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DUNU DK-4001 --- Discussion & Impressions Thread

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  1. tomscy2000
    There are definite plans for offering it but I have no idea when they’ll be rolling it out as a standalone product.
    audionewbi likes this.
  2. tomscy2000
    Warning: effusive praise ahead

    After 3 or so weeks with the DK-4001, and having compared it to the DK-3001, as well as a number of high-end flagships, I can make a few more statements on it with more confidence:
    • The 4001, to my ears, is really well-rounded. It’s not too warm and not too bright. Depending on your existing tastes, however, YMMV. I doubt most people would find the 4001 harsh, though a minority may find it on the brighter side of neutral. Another small minority might actually desire more sparkle. As it stands, I find the 4001 to be an ideal balance, and I can enjoy it at low volume or higher volumes. Compared to DUNU's previous models, the 2000J and 3001, I could only enjoy them at lower volumes. Luckily, I always tend to listen at low volumes anyway, but my being able to listen to the 4001 comfortably at higher volumes is a sign it's not too bright. I've found that increasing OI (simulated with using a 90 ohm resistor adaptor) will make the DK-4001 less bright in a non-linear fashion. As always, Comply foams also help tame the perceived sharpness of errant peaks. However, for me personally, I've mostly been listening to the 4001 with the included SpinFit tips and with sources with <1 ohm OI. If DUNU has a 'house sound' to speak of, it is that of a showy U-shaped or V-shaped sound signature, usually with highs that sparkle quite a bit, sometimes to its own detriment. I feel DUNU has tamed these tendencies for a more mature, buttoned-down approach.
    • I've been around the block for detailed IEMs. Few TOTL IEMs will be able to top the 4001 in terms of detail retrieval; I don’t feel it to be lacking detail in any way. I hear as much detail in the lows as any other IEM around, and the relatively open sounding soundstage doesn't congest treble detail. Breath sounds are fully articulated, while chimes and echoes are rendered completely. Hi-hat strikes are convincing, and cymbal decays are wide and evolutional. Against the 3001, bass detail is far superior on the 4001, providing superior extension, control, and articulation. The 3001 is also far less refined in the treble, sounding splashy and lacking in extension compared to the 4001. I was just astounded by how much better the 4001 sounded in comparison to the 3001. Driver speed is a non-issue. It doesn't sound like an electrostatic driver or planar magnetic, and won't ever reach that kind of speed quality, but it is about as effortless a sound as any dynamic driver I've heard.
    • The cable is a pleasure to use. It's not too thick and is fairly flexible, with comfortable soft heat shrink style ear guides. I haven't swapped out the plugs much at all, but the latch mechanism is secure and intuitive. I can imagine a lot of people getting just this cable for their other IEMs as well.
    • The accessories kit has matured somewhat as well. DUNU no longer includes a billion different types of silicone tips that people might not ever use, instead curating tips that are of value (i.e. SpinFit, Comply, in-house tips) and sticking with a single set. This makes a lot of sense, considering the potential customer base of the DK-4001 --- it'll mostly be previous owners of DUNU IEMs, as well as owners of other higher-end IEMs. They'll all most likely have accrued a ton of tips over the years. The lambskin carry case won't meet the needs of musicians on tour, but for the well-heeled professional with money to spare, the case fits right in with the attache lifestyle. Its major drawback is a lack of elastic 'penholder' type attachments on the inside to securely carry a few of the modular plugs in addition to the earphones themselves.
    • Ergonomically, the 4001 fits well in my ears and gets rid of the sharp edges in the 3001. It feels more comfortable than the N5005 and Solaris, and maybe a little better than the Andromeda. The fit is not quite as elegant as a classic concha bowl fit of a Shure or Westone, but I don't find any issues with it, even after several hours in my ears. I get pretty good isolation with it as well, considering it is a vented IEM. The customized CP145 SpinFit tips are an excellent pairing. The clear silicone tips don't sound or fit nearly as well. The weight is lighter than the stainless steel 3001. However, it does sometimes feel paradoxically light. No one expects a metal shelled IEM to be this light. That's one strange thing about these Zirconium alloy bodies that I can't get used to.
    • Its major drawbacks are (1) average imaging characteristics, and (2) insertion depth dependent treble resonance.
