kmmbd

100+ Head-Fier
Special Generalist
Pros: Brilliant tuning overall, smooth yet engaging
– Fantastic design, impeccable UV-cured resin shells
– Comfortable, snug fit
– Class-leading accessories that put many TOTL IEM packaging to shame
– BA bass that doesn’t sound bad
– Resolution that belies the price-tag, good microdynamics
Cons: Stock cable can be a bit heavy for some
– Not as good in macrodynamics as some single-DD/hybrid IEMs in this range
– BA bass is still BA bass, subtle BA timbre in the high notes
– Dips at 4KHz and 6KHz might take away the energy of distortion guitars and cymbal hits
– Not the widest staging or the most precise imaging for the price-bracket
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It’s hard to stand out in the IEM space lately.

New brands pop up every now and then with claims of performance that far belies their price-tag, having measurement graphs that seem just about perfect, hitting a specific target curve. Driver count that would seem overkill even in $1000+ IEMs just a few years ago.

It’s really hard to stand out.

Dunu, having dealt primarily with single/multi dynamic drivers and hybrid IEMs for the past decade or so decided to move towards multi-BA setup again. Their new Studio series of IEMs are strictly multi-BA setups and have two models for now: SA3 and SA6. The SA6 is the higher-tier model and aims to bridge the gap between kilobuck IEMs and the relatively budget offerings. I’ve been using the Studio SA6 for the past four months (almost) and I believe now I’m ready to share my long-term verdict, i.e. not a rushed review to gather some sweet, sweet SEO.

So, is the DUNU Studio SA6 a stellar showing, or just another also-ran? Read on.

This article was originally published on Audioreviews.

Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier.
DUNU-Topsound was kind enough to send a review unit of the Dunu Studio SA6. Disclaimer.

Sources used: Questyle CMA-400i/QP1R, Cowon Plenue R2

Price (while reviewed): $550

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Build: I’ve made a lot of fun of resin shells in the past since most of them are very generic and look shoddy compared to certain stainless steel finishes out there.

The Dunu Studio SA6 manages to make me eat a humble pie.

The quality of the resin itself is immaculate. No bubbles, no grain, no unevenness. Practically flawless in terms of appearance and haptics with UV-curing and an enamel-like finish that doesn’t attract fingerprints. The Studio SA6 looks pristine even after months of use. The faceplate is stabilized wood underneath where each pattern and color-combo is going to be unique for each earpiece. This is a nice perk and so far I’ve liked every single faceplate I’ve seen. Some might want more customization but I like the randomness myself (esp since they all look good to varying degrees). Then again, this is something one gotta decide for themselves.

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The nozzle is a bit short and stout but with the eartips on it should fit snugly. There are three bores in the nozzle, each connected to the bass, mid, and high drivers. I’ll discuss further about the driver configuration in the sound section. There is a single vent beside the 2-pin connector (recessed, thankfully) on the underside of the IEMs. This allows the Sonion vented woofers to have greater excursion than a closed design.

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Finally you get to see the switch which is quite easy to flick with your fingernails (even when wearing the IEMs). This is a welcome departure from other designs where one requires fiddly SIM-card ejector like tools to toggle the DIP switches.

Overall: fantastic build quality. I can’t find a single flaw or point of contention.
5/5

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Accessories:
The Dunu Studio SA6 packaging is smaller than expected, as usually products in this price-bracket come with oversized packaging. Despite the below-average sizing it’s chock-full of accessories. First up: the cable, and this is the centerpiece of attraction no doubt. It’s their DUW-03 cable that retails for $200 as of the time of writing. The cable is an 8-core SPC affair, braided in Litz config. The termination is Dunu’s patented “quick-switch” modular plugs where you can easily swap out plugs by pulling at the plug end. It’s also spring-loaded so the mechanism didn’t get loose after multiple swaps. My biggest gripe about the cable is that it’s a bit too solid, a bit too heavy. I’d have preferred a lighter PVC jacket, but then again — heavy duty cables tend to be heavy. As a bonus, you also get two extra terminations: 2.5mm and 4.4mm pentaconn. Nice!

Then we have the case, which has a blue PU leather outer and felt-padded innards. The case has a small compartment for storing the extra terminations and such so that’s a nice touch.

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Next up: eartips. There are 11 pairs of eartips in total: 3 pairs of black tips, 4 pairs of white tips, and 4 pairs of blue tips. I personally found best results with the white tips but I’d suggest trying them all out.

Finally, you get a cleaning tool and a 6.35mm converter. The only thing missing is a shirt-clip but with a cable this nice I’m willing to ignore that.
5/5

Comfort and Isolation:
Due to its pseudo-custom fit and moderate nozzle length, the Dunu Studio SA6 offers a very snug, stable fit. I’ve worn it for hours and didn’t feel the need to take it out. Isolation is also above-average despite the vent in the housing. However, there can be some pressure-buildup inside the ear while pulling them out so I’d recommend not yanking them out of your ears and taking it slow.
4.5/5

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Now, let’s talk about the sound.

The Dunu Studio SA6, as the name suggest, is a 6-BA setup. Dunu’s website didn’t mention the exact model number of said BAs but the bass drivers are two Knowles 38D1XJ007. This particular model has a very high excursion for a BA driver and also has better textured bass than its Knowles counterparts. In fact, I think this is the only woofer/bass driver manufacturers should use if they want some decent bass response out of an all-BA setup. Moving on, the mid-range driver is an unspecified Knowles model, though I presume it’s a full-range Knowles driver customized to only have responses in the midrange frequencies. Finally, the treble driver is also unspecified but I believe it’s a Knowles SWFK-31736 dual-tweeter.

The tubing and crossover circuit inside is also interesting. Despite only one tuning switch, the circuitry is quite elaborate. The internal wiring is also SPC for those who keep track of these things. Finally, the tubing has similar length for the mid and treble drivers but the one for the Sonion woofers has a longer pathway. I suspect this is to improve bass rumble (apparently increasing tube length for the bass driver can improve bass response). Each tube also houses an acoustic filter to act as dampers.

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The general sound signature is mostly balanced with a warm, bassy tilt when the switch is put to “on” position. I did all my listening in this mode as the fuller lower-mids sound more natural to me. I won’t call it neutral because the upper-mids are a bit colored than dead-on-neutrality, though that’s not a bad thing in this case.

Sound impressions are made with Final E-type Clear tips and stock cable. The switch was set to on position.

Bass: There usually is a lot of contention regarding BA bass drivers. They lack the excursion, texture, and slam of their DD counterparts but does offer faster transients and nimbleness. That being said, bass without physicality feels undercooked so I myself am not a fan of BA bass.

The Dunu Studio SA6 changes that notion by a margin, though not entirely so. First off, these vented Sonion woofers are superior to the Knowles/unvented bass drivers when it comes to overall physicality and slam. Sudden bass drops have a body that’s missing on most BA-only IEMs. Secondly, there’s actual bass decay which is a bit similar to DD bass unlike the other BA drivers where there is no reverb which leads to a sense of artificiality.

As for the bass itself, there is a noticeable sub-bass emphasis but it doesn’t get into overkill category. The sub-bass frequencies are boosted over the lower-mids by about +5dB which is just about right for me. Many modern IEMs (e.g. ThieAudio Clairvoyance) boosts this region by ~10dB vs the lower mids which gives rise to the “2.1 subwoofer effect” that I personally dislike (sub-bass sounds detached from the rest of the sound). Fortunately the SA6 is rather coherent and the transition from bass to mids is quite even-handed. The mid-bass has slightly thicker notes than neutral which gives more body to snare hits and double-pedals. Flicking the switch to “off” position does thin down the snare hits slightly so if you want a closer to reference representation you can have that as well. In fast flowing bass section there was no smearing at all, though the bass didn’t quite have the same articulation as a good DD, or the scalpel-precision of typical BA drivers.

Where the bass falls short is the texturing and rumble you only find on good quality DD IEMs. Also if you are into super-nimble BA bass then you won’t get that here since the bass has a bit longer decay than typical BA setups.

To summarize: this is perhaps the best BA bass you can get around the price bracket, but still falls short of excellent DD bass. Something’s gotta give.
4/5

Mids:
The midrange is where the Dunu Studio SA6 truly shows its prowess. It’s near-immaculate, at least for the genres I listen to/my taste (Rock/Metal/Pop/Singer-songwriter). The biggest issue with the midrange is the slight coloration in the upper-mids that makes higher-pitched vocals sound somewhat strained on some tracks (e.g. Billy Talent’s Surrender), but this is so rare that I’m inclined to blame the mastering for it.

With the switch turned on, the lower-mids are full and provides adequate heft to Baritone vocals, e.g. Colin Hay’s I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You. The upper-mids peak around 2.5KHz and are ~7dB higher than the lower mids and this provides adequate pinna gain without sounding diffused or shouty. At the same time acoustic guitars and guitar riffs get adequate bite. In terms of tuning and tonality — this is pretty much spot on. Another thing of note is the timbre which is quite natural but does exhibit some BA artificiality in cymbal-heavy tracks. The Studio SA6 does keep the timbre fairly natural and that’s commendable given its all-BA nature and how even many higher-tier IEMs ignore the timbral characteristics for sheer technical proficiency.

Beyond the tuning itself, the resolution is very good for the price bracket. You don’t get the macro and microdynamics of higher end IEMs (and that’s likely the biggest weakness of the SA6 if I am to nitpick) but what you get here is again — excellent, if not class-leading for the price bracket.
5/5

Treble:
The treble tuning is what I’d call safe on the Dunu Studio SA6. The presence region is characterized by two dips: one at 4KHz, and another at 6KHz. The 6KHz dip in fact sounds more like a frequency cut that tones down the sibilance region. Whereas the 4KHz dip is barely noticeable, the 6KHz trough manifests as slightly hazy lower-treble. So if you are into super-sharp cymbal hits or pitch-perfect violin tones, the SA6 just might let you down a bit. However, this also allows the Studio SA6 to be very suitable for long-term listening as peaks in presence region can lead to listening fatigue. I myself am sensitive around that region so I’m fine with Dunu’s decision of de-emphasizing those frequencies. That being said, on tracks like Lamb of God’s Ruin this toned down lower treble makes crash cymbals sound somewhat tamed, which might not be the most ideal presentation in this case.

Upper-treble has above-average extension but nothing to write home about. After around 11Khz or so I couldn’t really hear much of it. There are certain competing IEMs that extends further in this region so if you prefer an airy presentation the Dunu Studio SA6 might not be the ideal choice. For me though this treble is overall done very well and I can’t ask/expect more at this price-range.
4.5/5

Soundstage:
The overall staging is average, with decent height and depth but not much width. The stage depth is lacking a bit vs certain other IEMs in the price bracket though stage height adds some much needed dimensionality to the music. In short: well-rounded staging that doesn’t feel narrow or intimate but isn’t a stand-out either. This can likely be tweaked via tip change so I’d encourage trying various eartips and finding one that provides the best staging.
4/5

Imaging:
Imaging has good cardinal and ordinal positioning though center-imaging is diffused as usual. This leads to the loss of some subtleties in vocal and lead instrument positioning, for example. Spatial cues are well portrayed even if they have a slight fuzziness in terms of location. Instrument separation is a strong point, however, and will satisfy most if not all buyers in the price bracket.
4.5/5

Source and Amplification:
At 113dB sensitivity and 60ohm impedance the Dunu Studio SA6 can be run off of most budget dongles. It does scale somewhat decently with higher tier sources as I’ve found on the Questyle CMA-400i desktop DAC/Amp but you’d get ~90% of the performance out of decent dongles alone.

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Select Comparisons

vs Moondrop Blessing2 ($320):
The Moondrop Blessing2 (1DD + 4BA) has become a default recommendation for many under $500. The Studio SA6 aims to challenge for that spot.

In terms of build, comfort, and accessories — the Dunu Studio SA6 absolutely obliterates the Moondrop Blessing2. Blessing2 looks ghetto in comparison to the craftsmanship of the Dunu IEM. Also the thick nozzle on the Blessing2 can be a bit of a pain (though it was not for me).

As for the sound, the bass texture and overall dynamics is the only criteria where the Moondrop Blessing2 has the upper-hand. Bass slam, punch, articulation are superior on the Dunu Studio SA6. In terms of the midrange, the Blessing2 midrange is mostly clarity-focused, having both lower-mid thinness and some shoutiness. This pretty much makes the Blessing2 midrange a no-go for me since I prefer more body to the vocals/tones and I’m averse to shoutiness.

The treble is where the Blessing2 does showcase better performance, even though it’s marred by a strong BA timbre. Imaging is slightly better on the Blessing2 with more defined positional cues but instrument separation is still better on the Studio SA6 IMO.

In short: I think the Dunu Studio SA6 is worth the ~$200 price premium.

vs Sony IER-M7 ($550): Being close to the Studio SA6’s price, Sony’s IER-M7 (four T-shaped BA drivers, Sony proprietary) becomes a viable alternative. In terms of build and accessories again the Dunu studio SA6 pulls ahead though the IER-M7 does offer a really nice tip collection (better than the Dunu one). Comfort is very good on both, with the Sony having slightly better isolation.

In terms of sound signature, what stands out the most for the Sony is its timbre which is very natural, organic and doesn’t really sound like a BA driver. If you are someone who needs natural timbre I think the IER-M7 deserves an audition. Now, the bass has more slam and physicality on the Dunu Studio SA6. The lower-mids are very good on both, and I personally think the IER-M7 has a lush tone that works well with vocal-focused genres. The treble is where the Studio SA6 pulls ahead, and same applies to instrument separation. Imaging, however, is slightly better on the IER-M7. Overall resolution is also higher on the Studio SA6.

