An improved Kanas Pro - The Moondrop KXXS - Audiofool




disclaimer:  I received the KXXS as part of a contest Moondrop held on Facebook.  If you have an interest in Moondrop or in the KXXS, you can follow them on facebook, or shop their Aliexpress or Amazon stores.     Those who have followed me for any length of time here will know I have owned the Kanas, Kanas pro (KP), and crescent.  I also have the Nameless in queue at the moment to review (I purchased it outright).   I have no affiliation with Moondrop other than customer but will concede that I have an expectation going in based on previous models I have had and continue to enjoy.

Unboxing / Packaging:
The KXXS comes in a slip-cover box with the logo and a line drawing on the front and details about the contents on the reverse.  Once you remove the cover, the box is split vertically with the left panel having the earpieces in foam above the case and the right side hidden behind a small panel.   Beneath the panel are the rest of the kit which includes another smaller bag, 6 sets of tips, 3 sets of spare nozzle filters and a pair of tweezers for installing them, a flight adapter, the cable, and various warranty and instruction cards.   Overall, a fairly complete kit although a locking case and/or a balanced cable would be welcomed additions.




Build/Fit:
The earpieces are made of a Zinc/Aluminum alloy and polished to a mirror finish.  Shells are 2 parts with an outer face-plate and the inner body of the shell.   Nozzles exit the top/front edge of the shell with an upward rake and are built into the shell rather than being an add-on.  Vents sit below the nozzle and at the inside rear of the shell below the bi-pin connector.     The seam between the face and inner shell is very uniform with no gaps or glue showing.  The recess for bi-pin looks a bit discomforting without a connector attached, but is tight to the cable with little play or gap when inserted.
Tips sit fairly deeply in the ear and the body of the shell mostly rests within the ear with very little protrusion to the outside.  weight is on the heavy side due to construction, but is not uncomfortable and combined with its slightly smaller than average size, the KXXs isn’t likely to be a fit problem for all but the smallest ears.











Internals:
Those familiar with Moondrop, will not be surprised to find the driver in the KXXS to be very similar to previous model the Kanas Pro (KP).   Again, we see a 10mm dynamic driver with a graphene coated diaphragm and PEEK coil used.    Nominal impedance is listed as 32Ω at 1kHz with a sensitivity measured at 110dB/mW.    I had no trouble driving the KXXS adequately with a phone or tablet but did find that detail reproduction improved with a dedicated dap.      The shell also plays a role in the discussion as the sound chamber was designed from the ground up around the driver used in this model to give the best acoustic performance.



Cable:
The cable provided is Litz braided 4N silver plated oxygen free copper in a clear casing.  The jack is the straight type with a polished metal housing and a short strain relief.  From the jack to the splitter the wires are what I refer to as double helix (two twisted pairs that are then twisted together).    The splitter is also highly polished metal with no strain reliefs on either side and each of the pairs exits separately and travels to pre-formed earhooks followed by plastic housings for the .78mm bi-pin connectors.  It is worth noting here that the bi-pin connector fits into a recess in the KXXS shell and this has the potential to limit the use of after-market cables as the size and style of the bi-pin housing will have to remain nearly the same as the provided cable in order to work properly.






Sound:


Bass:
Sub-bass depth is quite good with no discernible roll-off until roughly 35Hz and a mild emphasis.   Mid-bass is not emphasized but has good weight and thump and very good control.  If anything the transition point from mid-bass to mids is about as recessed as the KXXS gets.  This isnt to suggest they take a backseat as overall the KXXs is well balanced and the mid-bass is only very mildly recessed.  Attack speed is quite good with decay being just slightly slower and leaving a touch of lingering warmth without getting sloppy or sluggish.   Texture is better than the KP which was already well done in my opinion.   I’m a fan of the way Moondrop tunes bass as it has good slam and rumble when called upon, but doesn’t force it forward and into the mix full-time like some others tend to do.

Mids:
There is just a hint of mid-bass bleed into the lower mids, but not enough to obscure detail.  Mids start climbing forward almost as soon as the transition from mid-bass begins with upper-mids and lower treble being about equal with the sub-bass push.   Again, the tuning is similar to the KP with the KXXs showing a bit better detail and a cleaner sound comparatively.   The Tonality of the KXXs is closer to natural than the KP and I find the timbre of acoustic guitar to be a bit better as well.   The upper-mid emphasis pushes vocals slightly forward while still remaining tasteful and not overdone.   Strings are well rendered as well making the KXXs a viable option for those listening to classical or operatic pieces.

