Pros: Tonal Balance,Mids,Laid Back,
Cons: Upper Treble Extension, Detail
I'd first like to say that these headphones are about $30 so I will be writing this review based on the performance in its price range. I'm doing this because it would be unfair to compare these to headphones in a higher price range. I would also again like to thank DUNU for allowing me to test these as part of a giveaway! As always DUNU offers shipping that deserves mention. How they get packages from point a to point b so fast I have no clue its magic.
Appearance and Accessories
The packaging was definitely better then I expected for a pair of in ears in this price range. Shipping as I've mentioned is top notch. The packaging is nearly identical to the DN-16 hephaes, which is indicative of how well they treat their customers regardless of how much the headphones cost. The case slides out of the exterior box. It has magnetic latches that allow you to use this as a decent storage case. When you open it you are presented with a nice layout in the interior which holds the headphones and accessories. The DN-12 Tridents come with the following accessories:
The DN-12 Trident's themselves
A leather pouch
7 pairs of tips
The pouch is quite usable for daily travel with these earphones and the large quantity of tips insures that you will find a perfect fit for your ear canal size and preferences. Overall very pleasing number of accessories for what your paying!
As for the appearance I find it more visually pleasing then the DN-16 Hephaes, but thats more personal preference then anything. These DN-12s like the higher end DN-16s also have the (I believe) patented cord wrapper. Which actually is quite handy when transporting them in the pouch. It serves to keep the cords from getting tangled, which is as I've mentioned quite useful.
Comfort and Isolation
These are neither the most comfortable nor the most uncomfortable in ears I have worn. I would say that they are slightly below average for comfort. The reason being that although the tips themselves are very comfortable the case of the DN-12s with its horn like shape can hit the side of your ears if you have small ears or otherwise. Don't get me wrong though these are not that uncomfortable at all and can easily be worn for extended periods of time.
As for the isolation its depends a lot on the tips you use. With the slightly bigger tips that I am using right now the isolation is much better then the stock tips. Its not amazing isolation but maybe a little better then I would think to be getting in this price range, not bad, not bad at all. Though one thing I would like to point out is that the cable it self does carry quite a bit of noise so if your constantly moving and bumping the cable then it may bother you. Though its not bad at all for something in this price range.
Sound Signature: These almost have a Sennheiser type sound in my opinion. The bass is boosted and the treble is cut short. The mids for the most part are retained fine except for some lower midrange bump from the boosted bass. The treble has some trouble but its not bad at all considering the price, I will explain this in the next section in further detail. The sound itself is more laid back and relaxed sounding then most headphones which may or may not be your cup of tea. The attack and dynamics lack a little. These have a very warm sound because of the extended bass and missing upper highs, which works well for a lot of older rock and other music that may have troubling treble.
Soundstage: This is one of its impressive bits. When I think of in ear monitors especially cheap ones the first thing I think of is how limited the soundstage usually is. Well although not particularly well defined wide or deep it is much, much better then could be expected for an IEM in this price range or even double this range. Its very nice and way better then I expected. Its almost at mid field but not quite its feels like it even manages a little depth to the image which is insane for something costing only $30!
Bass: Lots of volume here, a quantity that should satisfy any basshead. Though there is bloom and some bleeding into the lower mids its not too bad. Its pretty much one note bass but I would not go so far as to call it sloppy. Its extension appears good as far as I'm able to discern. Impact is above average for something competing in this range. Overall quite pleasing for the bass lovers out there.
Mids: The mids are very balanced and well defined. Their is however a slightly boosted lower mid range that bleeds over from the boosted bass, it is however minor. The tonal balance is near perfect and very neutral. It is a little laid back sounding but is not in anyway disappointing. Some of the cheaper bass boosted phones will, in my experience anyway destroy the mids by recessing them or ruining the detail. I'm glad to say that these do not sacrifice the mids to achieve the boosted bass. Though they are not of the most detail it is above average for something in this league.
