With many repeated formulas in the world of audio, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish and even get excited about certain similar sounding listening gear. Thus, when DUNU unveil a new and unprecedented concept from out of the blue, it undoubtedly offers a breath of fresh air to the industry with the already tried and tested concepts employed by numerous companies worldwide. The Alpha 1, the “World’s First Hybrid Earbud” of its kind sets the example in innovation by sporting both a balanced armature and 16mm dynamic driver design in an earbud body.
You would think that this alone would be enough in the name of innovation but DUNU has further raised the stakes through opting for bi-directional sound holes instead of conventional single induction tubing. The significance of this implementation allows for greater musicality of sound by layering the sounds created from the separate drivers. Once again, DUNU succeeds in standing by its “Unique” motto and deliver a product destined for success in the market of earphones. Priced at £119, the Alpha 1 is relatively affordable for a hybrid of its nature and falls within a similar ballpark as the DUNU DN-1000 before it.
What you get
The DUNU Alpha 1 hybrid earbuds come in DUNU’s signature packaging; a black box that implements a magnetic latch with information relating to the various tips that insert into the outer housings and instruction on the methods of wear.
DUNU supplies a smooth round carrying bag for convenient storage, a 3.5mm to 6.5mmm adapter and 4 special designed ear tips for a secure fit. DUNU claims that the various tips somewhat alter the sonic signature of the Alpha 1 with the fin tips offering a Bass/liquid sound, the thick tips offering a balanced/musical sound, the thin tips an airy/resolution sound and the foam tips a full/balanced sound.
As with all DUNU products, the build quality is outstanding. The DUNU Alpha 1 lies nicely in this trend, rocking a stainless steel body and durable looking plastic grille interface. The design certainly looks very futuristic and the cabling itself feels great to the touch with strong connections to the Y-split as well as the body of the housing.
Now, in terms of the fit, I did initially struggle to insert the earbud with fin tips into the outer portion of the ear. It takes quite a bit of adjusting but once the earbuds set then it is plain sailing from thereon in. One caveat, however, is that due to the size of the fin tips, those with smaller ears might find greater levels of discomfort during long listening sessions as opposed to those with medium or larger sized ears. The reason being that the upper part of the fin tips does have a tendency to dig into conchae of the ears. Having said this, the scenario above can easily be avoided by opting for the other sets of tips which for me provided a more comfortable listening experience.
Bass extends well but lacks body and appears much smaller compared dual dynamics such as the Fidue A81. Bass appears only when it is called for and when the track requires it but otherwise disappears allowing the mids and treble to play unperturbed. Also worth pointing out is that mid-bass has slightly more presence than sub-bass which appears more in the background of songs. With a clean sound and lack of distortion, DUNU has tuned the bass to fit in with the overall sound signature; a reference-like approach with high quality detailing.
Mids of the Alpha 1 are very revealing and tracks appear as bright, clear and very detailed. Mids are neither forwardly positioned nor recessed but owing to the flat nature of the frequency production, lie well-proportioned with the rest of the spectrum. Compared to other DUNU products such as the DN-2000 and Titan 1, the Alpha 1 renders a much brighter sound signature with a more forward midrange but sounds thinner next to the DN-2000’s weightier and warmer midrange presence. As a result of the thinner note presentation and higher energy levels of the midrange, the Alpha 1 can come across as clinical sounding. However, this is no different than traditional balanced armature sets such as the Fischer Audio DBA-02 which shares a similar cold signature.
In contrast to the DN-2000 whose treble sits behind the mids, the treble of the Alpha 1 is in line with the rest of the frequency range. Again, this is the result of the balanced sound which the Alpha 1 produces across the board. The treble of the Alpha 1 produces a well-extended detailed response with no noticeable roll-offs and great sparkle which provides much-needed energy to many tracks. This is a double-edged sword however as with the greater levels of energy and vividness, the treble can stray towards elements of harshness. With that being said, however, harshness can be attenuated with the foam tips provided which make the sound signature significantly smoother.
Soundstage & Imaging
Soundstage is one area which I felt let down by especially as DUNU have been known to produce IEMs with an extremely expansive sound. I feel the nature of the earbud body may have constrained the limits of the sound dimensions which DUNU could have utilized better to live up to their standards of spatial sound imaging. However, that is not to say that the Alpha 1 is congested at all because what it does, it does do well. Instrument separation is great in these with a sense of air between vocals and surrounding instruments. For this reason, EDM music and instrumentals really excel with the Alpha 1 as it is able to cope with the large number of instruments and deal with the faster-paced side of music.
To DUNU’s testament, this new hybrid earbud is possibly the most cohesive I’ve heard, with there being a seamless transition from the dynamic to the balanced-armature drivers. With a bright, detailed and clear sound, DUNU has prevailed in tuning a reference-like hybrid excellent for times when isolation is not all that necessary. The Alpha 1 typically conveys a sound on the cold side of neutral and possesses a lean sound signature. Although this may not appeal to those seeking warm rich dynamics, it may indeed be a bonus for those wishing for a more analytical sound. Overall then, DUNU has definitely created another solid product to join the ranks of their lately impressive collection. However, they should take into account the potential fit issues as well as enhance the already decent soundstage to create an even better revision in their future line-up.