I can not keep introducing China based Dunu every time I review one of their products because it must be starting to get boring, I have gone through so many. However we can talk about what’s new with the Titan 1 because it is once again, a different approach from Dunu. For a start it is there first design of an earphone that I like to call a “Semi In-Ear” rather than an IEM. It is pretty much an earbud with a sound nozzle for a tip so is like a hybrid of the two, I have reviewed products like this before such as the Yamaha EP-50 and Able Planet SI1050a, which was one of my first ever reviews. While we talk a little more about the design later, on the grander scale of things it is only new for Dunu and not the market with lots of earphones carrying this design.
What is a little more unique throughout the market is the 13mm dynamic driver that is paired with a nano class titanium diaphragm. While companies like HiFiMAM have used this in IEMs in the past and Ultrasone in their headphones, I think this is the first time we have seen in this sort of design and a 13mm driver get the titanium treatment. With the natural properties of titanium you get some obvious benefits and this is what Dunu seem to be trying to use to their advantage. It is rigid, high strength but also low density and these are things that can potentially allow for a fast sound, that also has a great dynamic range. Now they are obviously very happy with how the titanium diaphragm worked out because they have already confirmed that they will use a smaller driver with the same treatment in their new flagship hybrid model, the DN-2000J and that this Titan series will continue to grow. So this is just the start of Dunu’s love affair with Titanium and that is something to be excited about.
Now with the last Dunu product I reviewed coming in at £180, this is back to their more affordable ways at £89.99, a price range they have done okay in the past but perhaps never owned.
I Am Titanium:
Now a metal housing is trademark Dunu and one of the reasons they have been time and time again, accredited for having great build quality even at the lower prices. I don’t think I have actually had a Dunu earphone that hasn’t had a metal housing, even the Alpha 1 earbud has its fair share and while it does give some weight to the product and a little chill to your ears on insertion, you cant doubt that these products are made for the long run. They look quite pretty as well, a little stand outish and shiny but I don’t think they are over the top. They also have a blue ring on the left monitor and red on the right so you can quickly determine which ear you will be shoving it in. You may take things like this for granted but the Apollo Audio Lab Bolt series don’t have that luxury. I know but that is for another review and another day.
The strain reliefs are small and on task, the cable is supple. The y-split and cable cinch continue the metal theme as does the right angled jack that reminds me of the one on the Sony XBA series of earphones. I know this is probably not the ideal type earphone to implement it and but I really can’t EMPHASISE how much I want to see a Dunu earphone with a removable cable.
Too look after them you get a small plastic case that has a release clasp. By Dunu’s standard this is rather poor. It is small and feels a bit cheap even if it does have a protective silicone lining in it. I remember the days that with cheaper earphones they would toss you a metal crush proof case, like a smaller version of the one included with the DN-2000 or what you get with Ultimate Ears CIEMs.
As for the rest of the accessory package it is typical Dunu coming supplied with a huge range of tips and adapters. The range of tips is always a big deal because it is no secret they have an influence on the overall sound of a universal earphone and Dunu always make sure you can get it right. I found one particular tip rather interesting as it is quite found and has a flat top, instead of the usual round top, it looks like a donut.
So earlier I talking about that “Semi In-Ear” design and these are also a “Semi-Open” design. By “Semi In-Ear” I mean that you are completely limited on insertion depth. With most IEMs you can play with how deep they go but with these, the depth is fixed. This is because the large 13mm driver sits nicely in your cavum and cant be pushed into your ear canal, unless of course, you have elephant ears.
The heavy venting is what makes them “Semi-Open”. They actually have one pin hole vent on the side facing away for your ear, just under the strain relief. This is pretty normal for a dynamic driver. On the side the faces into your ear though, next to the sound nozzle, you have 12 much larger ports and with the way these angle into your ears, they have room to breathe. Now looking back at all the earphones I have reviewed not one model other than the JVC HA-FX1000 (completely different design) has near as much venting. I am making a fuss about all of this, as it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into the design and you can hear its impact as well.
