DUNU In-Ears Reviews, Impressions and Discussion

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by shotgunshane, Jan 22, 2021.

  1. YMO

    YMO it's not drinking alone if you're on Zoom

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    As usual, my proofreading skills are meh.

    So more IEMs to try out, and chatter about a good DD IEM for $700 that isn’t complete crap. Where to sign up? Oh wait, right here of course.

    I was thinking about getting another IEM later in the year to round up my collection of what I have. I was hoping the Dunu Zen IEM could fit the bill. I also heard great things about Dunu 100% BA IEM the SA6. Since I got both in a loaner, lets try them both and see what I think about them.

    To be on point, I was caught off guard…


    Sources
    :

    Thinkpad X260 via Roon or Foobar2000 via UPnP Output Component or BubbleUPnP > PI2AES [Toslink Output] > Massdrop x Airist R-2R DAC (RDAC) > Zampotech SW51+

    Roon or UPnP > PI2AES [Coax Output] or Pioneer DV-79AVi DVD Player (CD Transport) [Toslink Output] > Schiit Bifrost 2 > DNA Starlett

    Sony WM1A DAP with the Mr. Walkman Custom Firmware


    Zen Packaging and Design
    :

    The loaners only included the packaging of the Dunu Zen. Packaging is damn good and just about what I expect from a near TOTL IEM experience. It isn’t too flashy, but it isn’t too cheap either. Zen comes with with you need to get yourself up and running on them. The carrying case is good but I wish it was a little bigger since it could be a tight fit with the Zen and the stock cable. The stock cable is good but on the heavier side, tug it down and you will feel the weight on your ears. On the plus side the stock cable uses the Dunu socket system, so the included 2.5mm and 4.4mm connectors can be swapped out at any time with the 3.5mm one as well. I can’t stress that this feature is amazing. The Zen does uses MMCX connectors. Stock tips are solid and I don’t feel like I need to try any third-party tips if I have to be honest.

    The Zen itself is kind of smallish for an IEM. I think the casting is a metal material that can get cold if you have it sitting in a cold environment. The nozzle isn’t the longest, but the design of the Zen was I think designed to go deep in your ears for seal. It would be hard to not have these give you a good seal in your ears. It’s a great looking design, but some might say these don’t look like $700 IEMs. The price comes through in the sound IMO, and the tuning to make a DD IEM not sound like ass.


    SA6 Design
    :

    SA6 loaner didn’t come with the packaging, just the same carrying case and stock cable of the Zen. Same issue on the stock cable with the Zen. It is a little too heavy, but the plus it also uses the Dunu socket system. The SA6 uses the two-pin connectors on these, not MMCX.

    The design on the SA6 is very different than the Zen. SA6 as you may know is a Six-BA Driver IEM with a switch on each side of the IEM that more/less raise the bass by a few dbs. The SA6 uses this artificial plastic thingy casing, which I think feels better at times than the metalish casting of the Zen. On the outer part of the IEMs is a wood piece (I think) that looks nice, but the color can be different I think when getting a SA6. The loaner has this brownish color to the wood piece. For $550 these don’t feel or look like $550 IEMs. Honestly if I didn’t know what these were I thought they would cost $1000 new. The SA6 fits ok in my ears, but I think some might have issues with the stock cable holding their ears too tight at around the two-pin connector. On my ears if I have them on too tightly or in an angle it kind of hurts my ears. I also get minor pressure and really minor discomfort when having the IEM touching my outer ear for some reason after a while. So I guess Zen fits slightly better for me? I know some did say the Zen was causing issues on the fit for them, so as usual your mileage may vary on IEMs and how they fit in your ears. If there's any real flaw for me with the SA6 that isn't the sound, it is the fit.


    Zen Sound:

    It’s a DD IEM, so you will get the DD benefits. For starters, subbass impact is there, but not bloated on a “fun” IEM. Nothing feels too sharp or too “detailed-focus” like higher # BA Driver IEMs in theory. Treble is also on the smoothish side, and as I stated before not shart.

    Ok enough on that part, for starters this can be the upgrade for those who really like the JVC HA-FDX1. If you were hoping for a little more bass, and more vocal impact, then you will be right at home with the Zen. Nothing feels congested like I get somethings on the JVC, since I think soundstaging (lol on an IEM) is better on the Zen. I think the tuning isn’t too crazy, it’s on the warmish side of things but not warmpoo. I think @shotgunshane calling it W-tuning isn’t too far off. I don’t personally call this a W-tuning IEM, but I can really see where some people could call it as such.

