Wednesday, 27 June 2012

DUNU Crater (DN-17) Review

DUNU Crater (DN-17) Review

Thanks to Frogbeats for the sample

First Impressions: These look very much like their siblings, the DN-18 Hawkeye’s. That’s because I think they are, they appear to be open and closed versions of the same thing, these being the open ones. The only other notable difference I see in the fantastic bundle is the case. The hard case on the 18 was a matte black affair and the one here is a very nice looking metal one. Looking at it and I instantly think of the supposedly titanium case of the TF10. I don’t for an instant really think this is titanium as they would be screaming it from the rooftops if it were. It is undoubtedly one of the very best cases I’ve ever seen with any IEM. Dunu really do offer a great value bundle of bits and pieces.

Having a listen to them, coming right from the Hawkeye’s they are very noticeably lighter in the low end. Again though they don’t seem to have the best clarity or openness so I’m hoping they will improve with a bit of burn in. it’s not an unpleasant sound just a touch slow and subdued.

Source HiFiMAN HM-601 and Ipod Shuffle 1G

Lows: Powerful and deep when you get them sitting just right. I had issues seating them but the bass is good and clean though it does seem to elevate as it goes down, its eq’d to do as low as it can with punch and power but less in the way of mid/bass. On paper that should be good I suppose but what it actually feels like is as though there is a little baby sub that’s been cranked up full. It’s doing its best to pump out as much deep low air as it can and it’s not exactly got the best definition around. It is trying its damnedest and feels like its stretching the limits of what it can do. Its not terrible but it feels like the very bottom appears out of nowhere and is somewhat detached from the rest of the spectrum. In some songs this works quite well but mostly it feels like a mismatched sub and satellite speaker system with a gap between where they crossover. The lower end of vocals lack a touch of fullness that the mid/bass range usually supplies too. In term of quantity its quite reasonable so long as your happy with how its distributed. Its reasonably bassy but lighter than most of the Dunu’s I’ve heard. The bass is a little more than it strictly ought to be but it’s a good level.

Mids: Dunu has gone for a more mid range sound here and it’s not exactly what they have got. They have it seems dialled down the bass, especially the mid/bass range to make some space around the mids. The mids don’t actually stand forward, they have just had the space next to them cleared away. They haven’t much in the way of flavour either. They feel somewhat narrow and focused and lack the dynamic range I want. They also don’t have the creamy liquindess ar open dryness or a good halfway stance. Meh. They aren’t bad but they just don’t move me in any way, its boring, no soul. I can’t actually say there is anything thing they do obviously wrong but there just feels no life to things. Vocals are just uninspiring here. Strings do fair a bit better though.

Highs: These have a bit of a spike in the lower treble range that on occasion means they jump out a little. They also aren’t too shy about being a bit brittle and are detailed enough to make it noticeable. Cymbals smashing have a bit of grit to them and decay much too quickly. Actually at times I found it somewhat hard on the ear. Odd given its not a hugely treble abundant IEM either. I just cannot seem to find the love for the Crater. Its not bad in any way but it’s not capturing my attention or doing anything in particular hugely well. What is weirder is that it’s not got the best extension on it either. Meh.

Soundstage: Here actually the Crater begins to shine a bit. I cannot deny it has a grand old sense of scale going on. Big concert hall type of sound and the sound separation is very impressive for something that’s not so expensive. It makes for a very interesting sound scape. Lots of distance and scale.

Comfort: Was fine for me. The buds are a little weighty if you wear them down but then just don’t wear them down. They are a little large though so that could be an issue if you try to wear them too deeply.

Fit: Well I thought there were supposed to be open but I don’t think they are all. I had a bunch of bother getting these to sit just so and sound their best. Or maybe I didn’t and that’s why I haven’t loved them much? I did feel that some foam tips might have helped but I couldn’t find any complys in my tip bin that would fit them. Still I found a tip that I think worked okay.

Cable: It’s rather good. It’s not as nice as the one of the Hephaes but it’s still good. The jack is nice and the Y splitter with chin slider can’t be faulted.

Build Quality: If looks mean anything then these are about as good as it gets. Of course only time can really tell but they are solid little blobs of metal. They feel super solid and well put together. It is without question a top notch package.

Microphonics: None if you wear up, not too much if you wear down. The addition of a chin slider means you can largely eliminate that as in issue if you like.

Isolation: Pretty good for a dynamic. Not quite up to BA standards but easily more than enough to get you turned into road kill. Its maybe not the sort of thing that I really want for a long flight but for normal day to day uses then it’s just fine.

Accessories: Here Dunu truly shines. They have just one of the best all round packages you can get. The inclusion of not one but two cases is unheard of elsewhere and the metal case here is outstanding. That something so cheap comes with such a case shames many other manufacturers. It is a stunning package that no one close to this sort of money comes close to.

Amped/Unamped: Well I’m not sure if I noticed really much of any difference. What was weirder is that adding my usual 75 ohm impedance adapter didn’t improve them but actually made them more dull. Go figure.

Value: Well I don’t know, I don’t what these are going to cost so I’ll just have to make an educated guess. These will likely be as a package great value. On sound alone maybe less so. Still you just can’t beat the overall package and that metal case.

Conclusion: The time I have spent with the Craters I must admit they have grown on me. I even found an album they suit rather well (Erasure, Union Street and listen to it before you judge me) but anything that got too complex just seemed to overly tax it. I think it will really depend just on what price it comes in at before it can really be judged. The thing is it will sit in a horrifying crowded and competitive market. A few years ago it would be having its praises sung but now, well its good sure but it’s not wow’ing me. It is perfectly capable and competent. It does have a few traits where it shines such as its concert hall like vastness with some very good instrument separation. If these aspects appeal big time for you then you’ll likely like. For me those traits may give an interesting presentation but I care more about resolution and technical abilities. Here it’s just so so. It doesn’t actually really do anything badly or wrong but it just cant steel my attention. I never find myself getting lost in the music or wanting to burst into song.

Dunu have a habit of making a solid sounding IEM that I have found to be ultimately uninspiring. They are good solid, competent sounding IEM’s and the Crater fits that mould well. It can do more or less everything you want and are reasonably good at. It’s like a silver Ford Mondeo. Sure it gets the job done and some may say rather well but it just can’t grab your attention like a hooker red Alfa 147. Sure the Alpha break down, bits fall off, and savage you when it comes to insuring the thing but it stirs the soul. The Mondeo I suspect wont.

I think this leads me to conclude that the Crater is a good, solid , middle of the pack IEM. It’s not great but its decent and it does offer that superb package. That case and accessory bundle is second to none. I think if I wasn’t me, if I was the sort of person who only had one IEM. Didn’t have a giant plastic tub of tips. Didn’t have a huge range of cases at my disposal. Then the Crater would be a rather good proposition. It offers everything you could want or need. It gives a classy look with what would appear to be superbly solid construction. Its isolation is pretty decent for day to day use too. There isn’t anywhere it falls down. Sure you can get better sound elsewhere but then you have to make compromises elsewhere. Dunu have gone for a bit of an all-rounder package and it’s a rather good stab it.

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