SHOOTINGTECHIE

100+ Head-Fier
DUNU ZEN- A Complete Peaceful Package…
Pros: 1)Good mid-bass
2)Great vocals and mids
3)No sibilance
4)Great macro-details and okay micro-details
5)Good tall soundstage
6)Smooth treble
7)Great cables and accessories
Cons: 1)Sub-bass is average
2)Treble rolled off
3)Upper midrange has a bit too much energy (for me not too much at least for my playlist)
4)Below average timbre
5)Rolled off treble
6)No air at all
7)Less transparency
DUNU ZEN- A Complete Peaceful Package…

DUNU
is a famous chifi brand very well known for modular cables and really good iems like the Studio SA6. Now they were in the industry since 1994, but coming on to the audiophile space recently in the last decade and half, with their offerings, they have made a wave. The only DUNU iems I have tried are the DUNU Studio SA6 (really good iem) and the DK-2001/3001. The modular cables and SA 6 tuning made me a fan of these guys. Well today I am getting a chance to review their DUNU ZEN, the 2nd IEM in their eclipse series and it only comes in BLACK…. MIB music someone haha 😉

DISCLAIMER- Thanks to DUNU for sending out a unit of ZEN to INDIA for review. But my thoughts are my own and anything positive or negative in this review has not been influenced by any benefit. Thanks to @suman134 for considering me for this review!!

UNBOXING EXPERIENCE

Now this is once in a lifetime unboxing experience. It’s more like a premium phone unboxing. It has a large black covering box with ZEN written on it. Inside, there is a magnetically latched box with jute pattern and rough texture, which is all foam padded and has two black beautiful looking iems with vents on the stem. At the side of these is the beautiful silver modular cable with a double black strand (looks beautiful).
20210808_162758   edit.jpg
20210808_162856.jpg

Lifting the foam package, inside there are modular connectors in an all sized 4.4 pentaconn modular connector space with tips in a great looking box with proper naming. To the right of these is another box which contained the leather carrying pouch in blue (IDK why DUNU didn’t make this black 😐). Inside this was just a cleaning cloth duh!!! (You expect way too much my reader, Hehe!!!)
ediit .jpg
FULL.jpg

SPECS
1)NET WEIGHT: 21 g
2)FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 5 Hz – 40 kHz
3)SENSITIVITY: 112 ± 1 dB at 1 kHz
4)IMPEDANCE: 16 Ω at 1 kHz
5)TOTAL HARMONIC DISTORTION: < 0.2% at 1 kHz
6)DRIVER MODULE
  • DIAPHRAGM: Magnesium-Aluminum alloy dome with nano-porous amorphous carbon coating (nanoDLC)
    and fully independent suspension surround
  • MAGNET ASSEMBLY: > 1.8 T External Ring-Type Neodymium Magnet
7)HOUSING
  • MATERIAL: 316 Stainless Steel
  • INTEGRATION(S): Patented Air Control Impedance System (ACIS)
8)PRICE- 699$

ACCESSORIES YOU GET (you get a good amount of them too :p )

  • Eartips 6x pairs
  • Airline adapter
  • Shirt clip
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Brown baggie for the IEMs
  • Leather Case
  • DUW03 cable with 2.5mm, 3.5mm, and 4.5mm adapters
FULL_2.jpg

BUILD AND FIT

The iems are all black (one of my favorite colour) and made up of stainless steel. The stems are having vents on both sides and they are MMCX connectors (not a fan of them but DUNU has something called as Patented Catch-HOLD MMCX connector and only time will tell of its durability :D ). They are quite dense though given the all-metal build and have a weight to them. The stems do have ZEN written on the inside with a small R and L written too!!!
FULL_6.jpg

Now coming on to the fit of these iems, these do fit snugly in my ears with no chance of failing down. They have a small signature with not wide bore nozzles and they don’t feel heavy at all. They do have a notch on the nozzle stem and this is welcomed by me (remember trying to get ear tips out of your ears! yeah not great right! Haha!!!). They do have a grill mesh on the nozzle to keep the nozzle clean of earwax haha!!! I used the stock tips for review though since they gave me a proper fit!!!

CABLE
The cable is 8 Core, High-Purity Monocrystalline Silver-Plated Copper Litz Wire, with all strands being silver and 2 strands being black- this looked great.
The cable is quite thick yet supple enough and doesn’t have microphonics attached to it!!! The cables have a plastic ear guide but these are not too stiff to cause an issue per se. They do have an R and L written on the mmcx connectors.
The do come with three adapters 4.4mm, 3.5mm SE and 2.5mm adapters and with their quick switch modular plug system this is pretty good to have!!! They all have a silver finish to them to match the cables…
FULL_5.jpg

NOTE- MY SOURCE IS

  1. PORTABLE -N6II WITH T01 MODULE, BTR5 AND LG G8X
  2. DESKTOP- DAC- N6II WITH T01 LINEOUT
  3. AMP- TOPPING A30 MODDED WITH BURSON V5I D OR TOPPING L30 OR XDUOO MT602(NOT USED HERE FOR REVIEW BUT HEY IT DOES HELP TO ADD A BIT OF TUBE TOUCH) & BRAVO V2
FULL_3.jpg
SOUND SIGNATURE (P.S-This is subjective and may not match with yours :D)


BASS-

SIGNAL IN THE NOISE – GO GO PENGUIN-
This is really good fast music with drums, this includes everything including the toms, snare drums, kick-bass etc and those guitar hits in the sides and slowly going into the mids…Then the piano in the mid with fast keys on right and long keys on mid to left Really lovely stuff (Thanks to Andrew from TheHeadphoneShow on youtube, for introducing me to this).

Bass is decent on this iem. It has good tonality with good texture. The bass is dynamic and the mid-bass punch is present albeit not too much though but its enough to satisfy me!!! The notes are thick in the body and beginning and miss that edge at the top. The decay is fast and hence congested tracks don’t suffer at all. The timbre is average but its really good for what they have done with some recording which has emphasis on the snare drums, will have it more than the ones which doesn’t. The atmospheric feel does come through though with a feeling of space but goes away way too fast (like showing me an ice-cream and then eating it yourself 😐) The upper bass also comes up nicely considering the male vocals which is a welcome sign. The midbass needs a little more definite punch feels a little less here…

SUBBASS-

BLENDER- YELLO (Haha!!) -
Now this has subbass presence from around 56 sec marks, felt more on the right side and goes on for a lot longer!! Now I chose this track to check how much do they emphasize it and how does it do with vocals and other instruments. For instruments you could try from 2.09 mins.

Sub-bass is pretty good but not too much textured. It will give a small degree of rumble nothing to completely shake you but enough to feel its presence. The mid-bass dominates more than the rumble, but distinction is easy. The decay is still fast here but still leaving a presence, making it feel a better room like experience. The sub-bass is dynamic giving a different loudness for different part of the recordings. The notes have more of a body here rather than an ending and beginning!!!
FULL_4.jpg

MIDS-

VOCALS- MALE VOCALS-
BIBLICAL- CALUM SCOTT; AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH-IL DIVO, MARVIN GAYE & FEMALE VOCALS- SKYFALL-ADELE; MIDNIGHT AT THE OASIS-RENEE OLSTEAD
AND FOR MIDS- BONFIRE HEART-JAMES BLUNT; WRITING’S ON THE WALL -SAM SMITH & THE WOLF AND THE MOON0 BRUNUH VILLE-


Adele has a really voice and the track I used has a lot of piano and other instruments and make this very nice song to judge vocals and bleed. While the other vocalist, Renne, this songs of hers, has that sibilance factor to it. She emphasizes the ‘S’ a lot…

Male vocals with Calum are like having both a little high-pitched voice when he extends and a thicker voice for the rest of the way!!! With the second song, different vocalists have different voices making it easy to distinguish if there’s any error perse. With them also singing together sometimes, makes it a good challenge for the iem. Well instruments in the mids are something the rest of the songs are for, so as to judge the tonality and rest.

Female vocals are really good for this iem. Adele sounds really beautiful here with a good change to her thicker voice while going though the song. The reverbs do come on nicely but lack a bit to maintain their presence given the faster decay of this iem. The notes have certain air to them and the micro-details come up pretty nicely too. Given Adele has a more controlled voice with a much thicker notes to the beginning of the vocals, this shows it very nicely. This doesn’t mean that the ends are average, they are well extended and lovely throughout!!!😁 Renne, on the other hand has better body with a slightly leaner beginning and wow this just nails it. They are lush and lovely and well extended too. The dynamics of the vocals also comes up pretty nicely too!!! This iem just nails it with the vocals haha!!! Oh! Yes, not a hint of sibilance for those of my readers who know me, I am resistant to sibilance haha!!! but this doesn’t have any at all (Enjoy!!!😘😘) Some felt this to have an artificial feeling but for me that’s not the case at all.

Male vocal continues the beautiful story haha!!! The different vocalists are so easy to differentiate that I was abacked by it haha!!!🤣They just pop up easily, when they sing together, plus the thicker voice has the weight which is just excellent. The extension they do while singing together is also expressed beautifully. The dynamic nature of the vocals come through straight, reverb could do a little better with a little more air but the micro-details do come on easy. Coming onto the Calum’s voice, they just express the pain and feeling pretty nicely with change in loudness of the voice, which shows the dynamism of the iem and his voice too haha!!! The extension in his voice just comes really great and doesn’t mix up whatsoever with the piano at all at the edges of the notes at all. They don’t have that boxy feeling that I felt with iems like POLA or Monarch 😏!!! Not a hint of grain in the mids too. Really lovely stuff!!!

Instruments in the mids are having a beautiful yet a little thick than neutral tonality. The texture comes through easily with the voice as well as the guitars. They have a forward yet for me it seems to be a balanced presentation over all, it’s just like sitting on the 2nd row of a theatre. Everything here has a faster decay but not too fast. The timbre is still present though very minute in quantity. The pianos are beautiful and their beginning could do with a little more work, since they seem a touch too near to each other. But on the body and ending they have such separation that it makes the above completely unreasonable but I kind of felt it haha!!!🤣🤣 The thicker press of the keystrokes also comes up beautifully showing the dynamic nature of the iems. Guitars have a similar story but their beginnings are much easier to distinguish. The slight slower pulls of the strings are also good to feel. The details are excellent but CA Holocene and Soranik ION4s takes the lead here. There is a lack of air though throughout the instruments all of them. Upper midrange is surely more energetic than lower treble making it feel a bit foreward for sure!!!
FULL_1.jpg

TREBLE-
SIGH PRAFUL; BLUES HAND ME DOWN VINTAGE TROUBLE; HUNTING GIRL- JETHRO TULL & WELSTCHMERZ- FISH


Treble is smooth that’s for sure. But it has lots of energy and that shows up pretty easily without making it too much bright. The tonality is really good and it's dynamic too. The hi-hats and cymbals felt great, have great dynamism with each hits being felt differently 🤩. The decay is fast as before hence even congested tracks feel good enough but these make the timbre average. The lower treble might need a bit more energy to make them exciting compared to upper mids. The upper treble is great with good extension and micro details. They are dynamic too but here every is better compared to the lower treble. Trumpets need a bit more of energy I felt like 😅. None of the instruments have that Air that gives them a space feeling. But they are separated very nicely not at all packed up feeling. Even wind pipe instruments seemed lacking in air. Treble extension is rolled off though…
20210808_183047.jpg

STAGE-
This is a slight V shaped or balanced iem. Now this ain’t a wide iem, it has got good width with the instruments staying within the iems in the ears. Its pretty tall, not too much but matches the width, which is great 😁 The depth in (-y axis) is decent. Stage depth is avg too but it’s more into a Z-Y plane rather than just on X-Z plane. The instruments have good staging though but it's not too much precise, bit diffuse for me.

IMAGING, SEPARATION AND RESOLUTION-
Imaging is decent with every instruments being easily felt and seen ( when you close your eyes 😁) . What they achieve with that wonderful resolution both in notes and in between instruments needed air to make it excellent , but alas it’s missing the air factor. Separation is great, the faster decay helps there , but this requires a bit more timbre to make it feel more realistic.
IMG_2985.JPG

COMPARISON- Now remember this is by price(+/- 100$ approx) rather than by Driver config!!!
CA HOLOCENE
PROS

Sub-bass is really good
Treble well extended
Great timbre
Great staging
Good air
Better microdetails
Better instrumental separation
Price
PROS of ZEN
Good midbass
Great vocals
Smooth treble
Great cables and accessories
Easy listening experience

THIEAUDIO MONARCH
PROS

Better mids
Better sub-bass and bass
More sparkly treble
More better micro details
More better transperancy
Treble is well extended and energetic and sparkly

PROS OF DUNU ZEN
Better vocals
Better stage
No dip at upper mids making electric guitars feel like dull
Bass is more dynamic
More sonic headroom
Better timbre

Easy listening experience over long time

DUNU SA6
PROS

Better extended treble
Better midbass
Better microdetails
More airy nature
Better timbre
Sparkle is more on SA6

PROS OF ZEN
Better staging
Better vocals
Better subbass
Better stage depth
Easy listening
Lower mids seems better


SUMMARY
Now this is not at all a bad iem, you might’ve fallen for it before you finish my large review 🤣🤣 This is excellent considering what you are getting with the cables and adapters. A few more changes and this would be among the kilobucks iems. But as per me I liked SA6 more than this (just add this iems vocals with microdetails to SA6 and you have a winner DUNU). So hopefully Dunu nails it with their next iem 😁
Last edited:
Ace Bee
Ace Bee
Include a comparison with SA6 also!
SHOOTINGTECHIE
SHOOTINGTECHIE
Ohh yeah i forgot lol will do

Ace Bee

1000+ Head-Fier
Dunu Zen: A Marvelous Story with lacklustre ending
Pros: Well-tuned textured bass with considerable slam, and control
Highly resolving, transparent, and forward Mids
Sparkling lower treble
Warm-Bright sound
Wide and open soundstage
Outstanding separation
Plenty of Air
Tank like build
Excellent modular cable
Comfort
Cons: Midrange came off a bit dry (to my ears)
Upper treble roll off robs the sound off some emotion and shimmers
Forward mids reduces the depth perception
Introduction:
So many days after the release of Dunu Zen, it definitely does not need any more introduction, so I am gonna skip this part. Let’s just say I was super stoked to listen to a $699 single DD that was throwing punches to the hybrids well enough in its price category. The 13.5 mm Eclipse driver with a nanoDLC coated Mg-Al alloy dome and other proprietary techs really had my interests perked; and after Fiio FD5, my faith has been restored on single DD anyways. So I was very much looking forward to listening to it. I thank @suman134 for providing me the opportunity.

Disclaimer: I was provided the Dunu Zen for an honest review. My opinions recorded here are completely of my own and are not influenced by any form of incentives.

20210701_073434.jpg


Specifications:
  • BRAND: DUNU
  • MODEL: ZEN (禪)
  • NET WEIGHT: 21 g
  • FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 5 Hz – 40 kHz
  • SENSITIVITY: 112 ± 1 dB at 1 kHz
  • IMPEDANCE: 16 Ω at 1 kHz
  • TOTAL HARMONIC DISTORTION: < 0.2% at 1 kHz
DRIVE MODULE
  • DIAPHRAGM: Magnesium-Aluminum alloy dome with nanoporous amorphous carbon coating (nanoDLC) and fully independent suspension surround
  • MAGNET ASSEMBLY: > 1.8 T External Ring-Type Neodymium Magnet

HOUSING
  • MATERIAL: 316 Stainless Steel
  • INTEGRATION(S): Patented Air Control Impedance System (ACIS)

INCLUDED CABLE
  • LENGTH: 1.2 ± 0.1 m
  • MATERIAL: 8 Core, High-Purity Monocrystalline Silver-Plated Copper Litz Wire, Concentrically Arranged
  • CABLE CONNECTOR: Patented Catch-Hold® MMCX Connector
  • 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

Accessories:
Accessories of Dunu Zen deserves a special mention:
  1. The modular cable is a delight. It’s beautiful to look at, very soft and supple to handle, no discomfort, and just all around an extremely premium cable. Moreover, the quick switch plugs are absolute blessing while switching between connections.
  2. The included leatherette carrying case is extremely handy, compact, and capable of providing a secured storage.
  3. In the box I found only two types of eartips - 3 sets of grey eartips, and 3 sets of sony eartips. Weird, I expected at least 3 sets of spinfit should be there. But anyway, doesn’t matter
20210701_073736.jpg


20210701_073618.jpg


Build and Fit:
The solid SS body is built like a tank and has a bit of weight. However, due to the form factor, the weight mostly gets unnoticed, and provides a very secure and comfortable fit. Not to mention that mirror polished black surface looks extremely enticing.

Source:
Earmen Sparrow
Shanling UP4 (USB DAC)

Sound:
Let’s be honest, I was shocked when I put Dunu Zen in my ears and played the first track. It was a presentation that I have not heard from a single DD until then. The insane amount of clarity and separation was nothing short of breathtaking. Although that does not mean it wasn’t without its fair share of caveats.

Oh, another declaration: My impressions are with the Sony medium tips, the stiff grey eartips were unable to provide a secure and comfort fit and seal, and hence the bass was totally killed. Until I changed to the sony tips, I was quite disappointed at the bass of Zen.

20210701_073548-1.jpg


Mid:
Generally, I start my reviews from Low, then go to Mid, and then High. However, I am making an exception here, because I simply cannot wait to talk about the incredulous mids that Zen produces effortlessly, and without getting that off my chest I cannot begin with the other parts of the spectrum.
The midrange of Zen has absolutely no restraints, and is presented with a transparency and brilliance that exceeded my expectations from the get go. Suffice to say that the characteristics of Zen’s sound is focused on its midrange first, and Dunu has excelled in tuning this frequency.
Lower mids have a touch of warmth along with precisely calculated weight that enhance the male vocals and acoustic guitars with an incredible sense of naturalness. The satisfaction it provided was something I had yet to experience from dynamic drivers. Each of the notes are carefully reproduced with no loss of details, and yet no unnecessary sharpness. Refinement oozes out from each and every note.
Upper midrange portrays a similar refinement, and is tuned slightly on the safer side. Female vocals, while sounding brilliant and clean, tries to keep the sizzle/sibilance in check, and in doing so slightly loses the emotional touch. However, instruments do not suffer from any such shortcomings - electric guitars play with justified brilliance yet never become harsh on the ear.
In short, the midrange sounds wonderfully open and transparent, although on occasions it may come out as slightly clinical or dry, but nevertheless, it does not fail to amaze me.

Leonard Cohen’s voice in Hallelujah has the weight and transparency in a beautiful balance, which made it sound exhilarating, to say the least.

The cello in Battlestar Galactica Season 2 OST - Prelude To War sets up an impressive background with weighted notes which reverberate with a strong but controlled presence, whereas the snares sound crisp and cleanly reproduced with distinct presence.

In Silversun Pickups - The Royal We the electric guitars and the male vocals are recorded in such a way that it's easy for them to become harsh and fatiguing, however, Zen retains their brilliance and controls the sibilance masterfully.

Yao Si Ting’s voice in Scarborough Fair is silky, yet brilliantly energetic. Her voice has some beautiful sizzle that adds character, but also can become really uncomfortable if not reproduced correctly. However, Zen does not excel in reproducing her voice to its full capacity. While the base is quite musical, the sizzles are reduced significantly. I admit that it eliminates the slightest hint of discomfort, but her voice also loses its character.

Low:
Albeit having less focus than mids, low frequencies are still tuned with much care and precision. Folks who know me know that I cannot live without a healthy dose of bass. And so far, the other iems which had a focus on mids, had almost always less than satisfactory bass. Not Zen, though. Zen produces a sufficiently meaty low end, that reaches deep, and has very present slams. However, the low end is also controlled in such a way that Zen produces just the right amount of bass to complement the midrange and retain the musical factor, while obliterating any chance of hollowness.
Midbass slams have slightly more emphasis than the subbass rumbles. Although the subbass does not feel rolled off, the midbass slams are just slightly more easily distinguishable.
The low end again portrays a brilliant balance here, where the notes have the perfect weight to sound natural, and a distinctly reproduced texture without any muddiness. Frankly, in this range, I have not heard bass this refined. More emphasis, yes, but this level of refinement - nope.

In Metallica - The Four Horsemen, the fast kick drum hits with distinct impact and just the right thickness.

Battlestar Galactica Season 2 OST - Prelude To War has big drums that attack and rumble with authority when they come into play. Zen produces those impacts quite well, while keeping the quantity in check so as not to smother the other sounds.

The beautiful bassline in Steven Wilson - Pariah towards the end of the track is produced with a distinct presence with just the right thickness. Loved every bit of it - the way it complemented the rest of the sound was just so brilliant.

In The Dark Knight - Why So Serious, from 03:25, the subbass rumble can be picked up, but cannot be felt around you. That last bit of physicality Zen fails to deliver, but it’s not something to lose my sleep over.

High:
Well, this here is a mixed bag, and the reason that kept me from awarding it the 5th star. The way I see it, Zen aims for a bright and clean sound signature which does not get fatiguing. To do that, Dunu has severely cut off the upper treble. But, to retain the energy and presence of the treble, there is a peak at about 8 khz (I do not own a measuring rig, and I cannot guesstimate the frequency range with my ears. I am just referring to the already available FR graphs of Zen) which manages to give the treble sparkles a boost. However, the upper treble shimmer and air are noticeably limited, such that the high range loses the engaging factor.
Cymbal and Hi-hat crashes are distinctly produced and do not sound unnatural. However, the cymbal rolls are not as distinct owing to the roll off, hence sounds lacklustre. High frequency notes have plenty of detail though, no compromise there.
It’s not all bad though, for treble sensitive people this can be a bliss. However, for me, a slightly treble-head, it was unsatisfactory.

In Steven Wilson - Pariah the above statements can be easily proven. While the cymbal crashes were produced cleanly and with enough sparkles, the background shimmers were not as brilliant as I am accustomed with. They were not absolutely bad though, the tonality was right, not off.

Technicality:
Dunu did not skimp out on technicalities while tuning Zen. Brilliant separation - check. Outstanding transparency - check. Wide open soundstage - check. Very good stage height - check. Excellent imaging - check. Excellent note definition - check. Reproduction of details - check. Coherency of sound - check.
Frankly, I did not expect this level of separation, note definition, details, and imaging from just a single dynamic driver. But then again, without these, the price tag of $699 would not have been justified. I have to tip my hat to Dunu for this masterful tuning for sure.
However, I found one caveat here. Because of the very forward mids, I found the depth was slightly lacking compared to the other tribrid I have.

20210701_073552-1.jpg


Conclusion:
Dunu Zen, you are a marvel. I love your mids, adore your low, but why, oh, why did you fail to sing in the upper registers? Breaks my heart, honestly! The outstandingly refined lows and mids just cement the fact that wonders can be done with a single dynamic driver. Dunu also proved the fact that even without using BA drivers such an insane level of separation and imaging can be achieved, coupled with coherency as well. However, without that incomplete upper treble, the ultimate output remains an incomplete story, with marvelous build-up, but a somewhat shabby conclusion.
Last edited:
Wildcatsare1
Wildcatsare1
Excellent review @Ace Bee , well done Sir!
Ace Bee
Ace Bee
Pepocoyo
Pepocoyo
@Ace Bee you said Azla Sednaeartip was not enough treble for your taste? So what is the best tips for Zen?

abheybir

100+ Head-Fier
Zen by Dunu : Dynamic Doozy!!
Pros: 1. Full bodied textured bass with sophisticated sub-bass presence
2. Very pleasant sounding as of dark treble and rich organic vocals
3. Outstanding depth and good height
4. Good micro details and resolution
5. Very good Separation and Imaging
6. Premium build quality and lavishly accessorized
7. Quite comfortable to wear irrespective of heavy weight
Cons: 1. Staging width can be felt bit narrow at times
2. Lower mid-range can be felt bit thin
3. Lack of air in upper-treble
Introduction:
DUNU is a well known name in audiophile community. It is an old player that has given us many gems like DN-2000J, Studio SA6 and many more.
Zen, 2nd IEM in the eclipse series is a worthy addition in Dunu's product line Up. It comes in only one color scheme, black. Zen's unboxing is an experience in itself. The entire box, along with foam and case box are all in impressive matte black. This scheme gives the entire package a feel of richness and elegance.

Coming to the IEM, with a metallic body and glossy black finish , the earpieces are nothing less than a piece of jewelry. The faceplate's design is minimalistic and impactful. The semi-open faceplate has a conical shape without any logo or imprint. The heavy weight of the earpieces is re-assuring and somehow reminded of the USS enterprise and the remarkable lines "To boldly go where no man has gone before"

The earpieces despite of heavy weight, as of small form factor, are very much comfortable to wear for long durations and have a Magnesium-Aluminum alloy dome with nano-porous amorphous carbon coated driver with a fully independent suspension system. The driver has an external ring-type magnet producing a high magnetic flux of up to 1.8T. These magnets are strong enough as the earpieces cling towards each other if held closely. The outer shell, ear cavity is made with high-quality S316 Stainless Steel material with a patented Air Control Impedance System. I must say If one takes these IEMs and throw at someone's face, it will cause some damage.

IMG_20210728_043758.jpg


The package contains 6 pair of eartips shelved in a white semi-transparent box , a beautiful blue leather case , cleaning tools, airplane adaptor, stock cable and last but not the least the 3 modular connectors 3.5 mm, 4.4 mm and 2.5 mm. The stock cable is 8 Core, High-Purity, Monocrystalline, Silver-Plated Copper cable that terminates with Dunu's quick-switch modular plug system. Overall the build quality of the cable is quite impressive and complements the IEM perfectly both sonically and aesthetically.

IMG_20210729_032312.jpg


Disclaimer:
I have received as part of review circle sent from the brand itself in exchange of honest reviews. All impressions of sound are subjective to my own listening and my sources and is based on my experience with IEMs of similar hardware configurations and price range.

Sources:
For this review the unit has been paired to A&K SE100 (ES9038 Pro) and Shanling M6 (AK4495EQ) without any other amplification on portable setup. And, it has also been paired to Schiit Vali2+Mutibit Stack in terms of desktop setups which I personally enjoyed more on this IEM

IMG_20210729_032426.jpg


Highs:
The highs on Dunu Zen are quite crisp but not at all fatiguing or harsh at any point of time. If one is having issues with treble then this is eyes closed one of the best single DD IEMs out there. The overall treble region is bit dark with a slight emphasis on mid treble region resulting a forgiving nature for bad recordings. The cymbals are very well defined and so does the other instruments such as flutes, violins give very nice texture. The overall presentation is so much pleasant that one can listen for hours without any fatigue. I must say I enjoyed the "The Cymbal Song by Gavin Harrison" very much on it.

Mids:
The transition from mids to lows is very well defined, giving a body to mids and then introducing a feel of presence factor and an overall warmish tint. I feel the mid-range in Zen very engaging, warm and rich. The overall signature is very much organic and clean. All the instruments shine out very well in mid-range, listening to "Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris - Romeo And Juliet" was a nerve chilling experience on it.

The male vocals sounds lush but at times the lower mids feels thin as well. The upper mid-range is more focused and bit forwards and does at times get shouty like listening to "Everything I Do by Bryan Adams" but they never get to the point where it become uncomfortable but although at times it just stays at borderline from where it could become bit hot to me.

Lows:
Bass is the region where Dunu Zen stands out the most. The bass is well defined, full body and have a physicality and weight that sets Zen apart. It felt bit more focussed towards the mid-bass and the upper bass, the sub bass has good presence but it is not at all feel elevated at all and feels just the right amount without causing any fatigue or muddiness. The dynamic driver here is so good technically I would say that the transitions from mid-bass to lower mids are totally smooth and does not feel to bleeding at all irrespective of whatsoever track has been thrown at it. The mid-bass texture is some of the best I’ve heard out of an IEM across any price point. Listening to EDM and other bass emphasized music will instantly give you the wow factor.

IMG_20210728_043334.jpg


Technicalities:
Soundstage is majorly average on this, it's not much wide as compared to other IEMs in this price range. The verticality on the other hand is quite decent. This can be felt while playing "Attack On Titan OST- Call of Silence".

The imaging and separation on the other hand are quite good. Listening to classical orchestra is pure bliss on it. The micro dynamics are top notch, the speed of the driver is applaudable, I was surprised to hear such good transitions from a single DD. The micro-dynamics were so good that the instruments playing at different volumes are having their individual pace in the stage without overlapping each other. It was a heart touching experience listening to "Mark Knopfler - Brothers In Arms" with so many transition and different instruments around.

The best part is the depth of field. It is truly impressive for a single dynamic driver to do such transitions with placement of instruments and can be easily demonstrated at multiple occasions and this is the thing I enjoyed most in Zen other than its bass impact.

Dunu Zen vs Fiio FD5 - The Battle of Single DDs

IMG_20210728_043220.jpg


Both Fiio FD5 and Dunu Zen share similar specs on paper and do come with quite lavish accessories although the cable of Zen is I would say far better than that of FD5. Yet considering the built, comfort and the accessories I would say the Dunu begins to justify the higher price point at a glance giving the feel of a more luxurious product.

Now coming towards the sound, the FD5 does have a better air on the upper-treble region but overall the Zen sounded more natural to me, the mid-range is far more engaging and when coming towards the bass, it’s a beast given the fact that FD5 has more quantity of bass thump while Zen has far more refined and quality bass reproduction. In terms of separation, imaging and dynamics I would say the Zen is again a winner although width wise FD5 excels by some margin over it.

Zen to me is what I thought FD5 will be while purchasing it. The FD5 is too hot at lower treble resulting a very fatiguing IEM, on the other hand Zen's signature is very much seductive. The tonality of FD5 seems bit artificial at times while Zen feels very much natural and coherent.

So in a nutshell, I would say if one has budget to go for twice the price point of FD5 then, one must definitely take that leap. Zen is definitely a primum single DD IEM in pretty much every perspective.


