Dunu DM-480

disclaimer:  I was sent the Dunu DM-480 by DUNU  for purposes of this review.  I have no financial interest in DUNU and was not compensated other than the product itself.   I have owned several DUNU products previously including the DN-17 Crater which I believe was the previous IEM marketed at this price point by DUNU.   If you have an interest in purchasing DUNU products, you can visit their website or Ali Express store.

 

Unboxing / Packaging:

The DM-480 ships in a slip-cover style package with the Name, Model, and images of the earpieces in both color options on the front and the complete specs on the reverse.  Removing the slip-cover reveals a lift-top style box with the earpieces in foam tray on top of the rest of the accessories.  Removing the foam tray reveals a black denim clamshell case tucked in a foam surround with the manual and warranty card.    Tips, the cable, and shirt clip are all resting inside the clamshell case to round out the kit.   The kit comes with two types of silicone tips (black and translucent white) in three sizes each (SML).    Remembering that this is an entry level product and has a retail of $79, the kit is fairly complete with the possible exception of a cable tie and foams.

 

Build/Fit:

Dunu makes no bones about the fact that the 3d printed shell is OEM’d through a 3rd party with Dunu being responsible for the internals and tuning.   The Shell is a 3 piece design with printed inner shell and faceplates and an aluminum alloy nozzle.   The inner shell is ergonomically shaped and transparent making easy to see the drivers, while the faceplates are opaque or nearly so with the Dunu logo in gold.    Fit and polish of shells is good with the only complaint being that the bi-pin connector is raised above the surface of the shell but is not of the hooded-type so it looks a bit square compared to all the other rounded edges.     Nozzles exit the lower front of the shell with a slight forward and upward rake that allows for about average tip depth and isolation.  A pronounced lip holds tips firmly in place as well.      I found the shell quite comfortable for extended use as it is on the small side.

The elephant in the room is that this is the same OEM and almost exactly the same shell used for the Yinyoo Ash, the Auglamour T100, and the TRN IM2 (and quite possibly others).   I will admit to feeling a sense of deja vu after the triplets (KBEar, CCA, and Tripowin) I reviewed awhile back, but while the shells are all alike, the signatures do differ a bit between the various models so it doesn’t appear to be a pure re-badge as that group was.  (See sound notes for comparison graphs).

 

Internals:

The DM-480 uses an 8mm coaxial dual dynamic driver with titanium diaphragms in an isobaric “dual-push” configuration.   This dual configuration is reported by Dunu to reduce harmonic distortion, and improve linearity for better performance.   Nominal impedance is listed as 20Ω with a sensitivity of 105 dB /mW.   I found the DM-480 to be fairly easy to power, but it did open up some both qualitatively and quantitatively when provided a higher powered source.   The LG phone was enough to power them well when the high-output option was used but lacked a bit when the lower powered output was enabled.  Ultimately I would say these can be used without an amp, but will benefit from the addition of one.

 

Cables:

The provided cable is silver plated Oxygen free copper in a single strand “Tinsel” style.  The jack is of the 3.5mm TRS straight type with a stainless housing with lateral bands around the housing for increased grip and a short strain relief.  The splitter matches the jack in style with the Dunu name printed but lacks strain reliefs on either side of it.  A small clear plastic chin-slider is provided and functions well.  The north end of the cables terminate with pre-formed earhooks and .78mm bi-pin connectors of the standard (non-hooded) variety.  The Connector on the Right has a small red dot immediately above the pins but unlike most it is on the rear side of the connector based on the earhook orientation.

 

Sound:

This is the average frequency response of 10 runs with both sets of large tips.

Here is the same broken out by tip type for comparison sake.   My original suspicion was that differences were probably within the margin of error of the test rig so I ran each tip 10 times and averaged the results.  As you can see, some differences persist even with running the tests 10 times in an alternating fashion.  The white tip provides a bit more bass elevation while both have very similar curves above the mid-bass.

Bass:

Bass can be the star of the DM-480, but it needs power to do it.  At low listening volumes, I found bass rolled off somewhere around 100-150Hz and it wasn’t until I pushed the DM-480 harder that it moved down to the mid 30s.   At full power, the bass is quite good not because of quantity alone, but rather because of quality presented.   The Bass is elevated with a sub-bass centered around 60Hz when fed enough power.   Mid-bass drops back from the 60Hz peak but remains elevated above the mids for most of its range.   The good news is, it doesn’t obscure other elements and the elevation doesn’t come with the usual trade-off for quality.  It is a very articulate and well detailed bass with good attack speed and a natural decay.   It has very little mid-bass bleed to obscure mids, and contributes a touch of warmth without blooming.   The level of control in the lower registers is way better than expected and quite a pleasant surprise.

