The MOONDROP KATO are in-ear monitors (IEMs) that are the successor of the MOONDROP KXXS. Their name stands for KXXS Advanced Technology Optimized, as they're advertised to use a newly designed super-linear dynamic driver, which is supposed to help reproduce details in mixes and reduce distortion. In the box, they come with several pairs of ear tips in foam as well as in a silicone-like 'spring tip' material to help you get the best fit. The buds' nozzles are replaceable, and swapping between the included pair of brass and pair of steel nozzles lets you adjust your listening experience based on how these materials carry sound. Using their spring tips and steel nozzles, they have a fairly neutral sound profile for reproducing vocals and lead instruments clearly and accurately. However, they lack a thumpy low-bass.
The MOONDROP KATO are decent for neutral sound. They come with lots of swappable parts like foam and silicone-like ear tips to help you get the best fit, as well as brass and steel nozzles, which slightly change how your audio sounds based on how the materials carry sound. When using their spring ear tips and steel nozzles, they have a neutral sound profile with a flat mid-range, so vocals and lead instruments are reproduced clearly. Thanks to their balanced treble range, tracks have detail but aren't overly bright. However, they lack a thumpy, punchy low-bass. Since they have an in-ear design, they also can't create a very immersive passive soundstage with a wide separation of objects like instruments.
The MOONDROP KATO are disappointing for commute and travel. Although they have a portable design and come with a carrying case to help protect them when you're not using them, they struggle to block out the low rumble of bus and plane engines. Their carrying cable can also snag on something, although the cable is detachable. That said, they have a comfortable fit and are well-built.
The MOONDROP KATO are passable for sports and fitness, although they're not designed for this purpose. They have a comfortable fit, feel well-built, and their audio cable is designed to go over the top of your ear, which helps keep them stable as you move. While their cable could snag on something and pull them off your head, it's detachable, which limits the overall damage possible. However, they lack an IP rating for water resistance.
The MOONDROP KATO are disappointing for office use. These buds have a comfortable fit and can help passively block out ambient noise like office chatter. However, they don't have a mic, which may be frustrating for some users who need to take calls at work. They also lack controls, so you have to pull out your phone or use your PC to adjust the volume or play and pause audio.
The MOONDROP KATO are wired headphones, and you can't use them wirelessly.
The MOONDROP KATO are acceptable for wired gaming. While they don't have a mic, meaning you can't communicate with teammates, their neutral sound profile is well-suited for reproducing dialogue and instrumentals in cut scenes. They also have a comfortable fit and have a great build quality. However, they struggle to reproduce a thumpy low-bass, which could cause issues if you want to emphasize sound effects like footsteps while gaming.
The MOONDROP KATO don't come with a mic, and you can't use them for phone calls.
The MOONDROP KATO come in two color variants: 'Mirror Silver' and 'Matte Steel'. We tested the 'Mirror Silver' variant, and you can see our model's label here. If you come across another variant, please let us know in the discussions, and we'll update our review.
The MOONDROP KATO are the improved sibling of the MOONDROP KXXS IEM. They have similarly great build quality as the TIN Audio T3 and come with a braided, detachable two-pin to 1/8" TRS cable, several pairs of ear tips to help you get the best fit, and two sets of nozzles: one in brass and another in steel. Although they're a bit heavier than other IEMs like the Shure SE215 due to their buds' steel casing, they have a comfortable fit. Using the steel nozzles with the spring tips, they have a fairly neutral sound profile that produces vocals and lead instruments accurately. That said, they lack a thumpy low-bass, which could be disappointing if you listen to genres like EDM and hip-hop.
The MOONDROP Aria are better in-ear monitors than the MOONDROP KATO. The Aria are more comfortable, and they have a slightly more neutral sound profile, which some users may prefer. The KATO are better built, and you can swap out the nozzles if you want to slightly tweak their sound.
The MOONDROP KATO and the 7HZ Timeless have different strengths. The MOONDROP are in-ear monitors (IEMs) with a dynamic transducer that are more comfortable and have a better build quality. Their treble range is flatter and more accurate, and they come with two pairs of nozzles made in different materials to help you customize their sound. However, the 7HZ are planar magnetic IEMs that deliver audio more consistently, have much better bass accuracy, and have a flatter mid-range. They can also block out more background noise, although their performance in this regard is still sub-par.
