DUNU Studio SA6

General Information

GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz - 40 kHz (HI-RES certified)
  • Impedance: 60 Ω at 1 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 113 ± 1 dB at 1 kHz
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: < 0.5% at 1 kHz
DRIVER CONFIGURATION
  • Bass (2): Sonion AcuPass Vented Dual Woofer
  • Midrange (2): Knowles Custom Midrange Driver (×2)
  • Treble (2): Knowles Custom Dual Tweeter
TUNING MODES
  • Default Signature (Switch Position ‘I’)
  • Atmospheric Immersion (Switch Position ‘ON’)
HOUSING MATERIAL
  • Shell: German Nice-Fit Hand-Poured UV Acrylic Resin
  • Faceplate: High-Grade Stabilized Wood
CABLE SPECIFICATIONS
  • Wire Material: 8 Core, High-Purity, Monocrystalline, Silver-Plated Copper
  • Length: 1.2 ± 0.1 m
  • Connector: 2-Pin (0.78 mm)
  • Plug Connector: Patented DUNU Quick-Switch Modular Plug System
  • Included Plug Termination(s):
    4.4 mm TRRS Balanced, 3.5 mm TRS Single-Ended, 2.5 mm TRRS Balanced

Latest reviews

SA6 Review
Pros: Beautiful wood shells
Great fit
Cable with switchable connectors
Great sound resolution and tonality
Cons: Switch seems unnecessary
sub-bass isn't strong enough for my preference, but its fine!



The Studio series is a new lineup of multi-balanced armature (BA) in-ear monitors from the Chinese brand Dunu. If you have not heard of Dunu, they are not a new company like most of the Chinese brands that get hyped up on a weekly basis. Dunu has been around for 26 years and have been a known name in the portable audio world for some time. I believe the Studio series, however, is their first foray into an all-BA setup. Their lineup up until this point featured dynamic driver and hybrid (dynamic driver + BA) product forms and the Studio series changes it up with no DD this time around.

It was brought to my attention that 7-8 years ago, Dunu had a custom monitor called the DC4 which was a 4-BA CIEM, so this perhaps makes the Studio Series the first universal all-BA IEMs. Thanks for pointing this out Redcarmoose!

The first of the series was the SA3, which features 3-BA drivers and unfortunately I have not had a chance to get my ears on them yet. This newer set is the SA6, which features a 6-BA setup as the name implies, and is as follows:

Bass: Sonion AcuPass Vented Dual Woofer
Midrange: Knowles Custom Midrange Driver (×2)
Treble: Knowles Custom Dual Tweeter

Before I move further, I do like to thank Tom Tsai from DUNU for preparing this review sample unit to me for a chance to audition them ahead of the US release, however at the time of writing this, they are available now in many US retailers such as Musicteck, Audio 46, and Linsoul.




Unboxing
The review sample SA6 I received did not come in a box, however came secured in the blue leather zippered carrying case that has the brand name DUNU etched into the top. The cable included is a silver-plated copper 8-core cable that is various shades of silver and gray and wound together to make a nice, braid that looks thick, but is actually easy to handle and can be bundled but not get tangled or become too stiff. The connectors on this set is surprisingly 2-pin connectors. Other Dunu products I have tried have used mmcx. The source end is a silver variant of the patented Dunu quick-switch modular plug system, and this unit came with 3.5mm, as well as 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced modular plugs.





The SA6 shell is a nice small-ish custom-like fit and I found it was very comfortable to wear. My wife also tried wearing it and really enjoyed the fit as well. The faceplate on the SA6 series is a very cool stabilized wood and acrylic resin.

Stabilized wood, for those who may not know, is dried wood that has been embedded with resin and heated and heat cured in a vacuum to harden the resin and bonds it to the wood. The result is a very cool looking art piece that is part plastic and part wood, and the added color for the resin can make the grains glow.

Moving back to the shell again, Dunu slipped in a toggle dip switch on the rear side of the IEM shell. This switch flips on "Atmospheric" mode and switches off to it's default tuning. The "On/Atmospheric" tuning seems to add a gentle bass and lower mid-range boost making the IEM a little more warm and mid-focused, but I'll discuss a bit more in the sound section next.




Sound Impressions
The Dunu SA6 has a balanced sound signature that has a slight bass bump, and a smooth mid-range and treble. I don't really consider it neutral, as it does have a bit of coloration, but it's only slight. The general sound is more intimate, but not claustrophobic sounding, and has a good amount of resolution and sound separation.




The low-end of the SA6 has a bass shelf starting around 300Hz that rises gently up 7 dB above the mid-range. This is the same no matter the switch position, however there is a slight, very slight, bass boost with the switch on, but its really not a big change of about 1-2dB. The bass has a small amount of rumble and has a little amount of slam and impact. It does have a slight mid-bass focus over sub-bass, but only slight, and I find it is a good bass response for many or all genres.

