Tuesday, 4 June 2013

DUNU Detonator DN-22m Review

DUNU Detonator DN-22m Review

Thanks to DUNU for the sample.

First Impressions:  As always Dunu put together a quite stunning package.  The accessory bundle has been exemplary and it’s continued here.  Looking at the buds too they seem very nice, the build quality on these really does make you want to go back and check their RRP.  Is it nice stuff, simple as that. 
Sooo quickly whipping them out of the box and into the ears.  Clearly it’s a bit of a warm and smooth one.  Oooh bit of bass in there too, that’s quite a bit of bass.  Not sure if it’s enough to get annoying but it’s pushing the limits of what I’d want.  Quality is nice mind so it just might grow on me.  Burn in time me thinks.

Source:  FiiO E7/E9 combo, 1G Ipod Shuffle and Galaxy Nexus.

Lows:  Right off the bat I noticed the bass and it remains rather present.  It’s a bit more present than I want and it not as linear as I’d like either.  It’s got a fair old hump to it and in the upper bass range it’s pretty elevated while right down low it fades away.  In the bits where it’s focused though it’s powerful and controlled.  Stopping and starting nicely and feeling pretty damn solid too.  A little bit of texture gets lost in the quantity but it has great timing and a natural tone to it.  It didn’t feel wildly artificial and boosted.  This leads me to find the bass as one of these big but makes you smile sounds.  I found the low end timing especially to be just so eminently fun and rhythmically bouncy.  No matter what I threw at it it responded with a joviality I really liked.  Everything was so well timed, its just so much fun!

Quantity wise it’s a bit much I’ll grant you and it’s a bit humpy but it’s all forgivable.  Indeed I swiftly forgave them.  On technical points they aren’t spot but I don’t care, these have real life and soul to them.

Mids:  On paper blah blah whatever, these are not about the on paper stuff.  These are not aiming for accuracy or intended for monitor usage.  These are all about the smooth, enveloping warm gooey liquidy flowing mids.  They have enough detail to keep me happy and what not but they don’t want you to listen to these with a critical ear.  They are the sort of thing you do not listen to the IEM, you listen to the music.  So it’s not one for analytical freaks, lol they’ll hate it but if you just stop trying and relax these are so enjoyable.  They make the music come alive and I’m kinda loving them.  Technicalities may be fudged a bit but the timing’s so fun and the tone so natural these just nail happy, fun noise.

Quantity wise they are a bit behind the bass bit in front of the highs.  They are a touch on the warm and if you’re looking for tonnes of air around a vocal this isn’t for you.  I don’t care though; they feel so effortless and entertaining.

Highs:  Well I’m not a treble lover and the highs here are fine for me.  They are rather subdued.  They don’t have the best clarity in the world, nor the best detail.  They don’t extend super well and they don’t shimmer terribly well either.  To top it off they have a bit of a hard edge to them too.  So in short nothing great but they are sufficiently toned down so as to hide its short comings.  The highs are third out of three.  Still I find it all blends together well.  Even on very treble happy songs the presentation is fine.  Just don’t try too hard to listen to them analytically.  Take what’s here as a whole and just enjoy them.

Soundstage:  They have the scale and power down no problem.  Distance and instrument separation, err not really.  They just don’t have the air for either but then they are sealed dynamics so what did you expect?

Fit:  For a sealed dynamic I had no trouble.  Popped in my ears and that was it.  Up or down was effortless.

Comfort:  They are heavy little buds but worn up its not noticeable. Down a bit more so and worn down the mic always caught no my collar which I find ever annoying.

Cable:  Top class, the cable with the Y spitter, jack, chin slider and the cable tie thing.  You couldn’t ask for better at this price.

Accessories:  DUNU put together a better accessory package than anyone else.  It’s that simple.  You get 8 pairs of tips, a shirt clip, the inbuilt cable tie thing which I love and then you get not only a hard case but a soft baggy.  What’s more its about the best baggy you’ll ever see too.  No one else does accessories like DUNU do.

Microphonics:   Like normal, worn up none really, wear down you do.  It’s not terrible and you do get the shirt clip and chin slider to help though.

Phone Use:  Acoustically these were not at their best from my phone, they liked more power.  Otherwise they worked fine.  The button worked, play, pause, skip and the microphone seemed to work fine too.  For the mic being sat very near my ear I was told I could be heard clearly still.

Amped/Unamped:  These don’t need amping to sound fun but for the bass to be the best it can be an amping does make a notable difference.  Still I recognise that these cost so little normally they won’t see a big amp and since they are mic’ed these are really meant to live with a phone.  On my phone they lost that solidity and absolute authority.  They still were lots of fun just with a little something missing.