Final Verdict:

IMG_20210728_043454.jpg


I would say Dunu Zen not very much detailed IEM as compared to all the hybrids out there but on other hand is very much forgiving in terms of bad recordings as of dark treble tuning, although that does not mean that it has poor resolution; the micro-dynamics are top notch as a result of emphasized mid treble region. The physical character of Zen is outstanding specially when the bass hits. The lower end I must say is very well extended and is equally textured. The layering is amazing along with natural to warmish tonality that creates a very immersive experience. Overall harmonics wise it feels coherent and smooth. Staging is not at its best but on the other hand the imaging is remarkable. The depth is something that is very much plausible. The vocals are very much organic with flawless attack and delay. The transition and separation of instruments is top notch. Overall I would say Kudos Dunu to redefine a single dynamic driver in today's era of hybrid drivers.
Last edited:

NymPHONOmaniac

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Lush mids and versatile vocal presentation, natural, dense and textured timbre, Bass slam and texture, Tonal balance, great accessories and packaging, nice construction-design
Cons: Poor imaging, average resolution, lack of air, bass and treble roll off, lack fo attack snap, lack of transparency, lack of sparkle, overly forwards sounding, saturated layering, not competitive for its price range
dunu5.jpg


TONALITY: 8.2/10
TECHNICALITIES: 7.5/10
CONSTRUCTION&DESIGN: 8.5/10
SOUND VALUE: 6/10


DUNU
doesn't need an intro, they are among the first Chinese audiophile earphones company and have been around for more than 10 years. But it was only about a year ago that they make a serious comeback with numerous IEM offerings. While DUNU seems to have a house sound and confident tuning vision, perhaps they overproduce earphones and don't take enough time in refining the tuning they have in hand.

Today I will review one of their last single-DD flagship, the ZEN. The driver of the ZEN is based on the PVD driver technology developed in 2018 for the LUNA pure beryllium driver DD but uses a mix of magnesium-alloy for their diaphragm with the help of nanoDLC technology. As well, it has a special bass-reflex back driver venting acoustic chamber tech to improve air control and resonance. I can go on about other high-end tech implementations but simply put, it's very similar to Luna in terms of whole acoustic conception apart the very (nano)material used for building the diaphragm.

unu8.jpg


PACKAGING is very fancy and very generous in accessories, as expected with a flagship IEM of this price. You have an 8cores OCC silver-plated modular cable with its 3 types of jacks included (3.5mm se, 2.5 and 4.4 balanced). The cable is very nice but a bit weighty and i'm not a fan of its ear hook. The tonality is a bit brightish too, which is perhaps not the best pairing for the ZEN. You have a big blue false leather carrying case, a thick carrying pouch, all types of ear tips thinkable (10 pairs including memory foam tips), a 1/4'' jack another, and even a dual 3.5mm jack oh and a cable older of decent quality.

dunu9.jpg
dunu6à.jpg
dunu1.jpg
dunu3.jpg


CONSTRUCTION is all black metal, beautifully machinised with interesting nuance in details. It's elegant looking yet sturdy. It doesn't seem to be easily scratchable which is a big plus at this price range. MMCX connectors are solidly built and promise high durability. The size is small enough but weighty which explains the need for ear hook to help stabilize the fit. In term of comfort, it's extremely similar to LUNA but heavier, it's good but you don't forget you have them in ears like with ear-shaped plastic UIEM.

dunu2.jpg


CRITICAL SOUND IMPRESSIONS
(Gear used: SMSL SU-9+SH-9, Ibasso DX90, Xduoo X20, Audirect Beam2, Tempotec HD Pro)

The TONALITY of the ZEN isn't calm and meditative as its name might suggest, but thumpy, lush, and energic and just a hint bright to permit timbre texturing boost. It's a thick gently brighten W shape signature with extra boost in mid-bass, well rounded upper mids-lower treble boost and some extra highs presence boost. Lush, weighty and vivid all a the same level, the ZEN has a balanced liveliness and is zen in its lack of sibilance or notable harshness.

The BASS is emphasized in texture and mid-bass weight, with a realist tone and dry lower sub-bass presentation. The slam is thumpy and chunky, separation is average as well as speed but transition embraces lower mids instead of bleeding on it, keeping its place back of the vocal. Balance is good though not very clean or articulated in micro-dynamic. Kick drum lack a bit of air for natural decay so we can say the bass is a hint boomy due to lack of elastic flexibility. Still, I was surprised by how well presented were electric bass line as it seems the ZEN extract a better bass line that have texture, so depending on which between sub and kick has more texture it will put it in front of the other. Simply put, the bass have more texture and weight than extension and transparency, so pure sub tone will be overshadowed by more textured instruments.

MIDS are the best part of the ZEN as well as the most focused, presence and body is pushed forwards as well as texture even if vocal avoids any sibilance. It isn't very open or clean, but it's wide, lush and immersive. Both male and female vocal are full-bodied and realistic in tone. The macro-resolution is favored over micro-details and well-imaged nuances. You can't dig for long in the mids because the ZEN seem to push more forwards certain instrument, especially vocal, violin and piano, and due to lack of transparency and clean black background as well as lack of attack edge, separation of the instruments can feel too compressed.

TREBLE seems mostly focus on instrument texture and it fastly rolls off after 10khz so it lacks air, sparkle, and decay as well as micro-details. For a 700$ IEM, highs are rather underwhelming because while it add a bit of brightness to the ZEN tonality, it doesn't add attack snap enough and doesn't cover the whole spectrum. This is the type of half-baked treble that will extract a part of the percussions and let others in the shadow, same for micro-details, so it creates a bit of unbalance and tend to hook you with an intriguing part of the sound which will be hit or miss depending of music complexity. For electronic, I find the sound too compressed which makes some micro-details feel ''sticken'' on a thick tapestry of sound. Yeah, the ZEN treble cruelly lacks air, extension, and accuracy.

SOUNDSTAGE isn't particularly spacious and dangerously lacks deepness, but it has good average wideness and doesn't feel stocked in your head. Presentation is similar to stereo desktop speaker at a short distance of the listener with a sub in the middle that soil the air.

IMAGING is poor for this price range and you will have a hard time trying to pin-point instrument placement. Layers of sound are stick together closely so it lack space between instrument in any direction axes. To me, that's the biggest drawback of the ZEN and proof of average technicalities for this price range.

SUBJECTIVE APPRECIATION

If I go out of critical listening mode as well as the price bracket of the ZEN, i enjoy them a lot, but as soon as I try to dig more into the sound I am underwhelmed about resolution, accuracy and attack speed.

I tend to enjoy the ZEN more with pop music like soul&rap than savant music like classical&jazz. Bassy vocal-centric music can sound really good, should it be IAMDDB, Pip Millet or Charlotte Day Wilson, slow bassy music pair well with the ZEN. I was surprised to enjoy some rock too due to the well-articulated and textured electric bass line. For classical, the lack of upper mids bite makes the violin attack not well define and the cello lack fundamental sub-bass extension to sound rightly bodied, so this isn't an audiophile experience we get with the ZEN, more a fun, lush and lively niche audio enthusiast tuning.

Sidenotes: The ZEN is easy to drive and do not scale up with powerful amping, it benefit mostly from clean detailed source due to its slightly hollow resolution. Ear tips inflict a little on sound rendering too but wide bore ear tips (like KZ Starlines) tend to open the soundstage slightly.

COMPARISONS
dunu11.jpg


VS AUNE JASPER (300$)


Firstly let's begin by saying the ZEN are way easier to drive with 16ohm of impedance and 112db of sensitivity VS 32ohm-102db for the JASPER.
Secondly, the tonality of ZEN is more thumpy forwards V to W shape while JASPER is more relaxed U to W shape.

When I go from ZEN to JASPER, I need some readjustment time, as if they were sounding a bit dark and too laid back...but this isn't the case at all. It's just that ZEN aren't THAT zen and quite forwards, punchy and vivid, yet with a hint of warmth to thicken timbre.

So, this is where they differ the most: in attack dynamic. Depending of your tonal balance preference, we can say ZEN is more aggressive and shouty while Jasper is too laid back and lean in mids. Choose your poison.

The JASPER has a better fuller BASS extension, more sub to mid bass emphasis while DUNU is more mid to high bass punchy. Kick is a bit more lean-dull with JASPER while thicker punchier with DUNU. Here is a rumbly slam (Jasper) against thumpy punch (Zen). At the end, Jasper bass is cleaner and less prompt to lower mids bleed. Listening to Jazz, the acoustic bass sound right with the Jasper- full in extension and rumble, while it feels a bit thumpy with the Zen, as if through a rolled-off amp.

MIDS are more lively and forwards with the ZEN, they are lusher and more textured and well bit brighter but nicely warmed by bass transition. Transparency and accuracy go to the Jasper though, even if yes, they are leaner and more relaxed in attack. Both have good vocal body and presence, timbre being smoother with Jasper and even less forward in upper mids. Strangely, even if sub-bass is more boosted than the ZEN, the Jasper mids are cleaner and airier with higher resolution, piano sound less thick but crisper and more transparent with just enough weight to make an impact with more natural decay than ZEN.

TREBLE is where i can judge the JASPER as being superior, firstly in terms of extension up to 20khz vs roll off after 10khz for the ZEN, secondly in terms of control-snap-decay and AIR because this is how you got AIR with IEM, by having fully extended highs. Sure, Jasper highs are less textured and crunchy due to less boosted mid-treble part, as well, lower highs have less bite so violin might sound more energic but not as natural as Jasper nonetheless.

SOUNDSTAGE is notably deeper with the Jasper, as well as wider but less tall. Its more holographic in rendering too.

IMAGING is cleaner and more accurate with the Jasper due to better layering transparency VS thick textured layers of the ZEN. Silence do exist with the Jasper, not so much between the instrument of the ZEN.

TIMBRE is more organic-natural-clean and subtle in nuance with JASPER and more textured-saturated-thick with the ZEN.

END WORD
Honestly, i would love to keep both, because these IEM cover different moods. For fascinating long listening, I'll choose the Jasper, if i wanna headbang and get lush energic sound i'll go with the Zen. One thing sure...the ZEN have an anachronical name for what it delivers cause it freakin wake you up!

VS DUNU DK2001 (300$)

What hit me first is how the DK2001 sounds cleaner-smoother with more accurate imaging. After, it's how the ZEN bass is more thick and punchy as well as more forwards and brighter with mids. The type of ''dynamic attack'' is very different with both, one being 1DD+2BA (DK2001) and other single ''Nano-DLC'' DD (ZEN). TONALITY is similar in balance but brighter V to W shape with ZEN and more neutral to W shape with DK2001. The Dynamic of balance is more vivid and thumpy with the ZEN.

BASS is more extended and rumbly with DK2001, less textured and more transparent. It has less slam than ZEN and it's less boosted in mid-low. Separation from mids is better layered but doesn't add body to male vocal like the ZEN. Sub-bass is thinner dryer with ZEN but the overall bass attack is faster punchier. For example, cello sounds cleaner-better and more bodied with DK2001 while kick drum and synth-bass sound fuller-better with ZEN.

MIDS are notably more forwards with the ZEN, they are more bodied and weighty in presence, brighter and more textured, less transparent and layered than DK2001. You have more sound info with the DK2001 and sounds layers are better separated-articulated. It' smoother, yet better resolved and articulate but not as weighty as the ZEN. Acoustic instruments sound harsher-grainier and less natural with the ZEN than DK2001; violin, cello, piano, sax lack decay and air as well as well-shaped transparent definition compared to DK2001 even if the ZEN have tighter attack edge.

TREBLE is where the ZEN feels less capable than DK2001 because though its chunkier-crunchier-edgier and more texture-axed it do not extend as far and effortlessly as DK2001. ZEN has more vivid highs, especially in the 8khz section so snare and cymbals are more energic. DK2001 has a leaner more extended treble so we have more micro-details and crisper resolution. Overall highs presentation is more delicate and airy with the DK2001 making it more zen sounding than the....ZEN.

TIMBRE is denser, richer and more textured with the ZEN and thinner more transparent and organic with the DK2001.

SOUNDSTAGE is wider taller with the ZEN, acting like a wide and closely layered sound tapestry, while the DK2001 have a more holographic and deep spatiality. IMAGING is clearly superior with the DK2001 both in layering and instrument placement accuracy.

END WORD

I can't convince myself that the DK2001 isn't superior both technically and tonally than the ZEN, even if 400$ cheaper due to higher resolution and precision in imaging accuracy. As well, the whole sound is cleaner and smoother compared to a badly named ZEN that has a more energic W shape dynamic. Being sensible to well-controled bass extension, the ZEN feel overly rolled off for my taste compared to the DK2001. Even the vocal which force their charm with emphasis presence lack the relaxing smoothness and transparency of DK2001 to permit a complete immersion, not just an in-your-face mysticism. All in all, the ZEN confirms i'm really in love with my DK2001 and do well to suggest them as being good value 300$ IEM.

VS DITA AUDIO FEALTY (around 1K$)
These 2 don't have similar tonality, FEALTY being more vivid neutral and emphasised on treble.
What hit first is how bigger airier is the soundstage of fealty and well, how resolution and imaging are more clean and accurate too.
But that's about it, timbre is thinner, colder and less natural. BASS is lighter and lacking in body and slam compared to ZEN.
MIDS are brighter, thinner, and more prompt to sibilance, but vocal as well as other instruments are better extracted-separated.
TREBLE while being brighter, more extended, and snappy is overly boosted and less well balanced than the ZEN.

END WORD
Perhaps the ZEN is inferior in rough technicalities, but at least it have a musicality to enjoy compared to the stone-cold treble obsess FEALTY.


VS NF AUDIO NM2+ (180$)
While I was listening to the ZEN, a little voice in me tell me it sound similar to the NM2+ and indeed, tonal balance-wise they are near identical with the exception of some more upper mids bite that make the sound a bit more agressive in its W shape approach.
Let just say the NM2+ is a less refined ZEN ,with slightly inferior technicalities so it can't deal as well with fast busy tracks and have less organicaly layered sound space. Timbre is less full and lush too. Price is 520$ less too.

END WORD
Their no doubt the ZEN is superior in tonality and technicality, but in a very subtle way, which doesn't justify at all the price difference. It's really scaling up in low sound value tonal pattern here because both these IEM aren't good value (even if the NM2+ is OK for it's price range).


CONCLUSION
dunu4.jpg


Though the ZEN is very pleasant
to listen to for a short period of time, it fails to offer an immersive sound experience that you would contemplate for hours and hours because it makes you discover intricate nuance in your music.
Though fun and safely tuned, the ZEN can't compete with IEM in its price range in terms of technicalities which are underwhelming in terms of resolution, accuracy, micro-dynamic, and clarity. Both bass and treble being rolled off, the ZEN will not please those addicted to clean airy sparkly high or fully naturally extended low.
Unless you are all about densely textured timbre, thick lush vocal, and thumpy slam, I think buying the Dunu DK2001 is a wiser choice due to its more versatile tuning and competent technicalities for 400$ less.



------------------------
ps: for more audio gear reviews of all price ranges, please go give a look here:
https://nobsaudiophile.com/
Last edited:
InvisibleInk
InvisibleInk
I agree with the similarities with the NM2+ tonality. Both are bright and lively. If you EQ the 3-4 kHz region down on the NM2+ by -4 dB, you've basically saved $520 by choosing the NF Audio NM2+ instead. And it's more comfortable in the ear to boot.
NymPHONOmaniac
NymPHONOmaniac
@InvisibleInk Absolutely bro. I didnt do in deep comparison for this NM2+ so your confirmation is Very welcome! Anyway, i'm not a fan of both.
Death_Block
Death_Block
I'd have thought after reading that, 4 stars is a tad high

Otto Motor

Headphoneus Supremus
Almost Perfect
Pros: Great depth, fantastic macro- and microdynamics, super accessories.
Cons: Upper-midrange glare, lack of treble extension.

frontis-5-800x445.jpeg

Executive Summary

The $700 Dunu Zen is a natural sounding single-dynamic driver earphone with immersive depth and fantastic macro- and microdynamics and resolution that falls short of perfect only by its upper midrange glare.


Introduction

Dunu does not need an introduction, they have been providing the community with quality audio products since 1994. And they had been on my radar for the last five years, recommended by my German colleague “Chris, the Headphone Collector“. But whereas my co-authors have filled our blog with Dunu reviews, I have only had the opportunity to analyze one of their premium earphones now. And I thank Tom for that.

I am skipping the package content as I never really unpacked the whole lot because of time constraints adherent to the tour. I simply used stock cable and the earpieces, and added SpinFit CP 500 eartips upon the recommendation of co-blogger and Head-Fier kmmbd.

And there is no need to repeat specs and photos either...you find all that below. I just want to add some data points and rather focus on my sonic perceptions and some simple comparisons with the Zen’s presumably closest competitors: Cayin Fantasy and Moondrop Illumination…and less so with the JVC HA-FDX1.


Tonality and Technicalities


Equipment used: MacBook Air & DragonFly Cobalt; iPod Classic 7th gen.; SpinFit CP500 eartips.

As mentioned I am a bit limited in my listening experience as I had the Dunu Zen only for two weeks as part of the Head-Fi tour.

TL;DR: the Dunu Zen are characterized by their immersive, natural sound (timbre/dynamics) while having a great resolution and staging. They offer this rare combination of traits of multi-drivers and single dynamic-driver earphones.

And they also defy the idea of tuning a driver according to a trendy model curve. The Dun Zen appear to be tuned according to their driver, which results in a rather “ugly” frequency-response graph but a great sound (and not the other way round; plenty examples exist).

What stroke me most every time I used the Dunu Zen is that extended low-end with this well-layered, well-textured, articulate mid bass that creates a wonderful “depth of field”. The beefy, visceral low end comes with a natural punch. This results a warm tonality with full, rich drums and re-inforced deeper vocals. Simply seductive and essentially perfect.

And it does not smear at all into the lower midrange. Voices are very well defined, nicely sculptured but the higher vocal notes could be a tad richer and creamier. There is a tendency toward sharpness/are a bit sharpened by that 12 dB gain from 1 to 2 kHz that adds some glare just below shoutiness. Nevertheless, the vocals are organic with good note definition.

Treble is crisp without being edgy. Cymbals are very well defined as you are used from a piezo. There is no smudging going on at all, but also no harshness. Good definition. Upper treble is lacking a bit.

Staging is not the widest but rather deep, and instrument placement and separation are bordering on spectacular. What is truly amazing is the macro- and microdynamics as well as macro-and micro-resolution. All this results in great spatial cues with – I had mentioned it already – lots of depth.

Yes, the piano and forte sections of an orchestra are handled very well, and so are the small dynamic nuances. For example, I really enjoyed the subtle dynamic variations of an oboe and its interplay with a harpsichord as in this DGG recording. Delightful. And all this at a very natural, authentic timbre. Attack and decay are just right.


Dunu Zen



Dunu Zen Quick Comparisons

At $700, the Dunu Zen is in line with the $800 Cayin Fantasy and $800 Moondrop Illumination. Zen has the biggest depth and least treble extension of the three. The other two cannot compete in terms of punch and microdynamics.

I have to be cautious with details as these comparisons are based on memory – they were all loaners which I analyzed at different times. Please take my comments with a grain of salt.


Dunu Zen


The Cayin is brighter, wider, and also has excellent detail resolution, but it has this 5 kHz peak that introduces harshness and grain to many ears. And it lacks sub-bass extension.


Dunu Zen


The Moondrop is has the least mid-bass of the lot, and is the least resolving. It comes across as bright and aggressive to my ears, like the Cayin.


Dunu Zen


It may be a bit unfair to compare the $250 JVC FDX1 with the Dunu Zen. But, the JVC had been hailed by some as possibly the best single DD on the market 2 years ago.

Well, the JVC cannot quite keep up with any of the three in terms of staging – and its timbre comes across as somewhat metallic. But it is a decent choice for the budget audio enthusiast.


You find reviews of all of the iems mentioned above here.


Concluding Remarks

Although the Dunu Zen is not perfect, it is close. It comes in second on my eternal enjoyment list, just beaten by the 3000 Euro VisionEars Elysium. I absolutely love the Dunu Zen for its immersive, seductive listening experience and its microdynamics: never have I enjoyed the synergy of an oboe and a harpsichord so much.

I am still considering buying one for my amp/dacs reviews.

Until next time…keep on listening!

Jürgen Kraus signature
Last edited:

B9Scrambler

Headphoneus Supremus
Dunu ZEN: Immerse Yourself
Pros: Bass quality, namely texture and physical presence – Detail and clarity – Plenty of cool technology pulled in from their flagships
Cons: Average sound stage size – Some may find treble extension lacking – Would prefer a lighter, more flexible cable
Greetings!

Today we're checking out the ZEN, Dunu's entry into what has become a very competitive, upper mid-range market.

Like Dunu's flagship Luna, the ZEN moves away from the hybrid and armature-only configurations that have become quite popular in recent years. This doesn't mean it's a simple product. The 13.5mm dynamic used in the ZEN utilizes technology derived from the Luna. The wide, cone-shaped dome of the ZEN's diaphragm is made from pressed aluminum-magnesium alloy with the addition of an amorphous carbon coating to fill in any imperfections. This further improves overall stiffness. Also borrowed from the Luna's driver design is the attachment of the voice coil to the bottom edge of the dome which serves to further enhance pistonic motion; the driver moves as one unit without any flex or bending which would throw it out of phase and cause distortion.

Paired with the Luna-derived driver structure is a new magnet system. The magnet is milled on a CNC lathe with a ring-like shape permitting greater than 1.8 T (Tesla) of magnetic field strength. To put that into perspective, the average strength of an MRI magnet is 1.5 T. It's no surprise that you can easily use one earpiece to lift the other, or push it across a surface if lined up correctly.

Dunu is calling the combination of these two technologies ECLIPSE. Why that? Well as they explained to me, there are a couple lines of thought that went into this name. Eclipses are far from trivial events, and the driver itself resembles that of the appearance of a total eclipse; the dome is the blacked out moon, and the surround the ring of light from the hidden sun peeking around the edge. Additionally, they wanted a name that toyed with the idea of surpassing the LUNA. Luna is Italian (and Spanish) for Moon. To eclipse is to surpass... you get the idea.

So we've got a high tech driver and a ridiculously powerful magnet with a clever naming convention for the two combined technologies. Are there any other tricks the ZEN has up it's sleeve? I'm glad you asked, because yes, yes it does. If you're familiar with the DK-4001 or their limited release 17th anniversary model, you might have heard of ACIS, or Air Control Impedance System. This spiral-shaped bass reflex port aids in achieving excellent sub-bass response without a loss of control. I haven't been lucky enough to hear either the DK-4001 or the 17th anniversary model, but the low end of the ZEN has a characteristic to it that I've only experienced on a select handful of other earphones and it's pretty awesome.

The ZEN has been with me for the last few months with listening intermingled among a handful of other premium products, some of which cost as much as, or more than double, the ZEN's 699.99 USD asking price. Despite this the ZEN has held my attention because, spoiler, it is a very good earphone. Let's take a closer look, shall we?

P3170069.JPGP3170072.JPGP3170076.JPG

What I Hear

Tips: I didn't find tip rolling on the ZEN to have nearly as strong an affect as on other earphones, so my tip selection came down to comfort more than anything. You may experience differently. Of all tested tips, the included Sony Hybrids in medium sizing were my top choice. I used them on the DK-3001 Pro which ergonomically is very similar, so when I saw they were included with the ZEN I was quite pleased. The other single flange options were fine, but thanks to their use of a stiffer silicone lacked the plush comfort of the Sony tips. JVC's stock wide bore tips were also very comfortable, but I found they broke seal every once in a while. Spinfit CP100 and CP145 were also good, but the insertion depth was a little more than I like. Sennheiser bi-flange wide bore tips were another solid option. They sealed well and rarely required adjustment, but comfort wasn't quite as high as the included Sony Hybrids. Since I liked the hybrids the most, those were used for the following listening impressions.

Amping/Balanced: I don't find the Zen particularly difficult to drive or get up to volume thanks to fairly standard impedance and sensitivity ratings. It does however scale beautifully when run balanced. Staging qualities improve and it provides a better controlled and more refined experience overall. If you have the option to run it balanced, do so.


Since I find the Zen's bass to be absolutely phenomenal and very addictive, let us start there. Extension is outstanding with deep notes holding strong well past where I can no longer hear them and instead just feel the pulsing of the drivers. It easily hangs with bass-focused products like as the Campfire Audio Vega and Astrotec Pheonix in this regard. Where it one-ups both of those stellar performers (Phoenix to a lesser extent) is in texture and detail. The Zen's low end is packed with detail and has this enticing growl to it, especially on the sort of extended notes that sink or extend endlessly on drum and bass tracks, like Ownglow's “Back To You” and “Renaissance” from Culture Shock. In fact, this is probably my favourite earphone for drum and bass. It's got the punch, flawless control and just the right amount of speed while being completely rife with information in a way that few products can match. It also helps that the move from sub- to upper-bass regions is fairly linear without a significant skew of bias towards any one spot. I globbing love it.

The midrange is very enjoyable as well, even if I don't find it the most accurate or natural sounding thing I've ever heard. That's not to say the Zen is way off base, because it isn't, it just doesn't quite reach the high bar set by some competitors like FiiO's FA9 or more budget oriented models like the Etymotic ER2SE. While I hear a much needed hint of warmth, there is a dryness to the presentation that provides most of it's character, something I found most evident in music that relies on real instruments vs. purely electronic effects or heavily altered instruments. Personally I'm a fan of this as it is something that I've enjoyed in a more exaggerated sense from the in-house designed balanced armatures from Sony and EarNINE. Vocals are sibilance free even on albums with a very hot vocal mastering, such as Aesop Rock's 'Spirit World Field Guide'. Through most iems and headphones I find it nearly unlistenable. With the Zen I can enjoy Aes' newest masterpiece on the go.

Treble seems to be a bit of a point of contention among the community, but it sounds good to me. I hear a presence region bias with a small upper treble lift that gives the Zen just a bit of sparkle. It injects tons of detail and fantastic clarity into the overall signature. Where a lot of earphones get their energy from various treble peaks, namely 7k and/or 10k, the Zen leaves its treble in more of a support role thanks to the way things transfer relatively linearly in from the upper mids, peak lightly around 8k, then smoothly and subtly roll off. The killer bass and prominent mid range are where the excitement comes from. Extension is good enough to complete the sound experience without drawing attention away from where the Zen excels, or causing fatigue thanks to a level of aggression that overstays its welcome. Notes are extremely tight and well-weighted with enough spacing and airiness to avoid congestion. No splashiness here at any point, something that can quickly ruin my enjoyment of any audio product.

When it comes to staging size the Zen doesn't stand out among it's peers. Vocals have a reasonably intimate default position just inside the ear with everything else spreading out from there in a satisfactory way. Width is a little more apparent than depth but for the most part the Zen provides a well-rounded stage. Imaging on the other hand is an area where the Zen is a boss. Channel-to-channel transitions are extremely nuanced and precise. It is a breeze to accurately track sweeping effects, place instruments in live recordings, and become fully immersed in binaural novelty tracks, like those where you get a haircut or those specifically designed to test staging accuracy like those found on the 'STAX The Space – Sound – CD, Dummy Head Recording' test album. The Zen also does a very good job of layering track elements and places them an in appropriately dynamic way. There is none of the wall-of-sound effect I experienced on the original Campfire Audio Polaris for example. Instrument separation is less competent, at least when running the Zen single-ended. I found on busy tracks like King Crimson's “Starless and Bible Black”, the chaos wasn't as defined as I would like. Running the Zen balanced rectified this and tightened basically every performance metric up.

Overall this is one of the most pleasant general listening earphones I've used, with it excelling most in drum and bass and other electronic genres. The way bass in particular is presented I find very unique and engaging with a level of texture and control that is near unmatched.

Compared to a Peer (volumes matched with Dayton iMM-6)

FiiO FA9 [Tuning switches set to 1:OFF 2:ON 3:OFF] (599.99 USD): Where the ZEN makes due with one {advanced} dynamic driver, the FA9 features six balanced armatures backed by a crossover-based tuning system. It also contains an 80.6mm long sound tube for the bass drivers. Like Dunu's ACIS tech, it is used to enhance the overall quality of the low end. It does a great job too. I'm not normally a fan of how Knowles drivers do bass, but in the FA9 the 31618 driver provides very decent sub-bass response with nice texturing. The Zen's bass is considerably more enticing though. It doesn't give up anything in terms of speed or control while providing a ton more texture, visceral feedback, and punch in the initial attack. I found it quite a bit more versatile, especially since quantity is quite similar between the two. Leading into the midrange I found the Zen to have a more forward, intimate presentation with a cooler sound and leaner note weight. It provides a bit more detail, but it comes at the expense of timbre which isn't quite as natural as the FA9. The Zen transfers smoothly and with fair linearity from the upper mids into the presence region where I find the treble gets its character and most of the attention. It gives the presentation impressive clarity and detail that easily rivals the FA9's multi driver setup. Texture falls well into the Zen's favour though compared to the FA9's smoothed over feel. The FA9's sharper peak at 7k gives it the edge in airiness and sparkle. Things swing back into the Zen's favour when considering attack and decay qualities which are more aggressive and just as well controlled. Sound stage size goes to the FA9 which is wider and deeper. The Zen's forward mids place vocals firmly inside the outer ear while on the FA9 they're just outside. Imaging is smoother and more nuanced on the Zen, with the difference exaggerated by the more intimate staging. I also found the Zen to come across more layered and more realistically place instruments. Separation goes to the FA9. Note that you can improve staging qualities on the Zen by running them balanced. This is one of the few times where I notice a difference with a balanced output and additional power. Staging size doesn't see much of an increase, but imaging, layering, and instrument separation all take a step forward with improved definition. The Zen is an EDM beast when going balanced.

In terms of build I think both represent the best of their respective material and design choices with equally good fit and finish, so I won't say one betters the other. If you prefer metal, you'll prefer the Zen. Likewise for the FA9 if you prefer acrylic. The FA9's design is eye catching, the 3D printing accurate and neat, and ergonomics fantastic for a big earphone. The sealed design can lead to pressure build up though, and that can cause discomfort. Not a problem on the well ventilated Zen. When it comes to cables I prefer the lighter, more flexible sheathing of FiiO's inclusion. It doesn't have a Quick-Switch equivalent though, so whatever termination you get you're stuck with.

