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Model No:ALPHA1 Type: Dynamic(16mm)*1 Balanced Armature*1 Sound pressure level:125+-2dB ...

DUNU Alpha 1 Hybrid Earbuds Dynamic & Balanced Armature High-fidelity Headphones

Rating:
3.5/5,
  • Model No:ALPHA1

    Type: Dynamic(16mm)*1 Balanced Armature*1

    Sound pressure level:125+-2dB

    impedance:16¦¸

    F.Response:10Hz~30KHz

    Weight:17g

    Plug Size:3.5mm Gold-plated

    Cord lengh:1.2m

Recent Reviews

  1. HiFiChris
    Really excellent Hybrid Earbuds that actually sound like In-Ears - but only if you can manage to get a good seal and fit
    Written by HiFiChris
    Published Dec 9, 2015
    3.5/5,
    Pros - neutral-balanced tuning with silicone tips, clarity, resolution, that 16 mm woofer's bass speed and body!, no microphonics
    Cons - sound is extremely tip-dependent, over-present mids, treble extension above 10 kHz
    Preamble:

    Before I start with my actual review, I want to give out a warm thank to DUNU-Topsound for providing me with a sample of the Alpha 1 earbuds (http://www.dunu-topsound.com/ALPHA1.html) in exchange for my honest opinion and evaluation.

    Founded in February 1994 originally as an OEM manufacturer, the Chinese company DUNU has developed in the past few years and launched many in audiophile circles highly appreciated IEMs, among the Titan series as well as the highly appreciated hybrid models of the DN-range. One of their less wide-spread builds is the Alpha 1 which combines a large dynamic 16 mm driver in hybrid style with a Balanced Armature transducer – though not in an in-ear as you may have thought, but this time in earbuds.

    This review dedicated to the Alpha 1 earbuds of the company DUNU that is best known for their titanium-coated drivers and hybrid concepts should illuminate if and especially how that hybrid earbuds concept works out, as no other manufacturer has dared to create such a thing on a commercial basis yet to my knowledge.
     

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    Technical Specifications:

    Price: ~ $155-175
    Type: hybrid (16 mm dynamic + Balanced Armature)
    Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 30 kHz
    Sensitivity: 125 dB (+/- 2 dB)
    Impedance: 16 Ohms
    Cable Length: 1.2 m


    About Hybrid Concepts:

    As you can read from the technical specifications, the Alpha 1 is a little different from most common earbuds and doesn’t only back on one dynamic driver, but combines it with a second Balanced Armature transducer.
    Most In-Ears and until today almost all earbuds use dynamic transducers for audio playback which have the advantage of covering the whole audible spectrum and achieving a strong bass emphasis without much effort. Valuable dynamic drivers are often said to have a more bodied and musical bass that has a more soft impact and decay and lacks of the analytical character that BA transducers are known for. On the downside, in contrast to headphones with other driver principles, dynamic transducers often have a lower resolution.
    Higher-priced and professional IEMs mostly use Balanced Armature transducers, which usually have got a higher resolution than dynamic drivers, are faster, more precise and have got the better high-level stability, which is important for stage musicians that often require higher than average listening levels. On the downside, it is quite hard to cover the whole audible spectrum with just a single BA transducer and strongly emphasised bass is only possible with multiple or big drivers. Some people also find In-Ears with BA transducers to sound too analytical, clinical or cold (in several active years in a German audio community where I wrote multiple reviews, gave dozens of purchase advice and help, from time to time I heard people that got into BA earphones for the first time using these attributes for describing BA earphones, especially their lower frequencies).

