Sunday, 4 November 2012

Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anniversary Edition Review

Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anniversary Edition Review

Thanks to Hisoundaudio for the sample.

First Impressions:  I now have to cast my mind back as I seem to have misplaced the written at the time one.  In short though there a bit of a mixture, I was unquestionably looking forward to the Studio coming and when it did was a little saddened by it being in silver and no more hyper brutal edges.  Okay so the edges thing is probably sensible and silver is fine too.  Honestly it could be edged with razor blades, be neon pink and covered in bedazzle beads, I’m not sure I’d care.  The original sounded quite amazing.  This as best I can tell, since I haven’t an original to AB, is even better.  Right now I hurt my ear a bit so I’ve been told no sticking things in my ears for a few days so I’m sitting with the HD600’s and the Studio is driving them.  Think about that for a bit. 

I have a 64gb SD card on its way to me and when it gets here it could be the end of the line for my Ipod and amp set up, this thing is just amazing.

Btw you may want to read my original Studio V review if you haven’t already.

Screen:  It’s the same as the original.  Its tiny, it’s OLED, its monochrome, it is shall we say very functional.  No colour and video watching here.  It will tell you what track your listening to but not a huge amount else, it’s a DAP not a PMP.

Battery Life:  Life its predecessor it’s stupendous.  They quote 80 hours and I have no reason to think for a second they are exaggerating.  It is epic.  I don’t know how they do it or what is going on but you can get away with charging this thing like once a week!!!!  That depends on how much you use it and stuff but my god, I know nothing else that just last so long.  Oh and I’m not exactly listening to things at whisper quiet level either in case that’s what you’re thinking.

UI:  If you are familiar with the UI as found on the other Hisoundaudio DAP’s its, erm, well it’s not the best.  It’s not the worst either but more than once I have turned it off instead of getting into the menu.  Honestly though I tend to just stick my DAP’s on shuffle and hit next a lot.  I don’t want to ever have to look at the screen when I’m using it.  So for me it was pretty much fine, it did what I wanted but if you want to constantly pick songs or albums, erm it might get annoying.  

In The Hand:  The new Studio is rather similar to the old one.  The primary difference is the new one has a somewhat rounded edges but make no mistake, it’s still quite the metal brick.  It’s flat, rectangular and in no way one of these new “oooh let’s make everything curved” things.  Nope it’s very 80’s angular and functional and I rather like that.  It’s still not a device I would like to share pocket space with say my phone.  My phone would lose that encounter I fear and so it’s one I’m going to make sure doesn’t happen.  It’s funny but despite its still brick like nature I find myself missing the brutal savagery of the old studio and its razor like edges.  Yes I’m aware that’s silly but it’s still true.  Not that of course my head thinks they should come back, this is somewhat more practical.  On the whole it’s a nice, weighty object that your never quite going to ever mistake for something Appley and delicate.

Format Support:  Well, I realise I should have checked this but I haven’t.  The manual says the same as the last Studio, it well also says a lot of rubbish too.  It seems to be a manual for several models of things and its mostly in Chinese anyway.  It does mention AAC but not bit rates so I’m going to assume 320k but not ALAC levels, urgh no I’m not I think that I’ll have to test.  Okay I have just tested, AAC (.m4a) it will do fine but ALAC files it won’t, shame but no big deal.  The format you’re going to use is FLAC.  If you’re thinking about buying this product it’s because you care about sound quality. 

I’m not sure if it should come under format support but the Studio can support 64GB cd cards if you format it to Fat32.  This means exFat will not work so if you’re running windows you shall have to use a partition editor of some kind to allow you to do this.  It’s not hard.

The Manual:  Erm I’m pretty sure it’s the exact same manual as the old Studio.  The manual is rubbish.  That said I’m not sure what you really need the manual for, it’s not a rocket ship you have before you.  Don’t worry, push some buttons and you’ll figure it out.

Sound Quality:  To say I rather liked the original Studio would be like saying the Titanic had a small mishap.  Now I don’t have the original Studio here to AB them and that’s a real shame because I can’t tell exactly what’s different, my memory says the new one is better but I can’t quantify just how much better.  The result though is that the Studio 3rd Anniversary edition is probably the best DAP I’ve ever come into contact with.  It is simply amazingly good sounding. 

