Pros: Sonics, soundstage, bass!, build quality, overall design, value, accessories
Cons: Weight, nozzle design (no lip), cable hardens over time
Introducing Dunu's DN1000 Hybrid (dual BA + single dynamic) IEM
I've been lucky enough recently to start reviewing for a few IEM and ear-bud manufacturers. After reading other comments and reviews on Dunu's latest flagship (the DN-1000 triple driver hybrid), and communicating with Rocky from Dunu, I got my chance to listen to this wonderful product recently. They arrived a little over three weeks ago – and in that time I’ve logged a lot of hours with them (in fact they've been my IEM of choice). I’ve listed price at USD $215 (current Amazon price at time of writing) – however this is not what I paid for them (they are a review sample).
I was provided the DN-1000 as a review sample. I am in no way affiliated with Dunu - and this review is my honest opinion of the DN1000. I would like to thank Rocky for making this opportunity available.
Preamble - 'about me'. (This is to give any readers a baseline for interpreting the review).
I'm a 46 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile - just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current mid-fi set-up. I vary my listening from portable (HSA Studio V3 and iPhone4) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP). My main headphones at the time of writing are the Senn HD600, Beyer DT880, and Grado RS1. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs - and up till now it has mainly been the Shure SE535 Ltd Ed. or the HSA BA100 IEMs. I have auditioned quite a few entry and mid-tier cans, but have yet to hear/own any real flagships (at current time of writing this review). A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-fi profile).
I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz to grunge and hard-rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced - with a slight emphasis on the mid-range. I am neither a bass nor treble head (you could argue that I do like clarity though). Current amps = NFB12 and LD MKIV. I also formerly owned several portable amps - the most notable being an Arrow 4G and GoVibe PortaTube.
For the purposes of this review - I used the Dunu DN-1000 straight from the headphone-out socket of both my iPhone 4 and Studio V3. I did not bother with amping them, as IMO they do not require an amp. In the three weeks I've had the DN-1000's I have probably already put around 60 hours listening time. In that time I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (I do not believe in 'night and day' burn-in). I will allow that the more time I've have spent with these IEM's, the better they continue to sound to me. Personally I think this is brain burn in - but I will respect others choice if they interpret this as physical burn-in.
This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
Packaging and Accessories
The DN-1000's arrived in a smart (simple but elegant) retail box - consisting of a outer sleeve over a 'book' style inner case. The first thing I noticed (which actually impressed me a lot) was that the box was completely shrink sealed. That shows two things IMO - a high level of care with their product, and complete confidence in their QC (that any pack they do is up to review standard).
|Front of the box||Rear of the box|
The packaging is ideal for a retail presentation - an easy to display rectangular retail box - with an 'average' footprint. I quite like the style of this box – matches the IEMs really – simple, but a lot of thought gone into the design. The specific sales messages on the box are a general one for the DUNU brand (Delicate, Unique & Utmost), while the specific one for the DN-100 reads simply "Ultimate quality hybrid in-ear earphone". The box also has a list of specifications (multiple languages) on the side, and a list of included accessories on the rear.
On opening the inner box, you're presented with the metal carrying case, and the IEMs. It's not until you explore the rest of the case that you find out how compelte the accessory package is. I was actually 'blown away' that so much is included with the DN-1000.
|Outer sleeve and inner box||Book style case showing DN-1000 and carry case|
For accessories, included is an excellent rigid metal case (dimensions approx 70x70x30mm). If you own any of the HiSound Audio products - the case is virtually the same size - but rigid rather than soft. It is an ideal size for the IEMs - and has room for spare tips etc. It is large enough to hold the IEMs safely – yet small enough to fit in a front pocket.
|Amazing accessories included||Hard case, soft pouch and polishing cloth|
It also comes with a well made soft leather pouch (with draw string). I'm not sure of the purpose of this (maybe for carrying all the accessories) - but what I have found is that it's a perfect fit for my Studio V3 DAP - so thank you Dunu (solved a problem with how to carry my DAP without scratching it).