In short, if you need a lusher, more organic presentation then the Sony IER-M7 is a good alternative. If you need better bass/dynamics and more resolution in general, the Dunu Studio SA6 is the better choice.

vs Dunu Zen ($700): Dunu Zen is the step-up model from the Studio SA6, at least in terms of Dunu’s product placement. These two are very different however with the Zen being a single dynamic-driver model vs the 6BA affair on the Studio SA6.

In terms of accessories, they are pretty similar. In terms of sound signature, though, they complement each other rather than compete. The Zen is capable of visceral DD bass (depending on track) with supreme texture, whereas the SA6 is a more nimble affair in comparison and has a more easygoing tuning in general. The Zen has superior macro and micro dynamics whereas the Studio SA6 has slightly more upper-treble extension.

To summarize: the Studio SA6 is the better value IEM, but the Dunu Zen is the better IEM, at least to my ears.

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Conclusion

For me, there are two types of IEMs: the specialists, as in those who focus on a specific part of the frequency range and/or excels with certain genres. Then there are the generalists: those who play most genres well but doesn’t excel at any of them. The latter category is safe to recommend but often becomes boring and lacks the soul that makes an IEM special.

Dunu Studio SA6 bucks that trend. It’s a generalist IEM that’s truly special in its overall sonic delivery. The bass is near-DD like in terms of extension and slam, the midrange is masterfully tuned, and the treble despite its safe tuning doesn’t skimp on resolution by much. Soundstage, imaging, instrument separation, dynamics — all are very competitive for the price bracket. The superb build and class-leading accessory set are just a couple extra cherries on top.

Dunu has a breakout hit with the Studio SA6 and it deservedly earns my highest recommendation.

Overall rating: 4.75/5​

#HighlyRecommended. A leader in its price-bracket.

Test tracks

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FcConstruct

Head-Fier
DUNU SA6 Review: Mid-Fi Maturity
Pros: Gorgeous shell design
Plenty of accessories
Excellent, easy-to-listen-to tuning
Solid technical performance for the mid-fi range
A meaningful tuning switch that isn't just for looks
Cons: BA bass (if that matters to you)
No "special sauce"
Fierce competition for price/performance

Introduction​

If you’re mildly familiar with the ChiFi IEM scene over the past decade, DUNU may have been one of those brands you’ve heard but never really given any thought to. At least, that’s the way it was for me. Yet in the last couple of years or so, DUNU has appeared back on the scene with a variety of new IEMs.

I was pretty curious about DUNU and reached out to them for a bit of a history lesson. To roughly paraphrase what their global director of business development Kevin told me:
“DUNU started as an OEM business incorporated in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China back in 1994. From there, DUNU started to engage in audio forums like Head-Fi in the 2010s. But around 2015-2017, they had to shore up some business in China (N.B. which explains why they’ve been quiet over the last few years) before returning back to the global stage. Specifically, over the past three years, DUNU has invested heavily in R&D for Beryllium-based dynamic drivers. This is reflected in their flagship DUNU Luna and upcoming IEMs.”
At any rate, the past year has been especially fruitful for DUNU as they’ve found runaway success with the topic of today’s review: the DUNU SA6. Ironically, it doesn’t tout a Be DD. Falling squarely in the mid-fi price range at $550, it’s a 6 BA IEM with a single tuning switch for what DUNU calls an “atmospheric immersion” mode. Without further ado, let’s get into the review. And make sure to check out the video version of this review on Youtube!

Disclaimer: DUNU sent me the SA6 for review in exchange for my honest thoughts. I do not get compensated in any other way. Shoutout to Kevin and Tom at DUNU for their time and providing me this opportunity.



What’s in the Box?​

The SA6 comes with a comprehensive set of accessories. It includes a fairly classy faux-leather zipper case, 11 sets of SS, S, M, and L tips, a cleaner tool, a 3.5 mm to 6.5 mm adapter, and DUNU’s DW-03 modular cable that can hotswap between 2.5 mm, 3.5 mm, and 4.4 mm jacks. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the cable. It’s a cool concept but the cable is on the heavy side for me and has a fair bit of cable noise. On the upside, it has little cable memory and the L-shaped jack is greatly appreciated in these modular-style jacks when the length of the connector can start to get unwieldy.

The IEM itself is rather small and very comfortable in my ears. Isolation is good. It has a single tuning switch at the top that thankfully does not require a SIM tool to flip. The shell is made of a translucent smoky resin with a strikingly gorgeous faceplate. These shells are apparently handmade and the faceplate is made from stabilized wood that you can get in many different colors. Unfortunately, it looks like the exact color and pattern you get each time will be random and unique. Gives it a very nice one-of-a-kind artistic feel in my opinion but you’ll be rolling the dice a bit on what the final faceplate will look like. I think mine looks stunning and I’ve seen a few other beautiful pieces too, so good luck if you grab one!



Sound​

My first impression of the SA6 was “yea, this is an all BA IEM”. It’s definitely not bad, just that it has that classically BA-like sound. After having done nothing but review hybrid IEMs for the past year, that non-dynamic bass timbre was quite noticeable. My second thought was that these IEMs sound very nicely balanced. It has a smooth, forgiving sound signature. Bass is at a comfortable level, mids are lightly relaxed, and treble has an odd balance to it that I’ll get into. The tuning switch adds a slight 1-2 dB boost in the lower mids and bass on the ON position. Despite this minor bump in the low end, it absolutely has a meaningful effect on the bass response, going from a lighter punch to a weightier thump.



Bass:​

The bass of the SA6 is what I’d consider high quality BA bass. Where it lacks in a deep, bodied bass response seen from top tier dynamic drivers, the balanced armatures of the SA6 has that characteristically fast decay accompanied with a tight, reactive punchiness. What stands out about the SA6’s low end response is how well controlled it is. In some of the tracks in my library, it can be hard to tell if the track itself is poorly recorded or if the IEM/headphone can’t keep up with it. With the SA6, I never get the feeling that it fails to handle the track. What’s more impressive is that the SA6 does this without compromising low end quantity. It doesn’t need to rely on a lean tuning to as a way to capture that sense of control. The bass doesn’t bleed into the mids and there’s not a hint of muddiness or bloat.

There’s a healthy amount of low end volume that lends to the overall balanced tuning of the SA6. On the stock 1 position, the bass of the SA6 is light and leans punchy, giving a it clean cut low end that doesn’t sound sterile. On the so-called “atmospheric” ON position, that punchy bass takes on a weightier, thumpy type of sound that’s a whole lot fuller. While this transformation isn’t exactly dramatic, it definitely adds a different dimension to the SA6’s sound that I suspect many people will enjoy. I personally prefer it on the ON position for more bass oomph to compensate for the BA nature of the SA6. My only complaint would be a lack of a substantial DD-like subbass rumble and impact. Otherwise, the SA6’s bass response is nicely spread across the low end spectrum without sounding like it centers around the mid or upper bass. I’ve found that when some other IEMs that try for a fast, punchy sound or a deep rumble, they end up too pigeonholed in only the midbass or subbass and gives up the other parts of the bass range.

Mids:​

The mids of the SA6 can be described as tonally pleasing and smooth. There’s no sense of incoherency as the bass transitions into the lower mids. Notes are well defined. Tuning wise, while the SA6 certainly isn’t lean, it isn’t warm either. There’s not really any elevation in the lower mids and there’s plenty of upper mids to dissuade that notion. Speaking of the upper mids, I find it to be at a tasteful volume. Not too much that it sounds overly forward or shouty but not recessed that it’s hidden or smothered. Vocals are well positioned front and center without a glimpse of sibilance. I don’t detect any sort of peakiness that might put someone off. Instrument tone is excellent. Unlike the bass, there’s no BA timbre here. Like most other great sounding IEMs, the SA6 has a strong midrange showing with little to nothing to complain about.

Treble:​

The treble of the SA6 is pretty unique. It’s non-fatiguing and easy to listen to yet it doesn’t shy from being fully present in the mix. It’s also very forgiving of poor recordings. Listening to hats and cymbals, the initial attack is partly muted while the backend sizzle has more prominence. It gives the illusion of having a lively and unabated treble without fatigue. Looking at the FR graph, it’s easy to see what’s responsible for this. There’s a fairly large dip right at the start of the lower treble around the 5 kHz mark before recovering around 7 kHz. The de-emphasis on the lower treble and subsequent elevation of the mid treble gives rise to a clear presence that doesn’t sound aggressive. This dip also has the added benefit of avoiding common pain points for sibilance or harshness. While I’m usually a fan of having crisp hats and cymbals, I’ll give the SA6 a pass here. Though this tuning strategy does forgo some of that natural lower treble energy, instrument timbre is still mostly preserved. Other than the hats/cymbals, I’d say the other common instrument that’s notably affected is the sharp crack of the snare. For the smooth, overall balanced tone that the SA6 strives for, its treble complements it very well. My only nitpick is that I wish there was more upper treble extension to give air and brilliance but that’s a complaint for almost every IEM I’ve listened to.

Presentation:​

Soundstage and imaging on the SA6 is on the good side of average. It’s what I’d expect for mid-fi but nothing to write home about. Good width with a couple of steps in height and depth. Imaging is solid. Instruments are well separated and properly defined. Similarly, there’s a bit of a layering effect that positions instruments such that they never feel like they’re congested or fighting for space.

Resolution on the SA6 is about as good as its gets until you reach top tier levels. I’d say my only nitpick on the technical side is its slightly diminished dynamics. I do get a bit of a sense that soaring vocals or thunderous kicks seem to hit a bit of a wall at the very peak. But to be fair, this complaint extends to most every IEM except for the truly outstanding.

All in all, the DUNU SA6’s technical performance and presentation sets a robust benchmark for mid-fi. Some of the keen eyed among you may have noticed that the SA6 tuning is rather similar to QDC’s TOTL models, especially with the 5-6 kHz dip. Based on my brief demo of the QDC 8SH, despite the similar tuning, the SA6 is undeniably still a step down. While it’s clear that the SA6 still has a bit of a ways to go before the throne of TOTLs, it comfortably stands its ground in the court of other great IEMs.



Should You Buy It?​

Yes. The DUNU SA6 is simply a really good IEM. While it doesn’t necessarily have anything that’s particularly groundbreaking, every part of this IEM comes together beautifully for an experience that’s well worth the $550 price tag. It even managed to surprise me in some ways. I didn’t think I’d prefer the bassier ON tuning nor expect to enjoy this sort of treble tuning this much. And this may be petty but I do like knowing my SA6 is possibly the only one in existence with its specific color scheme and wood grain pattern.

From what I can see, the DUNU SA6 faces two threats. The first is the Moondrop Blessing 2. While I haven’t heard it, my guess is that the SA6 won’t beat it terms of sheer price/performance. Though you could always make the fit and comfort argument I suppose. The second challenge is that the SA6’s relative lack of a “special sauce” may make it susceptible to being supplanted by similar IEMs at better price points in the future. That said, whether those hypothetical IEMs will ever exist is a question in itself. And it doesn’t detract from the value that the SA6 brings to the table. In fact, to put things in perspective, I’d probably get a DUNU SA6 over the Thieaudio Clairvoyance. Between the price and the fit, the SA6 is better value for my money (though the Monarch is still safe).

To conclude then. The DUNU SA6 is an easy recommendation at $550 for almost everyone looking in that price range. This is an IEM that has rightfully earned its praise across a multitude of reviews. Though the hype train may be gone at this point, I’m glad I had a chance to toss my hat into the review ring. I hope DUNU keeps up the good work and continues to release other great IEMs. Only time will tell if that opening story about their R&D efforts was just marketing speak or the seeds of a great future.

And perhaps the greatest praise I can give the DUNU SA6 is that when the pandemic ends, it may be the new daily driver to replace my beloved Sony MDR-EX1000. Ultimately, audio is all about compromises and the SA6’s set of pros and cons might finally be the one that outbalances the EX1000’s.

Written by: Fc-Construct
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ngoshawk

Headphoneus Supremus
Dunu SA-6: An Ocean’s view of sound
Pros: Gorgeous look
Excellent cable
Interchangeable jacks
Build quality
Tunable sound
Warm, rich tonality
Overall pleasing sound (to me)
Cons: The extra knob, which mimics a CIEM
To some, the switch does not do much
Not really much here
Dunu SA-6 ($499): An Ocean’s view of sound
4.25 stars

Dunu SA-6

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Intro:

Waiting for the Luna was something I had forgotten about as other fine wares graced my abode. But when Dunu contacted me to see if I was willing to try the SA-6 (6 BA’s per side) while I wait for my turn, I wholeheartedly agreed. As “luck” would have it, the SA-6 arrived the same day as the Luna due to continued shipping restrictions around the globe. I do not fault this at all as I had a plethora of gear to get through. Clearing time while I waited both led to a “near” empty queue (not really but it sounds good...) so I could devote time to the pair.

I am concurrently writing both due to time constraints, which can be a blessing as I have no choice but to compare the “lesser” SA-6 to the Luna. Costing 1/3 the price, it will be an interesting one indeed.

I thank Dunu for the review sample, and as agreed upon, both highlights and potential, lowlights will be shared. All they ask is for an open honest review, and critique and as such they have a dedicated HeadFi page (for the reviewers) to voice considerations, which can be addressed immediately. This is not secrecy, but a concise way of coagulating responses of both positive and negative. I applaud Dunu for this approach and plan to use it.

It is also agreed that the unit may be asked back for at any time and as such is mine to keep until otherwise stated. I cannot sell the unit for profit, as that is a really uncool and dirty trick. Don’t do it.


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From the site: Take control of the SA6's bass response by activating the atmospheric immersion DIP switch, easily accessible without the need for tools.

We wrap this sonic package inside hand-poured, hand-finished UV acrylic shells, and cap them with elegantly striated stabilized wood faceplates.

Lacquered by skilled hands and handled with tender loving care, the Studio SA6 signals a revival of artisan craftsmanship in premium earphones.