Treble: The treble is where some trouble creeps in. These in ear headphones as perfect as they are, do suffer from extension problems in the treble. The frequency seems to almost completely cut off at about 16KHz and up. Though this may improve listening for certain music such as classic rock that tends to have too much highs anyway. Other then extension the treble is accurate and more refined then I would expect. It does have an ever so slight sibilance but is not that bad. It seems to be laid back as well and with the lack of extension aids in the warm sound of these headphones.
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here – Wish You Were Here: The beginning where you can hear a man and a woman talking on a TV or radio comes in clear though not with the most detail. When the guitar comes in it does so with a hypnotic like sound, laid back but somehow involving. The vocals come through with just a tad of missing highs. Detail is average and separation is a little tough. But the overall experience is still very enjoyable!
The National – High Violet – Anyone's Ghost: The guitar is a little drowned out separation is not bad, about average. Very laid back maybe too much so, the vocals come in clear but again maybe missing some top end. Not bad, fun to listen to but not the most engaging.
Pixies – Death To The Pixies – Where Is My Mind: Separation is very good in this track and bass impact is above average. The guitar comes in clear and with more detail then I expected. The vocal track is very engaging and detailed. The tonal balance is also very good. Cymbals come in without much grain and its overall very fun and engaging listen.
Compared to the DN-16 Hephaes
Detail: What strikes me first when going from the DN-12s to the 16s is that the 16s (Hephaes) have much more detail across the board. This extra detail is welcomed to the somewhat detail lacking laid back sound of the DN-12s of course thats why the Hephaes cost more too haha.
Balance: This is one of the areas I enjoyed more on the cheaper DN-12s. I find the balance on the DN-16s to be a little odd with the recessed upper mids and boosted lower highs. Although both have boosted bass I find that the DN-12 (Trident) has a overall more balanced sound signature to it. The mids are more even sounding and the highs are not as harsh as the Hephaes which can sometimes be too much for me.
Bass: I think that the Tridents have more quantity of bass but it is not as neatly defined or detailed as the Hephaes. The bass on the Hephaes is more defined not as bloated sounding as the DN-12s. Thats not to say the DN-12s are bad, not at all. Again I would like to remind you of the price differences.
Mids: This is sort of hit and miss for me. Although the mids are much clearer and detailed on the Hephaes because of the recessed upper mids I'm left wondering which pair I prefer. Its a tough decision and not one I have a good answer for I guess it depends on which song I'm listening too. Of course it also depends on you, as every person will find whats important to them and what they can live with. To me the mids are very important its just deciding between detail and proper tonal balance can be challenging.
Treble: Both have extension problems, the Tridents seem to cut off around 16KHz where is the Hephaes seem to extend a little beyond that, my guess is somewhere around 18KHz. Where is the Tridents had a laid back sounding treble the Hephaes take a more direct approach. Though much more detail is present in the Hephaes I am again left deciding between tonal balance and detail. The upper mids seem almost boosted on the Hephaes which can cause sibilance and fatigue on some tracks. The Tridents do not suffer from this problem but lack the clarity that the Hephaes has.
Overall:I find the Tridents to be a very good value and something to seriously consider when buying in ear headphones in this price range, however I don't hold the same opinion with the Hephaes. Although I do believe that I enjoy the Hephaes a tad more overall I can't say that I would pay the price that they are listed at. Although not bad headphones the highs and recessed upper mids do bother me to an extent on the Hepaes if it was not for this problem and the other problems listed I would also be able to recommend the Hepaes. Non the less I am excited for what DUNU has in store for us and I will watch them with interest.
Extra ThoughtsI am very pleased with these headphones and believe they offer a value at their price. Though not perfect they are very good with the only major problems stemming from their lack of upper frequency extension. With their great boosted bass and very clear mids not to mention the fact that they actually have a soundstage makes these a winner in my opinion. Though not at all analytical, these laid back headphones are fun to sit down with and relax to some good music. I can fully recommend these headphones, the only people who may want to look away are those who require loads of detail or those who greatly enjoy their treble. But I say thumbs up to DUNU for this great product!