Dunu DK-3001 Pro: Finesse
Today we’re checking out something special; Dunu’s DK-3001 Pro.
Back in 2017 Dunu released the original DK-3001 to positive fanfare. While I never had the chance to try out that model, looking back on old reviews it seems much of the original’s DNA remains, although with the Pro Dunu has reworked the concept. Along with the addition of an extra armature bringing the total number of drivers to four armatures and one dynamic per side, they also applied a number of tweaks and refinements to both the physical design and auditory experience that should make the Pro a more than worthy successor.
I’ve spent just over a month extensively listening to this earphone, comparing and contrasting it with products at prices well above and below. I think I know the DK-3001 Pro pretty well at this point and feel that it offers an impressive balance of performance for the price (which is not low), all packaged into one of the better constructed earphones on the market. If you’re looking for something in that 400-500 USD price range, the DK-3001 Pro is a compelling product.
Let’s check out why that is, shall we?
What I Hear The DK-3001 Pro shares a very desirable quality with the best sounding products I’ve used to date, that being the effortlessness of its presentation. Some earphones always sound like their drivers are tuned to consistently perform at the extremes of their capabilities. When you increase the volume or start EQing, they still sound good but also come across like they’re trying too hard. Products like the DK-3001 Pro, Campfire Audio Andromeda, and a few select others sound like everything they reproduce comes naturally to them, with little effort needed. That important detail out of the way, the DK-3001 Pro’s signature sounds like it focuses on everything except the extremes. Upper treble and lower bass see reduced emphasis while the lower treble, midrange, and mid to upper bass are all similarly emphasized with nigh-perfect balance.
Treble is well extended with a smooth roll off in emphasis as you increase up and through to the brilliance region. This leads to a detailed, non-fatiguing sound that still presents itself with a welcome amount of air and spacing between notes. It’s also quite suitable across various genres since the energy and clarity is there, it’s just not overly energetic or in-your-face. Despite using armatures, attack and decay qualities are presented more akin to a dynamic driver with a slightly slower, less aggressive bite and linger, but with the exemplary control of an armature. It can pull apart and effectively separate the cluttered, improvisational cymbal work on King Crimson’s live rendition of “Indiscpline” with ease. It all ends up sounding very natural, coherent, and well put together.
The midrange carries on these traits as well and displays some of the most realistic and natural sounding timbre I’ve heard. It easily rivals the more accurate dynamic-only earphones in my collection displaying none of the dry, breathy, plasticky qualities that seem common to earphones using armatures. Running through the orchestral powerhouse that is ‘Gyakuten Meets Orchestra’ is a joy. That said, I do like a breathy presentation which is why EarNiNE’s in-house design armatures are some of my favorites. When it comes to vocal presentation the DK-3001 Pro is seriously impressive. Voices are forward and clear without the upper mid peak that causes other earphones to sound shouty and sibilant. Both female and male vocals are equally well represented with a clean articulation of subtle details. Artists with a very flexible vocal style, like Skindred’s Benji Webbe, and handled flawlessly. The DK-3001 Pro can easily keep up with his impossibly quick transitions from smooth reggae to metal screaming, with some calm crooning thrown in. The powerful voices of female singers like Celine Dion and Caroline Lavelle aren’t left behind either, with all their character and body on full display.
The DK-3001 Pro’s low end is politely boosted with a focus on the midbass region. Midbass is very tight and well-controlled with a satisfying punch and a smooth but detailed texturing. Subbass drops in emphasis the deeper you go.While you do experience some visceral feedback, it’s not going to rattle you. Instead, it stands aside to let other regions carry the track. Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” is a good showcase track for the DK-3001 Pro since it puts the above qualities on display. So is the drumming on the aforementioned “Indiscipline”. Kicks hit with authority, and each note is distinct and dynamic feeling. Bringing in a modern pop track like the impressive “GIANTS” from the virtual band True Damage shows that the DK-3001 Pro is a capable earphone to pair with bass led beats. The warbling, grungy bass note that drives the track through a couple sections has just enough presence to do it’s job but doesn’t overwhelm like it can on some other more low end forward earphones, such as the Polaris II from Campfire Audio.