The Studio 3rd just makes everything sound better, even things that I’ve never really looked at and thought they need more power behind them.  This is especially noticeable in the upper registers, treble is just tremendously detailed and everything.  I realise everything isn’t a terrible descriptive term so let me clarify, everything good, delicate, crisp, clean, shimmery, extended etc etc.  Yes this does it all.  I’m sitting with the Senn IE8’s just now and in my opinion it has some of the very best treble on an IEM despite it being more known for its bass.  The treble feels near endlessly extended and is so effortlessly detailed.  The Senn is in many ways an extravaganza yet here it seems so relaxed in how it goes about it.  Thunderous bass, the very sweetest soaring highs and so casually offered up.  Now you may think that makes for a very relaxed or lazy sound but no.  There is still ungodly levels of drama and thrills it’s just that it all somehow seems nothing is being taxed. 

Much the same is found when swapping over the UE TF10.  An IEM that needs some welly behind it to come alive.  Drive it poorly and they are just meh in spades, slap these two together and they soar.  Vocals become so spectacularly open and the treble moves like lightning.  You get the idea!   The TF10 is a real bitch to drive and the Studio 3rd does it all without batting an eye.  God even the UM3x sound just superb and it’s another real fussy bugger to drive.  The Studio 3rd is just making everything sound so astonishingly effortless.  Now I know the UM3x is a pain yet this is I think the best I’ve heard, certainly the most well integrated it’s been, and god help, its mid’s are really, really good here too!

Just the other day I had the RE-0 out and while I did at first wish there had been a bass boost button, no failing of the Studio, the 0 isn’t a bassy IEM.  The rest though, especially the treble is staggeringly, jaw dropping impressive for the money.  They seem to be going for US$80 now and while I grant they may not offer the most exciting listen they are acoustically near perfect.  Oh also the Studio has no trouble driving them to louder than anyone would ever want.  That was something many people have had issues with in the past.

Given the power they can put out how about at the other end of things?  Well I am generally much more an IEM person so things that are going to get special mention are the IE8, IE7, SE530 and the W4.  First comment it they all sound superb with the Studio 3rd.  Going to the W4 first since it was a special request.  I have not traditionally been a huge fan of Westone, they are good but rather expensive on this side of the Atlantic (W4 is circa £400 the IE8 is less than £200 yet they are at a very similar level.)  So the W4 isn’t the world’s most exciting IEM and I think it really should have been called the UM4 but with the studio 3rd they really come to life.  They have a bit of drama and enthusiasm.  They sound alive and they sound impossibly extended in both directions.  They keep the flat response but the dynamics they produce are enhanced and it’s all so nuanced.  Everything is in there, so effortlessly casual yet so quick.  I know that’s all a bit contradictory but sue me, it’s true nevertheless. 

Swapping to the SE530 (one of my fav’s btw.)  Starting with the negative, there is hiss, not a lot but it’s there.  It’s in most recordings anyway so I don’t see any problem myself, it’s not distracting.  So, the mid’s of course are just staggeringly beautiful as always and once more the extension at both ends is superb.  These aren’t treble monsters but what’s there is wonderfully detailed.  The bass too is just about perfect, some people complain about the 530 that its bass rolls off, it does not if driven well and here its stays superbly linear as it goes down.  It’s a sensitive IEM and known for its dynamics and with the Studio 3rd it flies.  The dynamics are outstanding particularly in vocals.  The tiniest inflection to most savage roar is there without a hint of dynamic compression.  They currently have me grinning like a Cheshire cat.

On to the IE8, another IEM I’m not a lover of, it’s a big leap coming from the 530 as they are just about opposites.  So gone are sumptuous mids, here we get a V shaped dry breathiness.  In exchange we get prolific bass that’s got to be just about the very best there is and likewise with the treble.  The bass is of course both massive and superb but what truly excels here is the treble.  The IE8 has in my opinion had some of the very best and most extended treble around and here it’s given the headroom to run free.  It’s essentially as good as treble gets on an IEM.  The high end subtlety and detail offered up is outstanding.  This hyper extended treble leads me on to the IE7 which is another of my favourites.  The 7 lacks the same detail and drama of the 8, it offers instead a beautifully rich sound but maybe doesn’t have the most effortless treble.  The Studio 3rd lets the dynamic driver in there stretch its legs and the 2 have a wonderful synergy, so much so I had to give them a mention.

