Dunu DN-17 Crater and Dunu DN-18 Hawkeye Review
Dunu, a earphone company who are rather highly regarded for there products which are high quality budget earphones for most of the time, released these to earphones not to long ago and they sit at the higher end of their products. They are both very similar and to most people, the same thing and for the most part they are but they do have one very big difference and that is one is a close back design earphone (DN-18) and the other is open backed (DN-17). No I like this has it is aiming a similar product but either one may suit an individuals purposes more and this is a great idea.
They are both dynamic earphones and there is only one balanced armature currently in Dunus line up so with that all in mind, lets begin this review. However the DN-17 does have a slightly more expensive price at £55 compared to the DN-18 at £45 but they are both rather cheap.
I will quickly say that the DN-18s are the newest revised version of them.
The set-up I have used is the normal, as I have started using a new portable rig, which is the Hippo CriCri amplifier connected through a LOD to an iPod Nano 3G with Apple Lossless and MP3 on it.
I also used my old set-ups of my iPhone 4, Cowon J3 (with FLAC) and my iMac with my Objective 2 amplifier.
I used the stock Sony Hybrid clone tips.
The design of these is great as I am more and more frequently seeing people who want to move into better quality audio and leave headphones like Beats by Dre in the mist, but do not want to substitute looks. Now for me I do not care as long as they sound good but I can still appreciate aesthetics as much as the next person. So I think these look great with their shiny-mirrored housings and cool looking y-splits and jacks. They also have a unique design feature, which is the silicone cable binder on the bottom, half of the cable, which should make cable management a lot easier. The one thing with the design that annoys me is the tint R and L logos on the strain reliefs that make determining the channels hard work.
So onto the build quality I am even more impressed for the most part. The jack is terminated with a gold plug and has a sturdy housing that is also recessed largely so that no iPhone case out there will be a problem what so ever. Its also has a chunky and flexible strain relief to it. Now although I think the cable although not the thickest is rather strong and good quality, I am let down by the fact that at the bottom half it is just the two cable stuck next to each other which is both not good for longevity as they come apart and just reminds me of the build of cheap pound shop earphones. The y-split is nice and solid and we also have the welcome addition of a cable cinch, which is of great quality.
In the housing we have the two differences visibly in the earphones and that is on the rear end of the housings. The DN-17s have a little tube with a hole in the back (all metal) while the DN-18s have a classy looking but probably plastic, Dunu logo. The rest of it is the same and all flawlessly put together metal, which is oh so solid. The nozzle is also metal and strong and you have a metal mesh to stop rubbish getting in the earphones.
Overall I am extremely pleased with the build and design of them both.
Now with these I was reminded of myself when I unboxed beats headphones and yet I got even more stuff with these. Now they also have a slight difference between the two.
Now of the many stuff you get with them, in both packages you get a shirt clip which is really handy, a airplane adapter, again really handy as most people will get a use out of that, a ¼ inch adapter plug which will be necessary if using certain amplifiers with it for example and lastly a microfiber cleaning cloth so you can keep them looking as shiny as possible. With both you also get a brown pleather carrying pouch with the Dunu logo on it and a drawstring opening method and it looks just great and very, very classy. I am really impressed with these pouches.
Now onto what is a bit different are the tips. They both come preinstalled with mediums Sony Hybrid Clones but also both come with a lot more.
The DN-17 come with a set of small, medium and large Sony Hybrid clones as well as the preinstalled ones and these are although slightly different to the real things, of great quality. You also get a set of slightly different single flanges in small, medium and large and these have a slightly more oval shape to them. Finally there is one pair of dual flanges.
With the DN-18s you get all of the tips that are included with the DN-17 and a additional pair of dual flanges.
Now, both IEMs come with a second unique case which I think is just great because can you ever have enough cases.
The DN-17s come with a metal crush proof case with a nice velvet linen. It is really portable and extremely solid so will be my choice of cases when taking these around.
The DN-18s come with a different case and have gone for a slightly bigger clamshell case, which has a bump inside to separate, things in there and also boast a very smooth zip. However being all material it is not as protective as the crushproof one.
Both of these are packaged with a plethora of accessories, which is great, and I just love, it makes these very good for a first IEM as they come with two cases and all the necessary accessories.
Now these do have a rather large size, which can be a bit bulky in your ear, but a positive to its size is it means these sit shallow in your ear and will never feel intrusive. They are though, being all metal, rather heavy and you can feel them in your ear and they almost feel like they are tugging downwards. I would not go to say that these are un-comfy but they are winning no comfort prizes either.
What I did find to be the case though is that if you wear these over the ear then your ear takes some of the weight away and these sit nicer and feel quite a bit lighter, a lot more comfy this way.
Now this is one of the areas that these are more apart on and these is due to the designs of them.
The DN-17s have the worst isolation of the two and with the open back design it is not great but I still have to say it is better than any other vented IEM I have heard which is great. The DN-18 is slightly better and overall average but the shallow insertion depth stops it being marvelous but overall they are not to bad.
Microphonics (Cable Noise)
These are made to be worn cable down and that way there is your fair share of cable noise. Not in a horrible unbearable way but in a way there is denying it is there. However it is not that big a deal to swap them to an over the ear wearing style which does not only assist in comfort but also heavily reduces microphonics to them having no problems.
By what I am about to write I do not want to cause any upsets or arguments as this topic can be seen as a sour subject. These have had roughly 100 hours now of use and burn in combined. As burn in is not scientifically proven this all could be mental and happening in my head but in the case that it does happen I recommend burning them in as in my personal experience I have noted improvements which have a massive impact on my enjoyment factor, so dint make any irrational decisions after listening to them out the box.
