Review written by @Precogvision
Moondrop. Progenitor of the perplexing dynamic that is waifu and high-fidelity audio; one of the most distinguished Chi-Fi brands in the IEM world thanks to their calculated approach to tuning. They made waves earlier this year with the Blessing 2 (“B2”), an IEM that many - myself included - would deem the de-facto $300 benchmark. But what happens when you put the tuning of the B2 into even more competent hands? The Blessing 2: Dusk (“Dusk”) is a re-tuned B2 with popular IEM reviewer, Crinacle, at the helm. It aims to address some minor tonal issues with the B2 and to bring a collaboration piece to the masses at a (relatively) affordable price. Given the smash-success that was the original B2, needless to say expectations are higher than ever. Let’s see if the Dusk has what it takes to meet them.
This unit was kindly loaned for review by Super* Review - thank you! You can find him on YouTube here. At the end of the review period it will be returned, and as always, what follows are my honest thoughts and opinions to the best of my ability.
Source and Driveability
Like the original B2, the Dusk may require a little more juice to drive than some other hybrids, but I had no issue running it off my mobile devices. I did not experience any hissing. As usual, all critical listening was done off of an iBasso DX160 and A&K SP1000M with lossless FLAC files, the stock tips, and the stock cable.
This is a loaned unit, so I don’t have the original packaging. The accessories have not changed from the original B2 though, and you will receive the following:
- Soft-carry case
- Airline adapter
- Silicon tips (s/m/l)
- Copper 2-pin 0.78mm cable
Like most Moondrop IEMs, the cable is a bit of a letdown. There is a tacky, plastic Y-splitter, and the hardware is somewhat janky. It’ll work fine in practice, although I’d consider picking up an upgrade cable if this sounds like a concern to you.
The build quality of the Dusk itself is good. There are no surface inconsistencies to either the acrylic shell or the stainless steel faceplate. The faceplate is a glued-in, press-fit and it sits perfectly flush with the acrylic shell. A small indication of quality I like to look for with this stuff is actually the engravings. Sure, it doesn’t go strictly hand-in-hand with the overall quality of the build, but it’s a good indicator. Moondrop appears to be using a laser engraving process, and the amount of detail and clarity to the inscriptions is impressive.
And yes, the elephant in the room. There’s no getting around it (and for some with smaller ears this will be quite literal), the Blessing 2 are big bois. They’re larger than most IEMs, and fit issues are only exacerbated by an enormous 6.5mm nozzle. Suffice it to say that fit is what’ll probably make or break these IEMs for most people. It’s particularly vexing because there’s clearly a lot of open space in the shell that’s just been filled in with acrylic material. My own ears manage to fit them, but they’re right on the cusp of being too large, and given the 100+ hours I probably have on my personal B2, I suspect my ears have simply adapted at this point.
Frequency response measured off of an IEC-711 coupler. There is a resonance peak at 8kHz; as such, measurements after this point should not be considered accurate.
Might as well kill two birds with one stone by comparing the Dusk with its brother, the B2, right? The original B2 follows a leaner, neutral-reference sort of tuning, but as the name Dusk might imply, the Dusk is a warmer, darker IEM - only by comparison, of course. Independently, I’d probably classify the Dusk as something along the lines of “neutral with bass boost”.
More subjectively? The Dusk is one of the most well-tuned IEMs I’ve heard. I adore the bass-shelf which closely follows the curve of one of my favorite IEMs, the 64 Audio U12t. Like so, it’s largely subbass oriented, sloping out at 200hZ relative to the B2’s more linear response. This is important because you can “push” sub-bass a good deal. It’s mostly when you start curving an IEM’s bass shelf with more of a mid-bass emphasis, or past 200hZ, that you run the risk of delving into bloat; this is what Crinacle has aptly avoided with the Dusk’s tuning.
My main issue with the original B2’s midrange - the excessively thin, borderline shouty notes - has also been rectified. You’ll notice that the Dusk’s lower-midrange is actually leaner than the B2’s, but here, graphs can be deceiving: It sounds thicker in practice to my ears. This is likely a result of also cutting the ear compensation a few dB; this balancing act lends itself to a slightly thicker note-weight. Some listeners might still find the Dusk’s midrange a tad thin; nonetheless, the midrange exhibits a level of tonal accuracy I’ve not heard in the $500 bracket - scratch that, perhaps even in the kilobuck bracket (only one other IEM, the venerable Hidition Viento, comes to mind).
The last thing I want to do is sling around fancy-shmancy words though, and you might be wondering what I mean by tonal accuracy. When we think of a headphone as being tonally accurate we are implying neutrality. However, because everyone has their own HRTF, unique hearing physiology, and individual perception of neutrality, there is no “true” neutrality. In this vein, the Dusk’s midrange simply produces sound faithful to what I have personally heard in my limited experience with real instruments, what I would largely expect to hear. Suffice it to say the Dusk has nailed it yet again, at least for my preferences, and hopefully this lends some transparency to where I’m coming from.
The only region where the Dusk stumbles is the treble, but this is to be expected. The Dusk is largely lower-treble oriented, quickly rolling off post-10kHz and not quite reaching 18.5kHz in the sine sweep tests I ran. It’s important to remember that most IEMs in this price range - heck, even many in the flagship price range - do not exhibit good treble extension, or at least not what I would qualify as good extension, so this is perfectly acceptable by my standards. Those who heard the 6kHz peak on the B2 (which never really bothered me) will also likely hear the same on the Dusk.
