REVIEW: Dunu DN-1000
Hybrids? Yes, Hybrids! They seem to be the new fashion nowadays, both in the universal and Custom IEM markets. The idea of taking the best part of each type of drivers, dynamic and balanced armature, and mixing them together in one package looks tempting, but also dangerous. Tune it good and you'd get a marvelous sounding product, but get it wrong and pay the consequences.
Now, Dunu, a company that has always managed to amaze with an incredible build quality and a warm and smooth dynamic sound, dare to take part in the challenge with their new DN-1000 model, featuring the well-known Dual BA driver, the Knowles TWFK, together with a Dunu house dynamic driver. What's the result of this combination? In short, it's sonically amazing!
Drivers: 10mm dynamic + Knowles Dual Balanced Armature TWFK-30095-000
Frequency Response: 16Hz~22KHz
Noise Attenuation: 26db
Plug Size: Gold-plated 3.5mm Stereo plug
Cord Length: 1.2 m
MSRP: U$D 215
Available from: Lendmeurears.com, Mp4Nation.net, and more.
Build Quality & Design:
Like every Dunu product, build quality is top-notch with a classy design, putting great attention to detail. The cable is exactly the same used on the lower DN-23 Landmine model, thick, very soft and not-tangle prone. Microphonics are really low, even when worn straight-down. Like with every model there's the "Dunu patented" attached cable wrap, which is very helpful. The 45º 3.5 plug is well relieved, and the aluminum alloy Y-split is very solid. The strain relief at the entry of the housings is quite short though, about 5mm.
As for the housings, they're made of stainless steel. Not only they're quite heavy, both on hand and mainly when fit on the ears, but also quite large (see below section).
As usual, Dunu don't dissapoint when it comes to the accessories pack, not only in quantity but in quality and variety as well.
The pack includes:
3 pairs of single narrow bore eartips in S, M, and L size.
3 pairs of single wide bore eartips in S, M, and L size.
1 pair of Bi-Flange.
3 pair of foam tips in 3 colors, all of same size.
1 pair of memory-foam tips (very similar to Comply Foam)
6 pairs of rings in 3 different lengths (2 pairs of each). The purpose of these rings is to adjust the fit of the eartips, and so slightly affecting the sound reproduction. (A larger quantity of each ring would be nicer.)
1 pair of ear guides
1 soft PU carrying pouch (PU)
1 metal hard carrying case
3.5mm to 6.25mm adapter
Fit, Comfort & Isolation:
Like any other in-ear phone, the DN-1000 are very tip dependant. The housing shape is quite simple, and so, quite easy to fit, and the included rings help even further to get a better and secure fit. Even so, the earpieces are on the heavy side, not unlike other Dunu IEMs, so the extra weight is really felt on the ears. What is more, the housings are also large for the smaller ears. Wearing them 'over-the-ear' seems a must (with or without the ear guides), and surprisingly fixes everything, and even provides a better insertion for a noticeable better sound reproduction. The strong cable helps a lot holding the heavy housing from falling off, but there's still need to re-adjust them from time to time as it is not difficult to lose the seal.
Despite the shallower insertion, isolation is very good with the fully sealed design, and no driver flex was noticed.
This is the main part of the review, and the most important for every audio gear.
Dunu's house sound usually leans towards to either the warm and smooth, or bassy signatures. Even their single balanced armature based IEMs were more mid-centered with rolled-off highs and lows. Knowing this, I had my worries about the result of the DN-1000 tuning. Why? It's simple. For their first hybrid earphone, Dunu chose one of the best (and of my favorites) Dual BA driver on the market, the TWFK, which is known by its extreme brightness with amazing hyper detail and ultra high speed, but light on the low-end. Add to that a Dunu's dynamic driver, which can be quite bass heavy and slow in speed, and the result could be either a horrible V-shaped sound, too bassy and trebly with recessed mids - if done wrong - , or a beautiful full and well balanced sound, challenging the top-tier products - if done right. Fortunately, I'm glad to say that it's the latter case. The configuration is the same as the older and much pricier AKG K3003 model and the newer Astrotec AX-60, and while I don't know how those two sound, one thing is clear, these new Dunu DN-1000 are a top-tier product, at least among universal IEMs.
The impressions are based on using the clear white stock tips with the blue rings. While the rings mainly help to get a better fit, they also have some effect on the sound, especially in the bass and/or treble positioning. Not a huge difference to dedicate a special section to each ring, but worth mentioning. Personally I opted for the blue ones as they offer a best balanced sound from low to highs.