The Sonion driver used is vented, meaning that it does use additional air to increase the driver movement to create a larger bass response, but this does make it sound slightly less resolving than if it were unvented. In practice, I find the bass response to have some decent decay amount, while also have a little bit of tactile response. It's not powerful and well-textured as a good dynamic driver, but it is solid for the price range and being a multi-BA set.

While the coherency isn't the best I heard, it's quite good. There's little disjointed sounds in this product, and I think that helps create a nice robust mid-range that is evenly tuned, though some may find the upper-mids not risen enough, as it only 5 dB above 1KHz and 7 dB above the rest of the mid-range, as this unit does have an earlier rise to the treble and pinna compensation area of the frequency response curve.



As I've listened to more and more IEMs and switch out genres, I find that my personal target compensation for my listening enjoyment has seen a smaller and reduced amount of rise in this upper-midrange and presence region. This takes away a more forward sounding female voice, and also reduces the guitar attacks, but I find it presents a more natural and less fatiguing presence that creates perhaps a more open soundstage in the process. The SA6 hits pretty well for me.

There is a big dip in the lower treble, and it's eerily similar to the qdc Anole VX, which I've owned and still love. In fact, the majority of the mid-range and treble hits the VX curve quite closely, with the major difference being the lower mid-range and bass region, which is much warmer on the VX. Now that said, I don't find the same glaring tonality issues with the SA6 as I do on the VX. I believe this might have to do with the bigger spike up between 7-9KHz on the VX, which isn't quite as drastic of a bump on the SA6.

In this aspect, I tried to recreate some of the sibilance issues I had on the VX and some of the songs I found with odd timbre, and I wasn't able to find the traces of sibilance in those pop songs like Tegan & Sara's Boyfriend, or Norah Jones' Seven Years. The SA6 doesn't have the sharper and edgier tone of the VX.

I really enjoyed listening the SA6 with various genres, however it felt most comfortable with rock music for me. No matter if it was alternative or grunge music like Mother Love Bone's Chloe Dancer or The Smashing Pumpkin's Disarm, or if it was singer-songwriter music like First Aid Kit or Sondre Lerche, I found the SA6 to have a nice natural sound that had just enough tactile bass and a smooth mid-range to sound very pleasant. Yes, it's a tad soft on the lower end, but I'm not complaining too much.

Comparisons
The Dunu SA6 is priced at $550 USD and with that it'll probably be compared directly with it's hybrid sibling, the Dunu DK3001 Pro. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this review, I loaned my set out and can only give auditory memory impressions which should only be taken with a grain of salt. I remember the DK3001 Pro to sound a bit warmer and more laid-back, but with nice tonality. I think, from memory again, that the SA6 improves upon the DK3001 Pro in resolution, imaging, and soundstage, while competing head to head otherwise, despite not having a dynamic driver to handle bass. I am fairly confident that I enjoyed my time with the SA6 more so than my time with the $479 DK3001 Pro, though I did like that one as well.




Another comparison I think people may bring up is how it competes with the Mini MEST, which is priced at $599 and is the more budget-friendly sibling of the popular MEST unit from Unique Melody. In this case, these two are multi-BA IEMs, however the Mini MEST also includes a bone conductor driver. I found the Mini to have a warmer sound signature and a brighter treble response, but lacks great treble extension. The Mini's sound signature is more V-shaped, while the SA6 is a more U-shaped sound. I find the SA6 to be more preferred overall for my personal preferences.




The popular Moondrop Blessing 2 has finally returned back to me after nearly 9 months on tour around the continent. I finally got a chance to re-listen to it recently and compared it to the SA6. With the Blessing 2, I think that the upper mid-range, and treble, are both shoutier and brighter than the SA6, while the overall sound is leaner in its presentation. The Blessing 2 bass is a little more punchy, but doesn't quite have the overall warmth and resolution that the SA6 does. I found both are equally resolving across the board however, but the SA6 is less fatiguing and has better treble extension.






Wrap-Up
The DUNU SA6 is another solid product from this Chinese brand and one of its first entries into multi-BA IEMs. I think they did a great job with this one, from the tuning, to the nice fitting shell geometry, and to the stunning stabilized wood faceplates with each set being unique. The accessories are also a wonderful addition to the package with a nice case and cable with swappable plugs.

This is one of those sets that I think is done well across the board and I think can be easily enjoyed, but of course, this is just my opinion, and also my wife's, who quickly took this review sample from me the day I got them and listened to them for several days before reluctantly giving them back so I can finish this review.

The few negatives I have on this set are pretty minimal. I think the tuning switches are unnecessary and don't change the tonality enough to warrant the additional labor and parts cost, and that it doesn't quite have a strong sub-bass performance, but those aren't deal-breakers for me. This is a good set, and recommend at least considering this one if you're looking for a $500-ish multi-BA set.