The MOONDROP KATO are better IEMs for neutral sound than the Shure SE215. While both headphones are comfortable and well-built, the MOONDROP have a more neutral sound profile, which some users may prefer, and their passive soundstage seems more open and spacious, although it's still small and sounds as if it's coming from inside your head. However, the Shure can isolate you from more ambient noise.
The 1More Triple Driver and the MOONDROP KATO have different strengths, and you may prefer either one. The 1More are more casual use headphones with a microphone so you can take calls on the go, have more consistent audio delivery, and can block out a bit more background noise. However, the MOONDROP are in-ear monitors designed for neutral sound. They're more comfortable, better-built, and have a more neutral sound profile, which some users may prefer.
The Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless are more versatile in-ears than the MOONDROP KATO. While both headphones are comfortable and well-built, the Apple are wireless headphones with a lot more features. The Apple headphones have a similarly neutral sound profile, which some users may prefer, have a virtual soundstage feature to help give you a more immersive audio experience, and an ANC system to block out a significant amount of ambient sound when you're on the go. They also have a mic and an H1 chip for seamless pairing with your Apple devices. However, the MOONDROP are wired in-ear monitors with a swappable nozzle design.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless are more versatile in-ears than the MOONDROP KATO. While both headphones are comfortable, the Samsung have a more neutral sound profile, which some users may prefer, and their companion app offers EQ presets to help you customize their sound to your liking. They can also passively block out more ambient noise. They also have a mic so you can take calls on the go. However, the MOONDROP are better-built wired in-ear monitors with a swappable nozzle design.
The MOONDROP KATO are better IEMs than the Sennheiser IE 40 PRO. Although they're heavier, the MOONDROP are more comfortable, feel significantly better built, and have a more neutral sound profile, which some users may prefer. However, the Sennheiser can reproduce bass more accurately, and they're able to block out more background noise.
The MOONDROP KATO are better IEMs for neutral sound than the Shure SE425. While both headphones are comfortable and well-built, the MOONDROP let you swap out their steel nozzles for brass if you prefer. They also have a more neutral sound profile, which some users may prefer. However, the Shure can block out a bit more background noise around you.
The MOONDROP KATO are better IEMs for neutral sound than the TIN Audio T3. While both headphones are well-built, the MOONDROP are significantly more comfortable, have a more neutral sound profile, and have a better passive soundstage, although it's still not very large or immersive. However, some users may prefer the TIN's more bass-heavy sound profile.
The MOONDROP KATO are in-ear monitors with a sleek look. The audio cables are detachable and braided, so you can swap them out if you prefer a different look. The buds are made of shiny stainless steel and have a geometric face that reflects light. However, this surface is very prone to fingerprints, which is a little annoying. They come in two color variants: 'Mirror Silver' and 'Matte Steel'.
The MOONDROP KATO have a comfortable fit. They don't put too much pressure on your ears, and they come with six different pairs of ear tips to help you find the best fit. That said, they're a bit heavy for in-ears, and the buds as well as the cable can feel a bit fatiguing over time.
The MOONDROP KATO have excellent portability. They can easily fit into most pockets or bags without an issue and come with a carrying case to help protect them when you're not using them.
The MOONDROP KATO have a decent carrying case. It's small, lightweight, and there's a magnet to help secure the lid closed. Inside the case is a velvet-like lining to help protect the buds when you're not using them. They also come with a drawstring pouch, which is nice if you don't want to use the case. However, the case feels like it could break over time if you place constant pressure on it.
The MOONDROP KATO have a great build quality. They feel better built than the 7HZ Timeless, and many parts of their design are interchangeable. They have a detachable braided silicone audio cable, and you can swap between the included brass and steel nozzles. However, the nozzles feel like they can detach easily, while the buds' glossy finish is very fingerprint-prone. They also lack an IP rating for dust and water resistance, although this is expected from in-ear monitors.
These headphones have a very stable in-ear fit. Since their audio cable hooks around your ear, even with high-intensity movements like running or working out, they shouldn't fall out of your ears. While the audio cable could snag on something, its two-pin connector design means that the cable should disconnect from the bud when pulled.
Using their silicone-like spring tips and steel nozzles, the MOONDROP KATO have a very neutral sound profile, which is suitable for most kinds of audio content. Their mid-range is well-balanced, so vocals and lead instruments are reproduced clearly. However, they lack a thumpy, punchy low-bass, which could disappoint fans of EDM and hip-hop.