Perfect with my Studio V
In addition there is an airline daptor plug, ear-guides (detachable), a cable clip (if you want to wear them down), a 3.5-6.3mm adaptor plug, a cleaning cloth, and some aluminium spacers for Dunu's nozzle adjustment system (nore on that later). There is also documentation including a warranty card (English) and instructions on how to use the nozzle adjustment system.
|Adaptors clip and earguide||
Warranty and Frequency Chart
The DN-1000 also comes with a plethora of different sized tips including dual flanges, single flange (reinforced interior), and also some foam tips similar to Complys (not quite as soft).
All-in-all, the accessories included are highly impressive, and I have not seen a better set of accessories with any of my own IEMs - except maybe the SE535 which is double the price of the DN-1000.
|Range of included tips||
Foam tips, silicones and dual flanges
|Type :||Triple driver hybrid (dual TWFK balanced armature plus a single dynamic driver), Inner Ear Monitor (IEM)|
|Impedance :||10 Ohms|
|Sensitivity :||98dB +/-2dB|
|Frequency response :||16hz-22 khz|
|Noise attenuation :||26dB|
|Jack / cable :||3.5mm angled standard gold-plated jack, 120 cm cable|
Build / Fit / Comfort / Isolation
The DN-1000 is pretty much built like a tank. I checked with Rocky, and the shell is an aluminium alloy. It's approx 1cm in diameter and 1 cm in length, with a further 0.7cm for the nozzle. The IEMs are relatively heavy (at 26g), but so far I haven't found the weight obtrusive in any way. Each nozzle has an inbuilt filter. On the rear exterior of each shell is Dunu's logo. L&R markings are quite small - and IMO could have been more prominent / easier to identify. I solved this via the use of the differnt coloured comply tips (red and blue) - but it's something I think a lot of manufacturers could improve. You don't see the markings when they're in your ears - so why not make them easier to read?
|Extremely solid build||
The cable is a very smooth PVC outer, and appears extremely well put together. I can't see this breaking any time soon - and it's pretty much tangle free to boot. There is a short cable relief at the shells, and also at the 3.5mm right angled plug. I checked with Rocky on the cable materials - and he not only confirmed the PVC, but also that they had gone out of their way to use material that is considered 'green', or 'eco-friendly'.
|Cable is fantastic with low microphonics||3.5mm plug|
The splitter is quite rigid, and also appears to be made out of an alloy. One of the great things about the splitter is that there is enough weight in it to keep the cable pulling down slightly. The other thing I love about this splitter is that the top half of it detaches to become the chin slider. The design is simple, very elegant, and works incredibly well. The other fantastic (to me anyway) design element in the cable is the inclusion of an 'on-cable' cinch (or rubber cable tidy). This is a really simple mechanism that is unobtrusive - but means that whenever it's time to store the IEMs, the cable is always tidily looped. For me (being slightly OCD), I simply LOVE this inclusion. So simple - yet so practical.
|Design winners - Y splitter & slider||And cable cinch (love this)|
July 2014 - I've updated this section for a comment on the cable. Mine has noticeably stiffened over time. I don't know if this is due to sweat on the cable, or exposure to sunlight, or another cause. What I do know is that this is concerning for the overall longetivity of the IEM - especially when I'm not the only one who has noticed this (see H20's comments elsewhere on Head-Fi). So far it hasn't detracted from the sound, or even the usability - buut buyers should be aware of a potential issue - especially considering the cable is not replaceable. I have adjusted overall score accordingly.
Before we go into fit, I'll briefly touch on the inclusion of the coloured rings (or spacers). The DN-1000 is designed to allow you to fit one of three different sized spacers (or fourth option - use none at all) - that then allow the tips to be closer or further away from the body of the IEM. Changing this theoretically affects the frequency response, and also the insertion depth.
|Nozzle rings / spacers||
Different colours, different spacers
I tried different settings and different tips - and whilst I like the idea (it definitely has tweaking options for the enthusiasts here), I do wonder how effective it is. I tried all of the different rings, eventually settling on the reds - but to be honest I found that any change in frequency response (for me) was marginal and I doubt I could tell anything in a proper blind test. It's also likely that the few mm change between rings would be nullified by the actual change in fit each time you use them (ie I guarantee that my insertion depth with the same red rings will be different almost every time I use them).