So its powerful and it can go loud, well quite how powerful, how loud can it go?  Well I wasn’t about to try to find the limit as to how loud because it’s insane.  Having pulled out the big boys, the Sennheiser HD600’s and plugging them, all the while thinking it should be okay as other DAP’s have driven them fine.  The Studio though is just superb.  Particularly in the low end which requires more oomph to hit in the big open cans.  The bass is swift and agile with a very impressive level of impact for such a tiny DAP.  The level of detail all around is just all that you could possibly hope for or dream of.  This naturally means no crappy bit rates and no crappy mastering as the Studio isn’t going to do any of it any favours unless you use the most forgiving of headphones.  Why you would buy a world class DAP and then pair them with rubbish I can’t imagine.

The level of information and the detail, especially up top has a few times made me feel the Studio may be a tiny touch on the brighter side of things.  Mostly I’d simple say its utterly neutral but having spent much time with it and the big Senn’s it does make me shudder a little thinking what it may be like with the Grado 325i’s I once had.  That’s not really a pairing I think I should like to ever hear.  Hell I still find the HD600 a little on the lighter side of what I think I ideally like.  Obviously many people like a much brighter sound than I do so maybe this could be the perfect DAP for them with brighter headphones too.   It’s really about my only acoustic negative about the Studio 3rd.  If you are for whatever reason wedded to the idea of a bright IEM or headphone then the sound signature is not that of the Sony esq like the HM-601.  It has a beautiful, rich and enveloping sound.  The Studio is not that, it’s hyper open and explicit.  Every tiny nuance is there and articulated whether it’s beautiful or not and rich DAP’s cover up those imperfections like a soft focus filter.  This is more like slapping up the contrast setting; everything is more apparent and noticeable.  It’s not really that either is right or wrong any more than a photo is better or worse than a Van Gogh, they each are about different things a depending on what you want out of it either may be “better.”

The lack of an organic, natural, beauty though doesn’t mean for a second that I’ve found anything that the Studio can’t do.  Even things like Nora Jones who may like a bit of warmth added are still just mesmerizingly wondrous.  The degree of transparency is tremendous.  That it’s also so lighting fast means it seem to have zero trouble with the fastest paced music or the slowest, lingering notes.  Its pace and energy just seem to be so boundless.  The timing just is spot on if you ask me with each and everything I’ve thrown at it.

Lows:   They may not rattle your skull with their abundance, unless you’re using a really bass heavy headphone that is.  These don’t add any but they do enable things that need some extra power to go down to do just that.  The bass on everything was just rock solid, thoughtful and controlled.  Depth was stupidly good and really eeked out the best from even the hardest to drive things.  Not the warmest and softest bass though if that’s where your tastes are.  It’s what it should be, let the headphones introduce any softening or flavour if that’s what you want.

Mids:  Unlike many warm DAP’s there is no added thickness or warmth.  So as DAP’s go then there would have to be on the cooler, brighter side.  It’s more what I’d think of as being neutral.  There is nothing added other than possibly openness.  These do like to give soooooooo much space and the most open feel to vocals.  Guitars though twang with fantastic clarity.  The transparency is just flawless.

Highs:  Ever so extended and delicate yet positively abounding with detail.  There is maybe the slightest emphasis on the treble over the rest but the quality is such that it’s no problem.  I just maybe then wouldn’t pair this with anything super bright (Grado) as I could see that combo getting tiring rather quickly.  That’s about all I can fault.  Its freaking stunning that a little portable DAP sounds like this.

Hiss:  This wouldn’t normally get its own little section but it has been touted as one of the more significant differences between it and the original Studio.  So as much as I’d like to say there is no hiss that’s not true.  There is some but its slight, not that I ever really found it to be a bother on the old one.  I find if hiss ever bothers me it’s not the DAP it’s the song that has it recorded in there.  Go listen to “Somebody I Used To Know” if you want to hear hiss and want to see how infuriating it can be.  Honestly though, that the Studio 3rd did hiss a little was meaningless.  It was so low and if I wasn’t deliberately going out of my way to look for it id never have cared or probably noticed on many things.

Value:  Erm well, okay this is not a cheap product.  Its circa US$450 I did find on ebay too for £265 (note HMRC may want their slice too) and I’m not going to say its quantifiably 10 times better than a Clip+ or something like that.  So at this price does value matter, really, you get your money’s worth certainly in my opinion.  If you are looking too eek out the best sound quality you can on the go without carrying a bunch of things held together with bits of velcro and big elastic bands then this is it.  It sounds amazing, has staggering battery life and you don’t look like a suicide bomber carrying it.

