Dunu DK-3001 In-Ear Earphone Review

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Sound –

The DK-3001 is a quad driver hybrid featuring a 13mm titanium dynamic woofer mated to 3 Knowles balanced armatures; the same company that produced the brilliant TWFK dual driver setup found on audiophile classics like the Audio-Technica CK10. Despite featuring so many drivers, the earphones sound very integrated and coherent, much like the Oriveti New Primacy. Though they are hardly missing excitement, they are on the more natural side of things, sounding less artificially dynamic than early hybrid models. They are relatively tip sensitive, Spinfits provide a more v-shaped response, especially bringing out treble, the stock tips are more balanced and natural and the firmer, darker silicone tips have a slightly brighter high-end which I preferred in subjective listening. I will be using the darker tips during my sound analysis.

In terms of burn-in, I actually found the DK-3001 to be very pleasing out of the box though I put them through 150-200 hours of pink noise while getting through some other reviews before final evaluation. Subjectively, I do feel that the high-end has become slightly clearer, I initially preferred the sound with Spinfits though I settled on the regular silicone tips after burn-in. So while the earphones sounded pleasing from initial impressions, I have come to appreciate the DK-3001 more and more the longer I listen, the hallmark of a great earphone. The earphones also do spectacularly well with movies and TV shows on account of this larger soundstage and full, well-extended sound. Booting up the trailer for Kingsman 2 and the earphones provided a lavish rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” while providing convincing rumble with explosions and great layering to effects and vocals. When watching Get Out and Season 1 of Luke Cage, the earphones did a fine job reproducing the shows sudden atmospheric effects and lo-fi soundtrack with fantastic dynamics, detail and separation. I feel that a truly great earphone should remain impressive under multiple usage scenarios and the DK-3001’s thoroughly impressed with their versatility.

 

Tonality –

Dunu doesn’t really have a house sound, but a modestly v/u-shaped tuning with a clarity orientated midrange is pretty universal among their more premium offerings. The DK-3001 follows suite with a very balanced u-shaped tonality with a hint of extra deep/mid bass and lower/middle treble emphasis. Bass has slightly greater emphasis than treble and while the earphone is balanced, I doubt any would complain of a lack of bass. I would consider them to be more on the laid-back than aggressive side though they are incredibly detailed with fantastic end to end extension. They clearly aren’t neutral but all frequency ranges are well integrated and well-placed within the mix. By contrast, the Sennheiser ie800’s have greater sub-bass emphasis and a brighter tonal balance while the Campfire Audio NOVA’s are more neutral with greater midrange presence and a more even bass response.

 

Drivability –

The DK-3001’s are very easy to drive with a meagre 13ohm impedance and a 110dB sensitivity rating. They will reach deafening volumes from essentially any portable source, I was quite content with 1-3 of 16 volume notches on my iPod Touch and 1-2 notches on my HTC 10. As a result, the earphones also pick up quite a lot of noise, they had an ever-present hiss from my Hidizs AP60, even when music was playing. My Oppo HA-2 told a similar story to a lesser degree with hiss being barely apparent during music playback. The DK-3001 is slightly less sensitive than the Campfire Audio earphones and high-end Shures which makes them a little less source dependent. Despite being low-impedance multi-drivers, the earphones sounded relatively even from all of my sources. From my HTC 10, they had a little less air than my Oppo HA-2 despite having a lower noise floor, but I didn’t notice any sub-bass roll off or notable compression. One thing that did noticeably change was the separation between the bass and midrange. From my HTC 10 and Laptop, the DK-3001’s had a slightly muffled lower midrange, notable when listening to songs like David Bowie’s “No Plan”, but the earphones sounded appreciably clearer from my HA-2. As such, a clean low impedance source with a low noise floor is preferable over higher driving power.

 

Soundstage, Imaging and Separation –

The DK-3001 doesn’t sound quite as holographic or separated as the Sony XBA-40 or 1More Quad Driver, but the earphones are easily one of the more separated and spacious sets I’ve heard in a while. Immediately, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” had great width in the intro, just reaching that out of the head sensation. Depth and height were both similarly impressive when listening to the chorus of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, each guitar strum given plenty of space and atmospheric effects radiating out with plenty of projection. Overall, they are well-rounded, perhaps slightly ovular with a little extra width over depth. The Sennheiser ie800’s have quite an outstanding soundstage among earphones at any price and the DK-3001’s almost matched them while providing a more stable fit and considerably more passive noise isolation. During the aforementioned tracks, the Sennheiser’s immediately portrayed increased depth and height, producing a more rounded presentation and sharper imaging. The DK-3001’s also image very well, not quite as razor sharp as the ie800, but clearly better than lower-end models from Dunu and even a few armature sets such as midrange Westones. Instruments and vocals were also more accurately placed than on the New Primacy, 1More Quad Driver and even the very accurate RE-600 due to the DK-3001’s more rounded, more spacious soundstage. The DK-3001’s do occasionally sound slightly diffuse with a hazier centre image than the ie800, Hifiman RE-600 and the Westone UM 50 Pro but, in return, they deliver outstanding instrument separation. Despite having such a balanced sound signature, the Dunu’s excel with layering, air and space. They handle complex passages very well and though the more V-shaped ie800’s do have the inherent advantage, the difference isn’t what one would expect given the price difference.