|Instruction card and spacers||
Fitting the spacers
Anyway - nice idea - but leads to the one design issue I have with the DN-1000. By allowing for the change of rings, they can't acccomodate a lip on the nozzle. Because of this - anyone trying for a really good seal / deep insertion with some of the tips may very well find themselves removing the DN-1000 from your ears, and finding the tips still in your ears. This doesn't happen for me with the comply foams (they stick on the DN-1000 pretty well), but I found that with the dual flanges, I often had to go fishing (in my ears) for the missing tips. Didn't happen often - but enough to be annoying. If I was to have my choice between tip stability and tweakability with the rings, the rings would be discarded. Others may have different ideas.
|Smooth nozzle- no retaining lip||Foam tips actually fit solidly|
Anyway - onto fit. I have one canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) - so I tend to find that single silicon flanges don't fit overly well. However Dunu included a single flange design that I haven't seen before, and I'd pick some people will love this. It has circular reinforcing fins, and keeps the tip shape resonably firm (nice design). The included dual flanges allowed me the best overall fit - but unfortunately I had issues with keeping them intact with the DN-1000 on removal from my ears. The included foam tips are almost a perfect fit, easy to insert, and I never have an issue with them coming loose. The only downside is that they don't completely isolate (seal may not be 100% perfect) - but I find they sound wonderful sonically. I did try some monster gel-tips and also super-tips. The gel-tips were a disaster, but the super-tips actually fit really well - and I may try them for my next long-haul flight. In the meantime the foam tips are very comfortable and my tip of choice.
|Reinforced silicone tips||My set-up of choice|
Once the DN-1000 are correctly inserted, I find them (despite the weight) to be extremely comfortable, and have no issues with even long listening sessions. They sit flush enough with my ears that I can easily lie down with them still in place - and I think I'd have no issues sleeping with the DN-1000 still intact. They are designed in such a way that they can be worn cable down, or cable over ear. My preference has always been over ear, and it fits snugly without the need for the included guides. I did try the guides, but found them a little unwieldy. they may appeal to some though - and it's nice to have the option. Cable microphonics were very low (pretty much non-existent) with the cable worn over ear. There was some cable noise worn down - included shirt clip may help reduce this. One point to note here - I got very little bone induction noise when walking while wearing these. Not sure if it's the tips I'm using and the slightly less isolation compared to my Shures - but it definitely makes exercise (walking/jogging especially) a lot more enjoyable.
As far as isolation goes - these are 'OK'. They aren't as good as the Shures - but I think this is very much tip dependent, and as stated earlier, it's pretty hard for me to have an extremely isolating tip with the current nozzle design. I have several long-haul flights in Feb next year - so it will be interesting to see how they go. Anyway - isolation is listed by Dunu at 26dB - which should be good at eliminating most ambient noise - or at least mitigating it.
So what do these suckers sound like ……… ?
The following is what I hear from the DN-1000. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline).
For this I’m using both Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” and Dire Strait’s “Sultans of Swing” as there is a lot of micro detail in both tracks, and the recording quality for both is excellent.
The Dn-1000 displays good detail with a nice (if polite) crispness, and enough balance so that detail is present without having the treble highlighted. The DN-1000 actually sound pretty natural, and even swuitching to my 535 Ltd Eds, I'm realising that the Dunu's have similar clarity and detail - with the Shures having a more mid-centric presentation, whereas the DN-1000 are a little warmer (and bassier). The one thing I noticed in switching between the 535 and DN-1000 was that the Dunu's may have very slightly more treble roll off in the upper registers. Cymbals are still fully present – but they are more apparent with the Shures. I have no complaints about the DN-1000 though. The overall presentation of detail for this IEM is very enjoyable, and the dual TWFK drivers are really showing what they can do.
Sound-stage & Imaging
For this I use a binaural recording – Amber Rubarth “Sessions From The 17th Ward” - “Tundra”. I use this because it’s a pretty simple way to get comparative data on sound-stage. I also use some recorded live performances (including tracks from Joe Bonamassa’s “An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House”).