Specs:
  • 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 config:
  • 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 config:
  • 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
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Gear Used for comparison:

Fearless Audio S6Rui ($499)
Hidyzs MS4 ($300-)
Noble Savant II ($499)
Audiofly AF-180 mk2 ($499)
Phonic BW4 ($535)

Shanling M6P
Cayin N6 mk2
MBP/Little Dot mk3se
MBP/Yulong DA-Art
MBP/Sparrow


Songlist:

Joey Alexander-Warna album and others
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado
twenty one pilots album, Trench
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Big Head Todd & The Monsters-Beautiful World
Mark Knopfler-Down The Road Wherever
Elton John-yep, still good, still cool
Tidal MQA


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Unboxing:

Coming in a colorful box, you get the wrap around model number in a large number. The back is laden with interesting print, and in the quest to make a really cool box, the letters are all white and somewhat hard to read. Sliding the sleeve off, you are met with a glossy black-lidded box, laden with logo. Opening you find the blue Dunu zippered case (of good size), the IEM, extra thick cable, two sets of tips and the three different jacks (2.5bal, 3.5se, 4.4bal). I did end up keeping all of the above in the case, and while a somewhat tight fit; it works.

Not to minimize the unboxing here, but the IEM is so gorgeous at which to look, I move on.

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Fit/Finish/Build:

Made of German acrylic resin one would expect excellent craftmanship and one would be correct. With a semi-custom “node” near the back you get the feeling of not only quality but of customization as well. Cover that with luck-of-the-draw stabilized wood faceplates and you have a near-unique “custom” IEM. For those that are unaware, stabilized wood is an epoxy resin/recycled/reclaimed wood mix, which can be easily poured into various shapes and with various colors. If you are aware of the Audioquest Nighthawk, then you know what stabilized wood can do. Both gorgeous and it can environmentally friendly as well (even the resin) and you get the feeling of minimizing impact upon the earth. Stabilized wood also serves the purpose of filling potential pores in the wood, which may change structure over time, thus minimizing potential temperature/humidity impact. Again, add in the ability to custom color and the result is gorgeous and a near one-off for each customer.

See this site for some spectacular stabilized wood representation: https://stabilizedwoods.com/.

Anywho, the melding of the faceplate and acrylic shell is flawless. One is hard pressed to see let alone know the shell and faceplate were separate. Nicely done. With an easily accessible On/Off “Atmospheric Immersion” switch on the back, you can easily tailor the tune on the fly. This seems to be getting more de rigor with many manufacturers putting their own signature to the multiple tuning set up. I do note a difference and appreciate it. That will be dealt with below. A rather large vent hole rides up top, big enough to sport a cross-hatched grate like you would find in the street. This is of course for the bass tuning and does its job.

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With a three-hole “near tubeless” thick nozzle, silicon tips held well. I would imagine foamies might slip and slide and will gauge this later in the test. I say near-tubeless for in the nozzle there are no tubes, but where the BA’s congregate into those three holes, there are tubs joining each pair to the respective tube, then tubeless part in the nozzle. Since the shell is poured resin, it is of no concern to me. The whole unit exudes quality, and this bodes well for the unit and against the competition.

Since the nozzle is of a larger diameter and slightly angled, some may find fit a bit difficult. But in my average sized ear canals and with the included white shaft silicons, I had no problem. The cable lays over my ear well, even if the cable is a bit stiff and large. The over-ear bend is tight and fits well without pinching. This fit does not even bother my glasses. The SA-6 fits fairly deep into my ear as well, making for a near flat parallel of my ear. This also aids in isolation as well. I had no problems with isolation and found myself missing several conversations with peers as they approached my desk unbeknownst to me.

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A word about tips. Much has been said of late in some groups about “what tip works best,” and “which tip is your favorite.” Well, I usually go with Comply Isolation or Comfort tips depending upon the IEM. That said, I am growing in appreciation for the stock tips included in many that have come my way of late. If I had to choose a silicon though, it would be the Azla SednaEarfit, which are superb. And now the disclaimer: use what fits you the best and what gives YOU the best sound. In other words, the signature YOU like. While it is fine to ask for suggestions, do not mimic someone’s choices simply because they tout it as “the best” or “best sounding.” You should be the judge and no one else. As such, I find tip comparison guides pretty much moot and ridiculous as it is for one person’s specific ear or using a machine. Good on them for sampling many tips, but I poopoo recommendations (even mine above). Use the choices as a guide and nothing else.

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Sound:

Over the last 2-3 weeks there has been an upshot (more like rocket-shot) of interest in not only the SA-6, but the Luna. As stated above, I have both on hand. The SA-6 using the gorgeously colored stabilized wood makes an all but done deal guarantee that yours will be unique, pattern-wise. The to-do over the SA-6 has gone well beyond the look, and into the sound as well. For you see, it was not until recently that not only did the driver war back off, but that BA’s could be thought to provide decent to very good bass.

I’m here to tell you that with the Atmospheric Immersion switched on, this is some darn fine bass. And as such, the gap continues to shorten between dynamic drivers and balanced armatures. On Ziggy’s See Dem Fake Leaders (for some reason I am playing that song a lot right now...), the bass runs deep and rich. But not what I would call lush. A bit lushier than not, but certainly not full-on lush. And with a tight line, speedy decay; this makes for a very good presentation that runs its course, then gets out of the way. I may have to get my Legend X out to compare the bass. Following with Ky-Mani Marley’s The Chant, that bass line holds true. It is good, and when the task is over, moves out of the way. It certainly shows the working partnership between Sonion and Dunu in collaborating on this special, SA-6 specific balanced armature.

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Vocals are pushed forward and up a bit, in the mid-section, but do not become shouty or too much. Clear and crisp, the dual Knowles custom ba’s do their job as well. Separation and plays well into this when the lowers and mids cross. There is no muddiness here, and I like that the sound allows all to come across cleanly. Heathen’s (the Mutemath version), sounds simply sublime. Coming in deep and soft, followed by the build, which culminates with Tyler’s vocals coming in just as softly and you get the sense of immersion that is desired of the song. With excellent width as well, you get that spacious presentation desired.

Moving up the scale, thankfully the treble does not present what I might call the “typical shouty” top end of ba’s. While there is good reach, I hear neither sibilance nor a brittle character to the uppers. This could be due to a slight push of the upper mids, as noted above, which counter any potential top end rush. Maybe I’m just making that up and the top end is appealing to me. It really does not matter, as I am pleased with the presentation, and do feel the upper end is tamed nicely, but without losing that spark, which necessitates good reach. I find good texture to cymbals for example, but without sibilance or a grating perspective, which can leave me cringing. Speed matches the bass, and as such makes the overall character of the Dunu quite quick of transition.

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Mind you this does not mean it is without depth of sound or a rich warmth. No, the SA-6 actually comes across as decently rich and to me with what I would call a “balanced armature” warmth that makes one a believer. I’ve heard plenty of too-sparkly, too-shouty balanced armature IEM’s, which seemed to be the flavor of the month, only to be thrown in the dresser after their month is up. The SA-6 is built to stay around well AFTER that next flavor of the month comes across your browser. I still have some of my favorite “flavors” in hand, and still hold them in the highest regard. That longevity is something I am really starting to look for in any audio purchase I make, and the Dunu would certainly fit that bill.

For now, I sit back and relish Adele’s Hello, allowing myself a listen without scribbling.

I think what has struck me while sitting back to listen (currently Lazarus, from Bowie) is that the imaging is so spot on. Realistic and accurate are analytical descriptors I would use, but it is so much more than that. Coming out of the Shanling M6 Pro, and tidal MQA the sound is fast, accurate and smooth. It is one thing to be precise, accurate and analytical; but something completely different to add a degree of rich clarity to that equation. The sound is indeed precise, quick of decay and with a separation, which allows you that precision mentioned above. On China Girl, I replay SRV’s seminal guitar work. Mind you this was before he really took off, and his finger strets are phenomenal. Over and over I listened to these two songs, pinpointing what it was that I liked about the presentation.

With the Atmospheric Immersion switched on, the added layers of warmth and bass seal the deal. Even with the switch off, the sound is excellent. But I kept (and will continue to...) the switch on for probably 85% or the time. This is akin to the 3D switch on any of many iFi amps, which give a better sense of “presence.” Just a really nice immersion with which to participate. Then the kicking song of All The Young Girls Love Alice plays, and the clarity returns in full force. Nice stuff, indeed.

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I think sometimes reviewers tend to pick on the negative items, instead of focusing on the positives. While it is not bad to mention those negatives (where warranted), it must be in the perspective of what you do not like, not an overall bad. Our “job” is to promote the pros/cons of the item, but in the perspective of who might like (or dislike) the item and for what. We are but one voice in this cacophony of words and must keep grounded that our one voice can aid or sink a product. Are there a plethora of fine products out there now? You bet, and there is certainly enough variation to find something for everyone. So, our “job” is to find that user-ship who would like the product. This is why I go on and on with items I like, such as the SA-6. Is it perfect? Certainly not. But it does tick most of the boxes I like.


Comparisons:

Dunu SA6 ($549) vs Fearless Audio S6Rui ($499):

Right off the bat, the S6Rui has a much brighter signature. Those who prefer a brighter signature will prefer the Fearless. And for some reason, the Rui has a much narrower soundstage as well. While it is not bad, intimate would definitely be an apt description. The vocal presentation is a bit more forward as well. While the SA6 presents vocals up front and a bit higher, the S6Rui’s vocal presentation is more forward yet. There is also a tinge of sibilance in some songs, which may be that push towards a brighter signature showing in a truly sparkling manner.

Bass presentation is better in the SA6, but the S6Rui is not bad by any means. The Fearless provides plenty of clarity and that crispness presented would be excellent for EDM, JPop or KPop. This could very well be a hipster’s dream IEM. I do appreciate it but prefer the overall signature of the SA6.

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Dunu SA6 ($549) vs Hidyzs MS4 ($300-):

The MS4 is still one of my favorite IEM’s at this price, even if the overall signature is a bit bright for my tastes. Clarity and a nice crisp sound signature define this, which bodes well for female vocals. There is a crisp nature to the air between notes here that the SA6 cannot match. But that should not dissuade you from the clarity wrought from the SA6. Bass runs deeper and faster on the SA6 as well.

This would be the conundrum of which I spoke right before the comparisons. There are so many good choices out there, we do have an obligation to try and decipher the differences so you can make an informed choice. Ultimately, though one should be able to try these before purchasing. I know that is tough in the world situation right now, but we try.

The cable on the Hidyzs is a bit finicky as well, but thankfully you get two, including one with a mic so you should be fine. Fit is a bit better as well, what with the smaller housing. So this one comes down to whether you like a more forward signature, or one, which has very good air between the notes. Your choice.


Dunu SA6 ($549) vs Noble Savant II ($499):

This one needs no introduction, as I have used it in reviews before. The Savant is quite mid-centric to me, with a subdued midrange that appeals to me. Bass reach is not quite as deep as the SA6 (or perceived reach) and is a bit slower to respond. This is definitely more laid back than the SA6 as well. Lazarus sounds almost sluggish, until you realize the song is supposed to be wrought with pain and suffering. Instantly one of my favorite Bowie songs, this one on the Savant defines the characteristic of the song impeccably. Toned down treble compared to the SA6 makes me want for further reach up top, but I do so like the signature. A mellow ride in a Miata on a hot summer day versus a hot air balloon in the evening of that same day. Both are fabulous but for differing reasons.

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Dunu SA6 ($549) vs Audiofly AF-180 mk2 ($499):

From memory, the Audiofly provides a vibrant open signature, but does not have the bass reach of the SA6. The companies first “flagship,” the AF180 acquaints itself well here with good vocal presentation and a certain sparkle up top to keep you interested. I did enjoy my time with the unit, and appreciated the signature, which featured a fine vocal presentation at its core.

Here though, the SA6 presents a more rounded signature, and one in which I appreciate the characteristics. It is amazing what can be done with 6 ba’s per side. Especially ones that specialize the way they do here.


Dunu SA6 ($549) vs Phonic BW4 ($535):

The Phonic came my way after seeing and IG post. I followed that with reading a review of the BW3. Contacting Kenneth, the owner we reached an agreement to procure a BW4. Sending pictures and other very useful information during the process, we communicated often (I still do). To say that the BW4 is gorgeous, would be a right statement. Arriving during the summer, the “wonderful heat and humidity” of the prairie states darkened the Padulak wood nicely. I chose that wood for its warmer signature, and deeper reaching bass. I am not disappointed. Providing a somewhat vibrant, rich tonality to the overall signature, the BW4 is akin to having that fine brandy in front of the fire after a wonderful dinner. Somewhat laidback, the signature fits my favors nicely. Coming in a sumptuously smelling leather case, the presentation of the product is every bit part of the equation as is the sound. Much like Dunu and the SA6 as well.

The SA6 has a more open sound, and deeper reaching bass as well. Turn the switch to “on” and you get a better sense of vibrancy from the SA6 as well. As both are aimed at the same market, they arrive at the point differently. Dunu is a large manufacturer. Phonic is not. For being the little guy, the BW4 acquits itself very well and can handle this segment with aplomb. If you want a very nice vibrant sound, the SA6 is very good. If you want a handcrafted richer tonality to your song, then please look into the Phonic BW4. Both are wonderful examples at how you may not even need to move upscale after this price point. No, really.

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Finale:

Anticipation turned to new toy syndrome, which consequently turned into review-mode. This then led to comparison-mode. And now we are in finale-mode. I’m not sure what else I can say other than I both appreciate the support and that the SA6 is really quite good. Other than the added knob, which is used for stability, and that the mids are a bit too high for me, the Dunu hits all of the right chords. Options for jacks, tuning ability (somewhat, and mostly the lower end, which is fine with me), stunning looks, and the sound to back it up; make the SA6 a very positive outcome. I enjoy the sound immensely and you may as well. The only way you will be able to tell is to try one yourself, and that is how it should be.