    Hybrid IEMs unite the positive aspects of both driver principles and use one dynamic transducer for lows reproduction and at least one BA driver for covering mids and highs, wherefore the often as “musical” described bass character remains and the BA transducers add resolution and precision to the mids and highs.
    But the Alpha 1 are earbuds, namely the world’s first hybrid-style ones with a large 16 mm dynamic driver for the lows and another Balanced Armature for the rest of the spectrum. It is a brave (not to say risky) concept that no other manufacturer dared to do on a commercial basis yet (at least none to my knowledge), as the combination of earbuds along with the use of BA drivers requires even more care and acts very critical depending on fit and seal than more commonly known styles – how and if this concept works in the Alpha 1 is what you will get to read in this review.


    Delivery Content:

    Typically for DUNU, the Alpha 1’s delivery content is quite ample, with a wide variety of different ear tips.

    The packaging is valuable, sturdy and designed with the typical DUNU-style. The front shows a large picture of the earbuds, the rear gives information about the used hybrid technology and describes the earbuds’ tonality a little. The left side features technical specifications in various languages; the right one has got a strap for opening the magnetic lid and features the words that DUNU stands for: “Delicate Unique & Utmost”.
    The left inside of the upper side’s lid shows the included accessories on the left side, specifies the different tips, shows how they should be installed and what the earbuds look like when correctly inserted in the ears. On the right side, there is an introduction of a musician called Max Barsky as well as a small plastic screen with the in-ears behind.
    With the help of another strap, this side can be opened up as well and reveals the earbuds as well as a warranty card, a carrying case with a silver DUNU logo, a cable clip, a 6.35 to 3.5 mm adapter as well as a wide variety of different ear tips. The included tips are called: “Bass/Liquid” which are silicone tips with fins (three sizes), “Balance/Musical” which are thick silicone rings (three pairs, one standard size), “Airy/Resolution” which are thin silicone rings (three pairs, one standard size) as well as “Full/Balance” which are foam covers (two pairs, one standard size).

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    Aesthetics, Build Quality:

    The large bodies of the earbuds are mainly made of black plastic, but also have a polished silver aluminium ring application on the back. The “shaft” features a bass reflex opening at its bottom which has a quite similar function as on the Apple EarPods, as well as another port further above. The ear-facing side has got 26 small holes for the large dynamic driver as well as a sticking out spout in the centre that contains the Balanced Armature transducer which has its own dedicated sound outlet bore.
    Around the bodies is a plastic “collar” on which the various ear tips are installed.
    The cable is still relatively flexible, although not as much as the Titan 1’s or DN-2000J’s and has got DUNU’s typical and patented cable management tool which is made of soft black silicone. The y-split, chin-slider as well as the 3.5 mm jack are made of black aluminium alloy. The strain relief at the jack and y-split is good, but there is none directly at the earbuds’ bodies.

    The “Bass/Liquid” called fin-tips have each got a small letter on their back that determinates the size. On the front is a small arrow which should be located at the same direction as the Balanced Armature spout is facing. Such arrows are also on the “Balance/Musical” tips.
    At first, installing and changing the tips was a bit tricky and required some time, but I got used to it over time because of changing them very often for comparative reasons, wherefore it got easier for me and I got a good feeling of where the collar snaps in.

    The included carrying case is not as premium as the one the Titan 1 or DN-200J comes with, but it is very protective, has got a small pocket for accessories like the various ear tips and is nicely bolstered on the inside.
     

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    Comfort, Isolation:

    The earbuds are best to be worn with the cables straight down, although changing the sides and wearing them over the ears is also possible, but (logically) with swapped audio channels as well. Wearing them in the classical position and then guiding the cables over the ears is also possible, but not necessarily more comfortable and especially not required, as the Alpha 1 earbuds have got very surprisingly low (close to not existing) microphonics with all of the used ear tips.
    Of course, the fit and seat with earbuds is different from ear autonomy to ear autonomy and person to person and therefore a general statement is not possible here, but what I can say is that I get the most secure fit with the large “Bass/Liquid” fin-tips, although the other tips stay in very securely as well so it is even possible to do a handstand and the earbuds will still stay in without getting out of place much at all.
    General comfort is good, although after a longer period of time (~ 1.5 to 2 hours), I feel the spout, but it doesn’t hurt yet.

