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Brief Impression of DUNU-Topsound ALPHA 1 Hybrid Earbud

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  1. AnAnalogSpirit
    dunu-topsound_alpha1.jpg
     
     
    I'll begin by stating I have no affiliation with DUNU-Topsound, and I'll apologize for any confusion to anybody who may have read this, when I originally mis-posted my impressions as a footnote on the Sponsor's Launch Thread for the ALPHA 1 which is here.
     
    That said, I will now begin with my Impression of the ALPHA 1.
     
    My initial impression is a good one. The package arrived quickly by courier and the presentation box is very nice and was sealed with shrink wrap direct from the manufacturer. This is an improvement over my experience with the DN-19 from DUNU which was not shrinkwrapped. The presentation box can also double as storage for the large array of silicone flanges, silicone rings, foam donuts, and the well-made silicone-treated zip-pouch; which contains a full-sized 1/4" stereo jack adapter, and shirt-clip in the accessory pocket. Another item in the presentation box is a paper Maintenance record/ Warranty Card.
     
    Enough with the boring stuff.
     
    On to the looks of the ALPHA 1.
     
    They are very clean, spare, and handsome units. They are displayed attractively in the presentation box with their soft, flexible, gentle; yet apparenty durable silicone-rubber clad cable neatly spooled and tucked away. It is easily popped out with no hassle, and the ALPHA 1, fitted with what appear to be the Large silicone flange are easily removed and ready for a test drive.
     
    Another note about the design of the cable of the ALPHA 1; The Metal Y-Split (with chin snug), displaying the DUNU logo on one side, and Alpha 1 in script on the other, and the Termination, also in a nice black metal finish with a silver polished ring matching the silver of the earpiece housing, for fit-and-finish, with what appears to be the number in the manufacturing run of the ALPHA 1 series is listed on the 3.5mm Right Angle Jack, which has both adequate strain relief, and sliding freely on the cable line itself, the innovative silicone cable management strap unique to DUNU-Topsound IEMs and Earphones.
     
    While there is no rubberized strain relief from the cords leading into the earpieces themselves, there is a fair amount of give on the cable, leading me to believe the manufacturer made plenty of leeway for strain relief inside of the earpiece design with the cords provided you don't deliberately attempt to damage them. Another item of note is that the side-firing BA driver with its red dimple is of a high design aesthetic painted against the three upper and three lower grooves of the face of the earpiece housings. These look very classic, designwise.
     
    On to the Sound...
     
    I've been listening to these for about a week and they sound like DUNU tried their best to create a Reference Quality Earbud. By that I mean one that has all frequencies represented in a linear fashion, and the bass is present when it is there in the song, disappearing when not in the song. The mids are good. The highs are also very good, with the BA driver. The overall SQ with the BA driver and Dynamic driver in tandem is extended, but as I mentioned balanced and linear, which is a good thing. I was surprised by Dance music which sounds quite good with these, there was adequate bass presence, and a roundness so they did not sound anemic. Vocals also sound proper, both male and female from what I can tell. Guitars, such as Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" sound fantastic. These, while being a Hybrid design, sound rather cohesive.
     
    Regarding the modification of sound signature provided by the fit kit. The different tips, other than the silicone flanges, and the standard foams, didn't modulate the sound very much, but then i guess that meshes with the claims on the box. There was a tad bit more bass with the silicone flange, and more air with the foam rings...
     
    On a very personal note, and to elaborate on sound signature; I would say the flanges provided a more full and dense bass signature (slightly) as the bass impact reverberated somewhat throughout the silicone material (but it is not as dramatic as my text makes it out to be, it is mostly a slight tactility of the physical sense. Not a gimmick, but not magic). I would say the silicone rings are in the middle of the sound signature spectrum, as they allow the face of the drivers to be exposed, i.e. not blocked by the foam donut, while at the same time the side-firing BA driver is also exposed; giving you maximal "openness" of sound potential. I guess this is SQ Neutral. It also exposes two tiny areas in the SQ that I don't prefer to hear, but showed the surprising resolution, and at the same time soundstage of this little gem of and earbud. There was an ever so slight hollowness followed by a plasticky thud with some quick bass notes that isn't present with the silicone flange or the foam donuts, although the twinge of hollowness tends to remain for me with the flanges on.  
     
    I feel the best fit and SQ is with the standard foams. This is not just due to their comfort, but for their acoustic damping qualities as a second factor; it removes the slight extraneous harshness brought on by the high degree of resolution from the BA driver, and tiny hint of hollowness that a bare uncovered surface for the Dynamic driver allows into the music. The foam covers the holes, and cures this, softening those acoustic characteristics. Listen for yourself and feel free to disagree, that's just what I am hearing with these lovely earbuds. I think they're keepers.
     