When it comes to sound stage the DK-3001 Pro isn’t going to wow with a cavernous presentation like you’ll find on the Campfire Audio Solaris. It’s actually quite average, if not slightly above, presenting music just outside the ear. Sounds can be tossed off way into the distance and every once in a while you might experience the odd “did someone call me?” moment where you pull out one bud and look around, only to find it was something in the music. For the most part the experience is just shy of intimate. No, where the DK-3001 shines is with what it does with the sound within this space. Imaging is razor sharp and very clear in channel-to-channel transitions. Following a sound as it moves requires little concentration. Congestion was never an issue thanks to the DK-3001 Pros ability to keep individual tracks elements separate while effectively maintaining a layered and dynamic feel.
Overall I find the DK-3001 Pro to be a seriously impressive earphone. The injection of warmth and somewhat relaxed upper treble combined with a peakless upper midrange has a decidedly more Western listener appeal to it, as originally pointed out by Dunu in a chat, and that I 100% agree with. As someone that has been completely enamoured by the Chinese hifi scene for many years now, I’ve found myself leaning towards a more mellow but still very detailed sound in the last year or so, one that the DK-3001 Pro delivers on every front. If there was anything I would change, it would be to increase sub-bass presence slightly, but otherwise this sound signature and tuning is spot on.
Compared To A Peer (volume matched with Dayton iMM-6)
Fearless S6 Rui (389.00 USD): The S6 Rui is packed with six balanced armatures and is one of the best bang-for-the-buck earphones I’ve heard. It look drop-dead gorgeous and has the performance to back it up. While it gives the DK-3001 Pro a run for it’s money, there is a clear difference in refinement that separates the two. The S6 provides more upper treble energy and shimmer and to my ears has a better treble balance, with presence and brilliance regions that are more even overall. The Dunu sounds quite a bit smoother though, without giving up anything in detail and clarity, while also having a cleaner, more controlled presentation. Mids out of the Fearless are more forward and prominent without crossing into sibilant or shouty territory. It matches the DK-3001 Pro’s detail and clarity but falls behind in timbre quality thanks to a hint of dryness that pervades throughout. Notes also sound a little less defined around the edges, lacking the liquid smoothness of the Dunu. Bass is more comparable oddly enough. While the DK-3001 extends deeper into sub-bass regions, emphasis is similar with the armatures in the Fearless only falling behind when dipping really deep. Midbass is more punchy and textured out of the S6 Rui, with a snappier attack and more rapid decay. While I generally prefer the meatier, heavier feel of the Dunu’s low end presentation, the S6’s armatures are just as capable, but in different ways. When it comes to sound stage the S6 Rui sounds slightly less wide but offers more depth. That brings with it slightly improved layering, but I still prefer the way the DK-3001 images and separates individual track elements.
Campfire Audio Polaris II (499 USD): Like the DK-3001 Pro, the Polaris II is a hybrid earphone, though with only two drivers compared to the five found within the Dunu. Treble from the Polaris is less linear leading to a brighter sound with more upper end emphasis. This gives it a more air and shimmer, while the Dunu sounds cleaner with greater note clarity, more control, and finer detail. The Polaris feels more energetic since along with the brightness comes a snappier attack and faster decay, but the Dunu sounds more mature and refined. Mids on the Dunu are more natural sounding with again, a more linear presentation from lower to upper. Vocals are well-weighted and clear with no coherence issues. Comparatively, the Polaris has more upper mid emphasis that draws out siblance already present within a recording. Timbre from the Dunu is even more realistic and accurate compared to the Polaris which was is slightly bright and lean, but still a notable step up from it’s predecessor. Bass is where the two drastically differ. While the Dunu is slightly boosted, the Polaris II goes full basshead. Lots more midbass that adds a ton of warmth, along with more prominent and forceful subbass. The subwoofer-like presentation of the Polaris’ low end certainly lacks the fine control and deftness present in the Dunu’s dynamic driver (9.2mm vs. 13mm), falling behind in texture too. When it comes to sound stage the Polaris II sounds wider and more spacious, putting you deeper within your music. I found the Dunu quite a bit more impressive technically though. Sounds move from channel-to-channel with greater nuance and precision, tracks sound better spacious and more layered, and despite having a smaller stage to play on, instruments and effects are better separated and more well-defined. These two are clearly aimed at different markets. If you like v-shaped signatures with a big stage and crazy bass, the Polaris II delivers in a way the Dunu cannot. If you want something much closer to a balanced reference-ish sound, the Dunu runs circles around the Polaris II. They compliment vs. compete.
