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Universal Fit item created by ranjanis, May 31, 2011
Pros - Good build quality with beautiful packaging and great accessories
Cons - Better sound quality can be found elsewhere
I am writing this in the perspective of the general consumer who does not use an amplifier and with mediocre sources such as the computer. Also, this review will try to cover as many genres as possible to show how the IEM covers each genre.
The packaging is very professionally done. I think it really shows the class of the product. It gives the Ares a high class feel, and makes you feel it is worth much more than you paid for.
The outer cover slips out to reveal a black inner box with the word DUNU in front. This adds to the high class feel of the product.
The box is held closed with the use of magnets, which is quite cool, as it is easy to open. Opening up the packaging, you can see the Ares along with the with the glossy clamshell case. The presentation reminds me of a necklace in a jewelry box. The presentation is just high class from start to finish.
Underneath the plastic covering is where the other accessories are kept.
What you first get is 7 pairs of tips. 1 of the tips is attached to the Ares itself. There are 3 pairs of narrow tips in S/M/L, another 3 pairs of wide tips, again in S/M/L. In addition, there is a pair of bi-flanges as well. Well, there are many tips included, which is good. However, sometimes I just wish that they have included a few pairs of foam tips as well.
In addition, there are 3 IEM cases inside as well. The first one is the glossy clamshell case. The glossy clamshell case is just beautiful. The second case is a faux leather drawstring case. This case reminds me of the faux leather case that comes with the Koss PortaPro, only smaller. The final case is a velvet case with magnetic metal buttons. This case is also pretty classy to me, though not as classy as the glossy clamshell case to me. I think three cases for one single IEM is a bit excessive, but for the price, quite good having three cases for your personal use.
The first time I saw it in a picture, it really looked like a more rounded copy of the Monster Turbine Pro Gold. However, looking at it in person, the Ares really looks beautiful. It is made of metal and feels nicely polished, shining brightly under the lights. Red and blue rings in the middle of the Ares make it easy to identify left or right. It might be more difficult to identify in the dark, but who wears IEMs in the dark anyway?
The L/R splitter is made of metal, a departure from the plastic I see in many IEMs.
The cable slider is also made of metal, and flush with the splitter. I would say it is a really classy implementation by DUNU.
There is a cable tie between the splitter and the jack. This cable tie allows users to tie their Ares more neatly for storage without searching around for things to fasten them together. I feel this is a great innovation in DUNU’s part.
The 3.5mm jack at the end is angled at 45 degrees. I feel this design brings the best of both worlds from the straight 3.5mm and 90 degree 3.5mm jack, offering flush insertion of the IEM into some recessed earphone jacks while offering some of the compactness of the 90 degree jack. I like this implementation, but overall I still prefer Soundmagic’s implementation of the 90 degree jack.
Build quality is excellent. There are hardly any loose parts, and the whole IEM itself looks solid. I am unsure whether the gold layer on the IEM itself will last, but overall I feel the Ares will be able withstand some abuse and last a few years.
Comfort and microphonics
The Ares is made of metal, so it feels heavier than most other IEMs. When wearing cord down, you can feel the weight of the metal pulling down the IEM, so it is not as comfortable. Microphonics are also there when worn cord down.
Wearing cord up, over the ear is much more comfortable. The weight of the IEM does not feel like it is pulling down the IEM anymore. Microphonics are almost gone when cord up. Personally I find cord up to be much more comfortable.
Because this uses a Balanced Armature transducer, there are no visible vents around. This means that it should be more isolating than most dynamics around. Isolation is great, since the tips can be inserted quite deeply, but do not expect Etymotic-like isolation. My favorite tips would be bi-flanges since it gives me a better seal, especially when worn over the ears.
Now come the most important part, the sound of the Ares.
For testing, I would use a computer with integrated sound to show what a general user has to expect. The music used will be 320kbps MP3, FLAC or WAV.