I thank Dunu for the sample and appreciate the support. This is a wonderful unit, that hopefully does very well.

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J
jmwant
Nice review. I wish there were an option between the SA3 and SA6, a bit too pricey for me.

Watermelon Boi

100+ Head-Fier
Dunu Studio SA6 Review: Something Serious
Pros: Excellent price-performance ratio
Reference tuning done to be musically enjoyable
Top-notch real wood faceplates
Atmospheric Immersion Tuning switches
Switchable connectors and quality accessories
Cons: The tuning change brought by the switch isn't drastic
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Dunu SA6 Review: Something serious

For those who have been putting their interest in the portable audio hobby, Dunu should likely be one of those brands that you would have heard by now. We did a number of reviews for Dunu IEMs by now and so far their outputs have been thoroughly impressive to me and many others. Dunu has been presenting a variety of IEMs with different styles and tuning, though they had one thing in common - a dynamic driver. They always tended to equip their IEMs with dynamic drivers; by pairing it up with Balanced Armature drivers, installing just a single well-made driver, or even bundling up multiple dynamic drivers at once.


Okay, there was a short instance where Dunu made a non-dynamic driver CIEM before. However, I would not count that since the brand itself was not fully established back then. So as I go through multiple Dunu products, I used to think every now and then about how Dunu would execute a pure-BA IEM. Right around when I started to assume that Dunu opposes full-BA setups, guess what - Dunu has finally announced their full-BA IEM, the Studio series. Two models marked the beginning of this new Dunu line-up which are SA3 and SA6. Let us first put SA6 to the test and see how it performs and sounds.




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Packaging


Stepping up, the new SA series sure has a lot of differences compared to their previous outputs. One of the differences could already be found upon its arrival at your doorstep - the packaging box is now visibly smaller and compact. The size of the box is similar to the ones from Campfire Audio. Still, the beautifully designed exterior rather gives a minimalistic vibe instead of feeling cheapy. Besides, the box may have gotten smaller but SA6 is still included with a variety of quality accessories. Other than the earpiece, the package includes a premium stock cable, 3 sets of modular plugs (2.5mm, 3.5mm, 4.4mm), a leather zipper case, 4 pairs of wide-bore eartips, 4 pairs of narrow-bore eartips, 3 pairs of short-sized eartips, an AV adapter, a cleaning tool, and some paperwork.




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Earpieces

First off, let us talk about the drivers. SA6 houses 6 Balanced Armatures per side and which comprises both Knowles and Sonion drivers. 2 AcuPass Vented Sonion woofers take charge of the lows, 2 custom Knowles drivers for the mids, and 2 custom Knowles tweeter for the highs. On a personal note, I much enjoy Sonion drivers as they tend to produce a superior bass response. SA6 is also topped with a switch for changing tuning modes. While keeping the switch turned off would play the default sound, turning the switch up would enable SA6's Atmospheric Immersion sound signature.


Dunu also chose resin (German Nice-Fit UV resin) as the housing material for the Studio series. The faceplates are made of high-grade stabilized real wood that draws out different patterns and colors for every earpiece. It is also interesting that the cable sockets are terminated as recessed 0.78mm standard 2pin while Dunu has been using MMCX for their products. Their earlier resin IEM also uses 2pin, so perhaps this was something we were expecting to see. The shell has a transparent dark blue color with the nozzles divided into three bores. The diameter of the nozzles is between T400-T500, making it compatible with most other aftermarket eartips (Spiral Dots, Xelastec, etc.) The shell is compact and ergonomically shaped, providing a flawless, secure, and comfortable fit.




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Cable

SA6's stock cable is made of 8-core high-purity Monocrystalline Silver-Plated copper wires. The sleeves are made of pure white and brown to give it a two-tone look. For the termination, it uses standard 2pin connectors and Dunu's Quick-Switch Modular Plug System as we would all be familiar with by now. One interesting change is that the tips of the modular plugs are rhodium plated instead of their usual modular plugs that use gold. The cable is very soft and quite light considering it being an 8-core cable. Microphonics are not an issue here as the cable is not springy or stiff in its nature.




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Sound Impressions - Lows

First, let us talk about the bass. SA6 presents a mellow and lush bass that is ultimately very well leveled. This brings the impression that lows are linear while they are technically not (since they're lively and plentiful). The bass quantity sits around being slightly v-shaped; not bombastic or thundering, nor flat or flattish. Sure not enough or bassheads, but more than better for delivering thick and masculine grooves. The bass makes a consistent, thick flow throughout the low-range. The dynamics and bass impacts are thorough yet done in a neat, graceful manner which allows the lows to achieve harmony with the music - so that the overall sound feels unified as a whole. The bass texture tips towards the smooth, creamy style but without the possibly unwanted elements when we say "smooth". This is also what I believe to be one of the bold merits that SA6 has. Despite its smooth nature, the textures cleanly reveal the fine grains while consisting of speed and tightness.


Lows do not feel bloated or mushy either. SA6's bass shows meaty and thick density that gives the solid low-end establishment a full and large enough body. However, the density and hardness are not cranked up to the point where they would start to make the texture feel rigid or stiff. Every bass notes are delivered with weight, seriousness, and darkness, making calmness (or matureness) to be a key characteristic of SA6's bass. The ultra-low extension may come as a concern for some, but Dunu is known for putting effort into their bass. SA6's bass performance is far better than saying "decent for a full-BA IEM"; it actually stacks up with a solid dynamic driver. But feeling snappier and quicker in its response. Anywho, does its full-BA nature shows any shortcoming in terms of performance? I would say no. Not really at all.




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Sound impressions - Mids


Producing good mids is not an easy task for full-BA IEMs, though SA6 sure made it seem far easier. The moist and rich cleanness first catches the attention. The tone is on point without any metallic presence or visible change in tone. Vocals are just slightly meatier than neutral, gives a fuller and bigger body while not getting so bulky in thickness. Though SA6 retains the pleasant rigidness and tightness that we often seek from full-BA setups. Along with the thorough depth, mids show a glimpse of warmness that makes the vocals stay organic and more easy-going. Upper mids gain a slight boost in airiness but still within the warm (or neutral) state and do not get strong to be considered cool or cold. This does not mean that the vocal atmosphere is stuffy though, as good transparency and breeziness are present throughout the mids.


The brightness is mildly darker than neutral. This is just enough to make the overall tone calmer while not diminishing the airiness. Just as the lows did, vocals are highly stabled in its flow throughout the mid-range. Sibilance does not occur whatsoever, nor the metallic warps that are often considered versatile for full-BA setups. The emphasis and positional presentation are extremely consistent and accurate, making SA6's tuning worth calling a home-run.



The Atmospheric Immersion Tuning

The overall sound ray (yet especially lows and mids) would get mildly thicker and larger. The tonal balance and overall characteristics are impressively stable, bringing extra wideness and fullness to SA6 while barely affecting any other element from the original tuning. The tones are deeper both in colors and depth, providing a gentle boost to the bass thumps. This is perhaps one of the most seamlessly tuned switches I have encountered. The Atmospheric Immersion Tuning does an outstanding job adding an adequate amount of grande characteristics to the sound.





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Sound impressions - Highs, etc.

Let us stop here a moment and think about EST drivers - they are being loved since its utterly powerful treble performance, of course, but I believe the next most powerful merits of EST drivers are due to its fine texture (or layers). You might be wondering why am I talking about EST drivers while SA6 does not include any - and that is because SA6 achieves a similar fineness and smooth splashiness that an EST driver would produce. Quite entertaining as such similar fineness is present while retaining the tightness and "fast retrieval impression" a usual BA tweeter would have. Therefore, trebles feel more engaging and better backed up with thickness than an EST driver would normally have. I would say this would be one good example that proves BA tweeters are not always unequaled to EST drivers.


Trebles make a clean and virtuous splash where the endpoint is well presented with fine strands of its textures. The temperature is just about right to give a cool, breezy, and opened up impression while not getting cold or icy. The brightness is toned appropriately to sound refreshing, thus relieving any warmness happening from the lower-end. Highs are located similarly to mids but not overpowering whatsoever. SA6 is skilled when it comes to delivering good treble power and finesse without getting hot in intensity. The soundstage is well presented with characteristics that explain the reason for its lineup name - Studio. SA6 draws a private and quiet background with a reference-style headroom. The dynamics are gently emphasized to bring out the intended musicality and fullness for the music while keeping an unexaggerated, neutral stage size. As described in the treble impressions, the separation is stellar that could even attempt to compete against EST drivers.




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Comparisons


-Moondrop S8-

Both are very similar in terms of overall sound signature and style. S8 highly desires a reference tuning, showing a mild w-shaped sound signature with its charms blooming at the mid-highs. But of course, there are still a handful of differences. Vocals from S8 sound more slender and slimmer while SA6's are a bit fuller and more expansive. Alongside, vocals from SA6 sounds livelier with more air going on. S8 sure sounds airy too, but the airiness from SA6 feels more "active" and displays the upper-end openness more vividly. The bass would be the largest difference between these two IEMs. SA6's lows throw a visibly stronger blow, as well as revealing a deeper and thicker bass presence.


Tonality-wise, both are once again similar. Yet with just a mildly stronger coloration on S8. Both the quantity and type of coloration do not harm the naturalness of the tone - but instead make female vocals sound softer and shinier (this is a type of tone that would make much benefit especially for J-Pop). In general, S8 strictly sticks to the flat, 'Harman-Kardon' reference style while SA6 is executed in a more musical and richer manner. On a personal note, while the gap may not be so drastic, I would take SA6's side for choosing the winner.



-Dunu DK-3001 Pro-

Seems like SA6 outdid one of Dunu's most iconic product. Each driver is better aligned with each other to provide a coherent, harmonious phasing. Perhaps we could have given a bit of an excuse for DK-3001 Pro when it comes to a matter of phasing (since it is a hybrid setup). However, SA6 does such a greater job infusing those multiple drivers into a singular sound that overrides all other excuses. Vocals are finer and more neutral in tone. The reverbs (bass punches, treble splashes, vocals, etc.) form a spontaneous ringing that makes the flow of the overall sound to feel "how it is supposed to be".




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Verdicts

Putting all the concerns I had with Dunu's attempt on full-BA setups, SA6 is a fabulous, elaborate IEM. It performs very well for its asking price and it would not be an exaggeration that SA6 could stack up against sub-flagship or flagship IEMs around $1k. SA6 should be pleasable for a majority of audiophiles as it manages to produce thorough dynamics, musicality, and fullness all while setting its base to the clean, highly-balanced reference tuning. Alongside, the Atmospheric Immersion Tuning lets users make a gentle adjustment that shows near perfection in maintaining SA6's original reference setup. For those who seek clean, clear, and detailed sounding IEM that is topped with fatigue-free smoothness and dynamics, this big brother IEM from Dunu's new, fresh lineup would be a splendid choice.




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RELATED REVIEWS

Dunu Luna Review Falcon-C Review Dunu Hulk Review

DK-2001 Review DK-3001 Review DK-3001 Pro Review DK-4001 Review


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Thanks to Dunu for providing Studio SA6 in exchange for an honest impression/feedback.
I am not affiliated with Dunu and none of my words were modded or asked to be changed.
Last edited:
corgifall
corgifall
Those pics though :bow:

Great review as always!
Watermelon Boi
Watermelon Boi
corgifall
corgifall
Same to you!

Dsnuts

Headphoneus Supremus
DUNU SA6 stands for Seriously Awesome 6
Pros: Well tuned close to a neutral reference balanced tuning. Exemplary designed 6BAs in a medium sized shell. Comfortable with a strong all resin build. Tuning switch that adds a slight bass and lower mid emphasis for added musicality in atmospheric mode. One of the best included modular cables you will ever get with any earphone at any cost. Highly technical and resolving w superb imaging and detailed it will make you wonder why you spent a lot on your multi BA IEM from other manufacturers. One of the best BA bass I have ever heard from an all BA set. Excellent accessories set with nice clam shell case and every type of modular connector needed for any type of source. Not a hiss magnet.
Cons: A bit short on the nozzle which some folks might not like. Cable is a touch bulky but I don't find it bothersome. What happens when you got 8 cores of the stuff.
DUNU SA6
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The Studio line of earphones are DUNUs first all BA offerings and I was excited to hear that they were making two earphones the SA3 and SA6. All BA earphones are nothing new in the market but the way I see it, each earphone has its sound deeply rooted in the sound tuning which gives each earphone their sound character and usability. When tuned right, provides something a bit different and substantial for the in ear enthusiast.

When describing all BA offerings seldom does the word natural come about when describing their sound but today with so many offerings and variation of earphones. Does an all BA set compete with today's hybrids and higher end earphones? The SA6 does for certain. I consider myself very lucky as I had the opportunity to review some of the best of DUNU including the DM-480, DK2001, Luna, SA3 and now the SA6. DUNU is one maker in the industry you can certainly count on to make some cutting end sounding equipment and today is all about their 6 balanced Armature earphones the SA6.

The SA6 drivers are a mix of two very well established known BA manufacturers in the industry, Sonion and Knowles. Specifically 2X Sonion acupass vented woofers for bass, 2X custom Knowles mid range drivers, and 2X custom dual tweeters. I will get into what the vented Sonion bass BAs do for the SA6 in the bass description but for now just know there is a reason why the SA6 is DUNUs best all BA set.
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I would like to give a hearty thanks to Tom of Dunu fame and the crew over at DUNU for keeping alive new and innovative earphones for the enthusiasts. A sample of the SA6 was provided for this review. Dunus web site is here and the active thread for the SA3 and SA6 here.