Overall I find the two complimentary. The FA9 provides a smoother, more spacious, but less impactful sound. The Zen I find a lot more exciting thanks to the impressive bass presentation and overall texture. It's also more comfortable for me thanks to the smaller shell and vented design. Both are compelling options for their respective price points and target audiences.

HiFiMAN RE800 Gold (699.00 USD): The RE800's heavy focus on upper mids and treble gives it a neutral-bright signature that appeals more to those that enjoy track analysis and detail. Upper treble on the RE800 is quite a bit more prominent than on the Zen leaving the presentation notably thinner, more airy, and sparkly. Notes are also presented with more aggression and energy, but without the same level of control as you find in the Dunu. Whereas I can listen to the Zen comfortably at slightly higher than normal volumes, the RE800's brightness inevitably leads to fatigue. Treble sensitive listeners should avoid the RE800. Dropping into the mids the Zen has a thicker presentation while nearly equalling the HiFiMAN's excellent detail. The RE800 provides more warmth though, giving it the more natural vocal and instrument presentation to my ears. The Zen has a dry edge that keeps it from sounding quite right. Bass is where the two see another great divide. While quantity is similar, the RE800's smaller driver suffers from sub-bass drop off and lacks the same physical rumble on the deepest notes. It also provides a smoother sound, though this comes at the expense of texture and slam which the Zen has in abundance, all while sounding no less refined. The Zen's bass simply kicks @$$. Sound stage and related qualities are where the RE800 regains my attention. The stage is wider, deeper, with a less intimate default vocal positioning. Imaging is just as impressive and nuanced with the lean note presentation helping it match or exceed the Zen's track layering and instrument separation.

When it comes to build the Zen walks all over the RE800. While HiFiMAN selected excellent materials, like gold-plated brass for the earpieces and silver-plated copper for the cable, they skipped out on making it look and feel as premium as the price would suggest, along with other short cuts. The cable is fixed with poor strain relief and hastily applied electrical tape covering the solder-points with the 3.5mm jack's removable sleeve. Admittedly this was addressed on a later revision, though they used bulky plugs that didn't mesh with the impressively compact design. The attractive gold-plating on my set is also rubbing off where the housing touches the ear. Where the Dunu feels extremely solid with thoughtful design in every area, the RE800 is this odd mixture of aspects of varying quality and attention to detail.

Overall I much prefer using the Zen. I don't worry about damaging the cable, the bass quality is addictive, it's not as fatiguing, and it's technical qualities are nearly as good. I will instead pick up the RE800 on those rare occasions where I want some extra detail and more natural timbre, such as on live instrumental recordings.

P3170084.JPGP3170091.JPGP3170102.JPG

In The Ear I have yet to meet a Dunu that wasn't thoughtfully built and ergonomically sound. The ZEN does nothing to challenge this experience as the design follows closely in the footsteps of the Luna and DK3001 Pro, among other models in their lineup. To keep costs reasonable while maintaining durability and a premium feel, the ZEN's shells are made from CNC milled stainless steel. Moving from Campfire Audio's Vega and Dorado 2020 to the ZEN, I was quite surprised as how similar in hand the ZEN feels to those ceramic bodied products. Fit and finish is quite good. The seams that connect the three main components making up each shell (face plate, main body, nozzle) are visible but gaps are basically non-existent and everything lines up flawlessly. The glossy paint job is evenly applied with a look that is easy on the eyes and doesn't draw too much attention to itself. It's a bit of a fingerprint magnet though, something that shouldn't come as a surprise given Dunu includes a micro fibre cloth to keep it polished to a glistening sheen. The vent on the face of the earphone, in place to accommodate Dunu's Air Control Impedance System (ACIS), is the primary design element, blending naturally into the overall design below the horizontally oriented MMCX port protrusions. Yeah, the ZEN looks great with materials and construction quality that meets expectations set by the nearly 700 USD price tag.

The wearing experience of the ZEN is sublime. I was somewhat surprised to find that it was quite a bit thicker and larger in diameter than it's Luna and DK-3001 Pro cousins. Like the Luna it features a single dynamic driver instead of the five driver hybrid setup of the Pro so you'd think it would end up being quite compact. Regardless, it is still a fairly small unit, just bigger than anticipated. In the end it doesn't matter as the ZEN was just a nice to wear as other Dunu products. The sculpted interior ensures there are no hard edges to cause hot spots. Weight distribution, something that is quite important on a weighty product like the ZEN, is excellent thanks to the low profile, cable-over-ear design and natural nozzle angle of around 70 degrees. The one thing hindering this slightly is the weight of the cable, but we'll come back to that in the next paragraph. The nozzles themselves are a very standard diameter of 5mm. This combined with prominent nozzle lips means you can toss on the vast majority of standard tips, from Sony hybrids to Spintfit CP145s to JVC wide bores, and they'll all fit fine and stay securely attached. I've noticed a recent trend towards longer, more slender nozzles, or on 3D printed acrylic earphones an absence of nozzle lips, both of which hinder tip compatibility and the potential to find a setup that is comfortably ideal. I'm glad Dunu has avoided these trends with the ZEN, creating something with comfort that matches the branding.

While it is absolutely a high quality piece of kit with some awesome features like Dunu's Quick-Switch modular plug system and Catch-Hold MMCX connectors, the cable is a bit too beefy in my opinion. My experience with it is reminiscent of my times with the Penon BS1 Official and BGVP DM6. Both of those products had nice ergonomics but were saddled with cables that were too stiff and too heavy, throwing off the overall balance and reducing comfort. While the ZEN's cable is much more usable and doesn't hinder things to the same extremes, I would have preferred a lighter more flexible option. The 149.99 USD LYRE cable that came with the DK-3001 Pro is, in my opinion, a perfect pairing with the ZEN. If you can work it into your budget, I highly recommend picking it up alongside the ZEN. You don't give up the Quick-Switch system which means it'll work with the various plugs included with the ZEN, and the added flexibility and lower weight result in a better mobile experience. It doesn't look as nice, though that might be a positive if you want to fly under the radar.

Passive noise isolation of the ZEN is actually quite good, performing nearly identically in my experience to the DK-3001 Pro. I had no issues listening to music at my usual low volumes when grocery shopping or buying a coffee at the local and extremely noisy Tim Hortons. Voices and ambient noise still comes through of course, but it is all significantly dulled. There's no way I could hold a conversation with someone with the ZEN in place. If you need some extra isolation, use the included foam tips or turn to a third party option like Comply's Isolation T-Series of foam tips.

Overall I have nothing to complain about when it comes to the way thr ZEN is built and how it feels to wear. Standards for fit, finish, and material quality are extremely high, comfort is stellar, and isolation is quite good. If you have issues with the weight and flexibility of the included cable, Dunu's own LYRE is a perfect alternative.

P3170030.JPGP3170038.JPGP3170051.JPG

In The Box The presentation for the ZEN's packaging is exceptionally clean and mature. On the front of the matte black exterior sheath you find the model name set in the centre with ZEN garden-like layered circles in the upper right and lower left corners. The use of gold for these features contrasts beautifully with the dark background. On the rear of the sheath you find typical details like specifications, product features, and contact information for the brand. Sliding off the sheath reveals a textured black cardboard box with Dunu branding recessed in glossy black writing, centred on the magnetically sealed lid. Lifting the lid reveals a strip of rice paper with DESIGNED BY DUNU printed in glossy silver. Removing the sheet you find a dense foam insert with the ZEN's earpieces and neatly coiled cable safely tucked within individual cutouts. Lifting this foam insert via two conveniently placed ribbons uncovers a slew of accessories. Down the left are the various included termination options for the Quick-Switch modular cable system. Centred is a plastic case containing two of the four sets of included tips. To the right is another cardboard holding the carrying case in which the rest of the accessories are stored. In all you get:
  • Dunu ZEN earphones
  • Leatherette carrying case
  • 8 core, high-purity monocrystalline silver-plated copper Litz cable
  • 3 plug connectors; 4.4 mm TRRRS Balanced, 3.5 mm TRS Single-Ended, 2.5 mm TRRS Balanced
  • Sony-hybrid style tips (s/m/l)
  • Dunu-branded translucent blue-grey single flange tips (s/m/l)
  • White single flange tips (s/m/l)
  • Foam tips with wax guard (m)
  • Cleaning brush
  • 1/4” adapter
  • Airplane adapter
  • Cable clip
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Mesh earpiece bag
Overall a very pleasant and premium unboxing experience packed to the brim with extras. If you aren't the kind of buyer to keep your packaging, there isn't a lot of material to recycle. If you do keep your packaging, it's nice enough to put on display. The accessory kit is extremely comprehensive with a ton of extras, most of which are genuinely useful, such as the case. The materials are visually and physically appealing with a durable, chunky metal zipper that is unlikely to fail. It is also not so large as to require an oversized pocket to carry. If I am to level a complaint at any aspect of this unboxing, it would be towards the included tips. The Sony Hybrids are a top tier inclusion and my preferred set with the ZEN, so they can stay. The blue-grey and white tips are similar enough to be redundant though. One of the sets could have been swapped out for bi- or tri-flange tips catering to those that prefer the extra insertion depth and isolation increase a multi-flange tip provides.

IMG_0430.JPG

Final Thoughts When it comes to trickle down technology, the consumer wins. The Zen is a perfect example of this. It features technologies from their flagship products like the Luna's driver structure and the DK-4001's ACIS bass reflex port. Their developments to the magnet that is part of the ECLIPSE system has resulted in truly impressive driver control and speed. Innovative features like their Quick-Switch modular cable system are present. The stainless steel shells are extremely durable. Ergonomics have been refined and improved over the DK-3001 Pro resulting in a very comfortable fit despite the Zen being quite heavy. They didn't skimp on accessories either, giving buyers pretty much everything they'll need in the box, except multi-flange tips. That's a bit of an oversight in my opinion, but one that is easily rectified.

They also tuned it extremely well. The Zen is unbelievably detailed and textured with some of the most engaging bass I've heard to date. The midrange isn't the most natural sounding, but again, the detail and clarity is truly impressive and completely free of sibilance. The treble is very tight and well controlled, though maybe not sparkly or well-extended enough for the most demanding of listeners. The sound stage is fairly average, but it's backed by near class leading technical qualities. It all combines into a very entertaining, technically capable earphone that is fairly versatile, though I think it excels best with electronic music.

Overall I am very impressed with the Zen and have no issues recommending it. It's going to be one of my benchmarks at this price range moving forward. Excellent work Dunu!

Thanks for reading!

- B9

Disclaimer A huge thanks to Dunu for reaching out to see if I would be interested in reviewing the ZEN, and for arranging a sample. I also appreciate their patience in letting me take my time to use the ZEN as a daily driver to share my experiences with the community. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions and do not represent Dunu or any other entity. At the time of writing the ZEN was retailing for 699.99 USD: https://www.dunu-topsound.com/ZEN

Specifications
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 40 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 112 ± 1 dB at 1 kHz
  • Impedance: 16 Ω at 1 kHz
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: < 0.2% at 1 kHz
  • Driver Diaphragm: Magnesium-Aluminum alloy dome with nanoporous amorphous carbon coating (nanoDLC) and fully independent suspension surround
  • Magnet Assembly: > 1.8 T External Ring-Type Neodymium Magnet
  • Housing Material: 316 Stainless Steel with Patented Air Control Impedance System (ACIS)
  • Cable Length: 1.2 ± 0.1 m
  • Material: 8 Core, High-Purity Monocrystalline Silver-Plated Copper Litz Wire, Concentrically Arranged
  • Cable Connector: Patented Catch-Hold® MMCX Connector
  • Plug Connector: Patented DUNU Quick-Switch Modular Plug System; includes 4.4 mm TRRRS Balanced, 3.5 mm TRS Single-Ended, and 2.5 mm TRRS Balanced plugs
Gear Used For Testing LG Q70, Earmen Sparrow, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501

Some Test Tunes

Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
King Crimson – Lark's Tongues in Aspic
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam
Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams

Attachments

  • P3170033.JPG
    P3170033.JPG
    7.6 MB · Views: 0
  • P3170035.JPG
    P3170035.JPG
    6.6 MB · Views: 0
  • P3170037.JPG
    P3170037.JPG
    7.5 MB · Views: 0
  • P3170042.JPG
    P3170042.JPG
    7.8 MB · Views: 0
  • P3170104.JPG
    P3170104.JPG
    2.3 MB · Views: 0
C
Codename john
Superb review my friend. Very detailed and written.It echoes everything I think about them. Totally intoxicating and fun in a good way 😉

kmmbd

500+ Head-Fier
Zenith
Pros: Build and accessory pack (great stock cable)
– Bass texture, slam, and speed
– Rich, engaging midrange that excels at male vocals
– Class-leading macro and micro-dynamics
– Superb stage depth/height/imaging/instrument separation
Cons: Might require tip rolling
– Upper-midrange glare
– Peak around 8KHz can be an issue in some recordings
– Soundstage width is below-average
– Lack of upper-treble air
IMG_9496.JPG


Edit 27/08/2021: FR and extra pairing notes added

Single-dynamic driver IEMs have been a rare breed in the flagship territory for a while.

In the years past, most TOTL stuff have either been all-BA or hybrid designs. A subtle letdown for those who prefer a single dynamic setup due to the coherency and the dynamism they are capable of producing.

Dunu raised some eyebrows at the beginning of last year when they announced the Dunu Luna — a $1700 pure Be-foil totting single-dynamic flagship that introduced a number of “firsts” for both the company and the IEM scene in general. The Dunu Zen is a somewhat downscale version of their flagship but this time it’s totting an Magnesium-Aluminium alloy driver. Parallels can be drawn between Focal Utopia/Dunu Luna and Focal Clear/Dunu Zen and you wouldn’t be wrong.

That being said, the Dunu Zen isn’t just some cut-down model, rather it’s got its own identity in terms of tuning along with the ECLIPSE driver system that’s been specifically developed for this model (and will be used in future Dunu models).

As usual, there’s a lot to cover here, so let’s get right into it.

Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. Dunu was kind enough to send me the Zen as a review loaner (thanks Tom!) Disclaimer

I assign a numerical value to each parameter, and said value is assigned (subjectively of course) based on the performance of the item in question against other similarly priced products.

5/5 = Excellent/Class-leading performance
4.5/5 = Stand out feature falling just short of class-leading
4/5 = Pretty good, not much to complain about
3.5/5 = Decent
3/5 = Average or so.
2.5/5 = Below average
2/5 = Awful
> 1.5/5 = Abomination
This review was initially published on my blog/Audioreviews.

Sources used: Cowon Plenue R2, Questyle CMA-400i, iFi Hip DAC

Price, while reviewed: $700. Can be bought from Dunu’s Official Website.

IMG_9917.jpg


Build: If Batman had an IEM, the Dunu Zen would probably be it.

A 316L stainless steel body with a glossy piano-black finish, a slit on the back for Dunu’s proprietary ACIS (Air Control Impedance System) mechanism (now installed as a module), and another vent near the nozzle. The Zen’s build in a nutshell. The circular radiant pattern on the back gives the Dunu Zen a distinct look. The design has some similarities with their flagship, Dunu Luna, with a side-mounted stem that houses the mmcx port but the Dunu Zen has its own design language. Compared to the Luna there aren’t as many subtle design cues but for less than half the price I’m not expecting those either.

The shells feel positively dense, has a unique design, and has no visible imperfections. Biggest issue: it’s a fingerprint magnet and difficult to photograph (!) but those are nitpicks at best.
5/5

IMG_9919.jpg
IMG_9920.jpg


Accessories:
For the unboxing and a look at the accessories, I’d just link to the unboxing video I made:


Let’s just say that the Dunu Zen sports the best stock cable you’ll get under $1000 mark. Everyone should take a note from Dunu when it comes to the quality and quantity of accessories they provide. The Dunu Zen does have a lot of similarities with the Dunu Studio SA6’s accessory pack though the former comes with an extra airplane adapter and a nice shirt-clip. Also there are some extra pairs of tips that are eerily similar to Sony hybrid tips. Aside from those there are the Dunu signature blue and white tips, though I wish the blue ones had a less stiff stem.

If I have to really nitpick: I wish they came with some Spinfit CP-145/CP-500 tips. That’s about it.
5/5

Comfort/Isolation:
Isolation is good, though one must note that the Dunu Zen leaks sound due to the ACIS vent. Comfort is excellent as well with a snug fit. Due to the weight of the shells though the fit isn’t as secure as some resin-shell pseudo-custom designs out there.
4/5

Driver Setup:
Dunu debuted a new driver system with the Zen that goes by the ECLIPSE trademark. This system doesn’t necessarily indicate the diaphragm material rather how the dome, driver surround, and voice-coil attachment process is executed.

The Dunu Zen has a 13.5mm dynamic driver system with a Magnesium-Aluminium alloy diaphragm where the micro-pores on the diaphragm surface have been filled with nanoDLC to increase surface stiffness. The driver also has a W-shaped dome and this entire assembly reminds me of the Focal Clear driver (which is one of the best dynamic driver systems out there btw).

Another interesting thing about the driver dome here is that it occupies a larger area than the typical driver systems. The magnet assembly is also unique in that it’s a ring-type motor and has 1.8T magnetic flux which is the highest among all single-DD out there to my knowledge.

What all this means is that the Dunu Zen’s driver system allows it to have superior driver control, much better excursion, and faster transients than most other single-dynamic systems out there (with the exception of the Be-driver IEMs).

The following images can be referenced for more detail (All are courtesy of Dunu).

1619909831611.png
1619909845604.png
1619909851571.png


Dunu definitely has poured a lot of work into this new driver system, but it will all be for naught if the sound quality doesn’t live up to the engineering efforts. Fortunately, that’s not the case.

All sound impressions are made with the Dunu Zen + stock cable (2.5mm/4.4mm plugs) + Spinfit CP-500 tips.

Sound:
Dunu Zen has a mostly warm presentation with some emphasis in the upper-mids and mid-treble. The upper-treble is rolled-off whereas the sub-bass gets a boost around the 60Hz region which then slowly tapers off as it reaches 20Hz.

Before proceeding further with the sound impressions, I must talk about the effect tips/insertion depth have on the Dunu Zen’s signature. After trying out several tips I noticed a pattern. The Dunu Zen sounded the best when the distance between the mesh on the nozzle and the output bore of the tip was minimized. Having a larger distance would negatively affect separation/imaging and emphasize the peaks ~2.5KHz and ~8KHz. This leads to a shouty, shrill presentation that I didn’t like personally.

Minimizing the distance with the Spinfit CP-500 tips, by sliding the eartip stem down to the base of the nozzle (pictured below) and then going for a snug fit (by trying to push the IEMs as far in the canals as possible) resulted in a superior presentation. The upper-mid peak only showed up on certain recordings and the 8KHz peak was far less intrusive. Instrument separation and imaging also improved noticeably.

One negative thing about reducing the gap between the nozzle and tip-bore is that it reduces the soundstage width. Given the tonal improvements it’s a worthy sacrifice IMO.

IMG_9889.jpg


When set up optimally, the Dunu Zen’s bass response stands out the most. The mid-bass texture is some of the best I’ve heard out of an IEM across any price point. Yes, it’s bested by the Sony IER-Z1R’s bass texture but that thing puts almost every IEM to shame when it comes to bass. It’s a wholesale upgrade over any IEM out there that uses a balanced-armature driver for bass and even most hybrid setups. Another aspect of the bass that stood out was the reverb which coupled with the natural decay resulted in an almost physical bass-response. This driver, however, is capable of much more and you can EQ it into a sub-bass monster. With the Cowon Plenue R2’s “Mach3Bass” DSP preset the bass response is frankly bass-head level and almost trades blows with the IER-Z1R. Then again, that’s DSP-based cheating in a sense so I’d only refer to it as a fun experiment.

The transition from bass to mids is handled well with the corner-frequency at ~300Hz adding some body to the mid-bass without clouding the lower-mids. It does add a bit of heft and warmth to the lower-mids and coupled with the emphasized upper-mids (~10dB higher than lower-mids) you get an almost euphonic midrange presentation. Warm, rich, engaging — these are the operative words when describing the Dunu Zen’s midrange. The 2.5KHz peak though can be exaggerated in certain tracks with high pitched female vocals/guitar distortion and can even get slightly shouty, though it never got uncomfortable for me. Your mileage might vary. Male vocals are superb though with baritone vocals getting special treatment. String instruments are put on the forefront and acoustic guitars esp has a nice bite to them.

The treble, then, is the most contentious part of the Dunu Zen’s signature (along with the upper-mid peak though it looks scarier on the graphs IMO). It rolls off drastically after 11KHz or so. Dunu does explain that this is due to the Zen’s driver having higher distortion in the upper-treble region but this also put off those who prefer an airy, ethereal treble. To offset this treble peak, perhaps, Dunu decided to add more presence near the 8KHz region and this can be detrimental if you’re listening to poorly mastered tracks. On most well-mastered material this treble peak didn’t really bother me and even in some shoddily mastered songs I never felt any sibilance or shrillness. Cymbals, hi-hats have slight emphasis on the leading edge of the notes and in busy passages the cymbal hits never bled into one another. It’s the resonance that’s often lost, as can be heard in Lamb of God’s Ruin (2:40 onwards). The treble is resolving enough overall, but I do admit a bit more air would be beneficial.

All that being said, the most underrated part of the Dunu Zen is its overall dynamics, especially how well it handles microdynamics (gradual shift in volumes). Macrodynamics are no slouch either with sudden bass-drops being delivered with gusto. The dynamics are definitely aided by the speed of the driver. The Dunu Zen has the second-fastest dynamic driver I’ve heard till date, with the top spot being taken by the Dunu Luna and Final A8000. Transients are near-instantaneous in their delivery and this leads to a sense of speed that’s hard to come across in the single-dynamic IEM space. No, it won’t beat a planar magnetic headphone for speed but given the physical constraints Dunu did a mighty fine job.

Then comes the soundstage and while the stage depth and height is some of the best in its price class, it’s the stage width that takes a hit. The instruments are placed very close to the listener which somewhat increases note-size. Some might prefer a less intimate and more spacious, ambient listening. For them the Dunu Zen’s presentation will likely be disappointing. However, the superb imaging and instrument separation makes up for the intimate staging, for me at least. For a single-dynamic driver the separation and imaging is truly impressive. Cardinal/ordinal/center imaging is spot on, even convincingly portraying events that are occurring behind you. The separation is also aided by the superior microdynamics with instruments playing at different volumes having their individual place in the stage without overlapping or smearing.

TL;DR: If you can get the ideal fit, Dunu Zen will deliver one of the most dynamic, rich sound out of a single-dynamic setup under $1000. It boasts a tactility of notes across the spectrum that’s very difficult to come by in its price range, esp in all-BA and hybrid setups.

Bass: 5/5
Mids: 4.5/5
Treble: 4/5
Imaging/Separation: 4.5/5
Staging: 3.5/5
Dynamics/Speed: 4.5/5

1628935796116.png

Measured on an IEC-711 compliant coupler, source: Questyle CMA-400i

Amping/Source requirements: The Dunu Zen needs a source with low-noise floor since it’s susceptible to hiss. Also I’d recommend a source with low output impedance. It’s very easy to drive otherwise with 112dB sensitivity and 16 ohms impedance. I personally got the best performance out of Questyle QP1R (desktop source) and Cowon Plenue R2 (portable source), 2.5mm out.

IMG_9532_2.jpg


Going even higher up the source chain, Dunu Zen + Lotoo PAW 6000 + Cayin C9 is perhaps one of the best "combos" I've ever heard. The C9 is frankly incredible and even with the very faint hiss at high gain, I can't let go of them. The PAW 6000 is no slouch but with the C9 the transparency goes up another notch. Zen sounds almost grandeur in this setup, absolutely love the presentation.

IMG_0998.jpg


Select Comparisons

vs Fiio FD5 ($320):
The Fiio FD5 is Fiio’s flagship single dynamic model but is priced quite a bit below that of the Dunu Zen. There are some similarities though: both are using high magnetic flux N52 magnets and both are totting DLC coating to some extend (though Fiio further PVD coats the DLC diaphragm with Be).

In terms of accessories, build, and comfort — the Dunu Zen has the upper hand by a margin, esp when it comes to the cable. Zen’s stock cable is miles ahead. The Fiio FD5 does come with the handy Final mmcx assist but that’s about it. When it comes to sound, the FD5 does have better upper-treble reach but it’s a poor imitation of the Dunu Zen’s bass response at best. The midrange is also more engaging on the Dunu Zen. Imaging, separation, dynamics — all are the Zen’s forte, only the soundstage width is better on the FD5 (though height and depth, again, goes to Dunu Zen).

To my ears, the 2x prime premium of the Dunu Zen over the Fiio FD5 is worth it.

vs Dunu Studio SA6 ($550): I think these IEMs are more complementary than competitive. One is an all-BA setup whereas the other is a single-DD offering.

Both are built well but opt for very different design materials and philosophies. Studio SA6 is a pseudo-custom, 3D-printed resin shell whereas the Zen is an all stainless-steel affair. I’d give the build to the Zen since I’m a sucker for metal housings. As for comfort, I personally prefer the ergonomics of the SA6 more due to its snug fit (the Zen has a slightly looser fit). Both are comfortable for longer wearing sessions, but I’d pick the SA6 if I had to monitor stuff for hours, for example. Both come with similar accessories but I much prefer the tip collection on the Zen. Given its price tag though the SA6 has phenomenal accessory set that rivals many $1000+ options. Zen is more source picky than the SA6. If you want to drive your IEMs out of a budget dongle (though I don’t know why anyone would do that with IEMs like the SA6/Zen) then the SA6 is the better choice. Both scales with higher tier sources but Zen is more transparent to underlying source characteristics.

Now the sound is where things get interesting. In terms of overall signature, the Studio SA6 is definitely more “balanced” of the two, with the Zen having more mid-range emphasis.

Breaking things down, the bass is where things become very stark. The Studio SA6 has excellent bass for an all-BA setup but it can’t hold a candle to the Zen’s texture/articulation of bass notes. Snare hits for example have a physicality that’s missing on the SA6. However, sub-bass rumble is more evident on the SA6 in atmospheric mode. But bass notes are not as well defined as the Zen or even other unvented bass BA drivers (this is an issue with the vented Sonion BA: trades off absolute bass control for slam/physicality).

In the midrange, the SA6 is a bit more laid back and this works well with a variety of genres. Zen’s more up-front midrange might make it too up-front in some recordings (mostly Pop songs with an already emphasized female vocal). I do prefer the male vocals on the Zen more. String instruments are superb on both but Zen highlights the undertones better.

Lastly, the treble. Here in terms of absolute extension, the Studio SA6 is better. However, cymbals sound more lifelike on the Zen. It lacks the airiness I find on the SA6 but the initial hit and subsequent decay sounds more natural to my ears. Sustain instruments (e.g. violin) showcase a more natural decay on the Zen than on the SA6. In the end, this will be dependent upon one’s preferences. If you like the crispness of BA treble and want more extension then the SA6 will be the better fit. If you want a more natural decay and lifelike overtones, Zen is likely the way to go.

As for the rest: timbre goes to Zen, hands down. SA6 is less fatiguing in comparison (I wouldn’t call either fatiguing though, but SA6 is more relaxed). Imaging/separation is superior on the Zen whereas the SA6 has a wider stage (though stage depth/height goes to the Zen). Dynamics are also better on the Zen though for an all-BA set the SA6 is no slouch.

Last but not the least, the value proposition. I think the studio SA6 offers more value in general. The tuning is more suited to a range of genres, the accessories are practically same barring some extra tips and airplane adapter, the fit is slightly better and the overall sound quality is pretty close. The tuning switch is also pretty handy.

That being said, the Dunu Zen is the superior IEM, at least for my tastes/music library. I’m a sucker for a single-DD (esp a well-tuned, technically proficient one) so I guess this is where my bias shines through. Then again, this hobby is mostly a chain of biases and preferences so it’s alright.

IMG_9538.JPG


vs Dunu Luna ($1700): I’ve already reviewed the Luna and the Dunu Zen shares a number of similarities with its big brother. First, the basics. Build, accessories, comfort are all better on the Luna. For the price premium though, one should expect this. Luna, though, is more source sensitive than Zen.

Now I’m gonna go straight into sound. In terms of tuning the Dunu Luna is more of an acquired taste than the Dunu Zen. The Dunu Luna has a rolled-off sub-bass and a pretty emphasized 4KHz region (though again, the graphs are scarier than reality). This makes the sound signature more colored and due to the bass roll-off certain genres aren’t done full justice. That being said, the Luna bass is more textured in comparison and has far superior speed. In fact, the Dunu Luna has the fastest dynamic driver in any IEM I’ve heard till date (incl. the likes of JVC FW-10000 and Final A8000). In terms of transients, it’s hard to best the Luna. Dynamics are also superior on the Luna. Resolution is higher, and treble has better extension and articulation. Imaging, staging, separation — all these are just better on the flagship model.

The Dunu Zen though offers a lot of the Luna’s performance at less than half the price, while having better sub-bass extension (thus making it more genre-versatile). Moreover, both the Zen and the Luna offers the same “headphone-like presentation” that’s hard to come by in IEMs. So if you’d want the test of Luna without breaking the bank: Zen’s got your back.

vs Final A8000 ($2000): Final Audio’s flagship IEM doesn’t quite offer the dizzying array of accessories you get with the Dunu Zen, and the cable is more pedestrian to boot (I so hope they included a balanced cable with this one). I do prefer Final A8000’s carrying case more. IMO it’s the best case-design out there.

In terms of build and comfort they are about par. However, it’s the sound where the differences lie. Similar to the Dunu Luna, Final A8000 is a single pure Be-foil driver and offers nearly the same zippy transients, speed, and technical prowess of the Luna.

