Jerry shares with us his experience with his new Dunu Titan 3.
So I decided to buy yet another product based on reviews and judgments of better people than I (Bless you, internet!). Earlier such ventures include my beloved FiiO E10K DAC/Amp and the so-recommended-that- it’s-cool-to-hate-them AudioTechnica ATH M50x. I’ve been genuinely happy with those purchases and decided to trust the good, rich people on the web once more.
The DUNU Titan 3 are supposed to satisfy the void in my life left by my 3 year old pair of Klipsch S4 in-ears – mid-range! The Klipschs are known to be incredibly sparkly. In fact, when I listen to other “normal” headphones, I find them to be lacking in treble because of my 3 year old relationship with the S4. Don’t get me wrong. I still love those, but this is not a review for the S4, it is for the DUNU Titan 3 (yes, I know). Let’s do this categorically:
Packaging: Okay, so DUNU is a Chinese company. Get ready for some laughs when you read the packaging text. “Approved by multi-nations”, “all and all…” are some examples of ridiculous copy which made it on the outer package. On top of that, the name DUNU itself stands for “Delicate, Unique & Utmost”. What. The. %#@*?? The quality of the box itself, and the feeling of opening an undoubtedly luxury product are top-notch, though. The fact that the company takes pride in its work is obvious from the minute you tear the shrink-wrap.
Open the lid and you are presented with a view of the gloriously glossy metal monitors with the numerical 3 printed on the back. Flanking it are three pairs of silicon tips arranged from large through small. The monitors at first refused to come out of their thin wall plastic housing, and I was too afraid to pull them roughly. At first, I feared that some sort of surgery might be necessary to take those out, but then I braved up and tried again with a cry of “PUSH!” and out popped one of the monitors. The other one popped out shortly after. Phew! A plastic carrying case lined with rubber is provided for travel purposes, but the box is a little too small for the earphones. One will have to arrange the earphones and wires in just the right position for it to close completely. The quality of the box is excellent, though and it gives the feeling that it will protect the phones nicely.
Build Quality: Right off the bat, these look and feel premium. They are heavy, and show excellent build quality. Also, the phones look quite bigger than all my past earphones. They have a glossy metallic finish with an absence of any sort of colour on their body, which gives them a serious, no-non-sense look. Icing on the cake is the individual serial number on the jack. Mine are #508. Something about having that knowledge makes me feel special. I am a simple man, I am easily impressed. The cable has some memory to it and displays slight microphonics. The cables are removable, but they won’t come off easily. Indeed, I had to resort to using my nails to pry them off to swap the channel orientation. Upon re-insertion, they sit in with a satisfying click. Why did I do this? I will come to that next.
Fit and comfort: So as I said, I had read some reviews beforehand. A lot of the people preferred wearing these around-the-ear. The complaint with the Titan 1 was that because these can only be worn one way, it forced people to wear them straight-down unless they were willing to swap the left earpiece with the right (which is sacrilege in the books of many purists). Since the Titan 3 allows cable removal, they can now be worn around-the-ear by putting the left earpiece in the right ear and vice versa and swapping the cable orientation, so you still hear the sound correctly, and eliminate the microphonics completely in the process. Sorry if that was confusing.
These are some huge earpieces! I have tiny ears. They do not sit comfortably deep enough in my ears to isolate outside sound. The correct way to wear these is placing them in lightly at first, then pulling your ear vertically in both directions (with both hands) to open up your ear canal, and pushing the monitor in with a free finger. It might sound like too much work, but this is essential to find a proper seal.
Next thing to do was to try all the different tips – oh the tips! 6 pairs of them. 3 pairs each of two different kinds. I do not know what these are and what they do. I just saw small, medium, large, hurr-durr. I found the small ones to go deeper, naturally, but they sat loose because the earpieces themselves would not go deep enough. The large ones are the ones I settled for in the end. The grey ones with the red insides were soft and pliant enough to rest nicely in my ears. I do recommend everyone to spend as much time as it takes to select a tip as it will have a big influence on sound quality and comfort.