These are my subjective views of the new BA earphones the SA6. I base my ranking and reviews based on how a particular earphone performs at the given price range. Based on the quality of build with it’s design, accessories provided, and most importantly sound performance.
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All BA sets have become somewhat of an enigma. There are purists in the earphone realm that seem to think dynamics and dynamics only will be the best way to go for a natural sound. In fact I happen to know a few hard core manufacturers that just use dynamics. Purists they are. For those folks I would like to say why limit your choices to just dynamics? I suppose preference plays a key part in what one likes in a sound but for me I really don't have a preference. I love listening to my Luna and then I will listen to the SA6 with just as much satisfaction. If the sound is right the sound is right is my motto so here we have the SA6 with an all BA design that is DUNUs newest earphone.

Advantages of an all BA design are as follows; the small form factor of the BA driver makes for better use for multiple configurations in house placement for better ergonomics. This means you don't have to have a huge housing for multiple driver configurations with better fitment and comfort as a part of the design. Despite what you read and know about all BA designs, BAs do cover the entire sonic spectrum. Their strengths sonically are in transparency, clarity, speed, detail, imaging and treble extension. But what about bass you ask? Well I will get to that in the read but for now let's just say these are highly regarded for a reason.
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What you get with the SA6 is DUNUs finest. A well packaged deal includes their newly developed DUW-03 modular cable. If you have never used a DUNU made cable. These modular cables easily adapt to the output of any source be it single or balanced ended. The Cable is made of a high quality monocrystalline silver plated copper in 8 cores which comes with 3.5mm single ended, a 2.5mm balanced, and 4.4mm balanced connectors you can switch on the fly. At the time of writing the cable is not being sold separately but I would assume it will be a bit pricier than their DUW-02 cable which would land the cable roughly in the $100-$120 range. Just know you're not getting some left over parts bin for a cable here.
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The cable is flexible, has softer ear guides, visually appealing and does not emit any excessive cord noise. This cable has to be one of the best packed in quality cables I have seen at any price. This is just my opinion but I have seen a few folks complain about the bulkiness of the DUW-03. I don’t consider them bulkier than your average 8 core cable but I suppose preference plays a part in how we like our cables. For me anyways I like me some substance in a cable.
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What can I say about the genius modular design. It is a company that knows it’s market, why limit what the cable can do when you can switch the connector to use on any source available. The cable itself gets high marks for quality, ergonomics and most importantly usability. I am happy to report that the cable is a good match for the highly transparent signature of the earphones. I mention this as I have seen too many manufacturers throw in the random cable that should have nothing to do with the sonic character of the host earphones it is packed with. Fortunately for you Dunu is not a company that does this.

I only wish manufacturers would throw in this level of quality in the cable. This is the one set I can honestly say you don’t need to buy an extra cable for. The included tips are functionable but I am sure you will dig into your can of tips to try this and that. The zip up pouch again is nice and has enough room for the earphones, the cables and the connectors you're gonna need on the go with a few sets of tips.
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Now onto the build of the SA6 itself. The SA6 promises something a bit unique in the earphone realm that is an individualized face plate of each SA6. Made of stabilized wood in acrylic resin. This allows for each set of face plates to have a distinct pattern and each SA6 will have different colors and varies in looks vs another. What you get when you order will not be the same as another person's SA6. It will be more a draw of the luck in which color and pattern you get. I do believe there are some vendors that sell the SA6 based on the color sets of the shells so that might be worth looking up if you decide to order a set for you.
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All resin IEM builds are nothing new in the IEM realm but makes for a practical and solid form factor when including multiple BAs with 3 crossovers all stuffed inside medium sized shells. Which is pretty astonishing considering their own SA3 using half the BAs are actually larger in size. 3 dedicated sound tubes out to the nozzle ensures clean separation of the 3 frequency ranges the BAs all represent.

Sound analysis was done listening to the SA6 out of my various sources including Fiio M15, Shanling M6pro, M5s, M3s, Ibasso DX160, Sony ZX300, IFI black label and Ibasso PB3 amplifiers.
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Imaging is easier with BAs, there I said it. Among advantages of the all BA sets this aspect seems to be the one consistent that I have noticed among multi BA offerings. No haze, veil or missing in detail the base tuning of the SA6 is a slight U shaped in signature a bit of a musical variation of the neutral reference tuning and has an excellent technical foundation in how it portrays sound, including some outstanding imaging from the set. Overall cohesion is ideal here from bass to the highest treble notes, the completeness of sound goes without saying as all 6 BAs are firing full blast via 3 crossovers will get you that. Including some excellent dynamics with a clean tonal timbre quality to the SA6. What you're getting in the SA6 is a top flight sounding all BA earphone.

Treble has excellent extension and exacting details, BAs have no problems handling the high notes and as you know it all comes down to tuning the highs. My ideal treble has the lower treble with the most emphasis slowly sloping to the extended brilliance regions of the treble and that is what you get with the SA6. There is not a treble note, effect or shimmer you're gonna miss from the treble on the SA6. Treble is clean with a very good extension showing plenty of sparkle. No one is gonna be left wanting from the treble as I find it to be one of the many strong suits of the SA6. I don't hear any weird glaring peaks or spikes that would cause ear fatigue for treble. With a name like Studio Armature 6 you know it will bring the details so naturally the SA6 in the treble region has excellent detail for treble notes seamlessly blending into the mid bands.
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Mids while not forward in the mix are not recessed in any part of the mid bands. Here is where the ON switch of the SA6 starts to take effect. The lower mid bands get a slight boost with the switch on the atmospheric position. Atmospheric and true to the meaning, it has an effect of the musical ranges the bass and lower mids of the SA6. As in most switch use scenarios with earphones there is not a big leap effect with the switch engaged. I do appreciate that the switch protrudes enough to use your nails to turn on or off. It is definitely small but protrudes just enough to toggle without a tool. If you want a more neutral leaning bass and lower mids for a more monitor type sound you can turn that switch off or if you want that lower end emphasis turn it on and leave it on. Which is my preferred setting.

Mids have a clean dimensional character to it, giving vocals and instruments their own space to work with. Mid bands here are engaging in presence and has outstanding clarity showing the type of transparency you would expect from a higher end earphone. Mid bands have that dimensional quality that is easier for multi BA offerings I touched upon earlier, these will be very satisfactory in that regard. Imaging can expand outside the headstage at times and shows a very capable sound layering that is the strong suit of a well implemented all BA design. Sure more BAs does not get you a better sound but it does seem to have an effect on how your sound images. Imaging on the SA6 is so good you can close your eyes and be surrounded by your music and isn't that the idea of getting into your music?
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This my friends is something you can’t get with lesser offerings, multi BAs or not. If you want to know the difference between headphones and earphones. Have a listen to the SA6, what one sacrifices for head stage on larger cans makes up for in that dimensional intimate head stage you can only get with earphones like the SA6. Higher end personal audio is exactly what you're getting with the SA6, and did I mention these have very good quality bass? Ya you're not misreading this statement.

Bass of the SA6 is not an afterthought. One of the general limitations of the BA form is bass performance. It is not that the bass is weaker somehow or does not sound right. BA bass just don’t have the same rumble of an equally adapt dynamic driver. But hold on there partner before you say weak bass. The SA6 in atmospheric mode has a bass end that is actually a very good quality. Using 2 Sonion acupass woofers for the low end. These woofers are vented in design and can hit them low notes with ease with good authority to make bass genres sound like bass genres. Low end rumble if it is in the recording. You're gonna get a low end rumble.
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About 1/3th of the music in my Fiio M15 is EDM/ Hip Hop,Pop and RnB so a good low end is crucial for these genres and here the SA6 not only represents but found them to be very good for these genres. Unless you’re an outright basshead the SA6 will surprise with just how good the low end notes are represented. Bass has perfect impact and can adapt to the types of bass notes that are crucial to bass enhanced genres. One of my test tracks for 808 bass is Beastie Boys Brass Monkey and I was surprised not only can the SA6 represent the 808 bass note but it is actually excellent in bass tonal character with a dynamic like sustain better than a lot of actual dynamic drivers. Ya surprised me here. Lets just say not all BA based earphones are not using them Sonion vented Bass drivers.
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Speed and tightness is among the better aspects of BA bass for those seeking absolute speed none better than BA bass but for the SA6 you can actually add a low end rumble with that. What was really surprising to me was how it can mimic bass qualities that are associated with dynamic drivers much better than you would imagine. Listening to 2 Chainz, forgiven. An underlying sub bass track that comes with authority and a surprising high quality low end textured rumble. The vented Acupass Sonion BAs are in full effect with a hard hitting low sub bass note that is satisfying out of my Black label and this is without the bass switch. Surprised and smile inducing at the same time. This goes to show how capable these drivers are when reproducing bass emphasis. In fact I don’t have too many all BA earphones that can accurately reproduce this track like the SA6. The real surprise here is these don’t sound like BA bass. Bass quality again is surprisingly very good on the SA6 and that is due to the drivers chosen to take care of the bass notes.
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That spacious precise quality of the SA6 makes Trance tracks a treat to listen to and you're gonna love how Jazz tracks have that intimate layered immersion factor of the SA6. Speedy for them double bass drum kicks for metal tracks with the perfect amount of guitar crunch and energy. SA6 is a treat to behold; it has a very versatile tuning a fine example of what modern multi BAs earphones should offer. The whole package is there, a beauty to look at and comfortable for hours of listening. SA6 sounds great on everything I tried them on showing it is a true performer with all types of sources be it a simple phone to a dedicated amplifier. Recommendation for a great sounding multi BA offering the SA6 is a fine example and has the sound to back up it’s looks. SA6 shows the very reason why some of the highest regarded earphones in the industry are made of the multi BA designs. As always thanks for reading and happy listening always.
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shenzhenaudio
shenzhenaudio
Great review and pitcures! Nice job!
jaker782
jaker782
Nice review, as usual! Just curious how you feel this compares to the Volt? Only asking because I own Penon's flagship and was looking to pick up something else a bit cheaper. Thanks!
Dsnuts
Dsnuts
SA6s technical traits are very good. The main difference between the two are that the Volts have their outstanding 10mm dynamic doing bass duties. Vs the dual vented Sonion acupass BA doing the bass on the SA6. Bass has more authority in the volts and reaches deeper but you would be surprised how natural the Bass end sounds on the SA6. Tonality is different here as well. Volts having a richer mids signature. SA6 is an excellent all BA set up if your looking for something to compliment your volts on the go. Sound while not as rich as the volts makes up for it with excellent imaging and really good detail all around.

Hddad70

Head-Fier
DUNU SA6 Review
Pros: Some of the best BA bass in its price range
Superb build and design
Excellent transparency and resolution
Cons: For the price - None
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DUNU SA6
"The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing"​

DUNU recently introduced their newest lineup of all multi-balanced armature in-ear monitors, The Studio Series. The SA3 was the first of the series followed by the SA6. DUNU has long been known for their hybrid-centric approach only recently delving into all BA IEM’s. Coming in at $549, The SA6 features a brand new vented dual woofer by Sonian in partnership with DUNU designed specifically for the SA6. Until the Studio series, DUNU had been exclusively using Knowles BA drivers in combination with their own in-house designed dynamic drivers. According to DUNU they envisioned the SA6 as something of a “Goldilocks” for BA only IEM’s. Is the SA6 "Just right" for you?

Before I go any further I want to thank DUNU for supplying this review unit. This unit was supplied in its full retail packaging including the retail box, IEM’s, case, and all accessories.


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Specifications


Driver Configuration:

Bass - [2] Sonian AcuPass Vented Dual Woofer

Mids - [2] Knowles custom Midrange driver

Treble - [2] Knowles Custom Dual Tweeter

Frequency Response: 5Hz - 40kHz
Sensitivity: 113db
Impedance: 60 ohm

Tuning Modes:

Default Signature - Switch Position 1
Atmospheric Immersion (Bass boost) - Switch Position ON

Cable:

8 Core, High Purity, Monocrystalline, Silver-Plated Copper. Patented DUNU Quick-Switch Modular Plug System (4.4mm Balanced, 3.5mm Single-Ended, and 2.5mm Balanced Terminations)

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Design and Build
The design and build of the DUNU SA6 are excellent. The housing is hand poured from a high-quality resin sourced in Germany and finished off with a stabilized wood faceplate unique to each housing. The faceplate color combination and design of my unit are simply stunning. The clear resin reveals the superb craftsmanship of each IEM. I couldn’t wait to do a photoshoot with these. It’s easy to photograph beautiful things. The build quality of the cable is also very good. Its design complements the IEM’s quite nicely, is supple yet robust. The 2-pin metal connectors fit securely in the sockets of the IEM’s and never feel loose or vulnerable.

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Comfort and Isolation
The SA6 is small and compact and relatively light resulting in a very comfortable fit. Probably one of the more comfortable UIEM’s I’ve tested. The shape of the housing is perfect for my ear not only providing excellent comfort for long listening sessions but also providing good isolation. I got a chance to test these out on a flight from California to Pennsylvania, 12 hours both ways. There was only a slight noise bleed with the volume at medium levels. The supplied black tips provided a good, comfortable seal for the trip up but for the return trip I switched to my Sedna Earfit Exelastec tips and the isolation was slightly better.

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Sound
The overall sound signature of the SA6 with the switch in its default position is balanced with smooth treble and a slight bass bump. It has good resolution, separation, and a more intimate presentation. The transparency, clarity, and coherency of the SA6 are very good.

Bass
The woofer used in the SA6 is brand new. Developed in a new partnership between DUNU and Sonian specifically for the SA6. According to DUNU, the specially designed Sonian woofers delivered what they felt was a more visceral bass response, similar to what a dynamic driver might offer. It has an integrated AcuPass filter as an acoustic low-pass, rather than an electronic low-pass. It also has a dedicated tract for venting something not normally seen used with balanced armature bass drivers. Most manufacturers just use the volume of the shell as the back volume but DUNU modulated the back volume with volume restriction from the tract without limiting total acoustic impedance resulting in an optimized bass response without sacrificing speed. My preferred setting is with the switch in the default position.