Isolation:  These are sealed so the isolate pretty well.  Not quite up there at the daily Tube commute level but enough to get you through the odd flight and any normal out and about stuff.  As ever, more than enough to get you run over if you aren’t looking where you’re going.

Value:  I like these.  You get a very enjoyable sounding IEM, with a mic and a great accessory bundle.  At the moment though these seem very hard to actually buy, the only place I seem them for is £37.61 and coming from Spain.  Given the RRP is US$45 that seems a bit high.  Still while I’m not saying you can’t get better audio you won’t get the all-round package that’s here.  DUNU always put together a hugely compelling and good value bundle.

Conclusion:  On paper these have too much bass, it’s too humpy and the highs are too meh.  Yet I find myself not caring at all and just enjoying the music.  These are all you should want form a cheap IEM.  Fun in spades, eminently rhythmic and bouncy and just all-round pleasing.  They have a grand old vibrancy to them and enthusiasm that I find very compelling.  The timing on them is just spot on too.  The timing I think is what nails these in to place as so very pleasing.

On more technical merits these are rather flawed as you would expect at this price but I don’t care and I don’t think you will either.  These aren’t meant to be used for trying to listen critically.  And I mean to either the Detonator’s or the music, it’s not what they do.  They are solely about being entertaining and fun

The bundle here as ever with DUNU is a real boon too.  You get a shed load of things, everything you could possibly want I think.  Pair that up with the great build quality and the value is just superb.  I mean you could tell people these cost a lot more than they do and they wouldn’t have any reason to doubt you.  Chuck in how fun they sound and these I think could be my favourite little bundle I’ve seen from DUNU yet.  The Detonator is may be cheap but you’d never know to look at it and is such an entertainer, I really like it.

DUNU Detonator DN-22m Quick Review

DUNU Detonator DN-22m Quick Review

Thanks to DUNU for the sample.

Brief:  A well timed, bassy fun machine.

Price:  £37.61 or circa the RRP or US$45

Specification:  Driver Size: 9mm, Microphone: -45 +5dB, Sound pressure level: 112+-2dB, F Response: 20Hz - 20KHz, Noise Attenuation: 26dB,  Weight: 27g, Cord: 1.2m

Accessories:  8 pairs of tips, shirt clip, a hard case and a soft baggy and a built in cable tie.

Build Quality:  Top class, really just top class given the cost.  Easily the equal of the far more expensive EB-50.

Isolation:  Very good for a dynamic, plenty enough to get you through normal day to day stuff and maybe the odd flight.  Certainly enough to get you run over if you aren’t looking where you’re going.

Comfort/Fit:  Pretty great, worn down the mic did catch my collar which is annoying but that’s all.  Despite being dynamic and sealed they gave me no air pressure issues at all.

Aesthetics:  Pretty understated.  They are mostly a shiny gun metal colour with a very helpful red or blue band to denote which ear they belong in.  they look like they could cost rather more than they do.

Sound:  On paper these have plenty of flaws.  They are too bassy, the bass is too humpy, the highs lack and yet have a bit of an edge.  But I find I forgive them all.  They have superbly fun timing and I just liked.  I liked them a lot.  They are so fun and bouncy. They are the antithesis of analytical which made them awkward to review but just step trying.  Sit back just listen to the music and enjoy it.  That’s what these want you to do and when you do you’ll stop noticing the technical failings.  They capture an entertaining whole.  The bass is so nicely timed.  There is just so much that I find enjoyable that I completely ignore its technical mishaps.  This is an IEM that doesn’t want you to listen to it but to the music and that it’s getting right.  It’s just such an enjoyable and pleasing style of rendition.  I really think it ought to please most if not all and in particular those who like a good chunk of bass.  Its firm, powerful and punchily potent!  Smiley face.

Value:  Great, its currently hard to actually buy one but they sound fab, bundle is superb and the build quality is outstanding.  I am really not sure what else you could want.  Unless you just want a completely different sound signature of course, neutral and analytical these are not.

Pro’s:   Fun in spades, build quality, accessory bundle.

Con’s:  Deeply not analytical or neutral.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Nuforce NE-700m Review

Nuforce NE-700m Review

First Impressions:  A rather smaller box than I was expecting.  Still this is Nuforce’s “flagship” IEM so given the relatively mixed feelings I had about the previous two this shall be interesting.  Visually these are pretty sedate affairs.  Dare I say it in comparison to the 770 these are positively boring.  You could of course say they are far more grown up looking and they are.  They are also a shed more weighty than the weightless 770 too.  These are clearly all metal, machined aluminium the spec sheet says.

First listen and oh god, thick heavy, bassy.  I’m thinking these will want a good long burn in and maybe the pairing of a bright amp.  Shockingly I’m thinking right away the rather bright sounding Nuforce Icon Mobile might be the amp for these.