    I guess I don’t have to tell you much about isolation because the Alpha 1 are earbuds that don’t really isolate by their nature.


    Sound:

    Although I don’t believe much (if at all) in burn-in of dynamic in-ears (and not at all with BAs), I have fully burnt the Alpha 1 in before listening, just as it is recommended for them by DUNU (just in case).
    My main source devices were the iBasso DX80 as well as the LH Labs Geek Out IEM 100; the music files were mainly stored in FLAC format and some 320 kBps MP3 files.

    As a good fit and seal are important for earbuds (especially those with Balanced Armature technology) in order to get a good sound, perceived acoustics may differ from person to person and may be even more individual than with in-ears. The eartip selection is also important with the Alpha 1.
    At the beginning, I had some problems getting a good seal (if it can even be called “seal” with earbuds), wherefore the sound was very peaky in the first time, especially in the area of the mids (I guess the seal I got was just not good enough for the Balanced Armature driver). After some time, I found the best insertion angle and tip for me, so the sound got good, quite even and was no rollercoaster ride anymore.

    My following sound impressions refer to listening to the earbuds with the “Balance/Musical” tips that provided the best and most balanced sound for me (more about the tips in the “Tuning Options” paragraph).

    Tonality:

    So, how do the Alpha 1 hybrid earbuds sound? I would describe their tonality as neutral with (over-) present mids. What I hear could be probably similar to the Shure SE315 in some areas, but with more treble and a more even midrange emphasis (at least by telling from the Shure’s frequency response graph, as the only Shure IEMs I own are the SE425 and 846).
    Let’s start with the lows: for earbuds, the Alpha 1’s extension is not too bad and the bass starts rolling off from about 80 Hz down, with a -5 dB point at 45 Hz – so it is still able to produce upper bass and also mid-bass, but the latter with less level in the lower departments. There is still more or less sufficient level down to 35 Hz, but the area below is negligible, especially with music (as the lower mid-bass is already quieter than the upper bass).
    The upper bass and lower ground-tone are emphasised by about only marginal 1 dB compared to a neutral in-ear like the Etymotic ER-4S. From 600 Hz on, the mids start emphasising, with a climax at about 1 kHz and reach until pretty exactly 2 kHz. The following treble is pretty spot-on in terms of level, but with a small peak both at 4.8 as well as 7 kHz. Level starts rolling off from 8 kHz on, which is a side-effect of the Balanced Armature driver in a more or less free space, wherefore there is no subtle “sparkling” above 10 kHz.

    The mids are rather strongly emphasised by around 5 dB, which may be too much for some people in combination with the pretty flat lows (I am quite flexible and adaptive regarding different tonalities wherefore I got used to the mids and they did not annoy me, as I think that they are quite evenly emphasised due to the elevation starting at 600 Hz and stopping at 2 kHz, but I am certain that many people might be a bit annoyed by their somewhat “shoutyness” – a milder midrange emphasis would be better for the choice of the masses and I would appreciate an Alpha 2 in the future with less prominent mids but everything else remaining quite similar, as I personally find the earphones really good).

    Tuning Options: Each tip gave me a somewhat different sound, which might be due to a varying fit, position and seal with most of them.

    “Bass/Liquid” (fin-tips):
    The (for me) most comfy tips got an about 1 dB stronger lower ground-tone in my ears, but high voices sound strident and edgy and therefore not much enjoyable.

    “Airy/Resolution” (thin silicone rings):
    The sound signature from the bass up to before the mids is pretty much the same as with my preferred thick silicone “Balance/Musical” tips, but upper mids are even more edgy and strident than with the “Bass/Liquid” tips. Treble is thinner and peaky as well.

    “Full/Balance” (foam):
    Oh, that’s quite a surprise: the sound becomes voluminous, bassy and the mids darker. An emphasis of about 6 dB more than before can be heard in the bass, but at the same time the resolution decreases a bit, comparable to foam tips with in-ears.

