Moondrop Kato Reviews & Discussion

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by shotgunshane, Sep 28, 2021.

  1. limesoft

    limesoft Friend

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    Thanks for giving some context and comparisons - that's very helpful. Glad to hear the high treble peak is not as prominent as with the Starfield (also what the graphs are suggesting). I'm kind of okish with the Starfield, but not exactly jumping with joy due to that higher treble peak - warm upper mids disconnect.

    Hmm I guess I need to mull it over a little more... that lower treble presence on the Kato... my reference is typically Sony IER-M7, what i find is a pleasant neutral non offensive tonality - anything that follows close it's freq curve (not many) usually goes in my good book
     
  2. goodvibes

    goodvibes Acquaintance

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    After some run in and changing daps, I've gone to brass nozzle and the included silicone tips. I've got some Oxygens coming and will comments once I've got them to where I like them best. (cable and tips).
     
  3. Skyline

    Skyline Double-blindly done with this hobby

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    Well, it took 2 weeks to get these in (Apos Audio - shipped from China), but they have finally arrived.

    I experienced all of the negative comments you've seen in this thread (thin and a little etched in the treble), but eventually discovered that it all came down to fit and seal. The silicone tips just didn't seal properly for me no matter the size. With the large tips one ear sealed properly and the other didn't. With the medium tips, I had the same problem but with the opposite ears.

    The foam tips did the trick and everything sounds wonderful. Nice and balanced with good clarity. The value proposition at $190 is just silly. Audio in general has gotten so much more affordable...I don't know why you all play around with "high-end" stuff. :p

    I found that my old spiral dot tips work as well. I get a good seal, and they sound fine. The foam tips still sound more full, however. I'm guessing the memory foam really works for me.

    I hate it, though, because I've always found foam tips to wear down and tear before too long and it's a constant game of replacing them. I'll give the spiral dots more time and see how it goes.

    I have yet to try out the brass nozzles...the consensus seems to be a little more warmth? I'm not sure that's something I want, but I'm sure I'll get bored and play with it one day.
     
  4. RestoredSparda

    RestoredSparda Friend

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  5. philipmorgan

    philipmorgan Member of the month

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    The Moondrop Kato is a noticeable step up from the Moondrop Aria in technicalities, but a step down in terms of appearance.

    The midrange on the Katos is a bit more present, detailed, and alive than on the Arias, and the bass a bit more clearly defined. The overall tuning is very similar, and is for my preferences an extremely attractive tuning. Despite the modest amount of extra midrange energy, these are still pleasant, all-day-listen IEMs for me, and they don't require significant bass shelf EQ like my JVC HA-FD01s do, and they are quite a bit more refined and smooth-sounding in the midrange.

    I despise the appearance of these IEMs and the cable they come with feels like thin lamp cord -- hard, plastickey, gross. The cable isn't as tacky as the original Apple earbuds cable, but it's not nearly as nice to touch and wear as the cloth-sleeved cable the Moondrop Arias come with. Maybe the Kato's cable is technically better in some way, but it feels like a downgrade. And while the silver chrome finish of the IEMs is a nice silver chrome finish, DEAR GOD WHY DID YOU PEOPLE PUT A SILVER CHROME FINISH ON IEMS IN THE FIRST PLACE?!?! Too bling-ey.

    But wow, in every other way (price, build quality, and sound!) these are fantastic IEMs.

    ---

    I got to hear these as part of the loaner program. Thanks, Apos and @rhythmdevil!

    Preferences: I prefer a warmer tilt, bordering on basshead, but I find an overly-recessed or lifeless midrange unlistenable.

    Listened out of a MusicBee -> MOTU m4 -> Magni 3 stack, and out of an Apple 3.5mm dongle and Spotify. Mostly used Spiral Dot tips.
     
  6. goodvibes

    goodvibes Acquaintance

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    K-line cable is a nice upgrade to stock. I got some run in Oxygens yesterday and put them through their paces with tips and cables to make sure the compare would be fair. I can see why some prefer these but I'll take the Kato even though the oxygen may be closer to my personnel tonal preferences. The Kato just has a more even, octave to octave balance and where some might find them too smooth, I find them more natural and actually slightly more revealing of low level background sounds etc on very resolved material.