Since their design is interchangeable, you can play around with their different ear tips and nozzles to get an audio experience that better suits your tastes. We tested these headphones in a variety of combinations including spring tip vs foam tip with steel nozzles, and small versus medium spring tips with steel nozzles. Some users may prefer the foam tips over the spring tips as they can help form a tighter seal in your ear and improve bass delivery. These headphones also come with one pair of steel and another pair of brass nozzles. The manufacturer specifies that these different materials can slightly change the sound of your audio but doesn't elaborate further. You can see a comparison of the frequency response using the brass versus steel nozzle with spring tip here. The steel nozzle produces a bit more bass, but the actual curve doesn't change significantly. You can also set the nozzle half-closed or fully closed, depending on your preferences. Using the steel nozzle, you can see a comparison of half-closed versus fully closed here.
The MOONDROP KATO have great frequency response consistency. Once you achieve a good fit using the nozzles and ear tips included, you should get more consistent audio delivery each time you use the buds.
The bass accuracy is very good. The response is underemphasized across the range, so mixes lack thump, rumble, and body. Their high-bass is fairly neutral, though, which keeps some warmth in your audio. If you're looking for IEMs with better bass accuracy, consider the MOONDROP Aria instead.
The MOONDROP KATO's mid accuracy is excellent. Although the range is fairly flat, the low to mid-mid is underemphasized, so your mix sounds a bit thin while vocals and lead instruments are nudged to the back of your mix. However, the high-mid is very neutral, ensuring that vocals and lead instruments have detail and clarity.
The MOONDROP KATO have great treble accuracy. Although the response is underemphasized, it's fairly flat. Vocals and lead instruments are a bit veiled, while sibilants like cymbals are a bit dull.
The MOONDROP KATO's peaks and dips performance are excellent. A small peak in the high-bass adds a bit of boom to mixes, while a dip in the mid-mid nudges vocals and lead instruments to the back of the mix. There's also a small peak across the high-mid, adding intensity to vocals and lead instruments. The mid-treble is a little uneven, so sibilants like cymbals are alternatingly dull and piercing.
The MOONDROP KATO's imaging performance is outstanding. The weighted group delay response falls below the audibility threshold, resulting in tight bass and transparent treble reproduction. The L/R drivers are also well-matched in amplitude, frequency, and phase response. This is important for the accurate placement and localization of objects like voices in the stereo image. That said, our results are only valid for our unit, and yours may perform differently.
The MOONDROP KATO have a bad passive soundstage performance, although that's to be expected from in-ear headphones. To create an out-of-head and immersive soundstage, the outer ear needs to be activated by sound resonances. IEMs bypass the outer ear by design, and as a result, their soundstage seems closed off and as if coming from inside your head. It also doesn't sound as open as spacious as headphones with an open-back design.
The weighted harmonic distortion performance is great. Although there's a peak in the mid to high-bass at normal listening volumes, it can be hard to hear with real-life content. The rest of the frequencies fall within good levels, resulting in mostly clean and pure audio reproduction.
These are the settings used to test these headphones, and our results are only valid when used in this configuration. To be consistent with each product, we refer to the 'spring tip' ear tips as 'silicone' as they are made of a silicone-like material for consistency across our reviews.
The MOONDROP KATO's noise isolation performance is disappointing. Although they have an in-ear fit, they struggle to block out the low rumble of bus and plane engines, which could be frustrating if you commute to work. That said, they do a much better job of cutting down ambient chatter as well as the high-pitched hum of an AC unit.
The leakage performance is excellent. The bulk of their leakage is concentrated in the treble range, so escaping audio sounds thin. That said, if you're listening to audio at high volumes in a moderately noisy environment like an office, people shouldn't be able to hear it.
These headphones come with a long two-pin to 1/8" TRS cable. This cable is detachable, making it easy to swap out should it get damaged.
You can connect these headphones via analog to your PC. However, they don't have a mic.
The MOONDROP KATO are audio-only compatible with PS4 and PS5 consoles when you plug their 1/8" TRS cable into your controller's AUX port.
These headphones are compatible with Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S consoles when you plug in their 1/8" TRS cable into your controller's AUX port. However, they don't have a mic, and you can only receive audio.