Last edited:
Saumya Parikh
Saumya Parikh
hi! thanks for this review, it's quite informative and i'm very tempted to buy these.. you've also reviewed the thieaudio monarch and clairvoyance, and while i understand that those are at a different price point and driver configs, i was curious how the sa6 compares to those?
DUNU Studio SA6 In-Ear Monitor Review
Pros: A Carefully Tuned Mid-Fi-Masterpiece
Smooth Yet Detailed/Warm Where It Matters
Included 2.5mm, 3.5mm & 4.4mm #8 Core
SPC Modular Cable System
Existing As A One-Of-A-Kind $549.00 Value
Cons: Nothing I Have Discovered So Far?
DUNU Studio SA6
Friday September 25th, 2020

D6FD3852-866C-4DE5-9BE6-C9CD55C41814.jpeg

CA0B9055-9997-49FC-9BCC-13CB1B608DD4.jpeg




GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz - 40 kHz (HI-RES certified)
  • Impedance: 60 Ω at 1 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 113 ± 1 dB at 1 kHz
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: < 0.5% at 1 kHz
DRIVER CONFIGURATION
  • Bass (2): Sonion AcuPass Vented Dual Woofer
  • Midrange (2): Knowles Custom Midrange Driver (×2)
  • Treble (2): Knowles Custom Dual Tweeter
TUNING MODES
  • Default Signature (Switch Position ‘I’)
  • Atmospheric Immersion (Switch Position ‘ON’)
HOUSING MATERIAL
  • Shell: German Nice-Fit Hand-Poured UV Acrylic Resin
  • Faceplate: High-Grade Stabilized Wood
CABLE SPECIFICATIONS
  • Wire Material: 8 Core, High-Purity, Monocrystalline, Silver-Plated Copper
  • Length: 1.2 ± 0.1 m
  • Connector: 2-Pin (0.78 mm)
  • Plug Connector: Patented DUNU Quick-Switch Modular Plug System
  • Included Plug Termination(s):
    4.4 mm TRRS Balanced, 3.5 mm TRS Single-Ended, 2.5 mm TRRS Balanced



Hello!
Welcome IEM lovers. Well......here we are again, another review and another new shinny sparkling bobble. Colorful aren’t they! Garish or beautiful, art is in the eye of the beholder. And while DUNU did make a 4 BA CIEM (The DC4) way way back in 2012, they have never created a Universal full 6 BA attempt integrating 6 custom built BA drivers...............utilizing an integrated on the fly finger triggered immersion selector. :) I know you’ve been waiting your whole audiophile journey for an integrated-on-the-fly-finger-triggered-immersion-selector. You know.................for those times when you want immersion? So grab your interest and let’s take a look-see, shall we? Let’s try to decode the marketing jargon and get to the facts.......WHEW!

Sound Demo:
Band: Primal Fear
Song: I Will Be Gone

If someone asked me what the SA6 sounded like and wanted to try it; I’d insist on this single song. Why? Because first impressions are real, and I would want them to experience the SA6 playing the style of recording it does best. Speaking of best........I found the Studio SA6 to smooth out and open up at about 100 hours. Balanced armatures maybe don’t need burn-in but the crossover network may? If your still with me? Let’s continue!

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Anyway, this song showcases both vocals and a wonderfully recorded guitar. Such a display goes way out to the right and left delineating this IEMs special imaging and soundstage.

Even if they didn’t like Heavy Metal this is an emotional vocal ballad which if played on the correct IEM, does some tricks. Typically BA drivers can relay strings well, be it piano or guitar; the SA6 is the right up there with the best. Maybe this is because BA drivers are in a sense small metal vibrating strings/reeds? But the reason for this song choice would be the 1, 2, then 3 punch of a big kettledrum (Timpani) that hits around the one-minute-three-second mark. It’s the speed of the thunder claps and imaging way out in the soundstage.............that will be sure to get a smile. What truly hits home is the transient response which is defined here. So it’s easy..........about a minute in and the 1,2.....transient and they will be owned. The SA6 will own them that fast.

Now some parts of this sound demo are not fair. We purposely played a simple and emotional (vocal) piece. This technique goes back to the 1960s with audiophiles showing-off their new stereo with drum demonstration records. But the reality is that before the one minute mark the guitar was completely natural. The harmonic overtones and timbre were absolutely real-life. Not only that but the room reverb on the vocals was clear and distinct. What we want to learn about is the SA6 imaging and separation. We also want to explore the cool “hidden-then-surprise” bass transition that BAs will always do better than Dynamic Drivers.

Band: Yello
Song: Rush For Joe

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Well......after all that drama, something fun and adventurous. Here we are met with a bass tone that typically would demand the authority of DD to pull off. Yet because this is really well recorded.............this ends up a demo track to find out how-low-we-can-go. Many would think us brave to play a style of music that maybe we should avoid with such an IEM? Au contraire, we want to jump in and find out if this is truly an IEM for artsy EDM, and if it can actually make bass fun. This song also highlights a neat sampled violin orchestra voicing which again goes over well and explains why the imaging/separation is so very good here.

In Ending:
For me this process is actually pretty simple. This review is hazardously long.....................and the last thing I want to do is force you to read paragraphs about sound signature interpretations. In a nut-shell these two numbers encapsulate all the Studio SA6 is about. The bass character, the accurate and charming guitar overtones. They demo the vocal clarity-realism and placement in the mix. But most of all these two songs show the transient response at hand. The fact that if BAs are tuned well they can sound complete and do great sonic acrobatics. This would also be an experience which would show someone that a mid-fi $549.00 purchase could be fun and different.