    No tips at all:
    Well, that was literally a “cutting” experience, but led to the best result. Overall balance was better, with a more even treble and a less dominating mid-range. Lows were comparable to the “Bass/Liquid” tips.

    Resolution:

    First and foremost: the sound is very coherent as well as seamless and there is no audible transition between the dynamic and Balanced Armature driver.
    That the large 16 mm dynamic driver gets relieved by the use of the additional BA transducer for the high frequencies comes in positive, as not only the overall amount of details profits, but also the lows. For a dynamic driver, the large woofer is very cultivated, controlled and surprisingly quick and responsive. These qualities are then combined with an impressive, natural bass body – is this probably the large earphone driver’s “magic” that I sometimes read about? It may very well be. Though, the bass response is (logically) not as quick as a Balanced Armature woofer, but not slow by any means and also outclasses the Titan 1 in terms of responsiveness and speed while having the better body at the same time.
    The advantages of the Balanced Armature drivers can be definitely heard in the mids and treble, with a great speech intelligibility and resolution also at very low listening levels (the mids were reduced by 6 dB for a better evaluation and comparison). Nonetheless, the Titan 1 sounds a bit more natural in the treble department although it is not as well resolving. The inferior treble extension in comparison to many (especially dynamic) in-ears can be heard mainly due to the lack of subtle sparkle above 10 kHz (cough cough, Shure SE425).

    Solely by resolution, the Alpha 1 is more an in-ear than earbud and outperforms single-driver IEMs in the same price range without many efforts.

    Spatial Presentation:

    The soundstage is definitely wider than average, but with comparatively somewhat little depth. In my ears, it is about 75% as wide as the Titan 1’s imaginary stage, but only about one fifth as deep – probably a side effect of the different driver concepts in a more or less open coupling volume.
    The lateral instrument separation appears good and layering is also decent, with recognisable layers, though depth seems a little foggy (instruments and sound elements bleed into each other a bit).


    Conclusion:

    In my opinion, the risky concept DUNU dared with the Alpha 1 is very successful in some areas, but also less in others.
    When I inserted the earbuds for the first time, all I heard was a rollercoaster of peaks and I took the Alpha 1 out immediately. After some trying with different insertion angles as well as eartips, I managed to get a decent, smooth and balanced result. Though, with some ear tips (all except for the thick silicone rings and foam covers) the upper mids were still shouty, edgy and a bit strident as well, wherefore the individually best ear-tips are required with this hybrid concept even more than usual to get a proper seal and therefore good sound.
    Tonally, the tuning reaches from neutral with overly present mids (silicone tips) to a bassy and dark sound signature (foam covers). People with very small ears could have problems with the earbuds’ size (after all the dynamic lows’ transducer has got a diameter of 16 mm).
    The resolution is really good and the lows have got an enormously beefy and tactile body (although they are pretty neutral and have got an incredible speed), but the treble extension is limited and only about on the same level as the SE425’s highs.

    Personally, the Alpha 1 is a succeeded concept for me, and with the thick silicone tips, I get a nice sound (I for my part am quite adaptable and the stronger mids emphasis does not bother me), wherefore my personal rating is quite good with ~ 4.2 out of 5 stars.
    But as I try to evaluate universally, the Alpha 1 gets “officially” 3.7 out of 5 stars – it is a specialist that only sounds good if you can manage to get a sufficient fit which may be hard for some (with the BA driver, the sound is only even with a good seal, but peaky in the mids without), and the mids may be too much for many.
  2. Brooko
    DUNU Alpha 1 – Innovation and style – but sound will be fit dependent
    Written by Brooko
    Published Feb 23, 2015
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Innovative design, stellar build quality, very good bass, clear, very good accessories, reacts well to EQ
    Cons - Sound is very fit dependent, quite a closed in sound stage for an ear-bud type phone, very peaky mid-range
    alpha111.jpg
    For larger views of any of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images
    INTRODUCTION