    To my ears, there’s more bass than the JVCs, and it could be slightly boosted in my view. I found this quite helpful on the various genres that I thrown at it. Maybe there were times that in some of the milder tracks on David Sylvian – Gone to Earth the bass was almost hitting into the mids for me, but it never got to that point. I think it is very tastefully done since I don’t mind a minor bass boost, which is what I’m getting on the Zen. So if you hate a pure BA IEM on bass since you think it has no air/life, then you will be right at home with the Zen with its enough rumble without being stupid. I do like the DD bass decay on these.

    Midrange for me gets most things right. If I have to be honest, I found the Zen to have slightly forward Midrange. I think some where saying the same thing about the JVCs having a forward Midrange, but I didn’t have that problem on mine with the green filter. On the Zen, I noticed it right away on Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On, provided if I have the volume a little too high on the Zen. If you have the volume too might, the midrange becomes too much and can be crazy. Even without the volume being too much, on some recordings the vocals can also be slightly too much and can bleed at times like in Bee Gees – Odessa. However, it wasn’t a big problem for someone like me, but I can tell that for some people this could be a problem. I’m not going on and on about this part, but male/females vocals sound right on to me with the Zen, and same for musical instruments.

    Treble is what I was expecting on a DD, kind of relaxed a bit but with some life in there. I do think for someone with a treble fetish they should either stick to BA IEMs or EQ this one. Per Dunu’s FR graph, it seems to be downward sloping with some sparkle. I agree with this. I don’t think this is lifeless at all, but I think on some tracks I wish the treble was little more there if that make sense. I think of the same thing with the JVCs and on the Moondrop Starfield as well. I guess that’s what the limitations of a DD driver are I guess.

    Soundstage is great here on the Zen, much more than the JVCs. I do find the staging to be upfront, which make sense since I found the vocals to be a little forwarding sounding. As long as you don’t blast the volume too loud, then the soundstage doesn’t sound compressed at all. Layering is good for a DD IEM, but I do believe BA IEMs with multiple drivers can outclass this part here over a DD. DD IEMs feel like everything in the sound meshes together, while on BA IEMS everything is more separate. Adjusting the Input Z on the Zen didn’t do too much on the sound, including switching the Output Impedance on my amps. I will also say that the Zen does do a good job telling the difference between the sources, and yes it can scale depending on your source.


    SA6 Sound:

    Sounds like an excellent BA IEM for the price of only $550. However, it does sound different depending on Input Z. Run them directly in a desk amp and most likely it will be a darker sounding IEM that’s bassy. Use an IEMatch on 2.5 ohm Input Z/High Mode to make it a lot less bassy and more treble. So using an IEMatch and you want to make it a little more bassy? Put the switch on and you have a little more bass and treble if you want to make it kind of U-Shaped sound, but not really if that even make sense. These should in theory be neutral with a bass boost, but the more I keep changing things around the more it can sound different.

    I prefer to use an IEMatch for these most of the time (since I’m 99% using desk amps), but I don’t mind having the SA6 sound a little more bassy when I feel like it, so I just remove the IEMatch or put the switch on the IEMs to do that bass boost when using the IEMatch (to keep the treble and add some bass). The stuff that I just typed above may not even make sense at all to some, and to be honest you might be right. To make this short: Excellent sound quality for $550 + With the switch to adjust the bass + Have the IEMatch near you = Tons of Flexibility with a killer tonality for the most part.

    Treble is one of the slightly weakest points of the SA6. It barely, barely have the sharp BA treble that people love to hate. Also, I don’t think it extends as far as it could. Then again, this is a $550 IEM and there’s stuff in the $,$$$ range that will beat the treble of the SA6. If you aren’t plugging into something that’s 2.5 ohm Input Z, it might be too dark for you. I stated before that on some tracks I don’t mind this at all. If you want more crazy extension and details, well remember how much this retails for. I wouldn’t be shocked that my old OG Andromeda has better treble over the SA6. Or maybe I should get longer tips?

    The Midrange here is excellent with fantastic layering and separation that BA IEMs are known for. Like @shotgunshane I’m not able to find anything wrong in the midrange. Everything just I dunno, flows well without anything annoying sticking out. The midrange here is not even close to being forward like on the Zen, so none of that here at all. Vocals and instruments sounds right, and it does an excellent job on detail retrieval. I’m having a hard time telling what is sticking out. Tone is fantastic and not dumb like in most IEMs.

    The bass is great, considering this is a BA IEM. With the switch control you can add more heft to the bass. It’s a borderline BA IEM tightness and DD IEM bass for me.. Of course if you want to make this more tighter, use an IEMatch on High/2.5 Input Z. I found the bass to be excellent on Electronic Music, Rock, and other things that I prefer a more bass impact. While the bass is not limp here at all like a lot of BA IEMs, a DD IEM at the end of the day for me will still be better for bass decay and its weight floating through the notes, if that even make sense.