IMO it’s usually difficult to get a reasonable stage size from an inner ear monitor. The stage is usually quite small / close – with an average impression of space. Not so with the DN-1000. These are surprisingly spacious for an IEM with the stage projecting very slightly outside my head. Comparatively, my Shures and the HSA BA100 definitely have a smaller more intimate stage with the track “Tundra”. The DN-1000 shows good separation and the imaging seems pretty accurate and precise. Switching to Bonamassa – and the DN-1000 again really excels with this exceptional live blues album. The acoustics of the Vienna Opera Hall are well represented and there is a real perception of not only space and size - but depth as well. Although I am close to the stage - I'm not 'on it'. What I do like is how engaging the Dunu's are - I can't help tapping my feet and nodding my head - and that's the sort of presentation a live performance should be giving me.
Rather than referencing tracks – I’m going to give general impressions – as I’ve tried to listen to as many varied genres as I can.
The DN-1000 actually has a very articulate top end with just enough sparkle to make it interesting. There is definitely a crispness to them – but it is not overdone, and with my music, has never bordered on sibilance. I'm finding the top end has excellent clarity - but it's not spot-lit like some IEMs, and it blends nicely with both upper and lower mids. Cymbals are heard – but aren't glaring. If I had to describe it, I’d say the treble is very smooth but very clear at the same time. Treble heads and extreme detail freaks will probably not be completely satisfied, but for those who like a rich organic sound without any lack of clarity – these should definitely be considered. For my personal preference (and I usually prefer a little more clarity and shimmer) – I'm finding these actually close to perfect (must be the overall balance).
The mid-range is how I like it – nicely balanced with the rest of the spectrum – yet relatively full and rich. The mids are not overly forward. Vocals are wonderfully clear – and acoustic guitar has a nice crunch to it. Timbre is rich and very well presented Both male and female vocals are realistic - if maybe a touch on the warm/rich side. The more I use the DN-1000 the more I really like them, even to the point that I rarely use my Shures any more. Seether's acoustic album “One Cold Night” sounded particularly good with the Dunus. The guitar sounds the way it’s supposed to with good bite – without being showy. I'm a mid-range junkie, and normally I'd prefer a slighly forward mid-range - with the vocals being the focus - but I'm surprised with every different album I try how well balanced these are through the mids and highs. I remember (when I owned it) - I had a Brainwavz B2 dual TWFK which had marvelously tuned BA drivers - utterly engaging and captivating. These are similar - but without the upper register glare of the B2 - and I guess that's where we need to talk about one of the strengths of this IEM - the bass from the dynamic driver ......
The DN-1000 was again a surprise to me. I was expecting these to have some good bass - but was wondering if it would somehow overshadow the midrange. The bass is definitely there, and oh so much fun - but I'm not experiencing bass bleed. The balance on these is incredible. The bass is very full, hits reasonably hard - but does have a longer decay than my SE535 (which are quite linear - but also really well defined). The bass on the DN-1000 is a bit slower than on the Shures - but there is much more impact, and they seem to extend reasonably low. To my ears, it does seem to have very slightly elevated mid-bass (but so far not loose or flabby). Because the bass is probably slightly elevated over the rest of the spectrum, these do have the tendency to sound a little warm - but they're unlike anything I've heard before, and I find myself struggling to desrcibe what I'm hearing. They're warm but not dark. They're relatively balanced - but at the same time very slightly bassy. They're incredibly well defined, and the mid-range is never recessed - so I wouldn't call them V shaped either. They simply have an earthy, organic, rich grunt to them which really resonates with my audio preferences.
As a final test I tried Lorde’s new release “Royals” (16 yo NZ girl on the rise internationally) – mainly because the bass absolutely reaches low and has quite a bit of power. It handled the bass very well – good quality and quantity - just a slight boominess.