The bass rolls off slightly at the extreme end. The bass is quick and punchy. Bass speed is faster than dynamics but slower than some armatures. Overall, it is not a bass heavy IEM for bassheads, but bass should be sufficient for most people.
The midrange offers good clarity and resolves a good amount of detail. Mids are slightly forward; however it is slightly less forward than the PL-30. It is slightly warm but less warm next to more bass heavy sets.
The treble also rolls off slightly at the extreme end. It is presented in a more laid back manner, not harsh and sibilant on most tracks.
Soundstage is about average, with good width and average depth, with some air. It works well with lighter tracks, but might become slightly congested on more dense tracks.
Now the sound of the Ares will be tested on various types of genres, mainly ballad-like slow songs, Asian Pop, American Pop, Rock, Metal, Contemporary R&B, Electronic, Trance, Classical and Country.
Ballad-like slow songs
Music used: Good Person by T-ara
It is not weird that I started with an Asian song, for I am Asian myself. This song is a mainly vocal song, with a sad piano progression as the main instrumental behind.
The slightly mid-forward signature allows the vocals to stand out quite well. The vocals are warm and have a good body to it. The instruments are a bit closer than a more mid-forward IEM, say a PL-50.
Music used: Goodbye Baby by Miss A
This is a typical K-Pop song, but it is well-produced, thanks to Park Jin Young who also produced songs for American artistes such as Will Smith, Mase and Cassie. This song is mainly pop with rapping elements in between.
The mid-forward signature of the Ares allows vocals to be presented strongly. Bass in this song is quick and punchy, and does not have the rumble found in most dynamic based IEMs.
Music used: Baby by Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber has a large share of both fans and anti-fans. However, I think this song would be a good gauge of a typical American Pop song today.
I think the mid-forward signature works well with his vocals, providing a good amount of body and clarity. The bass is quick and punchy, though I feel the bass is slightly slower than other armature based IEMs. Ludacris’ rap is great as well; the IEM makes his rap sound clear and quick. The instrumental is brought slightly forward as well.
Music used: The Pretender by Foo Fighters
This music has a good amount of guitar riffs and drum beats, coupled with a powerful voice. It should be a good gauge of how rock songs will perform on the Ares.
I would say Rock is not a strong suite for the Ares. The instruments are brought quite forward, a bit too forward to my liking I would say. There is also a problem of congestion, as the tracks become denser the Ares starts to become more congested. Otherwise, drum kicks are good and instrumentals provide a good amount of power.
Music used: The Only by Static X
This song is loud, coupled with heavy guitar riffs and solos, drum beats and synthesizers. I believe this to be a good gauge for a metal song.
Like rock, metal is also not a strong suite of the Ares. The mid-forward signature does bring out the vocals, but also brought forward the instrumentals. The problem of congestion is also seen here. However, like metal, drum kicks are still quite good and the guitar riffs do have a good amount of power to it.
Music used: Confessions Part II by Usher
I think Usher’s voice is slick here, one of the best R&B voices I come to enjoy.
The voice is presented very smoothly and clearly, warm with a good amount of body. I think the sound signature works well with R&B songs like these. Instrumentals do not creep too far forward here. Bass is quick on impact, without affecting the smoothness of the mids.
Music used: Kalimba by Mr Scruff
This is the sample music from Windows 7. This music has a good mix of electronic beats along with symphonic tunes.
This sounds good on the Ares. The symphonic tunes are warm and have good body, sounding full and powerful. The electronic parts are detailed and clear. Bass is quick and not too impactful or overbearing.
Music used: Urban Train by Tiesto
I think Tiesto is one of the best trance DJs in the early 2000s. Urban Train is one of the nice works by Tiesto.
The instrumentals have good amount of detail, sounding powerful. Instruments are slightly forward. Bass has some impact here but it is quick, though not as quick as the dynamics.