    The soundstage here is worse than the Zen, but not upfront/front like the Zen. I think it is a good balance here between close to front row seats and a few rows back. This part doesn’t change too much depending on your source.


    Zen VS SA6:
    • SA6 wins on separation/layering/details for the price.
    • SA6 can be more flexible on sound depending on Input Z changes and its bass switch.
      • But you better have an IEMatch near you if you want to obtain the full benefits of the SA6.
    • SA6 for the most part doesn’t have the stereotypical BA IEM flaws except for minor moments in treble.
    • SA6 works quite well on my WM1A DAP with the Mr. Walkman firmware.
    • Zen might fit better on more ears than SA6.
    • Zen being a DD IEM works better on desk amps like SW51+ and DNA Starlett than SA6.
      • Zen also have a plus of scaling good, and I think it scales better than SA6.
      • SA6 does work on desk amps, for example the DNA Starlet works better on the SA6 IMO than the SW51+. Still, you are the judge and make sure you have your IEMatch around.
    • Zen also being a DD IEM will give you the bass impact and decay.
      • While having less separation/layering/details than SA6.
    • Zen has more soundstage than the SA6 but due to its upfront nature it can be too much depending on your volume knob.
    • Zen I consider to be a nice upgrade from the JVC HA-FDX1, but it may not be the big upgrade that some might be hoping for. I think some might prefer the SA6 over the Zen if upgrading from the JVCs.

    Conclusion
    :

    This is hard. I do enjoy the sound of the SA6 more than the Zen, considering for $550 you get a lot of IEM for the price. However, the fit of the SA6 is less than ideal for me over the Zen. The Zen being a DD IEM is more useful for my needs, since 99% of my listening is on desk amps. Even the SA6 being a pure BA IEM, honestly I think for those who have the HA-FDX1 might like the SA6 a lot even if it doesn’t have all the DD IEM benefits. This is going to be a hard decision since I like what the SA6 and the Zen brings to the table. For people here on SBAF I think the real crowd winner is the SA6. I’m fully convinced Dunu can sell the SA6 for more money and people would believe it sounds for more.

    Thankfully I’m not planning to get another IEM for a bit, since I have real-life bills I need to take care of first before I decide what to get next. I’ll say this: This is a hard decision I need to make, but even with my comments I’m heavily leaning towards the SA6 since the tonality and the flexibility wins me over the Zen, even if the fit is less than ideal.

    In other words: Zen fits better on my ears than the SA6, but the SA6 has that special sauce shit for the price. Zen is good, but it doesn't have that special sauce and it doesn't hold the same appeal for $700 as the JVCs at $280, even with the improvements on the Zen.

    SA6 > Zen


    Tips and predictions for those who are on the loaner tour:
    • If using both IEMs on SW51+, run them in high output impedance for best sound IMO. But as stated before, you better have IEMatch near you. @Merrick
    • If using DNA Starlett, make sure on both IEMs you have IEC switch on (not low) and -6db switch for SA6 and you can leave that db switch to 0db for Zen if you want. @crenca if you don’t have a 3.5mm to ¼ adapter, get one. I don’t need you need the IEMatch for the Starlett with the SA6.
    • Dynamic sounding sources will make both IEMs sing, avoid the warmpoo stuff.
    • $10 bucks that @rhythmdevils will complain about the fit on the SA6.
    • @neogeosnk I dunno what your setup is, but if you can use the Zen on your TOTL stuff then it should scale like mad in theory, but these are IEMs.
    • @purr1n most likely not find the Zen to have that special sauce, but instead will find the SA6 to have that special sauce. Curious on the BA treble if it might bug him on the SA6.
     
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  2. Claud

    Claud Living the ORFAS dream

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    Thank you YMO for a great review of the Dunu twins. I have had my ZEN for about two weeks. I have put about 125 hours of break in on it and for a DD IEMs, it seems to be a winner to me. By that , I mean it is a great all round daily driver. Fit is good on my biggish head, SQ makes you want to get down and boogy. Combine that with a great cable with its adapters, and you just want to buy another one. So, I did. I bought a Titan 6 which is a Be driver DD. It was sort of cheap at less than $150, but I bought the Dunu Lyre cable to go with it. I replaced the ZEN on my break in system with the Titan, and we shall see
    My next purchase will be the SA6 in April.
     
  3. jaker782

    jaker782 Facebook Friend

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    @shotgunshane terrific review and impressions! Out of curiosity, how would you say the SA6 compares to the IER-M7? They are at similar price points, all BA drivers, and tuning looks similar as well, with the SA6 looking to have a bit more sub-bass and the M7 more mid-bass.
     