Hifiman RE800 Silver (599 USD): The RE800 Silver features a single 9.2mm dynamic driver on each side that utilizes Hifiman’s ‘Topology Diaphragm’ tech. Despite their differences in acoustic design, they both succeed in providing a refined, detailed, hi-end sound, though slightly skewed in different directions. The RE800 is brighter overall with more upper treble presence and a similar lower treble presentation. The extra upper end energy combined with clean lower treble gives the RE800 a more lean, analytic sound next to the Dunu, despite a slightly looser note presentation. Both are quite quick with an impactful attack on notes and realistic decay. Mids from both are a standout with the RE800 having a brighter, thinner presentation thanks to a lift in the upper mids. I’d give it a very slight edge in micro detail and clarity over the Dunu, hardly noticeable unless really listening hard. Timbre is nigh identical for the most part, though the RE800s brighter nature does lend it to sound slightly less natural at times. Bass on the DK-3001 Pro is stronger with more mid and subbass emphasis, though I find the RE800 offers greater extension and improved texturing. The RE800 is also a little quicker and more nimble, though decay out of the Dunu feels more natural. When it comes to sound stage the RE800 feels wider and deeper with it’s vocal presentation set slightly further from the ear by default, but when it comes to technicalities the DK-3001 Pro isn’t bested. Sounds sweep from channel-to-channel with more precision, layers to tracks are better separated and have more dimension, and instruments feel even more defined and well-separated on congested tracks. If you prefer a neutral-bright sound, the RE800 Silver will better meet your needs, but for everyone and everything else the DK-3001 Pro will be the superior pick.
In The Ear I’ve used a few Dunu earphones in the past and ergonomics have always been good, even when their designs have been somewhat unconventional. Take for example the original Titan 1, 3, and 5 which were earbud-like in shape, but with a nozzle. They were light, low profile, and slept in the outer ear with little fuss, though the short nozzle demanded a suitable tip to compensate for some users. There are wisps of this older design in the DK-3001 Pro, but thanks to a number of elements that modernize it, it ends up being one of the most satisfying earphones I’ve ever worn.
Size is a big factor in this. Despite being a five driver hybrid containing four armatures and a reasonably large 13mm dynamic, the DK-3001 Pro is impossibly small. It is dwarfed in size by the Campfire Audio Solaris which has one less driver. The Shozy x AAW Hibiki MK.2 towers over it, and that contains a long 10mm dynamic. Dunu’s engineers have brilliantly packed a swath of drivers into the DK-3001 Pro’s shell without compromising on size, ergonomics, or sound. Other aspects of the shell that help make this such a pleasant earphone to wear is the nozzle length and angle. The nozzle protrudes at about a 70 degree angle which combined with the tapered interior of the shell means there is little beyond the ear tip and base of the shell interacting with your ear. This lack of contact combined with the small size and over ear design of the cable leads to a very stable, unobtrusive fit. I can use the DK-3001 Pro for hours without any fatigue settling in. That is despite this being a fairly weighty little earphone. The DK-3001 Pro is made from S316 stainless steel with a unique internal design to help eliminate harmonic resonance. The ergonomics are so good and weight distribution so perfect that the weight means virtually nothing in the long run.
