Calm down Dunu, someone needs to slow these guys down. After a lot of hype and excitement the DN-2000J, the Japanese dedicated successor to the Pride of Place located and much loved DN-2000 has been released. I have been enjoying it for a month or so and would have been pretty content if Dunu wanted to have a rest and let people enjoy their current line up but nuh-ah, they have just announced 6, yes SIX new models. Three new in the Titan series including a 3 and a 5 model that certainly seem higher end than the Titan 1 I enjoyed here and I am certainly buzzing about hearing these in a higher end application. They have then continued their hybrid series with a DN-2002, DK-3001 and DK-4001. I don’t know who is in charge of new projects and the likes at Dunu but he/she/they are really trying out new things, titanium drivers being one of the more recent things and now different driver combinations in the hybrid series. I love the ambition. No longer are we limited to a single dynamic and dual balanced armature like the two iterations of the DN-2000 but we have a dual dynamic/dual BA with the DN-2002, single dynamic and triple BA with the DK-3001, and single dynamic and quad BA in the DK-4001! All off this has me pretty excited but the nail in the coffin is that Dunu have finally responded to mine and many others requests of featuring removable cables, all of these new models other than the cheaper Titan 1 es has MMCX connectors and while I hate that type of connection, I will take anything right now when it comes to being able to detach my cable on a Dunu product, that is certainly one of the weakest points of both my DN-2000s. Also 5 of the models (excluding the DN-2002 only) use titanium diaphragms. Titanium was something that Dunu tried to great effect in the Titan 1 and that was also something they implemented into the new DN-2000J to help move it on from what the original version already was and trust me that is no easy task. Sorry for the odd introduction, it is almost a press release for their new products but Dunu are such a staple brand for me to review at the moment they need little words said as a brand, I personally think they are the leader of price/performance in IEMs and I am not joking when I want to hear and review every single one of these models, especially as I have a feeling they may be a little higher end and I know that Dunu have the capability to make complete top tier sound.
Dunu Remain the King of Accessories
Why do I think that, well probably because I am listening to the £230 DN-2000J and can assure you that it is pretty much almost there, taking the £180 DN-2000 and adding neutrality and finesse to the sound. It may no longer be Monday when you are reading this but it sure was on upload and that means only one thing, measurements and you are going to get them, for both the models aforementioned but we are also going to get pretty subjective with the DN-2000J as a whole. I was in two minds coming into this review, every part of me said the DN-2000J deserves a feature length review, covering all the nooks and crannies of the earphone but the realist in me knew it just makes little sense when so much of the package as a whole is pretty much the same as the DN-1000 (reviewed here) and DN-2000 (reviewed here). Yes things have changed, mainly due to them streamlining things and making them work better, packaging is clearer with better English than what the DN-1000 had and tip selection has been improved to include the likes of two variations of Comply tips along with the usual broad selection of silicone tips. For comfort you still get all the usability accessories and Dunu are still supporting the idea of the bass boosting o-rings to change insertion depth to fine tune the sound, and I have also stood by that being a smart idea.
These cases remain one of the very best for their protective qualities and function.
The tip holder is just one of the ways Dunu have improve what was already one of the best accesory packages.
For the Japanese
The J at the end of the model name is because the motivation behind this model was at first to be solely for the Japanese. I think they got such an overwhelming need for it from the worldwide market that they did not get a choice but to increase its availability but the concept still remanned the same. Apparently the Japanese have smaller ears and the original Dunu hybrids were quite big, barrel shaped and did not always have the best ergonomics. While they have stuck with the housing in pretty much all respects, they have done their best to shrink it, taking the length down 2.2mm and the barrel diameter is reduced 0.5mm. On top of that they not only changed the 10mm dynamic driver that sits behind the Knowles TWFK to be paired with a liquid crystal composite titanium diagram but also the tweaked lots of the little bits to get the best out of the combo, not only aiming for a higher end sound but one that will please that Japanese market above else, they apparently like a brighter sound, that what I am informed anyhow by John Lee of VicJohn Audio in Korea who is often visiting Japan and designing products for their market. In comparison he said the US like warm and bassy and his native Korea like neutral. Another improvement would be the cable becoming 4 core, so not having a ground split in the y-split, ok it is not a balanced terminated cable but it could easily be with a bit of soldering and each channel having their own ground is only ever going to be a positive. Lastly this is China’s first earphone to be hi-res audio certified, I honestly could not care less but again, this is something that a lot of products being released in Japan are striving for, so congratulations I guess… on that topic 5 of their 6 new models have the certification. I have heard rubbish that boasts the label so do understand my lack of enthusiasm.
