Today we’re checking out an earphone that I was very excited to receive, the SSR, or Super Spaceship Reference.
That second S for ‘Spaceship’ is why I was so pumped to review the SSR. The original Spaceship was one of my favourite purchases in 2019 and served as a near perfect daily driver for my listening needs. Small, comfy, and with a level of sound quality that belied the very low price tag. It reminded me of the sort of hidden gems I’d find back when I first dove into the hobby when Chinese hi-fi products were just starting to build steam. A time when there was nowhere near the coverage and hype we see nowadays.
The SSR at 39.99 USD isn’t quite as budget friendly as the Spaceship or some of my now obsolete gems, but with the slight price increase came some significant changes to aspects that people disliked about the Spaceship. The SSR has a more stylish, low profile shell with an over ear design that helps provide a more secure fit. The cable is also removable now, and uses a common 0.78mm pin size so you have lots of third party options available should you break it.
I’m not going to mince words; the SSR is awesome and easily up there as one of my favourite earphones of the year so far. Read on the find out why.
What I Hear The SSR does not stray far from the signature found in it’s predecessor, the Spaceship. That is very much a good thing in my opinion, as I quite enjoy that wallet-friendly, micro-dynamic equipped earphone. That said, there are some notable differences that lead me to expect the SSR will be slightly more universally appreciated.
Like the regular Spaceship, the SSR presents its treble with a smooth, grit-free sound that is tight and well controlled. No splash, no harshness. I find the SSR a hint warmer with a bit more weight to notes, yet it loses none of the airiness and space between notes. As a result, the SSR handles congested tracks just as comfortably. As with the original, I find the SSR to place more focus on the presence region instead of that upper treble brilliance, through the transition from one region to the other has been improved and balanced out. This combined with the slightly warmer sound results in similar detail, but within a more refined, smoother presentation. While detail is quite similar, I find the regular Spaceship just a hint more textured thanks to it’s slightly cooler sound. Regardless, the SSR’s treble presentation is maturely tuned and an absolute massage for the ears. I can listen for hours without fatigue settling in.
For the most part I find the general midrange emphasis basically identical to the original Spaceship. That is, the SSR pushes the mids forward, particularly vocals. The drop of additional warmth I was hearing in the treble is present here too, and I’ve been enjoying it more than I was expecting. I tend to enjoy a slightly, lean, dry sounding midrange, descriptors I cannot levy at the SSR in any way. Vocals aren’t thick per say, but they’ve got weight and girth to them with female vocalists carrying the torch. Sweet and intimate, with plenty of detail. Because I enjoy the SSR so much and find it entirely non-fatiguing, for a good chunk of my testing I was listening at much higher levels than the usual “is anything even playing” volumes I prefer. Sibilance was impressively well-controlled, even on Aesop Rock’s notoriously unforgiving “Blood Sandwich”. Since pretty much everyone says the SSR can be shouty, I looked for comments that actually included the tracks where they tested this. I know I’m not particularly sensitive to peaks, but even raising the volume to levels that caused clear distortion, nothing sounded shouty. Loud, oh yes, but shouty? Na. You want to hear something shouty pick up a Blue Ever Blue 2000EX and set yourself a new bassline. I hear this midrange as tonally accurate with great timbre, and with an absence of the occasional tinniness I heard in the previous model.
Despite nearly identical low end measurements to the Spaceship, I perceived the SSR as the warmer, bassier of the two. Extension is similarly good with some roll off in the lowest regions. Like the Spaceship the SSR can provide some decent thump and solid visceral feedback, but it’s not going to rattle your eardrums. Where they really differ is in how that low end is presented. To my ears, the SSR is slower and softer with less texture. It seems to handle rapid double bass just as well, but grungy notes from The Prodigy and Tobacco are smoother. The differences aren’t terribly vast, but they’re certainly noticeable and give each a unique character, especially when you bring back in the mids and treble which are a hint cooler and less refined on the Spaceship.
The SSR’s sound stage houses some similarities to the Spaceship, but in general I find it clearly superior here. Like the Spaceship the presentation is quite wide with effects able to careen off into the distance. There is a depth to the SSR’s sound that the Spaceship lacks, giving the SSR a more dynamic and natural feel, especially with live recordings. I found imaging to be quite good with vast sweeps of movement channel-to-channel. Instrument separation is also quite impressive for such an inexpensive earphone, though a hint behind the Spaceship, with layering falling clearly into the SSR’s favour. Where the Spaceship could sound a little confined on particularly busy tracks, the SSR remains open a spacious.