      • For (1), from experience, good quality imaging in an IEM requires either an on-axis driver (like the Sony IER-Z1R or really coherent phase alignment with tubing (or both). An obliquely mounted driver often produces somewhat hazy imaging. This is the case with the Sony MDR-EX1000, and the 4001 follows. Vocals aren't huge, and they're not obviously front and center like those on the Campfire Solaris. But they don't come off as recessed at all. Front and rear directional imaging is not the best. However, compared to the 3001, I think it's better.
      • For (2), there is an insertion sweet spot that allows the 4001 to not sound harsh in any way and still render treble harmonics realistically. However, it requires a lot of adjustment within the ear and the SpinFit tips provide a really tight vacuum seal within my ears, imparting strong driver flex if I adjust the fit too vigorously. At shallower fits, while I wouldn't call it harsh, it can sometimes render some decay harmonics in a slightly unrealistic manner. To me, while it might not be as good as some other flagships, it's pretty close and definitely holds its own against $$$$ TOTL flagships.
    • Considering all of the benefits it has over the 3001, comfort-wise and sound-wise, as well as a very versatile and high quality cable, the 4001 is a wise upgrade over the 3001. However, if you can wait, and your budget can't be stretched, it might be a good idea to hold out for the DK-3001 Mark II sometime later this year. It'll most likely incorporate all the ergonomic improvements of the 4001 into the 3001.
    • I really hate dealing out so little criticism of products, because I don't like to give off the idea that products are too good to be true. At $880-899 USD, the 4001 certainly isn't cheap, so it's not a product people should buy blindly. DUNU have put together a product that is really compelling at this price point, however. The 3001 was a value, but some people might be able to make the argument that there are $150-200 Chi-Fi IEMs that are as good or better. It'll be hard to find a $400 IEM, regardless of origin, that is as well rounded as the 4001, unless it's particularly well-tailored to personal tastes.
    • If you're a serial IEM shopper (you guys know who you are) with lots of high-end stuff already, this is an IEM to experience. Its hybrid configuration is unique --- 2-way, rather than multi-way, and more of a BA-enhanced dynamic, rather than band separated design.
    • If you're on a budget, but can potentially stretch that budget to meet the 4001's asking price, make sure you physically listen to it, whether it is at a store, from a loaner, or anything else. Never make any purchase just based off subjective reviews (unless you buy it from a store with a good return policy).
    • If you're an existing 'DUNU fan', this one is without a doubt the best the company has ever released. This is the one to have.
    • DUNU needs to give itself a pat on its own back; it managed to inject a ton of refinement into the DK-4001 that was previously only heard in TOTL IEMs. I had a few doubts going in whether DUNU would be able to pull off an IEM that competed on a level playing field against other top-tier IEMs, but the DK-4001 is a deserving contender.
    • So what are its main competitors?
      • The Sony IER-M7/M9, maybe. But the M7 lacks bass definition and the M9, while it has great treble extension, has unnatural sounding timbre.
      • Some Oriolus model? Can't comment, because I haven't heard them. I remember not finding them particularly comfortable so I never bothered with them. Same thing with stuff from HYLA. They looked too bassy for my tastes.
      • The 4001 is almost exactly the same price as the Fidue A91 Sirius. Both are 5 driver hybrids. Both are their respective flagships. I haven't heard the Sirius, however.
      • Something from Dita? Maybe. The Answer models are a bit too peaky though. The Dream is in another price bracket.
      • Campfire has a solid offering in the Andromeda. However, if you ask me which one I prefer (with low OI), it'd be the 4001. But I'm sure there will be plenty who prefer the Andromeda. So it's a toss up. The Solaris provides a better holistic listening experience, but it's a whole price bracket higher.
      • Another choice is the N5005. It maintains that somewhat surgical sound of the K3003 before it, but was tuned to a better target response curve than its predecessor. I like the smoother sound of the 4001 a little more, along with its more linear sounding bass. The N5005's sub-bass comes on somewhat abruptly by design. I'll call a toss up based on personal preference.
      • I'm sure there are many more potential comparisons, but I'm tired. I'm stopping here.
    Raketen, FlySweep, phthora and 6 others like this.
  3. Mrcojocaru
    Awesome write up!
    tomscy2000 likes this.
  4. Raketen
    I've long wanted to try the Sirius, reading around (perhaps mistakenly) get the impression i'ts one of the better mid-centric-ish IEMs available. Would not have thought I'd ever like a mid-centric signature but got the Earsonics ES2 last year and was surprised how much I came to enjoy them- possibly either in spite of or because of the stereotyped Earsonics eccentricities (one of those things that just gets the feel of certain tones so right I don't mind the overall balance seeming off).