    My introduction to DUNU Topsound (over a year ago) was with their triple hybrid DN-1000, which rapidly became a hit with Head-Fi buyers, and was one of the first triple hybrid IEMs to show that top quality could be achieved at an affordable price. This lead to having the opportunity to review the Titan hybrid IEM/earbud (one of my picks for top earphone releases in 2014), and more recently the DN-2000. Each time I’ve reviewed a DUNU product I’ve been struck by the innovation they’ve consistently brought to the table – and this is continued with their new hybrid earbud – the Alpha 1.

    Once again I’d like to thank both Vivian from DUNU, and also my friend from “over the ditch” djvkool – for giving me the chance to hear and review these.

    For those who aren’t aware, DUNU Topsound was established in 1994 originally as an OEM supplier to other companies. Since then they have developed their own branded line of high quality earphones, and gone from strength to strength with each release. They currently have their manufacturing plant in China and head office in Taiwan. They now have more than 100 employees, and market their product range all over the world.
    The name DUNU is simply an acronym of the principle design points that the company strives to implement in their product range


    1. Delicate
    2. UNique
    3. Utmost

    Once again I thought I’d quote this from their website, as it really does give an insight into what drives the company:


    DUNU’s full product catalogue can be found at http://www.dunu-topsound.com/product.html - and their products are supplied through their own storefront (globally) on Amazon.

    The Alpha 1’s arrived to me a few weeks ago, and I must confess that I haven’t used these as much as I normally would when reviewing equipment – simply because I’ve struggled with the fit. Read on to find out my personal thoughts on the DUNU Alpha 1.

    DISCLAIMER

    The DUNU Alpha 1 I’m reviewing today is a loaner unit from DUNU, and at the completion of my review will be returned to Australia – hopefully so others get the chance of sampling it. I am in no way affiliated with DUNU - and this review is my subjective opinion of the Alpha 1.

    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)

    I'm a 47 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portable (Fiio X5, X1, X3 gen 2, and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP). I also use a portable set-up at work – either X5/X1/X3 > HP, or PC > Beyer A200p > HP. My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyer T1 and Sennheiser HD600. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs - and up till now it has mainly been with the Fidue A83, Dunu Titan and Altone200. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).

    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880.

    I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher completely transparent. I do use exclusively redbook 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line).

    I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 47, my hearing is less than perfect.

    For the purposes of this review - I used the DUNU Alpha straight from the headphone-out socket of my Fiio X3 gen 2. I did not generally further amp them (I did test them with my X1 and E11K), as IMO they do not benefit greatly from additional amplification (YMMV and it may depend on your source). In the time I have spent with the Titan 1, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (break-in), however to be fair, I haven’t personally had a lot of hours with them. I did notice that the more I used them, the better they did sound to me – but this I already know is a sign of brain burn-in. Fit also has a huge effect on the sonic signature of these earphones.

    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.

    THE REVIEW

    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

    The DUNU Alpha 1s arrived in an approximately 205mm x 160mm x 50mm retail box. The box “screams” high-quality product to me with s simple picture of the Alphas on the front, product description on the rear, and specification information on the side.

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    Front of the retail box

    Rear of the retail box


    The box opens “book style” to show the IEMs, and on the inside cover gives some great information about the accessories included, and also the options for customising the fit through the use of the various fins and rings, and the effects they should have on the overall sound.

    Opening a second inner cover exposes the carry case (new!), some of the fins and rings, and also the Alphas themselves. The actual retail box is extremely well made, very solid, and just looks like a high quality overall package to me.

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    Inside cover - displaying fit and sound characteristics

    Book style box completely open



    The carry case is a clam shell semi-soft design, and absolutely ideal for carrying in a pocket. I love it – even over the hard case for the Titans, and hope it is included in more of their future releases. It is more than strong enough to withstand day to day “living, is spacious enough for most IEMs, and has a handy inner pocket for spare fins etc.