Due to the size I do find these to fit my ears a little more snugly and with less rubbing on my outer ear, something the old models would do after longer listening sessions and something I always felt that held these back to the much more ergonomic over the ear custom fitting universals. The fins still can be used to hold these in place better. Build quality seems identical to the DN-2000, I really think I would be wasting both out time by just repeating what I have said before but to summarise it has a lovely flexible cable, secure metal housing and is only let down by that lack of a removable cable that I think is a box that needs to be ticked for the very best earphones, yes that price excuses it in some ways but I would pay a £100 extra easily for this earphone with a 2 pin detachable cable and still rave about its value.
Before we rush into technical talk and graphs, we need to talk about how my ears perceive these earphones because they are a masterpiece. I am getting a little sick of saying how Dunu have just stepped things up and blown me away again but honestly, that how I feel. Lately I have been reviewing a lot of more expensive IEMs, $699 and upwards, stuff like the Aurisonics ASG-2.5, Earsonics Velvet, Campfire Lyra and Apollo Audio Lab Viper 8 just to name a few and it has been very hard work for me. The earphones are good (with the exception of the Apollo) but and its a big BUT, me and Josh easily prefer this, it is just a better earphone, technically in terms of detail, coherence and speed and then in terms of tonal balanced to our preferences. Obviously let your ears be the judge as I know the first three of them earphones will have people melt and just hit the spot, the Apollo should be avoided like the plague. Still though it is just is not a fair playing field with these being available. I have to be straight and say that is an earphone that in simple terms I really enjoy but I can take my listening bias away and say whole heartedly that this a great earphone, bettering even some of my CIEMs. Tonally it leans to the higher frequencies, starting to show prominence in the upper midranges and staying pretty accentuated from their upwards in TWFK fashion. Not in TWFK fashion while it is sparkly and energetic these are hardly harsh or sibilant, maybe a touch on some occasions but not a worrying point.
While the bass does not seem boosted in anyway, it is tight and punchy through the mid-bass, showing just enough decay to not borderline anaemic but the sub-bass can be pretty divine, showing reach and grip on the deeper frequencies, they certainly compliment the midd bass nicely by not having the extra quantity but if you want you sub bass with extra exertion thats when the o-rings should be used. The timbre actually favours drums to strings where a more airy hit takes realism over the slightly quick hum of a bass guitar pluck, at the start of Nine Inch Nails “Eraser” in DSD, the drums are eerily realistic due to the combination of depth on the kick drum and tight blows on the less deep skins. Being the fourth hybrid by Dunu they have in my opinion captured more so than ever the reason why you would use a dynamic driver with balanced armature, the regions is truly dynamic capable and puts not a hair out if place, including when it comes to transiting in the midrange, which it does without a notch going either way. I think some hybrids try and produce to thunderous a bass that the balanced armatures still end up getting lost.
This being a forward and excitable earphone, the midrange and vocals especially are fairly forward. As I have said we have the tilt towards the upper midrange and obviously that comes with a glorified sense of clarity and that makes these earphones have a super sense of precision and separation and flow of details you can not quantify. This is just one of the reasons why these earphones are just so special, the music has hard edges that chisel out each individual layer of the music to great distinction, others such as the ASG-2.5 that uses a similar driver set up at a much more expensive price just sounds soft and dull in comparison. Sometimes earphones can get a bit exaggerated with decay and the earphone sounds thin and empty but the speed of the Dunu’s allows the earphones to deal with anything that gets heaved at it and still remain composed. Just like the bass though it is not rushed, it hits it just right and while you are not going to get that gooey smoothness of a much slower earphone like the Velvet, this no doubt is the more honest reproduction of your music. Due the slight tilt one area I feel can be worked on is the way that the earphone coveys characters of vocals, they are clear and always in the spotlight with good air isolating them but they do not show perfect emotion or meaning and in the same thought train these do not pick out small lip smacks and breaths like some of my higher end CIEMs. While the combination with the dynamic driver does give this a bit more body that your usual mid tier balanced armature combination, it is nowhere near the fullness of sound you get with the Campfire Lyra.
