I would like to state that I received a pair of Tridents for review from Rocky at Dunu directly. Thank you for the opportunity to review this product, it's been a pleasure. I did the entire review using this setup:
5.5G iMod (stock firmware, no EQ) -> FiiO L3 -> FiiO E7 -> Trident
Sound was a mix of 320kpbs MP3s and ALAC including:
- Dave Matthew's Band
- Jill Decoy Association
- various Hed Kandi and Ibiza tracks
- Miles Davis
- Lee Ritenour
- Andy McKee
- A Perfect Circle
- Ive Mendes
Dunu's been in the game for just a short time, I first heard about them only this year, but one thing is clear to me. Dunu is gunning for the big time, and they are serious with their offerings. One thing I noticed is that Dunu is taking quite a few cues from Monster, and why not? Monster jumped into the headphone/IEM scheme and made a big splash. Love them or hate them, Monster's marketing mix put them ahead of the competition and really made them a household name (whether loved by the mass market or loathed by audiophiles) and Dunu seems content to emulate the formula for success.
Dunu has a few things going for them, though. Dunu doesn't have that "expensive American mass market brand" stigma that Monster picked up with their cable business, and they price their goods in that competitive Chinese way, sort of how FiiO does it. The result: they seem to be well-loved and well-received among the enthusiast community, with products that look and package like Monster but price like Fiios. But how do they sound? Well let's get on with the review!
Enter the Trident, which I believe is part Dunu's second batch of IEM offerings after the Ares and Crius. Unlike the former two which are Balanced Armature, the Trident (along with its partner, the Hephaes) is dynamic, meaning that off the bat you get the impression that it will have nice bass at the expense of the speed and clarity that you typically expect from armature.
I prefer to throw away such pre-conceptions and just listen. And so what do we get?
The Trident is a very pleasant sounding IEM. It is quite balanced, but there is a definite amount of bass and warmth present. However, unlike say the Monster Turbine, the bass is very laidback and not-in-your-face, and doesn't smear too much into the mids. You won't miss the bass, but you won't feel it's trying too hard. It's not very lean, tight or fast, just miraculously present and full, but not hard or impactful.
The mids are quite pleasant. They aren't forward or aggressive, but not very laidback either. They are "just right" and don't have much coloration or enhancement. This is quite surprising in a $50 IEM, to be honest. The mids are more on the lush side and do not have great separation. Imaging is also quite average. But there's a good, good timber here in the mids, not unlike the Monster Turbines which had a very impressive, organic sound that worked well with acoustic instruments like guitars, saxophones, and wooden drums.
Highs are somewhat rolled off but there's an ample amount of sizzle. They are never harsh and are always pleasant to listen to.
Overall, my impression of the Trident is that it is "polite." It doesn't try too hard in any area, it isn't too laid-back, and it's a surprisingly flat and neutral sound with a little added warmth and slight bass emphasis. So it's a kind of flat sound with a slight bass emphasis, not unlike the Audio Techncia M50, but not as forward or closed-in, surprisingly. It's more laidback and open-sounding.
The build quality is very, very good. The metal housing, once again, reminds of the Turbines, and the weight is similar. Due to this, I have the exact same fit issues with the Trident that I had with the entire Turbine line (from Vanilla all the way to Copper). The weight seems to just help gravity pull the IEM out of my ears. Typically with the Turbines my right ear can never get a proper seal, it always feels off and I have to work really, really hard to get a good seal. It's the same with the Trident, no matter what tip I tried (the stock, Monster tips, Comply Foams, you name it, I have a vast collection of tips and none of them work with the Trident to satisfaction).
Also, the size of the Trident tips are quite weird. They are not as big as the Metro.Fi series or the Turbines, but not as small as a Shure or Klipsch. They are somewhat in the middle, similar to the Miu MR2, but a bit larger. however I was able to get most of my Monster tips to fit it without falling off, but a lot of my other larger tips (like Vmoda, Sony tips, and the old Shure tips that came before the SE line) go on but inevitable fall off, sometimes leaving the tip in my ear.
The tips they come with are okay, not great and a little stiff, but comfy enough, so I see no real need to use other tips except if you want to use Complys. I found I preferred the sound with stock compared to the Complys, which ruined the delicate tonal balance that Dunu achieved with this IEM.
The cables are okay, they are much better than the Monster Turbine Vanilla cables, but not as good as the Metro.Fi cables. They are solid, rubbery and have a slight memory effect, not as smooth or straightening as the Metro.Fi cables.
I love the angled plug, which is angled at a 45 degree angle, similar to the plug used by the Bose Triport OE. The cable also has a built in rubber wrapping mechanism which is standard on all Dunu IEM models. It helps you pack the cable in a neat way, but when in use dangles from your cord like a sore thumb. it's a double-edged sword and you'll have to decide for yourself if you like it.
