The All-Rounder Transformer
- Pleasant, balanced and musical profile, quite all-rounder.
- Natural sound and timbre.
- Airy scene, with a good feeling of openness.
- Great compromise, doesn’t do anything wrong.
- Very good packaging and accessories.
- Great design and build level.
- Excellent value for money.
- Perhaps it lacks a little more lift in the sub-bass to improve the formula.
- The case is a bit flat.
- Although the cable is handy and comfortable, there is room for improvement.
- The use of any other cable breaks the integrated aesthetics offered by the standard cable.
- While it doesn’t do anything wrong, it doesn’t specialise in anything either, there isn’t one aspect of the sound where it’s really very good.
- Lack of depth and height on stage.
- No choice of balanced cable.
Link to the Web
Veteran headphone brand Dunu, which has been around since 2006, but whose roots go back to 1994, continues to innovate for music lovers, as they put it. But a brand with the surname «TopSound» has always given me pause for thought: is it a pretentious name or a high level of self-importance? Without a doubt, I would venture to write that it is the latter. Every new model that Dunu presents will always raise high expectations. It will be thoroughly reviewed by shops, reviewers and enthusiasts alike. TopSound implies this level of demand. Dunu has been able to generate this perspective from the outset and, at the same time, to present models that are always interesting and up to the demands. This sums up the philosophy of the new Titan S. From the design point of view, it is an iconoclastic image, even within its own catalogue. Both its superb construction and its daring design are eye-catching. This is one point of view. The next area that separates Dunu from many other brands is its packaging and level of accessories. Rather than opting for a large, half-empty box, it settles for a packaging that highlights the shapes of its new product, but is tailored to what it offers: it’s not much bigger than the large zipped case it comes with. The level of detail and protection of its elements I have not found in other models in this range, or immediately above. Even the capsules are wrapped in small zip bags, so that they don’t suffer the slightest damage until they reach the customer’s hands. Finally, there is the sound. And this is the most complex part. As a big brand, the engineers and tuners have to have an idea, which can be shaped by current market trends as well as the many requests from the fans. It is clear that no universal sound can be created and that each signature can be unique. But the real knowledge and skill of each brand lies in wisely combining all these concepts. So what has Dunu achieved with this new model? First and foremost, a very attractive design and many other things that we will see below.
- Driver Type: 11mm dynamic transducer, with multi-layered, polycondensated liquid crystal polymer (LCP) diaphragm, lightweight CCAW voice coil, N52 internal magnet.
- Capsule Material: High-density zinc alloy. Dual Chamber, anti-resonance housings.
- Frequency Response: 5 Hz-40 kHz
- Sensitivity: 110 ± 1dB @1kHz
- Impedance: 32Ω @1kHz
- Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): <0.3% @1kHz
- Jack connector: 3.5mm TRS Single-Ended
- Cable Composition: High-purity, mixed strand monocrystalline copper and silver-plated copper.
- Cable Length: 1.2m ± 0.1m.
- Capsule Connection Type: 2Pin 0.78mm
- Net Weight: 17g
The Dunu Titan S comes in an almost small box, measuring 134x97x70mm. The main side shows a real image of the capsules, on a splashed surface. In the background, vertical bars that look like red and blue neon are shown. In the upper left corner is the brand logo and the model name in white letters. In the bottom right corner is the Hi-Res logo. On the back, the red and blue neon and water splashes are highlighted in a rather blurred image. The model name still stands out at the top, in white, capital letters. Just below it, there are 4 QR codes. Then there are the model specifications, in English and Chinese. Finally, at the bottom, there are the brand’s contact details, the codes with the different certifications that the product has and an EAN13.
Once the outer carton has been removed, a complete black box appears, with the brand logo in the centre, written in white letters. The lid is lifted to reveal a large, vivid blue leatherette case. The logo is marked in the centre near the gold-coloured zip. It can be easily opened thanks to a generous loop made of the same material as the case itself. Behind it is a small black cardboard cover, marked «Dunu», which houses the rest of the accessories. In a summary:
- Capsules with cable and one pair of medium sized silicone tips, red core.
