ThieAudio Oracle MKII vs Moondrop Variations vs DUNU SA6: The $500 Battle

The latest contenders of $500 range IEMs are ThieAudio Oracle MKII, Moondrop Variations and DUNU SA6. These bigwigs made excellent IEMs in this range, and it is a pretty close fight. 

So, who would win in ThieAudio Oracle MKII vs Moondrop Variations vs DUNU SA6?

ThieAudio Oracle MKII takes the overall win against Moondrop Variations and DUNU SA6. That’s because it has superior audio quality, design at a rather reasonable setup cost. 

The Runner up is either Moondrop Variations or DUNU SA6 depending on your budget. Though, I personally prefer SA6 over Variations. 

Pretty sure that’s not enough for you to come to a decision. I’ll now delve right into the details to help you come to a choice-

Head-to-Head Comparison

In a head-to-head comparison, ThieAudio Oracle MKII wins when compared to Moondrop Variations and DUNU SA6. 

That’s because Oracle MKII has a higher sensitivity at a lower overall impedance and lower power requirements compared to the others.  

Here’s a table compiling the primary differences of the three $500-range IEMs.  

Aspects

ThieAudio Oracle MKII

Moondrop Variations

DUNU SA6

Image

Drivers

1 DD + 2 BA + 2 EST

1 DD + 2 BA + 2 EST

6 BA

Sensitivity

118dB @1kHz

116 dB @1 kHz

100dB @1kHz

Impedance

11Ω @1kHz

  15.2Ω @1kHz土15%

60 Ω at 1 kHz

Power Requirements

Low

Mid

High

Price

~$589.00

~$520.00

~$549.99

Check Availability

To make it clearer for you, I have included a graphical representation of the differences based on my rating of the IEMs out of 5. 

Graphical representation of the comparison between the 3 IEMs

Furthermore, for the audio geeks, here’s an audio frequency response graph compared to the Harman-adjusted target of the moondrop variations, oracle mkii and dunu sa6. 

A Harman-adjusted Audio frequency response graph comparing the oracle mkii, moondrop variations and dunu sa6

All of these translate to a clear winner, That is the ThieAudio Oracle MKII. However, for those wondering why, I will take a dive into the details now. 

Diving into the Details

I’ve divided the comparison of the three into a few sections. Without further ado, let’s head into it. 

Specifications

The Oracle MKII wins in ThieAudio Oracle MKII vs Moondrop Variations vs DUNU SA6 fight in the specifications department. That’s because of its higher sensitivity, lower impedance and better cable as well as drivers. 

FeaturesThieAudio Oracle MKiiMoondrop VariationsDUNU SA6
Drivers1 DD + 2 BA + 2 EST1 DD + 2 BA + 2 EST6 BA
Cable4 Strand 26AWG 5N OCC Silver Plated LitzStandard PCC Coaxial Single Crystal Copper 8 Core, High-Purity Monocrystalline Silver-Plated Copper
Jack3.5mm, 2.5mm, 4.4mm3.5mm, 2.5mm, 4.4mm2.5mm, 3.5mm, 4.4mm
Sensitivity118dB @1kHz116 dB @1 kHz100dB @1kHz
Impedance11Ω @1kHz15.2Ω @1kHz土15%60 Ω at 1 kHz

From the table, it’s clear that the numbers speak in favor of the ThieAudio Oracle MKII Followed by the Moondrop Variations. Unfortunately, the all BA DUNU SA6 comes last. 

ThieAudio Oracle MKII

ThieAudio Oracle MKII has a sensitivity of 118dB, Impedance of 11Ω and is the easiest to drive compared to the other 2. It also has silver plated Litz as material for its cable.

As a result of comparatively higher sensitivity and lower impedance, as per Ohm’s Law, ThieAudio Oracle MKII is easier to drive. Its silver-plated Litz wire boasts a higher level of durability as well as conductivity compared to copper wires. 

Moondrop Variations

Moondrop Variations has a sensitivity of 116dB, an impedance of 15.2Ω, and is comparatively easier to drive compared to DUNU SA6. It has a standard copper wire.

An Image of Moondrop Variations
Source: Everyday Listening

Moondrop Variations has an impedance and sensitivity comparable to ThieAudio Oracle MKII. As a result, Variations is almost as easy to drive as the Oracle MKII. It easily ranks above the DUNU SA6.

DUNU SA6

DUNU SA6 has a sensitivity of 100dB and an impedance of 60Ω, making it the most power-hungry IEM of the bunch. It also has a silver-plated copper wire. 