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    Full range of accessories

    I love the new clamshell zippered case!



    The accessory pack includes 1 shirt clip, a standard 3.5 – 6.3mm adaptor, 2 sets of foam covers, 3 sets of thick rings, 3 sets of thin rings, and 3 sets (L, M, S) of the “fin” rings. The guide to fitting the various rings (as I mentioned earlier) is on the indie cover of the retail box.

    All in all – a very good, quite innovative and well thought out accessory range.

    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    (From DUNU’s packaging / website)

    Type
    Single dynamic and single BA driver hybrid earphone (bud)
    Drivers
    16mm dynamic + single BA
    Frequency Range
    10 Hz – 30 Khz
    Impedance
    16 ohm
    Sensitivity
    125 dB (+/-2 dB)
    Plug
    3.5mm gold plated
    Cables
    1.2m, fixed
    Weight
    17g
    Earbud Shell
    Combined moulded plastic and polished metal


    FREQUENCY GRAPH

    At the time of writing, I haven’t been able to locate a frequency graph, but for the record I think that the frequency response is going to be very much influenced by fit. Rather than give a general view on the frequency response now, I’ll save it for the sound section.

    BUILD & DESIGN

    The Titan 1 appears to be extremely well made with a mostly hard plastic moulded body, coupled with a polished stainless steel metal cap or section between the stem and face of the earbud. The Alpha 1 is a large earbud with a diameter of 18mm, and a depth of approx. 20mm from the rear of the stem to the front of the delivery stem. The face of the Alpha has the usual perforated holes for the dynamic driver, but also has a separate ridge allowing the sound from the BA driver to be directed to your ear canal.

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    Alpha 1 - rear view

    Alpha 1 - bottom view



    The circular part of the body is designed to sit snugly in your ear between your Tragus and Anti-helix, with the raised nozzle directed toward your ear canal. It is designed to be worn cable down, and like all earbuds, is essentially an open design. The addition of various rings and fins is to promote a more stable fit, with various levels of seal to influence the overall sound.

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    Alpha 1 - front view

    Alpha 1 - top view



    The cable has a very smooth and soft PVC outer cover, and appears to be reasonably strong and supple. There is no real strain relief from the exit of the buds, but as the cable hangs straight down anyway, it’s not really required. The Y-split is metal with the top piece sliding off to form a cinch. The plug is a right angled gold plated 3.5mm plug, and is designed to be very friendly for portable devices. No issues with my 5S with fitted case. The cable shows good flexibility, with no real signs of kinking, and has excellent strain relief at the other required major points (plug, and Y-split).

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    Jack, Y split and the wonderful patented cable tie mechanism

    Alpha 1 body



    There is a very little microphonic noise present – and any remaining noise can be alleviated by using the included shirt clip, or tucking under clothes.

    One of the most simple but innovative designs with DUNU’s cables is the inclusion of the rubber cable tie actually on the cable. When not in use it sits unobtrusively close to the plug (I never notice it). When you’ve finished listening to the Alphas, simply carefully coil the cable and use the tie. Simple, elegant, brilliant. I loved this with the DN-1000, DN-2000 and Titan, and it works equally well with the Alpha 1.

    I can’t really fault the overall build and design too much at this stage except to say that it is a large earbud, and may be uncomfortable for people with smaller ears. There is a lot of innovation with this design though – as I’ve come to expect with every release DUNU makes.

    FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION

    For most earbuds, you don’t have to do a lot about fit – just insert them and you’re good to go – a one size fits all idea. But here is where DUNU have broken the mould with the Alpha – recognising that people have different and unique anatomical ear features, and that a combination of fit and seal can influence the end sound.

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    From the retail box - accessories and how they affect sound

    Accessories and fitting guides



    So they included a variety of tips to help the user find the most comfortable fit, whilst also being able to change the amount of overall seal achieved. The design of the various rings is quite innovative with the fins designed to stabilise and lock the IEM while increasing overall seal, the straight rings simply varying seal, and the foam rings influencing both comfort and overall sound.