- Three pairs of blue core silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- Three pairs of translucent grey silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- Three pairs of red core silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- One clothes pin.
- Warranty certificate card.
- Instruction manual.
The capsules with the cable come inside the case. The whole set is protected by a zip bag. In addition, each capsule is, in turn, protected by a smaller zip bag.
Each set of silicone tips comes in a sealed whitish pouch.
The cable is attached to the capsules and has a rubber band to tuck it away.
I would like to point out that there is no need for an inordinate size of packaging, to include an efficient number of accessories, as well as exceptional care in the protection of the elements that make up the product.
I think there are many brands that should learn from what can be done with an IEMS presentation under $100. Dunu makes a creative effort with each model and adds some fantastic accessories, such as the zippered case on this model. And all this without compromising on the sound quality or the construction of the product. Nor, of course, in its design. Worthy of admiration and praise.
Construction and Design
I’ve read a lot about the aesthetics of the Titan S. But to me it reminds me of those metal giants from the cartoons I used to watch when I was a kid. From Mazinger Z, to Transformers… There is something of a «Mecha» design in the capsules, or that is my humble opinion. The capsules are constructed from a high-density zinc alloy. Their outer face has similarities to a sort of triangular shape, with filed corners. The inside of the face is shaped like a spiral that projects towards the cables and ends at the centre of the face in a round, micro-perforated grid, superimposed by a double crown of black plastic. This face has up to four different levels of planes. Almost in the centre of the short side, between the grille and the plastic cable connector, there is an eye-catching black Torx screw. The metal is brushed on this side and the Dunu brand is written between the bevelled corner and the grille. The inner side is smoother and rounded. A smooth rib almost divides it into two parts. There is a letter inscribed inside a circle, to indicate the channel. At the foot of the nozzles there is a hole, which is surprisingly large: it is not exactly small, but not as big as the channel marking, but it is very obvious. Through it can be seen as a mesh of dense, white cloth. The nozzles are long (almost 6mm) and have 4 levels. The one closest to the base is a stopper, the tips should not cover it, its diameter is 6.5mm. The next level is lower, slightly larger than 5mm. The third level is an inclined ring, the base of which is larger in diameter (5.6mm) to end at the outside of the nozzle, 5.1mm. The interior is protected by a dense metal grid.
The 2Pin 0.78mm connection is embedded in the metal body. So the cable has a small square surface, with slightly rounded corners, which fits perfectly into the recess. These pieces have the colour of each channel. On top of them is a piece of hard, rubbery, black plastic that follows the rounded trapezoidal shape of the capsules, all the way down to the cable. Once the cable is in place, it looks as if the whole thing is just one piece, as the shapes have a continuity that fits perfectly into the design.
The cable has semi-rigid over-ear guides, formed by a transparent, slightly hardened plastic sheath. It is 1.2m long and consists of 4 spirally wound strands. The material is high purity monocrystalline copper and silver-plated copper. The splitter piece is a black metal cylinder, with the marking in white lettering. The edges are subtly recessed, the real colour of the material is visible. The pin is a small translucent plastic cylinder, double-holed. The cable can be tucked away thanks to a black rubber band. The connector is angled, 3.5m SE, gold-plated.
Internally, the Titan S features an 11 mm dynamic driver with a multi-layer liquid crystal polymer diaphragm (LCP), a lightweight CCAW voice coil and an internal N52 magnet.
The design is unique and very special, giving the feeling of holding a much more expensive model in your hands. Anyone looking at these IEMS can expect that this is something very exclusive and unique. The integration of the shapes with the cable connector sleeve breaks the continuist aesthetics, if the cable is changed. Perhaps this cable is the weakest point of the set: there is no balanced option and it seems a bit thin. But it is really comfortable, smooth, tangle-free and has no stiffness whatsoever. The pin is close to perfection and the rubber adjustment strap, despite being a classic, I don’t find it to be totally effective.
In conclusion, the construction/design pairing is within the reach of few brands, for a product in this range.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
It may seem that a capsule with such a particular shape must be deadly uncomfortable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although it looks angular on the outside, inside it has a very smooth, rounded face. The corners and edges on the inside are much more subtle, barely touching any part of the ear. The nozzle has an elongated projection, so a medium insertion can be assumed. Using fairly wide canal tips, you could cover the top of the 6.5mm base and make the insertion shallow. This is my case and even then I don’t find that the outer parts bother me. With normal tips, the capsules seem to float in the pinna and the friction is almost non-existent. I prefer shallow insertion, using large internal channel tips, bringing the mouthpiece closer to the edge of the tips, achieving superior isolation, due to the thickness of the tips. By bringing the nozzle closer to the outside of the tips, I get a feeling of closeness in the details, a greater opening of the music, which together with the pressure exerted by my homemade tips, filled with foam, I get a very full sound in the low area, in addition to that extra isolation. The advantages of a good nozzle design allow the use of various tips and settings. Very good.
The profile of the Dunu Titan S is balanced, with a tendency towards neutrality, mixed with an emphasis on mid-highs that brings clarity and transparency, as well as a certain sparkle. On the other hand, the subtle linearity of the low end adds a slight air of warmth in some situations. It is not a bright profile, nor is it purely neutral, nor does it have a predominance of warmth, but there is a good conjunction of each element to provide a natural, pleasant, musical sound with a good timbre, balance and equilibrium.
In terms of response vs. power, these IEMS are not difficult to move, but their 32Ω demand a little more energy to respond with more verve. I needed a little more power to level out volumes versus their more direct competition.
The Titan S is a member of the academic bass class. That is to say, a low end with a pattern that seeks linearity, but is subtly emphasised at the beginning of the mid-bass, bringing a gentle warmth, but losing some presence at the lower end. Even so, the LFOs have a light, but adequate representation, which avoids a mere testimonial display. The low end does not rumble loudly, but its sonority is very realistic and natural. The representation of the pure tones of very low frequencies is really well done, producing a pleasant vibration without colouring, very much in accordance with reality and with that reliable and academic reproduction I mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph. The hit of the bass drums is dry, restrained, precise and agile, although not very lively. I mean that the Titan S is not euphoric about displaying all its technique, class, let alone punch, unless it is demanded. He is not a serious scaredy-cat, I would say he has a somewhat modest, prudent, cautious, even shy character. But he shouldn’t be. I would have liked a little more emphasis, punch, strength and energy in this range, because he lacks neither technical nor sonorous abilities. However, the low end still behaves like that nice guy who tries to stay out of the way, who works in the shadows and leads by example. In this way, the bass is presented in a soft, yet effective way, possessing a pleasant texture, whose subtle roughness is clearly visible, demonstrating a natural, silky sweetness. The decay of the notes is in keeping with this idiosyncrasy and the little sediment that is observed leaves a great taste in the mouth, increasing a memory that seeks something more, but that will never come. Both the lamination of the bass and the generation of the layers is tenuous, drawing a real but slight stratification. This fact feeds that suggestive sensation that the Titan S bass possesses, but at the same time, it limits the perception of a more accentuated depth. If you will allow me to use a football simile, the Titan S bass is like that football player who never quite explodes, but who sometimes provides afternoons of glory. Because of his craft and sacrifice, he is always good to have in the team.
And if we have a great partner at the back, we can play better in the middle. This «Mecha» belongs in the division of honour and proves it with his central range. Its good work is reflected in the representation of a zone based on a well-defined softness: it is pleasant in its zenith, but explicit in the rest of the points. It is a measured response that does not hide its character, nor its clear, clean and transparent nature, but never feels hurtful. The sound still strives to be sweet, though here there is a more overt exaltation, which will never be a problem. In this way, sibilance is hinted at, but never persistent or uncontrolled. Such rounded curves would never allow such a thing. The result is a pleasing mid-zone, well supported by the slight warmth underneath and its good, clean transition, which enjoys a natural, balanced body, neither too dense, nor too light, but always present. I find no hollowness in the mid-range, no big jolts, but a great coherence that produces pleasure and musicality in equal parts. It is a great all-rounder, not powerful, but very reliable. It is the midrange I prefer when I don’t know what to use. Perhaps it is because of its evocative capacity, its precise and realistic timbre and the presence of its voices. It is true that the pinna gain favours a greater corpulence and presence of the female voices, as well as a point of greater passion compared to the male voices, somewhat lighter and thinner, but equally sweet, natural and suggestive. I do not deny a favourable treatment of these voices, compared to the rest of the instruments, but their presentation is not predominant. This is another point I would like to highlight, how well the Titan S mixes the elements and arranges them in their different planes of presence. Starting from a bass that is not characterised by being very deep, the mids bring a better ability to laminate voices and instruments, separating and emphasising them individually, leaving, in addition, a lot of space to represent details and nuances. This sense of openness seems to be inherited from the early Titan models, such as the 1 (which I still have the pleasure of owning). It’s not quite the semi-open design of that early version, but I’m sure that the grille on the outer face has a bearing on this. The good perception of spaciousness corroborates the clean look of the first half of the mids, helping them to be light and with a certain point of volatility. It may seem that there is not much substrate in this part and that the music does not possess much muscle, or density, but this avoids any sense of dullness and darkness. The upside of this aspect is that it can become a virtue, when it comes to releasing very compact music in this area, helping to clarify and lighten overloaded, complex, dense and heavy passages in this transition from the lows to the mids. In other words, the Dunu Titan S is that team player who is always ready to help. A reference in the midrange.
The first treble of the Dunu Titan S starts off softly muffled. After an exalted mid-high range, the entry into the upper range drops off slightly, creating the classic control tuning. As usual, the rest of the zone alternates between peaks and valleys. But there are several things to note: the valley in the control zone is not deep and there is a noticeable response in the air zone. The first characteristic results in a natural reproduction of the treble, with a progressive decay that gives it an organic, analogue feel. The flares have a measured finesse, not extended in presence or energy, but integrated coherently with the overall smoothness of the sound. On the other hand, there is no sense of a drastic cut in the harmonic progression, something that avoids a dry, concrete sound. Fortunately, there is juice and sparkle, although the sound is never distinctly bright. The second feature is the amount of air, which is unusual for a dynamic driver in this price range, but pleasantly surprising. This fact helps to harmonise the zone by offering a vaporous finish, which provides a subtle and pleasing sense of volatility.
The end result is a side zone that bases its effort on enriching the mid-range, rather than individually showing off with more pronounced excitement or more prominent energy.
The soundstage is notable for its width, a more than adequate height and a more limited depth. The amount of air provides vapour and an ethereal feeling. Perhaps, the opening of the IEMS, with that grille on the outer face, also helps to expand the image and produce a sense of oval scenery, which does not escape the head. In this sense, the feeling remains natural, unforced and never unreal. The recreation of vocal tracks and not too many instruments produces a more evocative effect, thanks to the greater projection of those voices, which generates a more extended and fuller scene, providing a pleasing sense of volatility and vaporous expansion.
Separation is good, there is a clear distinction between the elements, thanks to the improved clarity and level of transparency. This is not an analytical sound, with an ability to isolate elements with greater precision, but the sound has a more natural, noticeable, yet realistic resolution. Nor is it a cohesive sound, unified by the smoothness of its reproduction, but is freer and cleaner, more separate and discernible, but without offering a deep distance that allows the desired abyssal darkness to be seen.
The level of detail is somewhat more than favourable, there is a good recreation of nuance and the breakdown of harmonics helps to represent a greater richness in this respect. Still, the micro detail is not as explicit and the depiction of the nimby aspects is appreciable, though not profound, nor clinical. But, on the whole, all its development fits in a balanced way with the musical profile of the Titan S.
Just over a year ago I reviewed one of my favourite IEMS in this price range. However, I have seen that nobody has yet compared it against the Titan S. The price range is the same, even the profile is similar. The packaging is also quite good, with neat accessories, a luxurious, if thin, cable and a large carrying case, somewhat inadequate for its bulk and construction. I think that both the packaging and the level of construction is superior on the Dunu. The capsules of the Hidizs are of a similar size, but made of a quality polycarbonate, very light. But there is no comparison that stands up to the zinc alloy construction and design of the Titan S. So in all matters other than sound, the Dunu is superior. Only the Hidizs win in ergonomics, basically because they are very light, but not because of pure fit, which could even be very similar.
In terms of sound, the MS2s are easy to move, while the Titan S needs a clear higher energy input. In the Hidizs you can see their hybrid nature, because there is a split between the warmth offered by their DD, while a more analytical aspect can also be perceived in the second half of the sound. While the Titan S has a bass tuning that descends from the sub-bass, the MS2s grow from that same point, peaking in the mid-bass. There is definitely more warmth in the Hidizs and a clearer bass perception, with more energy and weight in the sound. Their low end is wider and more encompassing, that greater weight in the mid-bass rounding out the band and making it more of a protagonist. On the other hand, the bass of the Titan S is cleaner, has less projection, decays faster, has less punch and is also executed in an agile and somewhat faster way. With less energy, the speed parameters are better in the Dunu, although the Hidizs are good in this department. For those who like bass, the Titan S may be a little short, while the Hidizs, without having to sacrifice quality or technical qualities, can offer more punch and presence in this range. For sub-bass lovers, make no mistake, they are on a par, and I even consider the Dunu’s slightly superior. Texturally, both are very enjoyable and it’s something I like about the Titan S, how a restrained bass can be rich in this respect. There is more roughness in the Hidizs, but that’s also because their surface is larger.
The tuning of the first half of the midrange is different. The MS2s have an upper body, the incidence of that lower mid-bass that descends later, emphasises the initial part of the midrange, bringing it closer, showing it fuller, denser, warmer and bulkier. In contrast, this same zone in the Titan S is cleaner, also more distant, this transition is softer and less present, it feels lighter and thinner. Both in the male vocals and in the instrumentation of this zone, these differences can be clearly perceived. Then, there are the tastes of each one in relation to these aspects. It is not better or worse, because technically and qualitatively, both are very capable. It is purely a question of tuning.
In the second half of the mids, when the BA of the Hidizs comes into action, the relative sonority changes. You feel a quicker and faster spark, a more energetic flash and more light. On this side, the more analytical side of the MS2s awakens, with its high level of precision, definition and finesse in the notes. The Dunu is more musical, not as fast, not as splashy, not as emphasised. You can feel the smoothness, more cohesion and superior harmony. Again, although the tuning is similar here, the execution is different. The BA driver exhibits its character in the Hidizs, with all its potential, and the dynamic driver of the Dunu does the same, but in a different way. It is true that the highs of the MS2s also have a great influence on the perception of the high mids. And this is clear, because despite a similar start, the highs are more extensive and noticeable in the Hidizs. There, there is more free rein for the high notes to expand, extend, grow and reach higher, with the approval of a driver that shows its power. The Dunu remains coherent and more controlled, so the zone feels more natural and calm. But they show great character when they have a similar amount of air to a good hybrid with a dedicated BA. Very much to be reckoned with.
At the detail level, the more analytical profile of the MS2s is felt and the nuances are more pronounced, making them more immediately perceptible. When speed is required, the Hidizs’ higher resolution and velocity is able to draw transients with more immediacy, giving it a higher definition capability. When nuances can be presented in quieter settings, despite the difference in exposure, the level of detail is equalised.
The Hidizs show a more evident separation, with a distance that generates more darkness between notes. The Dunu shows more soundstage width, but less depth and not as much height. The MS2s offer a rounder, more even image on all three axes, not spherical, but comparatively more similar.
The battle in the sub-$100 range is fierce. Another novelty that plays in the same league as the Dunu Titan S is this model from Ikko. They have a bigger packaging, a good amount of accessories, with special attention to their unique tips and a rather flat leather pouch. Both the silicone tips and their special shape are not very useful for me. Somewhat better are the foam tips, but I don’t usually use them. The leather pouch is not very practical either, because it’s quite flat, it’s nice but the closure is not very suitable. I much prefer the Dunu case. In terms of capsule design, the OH2s are very small, dense and also a bit heavy, due to their hybrid design using metal and plastic. Undeniably stylish and attractive, they are available in various colours. They fit very well and integrate nicely into the pavilion. Another thing is its short, oval nozzle, which can present some problems in the choice of tips. Overall, I prefer the more compact packaging of the Titan S, even the cable is superior, as it has no stiffness compared to the Ikko. Also, I prefer the 2Pin connection over the MMCX rotary connection.
The OH2s are slightly easier to move. They have a warmer profile, with a light low end in the sub-bass and a clear emphasis on the mid and upper bass. From 1kHz onwards the curve evens out and then offers an even softer treble, but also with a good extension in the air area. It’s just another twist in a profile that has similarities to the Titan S, but with more body from the mid-bass to the mid-mids and more nuanced treble.
The OH2’s lack of sub-bass is apparent in those recordings where it exists and its appearance is demanded. Again, it is a reverse tuning, between the two models: the Dunu’s decrease from the lower end, while the Ikko’s grow, albeit from a lower point. Technically speaking, bass recreation is very good in both IEMS, enjoying speed and accuracy, cleanliness and detail. The Ikko has a rounder low end, with a focused impact, a nice texture but less descriptive than the Dunu. There is more cleanness in the low end of the Titan S and also less warmth. Their stroke is faster in execution and with a quicker decay, while in the OH2s, the greater emphasis on mid-bass offers a little more travel.
In the mid-range there is that more concrete and sparse sound of the Opals, with less brightness, something that creates a feeling of greater darkness and less extension, certifying a superior warmth. In the Titan S there is more freedom, cleanliness, sparkle, more life and dynamism. Although there is a little more body in the Ikko, with a denser and more exposed area in the first half of the mids, the projection is more muffled, generating a containment of the notes and their harmonics. The expansion of the sound is curtailed, which is not the case with the Titan S, although the sound is always under control. This control is more pronounced in the treble, where the notes are even softer and more nuanced. Thus, the high notes of the OH2s feel polished and inoffensive, a little more presence and joy is missing. Fortunately, the Dunu does offer this difference.
In terms of detail, the OH2s show a surprising ability to extract nuance in the mid-range. Because the treble does not stand out too much, the sound is left more naked and exposed to some details, which can be more easily observed. On the Dunu, not as much information is omitted from the high end and there are more notes to be reproduced, so it may be a little more difficult to discern some of those details, because there are actually more of them in the music they reproduce.
If the Ikko scene could be considered as intimate, in the Dunu it is represented with more width and a bit more expansion. In this way, there is more extension in their image, with a tendency to occupy more space.
The particular sound of the OH2s offers a good level of separation, with a surprisingly large amount of air. The more open, ethereal and vaporous feel of the Dunu provides a greater appreciation of the distance between elements, more separation and more three-dimensionality.
Many brands would like the launch of each of their new models to be an event. But few manage to do so. Among them, Dunu can do it, especially when they have so many reasons to make the new model a success. In this new batch of Dunu products, there is a clear demand for a high price/performance ratio. To this end, the design, build level, presentation and accessories are all superior to what is offered by other brands in the same range. But then there is the sound, which must be up to the task. And this is not a trivial aspect, for a brand that cares about taking the pulse of the current trends and of the fans, in general. On this basis, the paradigm of a new Dunu model is the Titan S, because it fulfils each and every one of the elements described above. In reality, the result is a great sum of efforts that have their reward. Whoever buys this model knows that they have in their hands an added value, a plus of distinction, and not only for that reason it will sound better. This differentiating element must be supported by the real effectiveness of a great sound. This is where fans should be most critical of each new model from this brand. And, indeed, they are. And so am I. But as long as Dunu keeps designing, making models like this and getting this sound… I’ll be happy to be critical!
Sources Used During the Analysis
- ACMEE MF02s.
- ACMEE Magic Sound 4 AK4493EQ 768K
- xDuoo Link2 Bal.
- Hidizs S9 Pro.
- Earmen Sparrow.
- E1DA #9038D.
- HiBy R3 Pro.
- Burson Audio Playmate.
- S.M.S.L Sanskrit 10th MKII + iFi ZEN CAN.