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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 market-shaking releases such as the first (and currently only) pure-Beryllium dome dynamic driver IEM, 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 SA6 is DUNU’s first breakaway from their DD roots, being their first pure-BA IEM. A pure-BA from a company that typically deals with hybrids and single DDs? The IEM community is a skeptical bunch, so naturally many are cautious towards it. But DUNU is no newbie to the IEM world; in fact, they’re one of the oldest brands still alive and kicking today.
So now I guess the question IEF needs to answer: how good is the SA6 actually?
Product page: https://www.dunu-topsound.com/product-page/studio-sa6
Driver configuration: 6BA
This SA6 was kindly provided by DUNU.
Signature & Tonality
The signature of the SA6 can be described as “neutral with bass boost”, though others may consider it mildly V-shaped (or even mildly U-shaped).
Turning on the “Atmospheric Immersion mode” switch (which is really just a bass boost switch once you look past the marketingspeak) increases the bass slightly by about 2dB. I personally prefer the SA6 on the default setting, but the option to get some extra punch and rumble is appreciated.
The overall tonality is good; excellent, in fact. The bass emphasis is controlled well, with no bloat or bleed no matter how hard one tries to push it. The midrange is generally capable being balanced and tilting towardness a smoother, less edgy presentation, though I can see some taking issue with the 4.5kHz point which would be exacerbated by a relative dip in the 3-4kHz and 6kHz regions. The treble has sparkle without fatigue, though unfortunately lacking in upwards extension and can cause percussive instruments to struggle when it comes to clarity and air.
It’s not hard to determine why the SA6’s tonality is so solid, especially when one can see that DUNU probably has taken some inspiration from the critically acclaimed qdc flagships:
The SA6 shares many subjective similarities to the (very much more expensive) qdc IEMs, for instance the forward vocals, the pulled-back lower mids, and not to mention the “signature” mid-treble sparkle tuned in by the relative dip in 6kHz right beforehand. The latter of which does help in allowing for emphasised treble without harshness, though comes at the cost of slightly compromised instrumental timbre.
So for those asking for the mythical “mini-VX”, the SA6 would be the closest one can get especially at the sub-kilobuck budget. Obviously it’s not identical; the midrange is a little more uneven on the SA6 and the treble extension leaves a little to be desired, but for the most part the general flavour is there.
A strong showing by DUNU on the tonal front. Not often do you get IEMs tuned this well, much less for ~$500.
Tone grade: S-
It’s hard to really write about the SA6’s technicalities since it can be described as simply “very good”. I don’t think any one aspect is lacking at all, be it the resolution, the note definition, or the imaging capabilities. Even timbral performance gets a pass here considering that the SA6 has surprisingly low BA timbre, I’d daresay even less than the aforementioned similar qdc offerings.
Though, yes, the caveat is that the SA6 is still a way’s away from true “top tier” material. It still isn’t as resolving as the qdc TOTLs, there are still instances where the notes stumble into one another, and of course the imaging chops are (as with many others) just average. The SA6 aims high, and while it doesn’t quite reach the moon, suffice to say that it’s comfortably in the stars.
Technical grade: A-
$550 is kind of an untouched market considering that most consumer tend to see the market as “sub-$100”, “sub-$500”, “sub-$1000” and “kilobuck”. Entrants in this bracket are relatively few and the competition sparse, but it’s a double-edged sword considering that they then have to compete with IEMs outside their price brackets.
Within this price bracket at least, the main competition seem to be these:
- Fearless S8 series
- iBasso IT04
- Sony IER-M7
- ThieAudio Legacy 9
Which is a strong lineup, especially with the Sony and the Fearless. But of course, that’s selectively discounting the other IEMs in the price bracket that are noticeably worse off (the Shure SE535 and the Astrotec Delphinus 5 come to mind), not to mention the ones far more expensive yet don’t have the performance to justify their price tag.
Looking at it from a more abstract standpoint though, the SA6 is one that could give many kilobuck IEMs a run for their money. Not the exceptional kilobuck IEMs of course; nobody’s expecting the SA6 to go toe-to-toe with a U12t. But against something like a Valkyrie? A Roxanne? A Grace? Suddenly the lines get blurred.
Value Rating: ★★
The SA6 takes some inspiration from the qdc flagships, and for good reason. Impeccable tonal balance with a sound that could go all the way, alas bottlenecked by sheer technical performance. But for $550… asking for more would be greedy.