Pros: All Rounder, Build Quality, Accessories
Cons: Soundstage, Left/Right Markings, Case
First of all, I’d like to thank Rocky Wu from Dunu for sending me their new DN-900 hybrid IEM which is the DN-1000’s little brother. My (admittedly short) journey with Dunu began when Dunu generously arranged a giveaway for their DN-1000 which I happened to win. To say the least, I thought that the DN-1000s were nothing short of stunning and quickly, they became one of my all time favourite IEMs. Later on, in one of our PM conversations, Rocky brought up their new hybrid, the DN-900 and I was immediately intrigued at what Dunu could achieve with the DN-900.
It is a dynamic plus single BA (as opposed to dual BA in the DN-1000) and unfortunately, the only IEM I had heard which had the same driver configuration was the T-Peos H-100 which I really didn’t like very much. Their bass was alright, but the rest of the spectrum was rather bad and a day after I got it, I traded it. But seeing what a great job Dunu did with their DN-1000, I had quite a lot of confidence in them and had a feeling that they would deliver and surely enough, deliver they did!
They sounded great, much better than the H-100 from memory and straight away, I knew that these were a great deal and would stir up a lot of trouble at its $120 price. A while back I got the MA-750 for review and after I burned them in, I thought that not much could top it for $120 but I felt like its sound signature was a bit off my preference. Then came the DN-900, which not only has a sound signature more suited to me, but performs slightly better technically IMO.
**Disclaimer** These were given to me as a review sample in return for an honest, unbiased review.
I tested these with a variety of sources and a few amps and whilst I found some differences when used with different sources and/or amps, I didn’t find them to be particularly source dependant. Using my phone was rather bad with a grainy sound and lacking clarity, but phones aren’t known for their sound quality. With the very popular Sansa Clip+, I found them to be a bit too bass heavy and a bit too warm, but overall it wasn’t a bad pairing. Adding an E6 didn’t do much at all, it just boosted the bass a bit more which I feel affected the sound negatively. Next up was the iPod Nano 3rd Gen and surprisingly, it was an excellent pairing. The Nano is a bit cold but its superior clarity, speed and separation over the Clip+ made me enjoy it much more with the DN-900. The iBasso DX50 was another good pairing a bit better than the Nanao, but IMO not enough of an SQ upgrade to justify the price over the Nano (around $30-50 used). Adding the Palaios amp brought the mids more forward, which I didn’t particularly like.
Unboxing & Accessories
The box really wasn’t that nice and special looking like the DN-1000, but that’s not really an issue, since I’ll probably chuck the box in a corner and never look at it again anyway. After sliding off the opaque cover you are greeted with the shiny box and the uhh yellow case. Like the DN-1000 box, it has a picture of the IEMs on the front, the specs on one side, it’s motto “Delicate, Unique & Utmost” on the other side and some stuff in Chinese on the back which I can’t read.
After receiving the DN-1000, it seemed obvious that Dunu include a TON of accessories with their IEMs. It has a lot of tips, around 10 pairs of silicone ones and 4 pairs of foams as well as a pair of earhooks, some rings for the nozzles and a hook (forgot the name) for the Pelican style case. Of the tips, I like the grey silicone ones the most and I think the red rings offer the most balanced sound so I will be basing this review on the DN-900s with these. Ortofon tips were also pretty good on these. Now, let’s go on to the case… First of all, it’s yellow and personally I think that they could have picked black, red, blue, clear; anything but yellow! Also, the case is way too big for just the IEMs. Without foam, I always feel like the IEMs might get damaged flopping up and down in the case. I added some foam and put my Nano in there and it fits great so it doesn’t really affect me, but I do wish it was a bit smaller. Other than that, the DN-900 absolutely hit it out of the park with its accessories. I don’t see anybody complaining about not enough accessories for a while.
Build Quality & Design
Build quality was superb on the DN-1000 and it is great on the DN-900 as well, but Dunu opted for a matte finish this time. The heavier DN-1000 makes it feel like it is built better, but in truth I think they are roughly the same. The strain relief on the plug and y split is very nice, but the part that goes into the housing is very hard and not really flexible, but I don’t think that there will be any problems with that. Build quality on the DN-900 is absolutely great like all the other Dunu products. Let’s start at the 3.5mm plug – good thing is that it is very sturdy, but it is rather bulky and I don’t like the serial number on it; that’s just a personal choice though. I actually quite like the matte finish and the fact that it isn’t cold feeling like the DN-1000. I don’t however like the R and L markings which make the whole IEM look a bit like a kid’s toy. The y-split is very nice though and I like the fact that they decided to put the model number on it. Overall the design is not bad, but it does look a bit childish.
Ah, so we finally get to the meat of the review, the sound quality. Just like all my other reviews, the sound quality section will be split into 3 main parts – the bass, the midrange and the treble. First of all, I’d like to say that the review was done with the red rigs which had the least bass. The smaller the rings were the more bass the DN-900 pumped out.
From the reviews I’ve read on other Dunu products, it seems like they seem to have an emphasized bass and that was exactly what I found on the DN-1000 and DN-900. On their flagship (but soon to be dethroned to their DN-2000) the bass was incredible and I felt it was amazing that it was coming form an IEM that hardly costed more than $200. Well, the same thing there applies to the DN-900 over here. The bass is in short, awesome. While it does not have that detail and authority the DN-1000 has, the DN-900’s bass is very impressive for $120. Compared to the MA-750, the DN-900 has slightly more bass impact, but I feel like it is actually faster and makes the MA-750 seem a bit thick. Another positive note is that I haven’t experienced the bass being overpowering or bleeding into the midrange. The sub-bass performance is decent, but I feel like the MA-750 has the slight edge there. Despite this, the bass really is very impressive and IMO the highlight of the DN-900.