The sub-bass on the A8000 is not as rolled-off as the Luna and thus it offers a direct challenge to the Dunu Zen. I do think the Zen is bested by the A8000 in both bass response and upper-mids presentation. That being said, the Dunu Zen has a warmer lower-midrange which I personally prefer. Also, A8000 has a presence region peak ~6KHz which was somewhat fatiguing for me. Dunu Zen doesn’t have such issues. Center-imaging was surprisingly slightly better on the Dunu Zen as well.

The sound signature is different between the A8000 and Dunu Zen, so is the technical prowess where the Final pulls ahead. But again, for less than half the price, Dunu Zen doesn’t sound like that much of a downgrade, and I even enjoy it over the A8000 on poorly mastered tracks (A8000 is brutally revealing).

vs Sony IER-Z1R ($1700): This is more of a David vs Goliath fight due to the Z1R being Sony’s universal IEM flagship and having a more than 2x price premium, but the conclusion isn’t so cut and dry.

First up: packaging and accessories. The Z1R unboxing experience is as royal as it gets and the Dunu Zen seems fairly pedestrian in comparison. However, when it comes to the actual accessories, the Dunu Zen has the Z1R beat IMO. The tip collection on the Z1R is still great but Dunu just has far superior cables and the quick-switch plug is sheer genius. Also I prefer the Dunu Zen carry case over the jewelry-box like Z1R case which looks awesome but has poor practicality. Next, build quality. Both are well built but the Z1R’s Zirconium shell has a density which is very hard to beat. The Zen build is no slouch by any means but I just can’t get over the steampunk vibe of the Z1R.

Regarding fit and comfort: this one goes to the Zen, hands down. The Z1R is proper huge and won’t fit small ears at all. Also the Z1R requires the nozzle to be fairly flush with your canals so not everyone will find it a pleasant experience. I find it fairly well fitting but still the weight and sheer presence of it persists. The Dunu Zen meanwhile simply disappears in comparison. It’s a heavy IEM but the weight is well-balanced IMO.

Finally, the sound. If I have to summarize: IER-Z1R has the better bass and treble, Dunu Zen has superior midrange (esp vocal and string instruments rendition). Now, a bit more detail. The bass on the Z1R is truly world-class. It’s the best bass I’ve heard till date. The tactility, the sheer physicality and slam, the texture, the sub-bass rumble — it’s practically flawless bass for my tastes. The treble meanwhile has good amount of sparkle and air frequencies are portrayed well. This also gives rise to a massive soundstage and imaging is also very precise (though the Dunu Zen has similarly precise imaging to my ears, but the stage is considerably narrower).

The Zen has great bass but it’s not as good as the Z1R. Also the Zen lacks upper-treble extension which can be problematic for those who needs an airy presentation. However, when it comes to the vocals, string instruments, grand piano — Dunu Zen is my pick simply because the Z1R puts the male vocals/string instruments in the backseat whereas cymbals, bass, female vocals take the front stage. Also the Zen sounds more coherent (though the Z1R is remarkably coherent for a hybrid). Zen also has better center-imaging (center-imaging is a bit diffused on the IER-Z1R in comparison due to the sheer width of the soundstage).

So yeah, the IER-Z1R is every bit the flagship it’s supposed to be, but for an IEM that retails for $1000 less, the Dunu Zen is no less enjoyable and I even prefer it depending on track/genre/mood.

IMG_9832.jpg
IMG_9661.JPG


Conclusion

This review turned out to be a lot longer than I expected. For those who need a quick summary: The Dunu Zen is one of the, if not the best single-DD options available under the $1000 mark. It sits at the zenith of single-dynamic IEMs in that price bracket, from my experience at least.

Technically it’s right up there with some of the multi-BA options and bests Dunu’s own Studio SA6 along with a few others. Tonality-wise, if you can get the ideal fit (shouldn’t be too difficult with tip rolling), you’re gonna have a blast with most of the genres.

It’s not without its drawbacks and that upper-mid peak can be quite contentious, along with the lack of upper-treble air (though this isn’t as big a deal for me, your mileage may vary). For the majority of the tracks I listen to, however, the Dunu Zen has been absolutely fantastic. Moreover, it gives you much of the Dunu Luna’s technical prowess at $1000 less. Its dynamics are hard to beat, and if you are someone who values the coherency and presentation of a single dynamic-driver the Dunu Zen is something you must try.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5​

Highly Recommended if you’re after a near-flagship single-dynamic driver IEM.

Test tracks: https://tidal.com/browse/playlist/04350ebe-1582-4785-9984-ff050d80d2b7
Last edited:
shafat
shafat
Superb perception. And most importantly the perception was presented through words nicley. Thanks to the reviewer for expressing his hearing verbally with such accuracy.
  • Like
Reactions: kmmbd
Antick Dhar
Antick Dhar
class-leading writing Kazi bhai <3
  • Like
Reactions: kmmbd

Layman1

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: dynamic, energetic, engaging, musical, solid design and engineering, multi-plug cable
Cons: slightly incoherent at times, rolled off treble (depends on whether you actually want that or not!)
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 pushed into the TOTL market with their acclaimed Luna earphone.
They undertook a very lengthy R&D process to produce the pure beryllium foil
dynamic driver for the Luna, including devising the materials and manufacturing methods to implement the tech they’d developed. Part of their mission since then has to allow that tech and optimised manufacturing process to filter down into new mid-range and budget models.

Today, I’m going to be looking at an IEM which does exactly that, via DUNU’s new Eclipse driver platform which, to quote DUNU themselves, showcases ‘a collection of exclusive, next generation driver technologies’.
All the details of the technology employed – far more than I could hope to fit in here – is available on the dedicated DUNU Zen page here on Head-Fi:
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/zen-by-dunu-our-first-model-designed-around-next-generation-driver-platform-eclipsƎ.949689/

On here, you will also find a plethora of impressions, links to reviews, questions and answers, and – as is de rigueur on any self-respecting Head-Fi thread these days - some memes involving cats and stuff :sweat_smile:
At USD $699 at the time of writing, the Zen - according to the IEM world’s ever-changing pricing norms - would fit today at the mid-upper end of the mid-range price tier.
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.

With these ‘starters’ in place, it’s time to move on to the main course, which you can begin by feasting your eyes upon the photos in the following section :D

Photos:

01.jpg
02.jpg
03.jpg
04.jpg
05.jpg

Unboxing, packaging and accessories:

I think the packaging is of a reasonable standard for this price point; it’s fairly classy and everything is squared away inside in its own place. 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, but since such things are so dependent on one’s personal preferences, I won’t count that as a negative.
I would mention though that the $399 Unique Melody 3DT IEM, released around the same time, includes a case made by the prestigious Korean artisan company Dignis; as such, I think DUNU could perhaps up their game in this particular aspect of their accessorising.

A generous selection of ear tips was provided, along with DUW-03, an 8-core silver-plated copper cable that previously came with the SA6, only with MMCX connectors this time around for the Zen. It’s got a somewhat rubbery feel and is fairly chunky given the 8-wire construction and aforementioned rubbery sleeve, but in use I found no issues with it.
The cable employs 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 pretty nice. This will depend very much on one’s personal taste.

It’s not the artwork-like unique beauty of the SA6; this – in keeping with the Eclipse theme of the DD platform – does have a design that is blacked out, which also allows light to play across the surface in an appealing way. It’s a more subtle design in a glossy black that regrettably collects fingerprints faster than a policeman chasing the ‘collars of the month’ award. Nevertheless a degree of simple but elegant artistry in how these IEMs are designed.
The shells are made from stainless steel and seem very solid and well-engineered.

The Fit:

The nozzle of the Zen seems longer comparatively than the SA6 and DK-2001 that I reviewed previously; I was able to get a good seal using my New Bee foam tips which lasted undisturbed throughout lengthy listening sessions, including cooking whilst listening.
There was no discomfort or fatigue.

The Sound:

I listened using the Sony WM1Z DAP, with MrWalkman’s custom FW (DMP-WM1 Mk I), and the DX220MAX, combined with a variety of tracks in lossless or hi-res lossless format, from a wide variety of genres.
I’ll begin with the summary of my findings, then a couple of comparisons, followed by a brief conclusion.

Low end:

I hear the Zen as having a moderately tuned sub-bass – with my own slightly basshead tendencies, I would personally prefer quite a bit more of this. Along with this, there’s a comparatively elevated mid-bass, albeit still fairly average in terms of quantity. The impact and slam are, I would say, not much above neutral.
This contrasts with the mid-bass, which I found to be a bit variable in delivery, depending on the source material. On neutrally mastered tracks, I found the low end to be slightly unsatisfying, but with tracks with a more full-bodied and powerful mastering (of the drums and bass) the mid-bass of the Zen was able to deliver an engaging and rich performance.

However, this is where -on a few occasions - the discrepancy I felt between the sub-bass and mid-bass became slightly jarring; you could have full-bodied, toe-tapping bass strums, but quite anaemic sounding drums to go with it.
On most songs, it all came together and everything sounded great, but not quite consistently enough for me to completely ignore this issue.

Of course, I have to note that this relates to my own personal preferences and there will be plenty of other IEMs that give me that feeling of slight dissatisfaction regarding the low end.
So if classic rock or other neutrally-mastered music is your thing and you really want to feel those drums and bass, then you’d be better off looking at something within your budget that approximates the sound signatures of the EE Nemesis or Legend X, CA Solaris, UM MEST Mk II, etc.
I am not so familiar with IEMs at the $700 price point, but I’m sure others on the dedicated Zen thread here can advise accordingly!

Another side-effect of the low-end tuning is that I occasionally hear the presentation of a song to have slight inconsistencies. It’s not noticeable most of the time, and even when it is, it’s a subtle effect that might go over many people’s heads (I’m in ‘critical listening mode’ as I write this, haha).
An example would be Rage Against The Machine – ‘Bullet in the head’.
Following the breakdown, from 3m 6s into the song, the instruments all come roaring back in. When the repeated bass riff hits the lower notes, there’s a palpable feeling of weight, impact and power coming off of those bass notes, but as soon as those bass notes move higher, that feeling disappears immediately.
Whilst I play some guitar, I’m not familiar with the bass as an instrument, and maybe this is simply the feeling one would get in in real life? Anyway, I’m just writing what I hear.
Just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts :D

Mids:

I hear the lower mids as being fairly neutral, with somewhat forward upper mids.
For me, there’s a warmth and weight from the mid-bass that spreads into the mids, more prominent in the lower mids and attenuating as the frequency increases into the upper mids. Female vocals can come across as a bit sharp and piercing occasionally; a hazard of those forward upper mids, although male vocals on the whole sound reasonably full-bodied and enjoyable, if perhaps a little bit lacking in presence and weight.

With one of my go-to test tracks, Hong Kong opera singer Alison Lau’s rendition of ‘Lascia la spina’ the strings have a gorgeously full-bodied warmth, but I did feel the harpsichord in the background had a bit less of the prominence and sparkle that I enjoy on other IEMs in my collection.
Also, as mentioned the vocals can be too piercing for me at times, although in fairness with my treble sensitivity, that issue comes up with this song on many IEMs and usually only the most smooth and non-fatiguing ones will pass that test.


Treble:

The treble is interesting. And no, that’s not a euphemism for ‘a bit rubbish’ :D
It’s somewhat rolled off, and from graphs I’ve seen has a prominent spike between 8-9 kHz.
Different kinds of ear tips will either exacerbate or reduce this; with my New Bee foam tips, it was never really something I noticed to be honest.

Going simply on what I hear, there’s not the immediate sense of air and spaciousness that you’ll get with some IEMs; as mentioned previously, there’s also a sense of intimacy brought about by the size and weight of the notes. However, unlike some IEMs I’ve heard, this doesn’t result in a muddy or congested feeling, even on songs with fairly dense and complex arrangements, or where the mastering of the song has been done in an intimate way itself. There’s a well-judged degree of separation and a fairly black background that gives every vocal and instrument its own space to shine.

Technical performance and overall sound signature:

The increased note size engendered by that mid-bass creates a more intimate feel, although in fact the soundstage is reasonably wide and deep, with average height.
I found the layering and - especially – the imaging to be surprising (in a good way); things like backing vocals and additional instruments were highlighted enchantingly and details pop out very well against a fairly black background.
It’s definitely more on the musical side than reference, although it certainly is able to bring out those delightful small details in the music. For me, it’s more of a tonally coloured presentation and if that’s what you’re looking for, then you’d do well to give the Zen a listen if you have the chance.
On the other hand, if your tastes lean more towards neutral-reference and transparency, then DUNU’s SA6 would be well worth investigating.
Finally, I have to mention the timbre, which I think is done in a very engaging way and generally very lifelike.

Comparisons:

DUNU Zen vs DUNU SA6:
It’s pretty much chalk and cheese here; two radically different tunings.
The SA6 features a switch on each earphone that can be used to add a bump to the low end; I use this every time and find the sound to be essentially neutral reference with a touch of organic warmth; the detail retrieval, resolution and transparency of the SA6 are excellent.
I hear Zen to be less transparent and resolving. The detail retrieval on the Zen is not far behind at all, but just does it slightly differently. It’s hard to put my finger on how; I just found that different details stood out for me with the Zen, and in different ways. Perhaps an effect of its rather non-standard tuning.
Conversely, I found the Zen to have a significantly harder hitting and more enjoyable low end. It’s not a bass-head presentation by any means, but has enough of that DD goodness to leave most all-BA IEM’s in the shade.


DUNU Zen vs Unique Melody Mini-MEST:
The Mini-MEST features 3 balanced armature drivers, along with UM’s custom Bone Conduction Driver (BCD), which seems to add coherence and body to the sound signature.
The tunings of these two IEMs are more similar than Zen vs SA6 above, but still quite diverse on the whole.
I hear the Mini-MEST to have faster transients, with instruments having more clearly defined ‘edges’. Perhaps surprisingly, compared with the single DD setup of the Zen, I hear the Mini-MEST to sound more cohesive and also smoother and more balanced. Timbre is very good on both, although I might give the edge to the Mini-MEST here.

The Zen’s low end hits with more impact and power though – unsurprising in a DD vs BA comparison – although as I mentioned in my Mini-MEST review, the low end on the Mini-MEST is the most DD-like I’ve yet heard on an all-BA IEM.
On the other hand, I’d say the Mini-MEST pulls significantly ahead technically.

What they both have in common is an engaging musicality and a dynamic and energetic signature.
It's worth adding as I close that everyone has different preferences and it just so happened that the Mini-MEST, when I reviewed it, managed the rare feat of ticking pretty much all my boxes and I am a big fan of it. Others will prefer the Zen.
If in doubt, try them both out (if at all possible) :wink:


Conclusion:

I think the Zen distinguishes itself with a unique sound signature, as befits one of the few single-driver offerings in the market at this price point.
It’s rich, dynamic, and full-bodied. Sometimes powerful and frequently foot-tappingly musical. It’s intimate but not congested, with a solid technical performance with particular strengths in the imaging and layering.
I felt that the tuning occasionally came off as a bit uneven, but on the whole it was very enjoyable. Overall, if the audio qualities I’ve described are piquing your interests, then I’d highly recommend giving the Zen a listen.
Ace Bee
Ace Bee
I have a few questions:
1. How does the soundstage and separation of Zen compare with the other two?
2. You mentioned Zen is less resolving, but detail retrieval is almost similar...isn't that conflicting?

Precogvision

Reviewer at Headphones.com
Pros: - excellent macrodynamic punch
- lots of accessories, all of good quality
- premium construction
Cons: - upper-midrange is too forward
- treble roll-off
- the above contrasted to a 9-10kHz peak
Hey all, here’s my long-belated Zen review. This showed up a couple months ago, I put an hour or two on it, and then promptly forgot about it with all the other stuff I have going through my hands. Yeah. Obviously, that’s not the greatest first impression, but I also don’t think it’s fair to leave DUNU hanging when they sent this out with the expectation of a review. So here we are.

292EF1B3-03EE-4D8A-BF66-D24E694937F4.jpeg


This unit was provided for review by Tom of DUNU. As always, what follows are my honest thoughts and impressions to the best of my ability.

Presentation & Accessories

1B06177D-8374-41B7-9768-3339CE1AB7BC.jpeg


Nailed it. I don’t think I’ve been disappointed by any DUNU unboxing experience, and the Zen bears no exception. Lots of goodies you'll receive:
  • Eartips 6x pairs
  • Airline adapter
  • shirt clip
  • microfiber cloth
  • split microfiber baggie for the IEMs
  • case
  • DUW03 cable with 2.5mm, 3.5mm, and 4.5mm adapters
1B3F97D2-C565-477B-86AC-AB1A56E02A44.jpeg


Love the case; I even stole an extra off of MRS because I liked it so much. I'm not sure if I'm the biggest fan of the new cable, though. It's certainly more robust than the DUW02, but it also feels somewhat tacky, overly heavy. I think I'd prefer something slimmer. As usual, you have DUNU's terrific modular system covering you in all common terminations. Anyways, I'd prefer not to focus on this stuff too much, as other reviewers have no doubt covered them in much greater detail already. That in mind, onto the sound.

Sound Analysis

oUhkrtt6Sjrj98iX4BJV9Ev_NQBcXyxAWlQC1zeogo1GnextiQhr2zhPNT6ujsuI_aJWOU0maXsaXhnhlXtCaTC5NXU6fgya0FzPMmgAs3sataett2nqpdvzVxnKSEskt2hSbeWu


As a whole, I'm not sure what to call the Zen's response, but I'd say there's more of an "Asian" music tilt to things going on here that'll mostly closely favor said genres. The bass on the Zen is...fine. Sounds mid-bass leaning to my ears with adequate amounts of slam and texture. Honestly, I'm not sure what else to say here. $700 material? Not really. Certainly not in the tuning department, and something like the ER2XR has it beat in tuning and intangibles.

There is a distinct divide to the Zen’s midrange. The lower-midrange is fine, leaning slightly warmer. But the upper-midrange needs work. It’s simply too emphasized from 3-4kHz lending to overly forward, edgy female vocals. And no, I’m not saying this just because it’s the complete opposite of my target curve. There are ways to walk this line without falling prey like the Zen has; the Moondrop IEMs are an excellent example.

That aside, the Zen’s weakest point is no doubt its treble response. It is largely rolled-off post 10kHz; both measurements and subjective listening corroborate this. This is not uncommon with a lot of DD IEMs; however, the problem to my ears lies in the attempt that was made to offset said roll-off. The Zen’s treble is strongly emphasized at 8kHz not unlike, say, the Campfire Andromeda. Unlike the Andromeda though, there’s just not enough presence sub-1kHz to offset this peak. Leading impacts and crash sound overly emphasized; contrasted to the roll-off post-10kHz, triggers the dreaded “in a pit” effect where it sounds like percussive instruments are bearing down on a listener.

Technicalities

As a whole, I would say the Zen’s technicalities are middling. Not horrible for $700, but a long ways off class leading. The one area that really “shines” - that is, through the largely rolled off treble - is the Zen’s macrodynamic ability. By this, I am most closely referencing the ability of an IEM to scale decibel gradations. The Zen has a good deal of “heft” and punch to the way it articulates dynamic swings. Although it’s been too long since I’ve heard the DUNU Luna to draw a comparison, I recall the Luna’s macrodynamic ability being more strongly predicated on sheer contrast. An interesting juxtaposition, I think. But no less a worthy performance from the Zen here, and suffice it to say the Zen might be the most capable IEM I have heard at $700 for this characteristic.

Select Comparison

Those who have read my DUNU SA6 review will know that it is an IEM that I hold in very high regard. I went in with zero expectations and was utterly captivated with what I heard, so much so that it went directly onto my list of favorite IEMs. So I will be blunt: In this reviewer’s opinion only, the SA6 is a significant jump over the Zen. The tuning of the SA6 is a good deal more balanced and technicalities are refined to a higher degree. I see no reason to purchase the Zen unless one desires - above all else - its aforementioned macrodynamic ability that I highlighted earlier.

I suppose the Moondrop Illumination is also a natural point of comparison to the Zen given they are both 1DDs. Again, I will be blunt: I am not the biggest fan of the Illumination. The Illumination has a more balanced tuning with comparable technical performance. Where these IEMs differ most, then, is in timbre. The Illumination is extremely smooth in transient attack and decay, perhaps too smooth. There is a distinct lack of vigor, a certain mellowness to its presentation that underwhelms. Really, if I had to pick my poison, I think I’d go for the Zen, but those who want a smoother, less fatiguing listen might opt for the Illumination.

The Verdict

At the end of the day, the Zen is pretty alright. It doesn't do anything outright wrong, but I also don't think its sonic performance is quite to the level of its asking price. I will add that it is difficult to assess value of more expensive single DD IEMs as there's simply not many on the market; they tend to be bottlenecked in the technical department by design too. But if nothing else, DUNU has at least shown that they can trickle down some of the unique qualities that made the original Luna special.

BF09346B-E829-411E-B5F2-C7F26D0B751A.jpeg
Last edited:

Hddad70

Head-Fier
Review Of the DUNU ZEN
Pros: Highly Engaging
Clean Transients And Good Dynamics
Detailed Mids and Bass
Innovative Design
Excellent Cable
Comfortable
Cons: Treble Roll Off
Upper Mids Peak
_DSC5033 (2).jpg


DUNU ZEN
Introspection
In December of 2020, DUNU announced they would be releasing the ZEN, a brand new single DD IEM that would be implementing similar driver fabrication techniques derived from the LUNA but for less than half the price. No doubt the LUNA is a technical beast but $1,700 is a little out of reach for many buyers. With the introduction of the ZEN, DUNU showcases its latest ECLIPSE Driver Platform and its newly developed dynamic driver made of magnesium-aluminum alloy with a diaphragm with a nanoporous-amorphous diamond-like carbon coating. Priced at $699, this new more affordable DD IEM is a welcome addition to DUNU's already impressive line-up.

DUNU sent me the ZEN for review in exchange for my honest thoughts. I do not get compensated in any way. Shoutout to Tom at DUNU for his time and for providing me this opportunity.

_DSC5014 (2).jpg


Price

$699


Specs

Driver Config: DD with Magnesium alloy pure metal diaphragm

Impedance:16Ohm

Sensitivity:108dB/mW

Frequency Response Range:5-40000Hz


Accessories

Hard case

Woven protective IEM pouch (Brown)

Assortment of S/M/L ear tips

Shirt clip

Cleaning tool

Cleaning cloth


Cable

Cable: 8 Core OCC Silver-Plated Cable

Connector: MMCX

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

_DSC5046-2.jpg


No doubt, 2020 has been a challenge for all of us. But for me, 2021 is turning out to be even a little more challenging. With my parents in their twilight years and the prospect of being an empty nester, life could look very different for my wife and me very soon. These new worries combined with preexisting old worries have me seeking out moments of solace more than usual and being more intentional about how I spend those moments. That includes my listening time. My parents and my children have now become my priority so it leaves very little time for critical listening. And what little time I do have is used for emotional/spiritual listening or learning music. Subsequently, a review that would normally take me only a few weeks is now taking a couple of months or more. I’ve even had to temporarily take a step back from my YouTube channel. I will continue to do videos just not as frequently.

I’ve always felt like I’ve been able to stay pretty objective when reviewing audio products. But something I became aware of during various stages of my life was that as I got older the way I listened to music slowly changed. Life changes, experiences, hardship, loss and the good things too I’m sure are all reasons for this. But the times that seem like the most change occurred were the times of major loss or hardship. When my brother passed away in 2009 I lost interest in music and audio almost completely. For nearly 3 years I went through a type of musical depression mostly only listening to music to learn drum parts. Up to that point, music was everything to me and because of loss it suddenly meant almost nothing. It sucked. It was a long road back but eventually, I rediscovered my passion for music and with it a newfound passion for portable audio. But something had changed. Maybe it’s different for everybody but for me, it seems like with every major life event/change whether good or bad I find myself increasingly becoming more of an emotional listener. Of course, this was only one of many life events/changes where I experienced a type of listening metamorphosis. But these most recent events seem to have affected me the most.

_DSC5010-2 (2).jpg


After several weeks of dealing with stuff, my wife and I thought it would be good to get away with the family for a few days. We found a cabin nestled in the woods of Fort Bragg, Ca. just a few miles from the beautiful rocky beaches of Northern California. Of course, the priority was family but I did take some time alone for some therapeutic listening. The cabin was quiet and secluded, just what we needed. The seating area on the front porch was very quaint and looked out into a dense forest. The only things I could hear were birds and the wind blowing through the trees. It was sublime. The mornings were a little chili but still nice so with coffee in hand, DUNU ZEN’s, DX-160, Plenue II MK2, and Lotoo Paw S1 I would begin listening.

I’ve spent a lot of time with the ZEN’s over the past couple of months but my time with them at the cabin was the most memorable. My first few weeks of testing were primarily focused on technical capabilities, tuning, and overall performance but the listening sessions at the cabin were not that at all. These sessions were for one purpose only, a time of reflection desperately needed emotional reprieve. Maybe it was a coincidence….maybe it wasn't. One thing I do know is that the timing of the arrival of the DUNU ZEN could not have been better.

_DSC5065.jpg


Test Tracks

David Benoit - Morning Sojourn
Yellowjackets - Memoirs, My Old School, Dewey (For Miles)
Doug MacLeod - Break The Chain
Chris Jones - No Sanctuary Here
Grace Jones - Hurricane Dub
Jacob Collier - In My Room
Jazz At The Pawnshop - Lady Be Good
Hans Theesink - Missing You
Vaun - Listen
Sting, Live In Berlin - Fields Of Gold
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Little Wing
Dave Brubeck - Take Five
Chet Baker - Travlin’ Light
Choir Of Young Believers - Hollow Talk
Tingvall Trio - Dance

Build and Design

The housing of the ZEN is made from stainless steel and has a gloss black (actually more of a dark gunmetal gray) finish. When I first unboxed the ZEN I was immediately struck by its elegant design. It has a very premium look and feel but can be a fingerprint magnet. It also has good weight in the hand but not so heavy as to cause discomfort in the ears. The design of the ZEN is gorgeous and stays true to DUNU's signature circular shell shape. Of course, the build quality of the cable is exceptional and is class-leading in my opinion.

Comfort and Fit

The comfort and fit of the ZEN are excellent. I had no issues with discomfort or fit during long listening sessions. Its round shell sits very comfortably in my ears and the nozzle length is just right to achieve proper insertion depth and good isolation.

_DSC5016.jpg


Overall Sound Signature

The overall sound signature of the ZEN is balanced U-shaped. There is an 8-9k peak that can sometimes cause the treble to sound uneven in certain recordings. The upper mids are more forward while the lower mids have a warm presentation. The bass is elevated but still balanced overall. Of course, because this is a single dynamic driver none of the issues you typically have with BA, hybrid, or tribrid configurations like poor coherency or BA timbre are present. If I had to choose one defining attribute that stands out to me the most It would be the ZEN’s ability to engage the listener. Probably due to the physicality and weight the dynamic driver gives to notes usually not present in BA IEMs. From the very first note, the ZEN drew me in taking almost no time for me to get lost in the music. There are very few IEMs that I’ve listened to that upon first listen could almost immediately engage me.

Treble

The treble of the ZEN has somewhat of a relaxed, non-fatiguing presentation due to the treble roll-off after 8-9k. While the amount of roll-off is enough to cause live recordings to lack air there is still enough upper treble presence to give a sense of openness and atmosphere. There is an 8-9k peak that can cause some recordings to be borderline shouty. Fortunately, this problem can be corrected almost completely by simply changing to foam tips. Despite the treble's laid-back presentation, there is still enough energy to satisfy and I do feel that it compliments the rest of the frequency presentation quite well. Cymbals have good texture and decay never sounding unnatural or lacking energy. Hi-hats have good sizzle and detail but can sound somewhat dark on certain recordings. The soundstage width of the ZEN is average bordering on intimate however it has above average depth. Imaging is pinpoint accurate giving vocals and instruments their own defined space within the soundstage.

Mids

The upper mids of the ZEN are slightly more forward giving higher male vocals, pianos, guitars, and horns an intimate presentation. However, there is still enough distance to give an appropriate sense of space between the listener and the vocals and instruments. Not too close, not too far away, just right. Female vocals and some higher stringed instruments have a slightly more forward presentation but still appropriate, never sounding claustrophobic or overly intimate. The stick attack on toms and snares is excellent as is the hammer attack on kick drums. Moving further into the mids, there is a slight dip and then they began to elevate again in the lower mids giving a sense of warmth to lower-mid notes. Lower male vocals, some cello notes, toms, floor toms, and some deeper tuned snares sound full-bodied and have good weight. Instrument separation, layering, and texture in the mids are excellent and are among some of the best I’ve heard.

Bass

This is without a doubt my favorite part of the tuning of the ZEN. With bass reproduction, typically there are trade-offs with your average dynamic driver. While dynamic drivers can have excellent slam, dynamics, realistic weight, and punch, well-tuned balanced armature drivers can deliver more speed and definition and generally can sound more accurate. However, this is not your average dynamic driver. The ZEN seemingly defies the laws of physics and gives you the best of both worlds. The ZENs 13.5mm ECLIPSE driver not only delivers slam, dynamics, weight, and punch it also supplies an ample amount of definition, texture, and layering. While not the best bass I’ve heard it is undoubtedly among the best giving it a massive advantage over many other dynamic driver IEMs in its price range. Which leads us to……..

Technicalities

The DUNU LUNA is well known for being one the most technically capable dynamic driver IEMs available and when DUNU announced they would be implementing similar driver fabrication techniques in the ZEN, consumer’s expectations were high. Of course, at less than half the price I don't think there was the expectation of the ZEN to be technically equal to the LUNA but at least better than most dynamic driver IEMs in that price range.

“There aren’t many products that can deliver on dynamics and speed simultaneously. With conventional diaphragms or even coated diaphragms, increasing dynamic performance comes at the cost of speed. And conversely, if a driver is made to have clean transients then dynamics are sacrificed. The ZEN shows these two attributes are not mutually exclusive.”