That weight also makes them feel like the premium earphone they are, aided further by the sort of build quality you would expect at this price point. The DK-3001 Pro has a very in-depth design with lots of angles and details. That’s easy to mess up. Dunu didn’t. Seams are clean and tight. Everything sits flush with no unslightly gaps or misaligned sections. The c-shaped faceplate (or metal hood according to the box art) is a mix of brushed material with tapered, unpainted edges that show off the sheen of the metal. Even the tiny Dunu logo is masterfully done, with the small break in the left arm of each U remaining. The attention to detail is crazy impressive. Likely due to space constraints, the MMCX receptacle is contained in a horizontal arm that organically forms out of the top of the housing. It’s similar to what TinHifi has done with the T2/T3/T4, but in a different orientation. In combination with the curved plugs of the included cable, it all feels very natural when worn.
Speaking of the cable, it too is quite nice. On one end is a set of angled MMCX plugs out of which tightly curved, preformed ear guides protrude. They do a fantastic job of keeping the cable wrapped securely around the ear, even during wild head movements. Above the y-split are two very light, thin, loosely wrapped strands of brown/copper coloured wire. Those pass through a clear rubber strain chin cinch and into a metal y-split where they reconnect into a four wire braid. This braid is not very tight, something I have criticized other brands for in the past. It works a much better here because the sheath remains flexible and does a good job of minimizing cable noise, but with is a hardness to it that keeps the braid neat and tidy with none of the sloppiness I’ve seen elsewhere. It behaves so much better than other, similar cables I’ve used. This braided design carries on down from the y-split to Dunu’s Quick-Switch modular plug system where you get to select the plug you want to use from the four included options; 3.5mm single-ended / 2.5 mm balanced / 3.5mm ‘PRO’ Balanced / 4.4 mm Unbalanced/Balanced. Like with the earphone itself, this plug system is much more intricate than it needs to be with fine knurling for grip, copper and silver accent bands, and clear indicators necessary to line up the plugs for proper installation. It all feels and looks quite impressive, unquestionably befitting of the price tag.
Despite what I read prior to the DK-3001 Pro showing up, I actually found it to be pretty well isolating. With no music playing, the clacking of my keyboard and my wife’s videos playing in the background were much less intrusive than I was expecting. With music playing, even at my characteristically very low volumes, these outside elements pretty much faded completely. The same can be said walking along the sidewalk with cars whizzing by. It all ends up being tossed to the wayside in favour of whatever you are listening to. Since at the time of writing we are still experiencing a lock down due to Coronavirus, there are no crowded, extremely noisy areas I can visit to really put the isolation to the test. I would still expect the DK-3001 Pro to handle it fairly well though, especially if you favour foam tips.
In The Box The DK-3001 Pro provides a doozy of an unboxing experience forcing me to look back to 2018’s RHA CL2 to find something comparable. The 3001 arrives in quite a large box for an earphone with a very descriptive sleeve wrapped around it.
On the front of the sleeve is the usual branding and model information as well as a transparent image of the 3001’s shell showing off the driver layout inside. I’m quite glad Dunu added this front and (off)centre because it shows off just how impressive the engineering that went into this product is. The DK-3001 Pro is not a large earphone whatsoever and you would otherwise have been left wondering how they fit five drivers, four balanced armatures and one fairly large 13mm dynamic, inside such a compact shell. Flipping to the rear of the sheath you are presented with a breakdown of the components that make up the 3001 Pro. The c-shaped crossover unit is particularly impressive and something I personally have no come across before. Generally it’s just a small rectangular chip slotted in somewhere, but Dunu went the extra mile to fully integrate it into the design in a way that would not compromise things. Below this breakdown is a list of specifications.
