Disclaimer: All the critical listening was done using iFi xDSD Gryphon, Topping NX7 and Qudelix 5k as sources, powering FLAC files and Tidal Hi-fi. Tips used on all comparisons were CP100.
This set was kindly provided by @Tonytex_Teixeira for me to try, and I’m grateful for that.
Introduction and Non-Sound
Moondrop needs no introduction. Kato is one of their latest releases to the public: (another) 1DD with a variation of harman tuning. This one comes with two nozzles, but unfortunately I only get a chance to try the silver one, but seeing how they graph and being told they sound almost exactly the same, I will just ignore it.
Shell and fit are nice, although these mirror like plates are a fingerprint magnet – I would much rather get the now discontinued mate version for this alone. Since this is a loaned set, it only came with the carrying case and the bonus Line K cable which I’m not a fan of due to stiffness, weird memory proning and thickness. The carrying case is very nice, I like it much better than the Variations’ one.
Now, into the sound – As mentioned right above, this single DD is tuned close to the harman curve. Having heard of Oxygen, Olina, Hana 2021, Aria and these, I think I can get a good picture of the sound.
I’ll state right now that these fit my tastes way better than Aria, to a point I’d say it’s a more technical and cleaner Aria. I personally don’t like Aria, but I feel these are 2 steps above those. They didn’t sound quite close to memory (due to clarity) but I was shocked how they really graph that close, once I checked Crin’s database:
Kato keeps some of the same characteristics as Aria like the pillow light bass, the mid blend with it and the typical moondrop treble curve, peaking at around 3k hz. It’s almost the case of you heard one of them, you almost heard them all – again, techs are on another level.
To me, these have a couple of cons that wouldn’t make them my EDC: they sound thin, treble is well tuned but feels unrefined and bass hits like a spoon. They take the detail chasing approach, a more analytical or slightly colder version of this general tuning, which will appeal to some over the competition, but not for me.
Mids and vocals are good, but, in my opinion, treble could use some refinement and extension.
The detail level is good for its price and so is timbre. I’m not fond of its stage presentation, as it doesn’t come out very wide or deep, while lacking height.
I feel like competition isn’t kind to Kato either. For less than half I would just grab Titan S as I feel they are very close in tuning, and to a part of my library, they feel better. Also the bass just feels more right. Kato has some technical advantages on resolving power.
Oxygen just feels a step above for a couple dollars more and its sister, Hana 2021, while feeling less technical than Kato, is a more V alternative for those seeking that, with better stage and bass. There’s also planars like S12 and Timeless around this range for this more V approach, that will boil stuff out of the water, resolution wise, for less.
Now, looking into Olina or Etymotic ER2XR, the tables just flip once we put price on the table. ER2XR will be more technical and better tuned to my ears, while lacking the better fit and stage depth, while Olina will just be, in my opinion, a better Kato for 80 dollars less.
Kato isn’t doing much wrong, but it feels thin to me and the bass is slightly too light for my library. I think there is better money to performance IEMs out there, but I can’t fault it that much. I’d like to see the treble and stage being more refined as well. It’s an easy recommendation for Aria lovers that want a technical upgrade and better build quality, for sure.
As it’s probably obvious by my words, I’m a bit lukewarm by it and I had bigger expectations. Guess I’m not that impressed, but they aren’t bad by any means, just not fitting my preferences or library compared to the alternatives.
Value ranking: 3.5/5. Personal Rank: B+.
Thanks for reading!
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