Brief: The first entry in DUNU’s new Titan series of shallow-fit “half in-ear” earphones
MSRP: approx. $130 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $100 from amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 90 dB | Freq: 10-30k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: Sony Hybrids, stock hybrid-style single-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down
Accessories (4.5/5) – Single-flange wide-channel (3 sizes), single-flange narrow-channel (3 sizes), and single-flange hybrid-style (3 sizes) eartips, shirt clip, ¼” adapter, hard plastic carrying case, and integrated cable wrap
Build Quality (4/5) – The design of the Titan 1 is dominated by its machined-aluminum housings, plug, and y-split. The polished metal is broken up nicely by the red/blue accent rings on each earpiece, which also act as a convenient left/right channel indicator. The cable is a TPE material similar to other DUNU IEMs, but in this case is also fabric-sheathed below the y-split
Isolation (2/5) – The vented, shallow-fit housings of the Titan 1 provide below-average isolation comparable to open-backed JVC IEMs and other “half in-ear” designs
Microphonics (4/5) – Easily tolerable despite cable-down fitment
Comfort (4/5) – The Titan 1 follows a style of earphone sometimes referred to as “half in-ear” – the large housing holds a 13mm dynamic driver and sits in the outer ear while the nozzle reaches into the ear canal at a heavily raked, ergonomic angle. This type of form factor sacrifices some noise isolation for the comfort of a shallow seal, but the wide housings also mean small outer ears may not accommodate the Titan as comfortably as they would a more compact IEM
Sound (9.1/10) – The sound of the Titan 1 is difficult to shoehorn into an existing class or category. The earphones produce punchy, mildly enhanced bass with a very level boost – there’s nice punch across the range and excellent bass extension, but no mid-bass hump. There is also a broad area of boost in the upper midrange, starting lower than is typical. Upper treble is not very strong, either, making it even harder to classify the sound signature of the Titan 1 as V- or U-shaped. In this, it reminds me of the Ostry KC06, a ~$60 set I recommend often for its clear, mid-forward sound and wide soundstage. However, the Titan 1 provides an upgrade to the Ostry’s sound with a more level frequency response and much better deep bass.
While its bass is mildly enhanced, the Titan 1 is still closer to a “reference” bass quantity than it is to being bass-heavy. It produces more bass than flat-sounding earphones such as the Audio-Technica ATH-IM02 and Aurisonics Rockets, both in impact and sub-bass depth/rumble, but lags behind true enhanced-bass in-ears such as the RHA T20 in bass quantity. Bass quality is very good, comparable to the best offerings in the price range thanks to a lack of mid-bass bloat and quick driver response.
The upper mids of the Titan 1 are quite forward. However, due to the DUNU unit’s extended bass and bright treble, flatter earphones like the Aurisonics Rockets still sound significantly more mid-centric in comparison. The Titan 1 is also not very full-bodied compared to sets such as the RHA T20. The relatively lean note presentation, tight bass, and broad upper midrange boost of the Titan 1 all have a very positive effect on perceived clarity, even if the latter colors the sound somewhat.
Certain flat-sounding IEMs such as the dual-BA LIFE headphones can push out a little more detail compared to the Titan 1; others, not so much. For example the Audio-Technica IM02, while flatter and more balanced than the Titan 1, is not nearly as bright, and sounds neither clearer nor more detailed than the DUNU unit. In fact, the more forward upper mids of the Titan 1 on occasion make vocals sound clearer than they do on the BA-based IM02.
The sound of the Titan 1 is definitely bright, but as the brightness is caused by a relatively level boost, the Titan 1 doesn’t sound peaky or overly harsh/sibilant. It’s not a particularly forgiving earphone, but it fares much better than one would expect – it is slightly brighter but no harsher than the RHA T20, for instance. Compared, on the other hand, to smoother-sounding and more forgiving sets such as the ATH-IM02 and Rockets, the Titan 1 is arguably less natural.
Thanks in part to its prominent treble, the Titan 1 sounds airy and has a wide soundstage. The forward vocals prevent the sound from becoming overly laid-back, however. With its well-extended low end and brighter tone, the Titan 1 has impressive dynamics, too. It sounds more spacious than the RHA T20 and also boasts better separation compared to the more mid-centric Rockets.
The efficiency of the Titan 1 is average, i.e. perfect for everyday listening with a variety of sources. In practical terms, the Titan 1 is not as sensitive as the T20 or balanced armature sets such as ATH-IM02, but more so than Rockets. It is also an excellent set for low-volume listening and situations where situational awareness is somewhat important (better than other IEMs, at least).
Below are several head-to-head comparisons between the DUNU Titan 1 and other sets that either perform on a similar level or have somewhat analogous sound tuning (or both). These comparisons may play a direct role in someone’s purchasing decision, but more importantly they help contextualize the earphone’s performance based on the other options currently on the market.