Dunu SA6 has a drastically higher impedance as well as lower sensitivity compared to the Oracle MKII and the Variations. So, DUNU SA6 naturally ended up being the bottom fragger. 

Our Take: 

ThieAudio Oracle MKII easily wins the specifications war if you pit it against Moondrop Variations and DUNU SA6. The Runner Up is Moondrop Variations and DUNU SA6 as a result ends up last. 

Audio Quality

When it comes to ThieAudio Oracle MKII vs Moondrop Variations vs DUNU SA6 for audio quality, ThieAudio Oracle MKII Wins. It most accurately represents the Harman adjusted audio response graph as well. 

The table below is based on my rating of different aspects of the audio quality spectrum of these three IEMs.

AspectsThieAudio Oracle MKiiMoondrop VariationsDUNU SA6
Lows4.34.54.8
Mids544.5
Highs53.84.6
Sound Stage4.545
Details544.8

To further show you how the comparison can be visually represented, here’s a graphical chart-

A Graph chart comparing the audio quality of the 3 IEMs

Here’s a more detailed explanation behind my scoring of these aspects-

ThieAudio Oracle MKII

ThieAudio Oracle MKII has extremely detailed mids with defined instrumental separation as well as powerful vocals. However, the bass is neutral with more focus on the sub-bass. 

Here’s how it compares to the Harman-adjusted audio frequency response graph- 

Harman-adjusted Audio Frequency response graph of ThieAudio Oracle MKII

In other words, the audio stays consistent throughout the lows and the mids. It only rolls over a little in the highs. 

Outside the graph, Oracle MKII does not place any emphasis on the bass. The bass is loud, however, it feels empty and falls short in terms of details. 

The bass, however, is a tradeoff for the greater emphasis on detailed mids. Clear Vocals, a spacious soundstage, and better instrumental separation all make the IEM stand out. 

It’s time to move on to the 2nd contender. 

Moondrop Variations

Moondrop Variations has a bouncy and articulate bass as well as decent details and soundstage. However, it falls into linearity when it comes to mids. 

Moondrop Variations hold up well against the other two IEMs. After all, this is a much fairer fight than pitting the Variations against ThieAudio Monarch MKII

Here’s how Moondrop Variations compares against the Harman-adjusted audio frequency graph- 

Harman-adjusted Audio Frequency response graph of Moondrop Variations

As the graph shows, The Variations is quite off compared to the Harman-adjusted target. However, here’s how it translates into performance- 

Moondrop Variations has punchy, yet articulate bass. Furthermore, the treble is bright and detailed. The airy bass easily helps the moondrop surpass the Oracle in the aspect of bass. 

However, the mids are linear. Moondrop played safe in the mids and as a result, gave out decently detailed, mainstream mids. Which also resulted in an unimpressive result compared to the other two. 

DUNU SA6

DUNU SA6 has detailed mids as well as bright treble. While the trebles are bright, it sometimes gets too bright. However, the bass is a hit or miss.

An Image of DUNU SA6
Source: The Headphone List

Here’s how DUNU SA6 compares to the Harman-adjusted audio frequency response graph-

Harman-adjusted Audio Frequency response graph of Moondrop Variations

DUNU SA6 outdid the Moondrop Variations at the very least when it comes to the audio frequency response graph. 

Furthermore, it translates to a well-detailed mids as well as a spacious soundstage. While the treble does get too bright at times, it has great details and instrumental separation. 

However, Bass is where the opinions get polarized when it comes to DUNU SA6. Many audiophiles like the bass produced by SA6 and many do not. My stance, unfortunately, falls with the latter. 

The bass is punchy but falls short of my expectations. Some may argue it’s impressive for an all BA IEM. But it is still disappointing at the price point in my opinion. 

Our Take:

ThieAudio Oracle MKII takes another win in audio quality because of its impressively detailed mids and vast soundstage. Furthermore, It most accurately represents the Harman-adjusted Audio frequency graph.

The runner-up is DUNU SA6 and the only aspect holding it back from taking the crown is the bass. Finally, The Moondrop Variations takes the last place despite being a strong contender itself.

Build Quality & Design

ThieAudio Oracle MKII has a scarlet black faceplate, whereas the DUNU SA6 chose to go for a stabilized wood faceplate and finally, Moondrop variations have a metal faceplate. All of these IEMs have resin shells for housing.

