite
- One Republic – Human
- Stevie Wonder – In the Key of Life
- Bastille – All This Bad Blood
- The Lumineers
- Paul Kim
- X Ambassadors
- Børns – Blue Madonna
- Needtobreathe – Into The Mystery
- Switchfoot – Interrobang
- Gryffin – Gravity
For its price, the bass has a decent punch and presence. It is milder than IEMs like the Starfield and has a more controlled response. This is nice to see as there are not many IEMs in this price range that features a tamer bass that doesn’t mess up the overall balance of the music.
Mids are presented rather forward, which has pretty much become a Moondrop characteristic. Except for this time, you can hear the limitations of these buds. The timbre is not completely correct and there is some unnaturalness in vocal regions. This becomes especially apparent at higher volumes. I don’t advise turning the volume up on these as it does get shouty at times too. Otherwise, it is an enjoyable midrange-focused tuning that doesn’t impress but doesn’t do anything too bad either.
Treble grain is real, rolls off pretty fast. Pretty much what I expected for the asking price. No odd or harsh peaks to keep the Quarks a pleasant pair of earbuds for casual listening.
The Quarks has an enjoyable balance that is rather relaxing to listen to. Its sound signature is sufficiently polished and I mostly enjoy Pop songs on it, as the bass is rather tame and the overall coherency of sound is good. To put it simply, you could do much worse for what the Quarks costs…
Full review for the Tanchjim Tanya
The Tanchjim Tanya has a more bass focused sound and an overall more pleasing tonality. The mids in the Quarks can sound a little thin and unnatural at times. Tanya performs better on vocals, with a richer and more bodied mids section. They both have a different target tuning, with the Quarks being the more balanced of the two. Which you’d like better in terms of sound would be up to your preference.
Both are quite similar being bullet-style earbuds but somehow the Tanya was more comfortable.
The Tanya costs slightly more but I’ll think the Tanya is a more versatile and complete product given its option for including an in-line microphone, instantly putting itself as an option for many who need the mic for gaming and/or their calls.
One question kept popping into my mind as I brought this around daily while testing it… Who is this made for?
Yes, it has a good form factor (I LOVE the aesthetic), good portability, and has good value for money, That said, considering the dying out of the 3.5mm jack on mobile phones, people who even use a mic-less 3.5mm earphone for music have become an increasingly rare species. A portion of these is a race of people who call themselves the “audiophiles”. In that case, the Quarks would hardly pack enough performance to satisfy, especially in 2021. Hence, while the Quarks may have been a great product a few years ago, it is simply a good sound for the money if you have no better way to spend your 13 bucks.
Even Final Audio’s popular E-series gave in to including an inline microphone version. IMHO, Moondrop is better off including a microphone option to appeal to a greater consumer crowd who may have a tight budget and would want to get a decent-sounding bang for buck earpiece that can satisfy all their day-to-day uses. Under that pretext, I would then in good conscience recommend the Quarks. Otherwise, I find it hard to ask my friends to go ahead and purchase the Quarks other than the reason that it’s cheap and cute.
Edit (26 October 2021): I have updated the grading for the Sparks from the C+ to B-, with Moondrop’s decision to manufacture a version of the Quarks sporting an in-line microphone. A fine example of a company listening to its consumers, but the tuning is still bogged down by a slight unnaturalness in tonality, something I still can’t see past.
Overall Grade: B-
Click HERE for our grading list for earphones