Saturday, 10 August 2013

DUNU DN-23 Landmine Review

DUNU DN-23 Landmine Review

Thanks to DUNU for the sample.

First Impressions:   the box is standard fair for DUNU, they are all essentially the same.  The insides too are fast becoming a standard with them.  The accessory bundle is a grand compendium of bits and bobs.  Shame no metal case that they used to do, still you get both a hard case and a baggy so it is the most minor of gripes.  Just it was the best case ever and it’s a shame not to see it more often.  Otherwise everything is just what you expect to see, the cable is the same we normally see as is the jack and Y splitter.  The buds too are the typical quality.  The build quality is some of the best you will see and has become a real hallmark of DUNU.

First listen and the bass is clearly what this IEM is going to be about.  Oh god there is an awful lot of bass going on here.  I can see it fast becoming tiring but it may tidy up a notch with a burn in.  still is a run through a couple of tracks the bass is quite magnificent, clearly too much for me but no flab to it at all.  Its rather tunefull too and manages not to interfere with anything else. Hmmm I think this one might just grow on me.

Source: FiiO E7/E9, Hisoundaudio Studio 3rd Anv., 1G Ipod shuffle

Lows:  This is probably the most important section.  Make no mistake about the Landmine, the name is appropriate in that its low end will blow you away.  Hands up I’ll confess the bass is more than I would like it to be, I’m not a fan of bass heavy things but many people are and this is aimed at they more than I.  Another confession I fear must be made in that when encountering large bass I’m inclined to smoother and softer bass lines.  I find lots of bass being driven violently at you with scale and punch to be rather tiring on my little ears.  However many love tons of bass, tons of power, tons of punch and here we have it all on a silver platter.  Trying fast moving bass as is found with The Dresden Dolls or the Scissor Sisters, the 23 just does it.  It never feels like its struggling to keep up with what’s going on and at the same time it can do the inverse with equal aptitude.  The smooth and slow “Union Street” album from Erasure never sounds hurried or that it’s struggling to move the air low down.  It’s rare to find something that feels so content to do either low end rendition and with this level of articulation.

Quantity wise I feel it’s a bit humpy.  The middle of the bass range peeks and declines as it moves toward the mid/bass cusp.  It does likewise decline as it reaches down low but more gradually.  The depth is good but not too linear as frankly I think if it did it would become wildly oppressive.  It trails off as it ought to with a human hearing curve mostly but I found its depth to be highly impressive.  Honestly I’d have rather it trailed off much more rapidly like as would be found in something open.

Mids:  A tad recessed behind that big old bass but then that’s how it works.  Quantity wise you really can’t fail to find it lacking a bit as that really is a lot of bass.  Still it’s perfectly clear and I’d say more or less in line with the highs.  It’s actually a really rather nice mid-range.  I’d have really expected to be hearing much more obfuscation of vocals because there is so much bass but even Heather Small’s delicate vocals come through rather cleanly.  Still if its light and airy vocals you’re after this isn’t it.  Tonally they are much more towards the heavy and rich side.  It hides a lot of sins that way and is probably intentionally tuned so.  This is an IEM made for the likes of pop “artists” that specialise in joviality rather than singing talent. Not that there is anything wrong in having a good time and enjoying some bounce and energy.  These while perfectly competent vocally are not what I’d pick up if you’re a big Nora or Tori listener. 

That said, vocals are beautiful sounding on them.  Lush and detailed both in equal measure but I wanted more of it.  I found I wanted to turn them up to get more of the gorgeous mids and then some bass line would kick in.  By kick in I mean by kicking you in the guts.

Highs:  Quantity wise there is about the same as there are mids.  Plenty enough to know what’s going on but still behind that big bottom end.  Clarity wise they are very nice.  They are not what you would call forward or crisp at all but every so often I would notice that I’m picking out some subtitle and delicate shimmer in the background.  There really is quite a lot going on in there if you choose to look past the more obvious bass.  Still it’s not the most apparent about this detail.  If you want to notice it you shall have to look for it as it’s very casually rendered and lack the sharpened edge so often used to capture attention and allude to more detail than they have.  These have the detail but they make very little song and dance about it.  You could think of it as a rather sweet high end, softened and very unaggressive.  It’s possible this may go down more favourably in the Far East than the West with its smoothness.  Frankly I find this sort of treble much more eminently listenable particularly if you are using a source that may lack in the upper end.  Likewise if you aren’t supplying high bit rate files the first thing to suffer in the highs and for most mainstream consumers I feel it’s the right way to tune the highs.  It will be forgiving of dross and will offer the more intimate details of a track if you supply it well.