Here’s a table comparing the build of each IEMs-

FeaturesThieAudio Oracle MKiiMoondrop VariationsDUNU SA6
HousingResin ShellResin ShellResin Shell
FaceplateResinMetalStabilized Wood
Nozzle Size6mm6.5mm5.5mm
Cable4 Strand 26AWG 5N OCC Silver Plated LitzStandard PCC Coaxial Single Crystal Copper8 Core, High-Purity Monocrystalline Silver-Plated Copper
Jack3.5mm, 2.5mm, 4.4mm3.5mm, 2.5mm, 4.4mm2.5mm, 3.5mm, 4.4mm

To make it clearer for you, here’s an in-depth analysis of the design and details of the 3 IEMs- 

ThieAudio Oracle MKII

The ThieAudio Oracle MKII has a resin shell with a faceplate that seems to be made of resin-sealed crystals. The cable however does not follow the herd and is made of silver-plated Litz. 

The design of this pair is exemplary to say the build and I have not faced any issues as of this article. I’ll keep using this one as a daily driver to further test out its durability

But so far, I have nothing to complain about regarding the build or the fit.

Moondrop Variations

Moondrop Variations follows the company standard of metal faceplates along with a resin shell. The cable also follows the pattern with a standard copper wire. 

The Moondrop Variations has a design that is impressive but not something I would go for. The lack of colors as well as creativity is something I’ve noticed thus far.

I have been using the variations for about 9 months now. So far, I have no complaints regarding the durability since I still did not have to replace the cable or the tips.

In conclusion, the build of Moondrop Variations is robust, at least in my experience. 

DUNU SA6

DUNU SA6 separates itself from the herd using a stabilized wood faceplate with a run-of-the-mill resin body. The wire it uses is made of 8-core silver-plated copper, which unfortunately backfired on it. 

The DUNU SA6 is a pleasure to look at, the logo on the IEM as well the wooden faceplate all work together to present a unique design. I commend DUNU for this one.

However, the cable is on the heavier side and caused some discomfort for me over longer music sessions. This is subjective and might differ by the folk, but for me, DUNU SA6 lost some points there. 

Furthermore, some users reportedly felt discomfort because of the comparatively shorter nozzle. That did not pose an issue for me so far. But I’ll update the article after using it for a few months. 

Our Take:

The ThieAudio Oracle MKII wins in the design and build in my opinion. That’s because it is a pleasure to look at and is comfy even on longer sessions. 

The runner-up here is Moondrop Variations since, despite the duller design, the build is strong and does not cause any obvious discomfort for binge listeners. 

DUNU SA6 comes last here even with the unique design because of the poor wire choice as well as shorter nozzle. 

Cost Analysis

DUNU SA6 along with the minimum additional costs is priced at around $762. ThieAudio Oracle MKII comes down to around $612.89 and the Moondrop Variations happens to be the cheapest priced at around $532.49-$543.89.

Here’s a table analyzing all of the minimum additional as well as setup costs regarding the 3 IEMs. 

FeaturesThieAudio Oracle MKiiMoondrop VariationsDUNU SA6
Base Price~$589.00~$520.00~$549.99
Minimum Additional Costs (DAC Amps, Eartips etc.)~$23.89~$12.49-$23.89~($200+$12.49) = ~$212.49
Total Costs~$612.89~$532.49-$543.89~$762.48

Let’s now talk about how I came to these costs-

ThieAudio Oracle MKII

The ThieAudio Oracle costs a total of around $612.89. That’s with only one modification of Final Type E eartips. 

The ThieAudio Oracle MKII is easier to drive and is not power-hungry. You don’t absolutely need a DAC amp for this one. But I would suggest getting a pair of decent ear-tips. 

In my case, I went for Final Type E ear tips to help with the bass of the Oracle MKII. This is the only mod I would suggest despite the IEM not absolutely needing it. 

Furthermore, the stock cables will do the job just fine so I left it as is. 

Moondrop Variations

Moondrop Variations costs a total of around $532.49-$543.89 including either Spinfit CP100 eartips or Final Type E eartips. 

Moondrop Variations is also easy to drive and your phone or just an Apple dongle can handle this pair just fine, so you don’t need to get any extra DAC amp for this. 

The ear tips I used for this IEM are both Final Type E and Spinfit CP100. They are the ones that bring the cost up to $532.49-$543.89. 

DUNU SA6

DUNU SA6 costs the most in the bunch and its costs come to around $762.48. That’s because the DUNU SA6 is hard to drive for an IEM and your phone will not cut it for the best performance. 

DUNU SA6 has a high power requirement and as a result, it needs a DAC amp like the iFi Zen DAC v2. That alone costs around $200. 

If you can’t spare that much for a DAC amp, you could get the Syba Sonic DAC amp. However, that won’t let you use the SA6 to its potential. 

Furthermore, I would recommend you get the Spinfit CP100 Eartips for the IEM. 