Music used: Symphony 40 in G Minor by Mozart
I think this piece is familiar to many, one of Mozart’s better known works.
The Ares work great on the Ares as well. The string instruments sound full and have a hint of warmness to it. The music is clear and detailed yet smooth. I would say the Ares does really well at Classical.
Music used: Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus
Billy Ray Cyrus is one of the people who spread country music worldwide.
The Ares presents his voices smoothly. The drum kicks are great and the guitar riffs are not too overpowering.
Best with: Less congested genres like Ballads, Pop and Classical
Not so good with: More congested genres like Rock and Metal
While providing decent sound for its price, I believe there are other choices out there with better sound, like the Meelec A151. Much of its value lies in the packaging, the build quality and some of the innovations in the Ares. It is a good choice for people who would like a slightly warm mids with a good amount of clarity. The Ares are for you if you want a decent, slightly warm IEM with great build quality.
Pros - Top Tier Build Quality, Great packaging, Great Accessories
Cons - A bit expensive for the sound you get
First off, I'd like to thank the folks at DUNU-TopSound for providing me with samples to review
Up for review today are a pair of balanced armature based IEMs. Priced solidly within the bracket I would consider “mid-range”, these have a great deal of competition right out of the gate and one has to wonder whether or not DUNU’s newcomers can stand up to that competition. For my full review, read on past the break.
Packaging and Accessories
Both IEMs are packaged almost identically to the Trident, which is a very good thing, as I really like the packaging of the Trident. The packaging does a great job of keeping the contents safe and is presented very nicely, even if it is rather frivolous at the end of the day. The two unsurprisingly differ in terms of accessories In addition to the leather(ette) drawstring pouch included with the Trident and requisite additional sets of eartips, the Ares and Crius both include a nice clamshell hard case with an inner pocket which is bigger and more elaborate than those from MEElectronics, which I’ve taken a liking to, without being too big to be considered “pocketable”. Strangely though, the Ares also comes with another case, this one featuring a (pseudo?)suede exterior and a magnetic clasp. Very classy.
Design and Build Quality
The first time I saw these, I couldn’t help but think of Monster’s IEMs, specifically the Turbine Pro Gold (Ares) and Jamz (Crius). Of course, you’ll be able to tell the Ares and Crius apart from their respective Monster counterparts but it’s obvious that the design of these IEMs was inspired by Monster’s design.
It’s hard not to see the Ares and Crius as highly derivative given the obvious similarities to Monster’s designs but this doesn’t bother me as I only care if an IEM’s design is functional and comfortable and in this case, they are. the housings of the Ares and Crius are entirely metal with nice mesh filters, functional L/R indicators in the form of blue and red rings around the housings (respectively) and feel very solid and durable without being overly heavy.
Extending down from the housings of both are short and decent strain reliefs, those of the Ares being longer than those on the Crius, and a cable that feels identical to that of the cheaper Trident which is a tad rubbery for my tastes but seems durable enough. The metal Y-Splitter and cable cinches are a very nice touch both in function and form and the 45 degree 3.5mm jacks are decent enough, though I would prefer a standard 90-degree right angle plug. On the whole, despite the style of the Ares and Crius, the two of them are very solid feeling IEMs and should last a decently long time.
Comfort and Isolation
Being a fairly conventional straight design, the Ares is very comfortable to my ears with the stock tips. As said above, the housings are solid without being heavy so I never experienced any discomfort or ear fatigue in my tests, even over fairly long periods. Being that these IEMs are balanced armature based and don’t feature any visible vents, isolation is expectedly higher than your average dynamic driver IEM. Microphonics weren’t an issue when worn over the ear but were present when worn cord down.
