Saturday, 19 October 2013

DUNU DN-1000 Review

DUNU DN-1000 Review

Thanks to DUNU for the sample.

First Impressions:  The box looks just like many of the other Dunu’s I’ve seen so nothing interesting there.  It’s a nice box, nothing too fancy.  Inside I see for this higher end IEM they have gone back to the rather lovely metal case.  That I am most pleased with as its one if the very best cases you will ever encounter.  Visually the IEM's look just like one of the previous models, I can’t think just which one it is but these are silvery rather than dark.  it’s a touch blingy but still I think they look nice, I’m a bit of a sucker for silver so I may not be entirely impartial on that front.  I should note that the front of the box has a sticker with two options, “Gun Metal” and “Metallic” with the latter being ticked here.  So two colour variants?

First listen and I know that these are supposed to be a new range topper for Dunu.  It’s some multi driver BA / Dynamic combo, I can’t recall the exact specs and the box isn’t awash with detail.  Shoving them in my ear as I rush out the door and “ooooooh” thought I.  These are clearly rather good.  Very good.  I can’t even hint at acoustically where the crossovers are or what drivers doing what.  This is rather excellent.  it’s got a pretty nice balance too, no dramatic V shaped sound.  I am really rather liking these. In various ways they are reminding me of the GR07, sounding not only quality but seem to be hugely versatile and capable.  These are pretty awesome.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-60, 1G Ipod Shuffle.

Lows:  Now I’m not sure what the driver set up in in these as Dunu’s website is rather ambiguous about it.  I know there is a dynamic in there, so I’m assuming it’s the one doing the low end.  I honestly can’t tell what’s doing what, the integration its pretty damn excellent and the bass doesn’t do what the Cowon EH2 (I think twin of the Tpos H-100) which shows of its dynamic by whacking up the bass.  It was bass that you know instantly could never have come from any number of BA drivers.  This though, well it could be.  The quantity is rather elevated but that can be done with BA’s.  The depth though, that’s where it begins to shine as it’s got awesome depth for something of its price.  It just goes on and on!  This is the trait that reminded me of the GR07, its initially unassuming nature then when you invite it to go wild it does with aplomb.  Rip roaring; prolific, thunderous bass comes forth if you ask it to.  Great big smile inducing, playfully bouncy bass that not only is fun but so well behaved.  Sure it is a bit elevated but if you choose you can play with the little rings and dial it down but I wouldn’t bother.  It’s a real entertainer yet has plenty of civility and composure too.  Loving it!

The down side, if you look for one is that its maybe not perfectly even and its maybe not as granite like as you get from otherwise equally proficient BA drivers.  Additionally it hasn’t the air that the GR07 and RE-400 have makes take on a dark and slightly rich nature.  That means its not quite as lightning fast either but I wouldn’t let it concern you.  The overall message is, it is excellent.  A bit abundant but spectacularly entertaining.

Mids:  Great.  For being a “hybrid” BA/dynamic IEM I largely expected a pretty V shaped sound which means the mids tend to get a bit pushed back.  Sure the mids aren’t out in front in any way, they are just a bit behind the bass.  Quality wise they are excellent.  They do lean towards the cooler and dryer side vocally but they had zero issue with heavy and liquid vocals.  It’s just maybe they didn’t quite shine with the likes of Adele that more lush sounding IEM’s do.  They have an almost reticent quality to them, like they are a fraction shy and don’t want to come forward to take centre stage even when the vocals should be.  There is also somewhat of a darkness to them.  Detail levels on them are still great if maybe a bit behind the RE-400 and its much greater sense of light and air.

Slap on something with a little more vigour to it and these spring to life dramatically.  Scissor Sisters or indeed anything with some bounce to it sounds so vibrantly alive.  Vocals cut though any amount of musical extravaganza going on.  Clean and forthright.

Highs:  Smooth, delicately shimmering.  A radical departure from the sound of a few years ago where every up and comer in the IEM world went for bright and scintillating treble, the kind of treble that hurls detail towards your delicate little ears.  Now some love that sound but for me it gets massively tiring after a little while.  These though, the detail level is clearly excellent.  They have one of the better and more natural decay profiles of cymbals and high hats.  They don’t have the crispness to the edge of an initial impact that some adore but I greatly prefer this style.  Ever so faintly softened to take the brutality out of things.  Then you encounter the decay which is something BA drivers find so hard to nail and these are one of the better attempts at it.  It’s not quite at the level of the best dynamics but it’s a close to make me not care, its not like the GR07 or RE-400 are either.  It is excellent and deals perfectly with rather treble happy tunes like those of Owl City.  All the detail and decay you want with none of the abrasiveness.  The extension is superb for a BA, its genuinely excellent full stop.