With the switch in the default position, the bass is fast and accurate. The bass and sub-bass are quite balanced offering good extension with enough rumble to satisfy most. With the switch “ON” the bass is slightly boosted. In both positions, the bass has excellent texture and layering never bleeding into the mids.

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Mids
The mids are smooth throughout the frequency range. Instruments sound natural and organic. Trumpets, pianos, and guitars have excellent timbre and tone. Female and Male voices were presented faithfully with female vocals being slightly more forward. Overall the mids are robust and evenly tuned. With the switch in the “ON” position the bass never encroached on the lower mids nor overpowered the mid presentation.

Treble
In line with the rest of the frequency range, the treble is detailed, fast, and resolving. Cymbals have excellent texture and decay. Hi-hats have good sizzle and detail with almost perfect representation never harsh or shrill. Live recordings have plenty of air and openness. Instrument placement and separation are pinpoint accurate. The presentation is intimate but never claustrophobic.

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Conclusion
Frankly, there is almost nothing I don’t like about the SA6. My Uncle used to say the “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” It was good advice for life and it’s also good advice for IEM design. What is the main thing? Sound of course. DUNU made sure to “keep the main thing the main thing” without sacrificing design or build quality. Excellent sound, build, design, comfort, and isolation all at a very competitive price. And DUNU’s innovative approach to balanced armature bass seems to have paid off in spades. Personally, this is some of the best BA bass I’ve heard and competes at an even higher price point than what it’s offered. DUNU expressed they envisioned the SA6 to be something of a “Goldilocks” for BA only IEM’s. And that hopefully, most users would feel the same way. DUNU, I can’t speak for other users but for me, the SA6 is "just right".

YouTube Review of SA6
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shenzhenaudio
shenzhenaudio
Great review!
Hddad70
Hddad70
Thanks!

fabio19

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Excellent three-dimensionality, even on in ear in a higher price range. Similarly detailed and fast playback even with the switch ON. Unquestionably high-level construction level that is suitable for a decidedly higher price range. Accurate in the details and colors that make the in ear, however unique. Realistic and quality "live" or "studio" reproduction effect Resolution and level detail, as well as the speed of execution. Light weight, flexible and aesthetically pleasing series cable.
Cons: Switching from ON to OFF does not offer a radical change in the restitution of the low range, but a generally fuller and fuller sound. It may not appeal to lovers of the exuberant and very deep low range. Impossibility in the aesthetic choice of the wide range of colors.
Construction and Insulation:

The presentation of the iem in terms of construction is presented (from what has been learned) with an acrylic resin made in Germany individually modeled by hand. Structure smooth to the touch and clear to the eye. The shells are hand-colored, giving the cap an exclusive color for each product. Although it would have been nice to be able to choose between the various colors depending on the personal aesthetic taste. But in the presence of the quality of the construction and above all of the sound, everything takes a back seat ... .. Using the Azla Sedna Xelastec, the isolation (at least for my auricle) is total, absolute, perfect. The fit of the SA6 is not very deep, while remaining comfortable and light. The AS Xelastec thanks to its fairly wide output construction conveys the music in a more complete and abundant way and mediates the measurement of the depth of the iem which, as stated, is not very deep. The supplied cable (also used for testing) has 8 high purity silver plated copper conductors, with 2 pin connector (0.78mm). The terminations included in the package include 3 connectors: one 4.4 mm balanced, one 3.5 mm TRS single ended and the last 2.5 mm TRRS balanced. Light weight and flexible cable, in silver color, aesthetically pleasing. The connector located in the lower part of the iem is easily accessible, if you want to change from on to off while listening, without having to remove it.

BALANCED ARMATURE DRIVER CONFIGURATION:

BASS [2]: Sonion AcuPass Vented Dual Woofer

MIDRANGE [2]: Knowles Custom Midrange Driver (×2)

TREBLE [2]: Knowles Custom Dual Tweeter

FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 5 Hz - 40 kHz
SENSITIVITY: 113 ± 1 dB at 1 kHz
IMPEDANCE: 60 Ω at 1 kHz
TOTAL HARMONIC DISTORTION: < 0.5% at 1 kHz

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Introduction :

For some years I have been following the DUNU brand, only on a discursive level as I had never owned or listened to an iem of this brand before. I convinced myself to buy the DUNU SA6, practically without reading or acquiring first some consideration of other forumers or reviews for various reasons. This is because my interest has turned absolutely to SA6 as declared a studio iem or "professional" if you like more. Having previously read about the reliability of the DUNU Company and the quality of the objects (which may or may not be pleasant to listen to according to the listening standards of each of us) I decided to take this SA6 (even if I was intrigued by the MOON) . I prefer a sound that veers in the direction (at least constructive) of the SA6 and also studio headphones in general, meet my tastes in terms of listening. Even if I don't work on it, but only for the fact that I found a confirmation in my personal “listening satisfaction”. After about 120 hours of running in the sound has stabilized in a fairly noticeable way with respect to the changes, and even if I am unable to state whether the current level of sound evolution has stabilized, here I am describing this SA6. Maybe in the future I will write (if there are) general evolutions or involutions in musical restitution.

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SOUND:

Long last……. So, I state that I ran the DUNU for 120 hours (more or less) without listening. I always do this with any headphones I have purchased. Listening to Genesis' "Throwing it alla way" I thought "Wow .... this is the era for me". The suspense gave way to the observation of the high quality of the musicality of the SA6, or at least of the direction in which the engineering of this iem is directed. The main factor that strikes is the clarity, transparency and speed which, however, does not go to the detriment of the general balance. All the parameters, all together, it seems that they are raised to a higher level than what "normally" can be heard. I immediately took the test by fire, passing from listening to the iBasso220max, to Astell & Kern KANN. Same song of course. The warm and enveloping sound of the Kann remained the same, but on the whole (audible without a doubt) an ideal "veil" was removed which stood between the listener and the performers of the piece. A "live" reconstruction in a clear, tangible way, albeit surrounded by total isolation from the external noises of the comfortable SA6 (but this remains a subjective parameter as much depends on the whole on the size and shape of your ear). Every single instrument is exactly identified both in the recording of the piece (if of high or very high quality) and in its positioning on the virtual stage of the performance. The quality of the mastering is audible, good and / or bad as it may be. Reproduction is very faithful to recording with all its pros and cons. I will talk about the use of the switch in the description of the low range, as it is in the low range that it exercises its function most tangibly. At 360 degrees (omitting reproduction of the low range, mid range and high range for the moment) I add that what literally comes at you is impressive resolution and accuracy. Enveloping and fascinating at the same time. The only negativity that I can objectively find (but at the same time exciting for my personal listening mode ...) is that this iem I don't think is suitable for lovers of the low range, of its extreme depth and fullness. Even if …… turning the connector to ON (which I have rarely turned on….) Things change significantly.



BASS:

Paradoxically, the low range is the only one in the totality of judgment that could lead to a positive or negative index. I immediately say that my opinion in this direction is decidedly positive, but for others it could be a factor of controversy. I'll explain; The Sonion dual ventilated woofer makes sure that the low range is incontrovertibly first and foremost very controlled and accurate. It is not a bass with a strong imprint and warm depth. This factor also remains unchanged in the reproduction of the medium-low range, however, giving on the other hand a decided gain in terms of control and a very very low distortion, even in tracks where the bass is predominant. The more the quality of the recording is perfect, the more all these parameters are very evident, the less good the recording is, the more the defects are highlighted above all in terms of restoring the goodness of the sound. The bass is still and always very fast and with a precision and a very high clean cut in terms of perfectibility Rarely on an iem have I heard such a crisp, clean, elegant low range. I give the idea better ... it's not a tiring listening even with metal or hardcore songs, but certainly the presence of the low range (as known and expressed in other iem) does not smooth out or mask the imperfections or limits of the recording. The SA6 reproduces and does not cover in any way the peculiarities of the song recording. Absolutely, there is a very high recovery of details. Audible (as I repeat) especially where the recording is of high quality. With the DSF all this is very enjoyable and very close to the real presence of the stage in front of us. The warmth expressed by the low range is present, but in its totality it always remains tight and fairly linear. This does not at all mean that it can be dry, on the contrary it remains enjoyable without ever crossing the hill and leading to the marked presence of the presence of the low range. Everything remains very clean, sharp, clear. It is as if it were a well-defined field from which sound practically never comes out. It never has that emphasis that some might expect. Perhaps for this reason the name STUDIO SA6. There remains an iem (at least for the reproduction of the low range) that is more studio-like than purely hifi (where the sound often turns out to be a little less analytical) to leave room for a reproduction several times to a listening less attentive to photography of the actual performance of the piece .
By placing the switch in the ON position, on the whole the sound does not turn generously towards the presence of the low range ... .. the sound, however, certainly acquires more heat, more body, without ever (fortunately) losing in terms of control and clarity. I could say that the change with respect to the OFF position is audible and certainly goes in the direction that the DUNU manufacturers had set themselves as a goal ... but I feel this "change" more in the low range than in the sub bass range. Overall, it remains a realistic sound with a pleasant note that I would define less analytical and a little more “pimp”, if you pass the term to me. In any case, I reiterate the concept. The click from ON to OFF changes the listening mode… ..but not as a whole in an overwhelming way. And this concept also applies to both mid-range and high-range reproduction. Everything is as if in front of a lit fireplace we approach or move away from the flames. The heat remains the same… ..change the way of perceiving it if obviously we approach or move away from it. While remaining unchanged the same.



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MIDS:

The mid-range, as well as other parameters of the SA6, (excluding the low range) stands out as very enjoyable, as it is very clear, fast, clean. Here too I do not find there is emphasis, if not on the return of the voices (more feminine than masculine) aimed at a presence that seems to be a step forward compared to the instruments. But, as already mentioned, also
this parameter remains questionable as it varies mainly according to the quality of the recording. As I write this I am listening to Korn's “Right Now” with Astell & Kern KANN. It is an explosion of precision from any point of view you want to judge the SA6. There is an accuracy and a delimitation of any truly remarkable musical instrument. The width is good and proportionate both in depth and in width. Slightly move the voices forward while remaining in a context where everything remains well delimited in a space from which the sound remains imprisoned but only in terms of precision. The lower middle is in line with the philosophy of the low range. So it is not overwhelming but neither is it thin. Let's say it doesn't present itself as the dominant factor of sound as a whole. The upper mids tend to be heard effortlessly by reproducing their sound with great three-dimensionality and timbre correctness. Even the mid-range as a whole does not seem to me to be very influenced by the positioning of the connector set to ON, if not in their completeness they do not have a shade that I would define as amber, although always tending towards light. Beyond all this, however, I believe that the On / Off function can be useful especially when changing the sound source. On iBassoDX220, in fact, the positioning on On, gives a touch of warmth and does not exacerbate the speed factor to the maximum, where iBasso220max certainly does not lack. On Astell & Kern KANN, on the other hand, the switch set to Off tends to give that bite, that "nastiness" and that spaciousness, where the KANN is inclined to listening as a whole relaxing and with fairly amber colors. In the crux of snare drums, the definition, attacks and releases are exemplary in their execution regardless of the connector. However, everything is always surrounded by fullness and never by the thinning out of sound. This is where I think SA6 does a great job. Being a fast, detailed, bright, three-dimensional iem, but without ever verging on the thinning of the notes. The metallicity of the medium-high range, or the extreme anality at the expense of the correct reproduction of sound. All these factors seem to lead to a leveling up, without neglecting a bit of warmth, musicality, and body that suits iem with a different constructive construction. I think it is a great job.


TREBLE:

In line with what has been stated so far. Fast, detailed, crystal clear without losing fullness and / or musicality. I have always thought that the high range is a crucial point of headphones in general. Where it is not easy to combine brilliance without having a tiring listening in the long run. The SA6 succeeds in this instead. The detail is also good, also audible combined with the speed of execution. The constant I've noticed about the 3 ranges is that it never fails
air as a whole as the detail between the instruments is never lacking. In other IEMs I have noticed and appreciated this, but here in addition a really remarkable speed is added. In this price range I believe that the SA6 is hard to match. And I think it can beat it very happily even in a higher price range of 1-2 / 3. I noticed that in symphonic or post / rock music and in any case where the voices and the high range are overshadowed, there is a desire to change genre, precisely because of the pleasure of listening that instead brings the contribution of the voices and instruments that enhance the high range precisely because the sound in this case is appreciated for the absence of harshness or "cold" while remaining quite analytical and radiographic. However, this is to the detriment of the recording of files of not good / excellent quality, as in this case, the reproduction loses in terms of separation of the instruments and detail.

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VERDICT:

To be fair, I state that giving a judgment to an iem in general remains a canon that should be mostly objective but inevitably our personal way of listening and the satisfaction of listening also play a non-marginal role. The DUNU SA6 reproduces everything with a lot of beauty and balance across the entire range. He plays without ever losing his character both with sources like A&K KANN and with iBasso220max. It has a little more bass presentation with the Kann and sounds clearer and faster with the MAX220. With the iBasso it really reaches a speed and an openness that is truly worthy of underlining. Al Kann instead gives that healthy bite that is needed with the harder musical genres and where a little more bite is required. On a very personal level, I must say that so far, regardless of its price range, the SA6 has met all my listening pleasure. You simply want to never take them off, regardless of the source, because in the end it never loses its personality and its setting. At the time of its purchase I hoped it sounded good, but honestly I never expected it to sound so good. A really pleasant and unexpected big surprise. I strongly hope that the DUNU “Studio” series can go on and on.

Congratulations DUNU.