  4. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Keep in mind I no longer have either on hand-
    The SA6 is going to be more neutral, clearer and more resolving. The M7 is going to be warmer and much more laid back.Treble will seem shelved down in comparison.

    Too me the SA6 is the better all rounder and the M7 more of a complimentary piece for a more non-fatiguing approach.
     
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  5. YMO

    YMO it's not drinking alone if you're on Zoom

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    Agreed, even if I have the M9. M9 has less relaxed treble if going by the FR graphs of the M7 (I personally never heard it). SA6 has different strengths than the M9.
     
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  6. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    @shotgunshane How do the SA6's vented bass drivers fare? Is it a more dynamic sounding bass than your typical BA bass?

    Also, you said the treble has more typical BA timbre, but what about the midrange timbre?

    How do they compare with the MD +? Those are the BAs I've got right now, and I find they sound less BA like than my Andros (from memory), probably because of their greater bass and midrange emphasis.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2021
  7. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Keep in mind I didn’t directly compare the two when I had the SA6 on hand-

    I’d say the SA6 sounds more natural over the entire spectrum than the MD+. And even though the SA6 treble is a little on the typical BA timbre side, it’s still a little better than the MD+ in treble.

    The SA6 midrange is excellent. No complaints at all. The bass has good timbre for BA IMO. Not CA Ara good but definitely better than the MD+ and OG Andromeda. There’s less upper bass than either, so it will sound clearer and more articulate with better texture.
     
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  8. Dash

    Dash Facebook Friend

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  9. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    Thank you, SBAF, for kindly allowing me to participate in this loaner tour, I very much appreciate it.

    I was keen to hear the SA6 and Zen because, when I wanted to invest in a better pair of IEMs than my Massdrop Plus some 18 months ago, there were very few options in the $300-$800 range. I ended up going with a used pair of Andromeda 2020 last summer. I can’t say, then, that I have a great frame of reference for what a mid-tier IEM should sound like. I wanted to find out, especially as there have been a bunch of mid-tier IEM releases recently.

    Sources: Sony ZX2, AK Jr, all playing native FLAC/ALAC files, or Qobuz->MacBook Air or iPad->Lotoo Paw S1. I also tried both with the Airist RDAC and Jot 2 since I had the latter on hand through the SBAF loaner tour. (The SA6 didn’t change its sound much from sources with different Zout).


    SA6
    The SA6 were immediately impressive and likeable. The bass and treble are both a bit emphasized, perhaps a bit too much in the bass for classical music, but these IEMs work well enough for other genres, especially electronic and rock.

    Beyond the bass and treble emphasis, the overall sound is nice and clear, well balanced, and perhaps slightly warm. That perceived warmth might be function of notes sounding quite weighty. The SA6 sounds rich and substantial, more so than the MD+, but not overly thick or plodding, even though they’re not exactly fast (and a significant step back from the Andro OG or 2020 in speed and resolution, unsurprisingly).

    Macrodynamics are very strong, surprisingly so. These IEMs have plenty of slam and impact—perhaps not quite at the level of the Solaris 2020 (from memory) but better than I’d expected for all BA drivers and the MD+ which itself has pretty decent bass.

    There’s nothing particularly peaky or annoying in the treble. I didn’t find these IEMs to be fatiguing. Instead, the treble is quite smooth, albeit less so than the Andros (or the MD+, which is darker). The SA6 does lack that last bit of sparkle and air, though. Cymbals are reasonably crisp and realistic but don’t have quite the zing they should. Miles Davis’s trumpet didn’t get too piercing. (It’s worth acknowledging that I’m in my mid-40s and my higher-frequency hearing isn’t the best).

    Bass isn’t particularly tight or fast but it extends well, has plenty of heft, is fun and satisfying, and renders different tones/timbres of bass instruments well. You can hear the low notes of a piano as clearly distinct from those of a double bass, e.g. on Elvis’s It’s Now or Never (this distinction can be lost on IEMs that don’t do bass as well). The double bass on small ensemble jazz recordings sounds especially good. (I used the SA6’s bass boost briefly: it gave a bit more emphasis to the bottom end generally, but it made the overall sound a bit more uneven).

    The timbre of some acoustic instruments is pretty good, especially for the price. Brass instruments have lots of crackle and bite. Strings are ok. The SA6 also does electric guitars really well: there’s plenty of growl, crunch, and bite. The Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog sounded better than with the Andro 2020. And distorted, booming power chords are much more substantial than with the MD+ or the Andromeda.