Treble:
So far the differences between KP and KXXs have been a matter of degree, the lower treble breaks that trend and is the largest difference in the KP and KXXs models.  Lower treble is more emphasized on the KXXs with better resolution and clarity.  This gives snare a better attack and cymbals a more crisp feel than the KP by comparison.   Again, this is done tastefully and doesn’t push the lower treble so far forward as to be harsh or fatiguing.   Above the lower treble, the signature drops back into line.  Upper end air and sparkle are reasonably good but are obviously somewhat limited by the choice of tuning.  There are no harsh spikes and extension is above average with audible drop-off starting above about 11kHz.     Here again, I think the KXXs does a good job of walking the line between treble emphasis and fatigue.

Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstage has both good width and depth with width seeming just slightly broader than depth.  Seating the orchestra puts everything in the proper place with little overlap or tendency to put one in front/behind rather than adjacent to each other.  Instrument separation and layering are both very good (not for the class, just plain good).  Imaging is very good as well with spatial cues easily moving around the stage and giving a feeling of direction to passages.

Comparisons: 
IKKO OH10  –  Both are quality construction, but the Ikko is much more hefty and the polish and finish is a level above what the KXXs does.   Sound wise, the OH-10 is much more emphasized at the lower end and a deeper V shape when compared to the KXXs.  Both sport good resolution and clarity.   This contest comes down to what sound signature one prefers.  Those looking for emphasized bass done right will prefer the OH-10.  Those looking for all things in proportion will likely prefer the KXXs.

Oriolus Finschi –   This one is a dogfight.  Both have quality shells and similar signatures.  Bass depth may be slightly better on the Finschi, but control is better on the KXXs and textures are better as a result.  Speed is better on the KXXs with decay in particular being a bit slower on the Finschi.   The Finschi lacks the upper-mid push of the KXXs so those who dislike the vocal push to the front will probably find the Finschi a bit more to their liking while those who like the vocals to stand out slightly will find the KXXs to be the operative choice.   Treble is smooth on both, but the treble shy will likely prefer the Finschi as it is a bit less airy up top with a bit earlier roll-off. 

Brainwavz B400 –  Shells are not even close to comparable.  The 3d printed b400 has a reputation for needing a bit of extra care in handling while the solid aluminum shell of the KXXs should withstand a good bit worse treatment.  I wouldn’t dream of carrying the b400 lose in my pocket, but I wouldnt hesitate to do the same with the KXXs (cable disconnected mind you).   Sound wise the two differ between trying to be absolutely neutral (b400) vs introducing some emphasis at points that make the iem more musical and listenable for pleasure (KXXs).  Imagine taking the b400 and extending it on both ends slightly and then emphasizing the lower bass just enough to give it a true rumble and the upper mids just enough to move vocals to the front and you have a good idea of what the KXXs brings to the party.

Moondrop Kanas Pro –  And the obvious compare, one of my previous daily drivers vs one of my new daily drivers.    Definitely a matter of degrees between the two.  Those expecting a big departure from one to the other will be disappointed.  Those who take the KXXs out of the box and immediately compare may even feel it is a step backward.  My advice is give the KXXs a hundred hours or so before you start making comparisons.  I was not impressed with its out of the box performance but after 72 hours of pink noise it has improved considerably.    Even so, you’ll need to look for the differences as they wont jump off the page at you.    The first things you will notice is the bass depth has improved, stage is wider and deeper on the KXXs and instrument separation is better.   More subtle things are the upper-mid push makes vocals cleaner and sharper than the KP, lower mids might be a touch warmer and fuller on the KP and a touch more clear on the KXXs, and the attack speed of the KXXs seems to be a bit better as it handles complex pieces better than its predecessor.  Both are good, the KXXs borders on great.

Thoughts / Conclusion:
Well if you guessed I like the KXXs you’d be right.  It’s sound signature matches fairly closely what I like and its construction is very solid.   This is not to say it is perfect, it isnt.  I’d love to see an improved cable, a balanced cable, and a better tip selection (I ended up using mid-sized RHA dual density silicones as none of the provided tips fit well and using the large sized tips caused fatigue).     The upside right now is that the consumer has a lot of good choices at this price point.  As recently as 2017, this was not the case and to get the build and sound quality of most mentioned in the comparisons you would have to spend a good bit more.   Now the KXXs, b400, Finschi, and OH-10 all vie for your dollar.  All have something to offer, but the KXXs may be the best all-arounder of the bunch.  It has good extension on both ends while retaining good balance and avoiding any harsh peaks in the upper end.   It is one of my daily drivers today and will likely stay in the rotation unless Moondrop decides to release an improved version in the future.   I can highly recommend the KXXs, it does a lot right, and very little wrong.



Summary

Pros: Good build quality, near neutral with subtle emphasis on sub-bass and upper-mids, good resolution and clarity

Cons:  Cable and tip selection could be improved

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