Conclusion:  So did I like this product?  Hell’s yeah I did!  It’s simply a wonder, in every regard it’s just a wonder.  I don’t know what’s in the thing but I love how it sounds.  The battery life it has is staggering (I’m using that word too much) you could really get away with charging the thing once a week.  That it does that yet is so powerful is truly just bewildering.  Its rated at 80 hours so that’s like 3 and a bit days solid, clearly if you remember to turn it off that rather extends things which I did find once or twice I thought I had but I had not.  Normally that would bother me greatly as coming back to something you left of for a day by mistake would mean its dead, not here, yey! 

That seems to be the sum total issues with this DAP.  There is a little unpolished aspect here and there, the UI is not the most straight forward.  The Dap hasn’t always turned off when it says it has.  There just are things not quite perfect but I really didn’t care about any of them.  They are just not important to me.  Like the not turned off, I actually began to not bother turning it off because I couldn’t be bothered spending 30 seconds turning it back on while it rescans the SD card, then I have to set it back to shuffle.  Urgh the trauma!  The battery life is so good who cares if you leave it on pause in your pocket for 5 or 6 hours doing nothing.  Just how many if any at all DAP’s can you say that about?

In short this DAP is excellent.  It has truly tremendous transparency and extension.  The amp in it feels like it could power a small city and yet still handles the most sensitive IEM’s.  It is to date the best sounding DAP I have encountered and as such have bought a 64GB SD card for it.  It has in the time I have been playing with it become my default DAP to pick up in the morning.  There is just nothing it really can’t do unless you want a warm DAP.  I realise many do want that, Sony does that and they shift plenty and the HM-601 will cater to audiophiles wanting that richness.  For those looking for a neutral DAP then I’m not sure you can beat the Studio 3rd, it’s got real buttons, has stupendous battery life and sounds amazeballs good, with everything. The way this thing can drive big cans like the HD600 is lunacy, in days of old people were burned for less as I’m convinced there is some pact with the devil at work.

I love this DAP.   Anything it doesn’t quite do perfectly I’m more than willing to forgive.  What you get is an immensely great sounding DAP that has the most amazing battery life.  If you are looking for new DAP and anything like the same requirements as I do, i.e. sound quality and real buttons rather than a touch screen then for the love of all that’s holy you need to consider the Studio 3rd.  It really is the most amazing little thing.

Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anniversary Edition Quick Review

Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anniversary Edition Quick Review

Thanks to Hisoundaudio for the sample.

Brief:  Hisoundaudio updates the Studio V.

Price:  Circa US$450 or £265 (pre HMRC.)

Specification:  Good Question, I don’t know bar what’s up for the Studio V.

Accessories:  A US plugged USB power charger, a USB cable and a pair of the PAA-1 earphones. 

Build Quality:  Not as perfect as the sharp edged old one but it’s still essentially a block of machined aluminium.  You’re not going to break it short of hitting it with a sledge hammer.

UI:  It is still what I might call eccentric.  The central button is play, pause, menu and power on and off control.  You do get used to it pretty quickly but it’s weird and you will accidently turn it off trying to get to the menu now and then. 

In the Hand:  It’s less severe than its predecessor but it’s still an unyielding block.  No girly curves to fit the contours of your hand or any of that nonsense.  It’s right out of the Brutalism movement.  Still it bothered me not a jot and I really liked the easily felt buttons.  They are nicely pronounced and I had no trouble at all controlling the device while it resided in my pocket.  Never once did I accidently hit a button without meaning to.

Aesthetics:  So it’s in silver, hmm I think I liked black better but who cares.  This product is all about function, the bare metal just lends itself to that concept, pure and unfettered by such trivialities.  Think Corbusier.

Sound:  As good as I have ever encountered.  The amp it contains is horrifyingly good, the power it can unleash is incredible yet it has zero issue with the most sensitive IEM’s out there.  It is a near perfectly neutral sounding DAP with simply tremendous extension at both ends.  Lows on every headphone go on as far as I’ve ever heard them do so and the same for the highs.  Mids are spectacularly open and transparent too.  There may be a slight enhancement of the highs which I found meant it didn’t suit the brightest of IEM’s, but then I’m always treble sensitive.  The sound quality otherwise is pretty much flawless.   As open, transparent and dynamic as I’ve ever heard a DAP be, its gloriously and spectacularly good sounding. Its timing too is utterly impeccable.

