As the earphone market has grown substantially over the past few years, its technology has mostly split into two camps – dynamic speakers vs armature speakers. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. DUNU, a Chinese company who started out making earphones for other companies, make and sell both dynamic and armature models. Their model choices are extensive in many price ranges. Now, they’ve taken this knowledge and combined both dynamic and armature speakers into a hybrid design – the DN-1000. It’s been done before, but this is DUNU’s first attempt and it’s interesting because of their extensive experience in both the dynamic and armature worlds.
The differences between dynamic and armatures are distinct. Dynamic speakers look like miniature speakers. Their sound usually – but not always – leans towards bass and is not as accurate as armatures. Armature speakers are – again, not always – more accurate, but weaker on bass. Many armature-based earphones use more than one armature to compensate for this by tuning each speaker to specific frequencies. I’ve reviewed many multi-armature models and the sound ranges from good to holy cow! The drawback to this multi-armature approach is cost. They are expensive… there’s no getting around that fact.
That brings us to the DUNU DN-1000 hybrid earphones. Why not take the mids to bass sound of a dynamic speaker and marry it to the mids to treble signature of an armature? Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, it kinda is. I am no engineer, but I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner or that more companies don’t offer this audio union.
As usual, DUNU has supplied the DN-1000 with way more accessories than I will ever need or use. But I would much rather have too many than not enough. There are 11 pairs of tips (silicon and foam) in different sizes. Even with 11 pairs of tips, I still relied on my go-to silicon tips that I use on most reviews. I have weird ears, what can I say? Add to that, an airplane adapter (are those necessary anymore?), shirt clip, ¼” adapter, cleaning cloth, a pair of cable guides, draw-string carrying pouch, and a crush-proof metal case. This DUNU metal case is my favorite case from any earphone maker, regardless of price – it’s that good.
Determining the left from right earphone is almost impossible as the “L” and “R” markings are hard to see, even in good lighting. The left earphone has a small bump where the cable meets the ear piece, but it’s in an awkward place and hard to find by feel.
Did I mention the ear tip spacers? What the spacers (rings) do is alter the distances of the ear tips from the earphone housing which alters the audio and fit experience. There are 6 pairs of 3 sizes (in case you lose one – and you will lose at least one) of tiny colored rings in 3 different lengths. The longest (red) spacer allows the earphone to be inserted deeper into the ear. I prefer this because the audio sounds fuller and more “in your head”. It’s optional whether you use the spacers or not. They’re not necessary. The thing that irks me about the spacers is that they fit loosely and slide off the earphone sound-tube easily. I’ve watched helplessly as a spacer goes flying across the room when a tip is removed. Also, since they are so tiny, have fun finding a dropped one.
The earphone itself is typical DUNU quality – meaning very well-made and substantial feeling. They are also on the heavy side, which rules out using them for exercise. However, once inserted, they are quite comfortable. I’ve worn them for many hours straight with no issues.
The DN-1000 earphones are the most expensive DUNU makes at $200. Hybrids generally cost more because of the engineering involved. Plus anyone who cares about sound also cares about quality and that is seldom cheap.
I have been thrilled as well as disappointed with various DUNU models in the past. I‘ve preferred their dynamic models over the armature ones although I usually prefer the accuracy of armatures. DUNU’s armatures have always struck me as overly bright – almost brittle sounding. Their dynamic earphones pack more punch and sound quite inviting, even if they do lean towards bass more than I prefer.
I didn’t know what to expect when DUNU combined these two extremes. I was pleasantly surprised with the result. I don’t know if DUNU improved the harshness in their armatures or if the dynamic speaker just rounds it out, but no matter. The harsh is gone. What DUNU has made is an earphone that’s the result of the best of both technologies. There are clear highs with plenty of bass. There’s detail combined with fun. There’s a completeness to the sound that will make you smile. Yep, the DN-1000 contains the best of both worlds.
Moby”s new album, “Innocents,” is an example of a U-shaped equalizer mix; meaning lots of bass and highs with a de-emphasis on the mids or vocals. Moby loves distortion by incorporating crackles and pops like an old record with extreme bass thrown in just because he can. With some headphones, I can only take so much of Moby’s over-production techniques. The DN-1000 earphones didn’t care. His music sounded smoother, without any listening fatigue that can be caused by too-bright audio. With DUNU’s armature-only earphones, parts of “Innocents” would be unlistenable.
The medieval-sounding Steeleye Span song, “King Henry,” begins with distinct vocals split into left and right channels. If the balance is off, it can sound not quite right. Listening with the DN-1000 earphones, the separation is pronounced, but in perfect harmony. The vocals are exquisite, giving off an old English “Game of Thrones” vibe that Steeleye Span is famous for.
One thing the DN-1000 earphones can’t fix are older, botched recordings. Many 60s-70s albums were abysmally recorded and there is little that can be done to fix them. On these types of recordings, the armature half seems to dominate the smoother dynamic part. While these songs fare better than they would on DUNU’s armature-only models, they still would sound better on a dynamic-only earphone. It goes to show that hybrids earphones aren’t an audio cure-all.
One of my favorite albums lately is Australian Icehouse’s album of cover songs, “The Berlin Tapes.” Lately, I’ve been listening to it every day. Their rendition of Killing Joke’s “Love Like Blood” keeps enough of the original’s synthetic 80s feel but upgrading the sound quality to today’s level. Iva Davies’ lead vocals sound emotional with just the right amount of graininess to keep things rough. The DN-1000s let this grittiness be heard without it becoming harsh.
DUNU has done it (again) with the DN-1000 hybrid earphones. They continually one-up everyone including themselves by making earphones that sound as good as they are made. They’ve proven that an earphone doesn’t have to be developed in the USA, Japan, or Europe to sound good.