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    Large "fin" tips - note notch above the BA port (shows correct fit)

    Large "fin" tips

    Large "fin" tips - profile view



    Fitting the various rings and fins takes some getting used to and was quite frustrating for the first hour or so – but became easier the more I persevered.

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    Thick rings - notch shows placement on the Alphas

    Thick rings from the rear

    Thick rings from the front



    Initially I settled for the medium fins, as they gave me the best combination of seal and fit – but I definitely found the foams had the best comfort. Towards the end though I found that by far the best combination for me (comfort and sound) was the use of multiple sponge-foam covers. This helped greatly with the seal, and also tamed an overly strident mid-range. More on this will be brought up in the conclusion and recommendations section.

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    Foam covers - single layer only - quite thin

    Foam covers from the front

    Foam covers from the rear



    Unfortunately throughout my period with the Alphas I was unable to achieve an ideal fit – and this did adversely affect the sound.

    Isolation is average for an earbud – but it is what you expect – they are essentially an open design.

    So how does the DUNU Alpha sound? Are the sonics as good as everything else up to this point?

    SOUND QUALITY

    The following is what I hear from the DUNU Alpha 1. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my Fiio X3 gen 2 as source, a heavy (by my standards) EQ applied, and double foam rings fitted.



    Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.

    The Issue With Fit

    SQ with the Alpha is very seal and fit dependent. If you can get a good fit and seal, the Alphas are very energetic and mid-forward, with a fantastic bass response, and enough detail to impress most people. How do I know this – simple – uneq’d, I pressed the Alphas into my ears and held them there simulating a partial seal. And they sound wonderful like this.

    Unfortunately for me – I can’t use this method for day to day normal living. So what happens (for me) in the absence of a reasonable seal?


    I’m guessing here – but I think that what is happening is that I’m getting the full effect of the BA via the nozzle, and not enough lower mid-range and bass to balance it. The result is an extremely strident (at times painful) response – which invariably led me to remove them from my ears within a few seconds of listening. But being the persistent person I am, I stumbled across the multiple foam covers helping a lot, and then used EQ to fix the rest. For me this meant cutting almost 10 levels on Fiio’s EQ from the 1 kHz slider – I knew it was this range simple because of the sensitivity I had to vocals (normally the one thing I look for – now I needed to cut them – new ground for me!).

    Once I had done this, plus balanced out some of the other frequencies, the Alphas were fantastic, and I’m still listening to them now, over three hours into typing the review.

    Rather than do my usual sections in sound, I’ll simply say with the EQ applied and foams fitted, I’m still finding the vocals quite forward, but a much nicer balance now without the stridency. Bass is fantastic, reaches relatively deep (unheard of for most earbuds) and has good speed and texture.

    There is plenty of detail, sufficient for enjoyment without being to glaring. I would say with the configuration I’m using though – DUNUs Titan still has better balance, and more natural clarity.

    On the sound stage front, I was expecting overly expansive staging, but the Alpha is surprisingly intimate. I think this is due to the very forward mid-range. The Titan is much more expansive and airy. The Alpha for me is richer, fuller and darker (again – take into account the adjustment via EQ and foam covers). To me – the Alpha sounds more like a slightly expansive IEM rather than an open earbud.

    As far as genre goes – I’ve pretty much enjoyed the Alpha with everything I’ve listened to but particularly Pop and EDM (the bass is pretty good). It was excellent in the new configuration with Pearl Jam – but I would still need to play around with EQ just a little more, as I still don’t have Vedder’s voice quite 100% - close but not perfect.

    AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

    The Alpha is an interesting earbud. It is pretty easy to drive but despite its high sensitivity and low impedance you may want to consider amplification if you are using a weak source and do need to apply subtractive EQ. For my part, I’m running at around 45/120 on the new X3 and there is plenty of headroom. Most people won’t need to add additional amplification, and IMO doesn’t add anything to the overall sonics.