- Andy Zhao, DUNU Chief Engineer


So does the ZEN deliver both clean transients and dynamics? Yes. Especially in the mids and bass. As matter of fact, the ZEN produces some of the most technical mids and bass I’ve ever heard in a dynamic driver IEM in this price range. The technicalities of the treble are not quite up to the level of the mids and bass however, it is still good. And while the ZEN is not as technically capable as the LUNA it is very close. It’s only a small step down in my opinion. Which again, is quite impressive for $699. I also prefer the tuning of the ZEN over the LUNA.

_DSC0037.jpg


SA6 Comparison

While these have two completely different driver designs I feel they are close enough in price to warrant comparison. The SA6 has a more balanced frequency response than the ZEN and is generally closer to my personal tuning preference. The SA6 also has more treble presence delivering more air, sparkle, and high-frequency detail. I also find the SA6 slightly more comfortable. Where the ZEN bests the SA6, in my opinion, is in its ability to engage the listener. The ZEN delivers much greater impact, giving notes a sense of physicality and weight. Something most BA driver IEMs could never do. And again, while I do prefer the overall tuning of the SA6 I find the ZEN to be more captivating and during these last couple of months, I’ve found myself reaching for the ZEN over the SA6 and I think I know why.

Conclusion

The ZEN showed up at my doorstep at a very strange time in my life. Just one day before I had received news that would likely change my life forever. And not in a good way. I remember sitting on the couch staring at the unopened package feeling kind of numb thinking there was no way I could review these. Honestly, in those moments I couldn’t have cared less about this stuff. I knew I wouldn’t be able to give the ZEN the time and effort it deserved. I had already decided to take a big step back from my review channel and even if I decided to do written reviews they would take way too long. I emailed Tom at Dunu and asked what I should do fully expecting him to have me send them back. Tom, of course, being the patient person that he is, told me to hold onto them and take my time. Tom, you are awesome. Thank you. So, there I sat, sad and frustrated. I wasn’t sure what to do so I just set the ZEN’s aside for the time being.

Over the next several days, I didn’t listen to music at all focusing on the challenges at hand and trying just to stay emotionally afloat. About a week later I finally sat down for a first, quick listening session with the ZEN. I was feeling sentimental and thought I would get back to my roots. There was a specific song I had in mind. It was off of the album “Like A River'' by the Yellowjackets. It was track number 5 “Memoirs” at about 1:39, Russell Ferrante began the piano solo that would literally be the beginning of my Jazz journey almost thirty years ago. This was the solo that made me fall in love with Jazz. I had heard this solo hundreds of times throughout my life but this night was different. No doubt, it was probably just my emotional state but this time it was almost as though I was hearing it for the first time.

_DSC5217 (2).jpg


Two weeks later on a crisp Northern California morning, I had just sat down on the front porch of our little rental cabin looking out into the forest. My 2020 CA Solaris had arrived just a couple of days before and I had only spent a short time with them so I thought this would be a good time to try them out. It was perfect. I had just taken a few sips of my coffee when I remembered that night two weeks before. I grabbed my Plenue 2 MKII and frantically began searching for “Memoirs”. I plugged in my Solaris and began to listen. In all honesty, I was a little underwhelmed, at least at that moment. Not that they didn’t sound good, they just didn’t impact me the way the ZEN had. Just to clarify, I had no intention of doing any sort of comparisons at the cabin. I honestly, wasn’t really interested in anything other than just enjoying the music and clearing my head. But the Solaris just wasn’t doing it for me. I then grabbed my Monarch’s……...then the SA6’s. Still, all very good but they didn’t engage me the way the ZEN had. Which is crazy because these are some pretty incredible IEMs and are much closer to my tuning preference. I absolutely love the SA6 and the Monarch and suddenly I felt like they were kind of letting me down. So of course I then proceeded to finish out the rest of my listening with the ZEN.

I have to acknowledge the ZEN’s shortcomings. It’s lacking air and the upper mids are a little too elevated. I also wish it had just a little more sub-bass presence. That’s the reviewer side of me. Here is my human side. As I said before, the ZEN arrived at my doorstep at a very strange time in my life. It could have shown up any other time but it didn’t. Maybe it was a coincidence….maybe it wasn’t. All I know is that during these last several weeks I’ve needed music more than ever. And I’m sure if the ZEN had never arrived the SA6, Monarch, Solaris or Andromeda would have sufficed. But the ZEN did arrive and subsequently ended up being the IEM that I reach for more than any other in my collection. It’s also the IEM that gave me some of my most memorable listening moments ever. Is the ZEN perfect? No, It has its faults. But there is something that draws me to it time and time again. And whether it’s just the physicality and weight to notes or its perfectly natural timbre, the ZEN has an ability none of my other IEMs seem to have. The ability to utterly captivate me.

Dunu ZEN video review

Last edited:
shenzhenaudio
shenzhenaudio
Nice review! Deserve to read it, thank you.
earmonger
earmonger
Real life is more important than audio. Hoping your life journey is bearable and that music provides the joy you need.
K
Kobicohendrix
Thanks a lot for this wonderful review

Codename john

100+ Head-Fier
The black pearl
Pros: Bass , Midrange, Imaging , Tonality , Wonderful cable, Innovation.
Cons: Treble roll off may not suit all tastes.
Screenshot_20210326-172727.jpg

This is not going to be a long detailed , rambling review. Being honest those that have reviewed the ZEN thus far I hold in high regard and couldn't possibly reach their high standards ! It's more of an emotional soliloquy about a product I like a hell of a lot. Like a rapper freestyling in one take with a bit of editing after the event. My love affair with "chi fi' started with the Dunu 2000j. I had bought the akg 3003 , at the time it was endgame. An expensive set that luckily I got at a discounted price from my local exchange store. I loved them. A few months later , I purchased the Dunu 2000js. Out of curiosity and again a good price. I was staggered that a set that was a quarter of the price of my AKG actually sounded wayyyy better. I became a DUNU fan. Over the next few years I bought the Sennheiser ie800 also Ultimate ears UE900. As a DJ work was plentiful. I focussed on music production , running club nights , touring etc. The 2000s were my go to while travelling. I got on the Chi Fi bandwagon in 2018. I wondered to myself "where Dunu at?" . The titan and falcon had passed me by. Last spring I was intrigued by Dunu new line up DK 2001,3001 and the 4001 piqued my interest. The Luna a bit out of my reach. I purchased the 2001 and fell in love again. I was happy Dunu eleviated the spiciness of the 2000j. Timbre and tonality were spot on. The lows were punchy. The mids sublime. Once again these were my go to's . We were now in Lockdown in London . I had a lot more time on my hands . Listening to music became almost like meditation . IEMS become my mode of transport out of the monotony. I began to hear about the fabled ZEN around November of 2020. I read about the trickled down technology from the Luna. How Dunu had scientifically built the Zen using futuristic methods. I have grown to love a single dynamic over the last 18 months. The cohesiveness, the feeling of sound coming to you in one whole. By the end of 2020 single dynamics were a thing. Let's cut to the chase ! Jan 2021 the ZEN arrived . Immediately I was enamoured by the packaging. Stylish and elegant. The cable looked expensive and blingy. Like a platinum rope chain Jay Z would wear. Put it this way I would be wary wearing them in the hood ! The 3.5 single ended & balanced 2.5/4.4 interchangeable adapters were to my liking. The ZEN themselves were smaller than I thought they would be. They look like black pearls. The heft feels strangely dense and luxurious. They looked and felt like the real deal. I plugged them into my fiio M15 , I felt engaged immediately. I left them to burn in before critical analysis. 80 hours seemed like a lifetime. Whether you believe in burn in or not to my ears the sound had changed. The tonality sounded more rounded. More crystalline. The harshness of the upper mids were tamed. That night I decided to road test them. After 4 hours or so I didn't want to put them down. I was bewitched. The bass morphs to whatever your listening. Sometimes thick , agile subs. Other times they would sit in the background making the mids take the floor. Midbass has perfect slam. Fast and taut. Kick drums were on point with the right amount of decay. The lows sounded so natural. Never showy. The lows are technically the best I've heard to date. The low mids are smooth with a whiff of warmth. Marvin Gaye sounded so right. His falsetto never shrill or too cold . The upper mids had the right amount of bite and spice. Female vocals were nuanced with the right amount of weight , resolution and emotion. At rare moments ( It's too late by Carole King) her voice peaked slightly too much. No sibilance. Her voice just stepped over my threshold. The highs are a bone of contention to many. Some have written that the roll off is too drastic. Treble trails are almost non existent. Whilst I understand where they are coming from for my library which consists of soul , jazz , funk , soft rock and dance music it was never an issue. I find whilst there could be a bit more extended they suited my taste. I found the highs smooth and silky. With a good amount of weight and decay. Finely tuned. Just the right amount of sauce. Your mileage may vary. The soundstage has good width , height and great depth. Sound images play beautifully in the field. The ZEN are musical without necessarily being "fun" . Percussion have such great density and tone. Guitars , strings and vocals sound perfect. There is an organic feel to staging. Some sets the stage is so wide you can get a bit lost in the sound. As a DJ there is a huge difference between playing to 10,000 people than there is playing to an intimate crowd of say 200. You fill the space , there is much more of engagement and emotion playing to a smaller crowd. The ZEN stage immerses you with sound. Makes you connect with your music. To each his own. Some may like playing to a larger crowd. To wrap it up I am enchanted by the ZEN. As the name suggests it does have a meditational effect if you let it. After all these years DUNU have done it again. They have created a futuristic , modern , emotional , resolute piece of technology that deserves your attention..
Last edited:
digititus
digititus
Nice review. Hope to see you in your day job again soon!:man_dancing:
asifur
asifur

RikudouGoku

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Bass
Mids/vocals
Lower-treble quality
Imaging
Instrument separation
Macro-details
Accessories
Modular cable
Build quality
Source revealing
Cons: Upper-treble roll-off causes lack of micro-details, air and probably one of the factors for the average soundstage
Fatiguing
Not for lower-treble-sensitive people
Below average isolation
Source revealing
Not the tightest fit, not suited for physical activities
20210210_173852.jpg

EDIT 2021-07-11: demoted the rating from 4/5 to 3.5/5 due to diminishing returns thanks to the GS Audio GD3A.

Disclaimer
: I received this review unit from Dunu. Thank you very much.

Price: 700 usd

Specifications:

Driver Config: DD with Magnesium alloy pure metal diaphragm

Frequency Response Range:5-40000Hz

Impedance:16Ohm

Sensitivity:108dB/mW

Cable: 8 Core OCC Silver-Plated Cable

Cable Length:1.2m

Connector: MMCX

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


20210210_180034.jpg

Accessories:

S/M/L “Sony EP-EX11” tips (seems to be the Sony tips)

S/M/L silicone grey tips

S/M/L silicone white tips

M foam tips

Balanced 2.5/4.4mm modular adapter

SE 3.5mm modular adapter

Airplane adapter

6.35mm adapter

Shirt clip

Cleaning tool

Hard case

Woven pouch

Cleaning cloth

20210210_175450.jpg

20210210_174850.jpg

20210210_174910.jpg

20210210_175030.jpg

20210210_175332.jpg

Cable: 8-core SPC modular cable, not very thick for an 8-core cable. Metal connectors/dividers with a very tight (functional) chin-slider. The cable itself is on the stiffer side. The modular system is done better here than on the Fiio FD5 cable in my opinion, much easier to detach/attach the different connectors. Measurement wise all the different connectors (2.5mm, 3.5mm, 4.4mm) are measuring between 0.21-0.23, so the differences are most likely due to unit variation. There is definitely no need to get a 3rd party cable with the Zen.


20210210_174259.jpg

20210210_174500.jpg

20210210_174514.jpg

20210210_174557.jpg

20210210_174633.jpg

20210210_174714.jpg

Build: The entire shell is made out of stainless steel. The nozzle has a metal mesh to protect against wax/dust with a lip that allows for 2 ways of placing the tips, one that allows for a deeper fit and the other with a shallower fit. I recommend using a deep fit as possible as that will shift the resonance peak closer to the upper treble where the Zen struggles the most. There is a strong magnetic field that pulls the units together when they are close (or repels them depending on the position) which can be annoying. Fingerprint magnet, but fortunately doesn’t stick out as much thanks to the black color.

Fit: Since the shell is on the smaller side, it doesn’t fill up your entire ears but fit is still good. Although not secure enough for physical activities where you will most likely need to readjust it from time to time.

Comfort: Very comfortable for me, the edge on the faceplate side doesn’t feel sharp at all even though it doesn’t actually have a rounded-off edge (2.5d).

Isolation: Below average isolation, the vents does affect the isolation a bit. But not as much as you would think based on the looks. Not recommended for situations where a lot of isolation is needed but not a problem for normal usage.


Setup: Ibasso DX160 (low-gain, volume around 25), Final Audio Type E LL tips, Stock cable 4.4mm

Lows:
mid-bass focused over sub-bass but not bloated at all as that would usually imply. Tightness and speed are very good while the texture and extension are exceptional (very beryllium like, despite not using beryllium). Sub-bass quantity, while good is definitely not suited for bassheads as it would need more quantity for that.

Mid-bass: Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), speed, tightness and texture are very good. Quantity is fine as well, but the cymbals are very much recessed (thanks to the upper-treble roll-off). The (02:55-03:01) section with the chopper is hearable but a bit muffled by the upper-treble roll-off.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), bass texture, speed and tightness are exceptional and quantity is fun as well. Tonality wise is also surprisingly accurate as it on the warmer side (very high ability of adapting the tonality to suit the specific track, despite the massive lower-treble that usually makes it bright).

Sub-bass: Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), extension is very good, rumble quantity is good as well but not enough for bassheads for sure. Punch quantity is good but it could be tighter, faster and more textured.

Will Sparks – Sick like that (03:08-03:22), quantity could be a bit higher to make it more fun but tightness and speed are very good. While texture is extremely good.

Mids: Along with the bass, the best part of this iem. Both male and female vocals are exceptionally good. Balancing is a bit more towards the female vocals but not too much to cause a big contrast between the two. Although the upper-treble roll-off is affecting (negatively) the female vocals a bit more than it does for male vocals.

Female-vocals: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), forward vocals that is very clean and not shouty at all. Tonality is very accurate and timbre as well. Although that upper-treble roll-off is unfortunately causing a lack of air and micro-details here.

Yuki Hayashi – MightU (01:58-02:55), Same as above.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), unexpectedly it is only a bit shouty (rather than death by treble as the graph would imply).

Hiroyuki Sawano – Crescent (02:07-02:26), shoutier here than on the track above.

Male-vocals: Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (00:57-01:17), very tonally accurate and natural timbre for the vocals but the upper-treble roll-off is causing a lack of micro-details.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), very natural vocals and good tonality, although it does need a bit more warmth to be more tonally accurate. The upper-treble roll-off isn’t affecting the vocals that much here (but it certainly affects the instruments where it sounds muffled).

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), Electric guitars are not sharp at all and they are very natural (upper-treble roll-off is actually beneficial here to tame the sharp guitars).

Deuce – America (03:03-03:16), The upper-treble roll-off helps with mitigating the shoutyness so it is actually beneficial here.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), cello timbre, tonality, texture and details are very good. Violin timbre and texture are very good as well, but the tonality and details are bottlenecked by the upper-treble roll-off so violins don’t sound as natural as the cellos.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), tonality and timbre are good, but lacking the upper-treble thanks to the roll-off.

Soundstage: Big for an iem for sure, but there are iems in the lower price ranges that are a lot bigger because the upper-treble roll-off is bottlenecking the soundstage as well as the air.

Tonality: Generally, on the brighter side, but is very capable of adapting its tonality to the track its playing so tonality is unexpectedly very versatile, signature is balanced, with a bit elevated bass, forward vocals (especially female) and boosted lower-treble. Note weight isn’t thick nor thin more in the middle, but a bit more towards thickness so it sounds more musical rather than analytical.

Details: Tons of macro-details (the lower-treble quantity is definitely one factor for that) but the micro-details is severely lacking and that is definitely thanks to the upper-treble roll-off.

Instrument Separation: Both the instrument separation and imaging are very good, while the soundstage isn’t something impressive in this price range, the separation/imaging definitely are.

Songs that highlight the IEM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za8aapTmp44 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVbHP_1UoWY https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Max9zbRJ_Gc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qbqSgRFvbc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7Grto8dtDI



Good genres:
Jack of all trades master of none type of iem. But works great with electronic music and hip-hop, R&B.

Bad genres: Worse with acoustic music where the upper-treble roll-off hurts cymbals and violins a lot.



Comparisons (DX160 setup):

IEM: Blon BL-03 (mesh mod), Azla SednaEarfit light short ML tips, Cable 196 4.4mm

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), Extends lower on the Zen, but rumbles a lot more on the 03. Punch quantity is also a bit higher on the 03, but tighter, faster and more textured on the Zen.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), quantity is a bit higher on the 03. But tighter, faster and more textured on the Zen, while it is a bit bloated on the 03 and the difference in technicalities are very apparent.

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), much cleaner on the Zen thanks to the bass being faster and tighter (texture is also better) but also because the technicalities (instrument separation, imaging) on the 03 can’t keep up with the speed so it sounds pretty chaotic.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), much more detailed on the Zen, but otherwise the tonality is pretty similar and sounds very natural on both. (Bigger difference with the instruments rather than vocals, much cleaner on the Zen and sounds low-res on the 03.)

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), a bit warmer and less peaky on the 03.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), a bit more forward vocals on the Zen while it is cleaner and more detailed. Tonality is pretty similar with the vocals, but the instruments are warmer on the 03 and is more tonally correct.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), non-fatiguing (warmer) and a bit less peaky on the 03.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), cello tonality, texture and details are better on the Zen while timbre is equal. Violin tonality, texture, details and timbre are better on the Zen.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), much cleaner and more tonally correct on the Zen, sounds low-res and a bit chaotic on the 03.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), bigger (and airier) soundstage on the Zen. Imaging and instrument separation on the Zen is outclassing the 03. Timbre is equal.

Overall: The difference in technicalities and overall resolution are very apparent here. Despite the upper-treble roll-off that the Zen has (while the 03 does not), it is much more detailed overall thanks to the macro-details. The 03 only wins in having a more relaxing and less fatiguing sound.



IEM: Fiio FD5, Sony EP-EX11 L tips, Stock 4.4mm cable

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), extends lower on the Zen but rumble more on the FD5. Punch quantity is also higher on the FD5 but texture, speed and tightness are all better on the Zen, to the point where the FD5 is a tiny bit bloated due to the rumble quantity.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), a bit more quantity on the FD5, but better texture, speed and tightness on the Zen.

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), similar quantity but better textured on the Zen so it feels pretty similar. Speed is pretty similar, but tighter and sounds cleaner on the Zen.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), much more forward vocals on the Zen. Tonality is more correct on the Zen, with similar warmth on the instruments but brighter vocals.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), both are fatiguing but much more air and micro-details on the FD5.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), more forward vocals on the Zen but more tonally correct on the FD5 due to it being warmer. More macro-details on the Zen but more micro-details (and air) on the FD5.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), very similar in that both are fatiguing.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello tonality is better on the FD5 while texture, details and timbre are similar. Violin tonality is better on the Zen while timbre and details are similar but texture is better on the FD5 (that upper-treble roll-off really hurts the violin with the Zen here and gives the FD5 an edge in treble extension).

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), tonality is a bit better on the FD5. Airier and more micro-details on the FD5 while the Zen has more forward vocals and more macro-details.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), Soundstage on the FD5 is outclassing the Zen and is also much airier. Instrument separation and imaging are much better on the Zen while timbre is similar. Macro-details is better on the Zen while micro-details is better on the FD5.

Overall: The Zen has better SQ overall, where it is much better with the bass, mids and accuracy with the instrument-separation/imaging. But the treble is the better tuned one on the FD5 (lower-treble has better quality on the Zen, while upper-treble is better on the FD5) and it got a much bigger soundstage and also more sub-bass quantity. So, the FD5 is the one for a more fun experience while the Zen is better for accuracy.



IEM: LZ A7 (pop-red), Final Audio Type E LL tips, Faaeal litz copper cable 4.4mm

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), Rumbles more on the A7 but extends lower on the Zen. Texture, speed and tightness are better on the Zen. Punch quantity is a bit higher on the A7.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), more quantity on the A7 but much cleaner on the Zen due to the speed/tightness and still very fun thanks to the texture.

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), similar quantity but much cleaner on the Zen.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), more forward and more tonally correct vocals on the Zen. Instrument tonality is very similar but a bit more natural on the Zen thanks to its edge on timbre. More macro-details on the Zen while the A7 has better micro-details.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), less fatiguing and less peaky on the A7.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), better tonality on the A7 but more forward and better clarity with the vocals on the Zen.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), Less-fatiguing and much tamer electric guitars on the A7. (cymbals are much better on the A7.)

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), cello tonality, details and timbre are better on the Zen. Violin tonality and timbre are better on the Zen but the overall naturality is still pretty similar due to the upper-treble roll-off on the Zen.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), better tonality on the A7 while vocals are more forward on the Zen. Clarity is better on the Zen but is lacking micro-details (and cymbals).

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), bigger soundstage on both width/depth with the A7. Macro-details on the Zen is better while micro-details are better on the A7. Imaging, instrument separation and timbre are better on the Zen.

Overall: The Zen is more technical and better bass, mids and lower-treble quality (upper-treble is better on the A7). While the A7 is the overall better tuned iem. A7 is better for a warmer and more relaxing sound.



IEM: Moondrop Blessing 2, Spinfits CP145 L tips, Faaeal litz copper cable 4.4mm

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), extends much lower on the Zen as well as rumble a lot more. Punch quantity is also higher on the Zen, texture is also on a whole other league on it. Tighter and faster on the B2 though, but does not sound natural at all.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), lacks a lot of quantity on the B2 while it is a bit faster and tighter. Texture is no contest, where the Zen is dominating. B2 sounds like a BA iem here, not natural and tonality is completely wrong (as well as timbre).

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), cleaner on the B2 due to the speed/tightness. But note-weight is too thin and tonality too bright on it so it sounds sharper.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), Vocal timbre is unnatural on the B2 due to it having a lot of BA timbre. Note-weight is a bit too thin on it as well, but tonality is similar (although still a bit too bright on the B2) as well as forwardness. Much more micro-details on the B2 though so overall detail is similar, even though the macro-details is better on the Zen.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), similarly fatiguing and peaky, but a bit worse on the B2.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), Vocal quantity is similar, but much better tonality and timbre on the Zen both with the vocals/instruments. Very artificial sounding on the B2.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), much sharper electric guitars on the B2

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cellos have better tonality, timbre, texture, details on the Zen. Violin timbre and texture are better on the Zen, but the B2 has a better tonality thanks to its upper-treble not being rolled-off and also better treble extension. So despite the B2 having a lot of BA timbre that is unnatural, overall naturality is still a tie with the violins.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), a bit more forward vocals on the B2, but better tonality and timbre on the Zen and also not shouty.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), soundstage is wider on the B2 (similar depth). Instrument separation, imaging and timbre are better on the Zen. Macro-details are better on the Zen while micro-details are better on the B2.

Overall: The B2 have a brighter and thinner-note weight, (that can’t adapt to a warmer or thicker tonality even when a track needs it) so it sounds more analytical than the Zen, coupled with a ton of BA timbre across the range that makes it very unnatural sounding. Zen is the better iem here.



IEM: Sony MDR-EX800ST (EQ, filterless), Final Audio Type E LL tips, stock cable 3.5mm

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), extends lower on the Zen as well as rumbles a bit more. Punch quantity is higher on the Zen and is more textured, but faster and tighter on the EX800ST.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), speed and tightness are similar, but better texture and more quantity on the Zen as well as much better resolution (and cleaner thanks to the instrument separation).

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), speed, tightness and quantity are similar but much cleaner on the Zen thanks the instrument separation, sounds chaotic on the EX800ST in comparison. Treble is also unrefined and very peaky on the EX800ST.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), instrument tonality is similarly accurate on both, but vocals are a bit brighter and correct on the Zen. Resolution is higher on the Zen thanks to the macro-details and instrument separation not making it a bit muddy. (micro-details are about equal.)

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), muddier and a bit chaotic on the EX800ST but still similarly peaky.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), much cleaner, detailed and natural on the Zen while the EX800ST is a bit grainy.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), a bit sharper electric guitar (and also vocals are a bit peaky as well) on the EX800ST and grainier as well.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), similar cello tonality, but more detailed and textured on the Zen. Violin tonality and details are better on the Zen, while the timbre and texture are a bit better on the EX800ST thanks to it sounding airier and more natural as result.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), better tonality, details and clarity on the Zen, a bit grainy on the EX800ST.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), Details, instrument separation and imaging on the Zen is another league. Timbre is a bit better on the Zen while the soundstage is much bigger and airier on the EX800ST.

Overall: The Zen is outclassing the EX800ST in pretty much all aspects except the soundstage.



IEM: Sony MDR-EX1000 (EQ), Final Audio Type E LL tips, stock cable 3.5mm

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), Extends lower on the Zen but rumbles more on the EX1000. Punch quantity is similar but a bit more textured on the Zen while speed and tightness are similar.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), a bit more quantity on the Zen, texture, speed and tightness are a bit better on it as well.

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), similar tightness and speed but more textured and a bit more quantity on the Zen.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), a bit better vocal tonality and more forward vocals on the Zen. Instrument tonality are very similar. Macro-details are better on the Zen but similar micro-details.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), more relaxing and non-fatiguing on the EX1000.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), better tonality and naturality on the EX1000 due to the warmth. But cleaner and more detailed on the Zen.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), more relaxing and non-fatiguing on the EX1000.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello tonality, timbre and details are better on the EX1000. Violin timbre, tonality and details are also better on the EX1000. Treble extension is a bit better on the EX1000 and sounds more natural because it is a lot airier.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), better timbre and tonality on the EX1000. But cleaner and more forward vocals on the Zen.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), much bigger soundstage both in width and depth on the EX1000 and also a lot airier. Timbre is also better on the EX1000. Imaging, instrument separation and macro-details are better on the Zen. Micro-details is similar (both have upper-treble roll-off and the Zen especially suffers from lack of air, the EX1000´s vent helps a lot more with air flow in/out, very similar to an open-back headphone/earbud.)

Overall: The EX1000 is more fun and natural so it suits acoustic music more than the Zen while being similarly versatile. Although the Zen has a better ability of adjusting its tonality to match the track, so it still wins in versatility and it also has better resolution overall and is more accurate (imaging).



IEM: Sony XBA-N3, Final Audio Type E tips LL, Tri Through cable 4.4mm

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), extends lower on the Zen but rumbles a lot more on the N3. Punch quantity is also a lot higher on the N3 but texture, speed and tightness are much better on the Zen. Tonality is a lot warmer on the N3 and is much cleaner on the Zen.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), Much cleaner on the Zen due to the speed/tightness and also has better texture. Much more quantity on the N3.

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), sounds bloated on the N3 in comparison, much faster/tighter and textured bass on the Zen as well as more detailed.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), vocals are recessed on the N3, tonality, details and timbre are better on the Zen. Although instrument tonality is better on the N3.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), much more relaxing and non-fatiguing on the N3 but a bit bloated as well.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), better tonality with the N3 due to the warmth. But vocals are a bit recessed on them as well as being a bit bloated overall, while the Zen has a lot more details.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), much more relaxing and non-fatiguing on the N3 but slightly bloated.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello tonality is better on the N3 but better details, timbre and texture on the Zen. Violin tonality, details, texture and timbre are better on the Zen but the N3 extends a bit higher so the highest violin notes are more natural.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), better tonality on the N3 (and cymbals) but better details and cleaner on the Zen.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), soundstage is bigger on the N3 but details (both macro and micro), instrument separation, imaging and timbre are better on the Zen.

Overall: Very different sounding, they complement each other well with the more relaxing and fun N3 while the Zen is the more technical and brighter iem.



IEM: Sony XBA-Z5, Final Audio Type E tips LL, Faaeal Litz copper cable 4.4mm

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), extends a bit lower on the Zen, but rumbles a bit more on the Z5. Punch quantity is higher on the Z5, but much faster/tighter and more textured on the Zen.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), a bit more quantity on the Z5, but much faster/tighter and more textured on the Zen so it is cleaner while being similarly fun.

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), faster, tighter and more textured on the Zen so it is much cleaner while the Z5 is bloated.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), better vocal-tonality and details on the Zen as well as more forward vocals rather than recessed like the Z5. But better instrument tonality on the Z5.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), more relaxing, non-fatiguing and not peaky at all on the Z5.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), tonality is a bit better on the Z5 but it is a bit too warm and thick as well. Cleaner and more detailed on the Zen.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), more relaxing, non-fatiguing and not peaky at all on the Z5.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello tonality is better on the Z5, but more detailed, better texture and timbre on the Zen. Violin tonality and timbre are better on the Zen but details is similar and treble extension is better on the Z5, so they are tied in overall naturality.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), a bit too warm tonality on the Z5 and a bit too bright on the Zen, so tonality is a tie. But vocals are more forward on the Zen rather than recessed and is cleaner and more detailed than the Z5.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), much bigger soundstage on the Z5. Timbre, instrument separation and imaging are better on the Zen. Macro-details is better on the Zen while micro-details is tied, so resolution is higher on the Zen.

Overall: The Z5 is a warmer, more relaxing and fun iem than the more technical and higher quality Zen.



IEM: Tanchjim Oxygen, Final Audio Type E LL tips, Tri Through

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), Extends lower and rumbles more on the Zen. Punch quantity is similar but feels a lot more due to the Zen having much more texture. Speed and tightness are similar. Tonality is warmer on the Zen.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), similar quantity but more texture on the Zen so it feels more impactful. Tightness and speed are similar so it is similarly clean while the Zen also sounds more fun due to it having that texture edge over the O2. Tonality is more correct on the Zen due to it being warmer.