    Both are great for the price but I can get more out of the Kato. I can see how the pina gain might be more than some like with certain combos of associations but with personnel tonal preferences not withstanding, to me, the Kato's bones start with a slight advantage. Tried a few tips and cables with both via an iBasso dx240 with 24/192 master files I know very well and also some 16/44 CD rips where the resolution differences were almost negligible though I still slightly preferred the more even response. YMMV:)

    Oh and I found a pair of soft dual flange tips that sound good with the Kato and prevent them from losing seal when on the go. Not sure but think they may be from Mee Audio.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2022
  7. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    Kato review

    This review is from the loaner tour.

    Sources: Cayin N3, FiiO X3 II, FiiO A3 amp, Theta DS Pro Basic II -> Black Widow/Vali 2+

    Build Quality

    Wow, this is is the biggest stock cable for IEM’s I have ever received. Big, but soft and flexible. Amazing at this price point again. Moondrop is not going cheap on the cables. The actual IEM’s are lighter and smaller Aria, so go figure.

    Boy the stock clear tips suck. I see why @Skyline went to the foam tips. The silicone basically has no give and has no back pressure to hold the nozzle in the ear canal. I had to go to the smallest size, and even those did not fit well. They lost all the low end and sounded bright and sibilant.

    Foam tips were included with rubber inner connectors to the nozzle. They were smooth, kind of like the Shure olives, and looked like you could clean them and wipe them down. Only one pair per size, S, M, and L.

    The foam tips do fit better, and take care of the air and move the low end down and take the puch out. They make the bass softer and more mellow while also making things less bright and more rolled off on the top end. It also makes them sound more muted with a flatter soundstage. More isolation, at the cost of narrower soundstage, less dynamics, and overall warmer sound. On the back of the packaging you can see the the FR difference and yes you can see the bass pushed by about 3db or so, and the FR does not show this but it just dulls the top end. These tips really take the life out of these and make them sound just okay.

    Since I had both the Kato and Aria, and Aria had two pairs of standard silicone tips per size. I put on a pair that fit me on Kato and what a difference! This is more like it! I think I am not the only one who did not like the silicone gel tips. They have standard nozzle size, so it should not be hard to find standard replacements. But what a pain for brand new IEM’s.

    Sound Impressions

    (spider chart below)

    These sound like the Aria’s, just better. You can tell they are cut from the same cloth, just more refined, more dynamic, and the spectrum pushed in both directions. They now make the Aria sound a bit bright and more diffused. Quite a bit more lows and authority. More highs that gives clarity and overall more microdynamics as well as macrodynamics. The added lows and highs push the mids down some and ot a total V-shaped sound. More U-shaped, with some rich lows, but somewhat scratchy highs.

    I can see why some might not like the high end. The extended top end, near 8k seems pushed just a bit. That is where all the sibilance is. It is not too distracting and only had that extra air. It got quite annoying listening to Oysterhead’s “Pseudo Suicide”. It also kind of lacks microdymaics in this area and on busier tracks and makes them sound “shhhhhhh”. Yes, a bit harsh there. It kind of gives way to not as natural and somewhat artificial timbre.

    Where they are the most enjoyable is the sheer explosiveness of them. They are crazy dynamic and keep had me turning my volume up. They also have space like I have not heard on IEM’s. It almost sounds like I am wearing headphones…almost. They are engaging in such a fun way and sound good on many sources. The closest I can think of headphones in this way is Denon AH-D7000’s.

    After awhile they can be kind of fatiguing with some grainy texture in the high-mids. This was not that present at first listen, only after extended listen and also some time with the 7Hz Timeless. More on that in a minute.

    I did an experiment and put the Aria cables on the Kato and it sounded fine. It still sounded better than the Aria, but not as much.. I went back to the stock Kato cable and I swear the volume went up. It certainly had more bass authority and definition. I did the reverse experiment with Aria in putting the Kato cable on it and it improved the top end some and overall clarity, but only by a very small amount.

    Brass nozzles sounded a bit more mid-centric. Not as much low end authority, top end is more rolled off. Transients are softer all around. Not as impressive.

