DUNU TITAN 1 Review

DUNU TITAN 1 Review

Thanks to DUNU for the sample.

First Impressions: Nice ish box.  Hmm not a clue who the Ukrainian chap is they must be sponsoring, are Dunu big in Ukraine?  Anyway on to the little case and I’m slightly saddened.  It may be actually quite good but I loved the metal one Dunu used to do, sigh.  Hmmm while we’re at things I don’t get why are one type of tip are on the top and the rest hidden inside?  Weird but not important.

So shoving the things into my ears and oh my god!  If there was and IEM that had all of the drama, its these!!!  Oh my god they are so dazzling and V shaped, my god and so open.  I mean they are physically open but god they really sound it too.  Just vast, god these are reminding me of the IE8 the first time I heard it.  Oh lordy these things are just beastly!!!  Wow doesn’t begin to cover a first impression, just so beyond wow.   I know there is a little bit of me somewhere thinking oh god, how will my ears take to these long term but for the moment……. Just incredibly impressive first impression.  I think these are the anti ER4’s.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5.

Lows:  At first the bass will not be what you notice.  The uppers are more instantly apparent.  The bass though, not entirely unlike other higher end DUNU’s lulls you into a false sense of security.  It seems so calm and polite, maybe even reticent. Then you play something with massive, deep bass and it just explodes out of nowhere.  The Beautiful South’s “Your Father And I” positively roars out the low end.  It’s scaled so well and so open still.  It is never what I would think of being a bass heavy IEM though, the bass is clean and too open, that articulate open sound that lets the very bottom end trail off.  It sounds like the bass you might get on a good open backed headphone.  Most IEM’s are far nearer in style to a closed back headphone and if you’ve spend much time with both types, you probably prefer one over the other.  I like the more airy and cleaner presentation of open, you trade low end extension for that, which is a bargain I’m fine making.  Normally in IEM’s to get a more vigorous bass response they must be rather sealed and while that does “enhance” the bass it also slows and fattens it.  The TITAN 1 though is very atypically open sounding and it’s so odd to hear that in an IEM.  The result is you get cello or double bass, bass and not subwoofer bass.  Please don’t take that to mean the TITAN 1 can’t go low, its depth, thanks to that massive driver is incredibly deep for being open sounding.  It quite surpasses just about everything.

White I find its quality excellent and I am happy with its quantity it doesn’t like to stand up dominate.  It also really hasn’t in the heart to sound like electronic and artificial bass.  It constantly strives for a very open and string like or naturally produced low.  As such for pop and such it’s just too polite.  For acoustic stuff it’s very natural sounding bass pairs up super nicely.  Susan Wong’s 511 album sounds so beautifully open and relaxed, really quite tremendously open.

Mids:  Very much like the tonal flavour of the low end.  The take away attribute above all else its openness.  It’s really so very, very open, so alike a big open headphone.  Quantity wise though I do feel that mids are just fractionally behind the bass and quite a bit behind the uppermids/lower treble region.  Yes sadly at times these start heading towards sibilance and some metallic strikes were a little too hard and sharp for my delicate little ears.  Did it moderate my track choices?  Well a little bit.  For the most part it wasn’t a massive issue.

Turning back to more “acoustic” tracks and the openness these lend to the environment is really, really good.  It’s really so much more like an open set of circumauralls than I think any other IEM I’ve used.  Breathy vocals and strings all sound desperately natural and so very open.  Tori Amos’s “Pretty Good Year” is in every imaginable and possible way truly something to behold.  You can almost see the instruments in your mind, they are there, just right there, you know you could just reach out and touch them, they just sound so real.

Highs:  Shockingly, they are very open, bit dry with a very natural and open quality.  It does peak in the lower treble and verge towards sibilance that more than once got a little ear cutting for me.  It’s a bit unfortunate that as otherwise I very much liked what it had to offer and how it chooses to display it.  The air is simply fantastic for an IEM.  Sure I know that there are better trebles out there particularly in the highest frequency end, the TITAN 1 doesn’t quite have the finest accuracy or detail retrieval in the world, though its mighty fine for its price.  The airy quality it captures though, it is simply as good as can be had in an IEM and goes a very long way to create a more natural sense of environment around you.

Quantity wise, I found there is a bit on the too much side for me.  They aren’t super bright but they do like to show off and they have that spike.  Every now and again it would leap out at me and while I very much enjoyed them over all there were certain tracks that I found myself reaching for the skip track button before they could really get going.  For most people it’s probably fine as I’m somewhat treble sensitive but just so you know, it’s there.  Oh and tracks with aggressive treble, badly mastered, rubbish bitrate etc etc I would skip if using these.  I must admit I did fire up the EQ in Itunes and hit treble reducer.

Soundstage:  Huuuuuuuggggggggeeeeeeeee!!!  If you thought the DN-2000 could show off scale and a grandly symphonic sense of vastness, there are even more, just more of everything.  It is frankly rather smile inducing and it’s clear that these have an openness that other IEM’s just do not.  Mind you it’s not quite an endless expanse like being outdoors but it is certainly massive.  Instrument separation is very nice and yet everything sounds VERY well integrated.  A single driver always helps with that one.  Instruments are all around you and a wonderful combination of feeling close enough that you could stretch out and touch them yet still give you that grand scale of an entire orchestra.

Fit:  Well I like to wear things up.  So I swapped the right and left ears (so the red, right, bud went in my left ear) and wore them up.  Instantly they fit me fine.  You’d think there might be an issue with their odd shape, but no not a one.  Wearing down in the right ears worked too but I hate wearing things down.

Comfort:  Ditto with the fit.  Yes they have a weird shape but absolutely zero issues with comfort up or down.  I mean I’m sure someone will have a problem with their shape but it wasn’t me.