    Sirius shells (Fidue shells in general) look pretty intimidating to my ears though :dizzy_face:
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2019
    tomscy2000 likes this.
  5. bumpyhead
    Will it be an upgrade or downgrade if I shift from SE846 to DK-4001?
  6. tomscy2000
    I really have no idea about the A91; I tried the A83 years ago and disliked them a lot, for both fit and sound, so I didn't bother hunting for an audition of the A91 when it came out. It was also released at a time where my mind really wasn't focused on audio. If I interpret the FR of the A91, it seems to tick a lot of the right boxes, but it's difficult to say whether it'll translate favorably to real-world listening. I've trained myself to be able to predict how an FR will generally appear from listening to an IEM, but I don't like to make predictions as to how an IEM will sound based off FR alone. Only a general direction i.e. warm, bright, thick, shimmery, etc. can be surmised.

    On SQ alone, I feel the DK-4001 is an upgrade. The SE846 is probably a better ergonomic fit for more people because of the narrower nozzles and curvy body, though the Zirconium shells are more durable than the engineered plastics of the SE846. The SE846 has the advantage of exchangeable tuning nozzles to tailor high frequency response. However, detail, end-to-end extension, and soundstage are better on the 4001. After having compared the 4001 against multiple flagship-level IEMs, I feel the 4001 is on the level of $1K+ flagships in all aspects of sound quality.
    Raketen and bumpyhead like this.
  7. tomscy2000
    IMG_1057.jpg IMG_1059.jpg
    IMG_1060.jpg IMG_1061.jpg
    I did some comparisons, mostly with more expensive universals.

    Campfire Solaris & Andromeda (non-S)
    Solaris has the advantage of having remarkable 3D imaging with accurate spatial positioning of musical elements, perhaps better so than any other IEM around (barring ones I haven't heard, such as the Sony IER-Z1R). It also forward projects a large vocal image. Against the DK-4001, the Solaris is clearly ahead in the imaging department, winning out in its ability to localize musical elements with ease. The Solaris possesses a similar bass quality, articulating low level details equally well. Some people have mentioned the Solaris lacks bass speed. I disagree. I think it's pretty effortless for a dynamic driver. It doesn't bloat, have excessive decay, or have abrupt drops/rises in response. The midrange can sound hollow, and I feel it's slightly too warm for my own tastes. Treble is reasonable, brighter than I thought it would be, but very well-controlled for sibilance and harshness. Treble extension is decent and smooth. The DK-4001 is wider in soundstage and possesses better separation along the x-axis, but is far less three dimensional, i.e. less tall y-axis, and far less z-axis projection --- the 4001's imaging characteristics are its weak point. However, the tonal balance of the midrange is more natural with the DK-4001. Detail retrieval is about the same across the board. The 4001 has very slightly more mid-bass. Control and layering of bass is about the same. Overall, versus the 4001, I do feel the Solaris, because it offers something special in its ability to convey a coherent, round, three dimensional soundstage, has a justified asking price over the more affordable 4001. However, I don't like the way it sticks out of my ears, and I don't need to hear a holographic soundstage on an everyday basis. It's also insanely sensitive. I can barely go above one or two single volume clicks, even from a low-powered FiiO BTR1K. The Andromeda is a better direct comparison to the DK-4001. The two are somewhat similar in price (~$200 difference), and the two models indeed perform on a similar technical level. The Andromeda, to me, is somewhat less superior a performer than the DK-4001, especially if I'm using a low OI output device. The DK-4001 is a little better in bass definition, and a little sweeter in the midrange, with similar levels of detail retrieval, winning out slightly. The Andromeda wins out slightly with treble extension and sibilance control. The Andromeda is fairly comfortable despite its boxy looks, but the DK-4001 is still more comfortable and doesn't stick out of my ears at all. This is probably a toss-up for most people and will come down to personal preference. I'm looking forward to hearing the Andromeda S version.

