DUNU DN-900 Review

DUNU DN-900 Review

Thanks to DUNU for the sample.
First Impressions:   The packaging looks a bit different from the 1000.  I think it’s a slight improvement with its plastic sheath over the box.  Pulling that off though, hmm, DUNU I see are continuing their tradition of giving spectacular cases.  It would appear as though there is some Pelican esq type case here.  Now while I think wow that looks indestructible I’m also thinking, they think I’m going to carry that around in my pocket?????  The bundle looks like it was put together for someone about to abseil off the side of a cliff.  Super sturdy but DUNU, I can tell you now there is no way I’m carrying that case around in my pocket.  Can we please have the gorgeous little metal one back, pleeeeaaaasssseeeeeeee!
So, visually these look just like the 1000 but in matte.  The cable though is different, feels more plasticky.  Acoustically, first impressions are good.  DUNU are really getting good at this IEM malarkey.  If I’m honest I’m right now thinking its biggest problem is going to be the 1000.  Sure the 900 is a bit cheaper but is it acoustically close enough that you’re not just going to spend that bit extra?
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-60, 1G Ipod Shuffle.
Lows:  I assuming here that the driver used is the same one as in the 1000.  I’m net sure I can tell any great differences between them.  Take that as a pretty substantial plus.  In “hybrid” IEM’s I’m always afraid the bass will be stupendously huge and completely disjointed from the rest but it’s not, its maybe not quite so well integrated as in the 1000 but it’s still superb.  You really wouldn’t hear it and think that there is noticeable the two completely different driver tech’s crossing over somewhere.  I should note that these come with DUNU’s different coloured rings to adjust how far the tips go on, the aim to be to adjust the bass levels.  (It alters the size of the air cavity, the bigger the cavity the more the air has volume to compress rather than push your eardrum.)  I hate the idea of these rings, too much faff so I don’t bother with them.  The bass you get while a bit big is perfectly civilized so I see no particular reason to tone it down.  When the quality is as capably good as this I see no need to diminish it.  It’s a good driver.
The depth is good, the scale is good, and it’s got a nice pace to it.  Quick enough to sound in place with the BA driving elsewhere.  Very nicely articulated and yet potent too.
Mids:  Hmm, the mids pop out a bit more than you expect.  They are a little more focused is their presentation than its sibling.  The result instead of being lacking in mids due to having only one BA driver it sounds much more prominent.  I really did not expect that.  Initially I rather prefer that presentation style but with prolonged use I hear that the more focused nature means you miss out on a sense of breadth vocally.  The finer details and nuance are lost in the push for focus and prominence.  That said in typical Pop there isn’t spades of subtlety in the mids so you’re loosing nothing there.  In lively bouncy music this presentation works really well.  Lyrics pop right though the music and give a tremendous sense of vocal clarity.  It’s full of vim and entertainment.
Quantity wise it’s of a par with the bass.  But think more of a W shaped sound than a perfectly flat — there is that poppy inclination towards standing out and that grander sense of dynamics.  This likes to leap around the place and show off its playfulness.
Highs:  Traditionally the area where BA drivers struggle in my opinion.  DUNU though have really got a handle on tuning things to display the best attributes of a driver and mask its weaknesses.  The highs here are really nice.  Detail isn’t at 1000 levels and its wants to be a little more prominent in the middle to lower treble range.  This gives the end at the bit a W shaped sound.  Impacts and crashes stand out a bit, that bit of extra crispness and then the trail off decays fairly quickly.  I suspect that’s to mask that the driver doing the highs and the mids just can’t really display the delicacy and fine minutia that its sibling can with 2 drivers.  It makes the very best of the driver it’s got and again for poppy, bouncy tunes it’s a pretty great pairing stylistically.  It’s much more at its best playing Scissor Sisters than it is Susan Wong.  It likes to have a good time.
In terms of quantity it is overall maybe teeny touch behind the bass and mids but only minimally.  That prominent spike it’s got really balances out that W but at the upper reaches of the high end it does scale things back somewhat.
Soundstage:  Rather on the good side.  I think it’s really hoped by that big bass dynamic at work proving more air movement and offering to the ear a sense of scale and fullness.  Still, these can’t really compare to the like of the R3 or IE8 but for a more closed offering it’s a big step up on more traditional BA setups.  Instrument separation is also rather good though it lack the superb integration of the 1000.  It’s got that W shape which makes things seem that bit separated rather than acting all as one.
Fit:  Just like its near twin, it was great.  I didn’t bother with the rings to adjust tip depth, went right to the comply’s and slapped them in.  Job done.
Comfort:  Excellent.  Not the slightest hint of issue.  Of course I wore up so its metallic and slightly heavy nature was never an issue.  I’d always suggest wearing up anyway.