    Comparisons to 7Hz Timeless

    Now a big question is, “How do these compare with the 7Hz Timeless?” Good question. I had to find out myself and went ahead and purchased a pair for two reasons: this comparison, and @Merrick really mostly positive things to say and he and I have very similar tastes in what we are looking for in high end audio.

    First, the Timeless (-) bigger, (-) heavier, (-) smaller cable, (+) MMCX connectors (+) more variety of tips. Kato wins every round for comfort (with some standard stock tips)

    Soundwise, Timeless wins for overall engagement and involvement. Timless has that visceral bass that has a sub in the room, but not muddy, however might be too boomy for some.. Wow…planar bass shoved in my ear. Although it is still not too much. Highs are more subdued than Kato as things are not quite as sharp on that extreme top end. Some fine plankton and details missed. Kato has more air. I think @Nash said that Kato has a bit of grain, but also a bit of width, and Timeless is faster and more details. I will mostly agree with this assessment and say Kato is a tad harsh and airy, and Timeless is smoother with more layering. Timeless is also going to be more amp/source dependent since it is a planar after all Clear as mud? Good.

    Kato-Timeless-Aria Spider Chart.PNG

    Kato advantages
    • Air
    • Width
    • Easier drive
    • Smaller, lightweight
    • cable

    Timeless advantages
    • Layering
    • Textured lows
    • Engagement
    • Easy fit (really they are very comfortable)
    • Scaling
    Basically I could live with either. I would say the biggest advantage Kato has over Timeless is that is not as source dependent and very wide and detailed sound with a decent signature. I would say the advantage of the Timeless is the bass presence and texture, the layers, relaxed sound. Timeless is a fuller sounding IEM because of the rich lows. Kato is more like D7000/ TH-900.
     

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  8. JayC

    JayC Resident Crash Test Dummy

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    Could people post recommendations for tips on these? I think my issues with bass are down to seal, so I'm looking around for other options

    I see some mentions of the AzlaSedna Light (any size recommendation considering the Large spring tips are perhaps a smidge too small?) and Aria tips (not available to buy separately) and would like to know if there are any other options to consider
     
  9. YMO

    YMO Chewbacca's hairy brother

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    Yeah...Kato is good shit after listening to it for at least five minutes in. However, there will still be people who will say the following:

    "Why the DD Driver isn't giving me enough bass?"
    "Why there isn't enough resolution?"
    "Why my animu soundtracks don't sound too great on these?"
    "I brought the Kato for the animu artwork on the package but came away disappointed on a few factors."

    Kato is mostly a neutral sounding DD IEM that does't suck for its $200ish retail price that performs more than it should. I can see some budget minded folks using the Kato for their main listening IEM and perhaps get the Moondrop Aria/Starfield for funner listening, all for a good price.

    Packaging is great with all the tips/paperwork/protection/carrying case (perfect size), blah blah blah. What I do hate with the Packaging is the anime/animu wank fodder artwork on the box. Once again I'm not a 40 year old virgin living in my bedroom at mommy house. I know this style of adversing is more common in the East-Asian market, but I even know that animu waifu wank fodder does get old even for anime fans like me and anime fans in the East-Asian market.

    The tips are....fine. I used the stock marshmallow tips since they gave me a great steal. The silicone tips aren't bad, but I know everyone is different and you might want to roll your own tips. The build quality of the IEMs are also excellent, but I'm not the fan of the stainless steel look. It's cool you can swap the "filters," but they are the same thing but in different color. The stock cable is on the ticker side, and I wish it was a little more bendable, but it's a minor issue. On the upside with everything, these seem like they are $400+ IEMs, not the $200ish retail price like the Kato. You can own a Kato that feels near TOTL without things being cheap IMO.

    Now to the sound. Bass is sufficient but isn't on the fun side. It will only provide rumble when it is called for, but the focus is more on the bass region and not much on sub bass. I promise you that you won't get bleeding bass in the mids if that is an issue. For what it is, the bass is more tighter and faster than the Moondrop Aria/Starfield, but I think still behind speed wise than something like like the Blessing 2 (not the Dusk variant) if I have to be honest. If you have even a minor bass bias, then skip the Kato. However, it will be just good enough if you wanna play some old electronic tracks with heavy bass. Honestly with heavy bass stuff I'll just use my Moondrop Starfield and use the Kato for my good recorded music like Steely Dan.