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Layman1

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Superb build and engineering
Neutral reference with a touch of organic warmth
Lifelike, crisp, clear, detailed
Terrific value for money
Cons: none really, except if your taste is for thunderous bass or dark signatures
Introduction:

Dunu are a well-established company by now and will need little introduction from me.
Having produced many well-regarded IEMs in the budget range, they’ve recently been pushing into the TOTL market with their acclaimed Luna earphone.

Today, I’m going to be looking at an IEM which, according to the IEM world’s ever-changing pricing norms, would fit today at the mid-upper end of the mid-range price tier.
Which simply rolls off the tongue; I’m sure you’ll agree!
Basically, they’re $549 at time of writing :)

My sincere thanks to Tom and the team at Dunu, for providing me with a review unit to keep in exchange for an honest review.

Photos:
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As can be seen, the SA6 has a natural affinity for rock :)


Unboxing, packaging and accessories:

I think the packaging is decent for this price point; it’s understated, but functional. The IEMs themselves very much do all the talking here.

The accessories package was a mixed affair; a dark blue carrying case was included, which looked to be made from leather or PU Leather; it’s not really to my taste aesthetically, but since such things are so dependent on one’s personal preferences, I won’t count that as a negative, and functionally it's perfectly acceptable.

A generous selection of ear tips was provided, along with an impressive 8-wire SPC cable which - to the delight of Layman1 - gainfully employed DUNU’s modular plug system, coming with all 3 major plug options in the box from which to choose; 3.5mm SE along with 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced. Huge plus points for this choice, which I’ve sadly seen lacking on IEMs at more than double the price!

A cleaning tool and a guitar-style adaptor round out the package.

The IEM itself is a work of art, quite literally. It has handcrafted wooden faceplates; note that you are not able to choose the specific colour or design when ordering directly from DUNU, although I have seen at least one dealer offering a basic choice of colour. Each SA6 is unique, with a faceplate design differing from all the others, but all based around a pattern of dyed wood.

Everything on this IEM is well-engineered; from the gorgeous translucent bodies that revealed the components inside to the switch on each IEM that allows you to make a small change to the sound signature. I could reach up and flick the switches on and off easily whilst they were in my ears playing music.
And for reference, Layman1 - being as you may guess a tidy and conscientious type of fellow - keeps his fingernails trimmed short, so that's a testament to the usability of the switches! :)

The Fit:

The nozzle of the SA6 is comparatively short; I was able to get a good seal using my New Bee foam tips, but I did need to re-insert them during a 2 hour listening session as I noticed they had worked a bit loose and the seal had diminished as a result. Using Sedna Xelastec tips eliminated this issue for me. Note that I have fairly cavernous ear canals and tend to favour IEMs with pretty long nozzles (e.g. the UM MEST) and I use large ear tips, so this is very much a personal thing and it all depends on your own ear geometry! The SA6 are very comfortable and I am able to wear them extensively with no discomfort or fatigue.


The Sound:

I listened using the Sony WM1Z DAP, with MrWalkman’s custom FW (DMP-WM1 Mk I), combined with a variety of tracks in lossless or hi-res lossless format.
I’ll begin with the summary of my findings, followed by a brief conclusion.

After that, I add in highlights of the track-by-track breakdown of my findings for those interested (or just plain masochistic) :)

First up is to note that the SA6 feature a switch which provides a subtle increase in organic warmth and a small, but noticeable increase in bass and lower-mid power and presence.
In keeping with my tastes, after some experimentation with the two options I switched the switch on and left it on :)

The SA6 (and the whole new SA range generally) is more of a studio monitor according to its design philosophy, where it offers this signature as a contrast and complement to DUNU’s existing range of hybrid monitors, such as the outstanding DK-2001, which I reviewed earlier this year.

So, the SA6 offers a comparatively neutral-reference sound, but with a tinge of organic warmth (especially with the aforementioned switch engaged).

It has a great balance between speed and decay, never letting things become bloated, distorted or overly analytical and dry, but equally keeping things tight and alive.

It has what sounded like a lovely, expansive holographic soundstage, with a good degree of separation, and with well-executed imaging and layering.

It is a strong performer technically, with detail levels that rival TOTL IEMs.

The low end is tight, accurate, with a decent degree of sub-bass extension and a relatively neutral mid-bass.


The mids – especially with the switch engaged – continue the neutral-reference theme, but with a welcome tinge of organic warmth. The SA6 consistently wowed me with how the instruments and vocals popped, sounding life-like and engaging, crisp and clear.

Both male and female vocals were presented with faithful and captivating timbre, and the SA6 always let the vocal performances shine, never letting them get overwhelmed or buried beneath loud or complex musical arrangements.

Indeed, at the risk of sounding like I’m overhyping them (which of course Layman1, as a responsible reviewer, could never even contemplate doing!) the SA6 have one of the finest performances with regards to vocals that I can remember hearing on any IEM, full stop. (actual full stop added both for further emphasis and grammatical correctness) :)


The highs were again well-implemented; resolving, with a bright and sparkly treble that was still smooth enough to never cross over into shrillness or harshness and the SA6 maintained a delightful degree of air and openness at all times.

I think overall, the SA6 is an excellent IEM that offers astonishing value for money. However, in the interests of a balanced and informative review, I will address the question of whom the SA6 might not be suitable for:
If you’re looking for an IEM with rather elevated levels of body, weight and richness, and/or a powerful mid-bass presence, or bass-head levels of impact and rumble, then the SA6 (and indeed any relatively neutral-reference IEM) is probably not going to be for you, although it could still fill a place in such a person’s collection as an IEM which offers an alternative signature for when the mood strikes.

I am personally an unapologetic bass-head audiophile, and the IEM’s I’ve both reviewed and listened to over the bulk of this year have mainly been ones with a fairly hardcore low end and/or a rather rich and full-bodied tuning.

Despite this, I’ve been seriously impressed by the SA6 and I know it’s going to have a place in my regular collection – amongst several TOTL IEMs - for its outstanding vocal performance, detail and clarity.

I'd normally include some comparisons at this point, but realistically I don't have any IEMs which satisfy the dual criteria of being in the same ball-park in terms of pricing AND in terms of sound signature!

Conclusion:

If you are wanting an IEM with a strong technical performance structured around a fairly neutral-reference signature (but enhanced with just a touch of organic warmth), the SA6 should definitely be on your ‘to-hear’ list! :)

Factor in their beautiful and well-engineered construction, artistic faceplates, and quality cable with 3 different plugs included in the box and at the price point of $549, you have a competitively priced entry into the mid-tier market that offers a sound quality that is genuinely bordering on TOTL.


Addendum: track by track highlights:

So, I recently got a new album from the man known in China as 老板(this may or may not be true as I just made it up) but to us in the West as Bruce Springsteen.

It’s his latest album, released this year and sees him re-united with the E-Street band.

After listening online, I was so impressed with the first 4 songs, I immediately bought the hi-res 24-96 FLAC version, and what better way to unveil the DUNU SA6? (given that fireworks and confetti explosions were unavailable to Layman1 at the time of writing) :)

I’ll start, fittingly, with the opening track “One Minute You’re Here”.

It’s a quiet acoustic number, just his voice and plectrum-picked guitar, before some subtle and judiciously applied piano, percussion and keyboards come in to swell the sound and mood of the piece.

I notice immediately the tactile feel and sound of the strings being plucked and it’s presented so well that I can distinguish that it’s being done with a plectrum rather than (or in addition to) fingerpicking, which is really nice to hear on an all-BA IEM, as this tactile aspect of the sound is something that is – for me - rarely outstanding on IEMs which don’t feature a well-implemented dynamic driver.

So that’s an immediate plus point for the SA6!
Also, his voice is captured superbly here; all the texture and gravel, the nuances, the timbre.

It’s absolutely on point, captivating. Full bodied, front and centre, filling up the stage.
Soundstage feels holographic, with good separation, imaging and layering.

Now onto my other favourite track on this album – a track which I’d already rate as up there with his finest – “Burnin’ Train”.

This is an altogether different affair; a fast-paced rock number, jammed full of instruments and with a driving, train-like beat.

The opening seconds sound bright, open, quite spacious and musical.

The kick drum beat comes in, and it’s decent, but lacks a bit of depth, impact and power for my liking. Aside from this, it sounds pretty great overall.

The SA6 manages to handle the dense, complex array of instruments well, separating things out so that each can be distinguished but without diminishing the synergy they exhibit together. The sound is bright and crisp on the high guitar solo and percussion.


I use Italian hip-hop outfit Poison’s ‘Dove Sei?’ as a good track for testing bass extension and impact and the SA6 presents the thunderous synthetic bass/drums of this song with an amount of power and authority that frankly surprised me! It’s got the speed and control to keep it from sounding bloated, but the sub-bass extension to let it hit fairly hard.

A much better performance than I expected from a fairly neutral-reference tuning on an all-BA IEM.


Switching to Hong Kong opera singer Alison Lau’s rendition of Handel’s ‘Lascia la spina’ (24-96 HDTracks FLAC) the intakes of breath of the musicians are captured very well and again there’s a feeling of space, openness and air. The vocals manage not to be piercing, which is done well, as on some IEMs they can definitely get too hot to handle.

The strings are presented a good amount of sparkle and brightness.

They have a decent amount of body and weight; my personal preference would be for a bit more richness and body/weight, but the SA6 is aiming for a relatively neutral sound signature, and I can totally appreciate that (and it does it very well!).


In a bit of a change-up, I switched to ‘Fast Times at Dropout High’ by The Ataris.

This is a full-on melodic rock track, featuring several dynamic changes and at times searing or dense electric guitar arrangements.

I have to say the SA6 handled everything superbly, giving justenough power and body to the song in the dense/loud parts to stop it being shrill or overwhelming, always allowing the vocals to come through strongly no matter what else was going on, and presenting the dramatic changes in the song’s dynamics stunningly well.


Listening to Shawn Mullins’ ‘The Gulf of Mexico’,

The SA6 does well here; yet again, the vocals exhibit a very pleasing timbre and balance with the rest of the instruments. The sense of holographic space and separation that the SA6 delivers is a quality that this track always benefits from.
I love how all the instruments just ‘pop’, with life and musicality and crisp detail.


Now for Pearl Jam’s ‘Better Man (acoustic version with guitar and organ only – 24-96 HDTracks) I feel that the SA6 does a good job of capturing the nuances of the timbre in his voice, although I think on this track a touch more richness and low end body would have fleshed out the vocals even more. That caveat aside though, everything else is again done very well and the song overall is presented in an emotional and engaging way, with outstanding detail.


Listening to Paul Simon’s ‘The Coast’ (24-96 FLAC), the song opens with a plethora of percussion and with the SA6, every single instrument is clearly distinguishable from the other and presented in a holographic stage with superb separation and detail.

The acoustic guitar which comes in shortly after is presented with clean lines and sparkle, rather than the shimmer and resonance I hear on more full-bodied and warm IEMs.

I have to add that the SA6 continues to impress me with how well it presents vocals.

It never lets them get buried even under the most complex or loud of musical arrangements, and brings out their individual character very well. Really impressive.


As Monty Python would say, ‘and now time for something completely different’.
I switched to a fairly brightly-mastered track; Miranda Cosgrove’s ‘Disgusting’, which is a piece of pure pop (or perhaps pap, depending on one’s preferences) with a driving synthetic bass and beat, along with quite high-pitched female vocals. Coming from regular listening with such IEMs as the CA Solaris 2020, UM MEST and EE Phantom, the low-end on this song (as presented by the SA6 here) lacks a bit of weight, richness and engagement; it should serve as the driving force behind the track, but is instead a bit anaemic for my personal tastes here. It’s not bad by any means, I would just prefer a bit more, ideally.

However, as my learned readers will doubtless be aware, those IEMs I’ve mentioned are all known for having a pretty thunderous low end and/or great richness and body, so this should not be taken as an indictment of the SA6 as such :)

On a more positive note, the vocals are presented really well, and since they are fairly analogous to those female vocals popular in the Asian market, this will good news for those who favour such genres.


And that, laydeez'n'gentlemen, concludes both this track by track breakdown, and indeed the entirety of this review. It’s been a pleasure. Please come again. Don’t be a stranger now. Kind regards :)
corgifall
corgifall
Awesome review!
Layman1
Layman1
Thank you, but the IEMs were even better :D

davidmolliere

Headphoneus Supremus
Organic reference
Pros: Refined reference signature with the right touch of organicity and bite
Excellent transparency and clarity along with very good resolution
Open soundstage with excellent separation and precise imaging
Engaging subtle and refined vocal presentation
Accurate tonal balance for lifelike timbre
Superb flagship level build
Smart no tool switch system usable on the fly while wearing
Cons: Switch system is rather fine tuning, doesn’t really offer an alternate signature but a slightly more organic touch
Product page : https://www.dunu-topsound.com/sa6-detail
Price : 549$​

Fit, Build & Isolation
The SA6 features one of the most beautiful build among Dunu IEMs, with its high quality resin acrylic sourced in Germany and hand-poured shells and unique stabilized wood faceplates. As usual it comes with a very nice cable, here an 8 core silver plated copper cable featuring the now famous switchable plug system (you get 3.5, 2.5 and 4.4 termination in the package no less).

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The SA6 is a looker but note that you don’t get to choose your color as those are unique handmade pieces but whichever color you get, those are stunning IEMs :

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Image courtesy of Dunu

This design is a departure from the alloy housings of hybrids and note that for the Studio lineup Dunu opted to depart from MMCX for a 2 pin 0.78 socket that is more widespread in the pro world. The nozzle is a 3 bore setup with a rather wide and short stem, but the ergonomic custom like shape of the SA6 means you insert them deeper than the stem size would suggest. As you can see in the picture below, craftsmanship is superb on the internals as well.

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The SA6 is a rather small shell for a 6BA setup and is fairly compact (smaller than its little brother Dunu SA3, see pitcture below). This is good news for those with smaller ears but I had great fit as well with my bigger ears.