    The SA6 makes for a rich, immersive listening experience. The headstage, for an IEM, is fairly wide; its depth is better. On both counts it beats the MD+. And yet, oddly, it doesn’t sound spacious; it’s about as closed-in sounding as the MD+: there is a definite, finite stage, and I think my hangup here has to do with there not being as much air around instruments as I’d like. (I realize I’m spoiled by the Andro 2020). The SA6 isn’t congested, though, but then again it isn’t exactly open-sounding, either, especially with the rich, weighty sound. Layering and imaging are quite good, and instrument separation is likewise decent (these qualities improve out of the Jot 2 over portable sources). They SA6’s staging qualities are all a significant step up from the MD+.

    I have one main reservation about the SA6 and that’s its resolution, which would seem to be an understandable difference between the SA6 and high-end IEMs (again, I’ve been spoiled by the Andros). If I had to provide a point of comparison, I’d say the SA6’s resolution is on a par with that of the Fostex TH-X00 Ebony.

    On a spectrum of sound quality ranging from the MD+ to the Andro 2020, I’d put the SA6 much closer to the Andro. The SA6 made for one of the most surprisingly enjoyable listening sessions I’ve had with a new IEM in quite a while.

    Some additional, subjective notes: the shells are quite large and can cause discomfort by putting pressure on the antihelix of my ear—I had to look up what this part of the outer ear is called—and I don’t have small ears. I’d be delighted with these IEMs if I’d forked out $550: they are nicely made and very attractive; the leather case is on a par with Campfire Audio’s, and the cable is decent enough. It’s disconcertingly large at first sight, a bit like a bike chain. It tends to get tangled but is light enough, feels nice, and isn’t microphonic. (The same cable comes with the Zen).


    Dunu Zen
    I’m sorry, these impressions won’t be very useful. I didn’t get along with the Zen. At first I thought they had a nice clean, clear sound. But it soon became apparent that they’re bright, to the point of being brittle and wince-inducing. If I were a better person, I’d have persevered and spent longer listening to these IEMs. I just couldn’t get through my usual test tracks.

    It’s important that I add some caveats here: I’d spent a few days listening to various headphones with the loaner Jot 2 as well as the SA6. I was thus a bit tired when I listened to the Zen, and I wonder if there’s a peak at a certain frequency that’s problematic for me; the Zen did set off my tinnitus. I tried the Zen with a few sources, and while I did get a proper seal with some of my tips, I had little success in taming the highs. I couldn’t get a seal with foam tips, which might have made all the difference.

    My apologies, then, for not being able to offer better impressions:
    • I’m not sure the sound is well balanced; the treble is bright and doesn’t seem very even
    • I could barely hear flutes that ordinarily stand out well enough in some orchestral passages
    • It’s weird, while the Zen is piercingly bright (to me), the trumpet seems poorly extended; it’s not piercing as it can be in real life
    • is there some glare and stridency?
    • bass is wimpier than the SA6, making the overall sound come across as thinner
    • strings are likewise too thin, lacking resonance
    • brass instruments lack body, don’t have enough crackle or blare
    • macrodynamics are decent but softer than the SA6
    • soundstage is nice and open, more spacious than the SA6
    • resolution is about the same as the SA6, perhaps better
    I wonder if I should have experimented more with insertion depths?


    Conclusions
    I wouldn’t put much stock in my impressions of the Zen. I’m much more confident in my impressions of the SA6, which I thoroughly enjoyed and found to be a lot of fun. Their sound is a bit too weighty and lacking in space to be ideal for my preferences. But I did find them to be very impressive with no egregious sins of commission. If I decide to get a pair of IEMs in this price range - for travel, for instance - then I’d be perfectly happy if these were my only option.
     
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  10. Claud

    Claud Living the ORFAS dream

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    Dunu is having a Spring Sale. MusicTeck has the same prices. SA 6 is on sale.
     
  11. antdroid

    antdroid Rando

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    I dont post here often but maybe I'll try to start. Anyway, I've been pretty happy with the latest rounds of Dunu IEMs. Their Zen is a nice dynamic driver and their SA6 is a good hybrid that I really enjoy as well. These two are nice ones to recommend in their price ranges, but I do like the SA6 a little more just because its tonal balance is a little more forgiving, since the Zen has a little bit too forward of a upper mid-range and a little too much energy at 8-9K. For a DD IEM though, I think its the one of best I've heard.
     
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  12. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    Nice to see you posting...it's not quite as scary here as many make it out to be IMO. I'm pretty sure the SA6 is all BA not a hybrid though. I am curious to hear them myself, also a little scared because I'd probably want them.
     
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  13. antdroid

    antdroid Rando

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    I'll repost my reviews on this thread when i have time this weekend. I also have the new Dunu EST 112 with me but cant post anything public about it for a week or so. Supposed to be the cheapest tri-brid on the market.
     
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  14. Claud

    Claud Living the ORFAS dream

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    My SA6 arrived yesterday. Really looking forward to your review of the new EST112 and maybe a comparison to the SA6. Mine has been breaking in since yesterday. SA6 should need about 100 hours.
     