    Mids to more are more forwarded than my pair of the Moondrop Starfield. However, I think the Kato struck the right balance of engaging mids and not being too upfront like Grados. Honestly, the Kato kills the cheaper Moondrop Aria/Starfield and IMO surpassed the JVC HA-FDX1 (green filters) in mids. I felt things are more on point without any serious sticking points. I don't feel like the upper mids wanna kill me, and like the Moondrop Starfield almost anything I threw at the Kato sounded good to me. The resolution, clarity, and vocals are nuts in these $200 IEMs, and there's even more "sound staging" than the JVC HA-FDX1. I must say that these do sound similar to the Aria/Starfield, so if you like those two IEMs then you will feel at home with the Kato's mids even if the Kato's mids are better and more forwarded. Other IEMs will surpass the Kato in mids, but you have to pay a lot more money to get that upgrade and you might need to use a Multi-BA setup (which isn't for everyone).

    Highs are good enough. There is a roll-off at the upper treble, which is the normal with most DD IEMs. Now there were moments where I felt the treble was on the metallic side of things, but at other times this wasn't the case. Perhaps if I was running them in a tube amp then that problem might go away (providing if you aren't using a neutral or bright DAC). With that being said, it's more airy and more lively than the Aria/Starfield and I think I prefer the highs here over the JVC HA-FDX1. Other than that, I'm not finding anything that I wanna complain about for the price. It goes without saying, if you have a fetish for 10K and up then avoid the Kato. On the bright side, bright recording (I had to say bright twice) are ok with the Kato and I can survive them even when playing some of my worse bright recordings (Akira Original Soundtrack).

    I think I said everything I threw at it sounded good. I still believe that is the case. However, I can tell that for folks who have a vocal fetish and/or into heavy bass music will be very disappointed with the Kato. They will say the Kato isn't fun enough and is too restricted. I think for those guys the issue is the Kato is trying to please almost everyone and stay in the neutral world of things. I think Moondrop struck the right balance here considering its crazy retail price you are getting a lot for the money for a single driver DD IEM.

    For the $200 range, I guess everyone is going over the Kato or the Timeless 7hz IEM. I haven't heard the 7hz yet, but I got a feeling that build quality might be better on the Kato, but the 7hz will have a more unique sound over the DD driver Kato. With that being said, you can spend $200+ and don't get something that sounds like shit and prefer quite well on other setups.

    But yeah...Kato is legit good. It isn't for everyone, but I can see this as someone's main IEM for neutralist tuning and something like the Aria/Starfield for the more funner tuning stuff. Good stuff, if you wanna be cheap you can get either the Aria and the Kato for around $300 and you almost have all of your IEM bases covered.

    Now I just wish Moondrop get rid of the animu waifu wank fodder from their packaging.......
     
  10. Nash

    Nash Rando

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    Any chance drop will do a black version of kato like the kxxx? I like the Kato sound wise but looks too flashy imo. Also the mirror finish on kxxs/kanas pro faded over time, feel it'll be same for kato.
     
  11. TamHo

    TamHo Rando

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    Hello guys,
    I got mild electric shock when using the Moondrop Kxxs. It was not dangerous but made me uncomfortable. Does the Kato have that problem? tks
     
  12. RestoredSparda

    RestoredSparda Friend

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    Never experienced that or heard anyone else mention it.
     
  13. verasmolee

    verasmolee Rando

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    I find hi-mids/lower treble rough/dry on starfield. So ... i guess ...Kato has similar character?
     
  14. YMO

    YMO Chewbacca's hairy brother

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    Yes
     
  15. scblock

    scblock Friend

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    Thanks to Apos Audio and SBAF for organizing this loaner along with the Aria loaner.

    I spent nearly a week with the Kato loaner. My primary listening chain was balanced output from a Sony WM1A running Walkman One firmware, though I also spent some time with a Lyr 3 fed by Modius. I also did some testing of a few other sources, as noted below. My main IEMs of comparison were the Aria loaner, which I had at the same time, CA Andromeda, and Drop JVC FDX1 with the most damped nozzles (green in my case).

    Much of these impressions and text will be shared with the Arias, as I felt they had a similar presentation, with the Kato having a more refined sound which is probably worth the extra money if you can get over the bling factor of these.