Featuring short and somewhat stubby housings, the Crius isn’t quite as comfortable to me in my tests. Fitting the stock tips on the short but surprisingly wide nozzle was a chore and even once they were fitted, I never felt like I got a complete seal. I could feel the housings against the opening of my ear canals, making for a very shallow insertion. Personally, I needed to fit these with longer (and larger) bi-flange tips to get a full and comfortable seal with the Crius. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Upon getting the seal that I was looking for, isolation was, much like the Ares, above average. Microphonics were present when wearing them cord down but weren’t an issue when worn over the ear.
Burn in: Both of these IEMs have been given upwards of 100 hours of burn in time. No significant changes were heard.
Starting on the low end, the Ares is surprisingly full and rounded for an earphone based around a balanced armature. Bass is tight and punchy, typical of armatures, but isn’t as quick. It makes the Ares sound similar to a dynamic driver based IEM, which is interesting. Extension is decent and Make no mistake, this is not the earphone for bass heads, not by a long shot but the bass presence and presentation should be enough for everyone else.
Midrange presence and detail are about average for this price range. Nonetheless, it sounds a bit recessed to my ears. Vocals aren’t as prominent as I’d like and instruments seem to be situated farther back than I’ve come to expect. Don’t get me wrong, the Ares doesn’t skimp on the detail and does present notes clearly and cleanly, just in a more relaxed manner.
Treble is presented similarly to the midrange in that it’s relaxed and easy going. There are no unpleasant spikes to my ears but the Ares does a good job of presenting the treble in a sufficiently airy and sparkly fashion while rolling off smoothly at the highest levels. Fans of prominent treble with a bit more bite will probably prefer the more treble happy Crius. I, on the other hand, like a relaxed approach to the high end of the audible spectrum.
The presentation is good, with a nicely spacious soundstage and decent imaging performance. On the whole, the Ares is a warm and smooth sounding earphone, not unlike many similarly priced dynamic IEMs.
The low end of the Crius is typical of balanced armatures in that it’s tight, controlled and punchy. It gives up rumble and roundedness to most dynamic drivers I’ve used but it delivers enough in terms of quantity to satisfy. It’s a clean and deftly handled bass that doesn’t offend, even if it might not excite either.
The midrange is a stark contrast to the Ares in that it is more forward and lively. The way the Crius interprets detail reminds me a bit of the CC51P, in that it almost sounds, hyper-detailed. Of course, the Crius isn’t on the same level as the CC51P (and I wouldn’t expect it to) but it carries a similar bite across the frequency range, extending into the treble. This also means the Crius is prone to some sibilance which is absent on the Ares but it’s not anything that isn’t manageable with a little EQ or, perhaps some Comply foam tips. Extension is about the same as the Ares, which is to say it’s slightly above average.
In terms of presentation, the Crius is slightly airier than the Ares, though a bit more enclosed based solely on the soundstange and imaging performance, which, like most BAs I’ve used, is good. I can’t help but feel as though the Crius sounds a bit “metallic” on the whole. Not necessarily a bad thing, but something worth considering.
The two of these are, at least to my ears, two sides of the same coin. On one side, you have a slightly warm, mid and bass driven sound while on the other; you have a mid and treble centered presentation that’s more on the neutral, perhaps a bit cold, side of the spectrum. Listening to them, they seem balanced towards each other’s deficiencies. The Ares is soft and mellow in its presentation whereas the Crius is more hard and sharp. Both are technically sound and surprisingly (in favor of the less expensive Crius) feature nearly equal amounts of detail overall but focus on presenting different aspects of music in different ways.
This makes it a bit difficult to recommend the Ares over the Crius on a purely technical level but of course, different people prefer different kinds of sounds. If you’re the type who enjoys a warmer, more relaxed presentation, the Ares is for you. If you like edgy, sharp sound, you’ll be better suited with the Crius.
The Ares and Crius are available now for around $75 - $80 and $67 - $73, respectively. Now, this is where things get a bit difficult. The Ares and Crius performed about evenly in my tests and I don’t feel as though one has a clear advantage over the other and both are tuned toward different users, as I’ve said before. That being said, in terms of sheer value, the Crius seems like an easier choice, given that it’s the cheaper of the two earphones but in this market, things like value aren’t cut and dry, especially when you’re dealing with IEMs with different sound signatures.