When I first heard the DN-900 I must admit I was kind of shocked. The midrange was rather forward and in your face. They seemed quite warm and lush but there was just something that felt a bit “off”. I should say that I believe in burn in, but not in BA drivers. However, I’m pretty damn sure that from out of the box until now (100 hours in) the mids have been pushed back a lot. I still feel like the midrange is a bit forward though. Vocals have very good clarity and detail, but they are a bit warm. I actually really like how the DN-900 does male vocals but with female vocals they are a bit too lush for my liking. Pianos sound surprisingly good, even better than the DN-1000 due to the DN-900’s warmer tonality. Guy Sebastian’s “Armageddon” album sounded epic and his voice had just about the perfect tonality as well has having good detail and clarity. All in all, I really enjoyed the midrange of these for the music that I listen to which is comprised of mostly male performers.
Here is something else I felt changed significantly with burn in whether it is truly mechanical or perhaps just psychological. Out of the ox, my first impression was that the treble was really lacking and placed behind the mids and bass. It was even more rolled off than the dark MA-750 which resulted in a veiled presentation. However, I found that towards the 50 hour mark the treble started to open up and gone was most of the veil, but the treble was still somewhat rolled off, but less than the MA-750. Cymbals have sufficient detail and sparkle, but they do not at any stage become even the slightest bit harsh which I find present in TWFKs no matter how well they are tuned. The treble is still rather detailed, but this is the area the DN-1000 has the largest advantage over the DN-900. The DN-1000 treble is more emphasized; more detailed and has more sparkle, which is what I prefer. Others may like a more relaxed and less fatiguing presentation that the DN-900 offers though.
Well this IEM isn’t neutral and from what I read neither is any Dunu product. The bass is elevated, the midrange a bit forward and the treble a bit rolled off. However, it still sound natural and no part of the spectrum is too emphasised.
The instrument separation is quite good for an IEM of its price range, but its shortcomings are immediately noticeable when you switch between the DN-900 and its older brother. That said, the separation is pretty good for its $120 price point, but switching between the MA-750 and DN-900, I feel like the MA-750 performs a bit better in interment separation, but the difference is not large at all. In terms of vocal separation, the DN-900 does incredibly well and on my test songs they were quite impressive and I really enjoyed it, but I feel like it does fall a bit short of the MA-750. Overall, the differences are not that large, but they are certainly there.
Detail & Clarity
The Dunu DN-900 isn’t the most detailed IEM in its price range; that goes to the R50 which uses the TWFK drivers. However, it also happens to be rather harsh and have a terribly emphasised treble. As you can tell, I don’t really like them… Anyway, these Dunus are certainly detailed, but nowhere near as detailed as their flagship though. I suppose you guys might want a MA-750 comparison, and what I hear is that the DN-900 is more detailed, but more on that later in the comparison section. The DN-900 certainly has very good clarity and I do feel like everything is clean, much better than the MA-750 in this aspect. However, the DN-1000 is a whole league better and to be honest, you may want to spend the extra money and get the higher model.
Soundstage & Imaging
The DN-900’s soundstage isn’t small by any means, but I just feel like it is a little bit closed in which makes the presentation feel very intimate instead of the MA-750 which has more of a spacious presentation. From memory, it has a “Grado presentation” and some of you may actually prefer that over a spacious presentation. Imaging is very good, almost up to the DN-1000’s level, but not quite there. Only rarely did I feel like it was hard to tell what instrument was where, but I feel like the MA-750 with its larger soundstage has the slight advantage in terms of imaging and making everything feel more spacious.
DUNU DN-900 vs RHA MA-750
Ah, I was rather looking forward t this comparison and to see whether the Dunu DN-900 would dethrone the MA-750 that I felt did so well in its price range. Well, there has been some comparisons (actually quite a lot) scattered through this review but here is the “proper” comparison.
First, the bass hits a little harder on the Dunu but it still stays faster than the MA-750 which is impressive. I feel the mid-bass is more or less a draw, but I like the MA-750’s sub-bass more since it has more rumble and is more detailed and full sounding. Bass goes to the MA-750.
The midrange on the MA-750 could sometimes sound s bit veiled and I am happy to say that there is no such problem on the DN-900 which immediately puts it in front. I also feel that it has better vocal clarity and detail so the midrange goes to the DN-900.
The treble on both IEMs are rolled off, the MA-750 more than the DN-900 but I feel that both have a similar amount of detail but simply on personal preference (I am a bit of a treble head) I have to say I like the DN-900’s treble more.
In terms of separation, the MA-750 does better and it wins in that regard, but not by much at all. The DN-900 has both better detail and clarity so obviously, it wins in that department, but it doesn’t have that much more detail than the MA-750.
Soundstage is much larger on the MA-750 and after listening to the MA-750, the DN-900 sound a bit closed in to be honest. Imaging is also better on the MA-750 because it sounds less cramped.
I feel technically, they are both very proficient, but it is really about what you prefer more than anything else. Personally I prefer the brighter presentation of the DN-900 so overall, I like it better than the MA-750, but on a technical level these are just about the same.
I’ve really enjoyed my ride with Dunu so far and I feel like the DN-900 is another “classic Dunu” product. They really do sound fantastic and are a great buy if you are in the price range. They have jumped straight to the top of my recommendation list for a sub $150 IEM but buyers may want to consider the more expensive but also better DN-1000. Personally, I think that the upgrade is well worth the $100 but ultimately, it’s your decision to make. Anyway, thanks again to Rocky and well done for creating another winner product.
Oh, and all images are from the internet.