"So to have the SA6 become a perfectly balanced and wonderfully responsive IEM from an Apple phone becomes the most important feature outside of Head-Fi. "


Further Notes On Soundstage Sound Character:
It’s a fact that while the SA6 soundstage is not the biggest in IEM land.....there is a rewarding quality about it that makes it seem way bigger than it is. Such a phenomenon will also not spread out a display way high, low......front or back; though you are not going to hear any complaints about it. Why? Because of the unique separation that just goes to outline and fill-in the imaging. The fact that we don’t have a background upper midrange backdrop but are left with a black clarity for cymbals and small quick tiny taps to sparkle and twinkle till they fade-away. It’s these little details which are enchanting and can be missed.

To land back grounded here, it’s noted that there can be somewhat of a tight congestion (mid-soundstage) within this tightness which other (more expensive) IEMs separate and delineate. So our landscape is very much like looking out across a panorama with noted thunder reverberations in the outer distance. It’s placement is probably very near, yet never feels like a wrongful vignette. Only upon comparisons would someone know that there is a slight myopic perspective at work in this display. Depending on the mix, this place can be a remembered and missed local, where the owner will want to find songs and find the SA6 to teleport back to.

At any rate, that far-off thunder in the distance and twinkle-cymbals up in-front can generate a thickness which ends up quite the illusion of reality. Of course matching song files and players will tailor the experience in character. In ending; true attempts of soundstaging and positioning seem to be parallel to what the music producer wanted? The fact that while not the biggest IEM soundstage exists, there is absolutely nothing created or subtracted here. An afternoon changing songs will attest to this clarity of placement, finding it purely created by the song file.

Who is DUNU anyway?

Starting as a consumer and professional IEM OEM supplier in 1994; DUNU became a recognized brand name all it’s own starting in 2006.

TopSound is the parent company of DUNU and a company incorporated in Taiwan. DUNU is a brand and company incorporated in China. Got that?

http://www.dunu-topsound.com/about.html


So even though the company has been a well established OEM supplier and known as DUNU in Asia; Head-Fi didn’t really take notice till October of 2013 with this single thread.
Post #1 of 35,472

DUNU has since made quite the name for itself at Head-Fi with IEM cables and Hybrid IEMs. In truth they make a wide assortment of IEMs but have never introduced a pure multi-BA UIEM until this month. In 2012 they did introduce the Dunu I 3C-S; a $49.00 single BA UIEM. For our Studio SA6 product perspective, we will only concern ourselves with a couple recently introduced DUNU IEMs.

beryllium.jpg

Beryllium = DUNU

There are only two audiophile IEM companies that create dynamic drivers with rolled-foil made from Beryllium and DUNU (with their LUNA) is one, along with Final Audio (with their A8000 IEM) being the other. Many manufacturers are advertising Beryllium, but use a process like PVD to coat the driver. DUNU introduced their prior DK4001 flagship (before the LUNA) with a PVD driver.

Materion Corporation is actually the foil diaphragm creator and the only producer of beryllium ore in the United States. DUNU designed the driver and paid for the tooling in the US then Materion stamped them out. Materion creates 90% of all this magic alloy in the world. The Spor Mountain area in Utah is currently the largest supplier of beryllium in the United States, with a proven 14,000 tons of beryllium reserves mined by open pit. That’s a lot of magic foil!

Why the heck am I rambling about beryllium here, the SA6 has none in its construction? I’m simply substantiating DUNU’s ability to design and create. Technology companies will often create elaborate flagships to showcase their innovation and tech savvy. DUNU reached success with the LUNA due to driver adhesive formulation and creating the LUNA diaphragm surrounds! These statement products are always reached via a learning curve which then does a trickledown to new future products. Also with the Luna DDs made in the USA............it shows DUNU as a growing international presence.

A Few Notes On Past Products
1) Back in December 2019 DUNU introduced the DK3001 Pro. Priced at $469 the new DK3001 Pro came as a sonically improved and better fitting version of the previously introduced non-pro DK3001. Basically a 13mm dual sided beryllium driver combined with 4 Knowles balanced armature drivers.

2) The $899 2018 DUNU DK4001 Flagship Hybrid IEM. A Zirconium shell combined with a 13mm Beryllium dynamic driver and 4 Knowles balanced armature drivers.

3) The $1699 2020 DUNU LUNA single 10mm Dynamic Driver Flagship IEM.