    AKG N5005 (Reference Filter)
    This was a comparison I was looking forward to, because of the two's proximity in price (~$100 apart) and similar configuration. The N5005 is surprisingly non-sensitive. I have to up the volume clicks higher than the DK-4001 to achieve a similar level of volume. Comfort-wise, I feel the DK-4001 fits a little more snugly. The insertion angle of the N5005 feels a little awkward, so I find it difficult to get a perfect seal. This, however, is probably a personal issue and fit will vary for people. Sound-wise, the biggest disappointment is the N5005's somewhat metallic timbre. I felt a little let down by it months ago when I tried it for the first time, and again this time as well. It has good detail retrieval, but something sounds off. Chimes, cymbals and hi-hats don't seem to decay naturally. The bass, while fun with its sub-bass only boost, is not as well defined and layered as that of the DK-4001. At the end of the day, I prefer the 4001 to the N5005. The 4001 has a more approachable and relaxed sound signature, suitable for a wider audience. However, the two are close enough to each other in price, performance, and accessories that I feel the purchase choice comes down to personal preference. The N5005 does have a large selection of filters, such that an individual can tailor the upper midrange and high frequencies to personal taste, given that the overall tone and timbre jive well with the listener.

    JVC HA-FD01
    Despite being big and heavy, the JVC is deceptively comfortable. The edge for long-term comfort and ergonomics still goes to the 4001 because of its smaller size and much lighter weight. Sound-wise, it's difficult to assess on equal footing because the JVC won't stand a chance un-modded. I actually haven't heard the FD01 modded, but I trust it sounds remarkably good with a mod. Unmodded, the FD01 is too bright and strident. But it has so much potential in its driver and rigid body.

    64audio tia Fourte & U18 Tzar
    Let me make it clear: I've never understood why the Fourte was priced so high. I've always preferred the U18 to the Fourte (have not heard the U12t, Trio nor the N8t). I don't really get its exorbitant price, except for the fact that it has a good quality, large center image that projects vocals deeply, along with good detailing (though not better than other TOTLs, IMHO). But aside from the large center image, the treble sounds surprisingly splashy and metallic, and the bass is, well, average (for a $1K+ TOTL IEM). To me, the Campfire Solaris provides as good or better of an experience with respect to imaging. The U18t Tzar, while it has a more conventional, in the head type of center image presentation, sounds more enjoyable. It has great detail, which probably does surpass that of the DK-4001. However, the bass is very BA-esque. The lowest registers lack detail and layering. If the U18 had better definition and control to its bass, it'd be a clear-cut winner over the 4001 in terms of technical performance. I might actually enjoy it more than the DK-4001 if it did. But it doesn't, and it also doesn't project large center vocals (the similarly crazy-expensive Vision Ears Erlkonig has the same problem), so I can't really justify its asking price. I certainly can't justify the Fourte's asking price. Are these two models, in absolute terms, 'better' than the DK-4001? Maybe?
  8. tomscy2000
    Update: I've cataloged all of my own impressions, as well as others' impressions (very few) into an up-to-date post located at the second post of the thread:
  9. bumpyhead
    Is DK-4001 under mass production yet or not?
  10. Dobrescu George
    AFAIK, it was supposed to go on global large-scale sale during January, or towards early Feb
  11. tomscy2000
    It should be. Isn't it available for sale at Penon Audio?
  12. stenog
  13. tomscy2000
    Actually, I just found out that they don't have it quite in stock yet, and are just listing it for people to order; the international version of the DK-4001's packaging is still being printed and packaged right now, apparently. But it increasingly looks like it'll be very soon when ample quantities are available for people to buy.
  14. bumpyhead
    Delivery not guaranteed. Time table does not seem to be working in conventional expectation.
  15. tomscy2000
    I think they have a set of priorities as to where they send their stock first. During my chat with the CEO, he mentioned that over 70% of their total sales revenue was within China. I think they had over 500 pre-orders in China alone, so they spent most of October, November, and December fulfilling those orders. Their second largest market is Japan, where they have a longtime distributor in Sound Earth. They have to send sufficient quantities to Japan, where the distributor then provides stock to resellers like e-earphone and so forth. It's understandable that the Japanese stores get a bulk of the available stock. The rest of the world, including the rest of the Asia-Pacific, the US, and even Russia, comprises a smaller proportion of their total sales quantity. Thus, it's probably difficult for a reseller like Penon to get stock immediately. From my talk with them, it seems like DUNU want to maintain good relationships with traditional regional distributors, so online distribution channels, in my estimation, are not as high up a priority.
    bumpyhead likes this.
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