Moondrop is a boutique ChiFi headphone company that has made big waves in recent years with a few products that sound really amazing for a minimal price. The popular Moondrop Chu, which I’ve previously reviewed, might be the best built and sounding $~20 earbuds I’ve ever heard. Moondrop has managed to do this as well at “premium” price tiers – the also popular Blessing2 is the only “A-tier” iem with a 3 star value rating on In Ear Fidelity’s database – these headphones perform and sound as good as elite tier HiFi headphones that run in the thousands.
The NEKOCAKE (yes the product name is fully capitalized) is Moondrop’s foray into the increasingly competitive budget true wireless earbuds market. It’s more unusual for seemingly niche HiFi companies to target this market, and odds are most people have never heard about this product or brand. Nonetheless, I was excited to get my hands on a pair and see how they fare against the more mainstream competition.
What Accessories Come Included With the Moondrop NEKOCAKE?
- manual booklet
- USB-C charging cable
- 3 additional pairs of replacement tips
- charging/carrying case
How Good and Comfortable Is the Moondrop NEKOCAKE Fit?
I was able to eventually figure out an adequate fit and seal, but not without a fair bit of struggle. The buds themselves have a non contoured design and relatively shallow nozzles, factors which tend to make fit issues more likely. Putting on NEKOCAKE replacement tips also might be one the hardest such experiences I’ve ever had – those things just refuse to pop on properly, and you have to be pretty meticulous to make sure they’re properly oriented with the non cylindrical nozzles.
The fit itself is not the greatest comfort wise. I personally like a seal that’s a little deeper and with a fair bit of pressure, and the NEKOCAKE is shallower and sits more flush on the concha of the ear.
How to Insert and Wear the Moondrop NEKOCAKE
I had to fiddle around with them for a bit, but what worked for me is inserting them with the stems angled down and slightly back, then pushing them in while rotating the stems counter clockwise until I felt like they properly locked. It would take me a few tries to get it right sometimes. Again, not the greatest feeling fit/seal ever.
Does the Moondrop NEKOCAKE Have Good Controls, and Is It Easy to Use?
The NEKOCAKE has a touch control schematic that has all of the functions you’d expect wireless earbuds to have in 2023. You touch the upper point of the thin stems to issue commands, which seems a little non intuitive and like it would be unreliable, but I found the controls were responsive and easy to use.
List of Moondrop NEKOCAKE Touch Control Functions:
- pause/play – 1 tap either earbud
- track forward – 2 taps right earbud
- reset, track backward – 2 taps left earbud
- turn noise cancellation on/off – press and hold either earbud
- accept/end call – 1 tap either earbud
- reject call – press and hold either earbud
- voice assistant – 3 taps either earbud
Durability: Is the Moondrop NEKOCAKE Waterproof And/Or Dustproof?
I could not find any direct source that says if the NEKOCAKE has an official ingress protection code. I did see one comment on the Amazon sales page claiming they have IPX4 certification (resistant to moisture and slight splashing), but I am not willing to take that at face value.
Does the Moondrop NEKOCAKE Have Good Isolation And/Or Active Noise Cancellation?
The NEKOCAKE provides very little in the way of natural isolation, mostly due to its shallow style fit, but they do have an anc mode that you can turn on and off, and it’s quite good noise attenuation for budget wireless earbuds. I’d put the isolation at around medium-high. One thing worth nothing here is that you have to turn the anc on each time you take the buds out of the case – it defaults to off for some reason.
Moondrop NEKOCAKE Case
The case is nice and sturdy but a little on the big and bulky side.
How Good Is the Moondrop NEKOCAKE Battery Life?
The NEKOCAKE earbuds have a max purported battery life of 4 hours, and the case gives an additional two recharges/8 hours for a grand total of around 12 hours, though I’d expect this to go down with the anc on. This is relatively poor battery life compared to similarly priced competition in 2023, where 30+ hours is relatively decent.
Does the Moondrop NEKOCAKE Have Good Warranty Coverage?
The NEKOCAKE has a six month limited warranty against defects, which is very short, even for true wireless earbuds. One year is the fairly standard and common minimum, though I’ve seen some companies offer up to two years of coverage.
The Important Question: Does the Moondrop NEKOCAKE Sound Good?
Moondrop is definitely a brand that’s focused on music and audiophilia, and the NEKOCAKE unsurprisingly reflects that – they sound very good for the price, best in class.
Most mainstream budget earbuds follow a Harman/U-shape tuning with emphasized bass. That does a better job at sounding fuller as well as contributing to isolation. It’s also what most casual listeners tend to prefer. The NEKOCAKE is different in that it’s much more flat/neutral, with particularly tuned up mid-highs and highs that results in the signature “bright and sparkly” style of sound.
Moondrop actually publishes a response curve graph on the NEKOCAKE box, and though I don’t think self reported frequency response data is all that useful (they also have no vertical axis units for perspective), I do think they’re being honest and I’d say the shape of this curve accurately reflects the sound.
The NEKOCAKE has exceptionally good detail, clarity, and separation for non expensive wireless earbuds, moreso than you’re probably going to get with any competing mainstream product on the market. But, I do think a fair amount of people would still prefer “mainstream” tuning – The NEKOCAKE is a little thin and harsh compared to that.
The bass is recessed, but the extension is good – the drops I normally test came through pretty evenly and consistently. Tone and pitch was well preserved, whereas a lot of the competition will become a loose muddy mess here.
So, how does the NEKOCAKE compare to industry leading wireless earbuds that cost about five times as much?
This was a comparison I was excited to do, because Moondrop now has an established reputation of creating very impressive sound that belies the attached price tag.
The detail of the NEKOCAKE was pretty much all there compared to the Galaxy Buds Pro, perhaps an iota short, but impressively close if not indistinguishable in some cases. Where the NEKOCAKE falls short is the concurrent feeling of fullness and clarity as a result. The NEKOCAKE is a little thin and boxy compared to the Galaxy Buds Pro, and you can’t quite distinguish sounds and instruments in the low-mids and mids. Flat/neutral sound on a budget is very tough to do, if not impossible, but the NEKOCAKE does come impressively close to the Galaxy Buds Pro in most ways.
My subjective gut feeling sound quality tier grade is: B+
Final Verdict: Is the Moondrop NEKOCAKE Worth Buying?
The NEKOCAKE is a product that’s definitely aimed at fidelity over general use and utility. If you’re looking for a more audiophile focused pair of wireless earbuds, with more traditional flat/neutral tuning to use around the house, and that’s not so expensive, then I think the NEKOCAKE is probably the best choice at the time of this writing. Moondrop definitely continues their trend of technically high quality sound at amazingly low prices.
But contrast that to the NEKOCAKE’s relatively poor battery life, the short warranty, no IP code certified water or dust resistance, and the shallow and less secure fit, then it’s clear the NEKOCAKE is definitely not the choice for travel and active use. There are similarly priced competitors that are much better suited for that, and which have more common bass emphasized tuning that a lot of casual consumers might prefer anyhow.