- Frequency Response: 5Hz-40kHz
- THD: <0.5% @ 1kHz
- Impedance: 20 ohms
- Net Weight: 16g
- Cable Length: 1.2m
- Connector: Custom catch-hold MMCX connector
- Sound Pressure Level: 112dB +/- 2 @ 1kHz
Sliding off the sheath reveals a matte black, textured box with Dunu printed in glossy black lettering. Gripping the front flap and pulling away to break the magnetic seal allows you to lift the top. Once inside the experience continues, feeling more premium than usual. Printed underneath the lid is a user guide for Dunu’s quick switching connector system for the includes MMCX cable. It’s a very intuitive system that doesn’t involve anything more complicated then lining up the dots on the connector ports and cable plug, then pushing them gently together. No twisting, no locks to mess about with. Just plug and play. Resting on top of the contents of the box is a sheet of paper, very similar in thickness and texture to wax paper sans wax, with “Designed by Dunu” printed in glossy silver lettering. Ribbons protrude around the edges on either side. Lift out the sheet and you find the DK-3001 Pro attached to the Lyre cable neatly wrapped and tucked into a foam insert. Down the right side of the insert are the various plug options, all set within their own individual cutouts. Removing this first foam layer reveals a number of additional accessories below, either set within their own foam cutouts or hidden within a smaller cardboard box. In all you get:
- DK-3001 Pro earphones
- Lyre MMCX cable
- 4 Quick-Switch Modular Plugs (3.5mm single-ended / 2.5 mm balanced / 3.5mm ‘PRO’ Balanced / 4.4 mm Unbalanced/Balanced)
- Leatherette storage case
- Spinfit Custom tips (s/m x 2/l) + silicone spacing rings
- Grey single flange tips (s/m/l)
- Red single flange tips (s/m/l)
- Comply T-500 Isolation foam tips (m)
- 1/4” adapter
- Airplane adapter
- Earphone cleaning brush
That’s a pretty exhaustive list of extras isn’t it? The case is on the large side, about the size of a traditional wallet, with plenty of room inside for the earphones, cable, and a few extras. There is even an extra pouch inside in which you can place extra tips, the cleaning brush, and/or the 1/4” adapter. I’d use it to carry the DK-3001 Pro and FiiO BTR3K with the clip case installed, then tuck it all into the back pocket of my jeans. The selection of tips of various sizes and [single-flange] styles is quite welcome since you are sure to find something that will work for your ears, however, some may lament the absence of any bi- or tri-flange tips. Overall a minor omission in what is otherwise a very comprehensive unboxing experience and accessory kit.
Final Thoughts Dunu has been around for a long time and have always been reliable in their releases of products that perform exceptionally well for the price. The DK-3001 Pro is no exception. The tuning of this earphone is handled beautifully. The tapered extremes drawn attention to everything in between showing off just how well balanced and technically capable it is. It sounds natural, it is crisp and clear, and neither fatigue nor sibilance are part of the equation. The DK-3001 Pro has a very dialed in, mature, and well-thought out tune that has many peers, yet few that can stand toe-to-toe and command the same level of respect upon detailed inspection.
And not only does it sound phenomenal, it is built to the same overly high standard thanks to extremely ergonomic steel shells that are nigh flawless in their construction. The included cable, Lyre, is a high quality piece of hardware too. I’m not a fan of the loose braid, but the sheath feels durable, it’s flexible, and the successful implementation of Dunu’s new Quick-Switch modular plug system means it is versatile. Such versatility is further helped along by Dunu’s generous inclusion of a swath of high quality accessories that range from nearly a dozen pair of tips to four different plug options. The DK-3001 Pro really is the complete package.
Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer A huge thanks to Lillian with Linsoul for asking if I’d like to review the DK-3001 Pro, and for arranging a sample for review. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions based on over a month of use. They do not represent Linsoul, Dunu, or any other entity. At the time of writing the DK-3001 Pro was retailing for 469.00 USD: https://www.linsoul.com/products/dunu-dk-3001-pro
Gear Used For Testing LG Q70, FiiO M3 Pro, Earstudio HUD100, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501
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