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Last but not least the switch system : Default Signature (Switch Position ‘I’) and Atmospheric Immersion (Switch Position ‘ON’) is really smart as you can switch with no tools while keeping the IEMs in your ears, kudos for this!

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Introduction
Dunu is a well established brand in the audiophile world, which started as an OEM for famous brands. Since 2014, Dunu builds its own IEM and now has a fairly complete lineup of dynamic and hybrid IEMs (Titan series, DN series, DK series and the flagship Luna I reviewed) but until the launch of the Studio series with SA3 and SA6, no full BA IEMs.

The Studio series is a totally new lineup and the SA6 with its vented dual woofer and custom midrange and tweeter drivers combined with the superb build show the SA6 is certainly meant as a showcase of what Dunu can do with BA drivers.

Does the SA6 sound as good as it looks? Let’s check this out!

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Sound

The first thing that struck me upon first listen (switch off) is the overall balance, transparency and clarity of the SA6, the SA6 is faithful to the recording but not unforgiving either. The imaging is pinpoint precise with a very open and realistic stage. The SA6 is a fast IEM with snappy note attack and realistic decay across the range and remains smooth in its delivery. Turn the switch ON and you get both a lift in bass and lower mids : contrary to a lot of bass boost switches this is subtly done and I feel it’s going to be a nice option to have to turn on and off based on preferences and/or sources.

The bass is snappy and fast, with a bit more weight with switch set to ON but it’s not a punchy bass with impact rather a detailed and agile bass with superb control and suprisingly good sub bass extension. The mids are very accurate with very nice bite and slightly forward vocal presentation (Note : The mids get a bit fuller with the atmospheric switch to ON). Treble strikes a superb balance with good lower treble energy smoothly delivered and a well extended and refined upper treble. Resolution is quite impressive at this price point.

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Bass
The SA6 features a very accurate and controlled bass presentation the choice of a vented dual woofer BA certainly fit the bill here. You might loose a bit of punch over sealed BA but you gain in control and extremely low distorsion even on the most bass heavy tracks.

Switch off, the bass is quite balanced favoring neither sub bass, which has good extension and very good rumble for a balanced armature or mid bass which sounded spot on in quantity with very good detail and texture. Turn the switch on and you get a slightly “fatter” mid bass with more heft but I don’t hear the sub bass being affected.

On my test tracks Aphex Twin “Ageispolis” and Sohn’s “Falling” the SA6 was able to render the sub bass section with nice physicality. As far as mid bass goes, the percussions on Jyoti “This Walk”, Fink “Resurgam” or Nenad Vasilic “Lupafte” were portrayed with impressive textures and nuances by the SA6.

Last but not least the SA6 bass is a fast bass and can keep up with the fastest tracks but it’s not a dry and quick bass either with a quick attack but a bit longer decay it has somewhat of an organic touch.

Mids
The SA6 mids are in line with the overall signature which is an organic blend of reference. It’s very balanced with no particular emphasis in the range, except maybe for slight vocal emphasis.

The lower mids are not prominent but they aren’t dipped either and I find that there is spot on body and weight, it’s not a lean lower mids that can make some IEMs clearer but also thinner. I like notes to have a realistic weight and the SA6 certainly not disappoints there and has a touch of organic to its reference tuning that is very pleasing to my ear. Once again setting the switch to ON add just a bit more body and organic touch yet.

The upper mids show the same restraint, with just the right amount of bite and don’t seem to be affected by the “atmospheric” switch. I like my upper mids to be safe from any harshness but at the same time I like them to have a bit of bite especially so that there is good presence to acoustic guitars, sizzle to hi hats, snare drums crispness and buzz to the electric guitars among other. The SA6 certainly has it and at the same time remain safe from any harshness, this is harder to do than it seems.

Treble
The SA6 treble is going to be a very coherent story with its bass and mids : it has a superb balance between good lower treble energy and upper treble presence. Just like its mids, the SA6 treble are exciting and engaging but smooth at all times a rare and very enjoyable combination.

I loved the lower treble energy on one of my favorite test track The Hot Sardines “Comes love (l’amour s’en fout)” the piano notes are delightful with both superb presence and beautiful overnotes along with a spot on tone. On Vaiteani beautiful polynesian folk “How they call it (accoustic version)”, the chimelike Kalimba sound heavenly on the SA6.

The upper treble on the SA6 is very refined with excellent extension and it’s also very natural sounding with no overly done emphasis. The SA6 has therefore good air and the resolution is quite impressive at this price point.


Verdict

The SA3 gave us a preview of what the Studio series held in store for us with a reference tuning and very good value for the price. The SA6 is the current top of the line of the Studio series and it’s a very clear step up in every way : build quality is great at any price and stunning at its price point, it’s both flawless and spectacular both external and the internals.

The tuning of the SA6 reflects great mastery across the range and it’s the epitome of reference with the right touch of organic with its full lower mids, the right amount of upper mids bite and good lower treble energy smoothly delivered combined with good upper treble presence. The SA6 sounds great out of mid tier sources like the DX160 and PAW S1 but plug it into flagship DAPs such as the PAW Gold Touch or the Hiby R8 and it will scale beautifully with yet other layers of nuances and in the case of the R8 yet a bit more organic character and a tad more bass presence that makes it even more engaging. In this setup it sounds more like IEMs over double the asking price and I have heard a share. Impressive.

If you’re looking for a superbly built IEM with a reference baseline beautifully spiced with a subtle touch of organic that you can adjust with the flick of a switch, then the SA6 holds fantastic value for the price and will be tough to beat! It packs impressive resolution and a remarkable tonal accuracy across the range. A very engaging reference IEM, that follows in the footstep of hallmark IEMs such as the InEar Prophile 8 at a fraction of the price.

Listening notes
I spent approximately 60 hours with the SA6, listening on iBasso DX160 and PAW S1 and the Hiby R8 using the stock cable balanced.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Kevin at Dunu for providing a review unit of the SA6 . As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.


Select Comparisons
Tansio Mirai TMSR-5

When I reviewed Tansio Mirai TSMR-5 I was quite impressed at the value for money for a mid tier priced IEM : very good soundstage, excellent resolution and a similarly balanced and engaging signature. I wished I had TMSR-6 handy but I do not so the TSMR-5 is a close enough competitor. Let’s see how the SA6 compares to it! For this comparison, I’ll use the SA6 cable on both IEM and as it’s my prefered setting, SA6 switch ON and all TSMR-5 ON and DX160 as a source.

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The first thing I noticed when doing the A/B session is the TSMR-5 is significantly more sensitive which equates to lower volume but also a bit of hissing that is totally non existant on the SA6. This give the SA6 an edge on quiet passages with a much blacker background. This is important has note contrast is greater and depending on the type of music you listen to it can be important. The second thing I noticed is the TSMR-5 has a slightly bigger soundstage (in width and height but not depth where SA6 is better) with significantly more upper treble presence on the flipside the SA6 has a much more natural treble tone where the TSMR-5 can be a bit edgy at times. Last but not least I found the TSMR-5 to have a snappier attack and quicker decay sounding overall drier and less organic than the SA6.

As far as bass goes the snappier attack and quicker decay means a tigher, punchier bass on the TSMR-5 where the SA6 is more textured and tonally more pleasing to my ears feeling more natural. Sub bass extension is similar with a bit more presence and rumble to the TSMR-5 but it’s also affected by more mid bass presence on the SA6 where percussions and double bass sound “fatter” with more body.

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The midrange is probably where a key difference lie, the TSMR-5 has leaner lower mids with a tuning focus biased towards clarity and bite (this holds true even with the mids switch off). The SA6 is fuller sounding with more body and weight as well as richer texture while not lacking bite compared with the TSMR-5. Vocals are similarly placed but the SA6 thanks to its lower mids presence makes the male vocals more seated but also a more natural tone a better tessitura on both male and female vocals with a touch of sweetness the TSMR-5 lacks. The SA6 is also exempt of any sibilance while the TSMR-5 can exhibit hints on some tracks. For the same reason, instruments notes sound drier and less textured on the TSMR-5.

Treble is consistent with the rest of the range, with TMSR-5 being drier with faster decay and sharper attack with overall more upper treble presence that sometimes feels a bit like a sharpening filter and can become edgy at times. Lower treble is the most similar with a smart tuning providing excitement while remaining safe. The SA6 lower treble carries a bit more weight there and I must say it’s the little details that make the SA6 a very refined proposition at its price point. Similarly the upper treble is better balanced with the lower section on the SA6, and the tone is overall more pleasing with a slight warm hue where the TSMR-5 is more neutral.

Dunu DK-3001 Pro

While the DK-3001 Pro is a hybrid with 1 dynamic and 4 BA, it makes sense to compare the mid tier hybrid from Dunu lineup for those who wonder which one to pick on a similar budget (469$ for the 3001 Pro and 549$ for the SA6).

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The DK-3001 Pro is a hybrid with a very compact shell even side by side with the rather compact acrylic shell of the 6 BA driver SA6. Ergonomically both work perfectly for me but the DK-3001 Pro has the smaller footprint. Cable wise both get a very nice stock cable but feature different termination the DK-3001 Pro being MMCX while SA6 is 2pin 0.78. For this comparison I’ll use both IEMs with their stock cable balanced out of the DX160.

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Upon the very first A/B session it’s very clear that the SA6 has a very different tuning from the DK-3001 Pro. The DK-3001 Pro is warmer and the 13mm beryllium coated driver provides a more physical and powerful bass while the SA6 is more resolving and has better upper treble presence and extension. Soundstage is taller on the DK-3001 Pro and a tad deeper as well, vocal placement is more neutral where the SA6 has more emphasis on vocals. The SA6 has a much more precise imaging and better separation between instruments.

Bass wise the DK-3001 Pro 13mm driver physicality and sub bass extension can’t be matched by the SA6, it’s more a reflection of the technology than anything there is no way around the ability of a fairly big dynamic driver to push air. This being said the DK-3001 Pro has more bass presence than my Dunu Luna for example, it’s also a matter of tuning. On my sub bass test tracks sub bass was so very satisfying with the DK-3001 Pro but it has always been a superb performer. The SA6 exhibits a bit more control, the vented dual woofer certainly fares very well there and the bass is more agile and fast. Of notes is how detailed the SA6 is bass wise compared to the DK-3001 Pro clearly more on the fun side and more focus on rythm where the SA6 is more serious which rich detailed textures (DK-4001 is a bit of the best of both worlds there but it’s another price point as well).

The DK-3001 Pro midrange has some key differences with the SA6 : there is a bit more lower mids making for an overall warmer tilt, vocals are not emphasized but rather a bit farther away making for more depth soundstage wise but a presentation that is less clear and smoother. This is closely related to the SA6 upper mids providing more instrument bite and more vocal presence. The SA6 is more resolving and the nuances in interpretations are just not on the same level the SA6 conveys more emotional vocals. Brass instruments, snare drums and hi hats are more exciting on the SA6 where the DK-3001 Pro is more relaxed. Different philosophies.

Treble wise, the DK-3001 Pro has a warmer tone and a bit less lower treble energy although both share good treble weight the delivery is smoother on the DK-3001 Pro while it has more bite on the SA6 which I feel is more exciting without ever being agressive. The upper treble is more of the same story and a key differentiator : the SA6 has significantly more upper treble presence and extension with more air and subsequently better separation and resolution. Both are fatigue free but the SA6 feels more open and exciting, the DK-3001 Pro is almost cozy in comparison.

In the end, it boils down to which tuning you prefer : the SA6 is more refined with more nuances, better tonal accuracy and significantly higher resolution while the DK-3001 Pro has more bass power and presence, smoother mids and treble for a fatigue free fun listen.


Accessories
  • Leather zipped carrying case (blue)
  • Collection of tips
Specifications
FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 5 Hz – 40 kHz
SENSITIVITY: 113 ± 1 dB at 1 kHz
IMPEDANCE: 60 Ω 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 CONNECTOR: 2-Pin (0.78 mm)
WIRE MATERIAL: 8 Core, High-Purity, Monocrystalline, Silver-Plated Copper
PLUG CONNECTOR:
Patented DUNU Quick-Switch Modular Plug System

INCLUDED PLUG TERMINATION(S):
  • 4.4 mm TRRRS Balanced,
  • 3.5 mm TRS Single-Ended
  • 2.5 mm TRRS Balanced
jaker782
jaker782
Nice review, as usual! Just curious how you feel this compares to the Volt? Only asking because I own Penon's flagship and was curious how this stacks up. Thanks!

antdroid

Headphoneus Supremus
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?
Razornova
Razornova
Interested in the same comparison Saumya

Redcarmoose

Headphoneus Supremus
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

close up dunu two.jpg





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
35449A23-5715-4748-98AA-AB33DFBEFD20.jpeg



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!

screenshot_20160915_033209486.png


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

screenshot_20160915_041621238.png


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 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!

beach_by-pass.jpg

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

0AE51572-484B-4689-93BF-FBEE205B8940.jpeg

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.

XBA-N3 Sony.jpg


IER-Z1R and XBA-Z5.jpg

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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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.

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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.
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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?
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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.

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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!
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Pepocoyo
Pepocoyo
Thank you for your response. As i see in the graph, they have a peak at 4 - 5kHz, does this peak make them sound harsh and cause fatiguing after long time listening?
Redcarmoose
Redcarmoose
I added the new graph (for you) right at the "Conclusion". Note in reference to neutral how close it is. Nothing to worry about at 4.5K? I apologize there was no reference to neutral in the review as far as a graph.......now there is. That's basically what every review is about.........what all 9 reviews are saying so far.................that it's a creative take on neutral. But look at the "around" 7K spike on the Noble Encore (often a personal favorite for metal) on graph shown here. Metal can go that way and it's fine, of course it all depends on the individual. Also take note the 8K peak is most likely testing coupler resonance.
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