DUNU TITAN 3 Review
Thanks to DUNU for the sample.
First Impressions: Lol, having the Titan 3 and 5 arrive at the same time, along with having their siblings the “original” Titan, which I think is now the 1. Thank god they have a big 3 or 5 on the back as they look identical. Not just similar but identical. Though why not? The 1 was amazingly good so why not take that and tune it to suit differing tastes? Opening them up and true to form DUNU put together an awesome bundle, I mean what more bits and bob’s wise could you possibly want?
So in the ears, which I’ve been a little eager to do, the 1 was a stunner, super crazy amazingly good for the money. The trade was almost no isolation but I am not one that classifies more isolation as being “better” and more than savoury is “better” than sweet. They are different things, that’s all. Now I grant that for most uses we have for earphones we probably do want more isolation. Still I never thought it to be a flaw of the Titan, it was a tuning choice. That choice, well DUNU would seem to have done something I have oft wondered why others don’t do, make a bassy version, a flatter version and a more trebly one? The 3 I’m taking to be the flatter one. Bass is certainly bigger than I recall on the original. Mids though, oooh still so much, much space to breathe. Hmm a bit more heavy though, bit thicker than I recall. Yep I’m sure these feel more warm and creamy than the 1’s do. Anyway to burn in with these and no doubt right on to the 5’s.
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5, Lumia 735 and a Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.
Lows: Ahh flicking back and forth with these and the 1 and the 5 (at this point suspecting DUNU hate all reviewers forcing us not only to review these but how can anyone not compare and contrast them to their siblings constantly?) These beside the 1 richer, smoother, more creamy and while on paper you equate that to “more bass” they aren’t really. Sure it’s more creamy, a touch chocolatey brown in tonality but they aren’t more bassy. If anything I think these maybe have a touch less lower down and perhaps a tiny elevation in the middle to upper mid ranges which serve to de-emphasis the bass. These are so polite, highly pleasant, gently warmed, Baileys type creamy.
Curiously though I did notice that the bass was at its most assertive when running off a phone. The TITAN 3 and the P8 spat out a fare whack of bass that was most unexpected. The bass didn’t get “aggressive” but it certainly stood up and took a step or so forward. In any case the quantity is still rather in the realms of audiophile bass and not bass head. These are like their siblings, sonically almost untouchably brilliant.
Mids: The slightly more creamy 3 is somewhat focused comparatively on the mids. Of the 3 they are easily the most creamy and thick but while they are gently warmed they still very clear. Not so in your face explicit as the other two but they’re arguably the ones you go for if you want a more “organic” sound and something more relaxed and comforting. There is in fact the slightest acoustic reminder of the old PL-50. It was full of buttery goodness and there is a dollop of that here.
Quantitatively they are a mite bit elevated from the flat 1 and quite a bit increased over the somewhat V shaped 5. They mids are a little loser in the lower mids reaching a little peak in the upper most mid-range. Pump that volume dial and certain vocal threaten to leap out at you. So much that when pushed from a big amp the lows felt comparatively diminished and serve to give an overall light sound. A lightness and a lack of body that however never wanted to happen out of a phone. Clearly the uppers need more power to happen so your phone ends up, when the volume is pushed, being the most full bodied and substantial sounding.
Highs: I have long said that dynamics and only dynamics (okay really mean not Balanced Armatures) can really ever get the best treble spot on. The 1 when I first encountered was not unlike meeting the RE-0 for the first time. You look at the price tag, listen, look bag at the price tag, then you start googling to find the price elsewhere just to check someone hasn’t made a mistake. While I suspect they all have the same driver, the 1 rated 20 Hz to 30kHz but the 3 and 5 are both 10Hz to 40kHz. The typical range for a human is quoted as 20Hz to 20kHz. (it’s not really true but its nice easy numbers so let’s just pretend it is.) So you can see that all 3 are capable of functioning well beyond what any human is capable. If you exceptional you may be able to hear things in the low 20kHz’s but 30 and 40 is vastly higher. Thusly the detail and nuance they can eek out is mesmerizingly good. The 3 though with its dash of creamy, warmth the treble isn’t very attention grabbing. You listen out for it and it’s all in there but its polite. The 5 is far more assertive in letting you know and informing you you’re going to pay attention whether you like it or not.
Soundstage: Keeping in step with their siblings the Titan 3 sounds very big, and has loads of airy space. Curiously the vocals with their slightly creamy tone, they are a little more forward and thus a little more intimate. Though intimate is the wrong word, they don’t feel intimate but still up front, close in but with lots of space behind them. It’s a slightly odd style but it works. Vocals are exceedingly pleasantly rendered though they still lack that intimacy. Better suited to grand choral works rather than private and personal jazz.