Soundstage:  Instrument placement is fairly broad but not greatly defined.  The stage feels fairly vague too, broadly outlined before me and reasonably sized but uneventful.  Good width, height not so much.

Fit:  Great.  For a bassy sealed dynamic I’d have expected some driver flex of air pressure issues but there was none.  Shoved in ears and that was it.

Comfort:  Great.  Sealed dynamics can often irritate but not a jot of bother here. 

Cable:  DUNU seem to use the same cable, jack and Y splitter for all their IEM’s.  It’s a good thing too because they are great.  It also still has its little cable tie do dah that I love.  You really can’t fault anything here.

Accessories:  DUNU put together the best access bundle out there.  It’s really that simple.  You get a hard case, a leathery baggy, a plane adapter, a 6.25 to 3.5mm jack, a shirt clip, I count 10 pairs of tips, a chin slider and that fab little cable tie.  You really could not possibly ask for more.

Microphonics:  The usual.  Wear up you get none.  If you insist on wearing down you do get some but there is the chin slider and the shirt clip so you can largely remove the issue.  Or just wear them up.

Amped/Unamped:  It responded reasonably well.   But as is the case with some I felt it rather benefited from adding additional impedance.  You got a nice bump in high end refinement and a cleaning up of the bass, with I felt fractionally bumped down the bass quantity.  So for me that was just win all round.  Otherwise the difference between amping and not isn’t worth hugely being fussed about.  Sure it’s a bump but unless you’re going to add impedance too then the bump from the two makes it rather more worth the bother.  In that case I think it’s worth doing.  It like many single dynamics rather liked having impedance added and I’d say if you have a pair, spend the US$10 and get an ER4 impedance adapter.

Isolation:  Pretty good.  It’s a dynamic but it’s pretty well sealed so you could happily get away with this for normal everyday uses.  Not one I’d go with for Tube commutes or long distance flights but you could do worse.  Of course its effortlessly enough to get yourself run over if your new to IEM’s and aren’t used to properly looking where you’re going.

Value:  Since I could only find two prices for these, US$85 (£57) or €79 those will have to be the prices I go with.  So the euro place prices it as £68 in Sterling and that’s range with some stiff competition.  DUNU’s are always solid buys as the build is great and the bundle is untouchable.  Sound per £ though and I see ClieOS as awarded them a Sonic Diamond.  That puts them in the same category as the RE-0 and while I think they are excellent I’m not sure I’d grant them quite such praise.  Sure it’s good and for a big bass beast it’s very detailed and the bundle is flawless.  Maybe it’s just that I’m more a RE-400 sort of person?  Of course they do pair up well, are great sounding, having great build quality and having a fantastic bundle of bits.

Conclusion:  I still have mixed feeling about these.  While I recognise that they are highly accomplished I find that there is too much bass.  It’s ever present and so forceful.  God it’s got some oomph behind it!  Of course its target market will love it for that.  It’s very accomplished technically and I really can in no way fault it in any way save for its quantity.  Christ it’s a lot and it’s really tiring my delicate little ears out.  Its relentlessness and inexhaustible power just keeps on going and going like a roller coaster you’ve been trapped on for hours.  Fun at first but now I just want it to stop and let me have a little break.  However as my sister recently declared the Hephaes (DN-16’s) she appropriated from me were no longer doing it for her and she would like something new, might I have something bassier she could steal?  (She did also mention they got a trip round the inside of the washing machine.)  Clearly there is a demand out there for more bass than you shake a big pointy stick at!

If you think that might be you then these are seriously capable bass cannons.  The bass is not only top class the rest of the spectrum is too just in the low ends perpetual shadow.  For me it didn’t work as I wanted to crank it up to hear the vocals and highs then the bass would appear and punch me in the gut.  It’s that sort of powerful, will smack you bass.  Listening to Placebo’s “Johnny and Mary” and the bass is so potent it’s frustrating.  I don’t care how masterfully tuneful the bass here is, it’s in my face all the time.

Okay so it’s pretty apparent I don’t love these.  The bass that’s what it’s all about.  If you like a great big truck load of bass then this has some of the best around.  Lots and lots of relentless, remorseless bass, thundering forth and dancing as nimbly as though on the head of a pin.  It’s really good stuff that many a company would be proud to have produced.  The rest of the spectrum is also very accomplished but much more lacking presence.  The physical quality of the IEM is first class as are all DUNU’s.  All in all it’s a really excellent little IEM DUNU have made here.

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