Overall I think this is a brilliantly tuned earphone. While not unanimously better than the original Spaceship, the SSR will without question proudly join it on my list of favourites under 50 USD. It can also now be the one I point people to when they say they wanted to try the Spaceship, but were turned off by the bullet-shaped shell or fixed cable.
Compared To A Peer (volumes matched with Dayton iMM-6)
Kinera SIF (39.99 USD): I quite enjoy the Sif and while I think it’s a good earphone, the SSR outclasses it. Treble out of the SSR is smoother and cleaner sounding with a better overall balance. The Sif’s midrange is less forward with slightly less warm tone. Detail and clarity are good, but a step behind the SSR, as is timbre which takes on a lighter feel than is otherwise natural. Close, but not as nice as what the SSR outputs. Bass is where the Sif is going to win many over since it offers up notably more presence in both mid and sub regions. The presentation is more forceful and powerful with an even more visceral response to the deepest notes. Midbass is a little bloated feeling compared to the SSR, but it offers up more punch and a bit more texture. Neither sound particularly quick, though the SSR has a clear edge when it comes to rapid double bass notes thanks to the extra definition it provides between each hit. The Sif has a good sound stage, but the SSR’s less intimate default vocal positioning gives it a better sense of space. Imaging is similarly clean between the two, while I find the SSR more layered and dynamic and instruments better defined and separated on congested tracks.
When it comes to build the Sif’s plastic housings match the SSR in terms of fit and finish, though I prefer 2-pin designs to MMCX so I’ll give the SSR the edge. Isolation is much better on the Sif with overall comfort being quite similar. The SSR will probably suit more users though since it has a distinct size advantage, despite the Sif not being particularly large. Cables are bout on par. The Sif’s twisted cable looks fantastic and shares a similar aesthetic while being even softer and more pliable. The sharply angled preformed ear guides do result in even more annoying tangles to deal with should you store the Sif carelessly.
As you probably gathered, I prefer the SSR. It sounds more mature and refined with better technical capabilities. Other aspects like design, shape, cable, and comfort are a bit more personal or preference driven.
TinHifi T2 (49.90 USD): The T2 has been a staple recommendation of mine since I first covered it way back in October of 2017. In this hobby, that is some pretty ridiculous staying power. The T2 earned it though thanks to excellent build quality and a neutral-leaning tune that was unlike pretty much anything else on the market, all at a price that most could comfortably afford. I think it’s time to let the old dog retire though, as to my ears the SSR is a step up in many ways. Treble is smoother and tighter with just as much detail and none of the roughness, though the T2 provides more sparkle and general energy to the sound it outputs. The midrange is more forward and vocals more coherent out of the SSR, and instruments presented with more accurate timbre. Bass digs deeper, is tighter, faster, and overall more refined, though I’ll give T2 the nod for texture. The T2 holds it’s own when it comes to sound stage though, offering up an experience that is just as spacious and more even when it comes to width and depth. I’d say the imaging out of the T2 is a hair more accurate and laying a hint improved, though I find the SSR to better separate individual instruments.
When it comes to build both are very well done, though the T2 gets the edge. Fit and finish is better with less visible seams and a design that works just as well cable up as it does in a more traditional cable down setting. I love the cable on my original T2, but I get why it was replaced for later iterations. It is somewhat stiff, rough to the touch, and has a great memory for sharp bends and kinks. Newer versions come with a much more flexible and manageable cable, though one with less character. When it comes to fit the T2 has not developed a particularly favourable reputation in the community. Personally, I find it fine for a product of that design. Stability is okay and I don’t have to constantly reseat it. Others were not so lucky. I suspect those who own both will find the fit of the SSR to be greatly superior.
I love the T2. It was a revelation and I hope it’s never forgotten. That said, it is starting to show it’s age next to products like the SSR and even Tin’s own T2 Plus that was recently released. It’s still better than 90% of the offerings in the price range though.
In The Ear The SSR features well-constructed, liquid metal alloy housings. Forged from two pieces and held together with a single hex screw, it looks and feels very study though the seam between the two parts is quite visible. Spacing is uniform and tight all the way around though. The cables plug in tightly and with a recessed design should be well-protected from accidental bends. The metal nozzle grills with integrated tuning damper have been neatly installed, as have the inner filters and vents found just under the L/R markings which have been forged into the body instead of printed or painted on. I have no issues with the way the SSR has been constructed, and also enjoy the design which pulls clear inspiration from the FLC 8S in terms of the general shape. The placement of the various vents/filters/screws also mirror the filter location on the 8S, further strengthening the similarities. That said, the SSR is not a ripoff given it is significantly smaller, does not feature an in-depth filter system, and is overall much more blocky around the edges.