Microphonics:  Up, zero.  Down, pretty much none as well.  There is a chin slider too so I can’t see anyone having a problem with microphonics.

Amped/Unamped:  You know what.  I liked these better out of my phone than I did more powerful sources.  The TITAN 1 is for me when powered well inclined to be desperately explicit up top and that lower treble spike they have just wasn’t happening anything like it does with the big DAP’s.  My fairly meh sounding output of my Nexus 5 was on the whole a rather more soft, wallowy affair.  The bass softened and flabbed up a bit, the mids fractional bumped up in quantity (well the highs and lows reduced but same difference) so I found my mid centric inclination was better catered to.  Then the big one, that treble.  Sure the phone still could make it spit out plenty and at volume it still got too much for my ears but it was that touch less irascible.  The TITAN 1 can be a hot headed mistress as when she gets upset she can really scream at you.  Oh, also I’d strongly suggest that you want, if you can, to partner these with a warm and more mellow source.

Isolation:  So far that massively open nature has been all positive.  The trade comes in here and while I don’t consider more isolation to mean the same as “better” it would be an issue for me.  One of the things I like about IEM’s is being able to shut out extraneous sounds but the TITAN 1’s are so open they block out very little.  It’s not quite as poor as buds but it’s not really that far from them either.  Great if you want to be able to still monitor your surroundings but for normal use, read commuting, it’s just not enough.  Well, it’s not enough for me that is.  I’m sure there are those out there that being open is a positive, acoustically you certainly get may benefits but the fact is, no matter how good these sound I would never pick these up to use outdoors or near other people.

Build Quality:  It’s a DUNU so you know it’s going to first rate.  You are not wrong, the cable though has added a little woven covering, the buds as ever are all metal as is the Y splitter and the jack is solid too.

Accessories:  Here I’m in a bit of two minds, DUNU always do a good bundle and they do here too.  Do I count 9 pairs of tips in there?  There is a shirt clip and a 6.25mm to 3.5mm adapter along with their standard cable wrap thingy attached to the cable.  Then on top of all that you get a little hard case.  DUNU seem really keen on trying out different case options so this time we get a hard black plastic one.  While it’s a clearly much more practical case than the giant yellow case from the 900 but…… I still really love the UE like, squareish metal case.  I know not everyone loves it but I do.  This black one, well it’s very functional and practical so I can’t fault it really.  I still like the metal one more though.

Value:  There seems to be a pretty wide price variety out there for the TITAN 1 at present.  Going by Amazon UK they are £90 and elsewhere I can find for $115.  Which I presume is US dollars even if the retailer is in Hong Kong otherwise that would make them £9.75 if its HK$.  So for sheer audio quality these are unsurprisingly super, super good value.  Detail levels are most excellent and their presentation scale is so very much impressive.  For an IEM to be so open sounding is a really impressive feat.  I’m not sure I could have these be the only IEM I own though.

Conclusion:  So the TITAN 1’s aside from having an annoying to type name are a quite radical IEM.  DUNU I’d say do sort of have a house sound and certain characteristics that their IEM’s tend to share.  The TITAN 1’s though (aside from build) are unlike anything else I’ve heard from them.  Actually they are really unlike any other IEM that I can think of at present.  The level of airy openness is so very, very un IEM like.  It really is just so much more like a big pair of open cans.  If you have heard a few open and closed big head phones I’m sure you’ll know what I’m getting at.  They share certain characteristics.  For an IEM to be sharing those of much larger and open headphones is a fantastic achievement and I heartily congratulate the engineers over at DUNU.  Well done good sir’s, I doth my cap to thee.

I could maybe just shut up and leave it on that super high note.  Oh speaking of super high notes….. yeah the treble on the TITAN 1’s was really, really too much for me.  Its quality may be great but in the same way the world finest lemons may be good, it doesn’t mean I could eat one like one might an orange.  I know I’m rather more treble sensitive than most people so it’s not an issue for all.  Actually I’d be quite willing to bet |Joker| will absolutely love these.  For that matter I think anyone that likes a bit of brightness will fall in love with them too.  Me?  Not so much.  I know its super good but I needed that treble reducer EQ going on.

Then what about how the rest of it sounds.  The mids are good but they aren’t as abundant as I’d really have like them to have been.  Super good at airy and breathy vocals though, I mean seriously good, once you dial back the treble so you can get to them anyway.  Then we get the bass.  The bass could be the stand out best quality of the TITAN 1’s.  That open sounding bass I always find to be the most accurate tonally and the most agile.  Usually though opening things up means you really just can’t hit the lowest lows and so normally they trail off quite early.  With the big (by big, I mean massive by IEM standards) dynamic driver in there and being all so close to your ear the bass is epically deep and effortlessly agile.  The tonal nature of the bass is so very natural.  The quality is one of the very best IEM’s I think I’ve heard.  I mean it’s getting pretty much up to IE8 quality levels.  Seriously, seriously good quality bass.  It’s a smidge abundant but given its quality I’d happily swap some of that treble for more bass, though preferably more mids.

So should you buy one?  I, well, I don’t know.  Its great sounding, its staging is to die for, its bass is magnificent but the show stoppers for me are that treble and the dearth of isolation.  Neither of which are per say “faults.”  If you want to still keep an ear out for things around you, great.  If you’re a treble junkie, or you’re 80 then great, that treble could be just what you need.  Me though, na.  It’s something I’ll be certainly keeping in the collection but I can’t say I see me using it much in my normal life.  For sure it’s a stunning effort from DUNU and I’m really pleased to see such experimentation but it’s just not one that’s made for me as the target audience.

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