Dunu DM-480: Twins Basil!

Greetings!

Today we’re checking out one of Dunu’s most recent releases, the DM-480.

Dunu is far from new to the audio world, having been an OEM/ODM prior to firing up their own earphone brand in 2006. Around the time I was jumping feet first into the hobby, they were delivering some pretty groundbreaking products like the Titan 1, 3, 5, and the DN-2000. The Titan 1 started my love affair with the brand and it still finds its way into my listening rotation today. It was also my first real step up from the hyper budget gear I spent most of my time with, and remains one of my favorite purchases to this day. The Titan 3 remains “the one that got away”. The pair that was sent over as part of a review tour in 2015 holds a special place in my history with iems, and probably helped to define my personal preferences.

The DM-480 is a completely different beast than the Titan models I love so much, but that’s not a bad thing. Let’s look at why the DM-480 is deserving of your attention.

What I Hear Bass on the DM-480 was a bit hit and miss for me at first; another reason to roll with foam tips. After posting some comments in the Head-fi forums about sub-bass roll off, Dunu PM’d me and reminded that the shell is fully sealed which can lead to pressure build up and a change in sound perception. Made sense given my observations were not lining up with the majority, nor their measurements. I suspect that for the first couple weeks of testing this is likely what I was experiencing. Initial thoughts were that the issue was simply volume; i.e. the DM-480 needed lots of it (80+dB) to “wake up” the low end. Turned out I was getting too good of a seal causing pressure build up and the resultant low end roll off. I didn’t think anything of it because normally it is quite obvious and uncomfortable, particularly when removing the iem, plus I’ve listened to other iems using the same or very similar shells and this was never an issue. It never crossed my mind that this could be the problem. However, per Dunu’s suggestion I pulled out some foam tips and they immediately resolved this issue.

Note that I always test with foam tips, though usually later in my test cycle. I would have figured this out on my own, but thankfully Dunu accelerated the process for me. Bass does indeed dig deep and has plenty of sub-bass presence. Not quite sub woofer-like, but still very deep. In addition, these dual dynamics display excellent texture and control with a reasonably linear move from sub to mid to upper bass. Mid-bass is lean and not particularly prominent, falling into the “just right” category for my listening preferences. It is punchy and quick with no bleed into the mids.

The DM-480’s midrange is lean which isn’t going to satisfy certain listeners. Detail is prominent with little warmth. The somewhat cool, dry presentation benefits male vocals greatly while female vocals come across more sterile than I prefer. While the midrange is quite linear from lower to middle, upper mids are peaked resulting in sibilant aspects of tracks standing out. On the plus side, sibilance isn’t deposited into areas where it doesn’t already exist. When it comes to timbre, the DM-480 isn’t particularly accurate with instruments commonly sounding dry and on the artificial side. For the most part it’s accurate enough to avoid being a distraction, but in the end it seems to work best with mainly electronic works.

Moving into the upper ranges, lower treble is elevated and somewhat harsh with silicone tips that use a stiffer material. I highly recommend buying some foam tips which really smooth out the DM-480’s presentation, or silicone tips that use a softer material (Spinfit, Final E-Type, JVC wide bore, Sony hybrid, etc.). In general the DM-480’s presentation is detailed with good control and only a hint of splashiness present. Upper treble is de-emphasized and continues that somewhat dry presentation heard in the mids, yet the DM-480 retains a satisfying amount of air and space between instruments and notes. I never found the presentation congested. Notes also hit with aggression and decay quickly resulting in a rapid, agile presentation.

When it comes to sound stage the DM-480 is pretty good. It does a nice job placing sounds just around your head space and occasionally fooled me into thinking there was someone calling for me, or at least in direct vicinity. Imaging is quite good with sound moving accurately from channel to channel, while layering and separation are also up to snuff. The DM-480 was a nice companion for gaming since I could easily track opponents as they moved around me.

Despite my initial misgiving with the low end, I was enjoying the DM-480. Fixing the low end issues only served to improve impressions further. This style of bass-focused, u-shaped tuning is technically competent and plenty entertaining, though the somewhat dry, lean note weight through the mids and treble might be a turn off for some.

Compared to a Peer

Shozy Hibiki Mk.2 (65.00 USD): The single dynamic Hibiki Mk.2 (just Hibiki from here on in) has a low end that competes well with the DM-480 in terms of performance and presentation, but falls a little short. Sub-bass extends nearly as well but doesn’t have quite the presence of the Dunu. Notes hit with a little less urgency and linger a bit longer. Texture and detail are also just a half-step behind. The Hibiki isn’t quite as linear with the midbass seeing a more aggressive lift giving it a thicker, warmer sound. This weightier presentation carries through into the mids, to their benefit. As a result the Hibiki’s mids hold a similar emphasis (without the upper mid peak), but carry more presence thanks to the additional weight and warmth. This gives it an edge in female vocals, while I still prefer male vocals out of the DM-480. Timbre goes to the Hibiki which, while not perfect, is closer to accurate. Where the Dunu is somewhat dry and artificial, the Hibiki is a bit warm and plasticy. When it comes to treble the Hibiki has a more linear presentation with a similar upper treble roll off. Lower treble could use a hint more presence in my opinion, and as a result means the Hibiki falls behind in terms of raw detail. Sound stage is also slightly smaller in both width and depth, but they’re both plenty capable of tossing sounds well off into the distance. Imaging performance is similarly good, with the Dunu shining a little brighter in terms of layering and separation, probably due to its leaner, lighter presentation.

