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DUNU is one of the older chifi companies that I know of that managed to survive all the way into the “new world”, refreshing its old “DK” series lineup and further announcing the release of its newest halo product: the Luna.
I still have fond memories of the original DUNU Trident DN-12, one of my first encounters with the chifi hype train that I was also personally a part of. Of course, nearly ten years later I’ve since learnt a lot and changed my ways, but it’s still a nice memory to go back to knowing that at some point I, too, was once a bright-eyed, enthusiastic novice seeing the good in every set of headphones I listened to rather than the pedantic, jaded veteran that I am today.
The original DK-3001 was a DUNU IEM that I held to rather high regard, though it has been… quite a while since I last heard it (so long in fact, that it’s in my old measurements database but not in my new one). The DK-3001 Pro is a total overhaul sound-wise (I think?), though I unfortunately cannot confirm due to the rarity (or more accurately, the obscurity) of the original DK-3001. The DK-3001 Pro is just one step down the product lineup from the DK-4001, a model that used to be DUNU’s flagship until again, the Luna.
With the DK-3001 Pro and DK-4001 sporting the same driver setup and looking almost identical at a distance, it’s only appropriate that I have them reviewed both at the same time. How does the updated cult classic fare against the ex-flagship?
DUNU DK-3001 Pro
For non-audio opinions, refer to my unboxing post.
Product page: https://www.linsoul.com/products/dunu-dk-3001-pro
Driver configuration: 4BA + 1DD hybrid
This DK-3001 Pro was kindly provided by Linsoul.
To summarise the sound signature and performance of the DK-3001 Pro in an easy-to-digest phrase, it’ll be “a decently neutral all-rounder that lacks proper air”.
It’s easy to see why: there’s nothing offensive, overly-emphasised or significantly dipped in the DK-3001 Pro’s frequency response (barring the aforementioned upper treble). Its pinna gain comes very close to my neutral target with a small (but not insignificant) boost in the bass, and a worrisome roll-off in the upper treble:
Comparison courtesy of the Graph Comparison Tool
In essence, this is a tough IEM to break down in any in-depth manner because while it is a very capable IEM, it suffers from a common problem that many all-rounders face: it’s unremarkable.
That’s not to say that its unremarkability is an outright flaw, but rather the DK-3001 Pro doesn’t have the “wow factor” that would instantly hook in a first-time listener. The treble isn’t emphasised (to the point where it lacks some energy and sparkle), the midrange isn’t very forward and the bass, while slightly north of neutral, doesn’t quite have the sheer punchiness that’ll satisfy the average basshead. The detailing and resolution aren’t the greatest (just shy of the legendary ER4), and its imaging capabilities are middling at best (again, most IEMs are). Ultimately it doesn’t fit the bill of any kind of specialist, though you could make the case that its greatest defining trait is its tonal balance.
But because of that, the DK-3001 Pro is a jack-of-all-trades hybrid with few to no weaknesses. It’s a package deal in which each of its traits aren’t exceptional, but hardly anybody can deny that it’s a solid product overall. The closest thing I would compare this with is the Sony XBA-N3; an admittedly less expensive hybrid with a slight edge in sheer resolution and treble extension, but the DK-3001 Pro swings back with cleaner bass transients.
Grade: B+ ★
More info on the Ranking List grading system
For packaging shots, refer to my unboxing post.
Product page: https://www.dunu-topsound.com/dk-4001
Driver configuration: 4BA + 1DD hybrid
This DK-4001 was kindly provided by DUNU.
The DK-4001 now sits in an awkward position upon the release of the DK-3001 Pro. As mentioned, it sports the same driver configuration but comes at a price tag almost double of its little brother. So the big question on everyone’s mind is inevitably: what exactly are the differences?
The DK-4001, though, is still DUNU’s reference model, and utilizes ACIS for bass control, a feature lacking on the DK-3001 PRO. Additionally, the driver types and configuration differ between the DK-3001 PRO and DK-4001. The DK-3001 PRO does not utilize its Beryllium driver all the way to the upper midrange but keeps it constrained to bass frequencies, opting instead for two balanced armatures in the mids and mid-highs (they appear to be either an ED or RAB/RAF type of BA, more likely the latter), and a single dual BA for the highs and super-highs (likely still an SWFK) located in the barrel of the output nozzle.
But let’s ignore the comparison with the DK-3001 Pro for a bit and analyse the DK-4001 as its own IEM.
The DK-4001 is a bit of an oddball tonality-wise; that 2kHz to 5kHz contrast makes for a bit of a “strained” quality to the instruments, similar to the Campfire Solaris. The other big problem with the DK-4001 is the treble emphasis; it’s pretty far into sibilance territory and sounds rather strident to me. And when all these traits are combined, it’s hard to put the DK-4001’s sound signature into any predefined box. You could make a case for it being V-shaped, perhaps neutral, or some would simply call it “bright”. It’s a very unique tuning on its own, but I’d struggle to consider it a “natural-sounding” set.
Technicalities-wise, like the DK-3001 Pro, the DK-4001 sits in the limbo of “middling to above average” with nothing really standing out in terms of raw “objective” performance. You could make the case that the DK-4001 is a detailed-sounding set of in-ears, but in my opinion it’s the kind of detailing that’s almost artificially pushed forward via the 6kHz+ emphasis, which results in the aforementioned stridency that I can’t personally take for long.
At the end of the day, the DK-4001 is an alright IEM in the grand scheme of things, with the big caveat of “price notwithstanding”. Once you take into account its $900 MSRP, the DK-4001’s value proposition is pretty far from alright.
DK-3001 Pro vs DK-4001
This is a brief summary of the differences (or similarities) between the two DUNUs.
- The DK-3001 Pro has vastly superior tone.
- The DK-4001 suffers from sibilance and fatiguing treble, both things that the DK-3001 Pro does not have.
- Bass response between the two is basically identical, or at the very least you’d be splitting hairs when quantifying the differences.
- Resolution and detailing between the two are similar to identical to one another (i.e. not quite ER4 level, but close).
- Imaging capabilities on both are just average.
- Both lack proper upward extension.
- The DK-3001 Pro’s treble is at least consistent (consistently laid-back), while the DK-4001’s treble lacks the airiness of upper harmonics yet is peaky at the same time.
Ultimately, my personal winner is the DK-3001 Pro.
So a bit of an update, I’m back in Singapore due to the coronavirus situation back in Australia. Currently serving my 14-day quarantine so I have some time to clear my backlog.
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