The two above factors though can be make or break for potential buyers though. The way it fits I find incredible comfortable and even though it doesn’t sit to deep in your ear I find it to be secure and not prone to falling out. I think it feels comfortable because it sits in place so well and also the fact it doesn’t feel overly intrusive. Along with the venting this does all contribute to a less than average isolation. Because of their great build quality I actually took them along to a swimming gala but they just didn’t block out enough ambience, I can imagine an airplane or even public transport being hell for them.
Hear The Air:
All the work they put in with the venting has paid off more than ever with this. While they didn’t quite nail it with the block-able venting on the DN-19 Tai Chi, the simpler always-open approach here obviously contributes to the large and airy sound of these. The Titan 1 takes on a polite V shaped signature, boosted mid-bass and accentuated treble than just keep growing towards the sky.
The presentation reminds me of the real old school Sennheiser IE8, which I have not heard in a while but always struck me to have a large soundstage that sat you rows back from the stage, comparing to the Dunu DN-2000s or Rhapsodio RDB V1 Mini, showed how both had a much more intimate sound. While you may be further back from the soundstage, it is well dispersed, great width and height although the distance takes something away from the depth.
On one of my first listens to these I was shocked by the power in the mid-bass. It was loose, powerful but decayed too long and just took too much from the midrange. I think the song choice was bad and the drivers hadn’t settled because things have changed now, not dramatically but we have a new sense of control thrown into the mix. The mid-bass is still ahead of the frequency response, and is the bass of choice for the Titans over sub-bass where these don’t take as much residence. But it has rethought its behaviour, with tracks like “Hard Headed Woman” by Cat Stevens and “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars you hear just a little bit of compression in the mids but you don’t have a bass in the background that keeps thumping even if not called for by the track, the H-150 we talk about next is one of them earphones that doesn’t have that level of control. It just becomes distracting and I am glad this isn’t plagued by that problem. When there is a bass line though it is rhythmical and delivers real impact. Yes we have a slightly prolonged decay and it isn’t as fast as its big bro the DN-2000 by any means but I no longer find it bloated or out of control. It is bassy but not silly. The size of the body it can impact with is one of the more special properties, listening to “Impossible” by Christina Aguilera the balance between the bass and her vocals is spot on and the power and quantity the bass hits with is just crazy, boom, boom, BOOM!!!
The sub-bass is not shabby but doen’t seem as capable as the mid-bass and doesn’t ever seem to cause a realistic rumble, I can feel air moved but it is not startling.
I have found the midrange to be swayed towards the upper midrange although in general the midrange is recessed. They are recessed and feel quite shrunken but at all times they are focused, and perfectly clear. They are not muddled, confused or slow. Not in the slightest, yes I can find them a little dull, even a little boring at times but they are smooth and a touch warm. Because of them being recessed they never get shouty, fatiguing or show signs of sibilance. I find it female vocals to have a sense of air to them that is nice, they seem open and set free even though I do find them to still be a touch behind. Male vocals maybe clear but I do find them just a little held back, sometime I find myself turning the volume up. Tonally though everything seems pretty good, not perfect but acceptable with ease.
The earphones have a great sense of air and I think this is helped by the great extension in the treble and a little peak around 7kHz, similar to my Hidition Viento-R. In fact the treble of these reminds me of the Viento’s a $1500 custom IEM. No it is not as detailed or as extended but it has similar ways of doing things. The 7kHz peak gives a little sparkle but for the most part is combines smoothness and detail just great and never becomes hot or unlistenable. Like the Hidition though it is a bright sounding treble.
The overall character of the Dunu’s is nice, they sound way too fast for their price and sound signature, I mean listening to music like Bring Me The Horizon’s “Sleepwalking” that if an earphone is to slow becomes a crazed mess of screams but the Titans rendered it great. Nothing ever gets out of hand either, everything does it’s job and doesn’t do more or less, not always a good thing as doing more is nice. Personally I just always find myself wanting more presence in the midrange, especially just off of the mid-bass but that doesn’t stop me enjoying them.