Source:  Nuforce Icon Mobile, Fireye DA, FiiO E7/E9 combo, 1G Ipod shuffle and for phone use a Galaxy Nexus.

Lows:  Big and abundant.  They bass is clearly taking centre stage and I can’t say I love that.  I did find it’s a little bit fussy in what you pair it to.  You see I think Nuforce have assumed that this is going to be paired with DAPs that are likely to roll off the lows.  If you then pair it with something that doesn’t you get rather a lot.  Still pairing up with its stable mate, the Icon Mobile, which is known to be rather bright, they pair up very well.  I found the combo to be very enjoyable.  The bass with its still elevated quantity rolled off a little bit more and so was much more tolerable to the ear.  The warm E7/E9 combo produced a low, low end that felt like it wanted to shake my skull apart.  Even with the phone the quantity was significant yet it lacked the quickness on the Icon Mobile.  The 700 is not the fastest low end that ever there was.  It felt much more at home with slower, thicker stuff particularly when not well powered.  It’s great big bottom end has great authority but it lacks in agility the way a large 4x4 (SUV for Americans) can hurl itself into a corner.  It will go round but it doesn’t feel nimble and effortless.  The trade-off is you get a large sumptuous sound.  The bass is velvety melted chocolate that you can sink into.

When you do make it pound out a quicker bass line it will do it but I felt the bass a bit overblown.  It doesn’t start and stop terribly quickly and you get a big wall of powerful bass.  For me it got tiring but I’m not a bass head and I could see many really enjoying its low end.  The more mainstream crowd in particular I’m sure would find it most entertaining.

Mids:  Rather recessed behind that bass if you ask me.  Tonally its rather on the warm side of things like the rest of the IEM so you don’t get the most explicit vocals ever.  They are rather lovely though, smooth and gentle on the ear, just washing over it.  For things with smooth, melodic vocals they work great and for songs with vocalists that erm, shall we say are lacking a bit, this smooth’s and sands the rough edges.  If you’re after light and breathy vocals though these will suffocate them a bit.  “The Bird and The Bee” stuff feels too heavy vocally.  They should be full of air and dry but the NE-700 just isn’t capable of that sort of thing.  It depends on what style you like, the sound has been hugely popular and Sony has used it for years as do many others. 

For me though I find its thickness and richness a bit more than I’d like to see.  It obscures things and the detail retrieval suffers for it.  I shouldn’t really complain at that as it’s a preference thing but I like to listen out for little things and this just isn’t that sort of IEM.

Highs:  You know what to expect I think.  It’s warm so softened, gentle highs that roll off a bit.  Tbh that works great for me as I hate nothing worse than harshness in the highs.  Here they are smooth and gentle no matter really what you do.  Maybe not one for aggressive rock then.  These just do not want to do abrasive and aggressive.  The down side to that is they could be said to lack detail and they do a bit.  It’s more that they don’t thrust the brutal edge of a high note at you like some do so they don’t have the sense of detail about them.  They aren’t terrible detail wise but you’ll have listen out and pay attention to notice.  Extension wise too these aren’t stellar but they do have a gentle roll away with a nice shimmery fade.

Not one for the treble junkies.

Soundstage:  Placement I found a bit unfocused but they have a significant scale to them.  They feel big and powerful even if you can’t place things anywhere in particular nor do they feel particularly distant.

Fit:  Sealed dynamics, joy.  Actually not bad but I did find I got on best with these once I slapped on a pair of Comply’s.  It was quicker that way.

Comfort:  Given their weight you maybe think there could be an issue but no, naturally I wore them up and they were fine.  The cord and your ear takes the weight so you really don’t notice.   Worn down the mic as always caught on collars and got annoying but that always happens to me with mic’s.

Cable:  Fairly non descript.  Feels sturdy particularly the jack and the Y splitter.  The Y splitter seems very sturdy, nice chin slider too.

Microphonics:  Not bad even worn down.  There is a chin slider to help if that’s how you like to wear them.  Naturally worn up there’s really no issue.

Accessories:  Not a vast assortment.  You get a little brown baggie and 6 pairs of tips.  Its only three sizes though, i.e. you get 2 pairs of each or I did anyway.  The spec’s say you get 3 pairs.

Phone Use:  Made a call, they could hear me fine despite my wearing them up and the mic sitting just below my ear.  So seems to be a success there.  Control wise it’s the 1 press for play/pause, 2 to skip a track etc etc.  That worked just fine too.

Amped/Unamped:  They didn’t seem to mind if amped or not but responded for more to what they were paired with.  Shockingly they paired best with Icon Mobile particularly in the vocals but they seemed to otherwise run just fine form anything including my phone.  My phone’s pretty clean and crisp rather than something warm like an Iphone.