 

Bass –

Bass is well done from that 13mm titanium dynamic driver, low notes sound appropriately large without sounding particularly big since I wouldn’t actually consider the DK-3001 to be bass heavy per say. Tuning is very well considered, they have a modest boost all the way through with gradually increasing emphasis in the lower and sub-bass regions adding some extra depth and weight to bass notes. While deep bass has the most emphasis, mid-bass is also slightly elevated, making bass notes sound full but slightly bloated, though bass is clear and clean for the most part. And despite the amount of bass slam on offer, the dynamic driver is actually on the faster side with great detail retrieval on double bass drum tracks and a tighter sub-bass presentation. Listening to The XX’s “Islands” also revealed fantastic extension with well-defined rumble and slam matched only by a few earphones I’ve heard, some well beyond this price point. When listening to songs with rapid varied drum beats, the DK-3001’s almost matched the more expensive ie800’s for sub-bass presence but lead into that sub-bass with a more linear lower and mid-bass response. As a result, the DK-3001’s low-end sounds more even and integrated whereas the ie800 has plenty of thump and slam but is missing out on some bass body, especially evident on instruments such as snare drums.

Quality is also fabulous with nice bass texture, especially to the very lowest notes. They do lose out some mid-bass detail and definition compared to the more agile ie800 and even the leaner New Primacy and CA NOVA, but their even, extended tuning produces greater deep bass definition than any of these models. When compared to any other earphone, even pure armature sets like the very impressive UM 50 Pro, the DK-3001 retains very competitive bass resolution with notable mention going to their exemplary deep and sub-bass responses. As an added note, though the size and type of dynamic driver might sound reminiscent of those utilized in the Titan line-up, bass is perceptibly tighter and more linear with considerably increased resolution and texture across the board; as one would expect given the price difference.

 

Mids –

In a nutshell, mids are very detailed, full and transparent, thriving off well-mastered songs and sounding impressive but less immaculate with other tracks. The midrange isn’t as clear as the Titan earphones or the almost clarity driven ie800’s, but they do sound immediately clearer than more neutral sets like the RE-600 and NOVA. The earphones portray impressive balance, neither coming off as particularly forward nor recessed with a pleasing, slightly bright tonal balance that grants both male and female vocals with well-judged presence. Mids are full-bodied, particularly lower-mids, yet higher vocals have nice clarity and the earphones sound surprisingly clear when called for. The earphones still aren’t perfect in their tuning and it’s within the lowest registers of their midrange that they falter. On bassy or especially poorly mastered tracks, the earphones do have a little bass spill which warms lower mids, making them sound less concise than I would like. This was prevalent when listening to The Beatle’s “Hey Jude” where vocals sounded slightly muffled, missing some detail and resolution which is strange given the earphones stellar performance with jazz and male vocals during films and video. By comparison, the ie800, though more recessed, have considerably reduced upper-bass presence and their lower mids are more transparent as a result. As stated in the drivability section, this did somewhat alleviate when running from a nice low-impedance source such as my Oppo HA-2, but I’ve still heard cleaner, clearer lower mids from similarly priced earphones like the Campfire NOVA.

But focussing more on the actual quality of the midrange over its tonality and, once again, the DK-3001 doesn’t fail to impressive. When fed with well-mastered albums, vocals sound smooth and sweet with great resolution. The earphone’s slightly fuller presentation and resolution especially flatter acoustic and piano tracks. While they are hardly the most aggressive sounding earphone, details retrieval is among the best I’ve heard around this price. Listening to Frank Sinatra’s “Somethin’ Stupid” and The Pixie’s “Where is My Mind?” and the DK-3001 produced an incredibly nuanced and discerning listen. Guitar strums sounded raw and exceptionally detailed without sounding artificially boosted and great midrange resolution easily revealed defects within the recording. The ie800’s do have more resolution and clarity throughout their midrange, translating to clearer background effects and layering, though they miss the body and balance of the DK-3001. Ultimately, the ie800’s still retains an appreciable gap in outright quality though I find the tonality on the DK-3001 to be more engaging and even refined.