The DN-1000 is easily powered out of my iPhone4, and on most tracks I am around 50% on the volume slider. With the StudioV3 - the volume is around 9 or 10. Comparatively - my Shures need slightly less power. The Studio V3 does have a class A amp - but it's hard to say if my preference for the Studio over the iPhone4 is the extra power at play, or if it is simply that the Studio V3 sounds better. Anyway - I digress. You're not going to need exrternal amplification with the DN-1000 unless you have a very weak source, or if it has a high output impedance.
What About Response To EQ?
IMO - the DN-1000 don't need tweaking. But it's always nice to see what they are capable of if you do decide to apply EQ. So I fired up the iPhone with the Equaliser app, and gave them a little tweak in the upper mids and highs and a reduction in bass – and they responded extremely well. I quickly turned the EQ offf though - IMO Dunu has the default tuning pretty well right already.
Quick Comparisons - SE535 LE & BA100
For this I'm going to simply use two of my favourite tracks - "Trains" by Porcupine Tree and also Pearl Jam's "Elderly Woman Behind The Counter" - not because they're reference or anything - but more because I simply love these two tracks. These three IEMs are in very different price brackets - but all have strengths and all are highly rated by me.
|My listening trial set-up||
HiSound Audio's BA-100 = well balanced, vocals slightly forward, very clear, they almost sound a little tinny/nasally (lacking in body) after using the DN-1000. Very comfortable and lightweight though - and the more you listen to them, the better they sound.
Shure SE535 Ltd Ed = again well balanced, but with much clearer and more upfront vocals. Very full, very clear, sublime really. These do vocals incredibly well. Bass is balanced and textured but sometimes just doesn't have the impact I'd like.
Dunu DN-1000 = very clear, mids not as foward, almost more balanced than the Shures - definitely not as bright, yet still very clear. Vocals are great, almost as good as the Shures, bass is better.
Trains : SE535 >= DN-1000 > BA-100
EWBTHC : DN1000 >= SE535 > BA-100
I'd never had the pleasure of hearing a hybrid before so I didn't really know what to expect. it took me a while to get the fit right, but eventually with the complies I've found something that is a good mix of fit and sonics. As far as build and design goes, the DN-1000 would be one of the most well designed total packages I've encountered - with the one exception of the nozzle (see above). Apart from that I can't really fault them.
Sonically these are incredible for their price. Well balanced but with an earthy, catchy and exciting low end that just keeps my toes tapping. The slightly wider sound-stage (than normally expected on an IEM) actually pairs really well with some of my genres, and listening to Von Karajam and the Beliner Philharmonic's 1963 rendition of Beethoven's 9 Symphonies with them (paired with the Studio V3) was a captivating experience. Yet it's rock and indie that really ticked the boxes for me. I'd imagine they might have a little difficulty with really fast paced music - but as I seldom listen to anything too fast paced, it's a non-issue for me.
I would have no hesitation recommending these IEMs to family and friends – and I guess that says a lot for how highly I regard them. These just really tick all my boxes.
They probably won’t dethrone my 535’s – as I think I'll need the 535's greater isolation on my long haul flights - but if my 535's broke tomorrow, and I was left with the DN-1000, I don't think I'd be looking for another IEM. Indeed, over time (if they can isolate "well enough") I'd probably sell the Shures before I sold these - and that should be praise enough. Incredible value at around the USD 200 mark. I wish I'd found something like this years ago.
Congrats Rocky and Dunu / TopSound - these are a winner.
Recommendations to Dunu
Here is a very short list of what I’d change if I could. Hopefully this may be helpful to you Rocky.
- Fix the nozzle - it needs a lip, even if it means ditching the rings.
- Include a larger set of the complies - it was the only tip for me that was missing.
- A detachable cable would be nice if you do another version of these - it might encourage more people to try them - especially for a flagship. Personally I find the cable brilliant - but it may attract others, and these need to be tried (over pricier models) - they really are THAT good.
- Research into cable sheath material. Needs to be looked at due to hardening issues.
- More prominent L/R markings for some of us in the older generation - so I don't have to squint :)
Once again Rocky – thanks for the opportunity to try these. They are incredibly good - and to my ears, play at the same level as much more expensive models.