  15. antdroid

    antdroid Rando

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    Oops yes, you're right. Brain fart.
     
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  16. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    Received the SA6 and ZEN earlier today, and by some miracle my wife and two daughters had other places to be this afternoon so I was able to have quiet and uninterrupted time with both of these this afternoon. I am going to post impressions now for reasons that will be clear I think. Rather than a full review, I am just adding on to what @shotgunshane , @YMO , and others have said. After getting tip and fit right most listening done with Shanling M6 Pro DAP, and a little with Asgard 3:

    SA6:

    I like the neutral FR, but that's about it. Timbre, "BA" or otherwise, was not good to my ears - not only the treble as others have said, but ranging all the way down into vocals which lacked resolution and just sounded "off" and veiled. At first I was comparing them to the CA Ara's but that was not a fair fight, so I switched to JVC FDX1, but even with the latter's non-ideal FR I preferred it significantly. In addition to the timbre the SA6 has an incoherency between the bass, mids, and treble that really jumped out at me and it reminded me as to why I never gave IEM's much of a chance in the past. I thought "I must be in a mood" so I took a break and had a slice and a beer and watched a little game. Feeling good I came back and put them in and within a short period thought to myself "I don't want to listen to these". Sorry Dunu

    ZEN:

    Much better. I ended up EQing the upper mids and bass a little less than Marv, but they defiantly need FR help. If your unwilling and/or unable to EQ, well they would be fatiguing unless your far out on the distribution curve with your preferences. Coherency, resolution and detail, natural timbre in the mids, everything is there. Upper mids/lower treble in particular are little more "square" than the FDX1's (at the same time having less sibilance) but timbre remains DD natural and even throughout.

    With these the question becomes how much of an upgrade are they over the FDX1's? They do have a touch more detail and "air", and I think they pull off separation/placement somewhat better. Pulling a figure out of my rear I will say it's 7.28% moar, maybe 12.71%, but not more I think.
     
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  17. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Sounds like you had the same issues as I did with the SA6. Despite the measured frequency response being decent, the tonal signature (subjectively speaking) was off. I don't know if this was because of a peak / ringing or the BA timbre. There wasn't anything in the distortion measurements that would have indicated the SA6 was any more "BA" than other BA IEMs. I would have run burst responses, but been too busy lately so decided it was more important to send them off than keep them longer.

    The more square presentation of the ZEN to the FDX1 was what I meant by that the ZEN had a quality similar to the Seas speaker drivers with the magnesium alloy cones. To me, this aspect wasn't necessarily a negative.
     
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  18. antdroid

    antdroid Rando

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    Here's my review of the latest Dunu release, EST 112. I had a prototype unit for the past 3-4 weeks, and embargo was lifted today so I can share my thoughts and measurements:


    [​IMG]

    Dunu is the latest headphone brand to announce an EST-featured in-ear monitor to their lineup, and this newest model comes in at just $489 and is packed with a pair of EST drivers, as well as their 13.5 mm dual-sided beryllium-coated dynamic driver, and a single custom Knowles BA driver. This new product is called the "EST 112", and the major selling point is the simpler-driver arrangement, which drives the cost down significantly, making this new product the lowest EST tri-brid offering on the market (to my knowledge), cutting down even the Thieaudio Monarch and Clairvoyance twins.

    Before I dive into my review, I would like to thank Tom from Dunu for sending this prototype of the EST 112 to me prior to the launch for a preview of the product. I was told that this final prototype's tuning is the same that will be in the production unit, with some possible cosmetic changes for the packaging.


    [​IMG]


    Unboxing

    The EST 112 comes in a rectangular box that has a exploded CAD-view of the EST 112's parts on the cover, much like was featured on some of the other Dunu packages prior. The EST 112 comes, again, with a series of tips, a case, and a new cable that I have yet to see or use before. This Dunu cable is reminiscent of the original DUW-02 cable that I really enjoy, but with improved braiding that's thicker, but just as pliable and maneuverable as before. It's aptly called, DUW-02s.

    The DUW-02s cable is immensely better than the DUW-03 cable that comes with the SA6 and Zen products. Like the other Dunu products, this cable comes with their patented modular cable connectors that pop off and are replaceable with other heads for different amp configurations.

    The metal shells are pretty large, and easily the largest of any of the Dunu IEMs I've tried. There is a reason for this, of course, and that's to house the two EST drivers and their own mini energizers, and the larger 13.5mm diameter woofer. Because of the larger shell size, thicker depth, and angle of the nozzle, I did have some trouble getting a good quality fit with my ears. I do want to note that I do have occasional problems with fitment in my right ear on a variety of in-ears, however this one was troubling all around.