    Comfort is good, I had no issues with fit or feel and could listen for quite a while without fatigue. I tried a few tips and eventually settled on Final Audio silicone tips. Same as I use on the Andromeda actually. This seemed to give me the best comfort and preferred sound.

    I dislike the finish on these. The polished silver looks nice at first, but is way too shiny and quickly gets fingerprints. I much preferred the finish on the Arias. I feel like their more refined look actually makes them look like the more expensive pair. The included cable looks nice, but I didn't really love it in use. I mostly used another cable I have with a little subtler look and less rubbery feel, though primarily because it has a balaced termination.

    The Kato has what I would describe as a fairly fun tuning. Somewhat V shaped, with a definite bass emphasis and then some additional emphasis in the upper registers. I really liked them. In comparison to the Aria, the Kato sounds slightly quicker and better at resolving details. It also lacks the harshness or glare I was hearing upper registers on the Aria. I enjoyed listening to most music with them, and have no major complaints about the overall tuning for what it is.

    I prefer the tuning of the Andromeda most of the time, but that's a preference and not a complaint about the Kato. By comparison, the Andromedas sound a little brighter and more open, especially in back to back listening. The Andros are also more resolving and sound a little more natural to me. The FDX1 had less bass emphasis and sounded a little more even but also a little thinner by comparison. I think these are a better IEM at the ~$200 price point than the FDX1.

    Since I bought the Andromedas and discovered just how picky they are about source noise I started checking sources that I consider unlistenable/unlivable with Andromeda on other IEMs I check. These include an iPod 5.5g, my Framework laptop, and an Anbernic portable retro gaming console, all of which are very noisy with the Andros. Kato was very similar to the Aria. The iPod sounded really nice, no noticable noise. The Framework laptop has an intel board with a fairly crap internal sound chip and amp. I can hear a brief buzz when the amp turns on, and a low background hissing while it is active. It's not loud, and music covers it up, but it doesn't sound super great. The retro console is really bad, though game music can drown it out.
     
  16. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    Loaner Tour Impressions
    It’s a real treat to be able to participate in these loaner tours, thank you very much. I’m grateful to everyone on the tour for their patience, especially @rhythmdevils, after the first pair of Kato broke and we had a rigmarole getting a replacement pair to me. I’m also especially grateful for the opportunity to compare directly the Kato with the 7 Hz Timeless, which I had on a SBAF loaner at the same time. Comparative impressions of the two are included below.


    Gear, Caveats, and Preferences
    • Sony NW-ZX2 DAP and Bifrost 2 -> Magni 3
    • I’m in my mid-40s and have suffered from some hearing loss; I can’t hear bats navigating, dolphins communicating, or much else over 14 or 15 kHz
    • I’m not typically a fan of warm tunings; I prefer the HD 600 over 650
    • My own preferred IEMs are the Andromeda 2020, original Solaris, and the Massdrop Plus. I’m on the lookout for a complementary DD IEM.

    General stuff
    The packaging and accessories are very nice for the price; were it not for the waifu/anime box, these would make for a great gift. I’d be stoked to receive a pair.

    I found the Kato’s shells to be comfortable enough although they’re quite weighty. Annoyingly, this weight made them to work their way out of my ears. Every few tracks, I’d notice the bass had gone and would have push the shells back in again. If I were to buy a pair, I’d need to get a pair of Björn Borg’s tennis headbands.

    [​IMG]

    Impressions
    The following impressions are out of my Magni 3 (on low gain, obviously) because the pairing with the ZX2 isn’t great. I’m not sure this DAP has enough oomph to get the Kato going properly; the sound comes across as darker, muddier, and more congested than the Magni 3.

    Out of the Magni 3, the Kato becomes much livelier and more enjoyable. It’s significantly better, both bigger and wider in its staging and also more spacious, less constrained, and with a cleaner, clearer overall sound. Most significantly, it becomes much more dynamic. The resolution improves a good deal out of the BF2 -> Magni 3 but its resolution is still not all that great (though fine, for the price).

    The Kato has a fairly pronounced but not excessive bass emphasis that contributes to an overall, slightly warm sound. I’d say the tuning is nice and coherent otherwise, although the treble, such as I can hear, isn’t very pronounced, which also contributes to the IEMs’ warmth.

