REVIEW: Dunu DK-3001 Dunu Top-Sound strike again with another Hi-Res In-ear product! It’s been more than 2 years since the new hybrids models were announced, the DN-2002, DK-3001 and DK-4001. Last year we presented the release of the first 4 driver, the DN-2002, which set a different drivers’ setup having two large dynamic drivers combined with the minuscule Knowles dual BA already adopted on the first triple hybrid earphone from the company, the DN-1000. Dunu surely take their time; it is around another year later that the first of the DK series finally appears to the worldwide market. The company certainly doesn’t like to rush things, and that’s a good thing, because the DK-3001 certainly delivers. Dunu TopSound Website DK-3001 page Specifications Drivers: Single Dynamic (13mm) + Triple Balanced Armature Shell material: 316L Stainless Steel Frequency range: 5Hz ~ 40KHz Impedance: 13Ω Sensitivity: 110±2dB Cable: 1.2m; 3.5mm Gold-plated Weight: 31g Price (MSRP): U$D 499 Accessories 3 pairs of single white silicone eartips (S/M/L) 3 pairs of single grey silicone eartips (S/M/L) 1 pack of SpinFit CP100 eartips in the 4 sizes (XS/S/M/L) 1 pair of Comply Foam T-500 (Medium size) Case Clip Airplane and 6.35mm adapters Like with any of the previous models, the Dunu package does not skimp on anything. From the box itself the DK-3001 already inspires premium quality. The unboxing is hassle free and everything arrives very well packed and nicely arranged. As usual, the accessory array is not lacking at all. However, the replaceable earguides are not included anymore, and instead of that, the DK-3001 arrives with 2 detachable cables with fixed memory wire on them, one of standard 3.5mm termination which is already attached to the earpieces and an extra 2.5mm balanced plug, and both included the very useful Dunu patented cable wrap from the very early budget models. Design With the DK-3001 we’re finally seeing a whole new design from the previous Dunu’s hybrids models which all had a straight and quite large design. While the DN-2002 with its extra added dynamic driver already took a slightly different form factor it still had that larger design. Personally, I found the DN-2002 a step over the DN-1000 and 2000, especially with the unique detachable cable design and slightly smoother finish. However, this DK-3001 has a much more compact design with a strict over-ear fit that may or may not be welcome by many users. While the DN-2002 was the first from Dunu to have a 4 driver hybrid setup, it was done by adding the extra driver to the 1DD+2BA configuration. The previous hybrids were based on the Knowles BA small twin TWFK drivers adding the Dunu’s own dynamic part. The DK-3001, goes back on having just one dynamic unit and then adding another balanced armature, which is apparently an extra Knowles ED single unit. I don’t know the actual setup among these BA drivers, which one was used for mids and which for highs, but it has been very well tuned regardless. The large 13 speaker is obviously placed on the rear part of the shell and the 3-BA pack were apparently put towards the front angled nozzle part, something not easy to achieve considering the much compact design. As for build quality, needless to say that being a Dunu product it should be the best possible, simply flawless. Since the beginning of the company Dunu has impressed with the tough well assembled quality and has already became a reference to what really good quality should be. The DK-3001 follows the toughest material used on the DN-2002, a whole Stainless Steel (316L grade) shell design, as described on the product specifications. Truth or not, these are one of the best built earphones around the market. There a couple of vents that can be easily spotted on the earpieces, one towards the outside part and the other at the inner side. Unlike the DN models that could be worn on both up and down cable setup, the DK-3001 has a fixed over-ear design. With the flatter shape the earpiece just don’t stick out of the ears anymore. At first, getting a right fit with the new DK was not very easy, the nozzle is not as long as should have been for an over-ear design and the shells are not entirely smooth. While I usually preferred the single gray or white eartips from Dunu pack, the Spinfit gave the best results with the 3001. After some days the fit is very intuitive and surprisingly much more comfortable than even the DN-2002 which I already found better than the DN-1000 and DN-2000 (never tried the 2000J, unfortunately). The Spinfit also help to relieve the tighter contact between the metal earpieces