Dunu DN-16 Hephaes Review

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Reviewed Aug 2011

Details: Flagship dynamic-driver model from DUNU
MSRP: $99 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $79 from amazon.com / $79 from ebay.com / $93 from mp4nation.net
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 105 dB | Freq: 10-20k Hz | Cable: 4’ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (5/5) – Single-flange narrow-channel (3 sizes) and wide-channel (6 pairs in 3 sizes) silicone tips, bi-flange silicone tips, zippered carrying case, soft carrying pouch, cable guides, and integrated cable wrap
Build Quality (4.5/5) – As with all things Dunu, the construction quality is fantastic. The two-tone metal housings feature articulated flames and the finish is excellent all around. Like the Ares and Crius, the Hephaes features metal mesh filters, aluminum cable cinch and y-split, and a beefy right-angle plug. The cable again underwhelms just a bit, being a touch rubbery and stiff and featuring very short strain reliefs on housing entry
Isolation (3.5/5) – Very good for a dynamic-driver earphone
Microphonics (3.5/5) – Bothersome when worn cable-down; not an issue otherwise
Comfort (3.5/5) – The metal housings of the Hephaes are not small and a bit on the heavy side but still fit well, helped by the large eartip selection. One potential issue, interestingly, spans from the articulated flames, which have sharp edges and can irritate the outer ear after a while. Wearing them cord-up helps and is necessitated anyway by the microphonics

Sound (7.1/10) – The sound signature of the Hephaes is highly reminiscent of Dunu’s cheaper dynamic-driver model, the Trident. The bass is deep, punchy, and forward. The impact outpaces the rumble compared to the similarly bass-heavy Nuforce NE-700X and Beyerdynamic DTX 101 iE but there’s plenty of both. Like the Trident, the Hephaes will please bassheads without fully sacrificing fidelity in favor of its hefty low end. The bass could stand to be a touch quicker and, as with the Trident, does bleed up into the midrange a tiny bit but is still pleasant on the whole.

The midrange is warm and smooth but not as rich and liquid as that of the Trident. Instead it is drier and more crisp, which does help the clarity a little. Still, the clarity doesn’t quite do it for the price of the earphone and lags behind both the Fischer Audio Eterna and the Beyer DTX 101 iE, never mind the RE-ZERO and MEElec CC51. Detail retrieval is good but the note presentation is again just a bit too thick for my liking, hindering resolution slightly. The top end is smooth on the whole but takes less of a step back in comparison to the midrange than that of the Trident. Upper-end extension is good – the Dunu dynamics have no trouble covering the audible frequency spectrum.

The soundstage is average in size but the Hephaes takes advantage of the available space a bit better than the more intimate Trident does. It is still by no means wide-sounding or airy but the layering is good and elements are well-positioned. Unfortunately, the competition is also much stiffer in the DN-16’s price bracket. The Beyerdynamic DTX 101 iE, for example, sounds more open, more airy, and more effortless than the Hephaes and the Sennheiser IE6 has a much larger soundstage. The slightly constrained dynamics of the Hephaes don’t do it any favors on the presentation front, either. The presentation should be satisfactory for most listeners but soundstage junkies will want to look elsewhere for their fix.

Value (7/10) – Offering mostly minor sound quality improvements over the cheaper DN-12 model, Dunu’s mid-range dynamic just doesn’t maintain the same bang/buck ratio with its barely-sub-$100 price tag. While I appreciate the unique styling and superb fit and finish of the earphones, the performance doesn’t really impress next to some of the competition from Spider, Xears, Brainwavz, Sunrise, and even Shure. The inoffensive sound signature of the DN-16 seems forced and sculpted and technical performance suffers as a result. As an overall package, the Hephaes is still good value for money but the price segment is a crowded one and Dunu’s much-cheaper Trident model is already good enough to compete. As it stands, the DN-16 simply isn’t as hot a deal as its appearance may indicate.

Pros: Very well-built; great attention to detail; well-accessorized; good isolation
Cons: Cable can be noisy when worn straight down; clarity lags behind segment leaders; not a big upgrade from cheaper Trident model; may be uncomfortable for some


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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