What Came With it?
The Trident has a modest pack, which you would expect form a $50 IEM from China. It has nice cardboard packaging made similar to Monster's IEMs. The similarly priced Miu MR2 had the same style, but the packaging quality was far inferior (glue came off the edges). The Trident comes with a very nice brown leather pouch and has 7 pairs of tips, 7 of the usual mushroom type XS, S, M and L, a bi-flange silicon tip, and two weird "cup" tips which honestly had holes that were too small to fit onto the IEM (I did not try, they look like Shure-size tips). I am guessing someone at Dunu had a brain fart including those tips for this model, because they really don't fit, at least not without a herculean amount of effort that simply isn't worth it.
Now, the Trident is a $50 IEM, which in my mind puts in smack dab in competition with the best in this price range... and you may have guessed it but the two in my mind are the Monster Turbine Vanilla and the Metro.Fi 220. The MF220 is no longer in print but cans till be easily found for $50 or less, however fakes abound and they are a risky purchase online. The Turbines, although originally a $300 IEM once upon a time, have fallen from grace more or less and are available for $50 from the Monster Outlet store, among other places.
Despite the original price disparity, I would like to emphasize my comparison with the Turbines, as I have always felt Dunu was trying to do a Monster, only better. The Crius reminded me a lot of the Turbine Golds in looks (if not sound) and the Trident once again reminds me that Dunu is taking a page or two from Monster's playbook. From the packaging (which really resembles Monster packaging) to the general design of the IEM, I see Monster written all over Dunu's offering. I also had the exact same fit issues with the Trident that I did with the Turbines, so the comparison is inevitable for me. That is not a bad thing, and hey if it helps them sell more units from brand association, more power.
In terms of sound and product offering though, I am quite impressed that Dunu is able to offer the Trident at launch in a package that is very competitive with the Turbines. It shows what a great buy the Trident is, or what an overpriced POS the Turbines are! I will say this:
Build-wise, the Trident stomps all over the Turbines. Better cable, better housing, better angled plug, I think the Trident is just much, much better build-wise. I had two Turbines and both had one side die in less than a year. I haven't had the Tridents that long, so I can't say definitively, but the quality of the wires and strain reliefs give me far more peace of mind than the Turbines ever did, nay even more than the Pro Turbine models!
Sound-wise, this is where things get more interesting. I've noted before, Dunu's approach is more balanced and laidback. This is directly against the very in-your-face, high-impact and bass-heavy approach the Turbines took. While the Tridents are more balanced, they are also not as dynamic or exciting as the more heavily-colored Turbines. They don't groove anywhere near as much either due to the lack of bass. However there will be those that will appreciate this more balanced, flatter sound.
Personally, though, I think the Tridents are not a match for the Metro.Fi's. The Metro.Fi 220 was, and still is in my mind, the single best $50 IEM on the planet and the Tridents aren't even close to budging it. The flatter sound of the Trident just makes them seem boring and lifeless when compared directly to the Metro.Fi's. The MF220 has an amazing sound for a $50 IEM. It is very lively, aggressive with very crispy, sizzling treble that is never harsh, very clear and articulated midrange with the same quality of timbre that the Turbines have, and a less muddy but every bit as heavy-hitting and impactful bass. It's a leaner, meaner and more muscular version of the Turbines with greater clarity all-around and every bit of soul-moving excitement.
It's definitely a colored sound, but one that is very enjoyable. It also makes the more laid-back, easygoing Trident seem lackadaisical and lifeless in comparison. This isn't putting the Trident down, but it's hard to live up to the standard set by the Metro.Fi. However, the Dunu has two things going for it: it's still in print, and two, the audiophile world is one where flatter is generally better, and coloration is frowned down upon like ****** at a bathroom stall. For sure there are those who will appreciate the flatter response of the Trident, and for those who want a warmer take on what is a very balanced sound, the Trident will not disappoint. And at $50, its one of those items that you could even classify as an impulse buy.
I give the Trident a hearty recommend for anyone shopping for a budget IEM that packs a great sound. Kudos to Dunu for releasing such an excellent product!
Balanced, laidback signature
Warm, polite and inviting sound
Awesome build quality
Awesome, awesome price
Fit issues (your mileage will vary)
Somewhat tangly cables
Some weird tips that don't fit
It's amazing how hard it was to come up with cons for this product. All things said, I will find someone to pass these Tridents on to, they are excellent but do not take the slot of my MF220, and I have other IEMs higher up the chain I prefer to these (X10, RealVoice, and Merlins).Since I have fit issues with these, I will not be able to enjoy them (in the same way I coudn't keep the Turbines no matter how much I loved their sound) so it is better for me to give them to someone who will love them and use them to their utmost potential.
Edited by Mochan - 10/11/11 at 6:33pm