    RESPONSE TO EQ?

    As outlined above, I heavily EQ’d the Alpha and am very glad I did. It allowed me time with a very enjoyable earbud which before the EQ I was unable to listen to for long periods. For the record – my current EQ (and it isn’t quite right yet) involved me putting all 10 sliders at +6, then cutting 500 kHz to about +4, 1 kHz to -2, 2kHz to 1-, and 4,8, and 16 kHz in a gentle rise back toward +1. Radical, yep I know. Just remember though, this is due to my personal issues with fit, YMMV.

    DUNU ALPHA 1 - SUMMARY

    The DUNU Alpha is an incredibly innovative design, well built, and technically capable earbud. I continue to be amazed with how the engineers at DUNU are constantly able to think outside the square, and I genuinely think they have come up with something special with the Alpha 1.

    If you get the right fit, you can look forward to a rich and full sound signature with really excellent bass impact and texture (for an earbud), quite forward vocals, and a slightly relaxed treble – which doesn’t harm the detail or clarity at all.

    If you don’t get the right fit, and are open to EQing, the Alpha is still a very capable earbud, and can be tuned to take out any nasty peaks which remain from the less optimum fit.

    I would be very interested to hear from anyone else who has tried the Alpha though, as it does interest me to see if I am just unlucky in my personal anatomy – or if this is a wider issue that perhaps DUNU could work on for an Alpha 2. If it is fixable OOTB – then I’d definitely be at the front of the line to try it out.

    I've given the Alpha 1 3.5 stars for this review. I have the feeling if I had been able to achieve an ideal fit, the rating would have been a lot higher.

    Once again I’d like to thank Vivian at DUNU and Vic for giving me this wonderful opportunity.

    RECOMMENDATIONS TO DUNU

    Personally I’d suggest dialing back the midrange just a little – because even with my EQ (and love of vocals), I’m still finding the Alpha extremely forward. Also – a very easy fix for both comfort and seal would be to include some thicker sponge-foam covers – maybe even double or triple the current thickness. This could give another dimension to tweaking the sound whilst also aiding overall comfort, and may even negate someone like me having to use EQ.


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    1. View previous replies...
    2. HiFiChris
      @Brooko

      Hi Paul,

      how did you manage to apply the foam covers? Did you install the thin silicone rings first and pulled the foam covers over then or how did you do it?

      Thanks in advance
      HiFiChris, Nov 14, 2015
    3. Brooko
      Hi Chris - unfortunately I no longer have them.  They were part of a larger tour, and they returned to Australia after I was finished.  I'm pretty sure the foams were on by themselves though - no silicone rings.
      Brooko, Nov 16, 2015
    4. HiFiChris
      Hi Paul, thanks for the reply.
      After about 2 hours, I managed to install the foam covers. Surprisingly, they gave a very full-bodied, bassy and warm sound (not my personal go-to sound). For me, the thick silicone rings ("Balance/Musical") bring the subjectively best sound (with very flat lows (only 1 dB more lower ground-tone than the ER-4S), no edginess in the upper mids). But except for the foam and thick silicone tips, the others did not deliver the best experience (audible edginess in the upper mids).
      Generally, the mids will definitely be too much for many (not for me though, I am quite adaptable). While I can say for myself that I like the Alpha 1, I guess they won't suit most people's preference. I think these are extremely capable earbuds, so I'd appreciate an Alpha 2 with dialed back midrange, but an overall identical signature (probably better upper treble extension would be nice as well).

      Though, they are extremely fit- and seal-dependent (probably a side-effect of the BA driver in a more or less open sound field) and will only deliver a smooth experience if they fit well.


      Anyway, I see that we have overall more or less the same thoughts regarding these earbuds.
      HiFiChris, Nov 16, 2015

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