Bass: The Dynamic driver.
The low end is always full and rich, which is a characteristic strength of Dunu's dynamic drivers. It's a big and surrounding bass that never gets to point of being overwhelming. They compete very well against similar priced (and even pricier) dynamic IEMs in tightness, precision, and overall speed and detail. While they can't match the 'pure' multi-BA drivers in micro detail and ultra speed, they have the more natural feeling and realistic attack and decay that dynamic drivers usually offer. Layering is great and extension is more than enough. Quantity wise, both mid and sub bass are evenly presented, and quality wise they're way far ahead from the previous models, including even the previous flagship, the DN-19 Tai Chi.
My favorite part is that the DN-1000 dynamic driver is not only limited to offer a great and coherent bass response, but also warms up the midrange giving it a fuller and more musical tone.
Mids & Highs: The Balanced Armature Twins, the lovely TWFK.
There's no doubt who is in charge of the midrange and treble here. I've always liked the Knowles TWFK driver’s sound, from the first time I listened to the Brainwavz B2, and later on to the Rock It R-50.
The midrange is very clean and transparent, slightly prominent and perfectly well balanced with the rest of the frequencies. Expectedly, the clarity and detail are at their best. Compared to the cooler mids of the 'pure' TWFK, like the B2, and even the R-50, the DN-1000 mids are slighlty smoother and more liquid. They might sound a tad less aggressive, but have more body with a more silky texture and natural timbre. They sound as effortless and articulated as a TWFK driver can sound, but are much more engaging and realistic.
Vocals are truly impressive with an incredible level of detail that's possible to hear clearly every single word, be it from the main singers or backgrounds. They're fuller and more forward than the R-50 or B2 with a much nicer hint of warmth and sweetness. Even though the detail and air are slighlty ahead of the more vocal focused RE-400, they aren't as beautiful as the Hifiman's silky vocals, and the DN-1000 are also less forgiving and more prone to sibilance because the TWFK brighter nature. At the end of the day it's more a matter of taste as both the DN-1000 and RE-400 are great perfomers when it comes to midrange reproduction.
The treble it's where these dual Knowles BA drivers always shine. Like other TWFK based IEMs they're very bright, crispy and sparkly with plenty of energy and incredible extension. Instrument separation is excellent and they're nicely layered, highly resolving and very airy. As expected, they aren't sibilance free and won't forget to show their more aggressive nature either. Foam tips could help a bit in this regard, though.
Now, changing to the darker and wider bore tips, the sound presentation also changes. Personally, I couldn't get a right fit with the provided stock tips, so I used similar shaped wide bore eartips, like the AudioFly and Auvio tips.
Not surprisingly, the resulting sound is sharper and more lively and energetic, with a very slightly U-shaped response. The bass is deeper and slightly more powerful, but loses some of its warmth. Midrange feels colder and not as thick, being less suited for vocals. Treble is the most affected, being much more similar to the Fischer Audio DBA-02, Brainwavz B2 and Rock-It R-50. It is brighter and more peaky and prone to sibilance. Even so, extension remains the same. It kind of reminds me of the CNT based ATH-CKN70, but fuller and more well-rounded.
Soundstage is very large with excelent sense of space and distance. Not only it has the BA TWFK width and depth, but with the addition of the dynamic driver the sound is much more enveloping and three-dimensional. It's very impressive for a IEM and has that incredible ‘out of the head’ feel on it, not easily found on the in-ear market (especially on the 'sealed' ones).
"To 'Hybrid' or 'Not to Hybrid', that's the question..."
So, how does the DN-1000 compare to a 'pure' TWFK-based IEM? One the one hand, they do have more natural and 'better' bass, and also offer a much fuller and richer overall sound making it better suited for almost every music genre. On the other hand, the low-end loses the amazing ultra-speed and detail that these BA drivers have. And while it's barely noticed, there's the inevitable slight incoherence issue of hybrid BA + dynamic configuration. Even so, that shouldn't be a reason to ignore the DN-1000, as the sound is more enjoyable.
With the DN-1000 release, Dunu have finally shown that they're not a company that can make a product that matches the top-tier market in just build quality and well-accessorized pack, but most importantly in Sound. Implementing the Knowles TWFK dual drivers with their dynamic one, they have achieved a very beautiful balanced sound. Sure, there's no perfect product, but this one is 'getting close to perfection', at least in sound matters, and makes an excellent buy for the asking price.
Edited by Zelda - 4/26/14 at 3:01pm