Value:  Okay it’s not cheap but you get easily what you pay for.  It sounds tremendously good.

Pro’s:  Sound quality, battery life, sound quality, real buttons.

Con’s:  Erm, not sure there is any really.  The UI isn’t stellar.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Dunu Tai Chi (DN-19) Review

Dunu Tai Chi (DN-19) Review

Thanks to DUNU for the sample.

First Impressions:  On opening up the box its clear to see Dunu still know how to put probably the best accessory package together, just look at everything in there and they still do possibly the best IEM case you can get.  Note to everyone else, this is how you should do it!  Not that I’m saying a good accessory package is what matters most, it doesn’t but it lets you know there has been some thought and care taken.  The case especially, the little metal box is just first rate.  Opening everything up, what really catches the eye is the new cable these have, its bright silver with a transparent sheath which is a real departure from the norm.  Oh and it looks great, maybe not terribly subtle though. 

So sticking them in my ears and I like what I hear.  It really is a first impression and these come with the little filter do dahs and different tips to change the sound too apparently.  I’m just trying as they came out of the box so no “dampeners” and with the black tips.  It’s not hard to tell this is the best Dunu I’ve heard to date.  Burn in time.

Source: 1G Ipod Shuffle, HiFiMAN HM-601, FiiO E9 and Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd.

Lows:  Annoyingly this is a product that lets you change the sound so it basically demands you do everything twice, grrrr.  So with the black tips which seal tightly and no dampeners in place the bass gets bigger, weightier etc etc.  No I do not for one second think that anyone who buys these will regularly swap back and forth.  Of course you could but I just don’t see it happening.  You shall do what I did, play about a bit realise you like one more than the other and then stay there.  For me this was not the bassy setting.  Not that was anything wrong with it, it’s a preference thing and it has a bit much bass, vocals were a bit weighty and highs, while lovely, weren’t the most abundant.  The bass lighter set up was a much more natural and more neutral too.  It still had rather good depth but not quite to the same degree, it does tail away a bit sooner, just a little mind.  It’s really very good quality bass here, it’s really reminding me of long ago and playing with the GR07 for the first few times.  That beguiling “nothing to see here” calm then you slap on something bassy and RARRRR it just thunders out of nowhere.  This may not have just quite the same spectacular talent but its close.  It wouldn’t surprise me if it was the same driver in there
I’m not actually going to check the specs because I don’t actually ever care about specs but these are very nicely balanced.  Not too much power, not to hard and punchy and not too much bloom.  It’s that fine blend of everything in just enough of each to make you love it.  Still if you want a bass master this isn’t quite it, I found with no dampeners it a bit too large and a bit softer and a bit mid bassy.  The vocals felt unduly influenced.  Sure I’m nit picking but everything is getting so competitive you have to be.  Still sticking in the dampeners corrected this.  Personally I’d say keep them in and if you really need more bass get a bass boosting amp, keep the quite excellent quality. 

Mids:  Sans dampeners a bit over weighty but with I found them to be very, very good.  Voices just sing with near perfect neutrality.  They are coloured in seemingly anyway, maybe just the slightest hint lighter and brighter than they ought to but otherwise stunning.  If you can picture somewhere between the GR07 and the RE-0 then that’s what you get here.  Oh and in case you were unaware those two are both among the best IEM’s out there, not just for their price but in general.  Both get so much right, so little wrong but neither are quite perfect.  The Tai Chi is their acoustic love child, not quite the perfectly flat but lacking in drama of the 0 but not the full bodied authority of the 7.  It’s a very pleasant portrayal.  Vocals are all just superb sounding; they may be a touch on the cool, dry side, the opposite without the dampeners.  Still again it’s a real nit-pick, they are more or less in line with the bass and the highs (okay maybe a touch mid centric.)  Tonally they have so very little colouration.  They don’t quite manage every last drop of detail like the 0 can but the added distance they give offers a lovely acoustic type feel to many vocals.  A little added air never hurt anyone.  This works wonders too for guitars, Jack Johnson strumming away as he does sounds superb.  Okay so I’d maybe like to see a little bit more bight to a guitar string than these offer, again it feels like such a petty complaint.  Sans dampeners this does get more pronounced, yeah I wasn’t hugely loving without the dampeners was I?