 

Mids:

While it would be easy to look at the graph and declare the DM480 as a U signature with recessed mids, it doesn’t come across that way.   Yes, the mids do sit slightly behind the bass and the treble, but not so much as to feel they take a backseat to them.   Male vocals have some weight and their timbre is realistic, while their female counterparts do seem to step slightly forward due to the tuning.   Detail is good with more micro-detail than expected (quite frankly at the price point or for the driver configuration).   Guitar has a satisfying growl and even strings are reasonably well presented. (Again not something to expect from a $79 model).      Upper-mids are pushed forward but are better tuned than most low-end models with no tendency toward sibilance unless recorded into the track and even then they tend to smooth the tracks a bit.  If there is a nit to be picked it is probably that the DM480 is tuned for smoothness and won’t get harsh even when asked to and lacks a bit of assertiveness to the sound as a result.

 

Treble:

Lower treble continues the emphasis of the upper-mids but stop short of the level of emphasis of the lower bass.  I found the upper-mid / lower treble range to be slightly problematic.   At lower volumes, it is quite smooth and shows no tendency toward sibilance, but as previously mentioned, you lose some bass at these same volumes.  When pushed to a volume where bass doesn’t roll-off too high, then the upper-mids/lower treble becomes a bit fatiguing at times.   Detail in the treble is quite good with good texture and weight.  High-hat doesn’t come off as metallic but lacks a super crisp edge and loses a bit of realism as a result.  Same for snare rattle as the attack is blunted slightly and while very polite lacks the aggressive sound it should have in real life.   Roll-off is fairly pronounced above about 12kHz but that leaves enough upper end to have some sparkle and air.   I’d prefer a bit more aggressive tuning here, but many who are a bit more treble sensitive will find the DM480 a good compromise between dark and harsh as it delivers a good amount of energy in the treble without delivering a lot of fatigue or stridency in the process.

 

Soundstage / Imaging:

Stage is better than expected but does present as a good bit wider than it is deep and height is minimal.  Instrument separation is very good with seating the orchestra being very straight forward.   Layering is good up to a point and then as tracks get highly complex or fast/complex it does begin to show some thickening and blurring of the lines.  Imaging is well done as well with positions in space being easily identified and movement fairly easy to track around the stage.

 

Thoughts / Conclusion:

I said a lot of good things about the DM-480 in this write up, and so I sit and contemplate my final comments and I can’t get away from the fact that it does an awful lot well, and yet somehow doesn’t tick all the boxes for me.  It is a smooth sounding, well balanced, mature tuning and at the price point, is honestly well better than I anticipated.    The sound while U shaped is not lacking in any particular region, nor does it leap out at you except for maybe that big bass note on occasion.   Yes it needs power to do that and wont be a hit with those who try and use under powered sources, but that is true of a lot of iems these days so hardly a knock on this particular model.  I should really like it, but yet somehow the relaxed nature of the treble makes it feel less exciting and sometimes even a little dis-engaged as it makes me feel separated from the music rather than being drawn more deeply into it.   It is a bit like the Brainwavz b400 in this regard, very technically proficient but ultimately not very exciting.    Those who prefer to listen at louder volumes may have none of my complaints, but those who prefer to listen at lower volumes may find the high roll-off at the low-end and the lack of energy at the high a bit less than desirable.

DUNU DM-480

6.5

Packaging

6.0/10

Build Quality

7.0/10

Accessories

6.0/10

Sound Quality

6.9/10
  • 7.5/10
    Bass - 7.5/10
  • 6.5/10
    Mids - 6.5/10
  • 6.5/10
    Treble - 6.5/10
  • 6.5/10
    Soundstage - 6.5/10
  • 7/10
    Imaging - 7/10

Summary

Pros –  Small size won’t cause fit issues for all but smallest ears,  well detailed, and textured, excellent bass extension,   mature tuning

Cons -Needs 70 dB or above for playback or bass is rolled off, can get a bit strident in upper-mids/lower treble at higher volumes,  lacks a bit of energy and aggressiveness.