    The timbre of acoustic instruments is pretty realistic and convincing. Pianos sound decent enough. String instruments have some bite - being picky, they could do with a bit more - but they have plenty of reverberation. There’s enough treble emphasis for acoustic guitars to have a bit of sparkle.

    Apart from the resolution, the Kato’s technicalities are decent. The staging is nice and open. Imaging is fine, as is separation. Macrodynamics are pretty strong and with the robust bass, you get a good amount of slam. The Kato kept up with complex passages really well, again, especially for the price.


    Comparison with my Massdrop Plus:
    • the Kato is warmer and bassier
    • it has a weightier sound; the MD+ sounds lighter and more nimble
    • Kato bests the MD+ for timbre, the latter having perhaps a touch of BA timbre
    • the Kato handles bass much better; it extends deeper and is richer in the mid-bass region
      • it’s also tighter, if not faster
      • you get more rumble and much richer bass textures from the Kato
    • the MD+ struggles with bass, somewhat, and loses definition and texture in the low end
    • electric guitars are more forward on the MD+ and have more bite
    • the MD+ has a cleaner, cleaner, sweeter treble
    • cymbals sound more apparent and better
    • both are about as resolving as each other with the MD+ perhaps being slightly better
    • the MD+ is faster which makes it seem more responsive
    • you can better hear differences in emphasis, e.g. when guitarists strum chords slightly more forcefully, with the MD+
    • having said that, macrodynamic contrasts are stronger out of the Kato
    • the MD+ is more open sounding and has more precise imaging
    • it also has more spaciousness and air

    Comparison with the 7 Hz Timeless (also posted in my impressions of the Timeless):
    Using BF2 -> Magni 3 (low gain) with both, and using the stock cable on the Timeless

    Tuning:
    • the Kato is warmer; it has more emphasis in the bass and less in the treble
    • the Timeless offers more even and coherent mids, which sound more forward and spacious
    • the Timeless has better treble extension and more air at the top
    • the Timeless is smoother; the Kato is a bit rougher and perhaps grainier (I hesitate to type this)
    • the overall sound is thicker or weightier with the Kato; it has greater tonal richness
    • this isn’t necessarily a good thing, though: combined with the warmth, the Kato could sound more sluggish and congested
    • the Timeless is lighter, airier, nimbler
    • it also gives the sense that its frequency response is better extended, in both directions
    What this means is that:
    • with the Kato the sub-bass has more rumble
    • the mid-bass is also more forward
      • with that being said, I preferred the timbre of double basses with the Timeless; they sounded “woodier” and more realistic and natural
    • I suspect the Timeless’s bass is a bit tighter and faster (I could well be wrong here; these advantages weren’t constant across all music)
    • the Kato’s strings have less bite
    • cymbals had a cleaner, crisper, zingier sound with the Timeless
    • female vocals are more forward on the Kato

    Technicalities:

    • the Kato has a less spacious headstage, both in terms of width and depth
    • the Timeless has better layering, separation, and space around instruments, with better treble and more top-end air
    • I think the Timeless might pull ahead slightly in imaging; it’s hard to tell because the Timeless provides a larger stage in which to locate sounds
    • the Timeless has a cleaner sound, one that’s more pristine and less muddy
    • the Timeless has better resolution
    • it’s also faster
    • the Kato has stronger macrodynamics
    • with its stronger bass emphasis, the Kato also slams harder

    Altogether, the Kato sounds warmer and more intimate. The Timeless, by contrast, sounds faster, more resolving, nimbler and more responsive, and more open and spacious and airy in its staging, with much better separation and space around instruments

    Conclusion
    Were it not for two things, I’d have bought the Kato for myself: first, it doesn’t sound good out of my DAP and, second, I much prefer the Timeless. If you favor a warmer pair of IEMs with better, stronger bass, the Kato are excellent.

    Frankly, the tuning of the Kato puts the Sennheiser IE 900 to shame. If those IEMs could have followed the Kato’s enjoyable tuning while retaining their technical abilities, they’d be astoundingly good. To flip that around, the Kato are a much better pair of IEMs, tuning wise, and I can’t complain about the technicalities for the price.
     
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