These two definitely compete with their u-shaped signatures. The DM-480 is technically the more impressive model, though I find myself enjoying the Hibiki a little more because of the extra midrange note weight and more linear treble presentation. Tuning preference plays a big part when choosing between these two.

In terms of build the Hibiki is good, but the Dunu is better. Smaller, more ergonomic shells with notably improved fit and finish (see Hibiki face plates peeling off). I’ll give the Hibiki’s cable a win though. Ports on the Hibiki are recessed offering more protection from abuse. The sheath is a little stiffer, possibly thanks to the braided design, but it also seems to hold up better in cooler weather. No cable noise either. The inline mic will be a turn off for some though.

Tin HiFi T3 (69.99 USD): The hybrid T3 follows TinHifi’s typical tuning of neutral-bright meaning when comparing low end quantity, the DM-480 is clearly the more bassy of the two. While the T3’s extension is great for a T Series model, it falls short of the DM-480 and is incapable of providing the same level of physical feedback. Mid-bass quantity is actually quite similar though, with the DM-480 having a hint more texture and slightly better control, while the T3 provides a bit more kick. Mids on the T3 are notably more forward and similarly weighted, but with a better balance of upper and lower presence. As such, performances from any gender are represented more equally. While the T3 doesn’t add sibilance to tracks in my experience, unlike the DM-480, it’s also a lot less forgiving of existing sibilance and low quality or poorly mastered tracks. Where you can get away with mediocre files sounding good out of the DM-480, you’ll want to avoid them with the T3. Part of that is the treble which is notably more extended on the T3. The brilliance region is rolled off on the DM-480, while there is a peak on the T3. I find this helps provide a larger sound stage and improve actual clarity over the DM-480, though treble sensitive users will certainly find the DM-480’s presentation more to their liking. In addition to having a larger sound stage, the T3’s imaging, layering, and separation are all improved over the DM-480.

These two are more complimentary than competition given they cater to very different audiences. If you enjoy a robust low end with thumping bass, you’ll definitely prefer the DM-480. If you like to listen critically and prefer accuracy over entertainment, get the T3.

In terms of build, both are wonderfully constructed. The aluminum shells of the T3 do not fit nor isolate as well as the DM-480’s 3D-printed shells, but they get the edge in terms of durability. The T3’s cable is much flashier and more impressive with it’s thick braids and attention grabbing gold and while colour scheme, though there is something satisfying in the DM-480’s more simple, straightforward cable.

KB EAR Diamond (79.00 USD): Starting with the low end, the single dynamic Diamond is warmer and bassier with notably more mid-bass presence and similar sub-bass depth and grunt. This gives it a thicker, heavier sound, with a slower response to quick basslines. The DM-480’s bass is more textured and detailed. DM-480’s mids are notably more forward (upper particularly), more lean and cold, and to my ears better suited to male vocalists. Upper mids are more boosted and display mild sibilance which is not present in the Diamond. Diamond’s timbre is more accurate with the DM-480 sounding somewhat metallic and artificial in comparison. DM-480 has more lower treble presence giving it a more detailed presentation, but the lack of upper treble just adds to the somewhat dry presentation. The Diamond has more upper treble presence and sparkle. Despite this, it doesn’t do anything to reduce the sound stage edge of the DM-480 which sounds wider and deeper with added space between notes and instruments. Imaging is equally pleasing on them both, with the DM-480 having a negligible edge in in terms of layering and separation.

The DM-480 is more balanced and technically impressive, but gives up timbre quality and realism to the Diamond. These two qualities, in addition to a complete lack of sibilance, means the Diamond gets my vote.

In terms of build and comfort, the DM-480 is smaller, lighter, isolates better, is more comfortable, and has better fit and finish. Both look fantastic. The Diamond’s cable is certainly the more premium of the two, however, and the two-pin setup KB EAR went with provides better protection from bends.

In The Ear The DM-480 is Dunu’s first 3D-printed earphone, and they did a fantastic job selecting their shell. The printing quality easily rivals my benchmark, the FiiO FA1, in that you’d never know it was 3D-printed unless you were told. There are none of the usual tell-tale signs of the printing process and as such the housing is smooth and blemish free. The metal nozzles feel very securely attached and not like a weak point, while the abalone-like face plates are smoothly integrated. My only complaint about the build is the lack of support for the 2-pin connectors. Much like TFZ’s usual implementation, the plug sitting flush with the receptacle is the only protection it gets from bends. As such, these are not an iem I feel comfortable tossing into a pocket without first being placed inside their protective case.