Sound Quality: Before we get into this, I should mention that I have slight (self-diagnosed) tinnitus in both ears. I have splendidly failed all ABX tests for differentiating FLAC and MP3 320 kbps files. And I’m pretty sure I cannot hear above 14khz anyway. For the purpose of this review, my sources include my 1st gen iPod Touch, my OnePlus One Mobile phone and my PC via the FiiO E10K. The files vary between MP3 256 kbps to FLAC. I’ve used these for about 2 weeks now. I haven’t burned them in with pink or white noise, but rather I’ve let them AND my brain burn in to their sound. My impressions are based on my experience with the headphones from day-to-day use, and not any specific testing for the purpose of writing reviews.
At last, we come to the part that people care for the most. The sound quality. Since I only have the Klipsch S4 for direct comparison, I will be making any comparative statements based on my experience with that pair. First thing that comes to my mind is the apparent increase in detail. Extension on both ends of the spectrum is very readily understood. The vocals stand out vividly, and no doubt form the defining range of the overall signature. No other headphone I’ve owned has brought me closer to the voice of the artist. Vocal prominence may not sound enjoyable, but the majority of music exists in the mid-range, and headphones with a soft mid-hump make for very relaxing listening sessions. The bass is not heavy-handed. It extends into infra territory, but I wouldn’t use words like slam or punch that one would associate with genres like house, electronic, etc. The Klipsch excels at those genres.
Part of the reason for lack of slam could be that these earphones do not isolate well. I’ve found a proper seal to be a must for bass impact, and these do not sit deep enough to seal properly, especially if you happen to have small ears like I do. But as I said, the bass extension is very nice. Some of the songs I’ve heard many times revealed hidden bass undertones that were lost to me with other headphones (“I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly). I did back and forth between my S4 and the Titans, and the extra detail in both, the bass and the treble was unmistakable. Another good quality of the bass is that it is very tight. Bass notes do not linger any longer than required. A good example is “With or Without You” by U2. Many headphones make a mess of the bass note that is present throughout the song. The result would be a slow, lethargic bass which bleeds all over the place. Not so with the Titan 3. The tone and timing remains true throughout. I could make out fingers plucking guitar strings in the unplugged version of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”. I also listen to many movie scores, and the “No Time for Caution” track on the “Interstellar” album showcases beautiful dynamics with these earphones.
The Titan 3s might sound a little too bright to some people. This is understandable. I believe the team at DUNU kept the highs prominent along with the mids, probably to highlight female vocals. Coming from ultra-sparkly Klipsch earphones, the Titans sound tame by comparison, but I am a bit disappointed. I bought these thinking that they would be completely mid-oriented. I suppose a little EQing to create a dip around 6-9khz by a couple dB won’t hurt so much, but only if I crave for a very laid-back sound, and then only on some very treble-heavy songs. That said, the treble, although quite high, is not at all harsh or fatiguing. Overall, a very satisfying sound signature. Easy to listen to for long sessions without fatiguing your ears too much (especially with the EQ I mentioned earlier).
Listening straight out of the phone and being amped through the E10K had little to no difference. The E10K sounded a bit more bass-heavy (I had to check whether I had turned the bass boost on), but the difference was little if at all there. Very easy to drive these to SPL that could cause some serious damage!
Conclusion: I give these a solid 7.5 out of 10. If you get a chance to audition these before purchasing, that would be better, especially if you have small ears. I cannot imagine anyone disliking the sound coming out of these, unless they’re bass-heads. Clarity and resolution is top-notch. The cost is also justifiable considering the build quality of these phones. They come with a few accessories like the abovementioned 6 pairs of tips, a shirt clip, a quarter inch adapter, those wing-shaped things which apparently hold the earpieces securely in your ears (I can never imagine trying those on), and best of all, a hard carrying case which could have been just a tad taller.
I’ve been using these for the past few days while commuting and while at work. Sure, they don’t sound as good while I’m on the road because of the lack of isolation, but they sound delicious while I’m at office and there isn’t much background noise.
I look forward to using this fantastic pair of earphones for years to come, hopefully. And I have no qualms recommending these to anybody seeking a pair of good-sounding, well-built, and not-extremely-expensive pair of IEMs.