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), more textured on the Zen, but otherwise similar speed/tightness. Warmer tonality on the Zen while it is too bright on the O2.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), similarly forward vocals, but note-weight is a bit thicker on the Zen and it ends up sounding more natural. Macro-details are better on the Zen while micro-details are better on the O2. Vocal tonality is pretty similar but instruments are warmer and more natural on the Zen.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), more shouty and too bright on the O2.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), similar vocal quantity, but much more natural on the Zen due to it being too bright on the O2 (including the instruments, but the cymbals on the O2 are much better (forward) where you can barely hear them on the Zen).

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), sharper and way too bright tonality on the O2.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello tonality, details, texture and timbre are much better on the Zen. Violin details, texture, tonality and timbre are better on the O2.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), better tonality with the Zen. Similar detail (micro-details better on the O2, macro-details better on the Zen) but airier on the O2.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), wider soundstage on the O2 but similar depth. Timbre is equal. Imaging and instrument separation are better on the Zen. Macro-details better on the Zen while micro-details are better with the FD5.

Overall: Both of them shine with vocals and bass quality. But the Zen has a better ability to adapt its tonality (and note-weight) to the track it is playing, which gives it an edge in versatility. Which makes the Zen more of an all-rounder rather than the specialist (acoustic/vocals) O2.

DX160 Synergy: Very good, tonality with the DX160 is leaning towards warmth so that helps make the overall sound more relaxing and fatigue-free but it does affect the “base” tonality of the Zen more than with other sources. Volume control is excellent on the DX160 as well, even on a sensitive iem like the Zen.

Head-fi-limit: Well, this was about 1/3 of the review and the rest will go beyond head-fi´s character limit if I continued here, so the other 67% of the reviews is here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/...tqzBAlurCyMCOEso8/edit#heading=h.i0kn7h3tra91
(or you can skip to the conclusion below)


Conclusion: Well, this was a long review for sure, so here is a shorter TLDR:

The Zen is a pretty versatile iem, despite the lower-treble quantity as shown on graphs. It is able to adapt its tonality to match the track that is being played very well and it is also very sensitive to individual source´s tonality. Meaning that you can fine-tune it a bit more to your taste depending on the source used, I recommend a warmer source rather than a bright one though, as otherwise it can be a bit too bright.

Its technicalities are also very good and its accuracy (imaging/separation) are the best I have currently heard, although its soundstage isn’t nearly as big as some others it is compensating for it with accuracy instead. Details are good thanks to its macro-details but its micro-details leaves much to be desired and that is most likely due to the upper-treble roll-off that is affecting both the micro-details and the sense of air.

Bass and mids quality are amazing and also earns the nr 1 spot in my current collection. Treble however is a mixed bag, while the lower-treble is surprisingly NOT shouty for me (despite what the graphs implies) and is of very high quality. The upper-treble is the biggest bottleneck in this iem, it is rolled-off too much and that affects instruments such as violins and cymbals a lot (the highest notes of violins get affected (extension isn’t that good) and cymbals are just very recessed in a lot of tracks) while the sense of air and micro-details are heavily bottlenecked (and likely to be one of the factors for the size of the soundstage not being very big).

This is NOT for you if:

  • If you want to relax while listening to music, this is an intense iem.
  • If you listen to classical/acoustic music where acoustic instruments are important such as the violin/cymbals. Since the upper-treble roll-off affects them too much.
  • Prioritize the size of the soundstage over the accuracy (imaging/separation) (quantity over quality)
  • Are a basshead and wants a lot of bass quantity
This is for you if:

  • you listen to electronic music.
  • You prioritize accuracy over the size of the soundstage (quality over quantity)
  • You want a decently versatile iem
  • You listen to vocal focused music
  • You want a source revealing iem
  • You need a sensitive iem that can be played on low power sources like regular smartphones (I wouldn’t recommend getting an iem at this price range if you are using it with a smartphone though…)
Thanks for reading.


Graph:

Zen.png

EQ:

Sony MDR-EX800ST:


Low-shelf: 80hz, Q: 0.6, Gain: 6db

Low-shelf: 200hz, Q:0.7, Gain: 1.5db

Peak: 2500hz, Q:2.5, Gain 3db

Peak: 3650hz, Q:2, Gain: 3.5db

Peak: 5400hz, Q:3, Gain: -2dB

Peak: 6800hz, Q:2.7, Gain: 2.5db

High-shelf: 10 500hz, Q:1.1, Gain 4.5db

Preamp: -8db

Sony MDR-EX1000:

Low-shelf: 80hz, Q:0.6, Gain: 4db

Low-shelf: 200hz, Q:0.6, Gain: 2db

Peak: 3300hz, Q:2, Gain: 2db

Peak: 5500hz, Q:2.2, Gain: -6db

High-shelf: 10 000hz, Q:0.7, Gain: 2.5db

Preamp: -6db

Cable source: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/resistance-of-cables-pics-comments-and-links.907998/

Reference/test songs:
Last edited:
RikudouGoku
RikudouGoku
@asifur I am using the stock tube, not the bass boosted narrow one on the FD5 which to me reduces the quality to much. Cant comment much on the soundstage there. But the stock tube FD5 is 100% a lot bigger than the Zen, the Zen has a very narrow soundstage and the lack of air doesnt help either.
asifur
asifur
@RikudouGoku The stock tube is more or less like a vintage speaker.... The stage is wide but everything seems to be coming from the same place & hence imaging is not good. The staging is like an open field but the depth is rather smaller. Also, the bass seems more on the face with the default tube... Honestly.... I'm not sure what ear tips you have used... I use spinfit cp800 with the narrow nozzle and I don't get more bass... Rather I get refined sound with much better imaging.

My point being, if you are comparing with zen in terms of staging of FD5, the ZEN is superior in terms of overall staging without the hassle of the nozzles and tips and just great imaging & timbre.
RikudouGoku
RikudouGoku
@asifur Well, lets just say I highly disagree about the stage on the Zen being better/bigger than the FD5. Check out the other reviews and you find that they agree with me on the soundstage on the Zen being quite narrow. (Also, if you read my review, you will find out what tips I am using with every iem I mentioned.)
  • Like
Reactions: asifur

Redcarmoose

Headphoneus Supremus
The Black Beauty
Pros: Alert and lively presentation texture
Deep precise and meaningful bass involvement
Confident, stylish, and charming looks
One-of-a-kind “art-piece” design
Flagship build and sound
Accessories galore
Rumored (and is) the most exciting IEM of the year
Cons: Just ever so slightly forward with some equipment and songs; otherwise 5/5
DUNU ZEN UNIVERSAL IEM
REVIEW BY REDCARMOOSE 2021


zen front page 1.jpg

So the question is........



Is DUNU giving customers what they want with the new ZEN universal IEM?

In short.... yes! I mean…….if Head-Fi had a 5 o’clock news the ZEN would be featured. The ZEN IS news and one of the most anticipated releases of the year. This review will go over the “hows” and the “whys”…….and hopefully get to the point of what this $699 flagship truly is.

Disclaimer:

A special thanks to Tom from DUNU for supplying the review sample.

Specifications:

FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 5 Hz – 40 kHz
SENSITIVITY: 112 ± 1 dB at 1 kHz
IMPEDANCE: 16 Ω at 1 kHz
TOTAL HARMONIC DISTORTION: < 0.2% at 1 kHz
DRIVE MODULE

DIAPHRAGM: Magnesium-Aluminum alloy dome with nanoporous amorphous carbon coating (nanoDLC) and fully independent suspension surround
  • MAGNET ASSEMBLY: > 1.8 T External Ring-Type Neodymium Magnet

HOUSING
  • MATERIAL: 316 Stainless Steel
  • INTEGRATION(S): Patented Air Control Impedance System (ACIS)

INCLUDED CABLE
LENGTH: 1.2 ± 0.1 m
  • MATERIAL: 8 Core, High-Purity Mono-crystalline Silver-Plated Copper Litz Wire, Concentrically Arranged
  • CABLE CONNECTOR: Patented Catch-Hold® MMCX Connector
  • 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

The DUNU Corporation Economies of Scale:

Economies of scale are cost advantages reaped by companies when production becomes efficient. In my career I’ve seen Economy Of Scale be the single greatest asset in allowing larger manufactures to get ahead (of the little guys) by offering better products at less cost for the consumer.

The DUW03 #8Core SPC Modular Cable System:

There are always accessories with an IEM purchase. The value of these extras is personal, yet it’s safe to say some companies do better with accessories than others. As far as the DUW03 #8Core SPC Modular Cable System goes…………..it’s probably the best single example of DUNU being able to include more. Small companies just can’t include a $350 “extra” cable with their $699 Flagship IEM offering. Probably the nicest cable feature is the newly patented modular-plug design? While the industry standard is to included extra (add on-top-of-each-other) 3.5mm or 4.4mm plug adapters, which start to elongate the plug; DUNU has kept the plug length the same with every plug-tip used.

In this
scenario there is a simple placement of the plug that effortlessly joins the cable. The joining feedback occurs with a nice robust “click”. Included is a 3.5mm, 4.4mm and 2.5mm plug. Aftermarket 3.5mm Pro plugs are available from DUNU.

Having different cable plug-tips means you can leave the MMCX plugs joined at the IEM, reducing the need to replace the entire cable to adapt to your different equipment.

The DUNU #8 core silver plated copper wire adds to the cable quality. Let’s not even get started on how nice the cable looks. A price-point and class-leading cable experience. It’s safe to say there are 100s of IEMs for sale this year (priced higher and lower) which fail to include such a special cable option. Most of the other manufacturers would love to include such a cable but fail to be able to do so.

To get to this adapter plug “nitty-gritty”! Stacking a 2.5mm plug onto/into another adapter (normally) makes the total plug length too long creating a large appendage off your DAP leading to a leverage point which can damage your DAP insert plug connections. It’s stupid, don’t do it.

Supposedly the DUW03 cable is scheduled to be offered as an aftermarket purchase choice, though presently only offered with the $699 ZEN and $549 Studio SA6 flagships.

These patents are all across the feature list here..............including the
Patented Catch-Hold® MMCX Connector, and DUNU Quick-Switch Modular Plug System adding value to the included cable.


DUNU
You never see this mentioned this way........but besides the cutting edge research and development DUNU does, there is one single thing that separates them from every other IEM maker.


Can you guess what that single thing is?


They make accessories!
top_top_i.jpg

So emerging as the first “accessory and IEM manufacturer”..................everyone else is playing catch-up. If the accessories were of bad quality none of this would be of concern. The fact is the included accessories actually improve the user experience. Even if you don’t want accessories, even if you dislike the added accessories, these are items that DUNU makes and often are only available in the product package. Much of the time the adds are imperative to a better experience.

What does all this mean? It means DUNU cares!

DUNU CARES

d_by_dunu.jpg

Due to economy of scale DUNU is able to manufacture in quantities and pass the savings on to you.

You and I both think we know what the best tips are.

What if a company knew more about the IEMs they make and what accessories to go with them? What if a company made the best accessories and gave them to you for free? Would that be a good thing?

I say all this because the L DUNU Blue tips are some of the best IEM tips I have ever found. I use them exclusively on a series of IEMs because they make the IEMs have the best imaging possible. Due to the middle-size shorter length and medium nozzle bore-circumference they work magic. They also have an interior circumference which allows them to stay in place on all the IEMs I use them with. Now if you have been in the audiophile IEM hobby for even a short while you already know that tips are everything. The tip sonic character is in order of importance 2nd only to the choice of IEM. They beat out cable choices and even EQ settings. In fact there is an intrinsic almost non-quantifiable aspect tips bring to the table that ultimately makes them essential to end sound goals. In ending here, there is a good chance the accessories will be a surprise in use.

This is what happens when an IEM company grows. They employ higher paid better designers, they increase research and development power, and they begin to express value for the consumer.

What is offered by Economy of Scale is higher paid engineers, better manufacturing standards, tighter quality control and the best part kids…………Space Age New Paradigm Development Ideas!

ECLIPS3_Driver_Comparison.001.png


Buzz-words:
So due to the enhanced R&D that comes comes buzz-words. These names simply describe innovations which have been developed and brought to life in the IEM. There can be a slight level of skepticism here due to regular ideas being repackaged and given “buzz-word” names. So let’s make a list here.


New 13.5mm ECLIPSƎ Driver Platform
Nanoporous Amorphous Carbon (NanoDLC)
New Ring-type Magnet with 1.8 Tesla power
316 Stainless Steel Housing

Air Control Impedance System (ACIS)


And finally the…………

Magnesium-aluminum Alloy dome DD with a specific W-shaped Morphology (note picture above)

Later (if you’re still with me) we will get to this whole innovation feature list. But...the last one really had me wondering? Are they simply renaming a regular Dynamic Driver Diaphragm? As you will see this driver (while resembling the 10mm DUNU LUNA in look)………..IS truly different than any IEM driver ever made. Supporting that “W-shape” buzz word diaphragm IS a bigger in circumference voice coil ring, and supporting this wild looking driver is an innovative driver surround ring. The center of the driver “alloy dome” actually has the added nanoDLC, which makes it different than what’s regularly found industry wide.

When you read about the tickle-down LUNA technology............one of the biggest hurdles was developing the LUNA surround-ring adhesive which takes 2 days to dry. Here our new “decoupling” surrounds again are another new innovation special and unique to the DUNU ZEN IEM.

So don’t question this nomenclature as it’s DUNU looking for words to try and convey their new developments and patients.


The ZEN is DUNU trickle-down engineering at it’s best. The same magic (of aesthetic design) can be seen in both IEMs as well as carryover driver technology accomplishments. The LUNA is titanium yet the ZEN is 316 stainless steel. I’ve never heard the LUNA, but part of me wonders........if the ZEN is also a small step forward in ideas made into reality as a subtle improvement over the LUNA? Rumor has it the ZEN is better tuned yet not quite as capable in areas.

The ECLIPSƎ system “W” driver shape offers both added surface area and ridges. So this results in the 13.5mm circumference surface area being actually larger and potentially pressurizing more space than a standard 13.5 mm driver.

The ridges offer increased structural integrity much like Ruffles potato chips or corrugated aluminum/fiberglass sheets. Then rigidity/hardness is then improved even more with the nanoDLC treatment to the dome area. A more rigid diaphragm, results in better responsiveness at the voice coil.

And………..
Why are all these manufactures pushing diamond-like hardness of the diaphragm membrane?

The answer is actually very simple.
Phase cancellation occurs when the driver moves in “off” places. “Driver-flex break-up mode” is an IEM dynamic driver moving in the opposite direction resulting in phase cancelation.


Due to the 13.5 mm circumference ECLIPSƎ driver (which is actually larger due to the “W”) a 1.8 Telsa magnetic flux strength motor assembly was needed.

1.8 Telsa is the highest number achieved across the industry for strength directly at the voice coil. This exact ring type assembly is slated as a component in future ECLIPSƎ platform DUNU creations.

Zen weight 21 grams

LUNA weight 10.3 grams

I’ve never tried the LUNA, but nozzle length has been increased for the ZEN as well as physical weight, adding to placement feedback. This is DUNU listening to community communication and making a better fitting IEM with a longer nozzle. This is DUNU making a resonance absorbing 316 stainless steal shell to increase feedback of placement positioning.


Single DD verses all BA or Hybrid:
And while it’s easy to start to get excited about this single DD methodology, how can one driver be good? Typically balanced armatures have been added to single dynamic drivers to increase technicalities in midrange and treble.... thus the hybrids. So why at this point in time do we want to take all the parts back-out? Balanced armatures are special as they are small and will produce a desired (focused) frequency response. BA drivers offer a quick attack sonic edge. If asked I would say the biggest issue with BAs is off-timbre and grain. In the list of things people criticize BA drivers for it's typically a lack of bass decay, metallic sheens and/or nasal tone. Surprisingly some all BA IEMs will seem perfectly fine until that guitar part (you’ve heard for 20 years) comes up and it’s obvious that the tone/timbre is way off, surprisingly off. When that happens you’ll never look at that IEM the same way again…..yet other better all BA IEMs seem to walk around such pitfalls?

Random DD choice Hybrid and single DD examples in comparison:

5mm (Sony IER-Z1R Hybrid Tweeter)

7mm (Kinera Nanna Hybrid)
8mm (Thieaudio Legacy 4 Hybrid)
9mm Sony (XBA-N3 Hybrid)
10mm (Thieaudio Legacy 5,3, Monarch and Clairvoyance Hybrids)
12mm (Sony XBA-A2 Hybrid) (Sony IER-Z1R Hybrid)
13mm (DUNU DK 3001 Pro Hybrid)
13.5mm (The DUNU ZEN Single DD)

16mm (The Sony XBA-Z5 Hybrid) (MDR-EX1000 single DD)


Dynamic drivers have their own set of issues and imperfections at hand. One of the benefits of making them smaller is ease of control. But as mentioned above bigger means driver flex, unless stiffer. Out of the blue lately we now have new single DD IEMs capitalizing on new DD technology.


There are more, but this is a small list.
Final Audio A8000 single DD
DUNU LUNA single DD
Shozy Black Hole single DD
DUNU ZEN single DD

Moondrop Illumination single DD

The Issue With Adding Extra Drivers:

Combined drivers demand a crossover network. Typically two or more drivers get individual frequencies sent off by a small crossover network which separates a portion of the audio bandwidth and directs it to the desired driver. It’s actually questionable how important the electronic crossover system is as the IEM tubes past the driver have individual filters which try and focus the frequency range by absorbing specific frequency energy. Still we are left with the end task of trying to seamlessly blend many drivers output into a cohesive whole. Some of the problems arise as reactions of the different drivers are not always linear in response. The other issue with multiple drivers comes from attempting to get correct phase alignment. A single DD basically takes a vacation from all of these issues all at once. No filters, no crossovers, no BA timbre issues along with an enhancement of the natural decay some are focused on experiencing. This all comes down to what is called closeness and purity. Pure because it comes from a simpler place and closer as our ear canal is actually less occluded from the actual driver.

DUNU ZEN DRIVER TECHNOLOGY with nanoDLC:
nanoDLC increases rigidity of the center alloy dome by filling microscopic pores in the metal with non-hydrogenated, tetrahedral carbon. (sp3-hybridized). In simple terms it’s just another coated diaphragm....the breakthrough is that it surpasses the PECVD process.

ACIS:
All the driver technology would not matter if not added to the (ACIS) Air Control Impedance System. This of course is a fancy way of expressing the air-in-and-out ports which are used to frequency tune the driver. So in ending here the ECLIPSƎ driver platform has been added to the ZEN 316 stainless steel body as a foundation to lower resonance and create the best tune possible with prior used ACIS technology.

This ends the innovation description section:



Wait? A box just showed up?

zen 1.jpg

DUNU 2ghghd.jpg

dunu wwqrytyc.jpg

done zen.jpg

dunu tips.jpg


It's interesting to note the name "DUNU” is written in small letters around the base of some tips.


dunu 5 top sound 5.jpg



Besides the IEMs...............

1) You get a nice woven pouch to place the ZEN IEMs in for transport

2) You get a shirt clip
3) You get a 1/4 inch adapter
4) You gat an airplane adapter
5) You get a cleaning cloth that works wonders
6) You get a zippered IEM hard-case
7) Small, Medium and Large black tips
8) Small, Medium and Large white tips
9) Small, Medium and Large Clear Grey tips
10) One pair back foam tips
11) You get a cleaning brush
12) The included modular cable described above

13) 3.5mm plug, 4.4 plug and 2.5mm plug

DSC_0055.jpg


ZEN 1A 1A.mk 3.jpg


top_sound_3.jpg



The aesthetics of the Zen Universal IEM


Of all the abruptness found in nature, once in a while there becomes a stoic t
ranquillity, the way mountains ignore a storm. It’s that organized peacefulness that the Zen shape keys into.


Yet if you look close the Dunu Zen is smiling......smiling due to the loud chaos it knows it’s capable of.


People always ask what my favorite I
EM and headphone color is. I reply……..regular black, shiny black and flat black. To me the DUNU ZEN is very Batman?


The Shape Is The Name

Look where the ZEN name is on the IEM. DUNU decided to use the cable mount cylinder for the location.....................avoiding the main shell housing for advertising space. Names are not needed due to the unique "art" statement in looks.............transcending any need for anything else. There exists a small R and L on the outside facing area of the cylinder housing. The ZEN name...................facing in, is only seen when not in use.


Designed by DUNU.jpg


The DUNU ZEN v The Sony IER-Z1R
First off let me preface this by saying the IER-Z1R IS my favorite IEM. Once I got wind of its possible existence, I waited and saved-up. Prior to the IER-Z1R I did some listening of new flagships like the 64Audio N8, the CA Atlas and after purchase did a continuation of comparisons with the Noble Audio Khan and qdc Anole VX. The second week in the wild I wrote a long review for the IER-Z1R, and I still stand by every word written.


https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/sony-ier-z1r.23390/reviews#item-review-21713

With that said, the IER-Z1R is not going to be for everyone. The IER is $1600-$2000, it’s heavy and doesn’t fit everyone. People also feel that it’s not cohesive due to it being a hybrid. The IER-Z1R is difficult to drive correctly and offers a very different style of midrange that the whole signature somehow uses as a fulcrum? In this section I will explain what the ZEN and IER-Z1R share in common and how they differ. At first I questioned the relevance of such a battle. Then after a couple days of guessing I found this to be the most exciting single part of the review......maybe? Lol

The IER-Z1R:
For me the IER-Z1R is the end of the road. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to experience. The IER seemingly does no wrong. Due to the combined efforts of a 12mm DD, high-midrange BA and 5mm super-tweeter DD driver, the IER seems not only technical but timbre/tonally correct.

The IER-Z1R is slightly more detailed than the ZEN. I also feel it's more natural. Still the ZEN offers its own take which is very unique and different. In fact the ZEN does things the IER just can't do; namely the mids. At the same time the ZEN has way better bass from a phone or iPod Touch. The ZEN bass is always focused and quality, where the IER-Z1R has lower midrange fog when under-powered. The ZEN also has speed in the bass department equal to the IER, yet still different. I'd like to say the IER has better bass timbre, but it would actually seem unfair in this case. As much as these two are different, they are exciting in the same way to me.


https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/dunu-studio-sa6.24665/reviews#item-review-24391

DUNU ZEN v DUNU Studio SA6
Admittedly the new Studio SA6 is better tuned...............still I would take the DUNU ZEN over it. It’s not a choice of which is a more even and correct frequency response, though most of the time that does take critical precedence. The choice is simply the low-end going on. The fact that below frequency point 2K there is more to love and love a lot! Intertwined with that is better decay, a more realistic timbre and a more comfortable fit.


The SA6 will always have those better upper midrange acoustic guitar sparklers and added harmonic complexity. I gave the DUNU ZEN 1/2 a star less (than the SA6) due to the SA6 being better rounded. But to me the soundstage is (way-way) better on the DUNU ZEN. The ZEN offers better dynamics plus added physicality in bass. Note, I use the word “dynamic”......................yet the word actually has an amorphous audiophile meaning. If dynamic meant authoritative, robust and powerful, then yes, by all means............the ZEN is more dynamic than the Studio SA6.

The ZEN is thicker, the SA6 slightly anemic in contrast. The SA6 is smarter but the ZEN is more fun and gets all the ladies. But if there was one single trait that could be revealed here..............it’s that the ZEN has an unmistakable groove. The ZEN has a swagger and attitude the SA6 lacks! This one trait comes together with Rock and Metal because deep down at the soul of the music there is a connected rhythm and pace. That pace started along time ago when rock was born and it’s a bass string and a drum hit which move and dance around a beat in time. It’s these interactions that the ZEN focuses on and brings to heart. This my friends is where the emotion is. This is what makes 18 year olds rock out and scream....and the ZEN simply does that better than the SA6.

graph..jpg


The Sound………………………


Sound Quality Results:

Midrange/Treble:
The Zen has two peaks which could be an area of concern for most. First a jump at 2.5K and another at the 8.5K area. After that the treble drops off into the ocean!

Though once you visit ZEN TOWN...... you won’t want to leave. No need to have any extra treble ruin the thickness and lushness going on around town?


The Missing Treble:

If anything it offers a nice contrast to all the (brighter-up-top) big sparklers I have in my collection. And there is not all that much taken out, it just looks that way due to the 8.5K ridge. The treble makes the ZEN as unique as the rest of the found frequencies. The ZEN will always be looked at as warm/neutral, with an accentuated bass stance and treble to act as a balance. The issue may be for folks sensitive in these energy areas. Now while the ZEN can be listened to loud, there is a small slight forwardness that is hard to ignore and actually unique in my experience. In personal use the aspect smoothed out after 75 hours of mental and physical IEM burn-in....though your millage my vary? As when you can start to embrace this IEM and love this IEM, that aspect needs to be addressed and understood. So it is what it is. But due to this tune comes a style of detail and possibly separation/soundstage.........resulting from such character. Generally these style of FRs can be looked at as subtle U tunes with an extra add on. It’s really this “brightness" (for lack of a better word) that separates the ZEN from something like the modern Sony house sound. In ending on these thoughts, I actually would not have this tune any other way. Especially how the ZEN does cymbals out to the side and compact dense growling guitars. My only loss here is not being able to play poorly recorded (old-old) music, as the ZEN is almost too revealing at times. Never strident, but walking slightly close to harsh, depending on the file. Later in this review you will read my music tests. Fascinating as it is, the ZEN plays most (well recorded) albums flawlessly. Interesting too, this has absolutely nothing to do with genre choice. In contrast to some brighter all BA IEMs the ZEN is really a *****cat. Lol

Lower Midrange/Bass:
You may have discovered this whole tune totally works for me…….and I’m going to get to why!


The lower midrange! To tell you the truth, the lower midrange has been my enemy for a couple years now. I blamed it for making the free IEMs you get with phones bad. Just in general all over the audiophile world the lower midrange has been getting a lot of criticism. In 2018-2021 the lower midrange has been blamed for basically ruining EVERYTHING. If you’re into lower midrange you’re a second class citizen. Most today want a clean sub bass and have blamed the lower midrange for wreaking the mids. You know who your are out there! This style of prejudice isn’t right. All frequencies deserve equal love. Well the ZEN has arrived to change things up. Now up for grabs is the ultimate rhythm machine. The movement in music here is seemingly brought on by great PRaT. The timing is so good and those lower mids are never in the way? Maybe it’s the 2.5K peak going way out front? It’s a mystery why this balance works so good? But it works.

Bass:
When you hear the word bass-head IEM you may think of an audio hobby which is ignoring fidelity to get bass. This IEM does bass great……..because it’s so fast and fun. It’s the star of the show, except for the lower midrange which is just as remarkable here. The bass you ask? Full, round, classy, emotional, big, physical, powerful, giant, controlled, life-changing, priceless, unique, class-leading, provocative, sexy……………and just right. I could go on but you get the picture.

End of Sound Review Section:


Music Testing Results:

This is fairly simple……..music gets played and the ZEN gets judged.

Artist: Nightwish

Song: Our Decades In The Sun
Quality: 44/24bit

Album: Endless Forms Most Beautiful

If this write-up wasn’t OCD/ADHD or ODD enough for you we will now go to level two. In subjective testing I will listen to a couple soundtracks first to try and get ideas as to an IEMs behavior. After a couple days with the ZEN it was time to really take THE test. This single test is so important that if an IEM has issues, I will hear them here, and not look at the IEM the same way ever again. Yes, there are different levels of IEM ability, but this is a sink or swim style of event.

One of my ultimate test tracks is a Nighwish song called “Our Decades In The Sun”. For the uninitiated here it’s about the softest girliest semi-metal song around. It’s metal your Grandma would probably like. Yet don’t let the softness fool you. This single song is an elaborate torture test………..yet at the same time an economic time saver covering numerous bases all in 6 minutes and 38 seconds.



Lyrics:
I climbed off your back
Not so long ago
To a blooming meadow
To a path you'd made for the lightest feet
Mother
I am always close to you
I will be waving
Every time you leave
Oh, I am you
The care, the love, the memories
We are the story of one
Father
I am always close to you
I will be waving
Every time you leave
Oh, I am you
The care, the love, the memories
You are forever in me
This verse we wrote
On a road home
For you
All this for you
Our walk has been sublime
A soaring ride and gentle lead
You have the heart of a true friend
One day we'll meet on that shore again
Mother
I am always close to you
I will be waving
Every time you leave
Oh, I am you
The care, the love, the memories
We are the story of one
Father
I am always close to you
I will be waving
Every time you leave
Oh, I am you
The care, the love, the memories
You are forever in me


Time markers listed later valid only to original song not the YouTube video here.

This ballad is very intense actually causing the musicians all to cry while recording it. But beyond that, the song has a message adding to the experience. IMO

Floor Jansen is always the center point starting off as the song develops. The test in essence is the tone, timbre positioning and small delicate embellishments in her voice. The key here is her exquisite use of vibrato. It’s really her against the ability of the IEM to pick-up and transfer what she is doing. Her voice reigns supreme as one of the singular greatest recorded entities in modern times. So yes, the ZEN does her voice. I’ve heard it a smidge more forward, but there is nothing at all going on wrong with this replay. Besides the basic skeleton of the piano (making you guess this song was written on the piano)......the structure here is additive and next will be introduced at (44 seconds in) the giant bass. It sounds like synth added to regular bass, or regular bass that has been lower frequency enhanced. Whatever it truly is, it’s a challenge to get right, but the ZEN passes this section. The bass, the piano, her voice and an acoustic guitar really make the first half of this song. Everything sounds natural and as it should. The background strings need to be mentioned too, as well as the small choir elements. Next the big test of electric guitar as at 2.08 comes a unique guitar tone probably only used by symphonic metal bands? This guitar tone is a pretty much impossible for all but the very best all BA IEMs to pull-off. Lucky we don’t have to worry about that here. The guitar tone sounds exactly right, relentless, cutting, jagged and sharp.