and the outer ear. Maybe an extra pair of rubber/silicone rings could be useful (like those included on the 2000J). The DK-3001 is not as sealed as the DN-1000 or 2000, and thus the noise isolation level drops a bit in comparison, and even the 2002 is better in that regard. The 3001 is still a bit above average, good enough to daily commute, but not very recommended for very noisy environments. Lastly, the cable is also special. The DK-3001 is the first of Dunu’s IEMs to finally use the more standard MMCX connection, without the ‘lock’ feature that was on the 2002 or the proprietary type of the Titan 3/5. However, being the Dunu flagship the cable connection is extremely tough and the reason of that is the split regular MMCX plug, which makes a much stronger attachment to the earpiece socket. Indeed, it is really difficult to detach the cable without using extra strength. There are fixed long memory-wired guides, reminiscent of the Sony EX and upper XBA options. The whole cable is of very good quality, thick yet pliable and without a hint of microphonics effect. Like with the DN-2002, the upper half of the cable tends to stiffen after some short time. The plug is terminated in L-shape and also made of strong metal material. Sound Main sources: Xduoo X3, Aune M1s (Single & Balanced 2.5), Lotoo PAW5000 and PAW Pico; Topping NX5, Headamp Pico Slim. Also briefly listened with Fiio X1-ii, X5-ii, X7, Cowon M2, Plenue D. The production of a good earphone is never an easy task, even more when getting into the higher hybrid types. Just a few years ago there weren’t so many companies that dare to take a gamble and release a more affordable hybrid to the masses. Today the market is simply saturated by way so many companies and random brands that just keep releasing a new hybrid IEM every now and then, and not limiting themselves to the basic 1DD+1BA equation but any kind of combination. It is never the type or amount of drivers that really matters in this game, but the actual tuning, crossover, impedance matching and coherence between the two drivers tech. The Dunu company is not a novice anymore; just a few years ago with the release of their first hybrid model, the DN-1000 that retailed around the lower U$200 tag, they managed to show their true capabilities. The DN-1000 was a very strong contender, though not 100% perfect with its very low impedance and noticeable drivers (in)-coherence; a typical ‘flaw’ for hybrid IEMs. Things got even better with the DN-2000 and later on with the 2000J version which adopted the special ‘titanium coated’ dynamic driver (similar to the one applied on the Titan 1). The last year DN-2002, while added the extra dynamic driver it still kept the Knowles dual TWFK formula. With this DK-3001 we can finally see something new in the Balanced Armature section but also go back to the single dynamic counterpart. Personally, I find the results to be very impressive. The ED+TWFK combination brings a new flavor to the Dunu family and the single large 13mm dynamic brings back the strength of the DN-2000 which reminds of the older single dynamic IEMs from the company. The DK-3001 has slightly improved in terms of drivability and source matching with a bit of higher impedance, and practically zero incoherence issues with most of the sources it was played with. While the tips selection is nice and usually gives some place to tweak the sound a bit, for the DK-3001 the different results were less noticed while the source selection played a much important role. Had to settle down with the Spinfit option as those give the best comfort fit result that despite the arguable design improvements, the DK’s shells are still not the most ergonomic thing among universal IEMs out there. The strict over-ear design is also more open and well vented and definitely has its effects on the sound presentation being more open and airy. The tuning is typical of Dunu with a lively sound, slightly warm, highly detailed with a large stage presentation. It does give the sense of a very wide U-shape frequency response but the separation is well achieved letting the midrange play an important role. First things first, we got a Dunu single driver, and 13mm is a large diameter for an in-ear, which sits completely outside the earcanal but so close to the BA units. The bass is big and powerful, and can be aggressive enough if needed. However it shouldn’t be mistaken as a massive overdone bass, because the DK-3001 still has a long way to classify as heavy-bass, dark or too warm. On the contrary, while it has the sheer power it is not missing the excellent