    As a side-note, I also picked up a pair of B&O A8 finally which have a very spacious, is ever-so-slightly metallic cool tone to them,  but those are outclassed by the Alpha 1 in my book.
     
    BTW if you wanted to know if this pair will work well across genres, the answer is yes. Ambient, Acoustic, Electronic (any subgenre), Rap, Rock, I didn't have any problems. I was most surprised they didn't skimp on bass for Dance music, that was a welcome surprise!
     
     
     
    Footnote # 1 : 01/01/2015
     
    I was immediately impressed at how thick and heavy the sound of the ALPHA 1 was with the FiiO E17 via USB with the Treble set to 10 as well as the Bass control set to 10 as well for a balanced "enhancement" which I often use with the E17. 
     
    This Equalisation gives an enhancement which increases the apparent depth or punch of the treble and bass notes simultaneously with a given headphone, which is helpful if listening to one with limited range; but in this
    case, it created a very nice surprise as this is NOT the case in any way. 
     
    Playing Miss Kitten & The Hacker: First Album, The range was deep, punchy, with smooth highs, and grand dark tones; for a very nicely designed souped-up 
    earphone, or a new, unique type of IEM, depending upon your perspective as it applies to this unit. 
     
    The Alpha 1 definitely takes equalization well; no signs of distortion of any type in either direction from either driver on 
    either side of the frequency range. Just oodles of range. Happy New Year, indeed!
    Edited by AnAnalogSpirit - 1/1/15 at 2:36pm
     
     
     
    Further Impressions: A Collection of Footnotes...
     
     
     
    Footnote # 2 : 01/01/2015
     
    Listening to La Roux: La Roux (Japanese Edition); the track Bulletproof (TEPR Tsunaimee Remix) stood out when it allowed me to observe the detail retrieval, crispness, and clarity of both drivers and balance struck between both individual driver in the hybrid arrangement. That was a treat. I was surprised that each element exhibited such control and were so harmonious together. This was listened to via the E17's USB input again, and I listened with the Bass and Treble Filters boosted, and at neutral; and the performance was equally good just with different tonal density. With the boosted levels the sound remained surprisingly clean in comparison.
     
     
     
    Footnote # 3 : 01/02/01/2015
     
    When I put on Kylie Minogue: Body Language, the track After Dark made me think she would make a perfect New Year's Eve dance partner if she dances anything like she sounds. Anyhow, I guess from these footnotes, all of you can tell I am learning to enjoy these unique hybrid of earphones and IEM headphones. It may be premature to paint this picture, but If I was put on a desert island, with one pair of listening units from everything I've auditioned I'd hazard a guess I just may pick these, irregardless of whether or not they are truly closed and highly isolating.
     
     
     
    Footnote # 4 : 01/03/2015
     
    When listening to Depeche Mode's Policy Of Truth (Capitol Mix) via Optical on my E17; I was impressed with the clean sound and perfect placement of notes throughout the track. This is the cleanest audio I have heard so far in any combination of any equipment I have owned. Cleaner than with my MA900, or F1. Forward a track to Something To Do (Black Strobe Mix), also by Depeche Mode; and the kick drums are tight and precise, the synthesizer oscillations waver distinctly, and the loops are clear, and are clearly artificial next to the organic microphone vocalization of the singer.
     
     
     
    Footnote # 5 : 01/06/2015
     
    Comfort is good. There are two faces to the level of comfort with this hybrid unit that I wish to speak to.
     
    One is simple, and that is as an earbud.
     
    As an earbud it is simple to say it is an earbud with a range of rings that offer a variation in fit with the silicone rings, and with the foam rings you have the addition of some acoustic modification to the sound.
     
    Then there is the flip side of this unit; converting it to an IEM.
     
    This is a mode that, thanks to the soft, high-quality silicone rubber fittings is also comfortable.
     
    When fitting the ring with the silicone flange, you allow the unit to fit your ear like an IEM rather than an earbud.
     
    This makes it a unique IEM, even among non-traditional IEM's if you include the YUIN OK series. That is because as an IEM this unit sits outside of the ear canal entirely; and the sound isn't funneled directly into your canalspace. There is more room in front of the canal, formed by the silicone flange and the unit itself, with a pocket of air beneath it and your ear canal. The Dynamic driver resides in a large chamber, piping its audio in through a dispersion grille consisting of 24 small aperatures, and the Balanced Armature driver is side-firing.
     
    The immediacy of the pair of elements sounds like a single driver with everything played through them from simple to complex music; or from movies, including with virtual 7.1 channel surround sound mix. These units really shine with everything I throw at them, even a little better than my nicer cans. I really don't forsee anybody who trys these being disappointed. 
     