Still I recognise that some may prefer the treble to be more aggressive and more pronounced, it just isn’t.  It does however jump a bit forward if you use looser sealing tips such as the biflannge ones at the expense of the low-end power.

Soundstage:  Very good.  Scale and power these with ease.  Instrument placement is a rather more fuzzy and the level of instrument separation could be better too.  These are more focused on big but very well integrated sound which is no doubt wise given their multi driver nature.

Fit:  Well these would suggest that with differing rings to adjust where the tip sits, correspondingly this alters how for you can stick them in your ears.  I must confess I went straight to the included Comply’s and I found there to be little difference.  They were problem free though, a case of shove in ears and that was that.

Comfort:  These are a little heavy so I’d suggest wearing them up.  That’s what I did and comfort was just fine. Not sure if I had been doing what the manual suggests and using the rings and then shoving in until the corner of them is in contact with my ear I’d feel quite the same way.

Microphonics:  The usual story, wear up and you don’t really get any.  If you insist on down there is a chin slider to assist you.

Amped/Unamped:  You get a fairly reasonable bump in amping, enough that I’d say use an amp if you’ve got one but not so much that I’d say you need one.  Oddly though for something with a multi driver set up adding an extra 75 ohms didn’t really change anything dramatically.  Vocals seemed to step forward a bit and the bass tightened up but nothing wildly different.  Still if you’ve got an adapter to hand you might want to give it a try.  On the whole, the DN-1000 seemed very happy being driven out of every source I tried.

Isolation: For a dynamic it would be very good but for a BA it’s not really.  Fine for normal, sat on a bus type things but you probably wouldn’t opt for this for a daily Tube commute or a long flight.  Sure it would do and easily enough to get you run over but compared with a multi BA only IEM it falls behind.  Mind you its rather better than the GR07.

Value:  At present I can find it going for £125, so what else sits around there?  The obvious one is the GR07.  Realistically that what the DN-1000’s competition is and while I’d be hesitant to say the DN-1000 is categorically “better” mostly its different but this is easily every bit as good sounding and has much more refined treble.  If you actually want better than this you’re looking at a hell of a lot more money. So I’d argue its every bit as excellent value as is its sound quality.  It’s a fantastic blend of quality and entertainment.  That’s without taking into account the case, tips and other bits and bobs you get, Dunu put together still one of the best packages around.

Conclusion:  So right of the bat I’m telling you this is no RE-400.  This isn’t a lets be all about the sonic purity and then injecting a hint of fun to the mix.  This is much more like the GR07 and the way it’s tuned.  Take something tremendously entertaining and enjoyable then ramp up the quality levels.  This is all about you enjoying yourself.  The bass in particular is all about party time and loves nothing more than when you throw on some quick paced bouncy pop.  It loves to hurl itself around the place or serve some unnervingly low rumble.  Its especially noticeable on tracks with very low lows, the sort of lows that the producer probably assumed peoples speakers and earphones wouldn’t be able to spit out with any great volume so they have massively dialled it up.  These will pump it out at stupid levels, like the GR07 did but these are more sealed so the effect is even greater.

Alternatively moving to slow tracks the bass then changes and becomes utterly content to labour and ooze out a languid low note.  Of course the rest of the range takes more prominence.  Nora prattling on about elections sounds so closed and the background has a real darkness to it.  The notes cleanly cut through but there is a lack of air and space that you get from dryer or more open dynamics.  Neither is strictly “better” but I think most might go for the RE-400 here.  Where these and their darker feel is very positive is in the high end.  Audiophiles with high res files will be the ones to notice when highs are breaking up and getting brittle, for me brittle highs just kill.  The highs here in that regard are spectacular.  They are se very, very refined for this price range.  It’s something I’ve moaned about on both the RE-400 and the GR07 and these have the best quality of the three.  I know some like things a bit gritty up top but I don’t.  Assuming it is a BA driver doing it its one of the best I’ve encountered.

Changing to looser sealing tips and lightening them up which does make a notable difference (the idea behind the little rings) I’d bet everyone will do what I did, pic the one you like best and run with it.  For me it’s the low end that’s the star and the Comply’s show it off best.

In short, I’m not sure the DN-1000 is so much an audiophile IEM, it’s not tuned that way.  It is freaking awesome though.  Sure it really wants to party and the bass is a bit big but it’s so vigorously alive and dynamically vibrant.  It’s the sort of IEM that makes you want to keep listening, you find yourself walking slower somewhere because you don’t want to arrive and have to remove them.  The kind of IEM that has writhing and dancing in your chair as you try to write something!  You know this would for an awesome Christmas present, you know just saying.  Short of the RE-600 I think this is the IEM I’ve enjoyed most so far this year.

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