Strange that I use this song as a test as it’s actually filled almost to the brim with recording artifacts. The artifacts maybe help enhance the mood, but they are what they are. This song suffers from a bass artifact you hear (in Classical) often when timpani drums are recorded where the lows break-up and reach saturation to the point of distortion. The clarity and transparency of the ZEN transfers the emotion of the song. We can describe IEM technicalities, tone, timbre and FR all day, but if the emotion is not there in the replay..........all is lost. I went and once again listened to (this song) using the IER-Z1R and ZEN together as kind of of a battle to find truth. The results helped add to the ZEN v IER-Z1R section above. To summarize here, the ZEN passed in flying colors. And while I make fun of the recording issues implanted in this test song, it’s generally a real good litmus test of character and ability. And while the ZEN didn’t reach the IER-Z1R level of accomplishments during the multiple song listens, the ZEN gets an 8.7 score with the IER-Z1R getting a full TOTL 10. The rating difference was due to the IER making her voice slightly more detailed and real. The treble was just so slightly more polished yet of course this test is not fair with the IER 3X the price. For most maybe these small differences wouldn’t mean much. The important part was the ZEN performed the size and drama in the file. The ZEN was challenged yet stood the test.

Special note:
As testing continued, the song was then played back with the ZEN IEMs and the Sony TA-ZH1ES reference desktop. The continuation of the ZEN with this song will be a story told at the end of this review, titled “Desktop Endgame”.


Album: Blade Runner 2045 OST

Artists: Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch
Quality: 16/44.1


This would be the song I would use to show someone how ZEN does bass at the total extreme end of things. I can only imagine the look on someone who has not experienced anything like this before. With the ZEN the very beginning is kind of like that sound you hear deep inside a building when there is a big truck outside. The bass frequencies somehow making it out of the motor then going into the walls and vibrating a desk and your teeth. It’s a visceral thing and truly special with the ZEN. Any fears of ability about bass due to the Nightwish recording artifacts are now put to rest. This is the real deal, the full enchilada and one IEM to keep.

Artist: Ghost
Song: Helvetesfonster
Album: Prequel

Quality: 16/24bit


This is maybe the brightest snare drum in my music collection. It works as a great test to really see if the ZEN smoothed out after it’s 75 hours of burn in. This song also will show some amazing bass positioning. The question here is if the mood of this atmospheric rock installment was a success? Absolutely! And while I may have remembered the flute just ever so slightly more forward, we are spitting hairs here. Lol

Artist: Klaus Schulze
Album: Klaus Schulze Goes Classic
Quality: 16/44.1 FLAC


I have nothing really to say about this song? I just thought our little playlist needed some childlike happiness and levity. Carry on……………

This sounds like Christmas at Disneyland!


Artist; Queensrÿche
Song: Jet City Woman
Quality: 16/44.1 FLAC

Album: Empire


If you were wondering about a song the DUNU ZEN does perfect here it is. That perfect sound way back in background that seems like a click-track...........the way the ZEN places that sound's reverb. Geoff Tate’s vocal are dead on perfect, perfect tone, perfect stage placement, everything....the stuff of dreams here.

You may think the snare drum would maybe sound not exactly right as that snare area can be our spectrum missing link, but no.......all is well, and better than well it’s perfect. The chorus on the side to side by the band.......ahh, just right. But really there is one super special one thing....can you guess what that would be? That’s right..........the guitar tone and timbre, of course, this is our IEM strong point and possibly technically better even than the bass guitar. Oh gosh......this is technicolor guitar. Not colored guitar.........but real and vividly special “one-of-a-kind” guitar playback. It’s the kind of replay that could have you play the song over again over and over as you never knew how great this guitar sounded. It’s like the guitar has a whole bunch of different effects, but they chose them to fit each part of the song and decided to give the listener a cornucopia of tones...........just because they could. The kick is mixed right in pushing it all along, doing its job. Wait till the lead guitar takes over...........and you tell me if this tone and positioning isn’t the cats meow!

The fact is this whole album (Empire) is precious with the ZEN. There is nothing short of a house fire that could pull me away.


Artist: Queensrÿche
Song: Silent Lucidity
Quality: 16/44.1 FLAC

Album: Empire


Interestingly Geoff Tate’s voice is just ever so slightly set back than I remember it to be? Obviously..........now I would have to use other IEMs for reference. Tone wise his voice is perfect, it’s maybe just slightly less 3D? There is so much going on. This song not only showcases Tate’s voice, but the strings are absolutely an event going out to the sides. Once the song gets moving the snare drum and bass kick it into rhythm and pace......and finally mood. Near the halfway mark they channel in a Pink Floyd style of lead guitar which introduces the climax of the song. Most anyone is going to like the drumming separation and tone. Again the strings and backing vocals are the completion of the motor that runs this hit, and the ZEN gives a possibly unique but charming window of the workings at hand. All we are looking for are genuine musical experiences, that’s it. So when an IEM provides the honesty needed by being competent.........then there is nothing else asked for. If that said IEM is introducing its own slight stance on replay......as long as that replay is accepted (mentality) as natural.........then we are left with a unique tool in our IEM toolbox. If by chance the experience was a moment of value, that same IEM will be reached for across the top of other choices again and again, regardless of price or character.

EXTRA LEVEL:
Inverted Tips Mod:
inverted tips.jpg

After trying about 15 different tips I actually found a large selection which worked. Surprisingly the DUNU ZEN seemed somewhat stubborn in regards to gaining sound changes due to large bore or small bore tips. Typically a wide bore gets you a better soundstage, where small bore tips offer normally a darker tune, with more bass and a narrower soundstage. So while the ZEN did respond with small subtleties..........there was nothing really to write home about until I discovered the inverted tips.

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/flip-tips-or-fliptips-prepare-to-have-your-mind-blown.906357/

My journey to inverted tips started with another current new DD called the BLON BL-01. Inverted tips and a copper cable turned what would have been a mediocre signature into an absolute gem..........despite the $23 BLON BL-01 (entry level) price of admission.

Trying the inverted tips refused to work on the IER-Z1R due to the IEM hanging way outside the ear. And while it did drastically change the soundstage the frequency changes were not desirable. The IER lost its bass and the soundstage (while bigger) was not in any way accurately displayed. The IER lost its magic in frequency balance also.

top_sound_2.jpg

DSC_0089.jpg

Guess what?
Yep! The ZEN became a spectacle, an amazing new sounding IEM with the inverted tips. Soundstage gained at least 1 to 1.5 inches out. Imaging was increased, and the slight congestion issue was fully resolved. Not to say the compactness was something I couldn’t live with normally. The exact same corrections the made the BLON BL-01 amazing.........made the ZEN world class. This somehow works out because the tone and tune remain exactly the same except for slight subtracts in bass and imaging density. The great changes are soundstage and imaging. Though once opened up………there is a better perspective on the bass, allowing a slightly farther back perspective.......also increasing imaging and shape. Going back to our previously talked about Nightwish song “Our Decades In The Sun”.....we can clearly hear we lost maybe 10-20% of the bass density. And while there is also just a slight diminishment of bass vividness, there is such an abundance anyway both with the ZEN and this piece of music, it still sounds totally normal. Now we find benefits of sounding like an open-back headphone!


The only real reason I include this detour is it’s the very best this IEM has sounded. Though due to liking regular tips too, I switch back and forth. This all works due to the small form-factor size of the ZEN, yet now the IEM is much farther back from the ear drum, in-fact it’s not a inner-ear-monitor any longer. This is now some wild intermediary device somehow holding the soundstage of a full-size headphone........while at the same time holding the imaging like an IEM! The wider tips are expanded out (as can be seen here in the photograph). But the end result is an on-ear IEM. Somehow the airtight fit is arrived at as the bass is not too much of a loss.


Here is a list of music that was unusually amazing:

E-Mantra-Signals EP 44/24bit

E-Mantra-Moon Drifter 320Kilobits Per Second
KMFDM-Paradise 44/16bit
Die Antwoord-Future Baby 44/16bit
Igorrr-Downgrade Desert 44/16bit

Night Hex-Viziuni Nocturne 44/16bit

The ultimate test to see if your inverted tips fit is push on the outside of the IEM while in your ear and try and move the IEM back and forth while music is playing. If the sound always remains consistent your correct in your tip choice.


Desktop Endgame:

This has been a difficult review to write...........due to a lot going on. But the fun part has been the discoveries at hand. Part of the reason we do this is for the adventure. The fact is.......every new IEM is a new animal. Every new animal has a personality and a character not resembling the IEM which came before. Due to these differences every review is a story; and the story unfolds as the testing continues. This particular review had some unexpected results which I will put into detail here.

The test song described above “Our Decades In The Sun” was shown as demanding, yet with the DUNU ZEN our demands where unique and new hence full of unexpected results. Note too these issues described are very much individual and subsequently going to be slightly different user to user. Mostly these artifacts will be greater or lesser depending on the volume used. Keep in mind, this song is abnormal. I always thought the song was demanding but little did I know the pure tax the song and the ZEN would be for the Walkman 1A DAP?

DSC_0081.jpg

Sony TA-ZH1ES:
Typically it’s rare that a song and an IEM would require a desktop to cure the issues, let alone a $2200 desktop. But it is what it is. In this situation the TA shows itself to now be clearly superior to the DAPs while using the ZEN. Maybe it’s that big magnet, maybe the style of driver? Whatever is going on the TA showed it could do things right. In all my years with the TA and DAPs I’ve never come across this style of improvement.


The TA added imaging, and definition of positioning of elements. With this demo song even the bass imaging was now defined and delineated in reference to near by sounds like drums or strings. In short the ZEN is able to run off a simple iPod Touch, yet to reach the next level it needs something like the TA. Take note still much of this is going to depend on the volume needed and choice of music. In my experience here there was no question of the TA not being an improvement. Probably the biggest deal was the separation at hand, yet everything across the board sounded more real. Even snare drums that were bright and in danger of going into the “no-go" zone showed relaxing improvement. The TA with firmware 1.03 is on the darker side, yet the DSD up-sampling also sands down the rough edges. I’ll end with simply saying that synergy was found and this was surprisingly the very best the ZEN sounded in the testing period. No wild inverted tips were used but the regular clear Sony Silicone Hybrid Tips.

Take note the DUNU ZEN will be able to play fine off just about anything. Using a regular phone the sound is surprisingly audiophile. From regular DAPs it also scales up. Then if you wanted to go to a desktop, the ZEN will continue to improve and show how special it is.



Conclusion:
In conclusion it’s wise to always look at whole systems and not single elements. As it turned out, many very small character features were not truly the ZEN's fault but were artifacts of amplification. In this regard never under-estimate the places the ZEN can go. It is unique in the world of $699.00 IEMs to find one with what maybe unlimited scalability? Where “up” can the ZEN go to? I’m not really sure, but it’s full of surprises!

As far as generating interest and emotion.......few IEM releases have topped the mild hysteria surrounding this year’s ZEN offering. A newly popular company known for successful IEM releases. The introduction of next-generation “ECLIPSE” driver technologies. The magical combination of value, technology and “hope” from company who flat-out knows how to do a great IEM “tune”. At this point in time it’s safe to say the market is newly flooded with great sounding IEMs from every direction. I like to feel the ZEN is special; it’s special to me anyways. I hope this review gave you a glimpse of what is possible here? While not perfect, it’s the special character which I find enthralling and different. But besides all the talk, it’s really the musicality at hand that should be the center and most important aspect of this review. The ZEN is simply a tool to get close to your music, nothing more nothing less. As far as an object, it’s well made, beautifully designed and outperforms the expected task for the price asked here. To me it’s simply a classic.

Review End:

Disclaimer:

IEMs are ultimately a singular experience. The write-up here is a singular view. Don’t get caught-up in the hype but trust your own ears……………as ultimately nothing else matters except what sounds right to you. While an attempt was made to be critical here…….your ZEN sound quality and fit experience may differ.

My DUNU ZEN had 75 hours for this review. There was small changes in smoothness and fluidness found after burn-in. I would not judge this IEM with less than 75 hours on the clock.


I try and review IEMs emotionally. The goal is to learn how close I can get to favorite my tracks. Using this method will often result in thoughts and ideas that are hard to describe. It may be easier to use a template of words and processes, but that’s boring. I’m trying to communicate these ideas another way as much of the time my own concepts/adjectives simply sound better to me? I choose to use the word emotion here as the realism of playback has no way to be verified. There is no reference to what was recorded and saved as a musical document. The only thing we can possibly get IS emotion as the actual moment of the recording has been lost. What has been replaced as a music file is a new artistic creation, maybe better than the original, but none the less different.

After hearing Koss headphones against the Sennheiser HD 414 in 1975, I already knew Koss closed-backs were better for listening to Iron Man. So you could say I’ve been comparing headphones back to back since the mid-70s.

Growing-up with a baby-grand in the living room and my Mom a piano teacher, I refused to take lessons. Her record collection introduced me to The Moody Blues, Rod Stewart, James Taylor and the rest of the regulars found on 1970s FM radio. I took away her steam when she thought she was introducing me to Led Zeppelin for the first time. Not the actual band members of course, but Led Zeppelin Two on vinyl, and actually the song “Whole Lotta Love". I have somehow been into Zep since I was 12?

Her greatest collection was rare Gibson acoustics and small batch made luthier flat-tops which she inspired me to play!

What does this have to do with headphones? I’m not sure?

My biggest learning experiences were from making a wrong purchase. I tried to make the AKG k701 work-out and it almost did after a year of forcing myself to enjoy it. The AKG k701 taught me another sound signature I could relate with. IEM frequency response (overall tone) is probably 80% of the path to win-win. Today…..I’m able to like a whole bunch of sound signatures. Yet inside of that “tune”……the FR, timbre, positioning, detail and pace need to be closer to correct to value the IEM high.

In the world of IEMs there are values, well-rounders, one-trick ponies, overpriced values and overpriced rip-offs. Still, I’m always trying to make stuff workout by finding the good aspects of a monitor. Where some reviewers use only the included tips and cables, I’m trying to emulate the enthusiast who would be curious if improvements could be found near by. Often different than included cables I seek, different tips also……… to try and look for correction where I think it could be found. While I’m not positive burn-in is real, it’s just a method of being complete.

Here is a list of the equipment I use to test IEMs:

1) Sony NW-WM1Z with MrWalkman DMP-Z1 emulation in “J” region with Rockbox region changer both 4.4mm and 3.5mm
2) Sony NW-WM1A with MrWalkman DMP-Z1 emulation in “J” region with Rockbox region changer both 4.4mm and 3.5mm
3) Sony desktop TA-ZH1ES DAC/Amplifier Firmware 1.03
4) FiiO E17K Alpen DAC/Amplifier
5) Schiit Asgard One
6) Cambridge Audio DACMagic Plus DAC
7) MacBook Air with Colibri FLAC
8) Woo Audio WA3 tube amplifier

9) Apple iPod Touch Generation 5


Typically I start out with soundtracks at first. I use soundtracks as they seem to be the best recordings of real instruments that I own. Typically with-in these soundtracks will be positioning I know, timbre I am familiar with, as well as soundstage transients I’ve become to know. I’m probably most impressed by the sheer size of the experience, so I look to find that in recordings. There are small instrument tones that I use to help me focus on replay character. The image as well as its placement in the stage can be either heard in brilliance or lackluster with all faults noted simultaneously. I have songs with a bass tone that helps find the limits of the bass ability.


When I switch to another music genre it seems there are paths to know if an IEM is well rounded or simply does a few genres correctly. Most success is from an even and correct frequency response. Timbre and tone, technicalities and the less tangibles all come together within the best examples. Yet in experience, there are no perfect IEMs to be found, only better and lesser examples of the art. The most difficult thing is simply missing an example of a major fault due to keying in on the great aspects. The simple way to learn is just taking the time to explore. Eventually that IEM that has issues will become exposed and noticed. The best and easiest way I know is actually by using the smallest grouping of music that that I’m most familiar with. The flip side is that music could actually be stale and boring so there is nothing wrong with using new music to simply get an idea of the entertainment factor.

Besides the few details of music in the review, this is another list more complete:
John Williams-Star Wars The Force Awakens 96/24bit

Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL-Batman v Superman 96/24bit
Metallica-Metallica 48/24bit
Delain- Apocalypse and Chill 44/24bit
Hans Zimmer-The Dark Knight Rises 192/24bit
Yello-Stella DSD (vinyl needle drop) 5.6 MHz
Dead Can Dance-Anastasis 44/24bit
Dead Can Dance-Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun 88.2/24bit
Yello-Point 48/24bit
Judas Priest-Firepower 48/24bit
Korn-Twisted Transistor 96/24bit
Haken-Virus 44/24bit
Katy Perry-Witness 44/24bit

Nightwish-Endless Forms Most Beautiful 44/24bit
Accurate - The music is (as much as possible) unaltered by the recording or playback equipment.

Aggressive - Forward and bright sonic character.

Airy - Spacious, typically referring to upper midrange and treble.

Ambience - The overall impression, feeling, or mood evoked by an environment or acoustical space, such as the performance hall in which a recording was made.

Analytical - Detailed.....typically thought of as neutral or bright.

Articulate - The overall ability to offer fast transients and efficient imaging of instruments.

Attack - The leading edge of a note and the ability of a system to reproduce the attack transients in music.

Attack (2) - The time taken for a musical note to reach its peak amplitude eg. notes will tend to sound more defined rather than blended with other notes.

Balance - Usually the tuning of the earphone. A well-balanced headphone would not have one particularly dominant frequency, but rather all would be “balanced.”

Bass - The audio frequencies between about 60Hz and 250Hz.The lower end frequency of human hearing. Bass can be measured in quantity (heaviness) and quality (clarity). Other bass descriptors are “muddy” and “boomy.”

Basshead - Emphasized Bass.

Bloated - Excessive mid bass around 250 Hz. Poorly damped low frequencies, low frequency resonances.

Blurred - Poor transient response. Vague stereo imaging, not focused.

Body - Fullness of sound. Substantialness of response.

Boomy - Excessive bass around 125 Hz. Typically edging into midrange and affecting pace.

Boxy - Having resonances as if the music were enclosed in a box. Sometimes an emphasis around 250 to 500 Hz. Often called cardboard box sounding, like boxes used as drums.

Breakup - When different points on the surface of a diaphragm begin to move out of sync, causing distortion. Breakup often occurs in dynamic drivers at high volumes as forces on the diaphragm increase. Breakup is less likely to occur at lower volumes or in planar magnetic or electrostatic headphone drivers.

Bright/Brightness - Boost in the upper frequencies or upper-mid range. Brightness is a feature enjoyed by many but walks a thin line to becoming unpleasant depending on the individual.

Brilliance - The 6kHz to 16kHz range controls the brilliance and clarity of sounds. Too much emphasis in this range can produce sibilance on the vocals.

Clear - Transparent.

Closed - A closed-in sound lacking in openness, delicacy, air, and fine detail usually caused by Roll-off above 10kHz; in contrast to Open.

Congestion - Poor clarity caused by overlapping sounds. Congested sound signatures lack detail and clarity, making it hard to hear separate instruments and may also be called muddy or muffled.

Coloration - The effect of a device on the music signal. The opposite of “neutral.” Various aspects can affect the tone, responsiveness or the frequency response of the music/audio.

Crisp - Clear.

Dark - A tonal balance that tilts downwards with increasing frequency. Opposite of bright. Weak high frequencies.

Decay - The fadeout of a note as it follows the attack.

Definition (or resolution) - The ability of a component to reveal the subtle information that is fundamental to high fidelity sound.

Delicate - High frequencies extending to 15 or 20 kHz without peaks.

Density - I personally started to use this word to describe note weight, and note authority.

Depth - A sense of distance (near to far) of different instruments.

Detail - The most delicate elements of the original sound and those which are the first to disappear with lesser equipment.

Detailed - Easy to hear tiny details in the music; articulate. Adequate high frequency response, sharp transient response.

Dry - Lack of reverberation or delay as produced by a damped environment. May come across as fine grained and lean. Opposite of wet.

Dynamic - The suggestion of energy and wide dynamic range. Related to perceived speed as well as contrasts in volume both large and small. Still in the end this word has many interpretations.

Edgy - Too much high frequency response. Trebly. Harmonics are too strong relative to the fundamentals. Distorted, having unwanted harmonics that add an edge or raspiness.

Euphonic - An appealing form of distortion that generally enhances perceived fidelity, often ascribed to the harmonic elaborations of some valve amps.

Fast - Good reproduction of rapid transients which increase the sense of realism and "snap".

Focus - A strong, precise sense of image projection.

Forward(ness) - Similar to an aggressive sound, a sense of image being projected in front of the speakers and of music being forced upon the listener. The opposite would be “Laid-back".

Full - Strong fundamentals relative to harmonics. Good low frequency response, not necessarily extended, but with adequate level around 100 to 300 Hz. Male voices are full around 125 Hz; female voices and violins are full around 250 Hz; sax is full around 250 to 400 Hz. Opposite of thin.

Grainy - A loss of smoothness resulting is a loss of clarity and transparency.

Grunt - Actually a guitar term intended to denote an authoritative and fast low end frequency response ability in hollow body jazz guitars.

Harsh - Too much upper midrange. Peaks in the frequency response between 2 and 6 kHz.

Highs - The audio frequencies above about 6000 Hz.

High Midrange (High Mids, Upper Mids) - The audio frequencies between about 2kHz and 6kHz.

Imaging - The sense that a voice or instrument is in a particular place in the room. Directly measured with square wave graphs and indicates transient edge response quality in the time domain.

Impedance - Indicates how much power is required for the driver. The higher the impedance, the more power is required to get the maximum quality and volume of sounds out of the driver. Electrical resistance to the flow of current in an AC circuit. The higher the impedance of the headphone, for instance, the less current will flow through it.

Layering - The reproduction of depth and receding distance, which audibly places the rows of performers one behind the other.

Laid-back - Recessed, distant-sounding, having exaggerated depth, usually because of a dished midrange. Compare "Forward".

Layering - The reproduction of depth and receding distance, which audibly places the rows of performers one behind the other.

Less-Tangibles - Everything other than FR, hence reverberations, texture, instrument timbre, soundstage etc…..etc.

Liquid - Textureless sound.

Low-Level Detail - The subtlest elements of musical sound, which include the delicate details of instrumental sounds and the final tail of reverberation decay.

Low Midrange (Low Mids) - The audio frequencies between about 250Hz and 2000Hz.

Lush - Harmonically complex, typicality thought of as thick with many additives. A rich tone and usually with some warmth to the overall presentation.

Metallic - Typicality an overall sheen which can become part of an off timbre response.

Midrange (Mids) - The audio frequencies between about 250 Hz and 6000 Hz.

Musical (or musicality) - A sense of cohesion and subjective "rightness" in the sound.

Nasal - Reproduced sound having the quality of a person speaking with their nose blocked. Closed off; a measured peak in the upper midrange followed by a complimentary dip.

Naturalness - Realism.

Opaque - Unclear, lacking Transparency.

Open - Sound which has height and "air", relates to clean upper midrange and treble.

Pace - Often assoc. with rhythm, a strong sense of timing and beat.

Physicality - Weight and realness, typicality used (by me) to describe bass, but can carry over to all frequencies. Female and male vocals could have physicality, if they sound real.

Piercing - Strident, hard on the ears, screechy. Having sharp, narrow peaks in the response around 3 to 10 kHz.

PRaT - Pace, rhythm and timing.

Presence Range - The presence range between 4kHz and 6kHz is responsible for the clarity and definition of voices and instruments. Increasing this range can make the music seem closer to the listener. Reducing the 5kHz content makes the sound more distant and transparent.

Presence - An emphasized instrument response around 5 kHz for most instruments, or around 2 to 5 kHz for kick drum and bass.

Punchy - Good reproduction of dynamics. Good transient response, with strong impact. Sometimes a bump around 5 kHz or 200 Hz.

Range - The distance between the lowest and highest tones.

Resolution - The clarity to separate and delineate musical information.

Reverb - Short for reverberation. A diminishing series of echoes spaced sufficiently closely in time that they merge into a smooth decay.

Rich - See Full. Also, having euphonic distortion made of even order harmonics.

Roll-off (Rolloff) - The gradual attenuation that occurs at the lower or upper frequency range of a driver, network, or system. The roll-off frequency is usually defined as the frequency where response is reduced by 3 dB.

Round - High frequency rolloff or dip. Not edgy.

Rhythm - The controlled movement of sounds in time.

Shrill - Strident, Steely.

Sibilant - The high unpleasant peaks that are usually unpleasant to the ear if too prevalent.

Sizzly - See Sibilant. Also, too much highs on cymbals.

Smeared - Lacking detail; poor transient response, too much leakage between microphones; poorly focused images.

Smooth - Describing the quality of sound reproduction having no irritating qualities; free from high-frequency peaks, and relaxing to listen to. Not necessarily a positive system attribute if accompanied by a slow, uninvolving character.

Sound Signature - The unique intrinsic sound quality of a headphone, music player, DAC, or audio cable. Some audio products emphasize the higher treble ranges while others strengthen the bass. This overall sound profile of audio devices helps audiophiles fine-tune the listening experience by pairing the right headphone cable, DAC, or music player with their headphones.

Soundstage - An illusionary effect of headphones to produce a listening space front to back, up and down and right to left.

Speed - Pace and timing, can have relationship with overall “tune”.

Steely - Emphasized upper mids around 3 to 6 kHz. Peaky, non flat high frequency response. Metallic.

Strident - See Harsh, Edgy.

Sub-Bass - The audio frequencies between about 20Hz and 80Hz.

Sweet - Typically reference to smooth comfortable high pitch sounds.

Technical Ability - A blanket term for attack transients, imaging, decay, tonality, tonal balance, timbre, temperature, and texture. At times overall frequency response (if even and correct) is considered part of technical ability.

Synergy - The interaction or cooperation of two or more audio components in an audio system, which, when combined produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. Example: the synergy between a DAC and a headphone amp.

Texture - The timbre of multiple instruments playing together, though more accurately the instrument “voices” together.

Thick - Typically bass or lower midrange density.

Thin - Fundamentals are weak relative to harmonics; bass light.

Tight - Good low frequency transient response and detail.

Timbre - The tonal character of an instrument which separates it from other instruments of the same tone.

Timing - Tempo in relationships with clarity of pace.

Tinny - Thin harmonically narrow, metallic, in treble region.

Tone - The sound of definite pitch.

Transient - The leading edge of a percussive sound, though the term can be applied to any wave form.

Transparent - Easy to hear into the music, detailed, clear, not muddy. Wide flat frequency response, sharp time response, very low distortion and noise. A hear through quality that is akin to clarity and reveals all aspects of detail.

Treble - The highest part of music and voice. See Highs. (Most often used when referring to the treble control on amplifiers).

Upper Midrange (Upper Mids, High Mids) - The audio frequencies between 2 kHz and 6 kHz.

Vivid - A word often used to describe clarity and intensity.

Veiled- Lack of full clarity due to noise or loss of detail from limited transparency.

Warm - Good bass, adequate low frequencies, adequate fundamentals relative to harmonics. Not thin. Also excessive bass or mid bass. Also, pleasantly spacious, with adequate reverberation at low frequencies. Also see Rich, Round. Warm highs means sweet highs.

Weighty - Good low frequency response below about 50 Hz. A sense of substance and underpinning produced by deep, controlled bass. Suggesting an object of great weight or power, like a diesel locomotive.

Width - The apparent lateral spread of a stereo image. If appropriately recorded, a reproduced image should sound no wider or narrower than how it sounded originally.


Woolly - Loose, ill-defined bass.
Last edited:
DUNU-Topsound
DUNU-Topsound
@CT007 One last reference for you; if you'd like to take a deeper dive into the material properties of various DLC coatings, you can check out this document published by the US Department of Energy's Office of Scientific and Technical Information: https://www.osti.gov/pages/servlets/purl/1494310
ehjie
ehjie
Excellent Review. Thanks for the Tip!
Dionietzscheus
Dionietzscheus
Fantastic review, one of the best ever; the Zen is probably going to be my next upgrade: I have the FiiO FD5. Anyone who own both and would like to do a quick comparo? Thanks.

jwbrent

Headphoneus Supremus
The ZEN Sets the Bar in the Mid-Tier Price Range!
Pros: Beautiful aesthetic design with very high quality build and finish, well balanced reproduction, excellent resolution of micro-detail, nice cable with detachable fittings, good accessory pack
Cons: The pinna gain (~12dB @ 2.7kHz) may be too much for some
1611620996970.png


Introduction

The DUNU ZEN ($699) is the newest creation by this venerable maker and employs technology not seen before in a dynamic driver IEM. According to its press release, DUNU‘s new design is the first in a series of products to come that employs nano amorphous carbon (nanoDLC) as a coating for the 13.5mm magnesium/aluminum driver, a coating that enhances the performance of the driver by filling in microscopic pores on its metal surface in order to strengthen the diaphragm as well as to reduce resonance and coloration. This new technology brings the ZEN closer to a pure diamond design without necessitating the high cost that this would entail.

DUNU proclaims the design of the LUNA with its pure beryllium foil driver and its subsequent success led its engineers to develop nanoDLC (diamond-like carbon) as a cost effective method which mirrors some of the parameters found in beryllium. Let’s see how close in performance the ZEN gets to its big brother.

1611621093162.png

1611621161494.png


Performance


I’d like to first offer my thanks to Tom at DUNU for providing a free sample of the ZEN for my forthright opinion. I began my evaluation first by burning in the ZEN for 150 hours which, to my ears, enhanced its overall performance. Next, I listened to the ZEN balanced for about two weeks using my Sony NW-ZX300 with its custom firmware (DMP-300 FE) created by @MrWalkman. I also used my AK SA700 towards the end of my listening in order to learn whether the ZEN scales up with better source gear (it does). No EQ or other sound processing was used during my critical listening sessions, and my music files were CD rips from my library.

1611621292115.png


1611621424360.png
Israel Nash / Rain Plans / “Just Like Water”

I’m a big fan of this album which falls somewhat in the folk rock genre. Recorded at his house using analog tape and no digital processing, this song with its slow and easy tempo gets me relaxing and nodding my head, yet the ZEN brings a level of immediacy to Israel Nash’s vocals which have tremendous clarity and expression due to a forward presentation.

Compared to my LUNA, Nash’s vocals are a bit smoother though there is somewhat of a scratchy presentation in the upper-mids, no doubt due to the pinna gain frequency difference between the two (and the fact that the LUNA deserves a better source than the ZX300 which on occasion can reveal this tendency).