     
     
    Comfort by ring/tip:
    (Order = Most to Least)
     
    Foam Ring
    Thin Silicone Ring
    Sport Style Silicone Flange Ring (Medium)
    Thick Silicone Ring
    NOTE: I happen to prefer the more open "earbud" feel of the Foam Ring, which just sits in your ear canal like any other earbud, rather than the more fitted, IEM-like, anchored feel that the Sport Style Silicone Flange Ring allows, where they are connected by a secure friction fit.
     
     
     
    Footnote # 6 : 01/08/2015
     
    On Isolation...
     
    In general, the isolation is on par with an earbud setup; although the Sport Style Silicone Flange Ring imparts a near-IEM level of isolation, if you can conceive of the level a closed can would provide, that doesn't seal and one that you can still "hear through" quite a bit... I suppose "light isolation" would be the term I am looking for to describe this unit in IEM mode.
     
    The Silicone Flange converts these earbuds into a form factor resembling an IEM that nestles into your ear with a flexible silicone grommet. As you can imagine, such a configuration is looser than an earplug-like arrangement that canalphones or deeply-inserting in-ear monitors would provide, hence I mention the term "lightly isolating".
     
     
     
    Footnote # 7: 01/08/2015
     
    Summary Thought(s)
     
    I have been listening with the different rings/tips since I purchased the ALPHA 1 which arrived nearly two weeks ago, and have tried every ring/tip combination adequately by now.
     
    I would say the isolation is minimal to the light side of average, including the Silicone Sport Style Flange Ring, which has modest isolation; otherwise I would say this unit has negligable isolation, as I can hear cars, airplanes, etc. It is variable depending on the ring/tip fitted, and the music selection being played.
     
    The silicone sets offer more isolation but not much, the foams offer none, and as stated the flange tip the best.
     
    That said, I find the output Powerful, and not requiring an amplifier to reach Intensity.
     
    This is a good thing, and these will be satisfying to anybody from any source they choose, although I did find that they also scaled nicely with amplification, and were amenable to EQ.
     
    So it's a bit of a win for everybody.
     
    Unless you specifically require an IEM that is sealed.
     
     
     
    Some Photos of the ALPHA 1:
     
    2015-01-0113.19.01.jpg
    ALPHA 1 with NO Ring or Foam attached
     
    2015-01-0214.04.27.jpg
    ALPHA 1 with Slim Silicone Ring attached
     
    2015-01-0113.07.04.jpg
    ALPHA 1 with Thick Silicone Ring attached
     
    2015-01-0113.09.24.jpg
    ALPHA 1 with Silicone Flange Ring attached
     
    2015-01-0113.18.07.jpg
    ALPHA 1 with Foam Ring attached
    (see how the baffle grille is covered by the foam?)
     
     
    I hope you enjoyed reading my Impressions and Footnotes, and get a chance to audition these for yourselves!
     
  2. bibinjohn5000
    thanks for the impressions.. if anyone wants to buy these here is the link.
    [Link removed due to members reporting content issues - Mod]
     
  3. Nec3


    Edit: nevermind, nice review
     
  4. s5300
     
    Be careful clicking this link - as legit and normal as it looks, i'm quite sure it sent me to a porn site w/malware.
     
  5. joe Administrator
    I've tested the link, and it's working fine for me.  You may want to run some scans to make sure your computer is malware-free.
     
  6. shultzee

    Same here.  Be careful with link.
     
  7. DaddyMojo
    Good review and interesting IEM.  Do you have any reference to how they sound compared to other DUNU products?  I was curious if they have developed and stay true to their own sound or they have different IEMs with different sounds.
     
  8. Fadem

    Same here too.
     
    Clicking the link a second time does send me to the penonaudio website though...
     
  9. s5300
     
    Same with my case. @joe, any idea?
     
    Link problems aside - these seem like an earbud I'd like. Always liked earbuds over IEM's, but they could normally never give the same quality for a decent price. Looking forward to more impressions.
     
  10. joe Administrator
    I've removed the link, as it does not appear to be an isolated issue.
     
  11. AnAnalogSpirit
    I have the DN-19 Tai Chi, and those are also good. I'll consider reviewing them soon.
     
  12. bibinjohn5000
    @all sorry for the issues with the link. I don't know what happened. i just copy-pasted the link from penon audio. Next time i will be careful..
     
  13. cylpol1
    How's the isolation and the comfort
     
  14. kjk1281
    Wondering how these compare to the Creative Aurvana Air and Sennheiser MX985.



    No apology necessary, though I'll probably think twice about buying from that site.
     
  15. kablecorner
    Great review  .
    In Australia you can now get them here:
     
    http://a1futureshop.com.au/index.php?route=product/product&path=95_96&product_id=742
     
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