DUNU has always had the smallest IEM form factor and lowest weight as goals. With the LUNA being only 10.3 grams and of a record breaking smallest DD 10mm flagship IEM size, they can simply fit more people than large and heavy IEMs. With the Hybrid DK4001 and DK3001Pro, adding more drivers would not always add a big boost in sound quality. We all know adding 17 drivers can throw the size way out of optimal. In 2020 IEM companies are learning that middle-weight and middle-size can actually be beneficial. In reality the Studio SA6 arrives as perfectly middle-weight and middle-size. A feel-good-experience can be having a familiar middle-weight, middle-size IEM in your ears. The old adage of feather weight being a good thing isn’t always true, as folks want feed-back that their IEM is in place. I'm going to reiterate on form factor right now. As you may have questions about the design; it does appear The DUNU Studio SA6 is on the slightly smaller side of medium. But.........that's a good thing. The nozzles look extra short and in a way they are. Still I have a personal history not liking short nozzles, and with the included L white tips the SA6 fits like a dream. Fit is everything as you never know the true sound potential of an IEM without correct fit. Correct fit affects soundstage as well as bass presence, along with other things. So after a week of trying different cables and tips I discovered the included modular cable and tips to be the best. Also the tip of the nozzle looks to be smooth, yet the included tips actually stay on like glue!

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I didn't receive a retail package due to choosing to get the IEM sooner, hence no retail package photos.

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DUW03 #8Core SPC Modular Cable System
This gets included with a 4.4mm Balanced, 3.5mm Single Ended and 2.5mm Balanced set of plugs. You really never know about cables till a year after you get them.........learning if they discolor or get stiff. Yet out of the box this cable is a dream. I actually used the cable to test the Fearless S6Rui Universal IEM, and found it offered an improvement from the Fearless included cable. If you note the different set-ups in this review, many of the set-ups required a change of plugs. The Modular Cable System allows a simple and easy to use process of adapting a different plug to join the SA6 with any gear. Upon inspection there is a plastic area that seems as if it would be better made of metal..............yet after thinking about it.........it's probably best to have plastic if a force was to break the cable away. The other nifty thing is the adapter plug size. It's well thought out and completely different than other giant modular cable-plugs I own. The plug adapter barrel is the perfect size and matches up with any gear, regardless of overhang. Other up-line DUNU cables offer the option of 3.5mm balanced, yet being left out here is not an issue as 3.5mm balanced is rare. Also 3.5mm balanced is not a standardized plug yet, go figure? Though DUNU does offer a separately sold balanced 3.5mm to go with the DUW03 system if you need it.

Modular Cable Thread:
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/dunu-quick-switch-modular-plug-cables-discussion-thread.934000/

studio sa6 detail modular plug .jpg


Topsound Studio Series Thread :
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/dunu-topsound-studio.932667/
DUNU Announcement Thread:
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/dun...s-product-announcements.936600/#post-157183
NEW! Global Website (with Web Store): http://www.dunu-topsound.com/
LUNA Mini-Site: https://www.dunu-topsound.com/luna
Chinese Website: http://www.dunu.com.cn/ (Weibo or WeChat is a better source of information)







Dynamic Drivers:

It’s safe to say when you hear the name DUNU, you get excited about Dynamic Driver or Hybrid Technology. Yes?
So directly out of left field the DUNU Studio SA6 shows-up as a fairly big surprise. Why?
Well it’s a 6 balanced armature pure BA UIEM; a first for the company! Also along side the DUNU Studio SA6 6 driver IEM came the entry level $129 3BA driver DUNU Studio SA3.

Even the Studio SA6 $549.00 price point sets it very close to the company’s DK3001Pro price of $469? Now to add to the confusion; the Studio series is not exactly described as reference? Intriguingly...........the Studio Series tone is not described in DUNU promotional material as exactly anything? It’s more of about creativity and the artistic freedom you have in your own private art studio, or something? They (not having a history of ever making a pure BA UIEM) have left these tone ideas up for interpretation no doubt. So....there you have it.

They can do this, simply because they can in 2020.

Also..............

Mainly because DUNU has made a name for themselves with Hybrids and DD Flagships. So if anything here we are seeing a company spread their wings and offer a well rounded lineup, while still being value conscious..............downline.
So your probably guessing I’m going to do a full DUNU shootout comparing how successful they have been at creating a pure BA masterpiece in competition to the past Hybrid IEMs they are famous for? Ahhhhhh.....well no. That’s a great question though!
I wish I could but the Studio SA6 is the very first DUNU IEM I’ve ever heard. What I am going to do is compare it to a handful of BA IEMs and a hybrid or two.

So let’s get going!

Disclaimer:
The DUNU Studio SA6 was provided by the company as a free example to enable this review; it does not have to go back.

Should we talk about balanced armatures and their use in 2020? We read about Hybrid and Tribrid designs due to current high profile introduction and popularity! What would our hobby be without cutting edge ideas? Are pure BA IEMs even relevant anymore? It’s safe to say mid-priced Hybrids are the HYPE right now!

DUNU has actually had increased popularity since 2018 with DD/BA hybrid designs. The introduction of the DUNU DK-4001 was the cumulation of over three years of innovation bringing a fully realized PVD driver to life. The DK-4001 uses a DUNU 13mm “Beryllium-bonded via a physical vapor deposition diaphragm”................This “PVD” Dynamic Driver combined with a 4 balanced armature group for treble...........in essence creating a 5 driver IEM.