1611621509355.png
Stephen Marley / Mind Control / “Fed Up”

Bob Marley’s second oldest son after Ziggy, Stephen Marley‘s first solo album when released was a constant listen for me. I do love reggie music, and this song has me dancing and moving my hips when I listen to it. The notable quality I hear in this song is the well reproduced bass, there is a tautness to its portrayal that extends down into the sub-bass region that is very satisfying. I imagine the 1.8 Tesla ring magnet structure plays a large role here by exerting great control over the driver, and coupled with the stiffness created by the nanoDLC process, those that like clean bass with impact and delicacy will find a match here.

Listening to the LUNA, it just doesn’t have the extension into the sub-bass that the ZEN has, so a clear advantage here for the little brother.

1611621602785.png
Everything But The Girl / Amplified Heart / “Missing”

From the opening verse, this dance song played through the ZEN captured my interest like no other due to the dopamine rush I felt. Wow, just wow, Tracey Thorn’s vocals are beautifully rendered, and when the refrain comes in I’m fully lost in the music, and the moment. The treble and its extension is the notable quality here coming across in a silky fashion, yet still resolving very fine micro-detail. In fact, this is one of the hallmarks of this design, the ability to reveal tiny detail that contributes to an expansive soundspace, especially laterally.

When I reviewed the LUNA, I remarked on how the trebles were somewhat muted compared to other flagships in my collection. Summing up, the LUNA still holds some advantages over the ZEN, but at a $1,000 price difference it will be hard for many to justify the additional cost, the ZEN at its mid-tier price is that much of a revelatory transducer.

1611621762371.png

1611621879611.png


Summary

What an enjoyable surprise the ZEN has been. As someone who mainly collects flagships (Odin, VX-S, A8000, LUNA), going into this review I reflected on past under $1,000 IEMs I’ve owned and never thought one in this price category could compete with upper-tier models, but I believe the ZEN holds it own admirably. No, it doesn’t have the refinement that distinguishes flagships, but DUNU’s proprietary driver has allowed them to meet its objective, to bring high performance parameters down to a reasonably priced model, so I look forward to future releases using the same nanoDLC technology.

The ZEN will bring surprise and ecstatic pleasure to many who are in tune with its character, so for all those at DUNU responsible for this release, a job very well done!
Last edited:
jwbrent
jwbrent
The Zen has more sub-bass which gives the overall sound a nice weight which is lacking in the Luna. The midrange is more forward with the Zen creating a great sense of immediacy in the vocals. The Luna has greater presence in the upper-mids which contributes to a heightened sense of realism with instrument textures and harmonics. ✌️
M
MattKT
Thank you for such a thoughtful review! How would you say the Zen compares to models like the Lz A7 and Fiio FD5?
jwbrent
jwbrent
Thank you for the kind words. My collection is dominated by flagships, so I don’t have any experience with the two models you mentioned. I have owned the Moondrop S8 and final B—both also sell for $700—and felt the Zen surpassed the performance of both of these. ✌

Dsnuts

Headphoneus Supremus
DUNU Zen master
Pros: Cutting edge solid design in both build and sound.
Nicely balanced musical harmonish tuning with enhanced bass, upper mids, and a clean detailed treble. Excelling in tonal, timbral and dynamic qualities with exceptional dimensional imaging and head stage. Pro level accessories package. Comes with one of the absolute best cables in the industry with DUNUs proprietary modular terminations in all popular formats. Superb versatile tuning. Easy to drive and scales to nicer sources. Very transparent of source matchings.
Cons: The shiny onyx black finish means they will attract dust and finger oils. Cleaning wipe highly recommended for OCD types. Not enough time in the day to listen to your collection with the Zens.
DUNU ZEN
DSC07875.JPG
These turbulent times we live in saw a bit of a side effect of being at home and conforming to the new norms. More and more folks are getting into personal audio and with that trend we are witnessing advances for the in ear monitor. Dynamic designs are seeing newer innovations and advancements and DUNU is playing a big role.

A newer earphone design should be more than just aesthetically pleasing, it has to please why we get into the hobby in the first place, the sound. DUNU has created some great earphones in the past, present and today we will dive deep into what makes the new DUNU Zen what it is and why I feel it has become a new benchmark for dynamic earphones at the price range.
DSC07871.JPG
Before getting into the nitty gritty of how and why. I would like to give a hearty thanks and an appreciation for Tom of DUNU for being one of the best reps for any company could ask for. Give this man a raise DUNU! Other reps here on the threads should take some lessons from this man. This is how you represent. Appreciate you and your commitment to DUNU and our hobby. That being said, yes the Zen is a review sample and these here are my thoughts on what is essentially an upgrade to what you own.
DSC07867.JPG
The word Zen means peaceful and calm, from an old Japanese Mahayana Buddhism noun with the value of meditation and intuition. Adjectively it has to do with being in a relaxed peaceful state.

You don’t name an earphone called the Zen when it is gonna be your average or standard earphone. You just don’t do it, but does the new earphones from Dunu live up to the name? A state of Zen is one part state of mind, peaceful tranquility with enlightenment. Listening to the Zens is a harmonic revelation that not all earphones are equal in what it does. Earphones designs just simply don’t get much better.
DSC07881.JPG
The Zen: package
Zens arrive in a larger all black box. Everything was thought out on the packaging. What you get in the larger box is a completeness that DUNU is extremely good at. Inside the Zen box includes the earphones and cables for the up layer.
DSC07884.JPG
The bottom layer sees several boxes outfitted with 3 sets of silicones and a pair of medium sized foams, modular plugs for the cables. A Dunu engraved blue zip up pouch with a pockets to store your tips. A shirt clip, airplane adapters, cleaning tool a stereo adapter, a cleaning cloth and a custom mesh pouch to store the shells in. Will explain why this was thrown in later.
DSC07885.JPG
The Zen: cable
DUNUs proprietary monocrystalline 8 core silver plated copper modular cable, the DUW-03 happens to match the Zens sonic character to a T. Meaning no need to upgrade the cable. In fact trying out a variety of aftermarket cables, I ended up reverting back to the stock cables. Dunus modular connectors are on another level vs other manufacturers implementations. I recently got to review a few different earphones with modular connectors for their cables and unfortunately those are not what comes on the DUW-03.
DSC07883.JPG
These cables are about as boutique as your gonna get. No way this was the type of cable you're getting even a few years back for any level of earphone. The cables are on the thicker side of cable land but I wouldn't change a single aspect of the cables, especially how it pairs with the Zen. It was one of the many positives about DUNUs previous SA6 offering which also uses the same cable in a 2 pin configuration and here it matches up even better with the Zens. This cable is so good it has a model number. Let me put it that way.
1611446034971.png

The Zen: innovation
Dunus Luna for me was a revelation in a pure Beryllium dynamic design. Which was a one off production Dunu created from the ground up but in doing so they were able to learn new techniques and methods for what is to become their new Eclipse platform. The Zens incorporates a 13.5mm magnesium-aluminum alloy dynamic driver with a W shaped morphology which is then coated with a nanoporous amorphous carbon or NanoDLC coating. Then they took this highly resolving driver to the next level by utilizing a neodymium magnetic assembly that reaches 1.8 tesla. With even more techniques and designs to make the Zen what it is. You can read about more here.

What does all this mean to you, the enthusiast? It means your getting a cutting edge driver and tech inside the Zens. If the tuning is not up to par all this tech as you know, don’t mean a thing.
DSC07873.JPG
The solid Zen
Zens housings are made of monolithic 316 stainless steel and finished with a PVD coating for scratch resistance in a wet black color. Strong and sturdy you can tell the quality of the construction is as every bit as cutting edge and robust as the internals. Subjectively is quite the looker. Absolutely modern in design and looks, no one is gonna mistake the Zen for any other earphone in the market.

The Zens have such strong magnets. You will notice the housing pieces attracting to one another and will stick to each other. Yes folks that is strong! This is the reasoning for the divided pocket pouch they provide, to keep your ear pieces separate when storing them for the night. The finish is shiny and will leave a residue of your finger oils. Keeping that polished surface clean just means you gotta have your cleaning cloth with you at times. If you're a bit on the OCD side you will most definitely need a clean cloth with you which DUNU so happens to provide. The mmcx connectors are of high quality and unlike other manufacturers where I actually worry how many times I can take out a cable before something gives. I am not so worried on the connectors here. Consistently clean in how your cable connects. I know folks like their 2 pins but if all the mmcx connectors show this level of consistency, I doubt there would be much issue. Plus the likelihood you're actually gonna find an upgrade to the DUW-03 is not likely.
DSC07886.JPG
The Zen: in the ears.
Sound analysis was done after an extensive 150 hours of burn in. Sources used with the Zens include my Fiio M15,Fiio X1,Shanling M6 pro, M5s, M3s, Ibasso DX160, Sony ZX300, Cryin N5ii and my amps IBasso PB3, IFI Black Label.


DUNU DNA and sound design shows with the Zens. In reviewing their Lunas. Dunus foundation so happens to be with tuning the tried and true dynamic earphones. Zen seems to be the end results of years of design and tuning. Overall sonic character is a well balanced harmonish tuning with some added flavoring that enhances what we love about our music. Enhanced bass range, upper mids with a detailed clean treble end.The Zens have a superb tonal balance with a technical ability that is among the very best for dynamic earphones. Showing accurate tonal qualities and a rangy timbrally dynamic sound. Not thin and not thick in note weight, the sound has an exceptional body of note and is tactile from all the sound ranges. Despite the name, Zen is an energetic bold sound with a very versatile balanced tuning. Has a very good dimensional wide and deeper than taller sound stage, the immersive qualities of the Zens are in full force and you're gonna love how these things sound from your favorite sources.
DSC07868.JPG
The Zen: High Life
Treble sees a fine balancing of one part definition and a good dose of clarity. Treble for the most part is well rounded. No secret treble is one of the most important aspects of a higher end tuning and here we have a clear resolving ability of the Zen drivers at work. In fine tuning the Zens sound profile. Careful treble tuning has been done here and you get a more natural take on the treble end vs being overly elevated in one region of the treble for the sake of high fidelity. I appreciate that treble is not emphasized more than the rest of the sound spectrum. Treble shows a moderate extension and a focus more toward lower treble to mid trebles an anti sibilance dip and a peak around 8.5Khz. Not overly cooked and certainly not lacking shimmer and sparkle, in my opinion is crafted well so the treble is not glare prone or lacking in emphasis. Showing that fine balance of presence, agility and clarity, treble could have a bit more air but for what is on there, not much to complain about.

I have seen a few folks mention that upper trebles needs more extension. You know to be honest I don’t really hear it that way. Definition of all parts of the sound is a strong suit for the Zens and the treble is no different. If I was to nitpick it is the 8.5Khz peak that is not emphasized more than the rest of the sound still shows a touch of splash for treble presence at times but does not sound unnatural or cause any fatigue. Don't know if it was due to mostly using the Fiio M15 which is a neutrally balanced tuning with excellent extension on both ends but this pairing is stunning with the Zens. I do notice more warmer sounding sources, the upper trebles can sound slightly reserved sounding in comparison, as warmer sounding sources can show more emphasis in the bass to mids regions of sound, so the Zen is clearly showing how transparent the sound is based on your sources.
DSC07888.JPG
The Zen: Master of sources.
The reason why I like to try out a bunch of different sources before writing a review is to see how good an earphone meshes with different sound profiles. Here the Zens actually is very versatile not only in how it is tuned but with the various match ups I tried with the Zens. They are easy enough to drive and to my ears the higher end the sound profile of your sources the better they sound. It sounds just as engaging from using it on my old Fiio X1.
DSC07891.JPG
Yes folks we are talking bout a $100 DAP that has been discontinued from 6 years ago. Sounds fantastic out of it. Don’t judge. My point is, if an intro level DAP sounds that good you can imagine how they sound on the Fiio M15. Zen doesn't care what you hook it up to be it a discontinued old source, an old amp, your phone or a more modern DAP, It will all sound good. Can’t say that about a lot of earphones I have reviewed. Overall Zen is versatile not only in tuning but in pairings with your sources. Zens obviously scales to nicer sounding sources but your cell phones will never sound better using the Zen as an earphone.
DSC07877.JPG
The Zen: Euphoria
Zens base tuning has a foundation of balance with some upper mid emphasis in establishing a more musical tuning based on the harmon curve and for folks that love their tonal balancing with excellent details and dynamics across the sound spectrum. I present to you the Zens.

You know you're listening to some outstanding gear when you hear a favorite vocal track that will send shivers down your spine. The Zens have a slight skew toward upper mids but due to some outstanding layering the mids come full bored and in fact you will love how the Zens projects vocals with a reach that is difficult for a lot of earphones. The Zens have a semi open design with venting on the back of the housing which helps that lovely driver breathe also with the sound staging of the Zens. Sound stage is wider than deep or tall giving the overall stage a traditional sideways oval effect for sound stage. It has a headphone-like layering with outstanding imaging of the mid bands that makes the Zen special in my book. Nothing sounds canned or on a single plane of sound. Stage is wider than most earphones, throwing out sound in a dimensional manner. Vocal and instrumental timbre is substantial on the Zens. Presenting accurate clean renditions for stringed instruments, mids sound outlandishly superb resulting in an amped up engagement factor. For vocal lovers, take note. These will be right up your alley.
DSC07864.JPG
The Club Zen: Disco in your ears.
Bass is infused with a tasteful amount of emphasis. We aren’t talking neutral bass here. A higher end earphone has nothing to do with bloat or uneven bass. You get the good stuff right out of the gate. A deep reaching tactile speedy tightness to the bass end of the Zen is every bit a quality mixed with the perfect quantity to get your head bobbin and foot tappin. A deep agile bass end with excellent low bass rumble. The bass shows a very similar ability as the rest of the sound signature. Defined and very versatile, with a quicker tighter punch and a natural decay. Bass end sounds very natural while showing an enthusiastic amount of emphasis, this quality bass is clearly separated from any of the mids and has its own space to work with. Bass shows pronounced quality when called for and is about as speedy as it gets for dynamic earphones.

The one area I feel Dunu has always excelled at is bass performance in their tunings. Bass for the Zen has that underlying resolving ability from the tech being used on the Zen and it clearly shows the type of bass folks will gravitate toward. No one likes a limp noodle slow bass. Here you get a top flight bass ability and detail that you know your gonna get with a higher end sound. Bass is very much like the technical term they used in describing their own drivers. Morphologic. There isn't a type of bass note or emphasis that sounds unnatural here. Bass is extremely good on the Zens.
DSC07870.JPG
The Speedy Zen
Speedy drivers lead to more accurate sound, a clear correlation to a quicker transient response and a tighter sound. Here we got one of the speediest drivers around and you're gonna hear that for your speediest tracks. With no such thing as congestion for any track you throw at the Zens. Zens spacious balanced tuning will reveal every part of your most complicated speediest tracks. Again showing the superior speed of the drivers here. I can’t think of too many earphones that use dynamics that can match the speed of the Zens. To my ears these are an ideal solution for Metal fans. I have a very eclectic collection of music I listen to but I grew up going to Slayer, Pantara and Sepultura concerts. So just know these do metal justice in fact I will say they are the ultimate solution for metal. Aggressive when called for and heavenly when not.
DSC07865.JPG
A State of Zen
In the end the Zens presents with a compelling reason why we spend that hard earned cash to play. Zens stellar performance is just one aspect of what you're getting. Their top tier class build and looks with an accessory package that is more akin to a TOTL package. You're most definitely getting what you're paying for and then some. Owning a lot of earphones and hearing a lot, you're gonna appreciate what separates this package to your other earphones. Seems to me DUNU is not messing around with the entire presentation here. If the Eclipse platform in the Zens are anything to go by it seems to me DUNU is only getting better at their craft. These earphones are a clear step forward for dynamic earphone fans and if you have the means. I can’t recommend an earphone highly enough. These are exceptional in every perceivable way.
As always, thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on DUNUs new masterpiece. You're not going to have that dreaded buyers remorse when looking into a set. No way. No how.

Attachments

  • DSC07868.JPG
    DSC07868.JPG
    795.2 KB · Views: 0
Last edited:
Redcarmoose
Redcarmoose
  • Like
Reactions: Dsnuts
M
MattKT
Thank you for such a thoughtful review! How would you say the Zen compares to models like the Lz A7 and Fiio FD5?
Dsnuts
Dsnuts
FD5 has more in common with the Zen than the A7 as they are both using some high resolution dynamic drivers but there is really where the similarities end. Zens are superior in refinements with a better balanced tuning and drives extremely well with any source you use them on. The difference is on the mids of the Zen vs the FD5. Zen is excellent for vocals and has a slightly upper mid forward signature vs the FD5 laid back mid bands.

corgifall

500+ Head-Fier
Give my ears all the ZEN
Pros: Fairly punchy and detailed low end. Very good vocal details. Wide and deep soundstage. DUNU cable with swappable plugs included. Scales well with better gear.
Cons: Upper treble a little relaxed. Upper Mids/lower treble have a slight boost that may come off sibilant at times. A little heavy. A little amp picky to sound its best.
IMG_4863.jpg


I will always admit to being a sucker for a good hybrid iem. I found the FiiO FD1 and now old Moondrop KXXS pretty neat and that was my first time with single DD iems. I recently reviewed the DUNU LUNA which really blew my mind with it’s main focus on mids and it’s wide and deep soundstage. I personally liked the LUNA, though I wasn’t a huge fan of the price, though a lot of the cost was from the huge amount of R&D that came from that project. The talk was that this was the start and that newer products would come out at lower prices with trickle down tech from the LUNA. The ZEN on paper seems like a really fanrastic next step for DUNU. Let's see what the new ZEN and it’s nanoDLC coated single dynamic driver can do!

Quick shoutout to Kevin from DUNU for sending me the ZEN to test and review. While I always appreciate the chance to test and review products sent in from manufacturers, it never affects the rating of my review.

More info on the ZEN can be found on the main DUNU ZEN announcement page:
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/zen-by-dunu-our-first-model-designed-around-next-generation-driver-platform-eclipsƎ.949689/

The ZEN can also be picked up from the DUNU store here: https://www.dunu-topsound.com/product-page/zen

Onto the review of the ZEN! My personal preference is a dynamic hybrid iem where I get good hitting bass and have a brighter treble with decent mids. When it comes to an over ear headphone I prefer a spacious sound with a deep low end, the mids to be more forward and the highs to be a little bright with some sparkle. I listen to a lot of genres but I hover in the classic rock, blues and edm music with some rap here and there.


Gear used
IPhone 12 pro with headphone adapter, iFi hip dac, Lotoo PAW S1, iFi NEO iDSD, SMSL SU-9 feeding the SH-9 and SP400 amps.

The tech side of the ZEN
I won’t fill my review up with a bunch of marketing material for the ZEN as a lot of the other seasoned reviews will cover every detail in their reviews. I will however link all of the neat tech inside the ZEN below.

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/zen-by-dunu-our-first-model-designed-around-next-generation-driver-platform-eclipsƎ.949689/

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/zen-by-dunu-our-first-model-designed-around-next-generation-driver-platform-eclipsƎ.949689/post-16040119

Looks and fit
The ZEN IMO is an absolute looker. It has a beautiful glossy black shell that has a nice weight to it. It also happens to be a fingerprint magnet and it currently looks hideous from me touching it. The sound nozzle is a little longer than what I normally see which makes it a little easier to find tips that work for my ears. The ZEN is a little heavy when worn but since I use the Ikko OH10 daily I wasn’t really bothered by the weight when listening for long sessions. The comfort in the ear is really good and the coating on the shell feels super smooth and this causes no chafing where the shell touches my ear when walking. The stock DUW-03 cable they include also looks fantastic. It had a wonderful silver and dark grey two tone finish. Pictures really don’t do it justice.
IMG_4864.jpg

Packaging and accessories
The unboxing experience was rather impressive. I know a lot of the other reviews will be including pictures of all the accessories so I’ll not go heavy on the pictures of what’s included. Nonetheless, we get the iems and cable presented on the top layer. Underneath that we have the three plugs that work with DUNU’s quick switch plug system. They include a single ended 3.5mm plug, 2.5mm balanced plug and finally a balanced 4.4mm pentaconn plug. They include a little case that holds two different types of ear tips. A wider bore and small bore set. There is also a little box that holds the leather case that can be used to hold the ZEN when traveling. They also give an airplane adapter, quarter inch adapter, shirt clip(really nice) iem cleaning tool and a few extra tips such as their classic white tips. A nice cloth to constantly clean the glossy ZEN is included as well.
IMG_4869.jpgIMG_4870.jpg

Sound
These final impressions were done off the SMSL SU-9 connected to the SMSL SP400. These are what the ZEN sounds like to my ears. Things like ear tip selection and DAC/amp selection will produce different results and impressions vs what my ears hear on my specific gear. Still feel free to roast me if you don’t agree with my impressions though haha

Lows
The ZEN does low end impact really well. Things never sound bloated and when something calls for a good low end thump, the ZEN delivers. The low end sounds really detailed and fast as well. I would call this low end accurate with a little fun thrown in. I don’t have much to say other than I was very impressed with the presentation of the low end.

Mids
Much like it’s older sibling the LUNA, the mids are done really well here. The ZEN has a middle/upper mid bump that allows vocals to sound really emotional and I had a blast with the ZEN just like I did with the LUNA. A lot of instruments in this frequency range come through really well and detailed too. I think this is one of the ZEN’s strong points.

Highs
The highs are tame here to my ears. There is still a little bit of sparkle at times to some higher frequency notes but for the most part things sound a little relaxed. While I would prefer a bit more energy up top, things still sound very detailed. Micro details still come through really well even with the lack of upper treble energy. This is a good example of a detailed top end that doesn’t sound ultra bright like a scalpel scraping on metal.

Soundstage/Imaging
Soundstage is fairly wide and deep for an iem. This is another one of the strong points IMO of the ZEN. This is something that scales well depending on the source gear being used. When the ZEN is allowed to stretch its legs with soundstage, it really goes for the gold. The imaging is also fantastic on the ZEN. It’s easy to pick out where each sound is placed in the stage the ZEN presents. I heard no dead spots in any of the side to side sound sweeps and just like the LUNA I found this to be impressive overall when it came to the stage and imaging.

Cable rolling
I threw the DUNU Chord cable, DUNU Noble/Stellar(LUNA) cable and Null Audio Lune cable at the ZEN. I wasn’t willing to constantly swap MMCX cables or deal with the nightmare that is unplugging them so I didn’t get to do nearly as much cable rolling as I would on a 2 pin iem. The Chord and Stellar(LUNA’s cable) give the ZEN a little more of a LUNA feel. I found the lows and highs somewhat tame vs the stock cable. The Lune cable sounded a lot like the DUW-03 stock cable that comes with the ZEN. I really didn’t see a need for an aftermarket cable unless you don’t like the thickness and weight of the included DUW-03 which I’ll get into below.

Stock cable
The stock cable(DUW-03) is absolutely beautiful to my eyes and I decided to leave it be for the last leg of testing. The two tone color scheme is really appealing to myself and I really like the thicker cable material. This thicker cable does make it heavier and this can cause some ear fatigue when listening for longer sessions if you’re not used to it. The stock cable also makes use of swappable plugs so this ends up being an all in one system. It helps that they include the common portable plugs so the need to get an aftermarket cable will come down to personal preferences. I personally wouldn’t change the cable. I will note that the included 4.4mm plug hated the hip dac and any movement at the plug end would cause a static noise spike. I swapped to one of the other 4.4mm DUNU plugs I have and things worked fine. I have no clue why just the hip dac hated that plug but I thought I should mention it.
IMG_4866.jpgIMG_4867.jpgIMG_4868.jpg

Tip rolling
Unlike the LUNA, there were no spinfits included with the ZEN. The included tips work fairly well but I got the best balance out of the spinfit CP145 which also happens to seal the best for my ears. Small bore tips make the ZEN into a harder hitting low end iem and the super wide bore tips tend to extend the treble at the cost of the low end frequencies. I found that the grey stock tips, classic blue DUNU tips, CP145 and Symbio tips all worked well here as they all end up in between the wide and small bore tips. I find the ZEN takes well to tip rolling. I would say definitely trying different tips out to see what sounds good to your ears.
IMG_4865.jpg

*IEM comparison note*
So I made the decision to avoid doing a comparison to the non single DD iems I had as the only thing I had in this price range was the 1st gen Campfire Andromeda and now discontinued ADV Sound M5-5D. They both sound rather different and while I like the Andros as a top dollar all BA standard, I also like the ZEN way more. Any time I popped the Andros in my ear I was instantly staring at the ZEN wondering when I would get bored and swap iems. I thought about comparing the ADV Sound M5-5D hybrid(was $650) but it sounds super bright and the mids are rather recessed. I normally liked this but the LUNA and ZEN made me appreciate mids a lot more since I’ve had the chance to listen to them. So while the LUNA is the only thing I’m gonna compare the ZEN to, I plan to use the ZEN in future single DD iem reviews.

DUNU LUNA comparison
I was thinking the ZEN would maybe be a mini LUNA with everything taken down a step or two. It turned out to sound like its own thing instead. Some things are close if not the same such as the wide and deep soundstage as well as the fantastic imaging that the LUNA had. The LUNA does have some advantages over the ZEN. The LUNA is super lightweight and can last longer listening sessions. The magic mids the LUNA has makes it a specific iem tuned for a specific use. It excels at what it does and the ZEN can’t quite match it the same way. The ZEN however sounds “fun” yet still very accurate in detail retrieval and I find the ZEN a better all rounder over the LUNA for everyday use. I think both are absolutely fantastic.
IMG_4875.jpg

Amping Combinations
The ZEN is a little amp picky in the sense that while using portable DAC/amps or DAPs will work just fine, the ZEN can really stretch its legs when you feed it better source gear.

Lightning headphone adapter
While this would be a “crap I forgot my portable gear at home” recommendation for me, I don’t find the lightning adapter horrible sounding. It can reach high volumes fine but you lose a lot of the sound quality the ZEN can offer.

iFi hip dac
The hip dac makes a pretty good combo with the ZEN. While the stage isn’t as wide, the ZEN is still a pleasure to listen to with the hip dac. Since the hip dac is a warmish amp. The low end gets a nice lift even without the Xbass feature. When it is active the ZEN turns into a little bass cannon. It doesn’t distort but you can tell it also sounds like it will start distorting if pushed any harder. I like this combo and recommend this for portable use. As with pretty much all iems, I pick up a decent amount of hiss when running the ZEN out of the balanced port. Hiss disappears when run single ended.
IMG_4872.jpg

Lotoo PAW S1
I don’t know why the S1 doesn’t get more love and testing time with iems. I use it mostly with my ipad which I don’t use often since I’m usually near my desktop setup. I happened to have the second one I own in my bag with my Ikko OH10 on the day that the ZEN arrived. Since it was the first device the ZEN was plugged into I decided to test the combo at home and on the go to see how it sounded. The S1 has a slightly warmer sound than the hip dac with a decent width to the soundstage so it complimented the ZEN pretty well out of its balanced port. While I could live with this combo, I found the power output to be slightly lacking in providing the dynamics and liveliness that I get from more powerful gear. I did find that even on high gain I had almost no floor noise with the ZEN.
IMG_4871.jpg

iFi NEO iDSD/ SMSL SU/SH-9
I find both the NEO and SH-9 sound fairly the same when I A/B test them. The only real difference is that I find the NEO a little warmer and wider sounding and the SH-9 a bit more detailed with a deeper sound. On the NEO the ZEN does well with the wider sound. The NEO also has a slight upper mid boost that is very noticeable on the ZEN. I wasn’t a huge fan but I found the pairing fine nonetheless. I did pick up a decent amount of hiss off the balanced port of the NEO. The SH-9 had a little better upper frequency energy and sounded a little more balanced though I missed a little of that low end thump I got from other amps. I got no hiss out of the SH-9 plugged into the balanced output. It’s not truly balanced so take that as you will haha. I found both pairing perfectly acceptable with the ZEN.
IMG_4873.jpg

S.M.S.L. SU-9/SP400
The SP400 produces a really wide and deep soundstage when attached to the SU-9 and this worked fantastically with the ZEN. The low end has better details and impact with the SP400 as well. Mids are super detailed and sound the best out of the other setups I tried. The top end is still fairly tamed but I got the best detail out of this setup. This was my favorite setup out of everything I listened with. Unfortunately it’s also the most expensive setup I have as well. While I don’t think something in the $1000 range is needed, I like that the ZEN scales really well with the gear it’s attached to.
IMG_4874.jpg

Amping thoughts
It doesn’t take much to get the ZEN to loud volume levels. To get the best sound quality I’d recommend good mid range DAP, portable DAC/amp or mid-high end desktop setup.

Overall thoughts
There was a decent amount of hype around the ZEN so I went into my first listen expecting an average listen. What I wasn’t expecting was to be blown away by the tuning of the ZEN. I was already won over by the looks of the ZEN as well as the cable and the unboxing experience. I wouldn't call this a mini LUNA, but I would say it took some of the best parts of the LUNA and became something really special with it’s own tuning. It’s not a perfect iem but goodness does it really try to check all the boxes on sound quality and looks. DUNU came out the gates of 2021 with a really special product. I think the ZEN is gonna be a big seller for DUNU and I expect all eyes will be on DUNU going forward to see what their next single DD release will be. I have a hard time finding any real faults with the ZEN. As such, I absolutely recommend the DUNU ZEN! There is a tour going on at the time of this review and If you’re on the fence with buying the ZEN then I’d recommend trying to get in on the listening tour. I think the ZEN is definitely worth looking at. While I’m a hardcore hybrid iem lover, I’m now very interested in single DDs and don’t plan to put the ZEN down anytime soon. Thanks for reading!
Last edited:
corgifall
corgifall
Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to check out the Monarch. I’m sure another reviewer will have a good comparison with it eventually.
F700
F700
Nice review and pleasing read! 👍
shenzhenaudio
shenzhenaudio
Great review, no wonder ZEN could be recommended. :thumbsup:
Top