Isolation:  Pretty good for dynamic.  Of course it is a closed dynamic so that is to be expected.  Good enough for normal out and about or on a bus.  Not what I’d really want for a great long flight but it would do in a pinch.  Naturally enough to get you run over if you don’t look where you’re going.

Value:  Hmmm, like many Nuforce products it matters if your American or not.  I can see the 700x going for £63 and the 700m for £75.  If I was American then they go for US$65 or US$75 respectively.  That’s a bit or a jump as just now US$75 equates to £49.40 according to google today.  That’s a 50% price increase to pay in pounds rather than US dollars.  Eek!

Conclusion:  These don’t wow me in any given area but they are a nice, solid IEM.  They are solidly constructed and have a solidly good, warm rich sound to them.  They are mostly natural sounding in the vocals if a touch heavy and they sound lovely.  They ooze and flow like a viscous cream and I do like it.  Its coloured but in a pleasant way.  Their rich warmth is undoubtedly a popular style and very listenable.  Particularly I can see their low end to be rather popular in the mainstream.  It I think is just a sound that’s maybe not aimed so much at the likes of those on Head-fi.  These aren’t the most detailed nor the most revealing but they aren’t trying to be.  It’s all about the weighty sumptuousness and power they offer.

So these are pretty flavoured sounding and only you can say if that’s something you’re after.  I found that its works very well with the likes of Jayson Mraz or Eric Huntchinson.  Especially with Mr Hutchinsons big bass with heavy vocals.  It’s rhythmically gently bouncy and eminently foot tapping.  It’s just not one that’s going to make you launch off your chair and go dancing round the room.  It’s much more relaxed and sedate than that.  Relaxed and sedate music is too where I felt there at their best too.  The fastest music didn’t have the bight and crispness you want for it unless you want to soften things.

These are the sort of thing I’d expect to see sold in the likes of John Lewis.  It’s a good sold set physically and aurally.  Good solid low end to them and a warm beefy power that should be popular.  The quality is good if rather flavoured.  It’s the aural equivalent of a hot chocolate topped with skooshy cream and marshmallows.  So long as you weren’t expecting an Earl Grey I’m sure anyone buying or getting these as a gift should be very content with them.

Nuforce NE-700m Quick Review

Nuforce NE-700m Quick Review

Thanks to Nuforce for the sample

Brief:  Nuforce’s grown up IEM.

Price:  US$75 or £75 for the m US$65 or £63 for the non mic’d x version

Specification:  Driver Size: 8mm, Impedance: 16 Ohms, Frequency Response: 20 to 20kHz, Max. Input Power: 10 mW, Sensitivity: 105 dB+/-3d, Plug: 3.5mm, Directivity: Omni-directional, Max Input Sound Level: 115db S.P.L, Weight : 15.4 grams, Length: 54 inches, Warranty: 1 Year., Microphone Sensitivity: -38dB +/-3dB, Connector Specification: 3.5mm 4-pole stereo/iPhone compatible plug

Accessories:  3 pairs of single flange ear-tips, one carrying pouch (but I got 2 pairs of each tips)

Build Quality:  Very solid.  They are weighty and feel very sturdy.  They should survive a good while.

Isolation:  Quite a lot for a dynamic.  They are pretty well sealed and will provide more than enough isolation to get you run over if you aren’t looking where you’re going.  Should be fine for normal everyday use and the odd short flight.

Comfort/Fit:  Given their weight wearing down added to the mic catching it was annoying but worn up the weight vanishes.  Fit wise I could have done with them boing less sealed but adding a pair of foam tips fixed that for me.

Aesthetics:  If you get the m you get “Smoky Bronze” and x you get “Aqua Silver.”  In pics I think the grey looks nicer but I always think the one I didn’t get looks nicer.  So vastly different form the gaudy 770 these are much more grown up looking.

Sound:  Like other Nuforce IEM’s these seem to be largely about the bass.  The richness and the power it’s got behind it.  If you ask me it’s a bit slow to do fast party bass.  I want more agility there and this will just thunder through with powerful abundance.  I thought to continue its more mature theme was at its best with smoother slower music.  Big, thick, rich low end smoothness.  Mids are mostly natural sounding, a bit of over thickness to them but they sound nice.  They also cover up the failings of many modern “singers” with a hint of soft focus.  The highs are pretty laid back, touch muted affairs.  Smooth and gentle on the ear.  These are mostly about the bass though, lots of it and just spades of power behind it.  Something that is never going to need the use of a bass boosting amp.

Value:  Have a look at the prices above.  Huge price jump for UK and the rest of the world.  Otherwise at US prices you’re paying for a bit for the name and the premium metalness of it all.  I don’t think these are aimed at audiophiles but more the mainstream who appreciate sturdiness and bass as their foremost concerns.

Pro’s:   Should survive much abuse, tremendous low end power.

Con’s:  Pricey for non americans, very bassy