This freedom gives DUNU the ability to make an IEM from a bold new direction. I say new direction as we have seen a gigantic influx of amazing Chinese built multi-BA IEMs. While DUNU was introducing their historic lineup other companies were gaining popularity staying with basic balanced armature designs. To reiterate, since 2018 we have seen wildly popular pure BA IEMs from Sony, Fearless, BGVP, FiiO, Magaosi, Kinera and qdc.....just to name a few. All these manufacturers have capitalized on new 3D-printed shell technologies, medical grade UV cured German imported resins and the semi-custom IEM shell derived from a newly compiled data base of 1000s of public outer ear shapes.

Let’s find out how DUNU used the recent trend ideas to add a quality product to their line-up.

Bass is created by a twin-set of custom-ordered Sonion vented dual woofers with AcuPass technology. Sonion BA drivers are a new addition for DUNU as Knowles balanced armatures where typically the only product of choice. With the new Sonion balanced armatures it gave the designers an option of adding a bass boost switch. Midrange is handled by two Knowles drivers with duel Knowles super-tweeters per IEM.


If your into graphs (some included here)...the DUNU Studio SA6 graphs out like the 64 Audio U12t. It’s an over-all tuning goal to introduce a subtle V response in character. And while graphs only represent a fraction of the true story, frequency response graphs can become invaluable to someone looking to get factual numbers to back-up what they heard.

Noble Audio K-10 Encore (Blue)
Fearless/Crinicle Dawn S2 (Green)
and DUNU Studio SA6 (Red)
graph_Encore_Dawn_SA6.png

Note bellow, the superimpose of the SA6 FR (green trace) against some prominent IEMs, like the Fearless/Crinacle Dawn and 64 Audio U12t. It's not perfectly comparable due to the SA6 being measured with a B&K HATS, though Crinacle's measurement rig conforms to the IEC 60318-4 (60711) standard, so it's at least similar.
U12t (Red)
SA6 (Green)
and Fearless/Crinicle Dawn (Blue)
graph_Dawn_U12t_SA6_Green.png


Andy Zhao (Dunu chief designer) explains that each style of driver has its very own character be it dynamic or balanced armature. But also each actual BA brand and brand model has its own special sound character. It seems while reaching a target response goal is important, these “driver colors” can be arranged to showcase the special sound attributes of each driver. So in the end it’s actually a creative endeavor and an audio art......as well as a science.

Typically Knowles balanced armature drivers have been the choice for DUNU. And while Sony proprietary custom made balanced armature drivers give Sony their house sound with the M7 and IER-M9; Knowles Electronics Corporation has been the go-to brand for DUNU for their consistency in attention to build quality along with comprehensive sound quality and ample stock on hand.
beach bypass.jpg

Construction:
The SA6 has an especially nice "flagship construction" being it's 90% solid UV cured resin...... it's heavy and substantial in hand. Visually it appears to have an open area inside (under the faceplate) which acts as a breather for the low-end balanced armatures. Looking closer you can see the 2-pin plug sockets are well done offering a guide internally for correct positioning of plug polarization. The drivers are part way submerged and partway vented off the top pushing air out a small side vent. The bass switch is not a gimmick and really works. It's positioned very close to the plug insert area in such a way that it can actually be switched while the IEM is in your ear. The switch can be moved with your fingernail as no tools are needed. The action seems very firm and well done, though I'm not sure how much these "bass-changers" will be used in real-life listening. I'm guessing after a week people will know what they like and leave the switches be?

The Shoot-Out:
We are going to put the DUNU Studio SA6 up against a whole group of substantiated Hybrid gunman here.

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1) The Sony XBA-N3 (1BA super tweeter/ 9mm DD) $299
2) The Sony XBA-Z5 (2BA and 16mm DD) $399 to $615

3) The Sony IER-Z1R (5mm DD supertweeter-12mm DD mids and low end-single BA tweeter) $1600


1) The N3 is really the polar opposite of the DUNU SA6 being a DD with more bass.......I think too much bass.............but also missing out on much of the midrange and treble entertainment found in the SA6. So one is slow and one is fast. After all my purchases and IEM listening it's the speed of the SA6 that makes it so much fun.

2) The Z5 has bigger and undeniably more bass. It's the bass "KING"! Yet before the IER-Z1R came out I was longing to have something that offered more mids. And while I actually love the Z5 for what it does right; the SA6 approaches the sound spectrum from the opposite direction. There is no denying the Z5 holds a special style of smoothness the SA6 can not touch. Though as far as fit and form factor.................something like the SA6 is miles better. In 2014 when the XBA-Z5 came out it was the flagship; the predecessor to the IER-Z1R. People have put up with fit simply due to loving the sound. There is most definitely an authoritative physicality (a hardness in a good way) about the romantic Z5 bottom end? Did I just write that? :)

So for many that low dense area will be the Z5 value over the SA6. Many who own both the N3 and Z5 have found that even though the N3 fits better, the XBA-Z5 has a tighter and added timbre dimension to the bass. Even now all these years later the Z5 has a following.