Both of the were burned in with a splitter so very equal.
Soundstage and instrument separation
DN-17 – These have a very large soundstage and the biggest that I have heard under £60. Not only is it wide and airy but also tall with depth to it and these are very immersive and 3-D. These are at a point were they want to start challenging the likes of the Sennheiser IE8, Aurisonics ASG-1 and Sony EX1000 in size. Were they do not challenge them in their positioning of instrument as they are not very accurate but overall the soundstage is just great here.
The instrument separation is slightly subpar and although not awful they hold themselves together most of the time and make easy work of any simple passages and gradually get more and more overwhelmed the faster and more layered the music gets. What these do manage is to smooth things out a bit so it does not sound bad when the driver cannot handle the speed and layers of instruments, which does not sound bad. This also works great on low bit rate songs and can help stop reveal flaws.
DN-18 – The DN-18 has a very nice and large soundstage, which is above average in width and height and is extremely airy and just has a bit of depth to turn in 3-D. Positioning of instruments is rather poor though and imaging is not very accurate.
Instrument separation is tragic (there is no other word to describe it) and as soon as there are more than 3 instruments present and the tempo picks up in the song but the slightest we get a blurry mess and it does not handle that in a nice way. It seems like it is trying to deal with which just makes it even worse and I was rather disappointed.
Comparison – The DN-17 is handily above the DN-18 here with a larger and more 3-D soundstage and slightly better imaging. The next thing is in my opinion the reason which separates these IEMs quite a bit and that is the way that the DN-17 deals with faster passages and instrument separation and although both are bad the DN-17 makes it work in a sense and the DN-18 really does not.
DN-17 – The mid-bass on these does have no additional emphasis but there is no denying that these are fairly handy when it comes to quantity. They are very light and soft, which means their impact, can sometimes be underwhelming and lacking air. These are also on the looser side of things and do sometimes juts become to much and are boomy but then this is only in genres were bass is the dominant force. The mid-bass was actually very pleasant in genres were bass is a smaller factor and when listening to the Beatles, For No One, the mid-bass sounded just great because it had a nice groan to it and was not to tight which was quite natural. On the other hand when listening to some older Red Hot Chilli Peppers (their original funk stuff), it has full blown boomy bass which was not pleasant at all and just sounded wrong. Decay is also lacking and makes timbre feel wrong at times.
The sub-bass on these is were they take into their own as these do un-doubtfully extend fairly low and in a good way were it is not over powering but you hear it just rumbling away.
DN-18 – The DN-18s have a good control on the mid-bass most of the time and although it has a light and soft impact it still makes its point. Qunatity wised these are pretty plentiful but they do a good job of stopping it ever becoming overly boomy which is nice but there is no saying that it never is and it is definitely not tight.
The sub-bass on these is great and these get ever so low and rumble nicely but the mid-bass is emphasized over the sub-bass.
Comparison – Now there is no denying that these both have a very similar bass but they are not the same. They are both very soft and light in the mid-bass but the DN-17 is the softer of the two and the DN-18 gets the better impact. The DN-18 is also less boomy even though it has the slightly more quantity. When we move onto the sub-bass they both have tremendous extension but there is a slight deeper rumble on the DN-18.
DN-17 – The mids are actually quite pleasant and are really airy and slightly forward. The fact that they are slightly forward is nice as this means that the boomy bass never overwhelms the vocals, which is never welcome. They are very thick and poorly textured and not revealing at all to them micro details that we all love but it does a much better job to similar priced earphones like the Brainwavs M2 just because the vocals are always present and are actually not too dull.
DN-18 – These have an amazingly airy and forward mid-range. I would consider these to be mid-centric even with a little less bass which actually won me over slightly with these be a bit of a self proclaimed mid-head. These for some reason have a fairly cold feel to them, which is a bit odd, but the way I hear them. These do not have the best texture and only the tiniest bit of detail shines through but it is enough. Female vocals are great and natural although male vocals are cold and sound a tad unnatural.
Comparison – The DN-18s are pleasantly more detailed, airy and forward which is a great positive in my opinion but could be a turn of to others. The DN-17s however are warm and sound more genuine in male vocals compared to the coldness on vocals with the DN-18s.
They both have a rather similar treble and that is a relaxed and smooth treble which has little sparkle but not bad extension. What I do find is that many people will be lacking a bit more energy and excitement with it as that is the case with me. I do like all sorts of treble to aggressive treble, which is wild to the super sparkly and detailed treble of a TWFK. Now these are on the thicker side of things, which means not to transparent but we do have more detail with the DN-17 as well as a bit more sparkle. This was the most similar part of both earphones and also the worst part of both just because you want more presence. What is quite strange though is how they do tend to pop up every now and again with a crazy clap of a symbols for example but then disappears for more songs on end. However it has no peaks so there is no sibilance. If you want to look at the positives of all of this it is always relaxing and never fatiguing like the sparkle of some IEMs.
These are in a competitive price range and one that I have heard quite a range in. Even after this I still have a clear winner in this category and what will always be my sole recommendation in it and they are the Vsonic GR06. However while all the others I have heard for this price are becoming easily forgotten such as the M2 and Yamaha Eph-50 I think these will stay with me a lot longer because some of the stuff these do is great and they are un deniably a great package.
So will I be recommending these? Well do you care about accessories or design then either of these are clearly the way to go. So which one of these is more for you? If you want warmth in your IEMs then you are going to want the DN-17 as are you if the soundstage size is you main priority. Now overall when things are slow I actually prefer the DN-18 as they do most things slightly better or more pleasantly but I think I will have to say the DN-17 are overall better as they do not have no where near as bad a instrument separation and that can single handily kill the DN-18 in certain genres.