Highs:  Perfect? No.  The bit they don’t quite get right even with the dampeners is that they don’t have quite the crispness to the high edges they ought to.  It should be a little crisper, cleaner and you know what, a cymbal struck hard should sound abrasive to the ears (not that I love that when it happens.)  Here it has a shade been softened.  While my delicate little ears really do like that, I recognise its not strictly super duper accurate.  So thats my complaint.  Everything else about the highs is just positive.  They extend wonderfully and the have just fantastic shimmer and decay.  It’s something only good dynamics can nail and these nail it.  The highs aren’t quite as good as the 0 but they are getting hell’a close.  Given they have been long lauded as pretty much the gold standard for treble for years this is praise, trust me.  Of course being so close to the best it does mean you’re going to come off poorly in the inevitable comparisons.  When you AB them these do come of poorly but you could argue that’s not fair and I’d think your right.  The 0 is all about the flat and perfect, it’s near flawless but it’s not what many want, it’s not exciting.  The 7 is much more of that and what I think we have is a nice compromise between the two.  Not quite as fun as the 7 and not quite as accurate as the 0.

Soundstage:  Fairly good, it’s more about giving a nice portrayal of distance than it is about creating an enveloping acoustic environment.  Distance with a good dash of air.  Instrument separation is nice too, not outstanding but really very nice.  Among the better at this price.  Also it really is a very well integrated sound

Fit:  These have a bit of an odd shape with the little sticky out bit for the dampeners and that when dampened it did worry me that this would make them overly sealed.  Maybe this is why Dunu tell you to use the grey tips if using the dampeners?  Seems about right to me and thankfully, no air pressure issues.  So was a nice, stick in and done experience.

Comfort:  Closely related to fit and again it’s about these little dampeners.  The design has them for some reason sticking out just where they want to stab my antitragus.  I found that with the ear guides on they wanted to sit at an angle that ensured they were always stabbing me.  They didn’t last long before getting removed.  It then wasn’t hard to fix, just rotating the bud a bit.  However it could be a problem for others I’m guessing at least someone.

Cable:  Drool worthy.  Not only do I think the cable looks super pretty it feels study and very high quality.  The Jack is super solid, the Y splitter too and it has a chin slider on there.  Oh and the now trademark Dunu cable tie thingy. 

Accessories:  Well there just isn’t anyone that does accessories better than Dunu.  The inclusion of 2 cases as well as a separate accessory case is unbeatable.  The accessory case is for the tips, dampeners, shirt clip and cleaning cloth!  Then you get the baggie type IEM case and the one I really like, the metal case.  It is clearly taking inspiration from the one that came with the old UE TF10 and its presently the best case out there.  I wish these things were available to buy separately as there simply is no better IEM case in my opinion.

Microphonics:  These pretty much demand wearing up so you’re not likely to get any, they come with a chin slider built in too so I’d be shocked if anyone had a problem with microphonics.

Amped/Unamped:  There were of course some differences but not a vast amount.  Things like the RE-0 demand a good amp behind them but the Tai Chi seemed quite happy with whatever I pared it with.  Adding impedance did make a nice little refinement to the highs but it did seem to affect poorly the instrument separation which was a little odd.  Ether way no massive changes taking place, sure an amp helped but optional.

Isolation:  Okay I don’t recall any differences when I was without dampeners but I’m not testing it.  So these are about standard for a dynamic now I think.  Enough for typical out and about things and enough for on a bus etc.  Hell you could maybe even get away with a short flight too but no trips to New Zealand.  As always, still enough to make you road kill if you don’t look where you’re going, you won’t hear that bus 10 feet behind you.

Value:  It’s hard to say exactly as these don’t seem to have hit retail yet as I can’t seem to find them outside ebay.  So going by ebay these are going at £84.50.  That makes them easily the most costly Dunu to date but these are also easily the best sounding Dunu’s to date too. Comparing the two I have been these can’t compete with the 0 and its crazy price but it you read post of when it dropped to US$100 you’ll see many loving them and just as many hating them.  I can’t imagine the same will happen to these, they are great sounding and greatly entertaining with the best all round package you could hope for.