While not necessarily a technical specialist, the original B2 was quite the competent performer for its price. And because the Dusk and B2 share the same material components, you’d expect the Dusk to be comparable technicality-wise. This holds true for the most part, but there are definitely small differences. For example, I’m pleased to hear that some of the BA timbre - specifically grain - in the midrange and treble seems to have been cleaned up (or masked), likely a result of more warmth. And like its brother, the Dusk’s imaging is still quite good, bordering on breaking the headstage and rendering positional cues above average.
But perhaps most surprisingly, the Dusk’s resolution is comparable to - if not better than - the B2’s. This is notable because the B2 “cheats” by virtue of its tuning which contrasts a more subdued bass response with strong upper-midrange presence, lending to the perception of a crisper, brighter midrange. On the other hand, a thicker note-weight like what the Dusk exhibits generally corresponds to a loss of resolution. Maybe it’s a consequence of the more incisive bass shelf, or maybe it’s my infatuation with the Dusk’s midrange skewing my assessment; while I’m not sure how it was achieved, needless to say I’m not complaining!
Of course, you’ll also want to know what the Dusk does not do so well. I’ve already cited the treble extension (a limitation of the driver setup that I believe Crinacle himself has acknowledged), but I’d be remiss if I didn’t have a couple, personal nitpicks of my own.
- An aspect of the original B2 which I grew increasingly critical of was the bass. Intangibly, whatever dynamic driver Moondrop is using is simply not very good. It handles transient attack fine (likely a result of the excellent bass tuning on both IEMs) but struggles to articulate note texture and density. There’s an overly dry tactility to it, and while I won’t go so far as to drop the dreaded “one-note” label, it frequently rings static and fails to scale macro-details.
- In a similar vein, I quite enjoyed the original B2’s overall macrodynamic ability. This is the extent to which an IEM is able to scale quite-to-loud gradations in a track. The Dusk, while by no means compressed, scales dynamic transitions more sluggishly, and said transitions don’t exhibit quite as good contrast. Overall macrodynamic ability is still good enough that I’d seat the Dusk in “above average” territory.
- I can’t knock the feeling that the original B2 might image every-so-slightly better, particularly in terms of positional accuracy. Again, make no mistake that we’re still in better-than-average territory.
You’ll note that these are predominantly intangible flaws - that is, flaws largely devoid of frequency response. You can't always have your cake and eat it, and given the price point, the intangibles expectedly remain the bottleneck to what is an otherwise terrific IEM.
Let’s do a little round-up of the Moondrop line-up. Unfortunately, I have not heard the Solis or the Illumination, but I have heard most of the company’s other IEMs.
Sound differences between these three IEMs are negligible, and I’ll refer to them collectively as the Starfield for simplicity. The Starfield follows a more Harman-oriented tuning with a less incisive sub-bass shelf and more upper-midrange presence. The treble on it is more rolled-off, gentle, particularly in the lower-treble. Those looking for an upgrade from the Starfield should gravitate toward the Dusk. If you are coming from the likes of the Moondrop SSR, though, you might prefer the regular B2 instead.
You might be wondering, where does the original B2 stand now? Well, in my opinion, it’s right where it should be. Despite the complete clickbait title of this review, and my tonal preferences being largely in favor of the Dusk, the original B2 has by no means been deprecated. For the price, I think it still presents a very compelling option that will appeal to listeners who enjoy a leaner, brighter tonality.
The S8 is the B2’s older brother that quickly went overshadowed thanks to the latter’s meteoric rise to fame. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most solid IEMs in the kilobuck bracket. Like the normal Blessing 2, it favors a leaner, more upper-midrange oriented sound, but stacks on a bass shelf akin to the KXXS, bringing it something closer to Harman. Listeners who enjoy a technical-heavy sound will revel in the S8’s technical performance and excellent treble extension. In a lot of respects, it’s an apt foil to the Dusk which prioritizes a heavier, darker sound relative to the S8’s dryer, more clinical presentation. Don’t like the Dusk? Give the S8 a shot.
We are seeing the landscape of the IEM world shift at an alarming rate. Some very good IEMs have been hitting the market lately, largely the product of adhering to established target curves. While I’m certainly not going to pretend that measurements and frequency response are the end-all-be-all to qualifying a good IEM, frankly, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed an IEM so much. The Dusk irrefutably demonstrates the merits of tuning with calculated, deliberate precision. If the B2 set a precedent for the $300 bracket, then the Dusk is one of the extremely rare IEMs, the few and far between, that I dare say is almost unfairly good. This is one of the most tonally pleasing IEMs on the market - words I don’t sling lightly - and one that should be on your radar.
- Aimer - Hakuchuumu
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- Girls’ Generation - Galaxy Supernova
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- Keith Urban - Defying Gravity (2009)
- Sabai - Million Days
- Sawano Hiroyuki - Best of Vocal Works Remastered (2020)
- Taeyeon - My Voice (2017)
- Tiffany - I Just Wanna Dance
- Tom Day - Where Were We