Vs. T-PEOS H-150:
I had always planned this comparison for a number of reasons. The first was that they were originally very similar priced. The T-PEOS is on Amazon.com for $110 so about 10 pounds cheaper than the Dunu’s before you try and get them in the country. That being said that price has fallen to around $80 now making them a cheaper purchase that being said, with shipping and import duties to the UK, they will probably work out the same, for my American readers, the T-PEOS will be obviously cheaper.
Price wasn’t the main factor though, they actually have some similarities. The H-150 also have a huge venting on the back of them, two dynamic drivers per ear stop them inserting deep and they also isolate horrendously. Yes they use two dynamic drivers per ear as well as one balanced armature making them use a completely different technology (and world first of this driver arrangement if I am not mistaken) but I just think a comparison is rather apt. Worth noting is the plastic housings leave them feeling a lot more tacky and flimsy than the Dunus.
Sound is what we will concentrate on with this comparison though. The H-150 starts off with a more intimate sound than the Dunu, a little closer but not quite as wide and not as at ease. It also swaps a mid-bass focus with a sub-bass focus although is still pretty strong in the mid-bass. The T-PEOS doesn’t seem like it has the composure though, sometimes you hear bass in a track just being accentuated to levels that are not realistic for a track, like any tone the earphones sense under 200Hz they want to make the highlight of the song, sorry? We do have a touch more decay and body on the 150s as well.
The midrange is certainly more forward on the 150s, like the Titans they also have a preference to upper mids but it is much more obvious and actually causes the tone to be a bit glassy and takes away manliness for male vocalists. You know the effect. Clarity in the midrange is good but they are clearly not as fast or focused as the Titans, there is more decay on both vocals and instruments in the region and stick on some Bring Me The Horizon and the 150s just trip over themselves trying to keep up and spread the music out. Personally I get on better with the more forward midrange of the 150s but I find myself annoyed by the bass that shouldn’t always be there and there is also not denying that while there is less presence in the midrange of the Dunus they are a technical class above.
The 150s have a more energetic treble than the Dunus and it seems less even and not as airy or extended. It sometimes gets a bit sharp but never sibilant and seems to have more clarity as well. It finishes of a U shaped curve as well for the T-PEOS’s with a boosted deep bass, recessed lower midrange, more balanced upper mids and slightly excited treble.
The comparison had a clear technical champion (by levels more than the price difference suggests) but a pick could boil down to preferences. I think the frequency curve of the T-PEOS actually fits my preference but shock horror, I would still much rather own the Dunu, it just made the T-PEOS sound messy and it does a similar thing to many other similar price earphones, including Dunu’s older models.
The T-PEOS is however a very interesting model, the driver choice is very odd, and I don’t think the coherency is great but it is something fun to try, although you can certainly do much better at the price. I also found them to have driver flex on insertion and to feel so much cheaper than every Dunu model I have used regarding of price.
So Dunu have clearly continued that step up in overall technicalities they managed with their hybrid series but implemented it at a smaller price range. However the sound signature is one that may not be for you or sometimes you just won’t be in the mood for it. The midrange could be bolder, the treble can sometimes be bright (not that I have found it fatiguing once but I am not very sensitive to treble) but at the end of the day, it is refined, focused and coherent. The same goes for the fit, the poor isolation, if you’re a frequent flyer or public transport user these just will not kill the ambient noise enough and you may be better off with a lesser sounding earphone that keeps the music as a priority. We do not want to damage are ears. I personally give Dunu a nod for both making a completely different sounding earphone to the DN-2000 as well making something that is also a completely different type of earphone and for what it is, they nailed it. I cant wait too see them use titanium drivers in the future and I know next up is with the dynamic driver in the soon to be released flagship, the DN-2000j, which we cannot wait to get in our ears!