The way Dodocool marketed these earphones is very consumer geared so for me, it was an immediate turnoff. 5.1 sound? 3D surround? Ultra-bass with frequency division? Not from what is essentially a 2.0 driver setup, blatant blasphemy! But behind these bold, attention grabbing claims, there always lies a semblance of truth. Suffice to say, my curiosity ended up getting the better of me and the DA131 ended up in front of me for a full review.
Starting with the specifications, the DA131’s use a 12mm dynamic driver which is on the larger side for a budget earphone, making them well equipped to deliver that ultra-bass. Moreover, they feature an anti-resonance chamber to improve audio fidelity. They also have a lower 32ohm impedance and a 110dB sensitivity which is well above average, allowing them to reach notably high volumes even from portable sources such as my iPod Touch and HTC 10. And in listening, the earphones are indeed well suited towards gaming and film with a large soundstage and bombastic bass response yet their tuning is too skewed for enjoyable music listening.
But let’s break that sound down a little more. The DA131 is designed for gaming so one would expect the DA131 to assume a vented design or perhaps boost high frequencies in order to aid imaging and general space. However, Dodocool have gone about this the completely wrong way, the DA131 instead has a very recessed mids and a treble response that borders on complete non-existence. As a result, any sort of high-frequency effect or cue sounds very distant which provides the impression of a large soundstage. That being said, they don’t really give gamers any kind of advantage because imaging (accuracy of placement) is terrible, elements are smeared, a lot of details are missing altogether and placement is hard to perceive due to their general muddiness and lack of separation. The Fiio F3, with its considerably more balanced sound and airier treble response, may not sound as large as the Dodocool, but they are far superior on a technical level, which not only benefits their musical performance but really helps when gaming, allowing users to more accurately pinpoint direction and distance. The same can be said for the Xiaomi Pistons earphones which all provide a warmer sound than the F3, and a tuning that will immediately please even bass heads while remaining considerably more balanced than the Dodocool.
The DA131 has a very L-shaped sound with huge bass emphasis, mainly mid-bass combined with a recessed midrange and almost non-existent treble response. They actually have commendable sub-bass extension for a budget earphone, bass digs deep and provides dollops of slam and impact to electronic, drums and bass. They are pretty darn bloated sounding on account of a huge mid-bass boost though they still resolve some decent texture and bass is clear considering the nature of their tuning. Upper bass also has a huge boost, which makes the earphone sound kind of boxy, I suppose this enhances their impression of space and largeness for lack of better terminology. Of course, more balanced earphones like the aforementioned Fiio F3 do provide a tighter, snappier response with a lot more definition. I would also consider the Fiio to retain enough fullness down low to service more bass craving listeners without sounding hideously muddy, they are simply the superior audio product.
Mids are okay, they are somewhat recessed behind that elevated bass response and vocals are quite distant but clearly audible. Voices can be discerned relatively easily when watching videos and movies though clarity is noticeably lacking and mids sound overly thick on account of their excessive bass spill and warming. Female vocals also come off as truncated and lacking clarity though again, they are perfectly serviceable for videos and films, I had no difficulty understanding dialogue and sound effects have less issue than music. And booting up a game of Dirt Rally and the Dodocool did provide a much more agreeable experience than with music. The growling engines sounded raw, the rustling of dirt against the undercarriage visceral, the Dodocool has a permeant reverb that gives everything just a little more impact. That being said, they were still too muffled and distant to provide the immediacy I look for when gaming and again, their placement of sounds was not at all accurate since their tuning is simply too sculpted.
Highs are unremarkable, the DA131 resolves cymbals and a tinge of crispness to guitars and strings but any kind of air, separation or clarity is non-existent. The earphones strongly roll off after lower treble and what remains sounds flat and lifeless with little detail or texture. It goes without saying that the more technically proficient Pistons 3 and Fiio F3 sound considerably more sparkly, detailed and generally resolving. Those earphones have some real shimmer to highs, a lifelike accuracy to instruments and decent extension that provides atmosphere to live recordings. Dodocool promise the same kind of immersion with their talk of 3D sound, however, by distancing treble to expand the soundstage, the DA131 is missing all of that information and it ends up sounding closed in and uninspiring as a result.
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