Pros: Strong Center Image, Good instrument placement,
Cons: Bad Upper Mids, Lack of Upper Frequency Extension
Review of DUNU DN-17 Crater
A Little Information
I would like to thank DUNU for being extremely generous and sending me yet more gear for review! It was a bit of a surprise to receive these headphones, as I was not aware of entering any contest or anything of that sort and was not expecting them. However I do of course welcome new gear for testing, so it was a lovely surprise to see these at my door.
For this review I will be using the DUNU DN-17’s with my Burson 160 Headphone amp paired with a Music Streamer II+ as well as testing on my 2010 MacBook Pro. I feel that testing these headphones out of the desktop setup will enable me to squeeze every ounce of pleasure out of these headphones, were as testing with my laptop will be a much more real world scenario, since a lot of people will be using these headphones with something similar.
For those of you who are unaware DUNU is a newer audio company who is aiming to make budget minded IEMs for both audiophiles and general consumers alike. Most of their products are aimed at people who enjoy bass but don’t let that deter you some of their products are quite good for the price and may satisfy more then that nitch of “bass-head’.
Included Items And Build Quality
So what’s included with the DUNU DN-17 Crater’s? Well quite a few things actually. Packaging was adequate in my opinion; nothing special about it but it was done well. The box is nicely designed and reflects on them for wanting to target the budget-minded consumer. It appears visually attractive with a simple design to it that is almost Apple like. But enough about the shipping and box what’s inside? Well how about the following:
• Leather Carrying Pouch
• Hard Plastic Carrying Case
• 2.5mm to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter
• Shirt Clip For Headphone Wire
• Airline headphone Jack Adapter
• DUNU Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
• 8 Tip Pairs Of Different Sizes
The DN-17s have a more normal shape to them then some of the other DUNU in ear monitors (IEMs) I think they look great in terms of pure visual design and is of more attractive design then the DN-12 and DN-16 in my opinion. The comfort however was a little less so then the other DUNU models. Due to being a little smaller I found myself finding that they just are not as comfortable as some of the other models. Don’t get me wrong though these are not extremely uncomfortable they are just not as good as some of the other DUNU models in this respect, Certainly not bad.
One thing that is fascinating is that according to DUNU these wires are made of silver. Now this is quite an impressive feat for a consumer-marketed product. Now as some of you may be aware a lot of higher end cables for headphones or otherwise tend to use silver since it is a better conductor, will that in practice affect the sound? You’ll have to see, so read on!
In the next part here I’m going to break down the review of the actual sound quality into sections because I feel that it portrays the information people looking for more effectively. I do this because I feel that it is easier for the readers to find what interest them faster. If you have any comments, advice, or even criticism let me know, I want to hear from you!
Soundstage: Soundstage has always been a very important thing for me. I want the music to take into account the acoustical space in which it was recorded and for the headphones or speakers to be able to reproduce the sound of the room and not just the instruments. I want to be able to hear the placement of the instruments in that room so to speak.
I feel that these headphones do in deed have a decent soundstage, nothing to be wowed about but certainly not bad for an IEM. The sound stage itself is just ok, not large or anything, you certainly won’t feel like your in a cathedral but its placement of instruments is fairly good. One thing that these DN-17s do well is center placement. With some headphones I’ve heard the soundstage was wide but really lacked a center image making the sound rather odd to listen too. However the DN-17s do not suffer from that problem, center image is fantastic and one of the strong points of these!
Bass: This is definitely a place that DUNU in general seems to have nailed. The DN-17s are no exception. Bass is very well extended and not at all sloppy sounding. I would not go so far as to say that it’s a super tight bass but it is above average. Detail in this area is great and you won’t have to worry about added bass bleeding into the mid range either. Again DUNU markets most of their headphones to the bass head audiophile and they have nailed bass reproduction!
Mids: Some things here that I like and some that I don’t like. The lower mids are clean, detailed and have the appropriate sound level. That’s were things starting going downhill a little. About dead center in the middle frequencies it sounds like the volume is boosted a little which can make some vocals edgy and harsh sounding. Then we get to the upper mids and it seems to drop out a lot and losses a lot of detail. This tends to make it sound a little scratchy too.
Highs: Balance is once again restored in terms of sound levels. Detail is returned and it’s very musical. It has a very soft sound to it, which is very nice and pleasing. It has detail but does not throw it in your face instead it lets it out gently as it whispers into your ears. However extension is not the best, it is however better then the DN-16s and DN-12s in my opinion. Although rated to extend to about 22KHz in my opinion it really starts dropping off around the 17KHz region. Leaving some of the highest frequencies lacking.
Overall: Very good, and it has its strengths such as bass clarity and punch, as well as soundstage center imaging and instrument placement. However it also has its weaknesses, chief among them would be the horrible upper mids, which lack detail and sound levels and are not at all complemented by the boosted center mids which can make it sound painful with some vocalist. Do the pros out weigh the cons? I guess it depends on the type of music you listen too. For a lot of music I would say that these are very good. Pianos have a very nice sound on these and head banging music will sound great as well! But vocal jazz or folk music is not its strong suits.
Comparison to DN-16 Hephaes and DN-12 Trident
The first thing you will notice going from the DN-16 to the DN-17 is that it has a better and smoother overall sound balance. I’ve always felt the DN-16s balance was rather odd but the DN-17s have solved this problem. Though in my opinion the DN-12s still have a slightly better overall sound balance.
Although the DN-12 may have a better balance it lacks things that both the DN-16s and DN-17s both have, and that’s detail. If your upgrading from the DN-12 your going to immediately notice tighter bass and better clarity as well as more detail across the board. How does the DN-17 stack up against the DN-16 in this regard? Well I’d say quite well I would say that the DN-16 still has a leg up on the DN-17 in terms of bass punch and detail overall.
One place were the DN-17s definitely have a leg up on the DN-16s in my opinion is in the fact that they are laid back. I often found the DN-16s a tad bright for my taste and the DN-17s work on that. With it being more relaxing and more something I want to put on to relax too.
So if I could only have one, which would it be? I think it would depend a lot on what I’m listening to and what mood I’m in. For my taste in music, listening to a lot of folk and vocal jazz I’d have to stick with the DN-16s however I would say they are both very good and I can totally see someone liking the DN-17s more for other types of music. Heavy rock, metal, maybe even rap or types of alternative may sound better on the DN-17s and I do prefer them on a lot of music so its more a matter of taste since I find that they are both are on the same grounds of overall quality.
I’m very interested, as I’m sure you are too on how much the DUNU DN-17s are going to cost when they release. Unfortunately I’m not able to provide you with that information. How much do I think they are worth? Well in terms of pure sound quality, I’d price them similarly to the DN-16s if I were DUNU. I think asking more then $100 would be asking too much for them. But I don’t want to speculate too much on that.
Another question you might have is when the release date is? Well I've asked DUNU and they said that they are aiming for a March release, so if these sound like your ideal headphones then you'll be waiting till then. Another thing I want to point out is that these headphones really need to be burned in. When I first heard these I thought they sounded awful, so I put at a decent sound level and let I burn in for about 50 hours and they really changed. So keep that in mind if you buy these!