Our Take: 

Moondrop Variations takes the crown in the price department as it’s clearly the cheapest followed by the ThieAudio Oracle MKII. DUNU SA6 is the most expensive of the bunch. 

Lost in Retrograde: Oracle and SA6 Ultra

The ones I did not bring to the comparison table are ThieAudio Oracle and SA6 Ultra. However, there are good reasons for why they did not make it to the table. Let’s explore a bit on that- 

Oracle vs Oracle MKII: A Necessary Revision 

Oracle MKII is much better than the OG Oracle. The Oracle MKII is better than the OG Oracle both in audio quality, and specifications. 

Specifications

ThieAudio Oracle MKII is much better than the original Oracle with a higher sensitivity and a lower impedance.

Here’s a table directly comparing the two IEMs to explain why I did not bring the OG Oracle under consideration. 

FeaturesThieAudio Oracle MKiiThieAudio Oracle
Drivers1 DD + 2 BA + 2 EST1 DD + 2 BA + 2 EST
Cable4 Strand 26AWG 5N OCC Silver Plated LitzLitz 5N OCC 100 wire x 4 core Silver Plated Wire
Jack3.5mm, 2.5mm, 4.4mm3.5mm, 2.5mm, 4.4mm
Sensitivity118dB @1kHz106dB @1 kHz
Impedance11Ω @1kHz16Ω @1kHz

The difference you see in the sensitivity and impedance comes from the different drivers that were used in the two. Oracle MKII clearly has better drivers if you compare them. 

This is how it translates into audio quality-

Audio Quality

Oracle MKII snags the win against its predecessor Oracle when it comes to even Audio Quality. Oracle MKII has a brighter treble, clearer details, and punchier bass compared to the OG Oracle. 

Here’s how both compare according to the Harman-adjusted audio frequency response graph- 

A Harman-adjusted Audio Frequency Response graph comparing ThieAudio Oracle MKII and ThieAudio Oracle.

Right from the get-go, Oracle MKII has impressive accuracy in the lows and more details in mids and doesn’t roll off as hard in the highs. 

That translates into a more spacious soundstage, greater details, clearer vocals, and outstanding acoustic for the ThieAudio Oracle MKII when compared to OG Oracle. 

Our Take:

ThieAudio Oracle MKII is a much-improved version of the original ThieAudio Oracle. That’s why I did not bring it to the table of comparison for the main contenders of the best $500 IEMs. 

Why I Didn’t Bring SA6 Ultra to the Comparison

I did not bring SA6 Ultra into the comparison because not many of it were released. DUNU produced only 300 units of SA6 Ultra and not many people have it. 

Furthermore, it is not available anymore and you won’t be able to buy it unless someone sells it on the second-hand market for an exorbitant price. 

That explains why DUNU SA6 was on the table instead of the DUNU SA6 Ultra. So, with that out of the way, it’s time to name the best $500 IEM of 2022.

So Which IEM Holds the Crown?

In my opinion, ThieAudio Oracle MKII takes the overall win against Moondrop Variations and DUNU SA6. So, The best $500 IEM of 2022 is ThieAudio Oracle MKII. You can even call it a Moondrop Variations upgrade on the same budget.

ThieAudio Oracle MKII has lower power requirements, better audio quality, and excellent design. That’s why I would put this one IEM at the top if you’re looking to get IEMs. 

An Image of the $500 Battle winner: ThieAudio Oracle MKII

The runner-up is DUNU SA6 if you’re not constrained by a budget. However, if you are constrained by budget, you could go for Moondrop Variations. 

Furthermore, if you want cheaper alternatives that compare to these, you might want to look into the planar IEMs. I’ve analyzed whether planar IEMs are worth it or not too to further help you make a choice.

I’ll now answer some of the frequently asked questions before wrapping up on this one. 

FAQs

Can Sweat Damage IEMs?

Yes, Sweat can damage IEMs over time. That’s because even waterproof IEMs degrade over a longer exposure to sweat or water splashes. 

Do IEMS last forever?

No, IEMs do not last forever. To be more exact IEMs generally last 2-3 years unless damaged by an external factor. However, the warranty only covers 1 year. 

Can IEMs cause Tinnitus?

No, IEMs themselves can not cause Tinnitus. However, longer exposure to the sound waves stemming from IEMs can cause Tinnitus. So, it’s best to keep the usage to a minimum. 

Final Words

By now you should already know which IEM wins in the Thieaudio Oracle MKII vs Moondrop Variations vs DUNU SA6 fight. So, which one did you go for? 

Let me know in the comments below. See you at the next one!

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