The silver-plated cable I am quite fond of being that it is very similar to those found on a few favourites from my past. It is soft and pliable though the preformed ear guides, while flexible and comfortable, do lead to easy tangles if you aren’t careful when putting them away. The clear sheath also works in this cables favour allowing you to see the silver-plated strands within. It is quite visually striking when you take a close look. The hardware Moondrop selected is also a plus, as least in most areas. The 90 degree angled jack is compact and well-relieved, as are the tiny 0.78mm 2-pin plugs carried over from the Starfield (though here they are clear, not blue). While the plugs are labelled with L and R lettering to denote channel, it is extremely difficult to see so Moondrop added a red rubber ring to the right size to help out. That’s a thoughtful touch. The y-split is my only area of concern since it is quite sizable and lacks strain relief out either end. A chin cinch would have also been a welcome addition, but one is absent here. It’s easy enough to make one with a twist tie or something similar though, if you feel it is needed.
When it comes to comfort, I found the SSR to be quite nice to wear. The small size and light weight combined with rounded edges and a reasonably long nozzle means it is quite stable during heavy movement. I can also comfortably lay my head on a pillow with them in since they sit so flush with the outer ear. Isolation is pretty sub-par though, at least without music playing. Since there are vents all over the place, plenty of sound leaks through. I can pause my music to chat with my wife while leaving them in, for example. Not too many earphones out there I can do that with. Now, bring music back into the equation and oddly, isolation feels pretty good. Little volume compensation seems to be needed to block outside noise, especially if you opt to squeeze on some foam tips.
In The Box The SSR arrives in a squat, square box with the usual flair Moondrop is known for on the front; attractive fonts and anime artwork. This little lady was so popular, they even made an acrylic stand of her. If I saw this in a store I would have no idea it was earphone packaging. Honestly, it’s really quite refreshing and a welcome change of pace from the usual packaging trends. Flip around to the back and you find more traditional and helpful details; an exploded image of the SSR showing off it’s component parts, an accurate frequency response graph (not the usual marketing-guided fakery we typically see), and a spec list.
Lift the lid off and you find the SSR’s earphones with cable attached resting comfortably in a foam insert. Alongside the foam insert is a smaller cardboard box embossed with the Moondrop logo in silver foil, inside which you find the included extras. In all you get:
- SSR earphones
- 0.78mm Silver-plated 4N-Litz OFC cable
- Single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
- Fabric carrying pouch
While you are not provided a ton of extras with the SSR, what you do get is quality. The tips are the same ones included with the original Spaceship and the Starfield, using a soft, grippy silicone. They provide a great seal and are very comfortable. The fabric carrying pouch is thick and dense and feels like it could stand up to a ton of abuse. It’s too bad it’s so small though. Even after wrapping up the cable tightly with a three finger wind, there is just barely enough space to hold the SSR, and certainly not comfortably.
Final Thoughts The SSR is yet another class leading product from Moondrop. Like the Starfield, its performance is so very clean and reliable with few faults, all of them minor. My only real complains are levied at somewhat pointless stuff, like a lack of extras and a carrying pouch that is barely large enough to cram the SSR into. Other than that, it’s all good. The SSR is small and comfortable, well-built with a quality cable, and sounds great thanks to a creamy midrange and refined treble. Bass could use a hint more slam and texture, but that is just in comparison to the regular Spaceship. It is still quite satisfying, even on bass heavy tracks where you feel the SSR might be out of its element. It all sounds quite spacious too with excellent technical presence for such an affordable earphone.
This is one happily joins the Shozy Form 1.4 as one of my personal favorites of 2020, and as a result gets an easy recommendation. If you’re looking for something in this price range, the SSR is well worth checking out.
Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer Big thanks to Moondrop for sending over a sample of the SSR for review. The thoughts within this review are my own subjective opinions based on a couple weeks of use. They do not represent Moondrop or any other entity. At the time of writing the SSR was temporarily removed from sale due to some issues with a recent batch of cables, but when it returns it will retail for 39.99 USD on Moondrop’s official AliExpress store: https://moondrop.aliexpress.com/store/4980017 / www.aliexpress.com/item/1005001269860961.html (SSR)
- Impedance: 16 ohms @ 1kHz
- Sensitivity: 115dB/Vrms @ 1kHz
- Frequency Response: 20-40,000Hz
- Driver: Beryllium-coated diaphragm with PU suspension ring
- Cable: 0.78mm Silver-plated 4N-Litz OFC
- THD: <1%
Gear Used For Testing LG Q70, FiiO M3 Pro, FiiO BTR3K, Earstudio HUD100, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501
Some Test Tunes
Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam
Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends