- Very good design and ergonomics.
- Very good presentation.
- Technical bass.
- Good feeling of initial brightness.
- Remarkable musical potential.
- Slightly heavy.
- First half of the midline slightly receding.
- Lower end slightly coloured.
- Subtly dark.
Link to the Store
Thanks to a European Tour organised by Head-fi.org I have been able to test two Dunu models. One is the Dunu Falcon Ultra and the other is this present Dunu Alpha 3. They are earbuds and the first thing I would like to say is that not many IEMS brands dare to release earbuds. So I appreciate the effort of a brand with as much tradition as Dunu to make this effort. Furthermore, these earbuds do not have the usual classic shape, but Dunu has created a relatively special design. It uses a dynamic driver with a liquid crystal polymer composite diaphragm with a highly flexible surround suspension. The capsules are made of stainless steel and aluminium alloy. Let’s take a broader look at what these Dunu earbuds can do.
- Driver Type: Dynamic with liquid crystal polymer composite diaphragm.
- Frequency Response: 5Hz – 40kHz.
- Sensitivity: 105 ± 1 dB at 1kHz.
- Impedance: 32Ω.
- Total Harmonic Distortion: <0.5% at 1kHz.
- Cable length: 1.2m ± 0.1m.
- Jack connector: SE 3.5mm gold-plated.
- Cable conductor: High purity silver-plated monocrystalline Litz copper type 1.
- Weight: 30g.
The Dunu Alpha 3 comes in a medium-sized black box with dimensions 134x96x70mm. On the front side you can see a dark and realistic photo of the earbuds. At the top is the model name and at the top is a sentence reminding the 21st anniversary of the brand, why wasn’t the 20th anniversary celebrated, does the 21st have a special connotation? On the back are the specifications in several languages, including Chinese and English. Underneath are the brand’s brand designations. The outer cardboard is removed vertically to reveal a black box with the brand logo in white in the centre. After opening the box, a large zippered case with the Dunu brand name in reverse relief can be seen. Underneath is a second level with a black cardboard case carrying a portion of the accessories. To sum up:
- The Dunu Alpha 3.
- Zippered case.
- Cleaning brush.
- Complete foams.
- Doughnut type foams.
- Warranty certificate.
- User’s manual.
I have not opened the bags with the foams and other accessories because it is a tour. I will use my own foams.
Inside the case come the earbuds, inside another plastic zip bag. And, in turn, each capsule comes in another zip bag. Dunu has a penchant for storing each part in a different pouch. This is appreciated for the level of protection, but you also have to be a bit more environmentally friendly in this respect.
Finally, the box has a seal of guarantee and authenticity.
For 80$ the level of accessories is good, there could be more foam and the case is too big for the product itself.
Construction and Design
The capsules of the Alpha 3 are made of stainless steel and aluminium alloy. The cable consists of four strands of high-purity silver-plated monocrystalline Litz type 1 copper.
The design of the capsules is a classic and rather regular cone which is anchored to two very elongated trapezoidal bars by means of a thin rib protruding from the top of the cone, where the apex should be, there is a horizontal cut from which the cylindrical rib protrudes. The side of the cone has small brand logo motifs of different sizes. At the upper end of the trapezoidal bar is a grille. On the inside face of the bars there is a small torx screw and also the lettering indicating the channel, inside a circle, all in white. The cable comes out of the bottom of the bar.
The driver is protected by a thick metal grille. The edge of the capsules is glossy, while the side of the cone is matt. It might look like the rods are plastic, but they are metallic with a rougher matte finish. The capsules are heavy, even individually.
The cable parts are metallic, matching the dark gold colour of the conductors. The sleeve of the 3.5mm SE gold-plated plug is cylindrical, with a roughened ring close to the cable part. The splitter piece has a similar design but is subtly more tapered on its long side. The pin is a translucent plastic piece that fulfils its role well.
Very good construction, remarkable cable, but the whole thing feels heavy.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
The conical, splayed shape of the Alpha 3 gives it a special playfulness when it comes to fitting. The cone tilt itself is fine-tuned, in conjunction with its diameter, to fit properly in the ear canal. The bars even allow for some rotation to find an alternative setting that will face the drivers more directly into the canal. I have commented on certain occasions that I usually rotate the capsules of the earbuds until they are almost horizontal. This way the driver is placed more towards the channel, opening it up a little more. This results in a fuller sound, better detail, even more bass. The elongated spigot of the Alpha 3 allows this, but not as much as the classic MX500 capsule earbuds, although I must also comment that the shape of the spigot and its edges can be a little less comfortable for this rotated use.
It’s been a while since I’ve tried earbuds and I haven’t had much time to shoot the Alpha 3s. The profile is somewhat dark, warm, slightly V-shaped, with good mid-bass presence. It has a nice puch in the early treble, with a touch of crispness. The vocals are a bit far away, with that darker and more opaque touch that is usual in many earbuds. I recommend using dunuts to gain clarity.
Due to the fact that the Tour only allows a week for two models, the Alpha 3 has not been able to be worn for many hours. It is possible that over time it may change its temperament and improve in clarity.
The bass is quite punchy, but, as usual with earbuds, the sense of depth is limited. In the very low-frequency pure tone test the Alpha 3 performs the lowest tones in a coloured way, with the vibration being felt rather than the actual sound. However, it performs rather better than expected. The lack of sensory capability limits depth perception, but there is good presence, quantity and speed of execution. The hit feels quite tight, concise and recovers early, but its roughness is low and it feels more smooth than textured. As I say, there is punch, but without overwhelming, without generating too much feeling of volume, nor dominating too much in the environment. It is well balanced and even its V-profile is not bass-heavy. On the other hand, in the dirty, complex and unfiltered bass test, the Alpha 3s suffer as soon as the volume is turned up. Their behaviour in this case is not very adequate, providing a coloured and not very reliable sonority.
The first half of the midrange feels somewhat opaque and distant, with the upper-midrange working better. Likewise, the micro detail is not very visible, being out of play due to the conjunction of the darkness and opacity of the area. The male vocals have a somewhat low physicality, they don’t feel very full, lacking body and a little more nuance. The instrumentation of this lower mid-range zone is also on the simple side of musical representation. It suffers from a certain level of resolution and resolution, feeling warm and relatively dark. The feeling improves in the second half, reaching a more descriptive and explicit level, but without reaching a sense of clarity, luminosity and full transparency.
The treble has a good initial sparkle, with good representation in the next phase. But these are not overly clear or bright IEMS, accentuating that V-profile feel. The high notes are not too fine and feel detrimental to the dark character of the ensemble. I miss a greater sense of sharpness and cleanliness in this area.
Normally, earbuds tend to have a wider stage feel. The Dunu Alpha 3’s present a rather front and centre stage. The laterality and stereo feel is focused and the angle is always well below 180°. It doesn’t feel too high and the depth is average. It’s not a congested scene, it’s rather intimate, without too much sense of air or transparency. The light is dim and the separation is average. The level of detail is based on the V-profile, offering more visibility at the sharp peak, being more restricted in its representation of the central area.
ISN Rambo II
Priced at $69, with MMCX connection, metal construction and a similar shape, based on two cones attached to a spigot, are the ISN Rambo II. They are not a new model but a good point of comparison.
The Rambo’s standard cable is simpler, but allows any other much better cable to be used. The presentation is more classic like other earbuds, with a typical ISN zippered case, 3 pairs of full foams and three pairs of donut foams. The build quality is as good as the Alpha 3, but I prefer the ergonomics of the Dunu, as the Rambo IIs have capsules that are more slippery to my ears. The improvement is in the ISN’s rounder, more rounded spigot, which is more comfortable, in case it rubs against any part of the ears when rotated inside the pinna to find a better orientation of the capsules.
Rambo IIs are easier to move and at the same volume they sound louder. Their profile is less V-shaped, with less noticeable bass, but more balanced in the mid-range and with more light.
In the low range, the reproduction of very low frequency pure tones is similar, although it is more compact in the Dunu. The colouring is repeated in both, perhaps the Dunu’s are more defined and their reproduction is cleaner and more precise. In the real bass representation, I find a little more gentleness in the ISNs, they feel a little more elastic, less dry and concise. Perhaps that superior elasticity in the ISNs gives it a feeling of superior projection, as well as a slightly more accentuated depth. The greater dryness and speed of the Dunu makes them more technical, but also shorter. Maybe it’s the ISNs’ longer roll-off, but they perform better in complex, unfiltered bass situations. Not that they are the best suited, but they sound better and closer to reality.
The central range of the ISNs is fuller than that of the Dunu. The male voices are fuller, wider from bass to treble, as well as closer. However, they seem to be better defined in the Dunu. It is noticeable that the technical aspect prevails in the Alpha 3s over the Rambo IIs, although their voices are thinner and a bit more sibilant. However, the mid-range of the ISNs is fuller and more representative, there is more life and music in their mid-range, with a more noticeable closeness of instrumentation, but it can also be somewhat more diffuse than the Dunu, better defined and sharper.
In the upper range the same discourse persists, softer the ISN, finer, more defined and marked the Dunu.
In terms of soundstage it feels wider and deeper in the ISNs, because of their fuller sound.
The Dunu Alpha 3 are earbuds with a great design and construction. They feel slightly heavy but the ergonomics are quite good. I might miss a design with a detachable cable, but the standard driver is quite good. It has a V-profile and good technicalities. The bass is compact and fast, the mids are a bit distant, but crisp, well-defined and defined, while the treble has a good initial sparkle. I’m glad to know that a brand like Dunu dares to continue producing earbuds with a great potential like the Alpha 3 and I think that if I had been able to try them for a longer time I would have felt improvements in their sound, due to the lack of break-in. In my last listens with them, I could perceive a sensation of improvement in the clarity with respect to their adversaries.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- Burson Audio Playmate II.
- Aune X8 XVIII Magic DAC + EarMen ST-Amp.
- Hidizs S9 Pro Plus Martha.
- Aune Yuki.