Fit: Turning the things upside down and swapping the left and right, do that and your set. Why these are shaped as they are and seemingly intended to be worn down, I do not have an idea. I say don’t, wear them up otherwise they sit so shallow that wearing down means every move you make will tug at them and drive your ears crazy.
Comfort: Worn up and left to right, great stuff. Down however they constantly tugged and it irritated me significantly. Still just wear them up and if you care about being the right way round you can just swap the cables on the buds as they are detachable.
Microphonics: Worn up and your golden. Worn down the noise was very minimal but please, please do yourself a favour and don’t wear them down.
Amped/Unamped: Rather like the TITAN 5 they behave a little strangely when amped. Clearly they are made with mediocre sources in mind. They when well powered have a bit of an upper vocal forwardness that when played at volume gets a little shouty. However when you flick over to a phone, then they take on a new level of richness. Rather more sumptuous in their flavouring and thus I often found that I preferred them when casually playing mid centric stuff out of a phone. Be it the P8 or the 735. When plugged into the Solo Ultra they could become overall rather lighter and get too vocally excitable. In short the extra detail and such you gain from amping, I’d not bother unless it’s a very warm amp.
Isolation: Well I often say that more isolation isn’t technically a “good” thing but…… for the things I usually want earphone for I do want outside noise locked out. All the Titans all cant isolate for toffee. That isn’t a “bad” thing but it really puts the kybosh on your using them on a bus for example or got forbid on the Tube or a flight. Sure if you want to use outside then go for it but these would only be my choice if I was maybe going for a quiet walk in a quiet park. No one to disturb me and no others for me to disturb others with my music.
Accessories: Everything. Though they are seeming to be settling on this black case. I really wish they would bring back the old UE lookalike metal one. That was a cracking case. The current one works but it’s boring, that metal one looked superb. Otherwise you get about a million tips, 6.25 to 3.5mm adapter, a shirt clip and some inner ear guide things which I never use. Honestly aside from the return of the wonderful metal case they used to do you couldn’t want for more.
Value: DUNU have always been champions of great value. They make great products and give crazy amounts of bit and bobs too. That the TITAN 3 comes as it does, sounds like it does and have removable cables, well you just can’t fault it. Isolation aside their attributes are exemplary. The detail levels they offer are unsurpassed other than by the TITAN 1. Truly excellent value for money.
Conclusion: When the TITAN 1 came out is was a bit of a stunner. Most IEM’s go for lots of isolation and sacrifice a lot acoustically to get there. The TITAN though said screw all that, we want the absolute best audio quality we can give, stuff the isolation. The result was a very open IEM but its sound was amazing. It was so huge, the grandeur of it all, the level of detail it presented, all were at the very top of what IEM’s can do. However the TITIAN was given a very neutral sound signature which isn’t loved by everyone. It would seem then that DUNU have decided to take that housing and driver, tweak it, produce a few alternative sound signatures. The 1 being flat, the 5 being V shaped and the 3 as being the middy, creamy one.
Sound quality wise the TITAN 3 is every bit as good as the TITAN 1, just differently balanced. The 3 is also rather more creamy, slightly warmed in its presentation. The mid-range in particular is stylistically different. The TITAN 1 is comparatively more dry and open. The 3 is still open but it’s got more a liquid, more flowing quality to it. For vocal heavy stuff especially, slow, flowing vocal, for sultry soft jazz, they are exceptional. They encourage you to just sit back and melt away. Vocals can be so layered, so nuanced and all just ever so slightly creamy. They are excellent, there is no question that these are one of the best mids on a dynamic driver.
So should you buy a pair? Well it’s a little bit of a queer duck. Its mid-range talents are great, its bass control and tone are excellent and its treble is better than almost every BA out there. Still these are a rather flavoured earphone. For some things such as Erasures “Union Street” acoustic album there were a perfect pairing. More dramatic and bombastic tracks that wanted a more raucous low end and more dazzling highs won’t really find it here. The TITAN 3 isn’t much of a generalist but for most of what I choose to listen to its beyond fantastic, I could use them every day and be happy with how they sound. However that lack of isolation for me is a killer. The Titan 3’s no doubt sound almost perfect but the traffic backing track is a problem for me. If you don’t need isolation, if you want something wonderfully middy then it’s a most excellent option.