control, accuracy and most importantly, the speed to keep up with the BA part. Extension is great and the sub-bass reach is very effortless. It won’t have the ultra-high speed of a multi-BA setup at this price could offer, but on the other hand, it has that more natural texture, instruments weight and greater dynamics that the more hi-fi dynamic drivers are always praised for. The DK-3001 has a strong sense of transparency, easily noticed when paired with different sources; not something really source dependent nor picky, but able to point out the source sonic characteristics. This is more perceived at mid frequencies. Overall, the midrange on the DK-3001 has excellent musicality and realism, natural timbre and great separation. Like many hybrids it brings the extra warmness from the dynamic driver, which Dunu IEMs always have, and then mixes it with the balanced armatures speed and resolution. It has a well put weight for instruments and clarity and sweetness for vocals; full texture for male vocals, and extra brightness at the upper mids for female. It reminds more of the DN-2000 being rich and full but also shows the better definition and forwardness of the 2002, yet sounds much more airy. The highs come forth in a better form compared to the previous hybrids from Dunu. No idea which of the BA drivers is in charge of this region as both ED and TWFK take part as treble drivers on so many IEM and CIEM products. Whichever the case, the treble on the DK-3001 is better extended with a more natural and realistic texture all the way. Transition from upper mid to low treble is smooth, though there is a lot of energy and sparkle with its lively signature. The sound is very open and better layered than the DN-2002 and better controlled too. The DN-1000 was much sharper and unforgiving, whereas the DK-3001 is much more refined. Stage, imaging and resolution are among the strongest points here. Finally, the DK-3001 model is closer to resemble a larger headphone set with the more open and well vented design and much bigger stage dimensions. The right and left separation is great, even without going to the 2.5mm option. Straight from the standard 3.5mm output the overall speed on the 3001 is still not best, however the use of extra amplification or balanced cable option can help to rise this 4 driver hybrid to a higher level. From both the Aune M1s and Pico Slim amp the bass and overall speed is much higher. The midrange takes a more forward yet not thicker position and the highs gain a greater timbre. While I liked how the DN-2002 performed with extra amplification being more neutral, the DK-3001 sounds more engaging with the livelier signature. In a closer comparison next to its predecessors, the DN-2000 and 2002 (triple and quad hybrids), the DK-3001 shares the Dunu house typical sound, being full and very engaging. The low end impact and amount is similar to the 2000 which is powerful and rumbly, but the 3001 brings a deeper and cleaner response which is even above the 2002’s quality. The 2000 is also more colored and the 2002 a bit more mid-forward, whereas the 3001 is more open, balanced and clearer. I didn’t have any serious issue with the treble on the other two (unlike the DN-1000), and yet find the treble on DK-3001 more comfortable and natural. Stage is a win for the 3001 hands down and so is the imaging and 3D surrounding effect. Value At the retail price of $500, the DK-3001 is surely not a very affordable audio piece, and the price keeps going higher with the release of every new model. The last year DN-2002 model released at the $380 price tag already impressed with its best build quality, and which I personally found a strong improvement over the previous DN models in terms of fit, comfort and even overall sound quality. Is the DK-3001 worth the extra money? It depends. This last item from Dunu has the highest build quality possible for a portable earphone, and finally brings a brand new design and internal driver’s configuration. With its strict over-ear fit, it is definitely more compact, but still not for everyone; a hit or miss for sure, worthless if you don’t get the good fit but (almost) perfect if you do. Luck or whatever you may call it, I find the DK-3001 to be much more comfortable than expected, with a more shallow fit that gives up on some isolation, but pays back with greater sonic capabilities. The sound performance is excellent, more open, airy, natural and with a much wider soundstage and spacious presentation. It has a better synergy too, and one of the best hybrids out there. Well done Dunu, and looking forward to the DK-4001!