- Inoffensive and pleasant tonality and timbre
- Stage depth
- Could use more bass texture
- Stage width could be better
- Mid treble could use some work
Disclaimer: This unit was provided by HifiGO for free in exchange for a written review. No incentives of any kind were given and the review you are about to read are my own thoughts and opinions. Thanks once again to HifiGO for the opportunity and support.
Table of Contents
- Prologue and Accessories
- The verdict
Driver Setup: 1 Dynamic Driver
Purchase link and info: HifiGO
Included in the box:
- Standard 2 pin cable with a 3.5mm termination
- 9 pairs of silicone tips
- A carrying case (orange)
- 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter
- A cleaning tool
Comfort, fit and isolation: Good isolation and fit, comfort is average.
Source used: Topping L70, DUNU DTC 500
Tips used: BGVP W01
Measured volume level: 77db @ 440 hz
Test playlist with some of the songs used: Tidal
Prologue and Accessories
DUNU’s reputation precedes them by now and not much introductory rambling is needed. Heavy hitters on their respective price range like the SA6 and SA6 Ultra, the Zen line-up or the recent VULKAN are well established products in their price-range.
Following 2022’s trend, most brands decided to climb down the pricing ladder and introduce more consumer friendly offers (read: cheaper). The question is, in such a saturated market, what does another offer bring to the table?
DUNU’s first test pilot of the year for this was the single dynamic Titan S – a not-so-much-to-fault IEM with a modest $80 price-tag on its shelf. Now the KIMA (using the same driver setup) arrives at around the same price bracket, circa $110, which brings up the same question over and over again: can it compete with well established kingpins around this range?
Before we can answer this question, we must look inside the packaging first, as it’s one of DUNU’s most well known strong points. Starting with the build quality, the 3D printed shells have some good weight, finishes and coating to it. As a personal nitpick, I do not think it looks or feels as premium as some other DUNU creations, but that’s just me.
As for accessories, they punch way above this price bracket, putting more TOTL packagings to shame. Apart from the usual vast collection of tips (which include their own S&S cylinders), the carrying case is the same as seen on Talos, Falcon Pro or Vernus, but this time in an eye-catching orange.
As for the cable, it’s probably as good as it gets at this price range or even more, with the only personal nitpick going into the locked 3.5mm termination, but I’m probably just over achieving here.
With that out of the way, how does KIMA fare where it matters?
The DUNU KIMA tuning shows itself off as a warmer spin-off of the harman-target, with a mid-bass focus over-sub, culminating in a later-than-usual self-correction around 400 hz. The pinna compensation area is also more discreet than your off-the-rack harman tuned IEM, wrapping up a very balanced curve overall.
The sub-bass drop around the 3:25 min of Why So Serious? has not much to be pointed at. There’s enough extension and rumble to put on a show, on which I would say it’s above average at this bracket, focusing more on the quality of the replay than elevation per se.
The final checkmark comes in the shape of James Blake’s Limit To Your Love, showing a polite elevation but without sacrificing the replay or the quality of it. Again, if you’re a sub-bass junkie, these might not be for you, but they for sure won’t be rolled-off what-so-ever.
The mid-bass is my first nitpick with the DUNU KIMA.
Don’t get me wrong by that intro statement. Tonality-wise, I think this set it’s pretty spot on when you listen to bass guitars or kick-drums.
Magnetar is a hair warm and beautifully displayed. The bass-guitar is prominent enough but without masking the replay and the kick-drums have some physical impact to it, avoiding being muted in the background.
When I mentioned the personal nitpick I was referring to the mid-bass dynamics per se, or quality if you prefer, which falls short in the categories of texture and impact. Despite being in a relatively budget price range, I would like to hear more of those aspects, which would help in replays of tracks like Permutate by Haywyre, that leave a bittersweet taste in my mouth.
Again, this is more of a personal nitpick and still a step away from overly-pillowy basses like the Moondrop Aria, which falls close price-wise.
Mid-range and Vocals
Headlining the show, the mid-range of the DUNU KIMA is forward, warm tilted and very balanced – which also means there’s no tonal imbalance for me to complain about.
The warm tilt is provenient of the late self-correction of the bass shelf, past 300 hz, with minimal bleed and used on some of my favorite sets like the Olina, raising the note weight and body of the instruments.
During my library scramble I shuffled across this track with the DUNU Kima and I thought it represented very well the mid-range tonality of this set in a musical form. A nice warm titled, but information packed, presentation of the fundamental region. The separation and layering are above average for its price point and doesn’t feel overly congested despite the warmer tone, also helped by the set’s stage depth that we will touch on later.