    I did manage to get a decent fit and good seal using SpinFit 360 tips, which are wide bore, but a little shallow and designed for true-wireless IEMs. These did give me comfort while wearing the EST 112, though may not have provided the deepest insertion depth possible, although, they did go in my ear fairly well and did not stick out.

    The design on the faceplate is a mirrored metal look with a circular fan pattern that remind me a little bit of wings. There is also a chrome-mirror appearance on the bezel of the faceplate that give this unit a shiny, but not too showy look. It's a subtle but classy design.

    The face plate also features a slit opening that looks like a vent port. There is another pin hole sized vent on the inner-side of the shell.

    [​IMG]
    Sound Impressions
    I was excited to put these on at first because I have grown to really like the Dunu set of gears that they've shared with me over the past 2 years and each one seemed like a step up from the previous release. The latest two units: the SA6 and the Zen are among my favorites in their price class and driver configurations.

    When I first put on the EST 112, I did have to play around with several tips to get an adequate level of seal and insertion to give it a fair shake. When I finally landed on the first available tips, I did find the EST 112 to have a little bit of upper mid-range forwardness and a bright shrill sound (shouty?) that wasn't the most enjoyable. I went back to the drawer and pulled out some more tips and finally settled on the Spinfit tips I mentioned previously.

    This led me to a much more accurate representation to what I expected from listening to the Dunu EST 112 and more closely aligned with the measurements I took later. The EST 112 presented a fairly neutral tuning, but with a slightly warm lower midrange, and a forward mid-range. This mid-range was still "peaky" at times, but not as bad as when the tips weren't fully seated right. The treble range is fairly smooth, but peaky (confused? more on this later), and does extend a little bit into the upper range, though isn't the most airiest of IEMs I've heard.


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The EST 112 has an interesting blend of refinement and rawness to it that is makes me really appreciate it most of the time, but then it'll do something that I feel is slightly lacking. Some of this is due to the tuning, which I do find just a little too sharp in the upper-midrange and it can be a tad fatiguing. When I played through a score of trio-jazz records, the constant cymbals and hi-hats can leave my ears with a little bit of ringing after removing the IEMs.

    It is similar to the sensation I mentioned in some of my previous reviews, most notably the written and video review I wrote on the Unique Melody MEST Custom In-Ear. Over time with the MEST, I did get used to this tuning, and my ears adjusted and the sensation subsided. For the most part, this was also the case with the EST 112, but there is still the occasional splashy hit that bothers me.

    Despite this kind of uneven upper treble response, the EST drivers do show off their semi-ethereal being on this unit. I think the simplicity of the driver configuration does help drive this point home, and showcases the drivers more so than some of the other offerings I've tried. The treble range has a unique softness that is also well-defined and silky sounding, and it's something I commented on in my Empire Ears Odin and Vision Ears Elysium reviews. It's effortless in its presentation, sans the occasional splashy ringing harmonics.

    My little complaints on these little peaks are more than likely due to the inherent frequency response of the EST drivers themselves than anything, as they do have inherent peaks starting at 4 Khz and 13 Khz from memory. That said, for the most part, the EST drivers have a nice sheening effect that does gloss over the peaks a bit where I think a typical BA driver may not be as able to.

    The low end of this IEM is powered by the 13.5mm dynamic driver and for the most part it is quick and nimble is less weighty than other tunings I've heard. It's more about precision and speed here, and that's somewhat reminiscent of most beryllium-coated or pure beryllium (Final A8000 or Dunu Luna) in-ears I've heard in the past. This does lend itself to match better with the mid-range BA driver and the EST, however, I do find that there is occasionally a bit of disjointed cohesion between the drivers.

    This cohesion isn't a big problem on most tracks I heard, but it was a little bit more noticeable when I listened to Of Monsters and Men's "Hunger." The basslines felt separated from the rest of the track on this one and it didn't feel like one cohesive pack.

    That said, though, there is a price and a budget constraint at play here. And most multi-driver-type hybrids and tribrids I've have cohesion issues, and even some multi-BAs in the lower price tiers. There are actually very few IEMs where I feel that the entire frequency spectrum sounds effortless and cohesive as one unit, outside of a single dynamic-driver IEM. Those few cohesive rarities belong in pricier-tiers than this EST 112 at its sub-$500 pricing, which I was as shocked to hear as I've had in while on pricing. Lately, it's the sticker-shock is more on the exorbitant pricing increases and not the opposite.

    Comparisons
    As previously mentioned, Dunu has released two stellar IEMs in this price category in the recent past with the multi-BA SA6 and the single dynamic-driver Zen. How do these two compare to this new tri-brid EST 112?