The DN-2000 is my favorite of DUNU’s dynamic/armature hybrids, a mildly v-shaped top-tier earphone with surprisingly capable deep bass. While the DN-2000 was a natural evolution of the DN-1000 that came before it, the Titan 1 is a completely different design direction for DUNU with its shallow-fitting, vented design and unique sound tuning.
The sound of the DN-2000 is more U-shaped compared to that of the Titan 1 owing to greater deep bass and upper treble presence and a slightly more recessed midrange. The bass of the DN-2000 is a bit more dominant, but the clarity of the hybrid system is still superior to the Titan 1. The DN-2000 is also more efficient. Tonally, the DN-2000 is a touch warmer – the strong upper midrange emphasis of the Titan 1 gives it a brighter tone and makes it sounds a touch less natural to my ears. Both earphones boast notably above-average soundstages, though the imaging of the DN-2000 is a bit more well-rounded.
The Fidelio S2 and Titan 1 are comparable in both price and form factor – the biggest difference in design between them is the Philips’ flat cable and built-in headset functionality. In terms of sound, the Fidelio S2 is the more accurate earphone and offers a flatter response with more focus on the midrange. The Titan 1 is both brighter and bassier, resulting in a more v-shaped sound signature and more colored tone. The Fidelio S2 sounds a little mid-centric in comparison but is overall more neutral, as well as smoother and more forgiving through the upper midrange and treble. The Titan 1 has a few advantages over the mellower S2, however – thanks to its upper midrange boost and brighter tone its sound tends to be clearer. It is also more dynamic and has a wider, airier presentation.
The GR07 has been a mainstay in this market segment for years, and while its form factor is more “plain-looking stage monitor” than “stylish metal earbud”, it is the set to beat among $100 audiophile IEMs. Happily, the Titan 1 is as good an earphone as any to go up against the GR07, offering performance that is similar in many ways, but with plenty of sound signature differences.
The sound of the GR07 is flatter and more balanced compared to the more colored Titan 1, which has greater bass boost and a forward upper midrange that makes it sound brighter and thinner compared to the VSonics. The mids of the GR07 are more recessed and the tone is warmer, though the GR07 still has comparable clarity. The GR07 is also smoother than the TITAN 1 under favorable conditions, though its characteristic sibilance-causing treble peaks turn the tables against it on certain tracks. Lastly, the DUNU has a more forward presentation while the GR07 is more laid-back on the whole.
The machined stainless-steel construction of the MA750 is more substantial than the aluminum build of the Titan – a match for the MA750’s weightier, more bass-heavy sound. Indeed, the RHA unit is significantly more boosted at the low end and boasts a warmer tonal character. As is often the case, the bass quantity comes with a quality sacrifice – the bass of the DUNU, while lacking the impact and slam of the RHA’s, is tighter and more well-defined.
The vocals of the Titan 1 are more forward and clearer thanks to its upper midrange boost, and the sound carries more detail and nuance. The Titan 1 is the more balanced and less colored earphone of the two, and also boasts better clarity and tighter bass. The MA750 is more laid-back and recessed in the midrange, perhaps even a bit muffled. Compared to the Titan 1 it sounds like a more bass-heavy IEM than it really is, illustrating just how important context is in audio – next to a true basshead earphone such as the Beats by Dre Tour 2.0 or Sony XBA-Z5, the MA750 sounds positively well-balanced. The MA750 is also significantly smoother through the midrange and treble, and much more forgiving on the whole.
While the FLC8 allows for many different variations on its sound tuning, for this comparison I used only the slightly-modified-from-stock configuration I described in my original review. In this configuration the FLC8 strongly resembles the DUNU DN-2000, and stacks up to the Titan 1 in much the same way. The FLC8 is v-shaped with a slight treble tilt, sounding brighter and clearer than the Titan 1. Its treble carries more sparkle and is crisper, but is also a touch less forgiving. Likewise, the bass of the FLC8 is slightly tighter and has better definition, but gives up a little weight and impact in comparison to the Titan 1. The Titan 1 is a bit smoother but gets congested more easily than the FLC8, and lacks the instrument separation and imaging of the pricier earphone. Lastly, the FLC8 is significantly more sensitive/efficient than the Titan 1.
Value (9.5/10) – The Titan 1 is a departure for DUNU not only in design, but also in sound. Its unusual sound tuning turns out to be an asset, however – with the vast number of headphone options in the market these days, it’s very rare to come across a reasonably-priced new set that bucks the trends but still delivers top-notch performance. The Titan 1 does just that, scoring especially high in vocal clarity, bass quality, and its open, airy presentation. The form factor is also nice and versatile – the shallow-fit, half in-ear design boasts a handsome metal construction and is comfortable in the ear.
The Titan 1 appears to be a new direction for DUNU and the start of something great. Perhaps it will turn out to be to DUNU what the GR07 was to VSonic – a superb dynamic-driver earphone at a surprisingly accessible price that informs the company’s direction for years to come. Whatever happens, one thing is certain – the Titan 1 is a great earphone and an excellent value in its own right.
Pros: engaging, mid-forward sound with superb clarity and bass quality
Cons: below-average noise isolation