To be honest, I think there are some IEMs out there that are a better pick overall, such as the MEElectronics A151, one of the best sub $100 BA based IEMs I’ve heard but I don’t think anyone would be remiss in picking up either of DUNU’s midrange BA IEMs. The Ares and Crius are both enjoyable and technically sound IEMs in their own right and well suited to people who want a durable, good sounding upgrade from budget IEMs.
This Review Was Re-Published From My Site, Musical Musings
Pros - Looks, build quality, and packaging.
Cons - Sound Quality falls just short of some competitors
This review is written from the perspective of the Dunu Ares stock, no external amp or DAC, to give readers and idea what to expect if they buy these without an amp/DAC. I want to thank Rocky at Dunu, also known as Topsound, for the sample to review!
First thoughts that came to my head was "professional." These headphones came in fantastic packaging that made the A151, RE0 and E30 look like toy headphones. It's not that the others had bad packaging, it's just that Dunu has held nothing back when presenting their flagship IEMs.
When you first open the carefully packed box your greeted to a white box with Chinese writing on it with the Ares huge on the front. Dunu's logo appears in the upper left with a website url and on the bottom it says in English, "Ares." On one side of the box a simply profile outline of the IEM and a UPC is shown, on the other side pictures of the accessories, cables, the 45 degree angled plug and cable splitter are shown with little descriptions of each. On the back a list of product features is displayed in English and Chinese along with specifications. There's also what I believe to be an authentication sticker on the back, but it's in Chinese so I'm unable to read.
This is all with just the cardboard sleeve surrounding the box. Once that is taken off you're greeted with a very sleek minimalist black matte cardboard box with Dunu's logo and website only shown. The box opens like a book, with a side hanging down on the right being held nice and snug by magnets. This is a beautiful touch. When opened you're greeted by the beautiful Dunu Ares IEMs in a soft velvet covered black plastic mold with one of the three carrying pouches provided. I personally find this one to be a bit gaudy and aimed more at girls with it's shiny look, but it provides decent protection at the very least.
When the velvet plastic mold is removed you're greeted with two other carrying pouches, one a soft pleather brown pouch that looks rather classy with a small Dunu logo and tag, it uses a string to tighten/loosen it. The other pouch is made of velvet and uses magnetic metal buttons with a Dunu logo appearing on the gold button. There's also a Dunu tag. Also included is a set of S/M/L Mushroom silicon tips, another pair or flatter mushroom shaped tips in S/M/L and a set of silicon bi-flanges.
This is hands down the best packaging I've seen in a pair of IEMs under $100, Dunu isn't holding back anything with it's flagship IEM.
Design and Build Quality:
The Dunu Ares are obviously designed to look like the Monster Turbine Pro series, which is going to either turn people off or make them want to try these. Either way I must say pictures do these no justice, they look beautiful. Each IEM has a thin color ring around them, blue for left, red for right. On the back of the IEM a small glossy Dunu logo is present and in the small concave of the gold metal where the tip goes on you'll notice in small print the word "Ares." I thought that was a very nice touch to make these seem high quality. They have a rather wide nozzle which I personally find a con though, it makes it hard for deep insertion, though these aren't exactly shallow. With the semi-shallow insertion design I had some slight trouble getting a good seal, but I did after some maneuvering, The cable splitter is a nice touch, it's made of metal and says Dunu on it. The plug is a rather odd design though, rather than go with a traditional L shape or a straight plug, Dunu chose to go with a 45 degree angled plug. I would have preferred a straight plug myself, I'm not sure what Dunu's thinking behind that was, but it does feel like it's going to hold up so that's a plus.