Microphonics:  None.  The cable isn’t as nice as the 1000 one but it’s still pretty good.  Worn up no microphonics at all, if you insist on wearing down there is a chin slider to help too.
Amped/Unamped:  Meh.  Swapping between the E7/E9 combo and the Nexus 5 and the DN-900 seemed perfectly content with either.  They clearly are not hard things to drive.  So in short they really don’t need an amp.  Sure there are improvements but these are just really easy IEM’s to drive.  These sounded really very good just out of my phone, so much so I rather think DUNU ought to make a mic’ed version of these, DUNU if your reading this would you like to make me a mic’ed version please?
Isolation:  Pretty great for a dynamic, a bit meh for a BA.  It’s what you get being a halfway house.  That dynamic means you can’t really seal them tight without issues so for me it’s the right balance to go with.  Naturally it’s easily adequate for normal day to day use, walking outside, on a bus, etc etc.  Probably a bit lacking for Tube or long flight use but better than most dynamics can do.  Obviously it’s easily sufficient to block out that bus hurtling towards you until it impacts your skull.  Use your eyes people!
Value:  This sits at the insanely competitive circa US$100 area.  A range that has sooooo many spectacular IEM’s.  Is this the “best?” No, it’s not, but then I’m not sure there is such a thing.  What this does is whole lot different from say the RE-400.  These have a much more dynamically W shaped good time sound.  Still I’m quite happy talking about these in the same breath as id mention the MA750, RE-400 and the like.  They are right up there playing with the bigboys in the IEM world.  Just one thing though, Please DUNU change that case.  The gigantic case here is pointless.  Sure it looks impressive but who is ever going to actually use it.  Sure DUNU offer a spectacular bundle but this time it’s not the most functionally useful bundle ever.
Conclusion:  I like the DN-900 but I’m not sure where to place them.  Firstly I think I have to knock them for the bundle.  Normally with DUNU I get to say they offer the most amazingly good value bundles, the case they normally offer, the 300 or so other bits and bobs all add up to be a superb assortment.  The case this time though, sure it’s a case that will survive the plane you’re in impacting the ground at 500mph but so what.  What use is that to me day to day?  Then the thing is the size of a small car, do you really think I’m taking that along with me in my pocket? In my backpack possibly but not everyone carries a backpack with them everywhere so for most I see the case being ignored.  Again the karabiner, are they pitching this IEM at the hard core mountaineering group?  Is that a big market for IEM’s?  Still I guess it’s better that the case that comes with the RE-400 or the MA750.  I’m still disappointed though, DUNU you normally put everyone to shame here so please bring back that wonderful metal case of yours.
Sonically, DUNU are normally not the very best you can get for your cash and I think that holds true here.  They do compensate you in other areas though.  The bundle may not be so superb but the build quality is still first rate.  These are little solid metal lumps that should last a goodly while.  They do know how to put things together.  Sonically though, these head to head with the RE-400’s and these just don’t quite match them.  Mind you what really does?  Even the quite excellent MA750 and the peculiar R3 don’t match the 400s for nuance and detail but it doesn’t matter as they all have areas where they excel and the 900 is much the same.  The 900 is a bit more a generalist.  It has stepped away from that sonic purity aim that I think the 1000 was much more aimed at.  It has a dynamically very engaging sound.  That W shape, lively and rambunctious bass, focused and energetic mids, more prominent treble all add up to a more attention grabbing sound.  It’s fun, it’s exciting and enthusiastically lively.
For me the differences between these and the 1000 are much less about quality and more about offering different characteristics.  The 1000 was much to more grown up, composed and really aiming for a fantastic technical presentation with a bit a boosted bass to liven it up.  Here I feel DUNU have set out to make a much more party IEM form the outset.  Its tuning is so well suited to lively pop music that it being a bit less nuanced and revealing is irrelevant.
So would I pick this over the competition?  I don’t know.  In my head I can’t help lump it into the circa £100 bunch, and I did that too with the 1000 and the 1000 is much more to my tastes and is better.  Of course I’m told that £80 and £120 are really not the same thing and not comparable.  So then the MA750, R3, GR07 and RE-400.  Well frankly they are all pretty awesome  and I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them.  They are all at a sufficiently high level of quality that it becomes entirely about which sound signature and other attributes match up best with you.  For example the 400 and R3 really want to be amped, these don’t really care.  They are all getting so good, so close to each other all in such a close price range its getting really hard to pick clear separators.  Here we have another excellent option for your money, you are really going to have to know which you’re looking for to get the one for you.  Really though you can’t go wrong and if you can’t work out which is for you, these make a great bassy generalist that I believe will be sure to please.
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