The cable is very similar to one of my old favorites (see Penon BS1 Experience and AKAudio Light T2), but not quite as plush, and more subject to stiffening in cold weather. Still, it looks great with its silver sheen shining through the clear sheath. It doesn’t pack the same sort of wow factor as the multi-strand offerings you commonly see from other brands, like the cable included with the TinHiFi T3, but that’s okay. This cable is lighter and arguably more comfortable, the metal hardware looks good (but with minimal strain relief) and shouldn’t break, and you even get a chin cinch. This last feature is wonderful to have because some cable noise is present, and the cinch goes a long way to mitigating it. Overall and fairly standard cable, but one that is quite pleasant to use. Two thumbs up.

Wearing the DM-480 is a pleasure thanks to the ergonomic design, small size, and light weight. The custom-like shell is very similar to those we saw cropping up a few years ago with products like the Kinera H3, but is much smaller and more compact meaning this shell is compatible with a much wider variety of ear sizes and shapes. Keep in mind the shell is sealed though, so pressure build up is a risk. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, and sometimes it can effect the sound negatively (as I experienced). On the plus side, a sealed, highly ergonomic shell means isolation is excellent, well above average for your typical dynamic only earphone. These were a joy to use in noisy places like my local coffee shop, and would be a great companion for those who routinely find themselves in areas of high noise pollution.

In The Box As a packaging aficionado I’ve always appreciated Dunu’s premium materials and the unboxing experience that went along with their products. While the DM-480’s packaging is more befitting of the price tag, it still scratches my unboxing itch thanks to a simple, fuss-free disassembly experience.

On the front of the exterior sheath you see the DM-480 earpieces in both orange and black colour options. Potential buyers are also given a glimpse at the 2-pin system. Off to the side, somewhat hidden by bokeh, are the metal plug and y-split. Flip to the back and there are two paragraphs that tell you about the driver technology and manufacturing process for the 3D-printed earpieces, measurements highlighting the linear bass and mid-range response benefits of the “dual-push” dual dynamic setup, as well as a list of specs. Outside of the box being a little on the large side, this seems like a very retail-ready package since it does a great job of showing off and telling you about the product inside.

Slipping off the sheath you find yourself starting at a fairly standard matte black box with Dunu printed in silver foil being the only other item of note. Lifting off the lid reveals the two earpieces set within a large foam pad. Lift that out and you find a very high quality, Dunu-branded carrying case set within even more foam. Inside the case are the rest of the accessories. In all you get:

  • DM-480 earphones
  • 0.78mm 2-pin silver-plated OFC cable
  • Clam shell carrying case
  • White single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
  • Blue single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
  • Shift clip

Overall this is a nice accessory kit. The carrying case is compact but spacious enough inside to comfortably hold the earphones and spare tips. It is also made from premium looking and feeling materials. The included tips are very comfortable, especially the blue set. They seal well and are quite durable as I found out with the red version I got with my Titan 1 back in the day. The only thing missing is a set of foam tips, a bummer of an omission given Dunu’s partnership with Comply, and with how well foam tips pair with the DM-480.

When it comes to the packaging, it does seem a bit wasteful. It could easily be about half the size and still get the job done. Knowledge Zenith did the same thing in 2018 with packaging for their AS10 and BA10 models; that being, they provide them in largely oversized packaging. With the later AS06 the packaging was identical, save for being just over half the size. Dunu could likely do the same down the road for the DM-480. Still, the materials Dunu used are recyclable so this is more of an observation than a complaint.

Final Thoughts Despite a rocky beginning, the DM-480 wormed it’s way into my psyche and grew into a pretty kick arse little earphone. They’ve got a comfortable, ergonomic, highly isolating shell utilizing a common 0.78mm 2-pin system to satisfy cable rollers, a quality accessory kit, and a well-tuned sound with some impressive bass. I remiss the omission of foam tips which help counter potential issues caused by the sealed shell, and the upper treble is a bit dull for my preferences, but when those are someone’s only major complaints, that’s a pretty big win for a product that runs you only 70 bucks.

Thanks for reading and thanks to Dunu for the chance to check out the DM-480.

– B9

Disclaimer Thanks to Vivian with Dunu for reaching out to see if I would be interested in reviewing the DM-480, and for arranging a sample for the purposes of review. The thoughts within this review are my own subjective opinions and do not represent Dunu or any other entity. At the time of writing the DM-480 was retailing for 69 USD: https://www.dunu-topsound.com/dm-480 / https://www.aliexpress.com/store/5001057

Specifications

  • Driver: 8mm, titanium-coated, isobaric dual-dynamic
  • Impedance: 20ohms
  • Sensitivity: 105 +/- 2dB @1kHz
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 40kHz
  • THD: <0.5% @ 1kHz

Devices Used For Testing LG G6, LG Q70, XDuoo Link, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501, Periodic Audio Nickle, Shanling M0, Hifiman MegaMini

Some Test Tunes

Supertramp – Crime of the Century

Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid

King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic

King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black

Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma

The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy

Steely Dan – The Royal Scam

Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams

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