The treble is classic TWFK bright. This is a driver that I have heard over and over again and have got pure sibilance from (think Fischer Audio DBA-02) and absolute smoothness from. Here it does have some peaks and bursts of energy that cause this earphone to have an analytical edge being something that “may” offend people but I think those people know who they are and will get something a bit darker anyhow. I think one of the biggest problems with the TWFK driver that stops this being a end all driver is perhaps that it can be a little strident at times and could perhaps do with just a bit more decay and body to allow it to remain bright but feel a bit easier on the ear. While they have stopped it sounding metallic in the operation, it still is on thin side of things and sparkle comes in leaps and bounds from the two peaks we will see in the measurements.
Just to style things these have a decent soundstage to boot. Its accurate as you could imagine an that more so than anything. It is not huge like the Campfire Lyra, which is super 3D or the JH Roxanne that is super wide, it is just good I guess. Not a stand out feature but by no means shabby.
Obviously a comparison you care about is too its predecessor, the DN-2000 and I am not going to lie and say they don’t have their similarities because they do. However the J almost makes the old version feel muddy and congested, thats how much clearer it is, in fact the J is clearer than a lot of earphones as I have said before and that is the obvious case here. The original does however feel softer in the treble and also smoother throughout, it is also is more boosted in the bass with a bit of warmth in comparison and is still a great earphone in its own right and with them priced so closely those who want a great but smoother sound get v1, those who want speed, clarity and treble grab the J. Also I have noted the J is less efficient and takes more turning of the volume pot.
Starting off I thought we may well look at the DN-2000J graph as this the main focus until now.
Instantly we see a lot of my subjective feelings mirrored and the graph is certainly impressive in its own right. Channel matching shows barely any variance and while after 6kHz it looks like the sound takes a stoop down, I think that is something we are used to getting from my Vibro Veritas I use to measure, I think in reality it does take a little drop after 6kHz before peaking again a bit later but not as significant as this shows. For the rest of it though it is all about right. The lower mids sit just behind the upper mids that come into their own at around 3kHz and the mid bass which is slightly rounded in character but only subtley boosted. One of the bigger suprises for me is how these are under 100hZ, with them starting to dwindle slightly higher than that and while it is not the most dramatic drop off, it is more so than my ears could imagine.
Now for the DN-2000.
I told you this was still very much a force to be reckoned with and the measurements show just that. Channel matching is just extraordinary and the bass shows a nice steady rate of boost from the lower mids. We do have some of the TWFK characteristics showing such as the boosted upper midrange and small bump at 5kHz and also the 10kHz peak but in general it does look quite smooth.
Finally lets plot them both together.
The blue is obviously the the DN-2000 and the orange the DN-2000J and as you can see they almost sit the same from 300Hz to 1.5kHz and then either side of that they part ways to create similar but obviously different sound signatures. For a start the original extends much better, yet I still percieve the J has hitting harder and being better in the bass, even though this says I am an idiot, I think I am right. You then have the J being generally more present in the treble, a bigger upper mid peak, starting earlier than that of the v1 and while the second peak seems later on the J, it is also bigger.
The Crown is Passed On
Dunu have back to back released amazing earphones and if they continue this streak I don’t know how good the next models could be. As you know the DN-2000 is on our Pride of Place as the best “Sub £250 Earphone” and while I could have seeing it lasting a lot longer, I guess it is no surprise that the title is going to be passed to the DN-2000J, I know, not so imaginative but deserving none the less. This is our highest level of award and I mean it when I say that I think this is the best overall sounding earphone under probably £300 or a bit more. It may be a touch bright for some and is hard sounding but that is how you get technically great sound. Dunu are still going full steam ahead and I cant wait until the next round but now a BIG pat on the back and a drink on me.