It's obvious I think they look good, Dunu did a great job in the looks department, but what about their build quality? The IEMs themselves are built with some sort of metal, I'm not exactly sure what, but they feel hefty and seem like they're put together well. The added weight, heavier than any other IEM I've ever used, caused me to worry about them potentially falling out when wearing, but thankfully they are in pretty securely. The cable isn't anything spectacular, there's slight microphonics when worn hanging down, as they're designed. This definitely makes them less than ideal, when added with the weight, for working out. The plug seems sturdy and well made, my only qualm with it is the 45 degree angle.
Overall these are solidly built headphones, the looks are fantastic and they seem well built. I don't see them coming apart anytime soon and outside of some minor qualms I would recommend these on build quality as being above average to comparably priced IEMs.
For my tests I've listened to these personally for 20 hours in various situations while letting them play though my computer with various music for an additional 20 hours. There's at least 40 hours of burn-in on these.
At first I was rather unimpressed with these, especially after comparing them to the A151 and the E30, both excellent choices for the price. After some listening though the sound has been rubbing off on me. The mids and highs are a bit grainy but they have a full sound to them. The bass isn't for bass heads, it doesn't have huge impact, nor huge extension, but it's adequate for most listeners. If I had to place it in between two similarly priced IEMs I'd say it has less bass than the A151 in quality and quantity, but more bass than the RE0, about the same quality of it. Overall these headphones have a decently full, lush and rather balanced sound to them that works for many genres. It doesn't have the clarity of similarly priced competitors though.
The sound stage is what's to be expected of an IEM, nothing fantastic, but nothing sounds really congested. As for isolation with no music on and a decent seal I would estimate I can hear about 60% of what I normally do. When music is playing I can only hear loud noises.
Here's a per song analysis of the Dunu Ares:
Kanye West - Blame Game
I know this album has flaws in its mastering, but it's an album and song I'm familiar with. I wanted to see how the Ares faired with hip-hop so I chose this. The bass is present, but not overbearing, the mids and highs are definitely more present. The vocals sound warm and full, the piano sounds a little grainy, but overall I'm pleased with the sound.
Lady GaGa - Alejandro
Yes, I love some GaGa and I wanted to see how the Ares would handle pop music, something fast with a lot going on so I chose this. The violin sounds a bit flat in the beginning but GaGa's voice sounds wonderful before the drums come in. The drums have a slightly artificial sound to them, but overall they sound good. Her voice though sounds wonderful as she sings. There's a lot of sounds in the background, I can hear them decently, but they aren't "sparkling" like they do on the A151. The synth sounds warm and full though, I like how the vocals and synth sounds on this a lot.
James Blake - Limit To Your Love
I chose this because of the strong extended bass. The piano and vocals sound great, but the bass is a bit slow and doesn't extend as well as the E30 or A151. The impact definitely isn't there either, I'm not feeling the bass. I hear it well, it has decent extension, but not what this song can put out. These definitely aren't for bass heads.
John Mayer - Daughters
I chose this song to see how the Ares sounded with an acoustic guitar and singer/song writer music. The guitar sounds a bit artificial, but full. The vocals definitely are a bit grainy, even on John Mayer's hushed voice. The shaker in the back is easily heard though and sounds well.
Between the Buried and Me - More of Myself to Kill
For the metal heads, I chose this song to see how the Ares handled fast drums, harsh vocals and heavily distorted guitars. Unfortunately I can't say these are really fantastic for metal. They sound a bit flat overall, taking out some of the aggression I expect in this song. They just don't have the strong mids to bring out the guitars and vocals and give them the impact they need.
Overall these headphones are hit and miss. They are built and packaged better than most IEMs for the price, if you're looking for an IEM with good looks and decent sound then definitely consider these. On sound alone though it's a tough market in the sub $100 IEM range and I feel that there are better choices. I do praise Dunu though on leaving a good first impression on me, I'm have much confidence in their ability to not only make fantastic looking IEMs, but to make a decent sound at an affordable price.