    [​IMG]

    Of the three, I probably would choose the Dunu SA6 as my own personal choice, but they all have their own strengths and weaknesses relative to one another that the prospective buyer will have to compromise with.

    The reason I like the SA6 more is because it has the most forgiving tonal balance of the three, has the smallest and most comfortable fit, and my personal favorite in the looks department. Of course, your miles will vastly vary as each SA6 is unique due to its use of real stabilized wood with varying stain colors that is a surprise at unboxing. The SA6 lacks a little bit of low end girth and dynamics compared to the others as well.

    The Zen offers the most organic and realistic sound, with a very punchy and warm presentation using its single dynamic driver, and more so than the EST 112. I find the Zen's presentation the most forward and in-your-face of the three, which is a little too intimate for my personal tastes (I like open and wide space for my musical choices), and the occasional shrills of the treble peaks in the 8-9K, which is also apparent in the EST 112.

    In actual tonal balance, the EST 112 and Zen have the most in common. They both have a warmer mid-range body, with a bit more upper-midrange energy than the SA6 and a slight peak at 8-10KHz that can cause a little ringing for my ears.

    But the EST 112's electrostatic tweets does smooth out this characteristic more so than the SA6 and I find it's treble response the most interesting and smooth of all three.

    [​IMG]

    So the quick comparative version:

    Bass: Zen
    Mids: Zen or SA6
    Treble: EST 112
    Soundstage: SA6 or EST 112
    Imaging: SA6
    Dynamics: Zen
    Transient Speed: EST 112
    Resolution: SA6 or EST 112


    Fit: SA6
    Style: SA6
    Cable: EST 112's DUW-02s by a mile


    [​IMG]

    Wrap-Up

    Do I like the EST 112? Yes, it's pretty good. Is it my favorite? Probably not. But it does treble a bit differently than other products in this price range, and that's a unique characteristic it has. Dunu has 3 solid units now in this price class that can compete with others. I do think that this is maybe my least favorite of the three mentioned here, but it can hold its own against others.
     
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  19. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Dunu impressions

    I decided to use my iFI Nano BL with with both iems to try to simulate everyone else’s experience. ieMatch with the SA6 but not the Zen

    SA6

    I love the fit. @YMO you owe me 10$. They are super cozy and the nozzle is the right length so tips don’t slide down all the way. I love the cable even though it’s really thick for an iem cable it makes me feel like more tiny sea animals are getting through.

    Sound

    Bassy
    Loose bass like farts
    Not super bass heavy but not neutral by any means.
    The rest is ok. They are shelved in the upper frequencies which along with the bass emphasis hides peaks for he most part but I hear a little peak in the lower treble that doesn’t hurt but annoys me.

    One of my treble test tracks “Reckoning” by Radiohead sounds awful. Lack of extension and a slight lower treble emphasis. Complete lack of air. Yuck. I love this as a treble test because I know exactly how it should sound and it’s got so much going on through the whole treble range.

    I suspect I’m not getting a good fit or maybe they don’t fit my ears and I’m not hearing them how the rest of you do because of the iem fairy. So I’m not going to waste time writing more.

    How they fit to me they’re just boring and slightly bassy. I prefer the Gaudio Nair by about 100x. Except the SA6 has less BA timbre. But still more than the andromeda and Solaris. Mostly in the treble. The mids and bass are pretty good BA timbre wise. But the bass is quite loose.

    Zen

    Ehh bassy and boring. I didn’t sign up to hear this thing.

    I love love the modular plug. That’s the only cool thing about this iem. Everyone should do this.

    I’m irritated at the name. Stop using Buddhist words that you know nothing about to sell your products. There is absolutely nothing “zen” about this or any iem. Fuck off and call it the bassy curve slice. Or whatever. You don’t see people calling products the “Orthodox” or the “Presbyterian” or the “Protestant”. WTF.

    Treble has more extension than the SA6 and the whole iem has better tonality.

    They seem to also be fitting me improperly became impressions don’t match y’all’s. I can extrapolate though and go with bassy with upper midrange bump.

    My head hurts from all the bass

    Get the Nair if you’re in this price bracket.

    That’s it. They’re not fitting me right so incorrect impressions are useless.
     
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  20. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    The Nano's iEMatch might account for the SA6 treble drop you're hearing vs others' impressions (and vs what you hear on your THX?). Output impedance of the iEMatch dongle is supposedly under 2.5 Ohms, but the spec for the iEMatch jack on the Nano is "<= 4 Ohms" and measuring mine I get higher still: 4.4. Relative to a source close to zero output Z, that'd slope the treble down between the blue and purple lines on this graph.

    Although others have said they didn't notice much difference until output Z was quite a bit higher. Maybe try them out of the Direct jack and see if there's improvement.
     
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