3) I would be remiss if I didn't point out both the Noble Encore K-10 and the IER-Z1R ARE my favorite IEMs. Though at $1600 and fit issues for some, the IER-Z1R is not always the practical choice. Hence the special value and one-of-a-kind concept the SA6 is. The SA6 is the Toyota Camry of IEMs. The SA6 is built great, and sounds remarkable. The SA6 does not sound like a $2000 flagship all the time....yet careful equipment matching will get you right up into the edge and into the flagship zone. Once you’ve arrived you’ll want to stay all day long. These qualities make the SA6 my third favorite IEM ever! Plus........the SA6 is original in that it has a conservative tune that will appeal to a broad range of listeners......yet it still does magic tricks. So due to it's special character it's an IEM you would go to as an alternative to your TOTL IEMs. Yet it's just so good there is no reason why it wouldn't be "end-game" for many. It just does all forms of music and comes off as a very thought-out and careful tune.


We are also going to put the DUNU Studio SA6 up against a slew of well known pure BA creations


1) The BGVP DM6 (5BA) $199
1) The DM6 is just not as smooth or complete as the SA6. Basically everything the SA6 does is a direct improvement in every way. And if you felt the DM6 has that bright and tippy treble, you will be rewarded to find the SA6 has none of that brightness. But it's the midrange where the DUNU Studio SA6 shows who's boss here. The DM6 had an "OK" midrange. Yet here it's all about a thrilling and competent midrange.


2) The Magaosi K5 (5BA) $199
2) The K5 shares a little in that it's the only full-resin build in out test here today. Yet maybe nice for some, the K5 never did it in the bass area for me. In fact the greatest thing about the K5 IS the midrange. Yep those midrange details, yet here we get them with the SA6...........except even better..........so?

3) The Nobel Audio K-10 Encore Universal (10BA) $1850
3) AHHHHHHHH What can I say? This is my co-favorite IEM. Yet it's in this shoot out for reference. Should someone pay about $1300 more than the SA6 and not buy the SA6? All I can say is that the Encore is not normal. Now being it's a little crazy makes reference to the fact that the SA6 is tuned more normal (note I didn't say boring, I only said normal). Heck look at the Encore graph here! You are paying more for improvements in a couple areas, a bigger soundstage and more involving/musical "extra-sauce"................But the price you pay for those slight improvements is heavy. Meaning the SA6 in many ways offers an IEM choice that's 90% of the fun of the Encore for $1300 less money. It was also easer for me to get fit with the SA6.

4) The Fearless S6Rui (6BA three-crossover) $479
4) The S6Rui............This is the part of the Shoot-Out that should be in red. These two are fighting partners and it's a battle! This is also the part of the review which has caused me the most confusion. If you use the SA6 cable and SA6 white tips, the Fearless S6Rui sounds the best its ever sounded. Yet there is a slight peak in the upper S6Rui midrange which will be noted upon inspection of the graph posted here. Before seeing the graph I noted it by listening. That small critical difference is a big deal. At least for me it's a big deal. The Noble K-10 Encore has a different peak in a different place, hence a wanted attribute not a deficit. Remember, it’s only a wanted hint of personality if it’s wanted.

Both the SA6 and Rui are six driver BA combinations. Both IEMs are actually very close sounding. Also the S6Rui is famous! It's no slouch in any shape or form. It's just that the small peak you will see in the graph is totally there. Some may think it's detail but to me it makes the IEM a little fatiguing at times with certain recordings. The SA6 is a refinement in that specific area. It may look small in the graph but I'm guessing that's a critical area in human hearing?Need I say more? No! This review is way, way, way too long anyway!

Update: September 30th, 2020

After considerable investigation the main difference between the S6Rui and the Studio SA6 comes down to the SA6 getting better imaging inside the soundstage. The SA6 also shows better instrument definition/detail and timbre. Thus the SA6 can appear to have a wider soundstage and it may just be slightly broader with some elements. And......of course the slight upper midrange peak is present in the S6Rui as always in contrast to the smoother SA6.


5) The qdc Anole V3 (3BA) $500-$600
5) The Anole V3? The V3 is gorgeous and fits like a dream. Still it does not offer the mid-range expanse or clarity offered with the SA6. For what it is the V3 is probably smoother............but it has less to be smooth with. Yet the SA6 soundstage goes out farther and imaging is clearer giving the impression of more detail. The SA6 is just simply a more technically capable IEM.


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DUNU_SA6.png

This is another graph for the DUNU Studio SA6 for comparison to Fearless S6Rui (Note parallel FR)

“There is so much forgiving musicality here, you’ll be happy listening to Bluetooth AAC songs sent out of an Apple-device or admiring your best files”

Testing Equipment:
As fate has it, everyone has somewhat different gear. To try and find out if it affects sound-quality, we will try the DUNU Studio 6SA through a run of different listening configurations.