The female vocals’ replay just has enough bite to not feel dull, but never get close to even hinting any sense of shoutyness or sibilance – effect that is mostly due to the dip following the upper-mid section.
The male portion of the vocals is somewhat smoothed out but still very well positioned, as seen on In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company, by Death South, leaving a hint of huskiness and blur to it, which could use some work.
Treble and Extension
In regards to the treble section, the DUNU KIMA adopts a rather darkish approach that is non-fatiguing but affecting the harmonic extension of the string instruments on the track above. This effect is caused by a dip following the pinna compensation region that slopes down until picking back up in the air region of frequency response – and the 8k peak is a mere 711 coupler artifact confirmed by a simple sine sweep.
Given the gain region is only boosted by around 8 dbs, I don’t find myself having the same problem as I’ve found before on some other sets, where the overly boosted pinna gain followed by this kind of dip have too much of a contrast, but my preferences would like to see a bit more energy around this area, for more emphasis of the decay trail left by brass instruments. The cymbal strikes on Larnel Lewis’ Change Your Mind have a great attack but their decay ends up being quieter than I would like, despite its pleasant effortless and never tiring replay.
As mentioned, the extension region picks back up, adding some extra sparkle and air, but it’s still limited by the usual how-much-can-you-extend-a-single-dd fallacy.
When evaluating the imaging chops, the KIMA displayed more depth than width to my ears, with the sound sometimes leaving outside of my head, which I can only welcome around this price point. The width is really nothing special, but I can’t say I mind the trade-off at all.
Now, the rest of the techs fall along the average side of the bed, without anything standing out as good or bad: details, transient sharpness and macro dynamics are just enough for it not to feel dull or mushed (Polyphia – Playing God). The timbre is actually pretty good only sinning by lacking some of that harmonic extension emphasis, pinned to the tuning in the mid-treble area, but commendable none-the-less, especially with vocals and pianos (Hania Rani – Leaving)
In a word? Competent.
- DUNU Titan S
Two generations meet, but despite their differences, they still feel like relatives.
The Titan S (which now has got some new color variations on disposal) is brighter and more harman tilted then its successor. This difference comes mainly from a leaner bass curve and a more treble oriented tuning. KIMA’s bass also feels more impactful and authoritative, which is a nice improvement to see over the polite approach of its predecessor.
Titan S feels more airy and sparkly, but will also be more fatiguing during longer lessons. This aspect gives it a better sense of detail, but to say one is better than the other in this field might be an overstatement. Regarding imaging chops, the Titan S is wider and more holographic, while the KIMA has advantages on depth and position accuracy. Timbre is a split, with Titan performing better bass and strings but KIMA replaying pianos and vocals better.
- Tripowin Olina SE
The real test to the DUNU KIMA arrives in a turtle form. On an objective note, the KIMA is warmer than the Olina SE, despite their nearly identical bass-shelf, but rather because of their upper mid-range and treble differences. The Olina has more energy to it, given a later pinna compensation followed by more energy until the fall of the extension, to a point I’d say that it’s bigger than the graph tells us. DUNU’s set is more relaxed and less fatiguing, so for those that find the Olinas to be a hair too bright, this might be for you.
As allured, the earlier gain region of the KIMA puts its mids half a step forward compared to the Olina, which in the end feels more “V” in comparison.
Now, with that to the side, the real difference comes in the subjective field – their technicalities. And this is where the Olina shows its claws and puts a foot on KIMA’s neck in every field, especially in imaging sections and resolving power (also allied by its treble tuning).
First thought that comes to mind is “baby steps”. DUNU’s approach to the more budget segments feels just that: one step at the time – and so far, in the right direction.
The DUNU KIMA is a very competent and inoffensive option and, in my opinion, a nice alternative to the usual suspects, much more preferred by me to the usual harmanish variations found in this range. It has its flaws, mainly in the technical department, but nothing is outright bad but rather just not as good, which makes me end up this assessment with a thumbs up on my side.
Now, as for a pure value stand-point, there’s two optics to it. First is the fierceful competition that has been built over the last couple of months around the 100 dollar segment, allied with planar driver in ear monitors getting cheaper and cheaper, making the KIMA fall on the average side of value at its $110 price tag. The other lens is the full package one, and my friends, that’s what DUNU does best, giving a full quality set of accessories that you can’t get from any other IEM up to its price point, at least that I can recall – and that is what I call value.
Thanks for reading!
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