Reviewed Mar 2010
Details: Upmarket tunable earphones from car audio manufacturer Digital Designs
Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: $119)
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16 Ω | Sens: 93 dB | Freq: N/A | Cable: 4′ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock Single flanges
Wear Style: Over-the-ear or straight down
Accessories (3.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), adhesive foam tape (2 strips), and clamshell carrying case
Build Quality (4/5) – Metal housings sheathed in rubber feature long integrated strain reliefs and seem to be shared with the rare Sony Qualia MDR-EXQ1 canalphones. The plastic cabling is thick and sturdy. Oddly, the 3.5mm plug has 4 contact points despite the earphones having no microphone
Isolation (2.5/5) – Rather poor due to the massive vents
Microphonics (3/5) – Cable is too energetic and tends to bounce around a lot. Lack of cord cinch and the difficulty of wearing these over-the-ear doesn’t help matters
Comfort (3.5/5) – Hard to get a good insertion depth wearing these cord-down due to the short housing and massive strain relief. The strain relief and unwieldy cord also make them a bit difficult to wear over-the-ear so cable guides are highly recommended
Sound (6.2/10) – The distinguishing feature of the DD-DXB01 is the tunable bass response. Unlike the usual implementation using a knob or even interchangeable filters or ports, Digital Designs’ solution is rather crude – the two supplied strips of foam tape can be cut into pieces and used to cover some or all of the vents on the front of the earphone.
With the vents open the earbuDDs drown in massive amounts of medium-quality bass. In this configuration they remind me of the V-Moda Vibe II – smooth, dynamic, warm, and slightly muddy at the low end. Cover up the vents, though, and they improve dramatically, tightening up and exhibiting surprising bass control. With the vents obstructed the DD-DXB01 becomes a much more controlled earphone with very little bass bleed and a slightly warm midrange. There is still plenty of bass to go around but it takes on a rather tame character. The mids are airy and articulate but slightly distant and missing a bit of detail compared to competitors like the RE0 and Phonak PFEs. Because of this the DXB01 works pretty well with low-bitrate mp3 files. The 93dB sensitivity also means that hissy sources won’t be much of an issue Treble extension is average and with the vents obstructed the treble does lose some of its smoothness, but not enough to be fatiguing. All-in-all the DXB01 is a good-sounding phone; I just can’t help feeling that the tuning feature detracts more value than it adds.
Value (5/10) – Though there are many bass-heavy earphones in its price range, the DD-DXB01 stands out with its rock-solid build quality and ‘tuning’ feature. Unfortunately the implementation of the latter is rather crude and feels more like an afterthought and less like true functionality. I only really like the sound these produce with the vents fully closed and so would prefer them to be sold that way (and at half the price). As it stands there are far better options at the price.
Pros: Tank-like build, surprisingly clean bass with the vents obstructed
Cons: Foam tape ‘tuning system’ is akin to a bad joke, no cord cinch, 4-pole plug