Conclusion:  These are very good, there is no two ways about that.  As bang for buck goes these have to be pretty much in line with the GR07 in terms of value.  The issue is that they are cheaper and so not quite as good.  Okay so these have the ability to change the sound quite significantly with the tip and dampener change.  However I’m not convinced anyone is going to do that, you’ll pick the sound you prefer and run with it.  It may sound like I’m being a little down on the Tai Chi and I don’t mean to.  It is without a doubt the best DUNU I’ve heard.  It’s one of the best all rounder’s and it has probably the best accessory package I’ve seen.  It’s one of these things where if you’re going to have just one IEM then it’s a really compelling contender.  It’s a wonderfully enjoyable sound and is very capable.

The down side is it’s not just quite as acoustically capable as the GR07, its close though.  Still there is a good £20 difference between them and the accessory package with the Tai Chi is just outstanding.  That metal case DUNU offer is magnificent and everyone else in the industry needs to look toward DUNU in that regard.  The overall package is really what makes them consistently stand out.  When you factor the accessories in really makes the Tai Chi a great value proposition which just happens to excellent sounding and offer the option of two different sounds.  The thicker and weightier one or the thinner and more lively one that I preferred.  It’s almost like you’re getting two IEM’s for the price of one so in that regard it would make an excellent first quality IEM purchase for someone.

Consequently I really have to declare the Tai Chi to be one of the best value and best options for those people who are just going to have one IEM.  The versatility they offer in altering the sound means you can tune it to match you.  The quality of the sound is simply first rate at its price point.  The cable is quite the stunner and the case you get is likewise.  It is a hugely compelling bundle DUNU have put together, other companies would do well to look at these and start copying them!

Dunu Tai Chi (DN-19) Quick Review

Dunu Tai Chi (DN-19) Quick Review

Thanks to DUNU for the sample.

Brief:  Dunu rising up the quality chain.

Price:  £84.50

Specification:  Driver Type HQ(10mm), Sound Pressure Level 100+-2dB, Impedance 16 Ohms, Noise Attenuation 26dB, Frequency Response 16Hz – 26KHz, Weight 18g, Plug Size 3.5mm Gold-plated, Cord Length 1.3m.

Accessories:  A metal case, a baggie, a case to keep your accessories in, an airplane adapter, a 6.25mm to 3.5mm jack, ear guides, shirt clip, cleaning cloth,  a bunch of dampeners 4 pairs of black hybrid type tips and 3 pairs of grey silicon tips.  (Note I can’t find the airplane adapter or the 6.25 to 3.5 adapter but I’m sure they were there.)

Build Quality:  Unlike its siblings these are plastic but fear not.  DUNU have no trouble in this area, they feel nice and the cable especially is first class.  I’m not keen on the little plastic dampeners but they give you a bunch for when you will no doubt lose one or two.

Isolation:  Rather good.  About average so don’t expect to want to use these in a long flight but good enough to make you road kill etc etc.

Comfort/Fit:  I did have to remove to ear guides to be able to rotate them enough to stop the sticky out bit with the dampeners from stabbing me.  That done it was all fine but all may not be so lucky.  Otherwise these were fine, very light weight, felt practically weightless in the ear.

Aesthetics:  The buds themselves look nothing special but the cable is just lush.  Its gleaming silver covered with a transparent sheath.  It could be a little flashy for some there is no denying its eye catching.  Plus I’m a sucker for silver, always much preferred it to gold. 

Sound:  Top quality.  First of all you can change the sound by changing the tips and using or not the dampeners.  Essentially altering how open they are or not.  I liked them with dampeners and the grey tips so giving a lighter, fractionally midcentric sound.  The treble felt effortlessly extended and delicate.  The lows were superbly controlled but then didn’t go as deep or be as full bodied as without the dampeners.  Still it was very much to my tastes.  Its all a very well integrated sound given you can alter it so.  The mids is particular are very enjoyable.  Full of detail and life, that lets you pick out what you want and still capture the soul of the vocalist.  Regularly caused me to burst in to song while sat writing them up, not to mention dancing in the chair and looking like a fool.

Value:  Great sound for the money and a truly exceptional accessory package.

Pro’s:   Everything.  Sound great and god help me I love that metal case. Can change the sound to suit your tastes.

Con’s:  Cable is a bit flashy and the dampener ports may stab you.