 

Treble –

The high-frequency performance on the DK-3001’s is my favourite aspect of the earphones, they sound extraordinarily good, even considering that $500 asking price. Off the bat, tuning is mostly very linear and extension is sublime with retained texture and body with even the highest instruments and details. With a slight emphasis only to lower and middle treble, they are immediately more even throughout their high-end than the ie800 but actually resolve slightly more raw detail. They also sound considerably more natural than the ie800 due to their more bodied treble response which prevents things from sounding splashy or tizzy.

Listening to my usual treble test song, Elton John’s “Rocket man”, and the DK-3001’s provided one of the best renditions I’ve heard. High-hats, in particular, were incredibly resolved with absolutely none of the roll-off seen on a lot of other earphones. Other treble notes had perfect body and especially realistic timbre, notes never came across as raspy or thin. Listening to Nirvana’s “Lithium” and the clashing cymbals weren’t splashy nor strident at all while remaining extended and airy. Detail retrieval was once again fantastic as was resolution with intricacies being easily audible if not quite as forward as the more aggressive ie800. Perhaps most impressively, despite all this detail, treble remains impressively smooth with strings and trumpets sounding very sweet yet dynamic. They don’t bring details and intricacies to the fore like the ie800 but sound endlessly more natural and a little less crunchy on songs with already brighter mastering. Overall, I’m very content with the DK-3001’s treble response in both tuning and quality, they punch above their weight at this price point. Of course, they still aren’t quite as resolving as something like the $1100 Campfire Jupiter and other exemplary earphones around the Dunu’s price such as the Campfire Nova offer similar resolution for lovers of a slightly more neutral sound. Ultimately, I would still argue that the DK-3001 remains impressively refined and unfatiguing given then amount of detail on offer, they are a leading example of a laid-back, natural tone done right.

 

Comparisons –

IT03 ($260) –

While this is not a fair comparison in the slightest, I know a lot of users are curious how the DK-3001 performs relative to the more affordable hybrids on the market. Immediately, I do prefer the fit of the vastly smaller Dunu’s even with those awkward MMCX connectors, and the cable is far better than the springy unit on the IT03. Sonically, the DK-3001 is more balanced, the midrange is more detailed and coherent while the IT03 sounds a little wider and more v-shaped. The IT03 has greater bass slam while the DK-3001 has more texture and sounds considerably cleaner overall. The IT03 has a thinner midrange that sounds less integrated with the bass response though they also don’t suffer from the lower midrange issues that the DK-3001 occasionally does. The Dunu’s generally sound cleaner and more realistic than the IT03’s and though the IT03 has more clarity they do sound somewhat unnatural. Treble is more uneven on the IT03, as a result, some details are lost. Again, the Dunu’s manage very impressive detail retrieval and treble is considerably more even. Finally, the Dunu’s soundstage better, with notably increased depth and more holographic imaging. Their midrange has greater layering and separation though the IT03’s are very good when considering their asking price.

 

Campfire Audio NOVA ($500) –

The NOVA provides more even comparison, representing a great benchmark around the same $500 USD price range occupied by the DK-3001. Despite being almost twice the size of the Dunu’s, I preferred the fit and comfort of the NOVA’s due to their more streamlined features. Isolation was also markedly better on the Campfire’s and the cables were comparable in quality with the NOVA’s having a bit more visual flare. The NOVA’s sounded more neutral than the DK-3001 throughout. Bass was tighter and more defined on the NOVA though they did lack the deep bass presence and body of the DK-3001. The more linear mid and lower bass responses on the NOVA also enabled a little more sub-bass definition. Mids were similarly well-bodied, the NOVA’s had slightly less clarity and a little more presence than the DK-3001’s. Treble is terrifically done on both, the NOVA’s were clear, linear and very detailed, just as resolving as the DK-3001 but slightly less aggressive and slightly smoother in their presentation. The Dunu’s returned slightly better extension, the NOVA’s didn’t handle top-end details like the DK-3001’s with slightly truncated high-hats though cymbals sounded similarly well done. The Dunu’s also had the more spacious soundstage though both dealt well with imaging, separation and complex passages. Both models are fine choices at this price, the Dunu offering a slightly more engaging signature and the NOVA providing more balance and low-end definition.

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About Author

Avid writer, passionate photographer and full-time student, Ryan's audio origins and enduring interests lie within all aspects of portable audio. An ongoing desire to bring quality audio to the regular reader underpins his reviewer ethos as he seeks to bring a new perspective on the cutting edge and budget dredge alike.

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