Sony 1A MacBook Air.jpg

Sony Walkman 1A 4.4mm and 3.5mm
All around great performer! Also I seemed to like the treble better than the 1Z with the SA6? But in the end both were very likable and my main go to set-ups.

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Sony Walkman 1Z 4.4mm and 3.5mm
What can you say that hasn't been said about the 1Z, and here despite the tweeked-up treble and SA6 being border-line "hot" it's still a perfect combination. I really use the 1Z and 1A 90% of the time. Some may feel the Sony DAPs are offering color, yet whatever they do there is an add of musicality that pushes something like the SA6 to its best.
Sony TA DUNU Studio SA6.jpg

The Sony TA-ZH1ES desktop DAC/Amp both 4.4mm and 3.5mm
The TA was a nice treat with extra DSD Upsampling and DSEE HX bringing up the quality if not synthetically?
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Woo Audio 3 Tube Amplifier with Cambridge Audio DACMagic Plus as the DAC 3.5mm (Above)
In this exploratory adventure the Schiit/DACMagic Plus (Below) is really the better set-up. This seems contradictory to what you would expect......but it is what it is. In reality the two are simply different with the Woo Audio 3 offering less dramatic bass, but an open (round) soundstage and imaging specific to tube amplifiers.

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Schiit Audio Asgard One Amplifier with Cambridge Audio DACMagic Plus 3.5mm
We just entered the town of Flagship Audio!
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Absolutely spectacular! Stuff like this really makes you wonder if DAC/Amps have improved at all in the last 10 years. Here we find a 96/24bit OST of 2015's "The Force Awakens"......and did we hit pay dirt. Some of the best I've heard this IEM perform! So does it do OSTs well..............10/10 with this humble combo. Better than the Sony DAPs in this instance. Just a giant soundstage, the orchestra is larger than life! Honestly this is all someone would ever need if they wanted to forget about DSD playback ability. I'm beside my self here?
onkyo.jpg

The Onkyo Integrated DAC/Amplifier A9010B 3.5mm (Above)
This was not nearly as great as I would have expected? Bad synergy maybe?

FiiO E17K Alpen 2 DAC/Amplifier (Below)
The wild-card in the bunch. Totally great for what it is, and much better than 3.5mm out. Easy on the go anywhere.

FiiO e17K.jpg


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Creativity at its best!
Though due to production demands a specific color choice is not an option.


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Conclusion:
DUNU as a corporation is based on bringing two concepts to the market.
Value
Innovation


The TopSound DUNU Studio SA6 IEM is a worthy addition to the company product line. The Studio SA6 is a step forward for enthusiasts wanting a value in fit, innovative sound-design and craftsmanship.

Disclaimer:

As listeners we all have different musical taste and ideas of what exemplifies premium sound. As individuals we each have different shaped ear canals. As listeners we contain personal sound tone preferences. The ideas written here are entirely one persons perspective leading to a single opinion; as always your results may not coincide.

Extra Long Winded Bonus Level..............................
Being passionate about IEMs:
It’s could be said that some folks are going to gravitate solely towards sound quality; others may simply be interested in technologies and the creation of IEMs. Some folks believe it or not simply like the way gear looks. As a manufacturer you must concern yourself with all the above. But most of all you must protect your name. We have all seen new companies in recent years put out a great IEM, only to be stifled by quality control issues. In the end it’s important to buy from a company with a long history who’s name you can trust.

We have all seen the bargain basement 12 BA flagships by unknown makers. Yet, many of these IEMs will or will not suffer quality control issues, that’s the risk you take. DUNU has reached a marvelous middle-ground where they offer both value and a welcome level of quality control. When you add the innovation and imagination it makes this IEM a no-brainer purchase.
A special "shout out" to ON1 PHOTO RAW 2020 for making the photography for this review a breeze.

Update: October 9th, 2020
Strangely I’ve now gone the opposite direction entirely by playing Apple Lossless from a iPad as well as 320kbps mp3 from an iPod? For me there can be a kind of truth to be found from relatively flat and transparent Apple sources. I mean, for me anyway there tends to be a value with something like the SA6 to be able to conveniently and perfectly come alive from non-powerful sources. I envision the public at large actually not having an audiophile DAP but listening in a shop and giving-in to the Studio SA6 response from their Apple phone? Those folks are not going to find much better in this price range to enjoy out and about using the SA6 with their phone as a source.

It’s safe to say at this point I’ve collected a handful of IEMs with DD drivers that get completely discombobulated from a phone needing an audiophile device to be useful. Dynamic driver artifacts resulting from underpowered Apple phone use are fully avoided with the DUNU Studio SA6.

To find the SA6 to become 100% audiophile from an Apple phone is of invaluable consequence here!
Last edited:
Queen6
Queen6
Excellent post and review, highly informative as ever. Thank you for taking the time & effort.

Q-6
Aerosphere
Aerosphere
Great review. Thank you!
Redcarmoose
Redcarmoose
Thank-you!
The pleasure writing it was all mine. They were once again a very special listen today while I used them. I can fully stand by my review and recommend them to anyone. Cheers!

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