DUNU DN-19 "Tai-Chi"

Review Equipment:
Ipod 160gb lossless files
Ray Samuals Audio "The Hornet" amp
Whiplash Audio LOD

Cans used to compare signatures:
Head-Direct RE-0

I will start with special thanks to Rocky from DUNU for the opportunity to review this new flagship IEM. I had not heard of DUNU before this revue. Having visited their website and read up on some of their other offerings, I was very excited to hear what they were bringing to the table.

So.. Whats in the box? DUNU definitely gets a good grade for packaging and accessories. In the box you will find:
-thin black case containing 7 different pairs of silicone tips, shirt clip, bag of black dampers (about 10 pair), extra behind the ear guides, and a microfiber cleaning cloth.
-a crush proof headphone case
-a leather pouch containing both a mini to standard HP adaptor, and an Airplane adapter. never seen an airplane adaptor as included packaging before. they must want me to come see the factory.
-the Headphones, which come packaged with the medium black/green tips, and ear guides.

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Whats so special??
The DN-19 is unique in the sense that you have the ability to choose between two configurations. The IEMs essentially have a bass port that you can either leave open or close off, depending on the signature that you want. They also come with two silicone tip shapes that also effect the sound. It is rare to find such a tunable setup, and It was a lot of fun to play with. More about the sound in the review portion

Build and Fit:
The DN-19 is designed as an over the ear headphone. The over the ear configuration definitely helps eliminate most cord microphonics for me. The body of the IEM is of light plastic, but it does not feel cheap. The body is also pretty large in comparison to some IEM's, which does indeed effect fit. But that is a very common issue with the "universal" shape. more on fit in a minute. I would like to make special mention of the cable. I was impressed by the fit and finish of the cable. it is a really nice tight braid all concealed in a kind of rubberized coating. This gives the cable lots of flexibility and spring, while still giving the sense that it is quite durable. Some might find it a bit unyielding if they like to stuff the cable in their pockets, but I rather like it.

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Whenever you have an IEM where the body defines the depth in which you can get the tip, fit will be an issue. when I use my RE-0, I am quite happy with the medium size tip, as I can place it deeper in the ear so there are less twists and turns for the music to follow. This is not the case with the DN-19. the typical medium tip was of no use to me, because it would not go in far enough to get a seal. Well, no problem. different beast requires different approach. I ended up using the largest of the tips to get my seal. I must say again though, that the sound of any IEM depends so much on how the tip fits in the ear. The closer you are to the eardrum, the better. the more twists and turns the sound has to take before it gets to you makes a world of difference. I really wish I could hear these IEM's in more of a "bud" shape so I could get it further in. I do honestly get a sensation that I'm not hearing all that it can do.

Side Note about the tips.
The grey and black tips have some differences worth noting. The grey tip is rounded at the ear opening, while the black tips have a bit of a "flat spot" at the opening. This had a lot more effect on the sound then I expected. essentially, with the flat spot on the tip, you are adding some space for the sound waves to bounce around before they continue through the ear canal. For me, this brought out the bass a bit more, but also buried some of the higher frequencies. seemed a little congested. I'm sure someone else could show me some graphs and tell me about acoustic properties, but essentially, I did not care for the black tips, and I used the grey for most of the review.

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OK, enough about all the stuff, how do they sound?

Overall, these are very nice sounding IEMs with a relaxed warm signature. They are not the last word in detail, nor are they bass monsters. although with the dampers out, the bass is up front and personal.

I want to hear more about that Damper thing:
Like all IEM's, tip fit is key. After I found that I universally got better sound with the large grey tips, I went about really listening to how inserting the damper effected the sound. Just like in the world of speakers, some people like ported speakers, and some like sealed boxes. Ported speakers typically give you rounder, fuller bass. while sealed speakers give you tight, punchy bass. This absolutely equates to these IEMs, and you can see that in their included graph to show what changes to expect from using the damper. One thing I found interesting was that they include a graph for the black silicone tip alone, and the gray tip with damper. No gray alone, no black with damper. I would be interested in those charts as well. But I digress. I generally found that without the damper, there was a greater amount of bass, but the upper and mid frequencies got buried. if this was a bright headphone with forward mids, that would work great, but it is not, and I generally found the difference in balance to off putting. The bass just felt a little uncontrolled without the damper. Now, having said that, if your a bass head, and want to rock some trance or techno, this might work for you.

OK, so you shove the damper back in, what did you get?
With the dampers in, the entire IEM sounds more balanced. Bass is still deep, but there is more control and punch to it. Mids blend a bit more seamlessly with the bass, and the midrange and highs feel like they are more present.

Specifics (grey tips/dampers in)

Highs:
Overall I feel that while the highs are there, they are subdued. The upper range is smooth, but a bit polite for my taste. I hear the cymbals, but they arnt as lively as I would like. Even some vocals sound a little covered. I was listening to Donald Fagen's Morph the cat, which is an amazing album from a production standpoint, and it just lacked the airiness that I like to hear. Now, having said this, if you are a person who is overly sensitive to high frequencies, these may work for you quite well.

Mids:
Keeping in mind that this is a warm IEM, meaning that there isn't a lot of high end extension, the midrange is nice, but it gets a little congested. low mids are a bit muddy, but upper mids are actually quite lush. some of the congestion comes from the lack of definition you get without some high end sparkle. hard to describe though. some believe the sennheiser 650 to have a blanket over the high end, but the midrange is to die for. overall, the midrange is nice and thick.

Bass:
I tell you, with the dampers in, the bass on these IEMs is respectable. yes, it could be tighter, could give me some more definition, but it is still really nice enjoyable bass. I was listening to Chromeo, which is kind of like new wave dance r&b type stuff, and these cans rocked. bass was fat and clear. lots of fun.

Soundstage:
About average. But soundstage is always hard to talk about because I believe its pretty subjective. Overall, I do not get a sense of great depth here.

Instrument Separation:
This is one area I did not like. I often felt things were mushed together in complicated harmonies or busy sections of music. this may have more to do with the overall speed of the IEMs. They are not particularly fast.

Conclusion:
This is a warm IEM. It has a nice overall laid back signature that would probably appeal to the Grado haters of the world. the mids and bass are the strong points, and of course the ability to change the overall signature to your preference.

Note:
It is unclear if this will be the production version. I recall Rocky mentioning possible tweaks after the reviews came out. We shall see.