Review: DUNU Luna – Divisive.

The circumstances leading up to me reviewing this earphone are interesting. After focusing a healthy sum of funds and endless hours into the R&D of their latest flagship, Dunu seeked to impress. As such, the Chinese manufacturer started a tour on Head-Fi, in which one of my best friends enrolled. Upon receiving the IEMs, however, he had a colorful choice of words for them.

We met shortly after he received the earphones, during which I was to try them. To our collective surprise, I… really liked them? As such, to save him from the awkward task of speaking his mind about the IEM he was graciously loaned, it, along with the reviewing responsibility, were transferred to me (not at the request of Dunu, but as a shared decision between my friend and I). That’s technically the first thing I’m assessing on Systematic Sound that has been sent to me by a manufacturer, so thanks Dunu!

Design & Ergonomics

The Luna. At $1700, it’s a pricey IEM, but also one that differs from most of its competition with its driver setup: while most rivals opt for multi-BA, hybrid, or even tri-brid configurations, this one keeps it simple with a single 10 mm dynamic driver setup. There’s a twist though – it’s claimed to be the first IEM using a diaphragm composed of pure beryllium foil, an alkaline metal chosen for its high rigidity and low weight. Others have previously adopted this material, but in composite assemblies where beryllium coats a polymer substrate.

Back to basics with a single dynamic driver.

The Luna is a comfortable IEM. The shell is fairly small with an average length and diameter nozzle that points upwards, following the path of most ear canals. The memory wire isn’t very compliant, but contours the ears well. Isolation is run-of-the-mill for a single DD configuration, and is acceptable for most uses including public transit. Whilst the venting essential to this design prevents it from having top tier isolation, it also avoids pressurizing the ear canal which benefits comfort.

It’s worth mentioning that the IEMs come with a nice selection of goodies: some high quality cases, a healthy selection of ear tips (including SpinFits) and even a USB-C DAC called the DTC-100. The grade 5 titanium earpieces are well built and light, but likely won’t exceed your expectations considering the price. They are coupled to the included quad core mixed OCC/silver MMCX cable, which feels relatively supple, but a tad stiffer than some other braided cables. It uses Dunu’s “Quick-Switch” modular system, allowing you to swap between 2.5/3.5 mm SE or balanced without need for adapters, which I really enjoy.

Coming in at 16 ohms with a high 110 dB/mW efficiency, this IEM is easily driven by most portable sources. I have mainly used it with my Sony NW-ZX507 DAP and SMSL iDEA DAC.

Sound

Sonically, while I can see where my friend’s criticism rose from, I actually enjoy this IEM very much. Sound signature is an odd “neutral-bright”, with its largest emphasis being on upper midrange and lower treble.

Bass

Low end is tuned to a neutral level, but its texture is atypical for a dynamic driver. Attack is punchy (more than most DDs even), but the decay is blunted, nearly devoid of bloom. This, along with the absence of a bass shelf that most IEMs nowadays exhibit, may cause basslines to sound lacking in fullness. Lowest octaves are also ever so slightly rolled off, which in conjunction with its tightness, prevent the Luna from truly sounding like it’s “moving air” like others such as the Hyla CE-5. However, despite this strange paucity in sustain, I definitely wouldn’t describe the bass as limp as it delivers very good macrodynamics, mainly manifested as a robust sense of mid-bass impact and slam, though still not to the level of exemplary competitors such as the Beyerdynamic Xelento.

Midrange

This is where things get weird. The Luna showcases a healthy amount of lower midrange, followed by a brief dip around 1-2 kHz, then a strong (and late) rise in the upper midrange, around 3-4 kHz. As a result it can be aggressive and shouty, yet at times… warm? It doesn’t come off as thin since fundamentals aren’t recessed, but the 3-4 kHz emphasis, when elicited by certain instruments with high-reaching upper harmonics (e.g. alto saxophone and violin), can sound very intense. In spite of that, other acoustic elements that rely less on this 3-4 kHz region and more on the 1-2 kHz area (e.g. vocals) actually appear slightly on the smoother and thicker side tonally. This paradoxical tuning will definitely puzzle and turn away many listeners, but the IEM redeems itself in other ways…

The Luna’s intangible midrange qualities are some of the most impressive I have heard in any IEM, and they are my favorite part of its presentation. Leading edge is sharp and clean, making cues such as plucked strings sound very snappy. Decay is on the faster side, imparting a sense of dryness and bite to clear cut notes, especially in the upper midrange. Dynamic contrast, both at the micro and macro level, is extraordinary, and further complements the liveliness exhibited by this IEM. The aforementioned 3-4 kHz emphasis may annoy some, but I think this aggressiveness plays very well into vibrant acoustic genres (e.g. Jazz fusion), supplementing the tension of crescendos and calling for the listener’s attention. Detail retrieval is excellent and resolution is good, though the Luna does sound a bit grainier than more effortless IEMs such as the Shure KSE1500. Overall, even though it’s a complete oddball, I found that the very raw-sounding midrange presentation worked extremely well on high DR acoustic music. However, electronic genres are a less ideal match, sometimes sounding glary, a phenomenon that isn’t helped by the absence of bass boost.

Treble

Once again, somewhat of a mixed bag. Tuning lies on the brighter side, with a prominent lower treble emphasis. This creates a sense of “freshness” and “clarity”, but can also sound cold on some occasions. There is also a peak in the mid-treble, around 9-10 kHz, which provides a decent amount of air, though similarly to other single DD offerings, the upper treble extension feels somewhat missing, lacking some sparkle. Treble resolution is solid, but definitely not class-leading with other IEMs like the IER-M9 being undoubtedly more revealing up top, albeit less textured. Nevertheless, you still get a strong taste of the Luna’s intangible character in the top end. Cymbal crashes are dynamic (though somewhat lacking in “tizz”), snares are forward with a satisfyingly “crunchy” texture, for lack of a better word. It does, however, feel a smidge metallic (I hate drawing comparisons between IEMs and headphones, but the Focal Clear and Utopia come to mind here). While some may find this ardent presentation overbearing, the decay is actually on the smoother side for a single DD here, with the Luna sounding significantly less etched and harsh in the treble than others like the MDR-EX1000, VSonic GR07 and, Lord forbid, the CA Atlas.

Intangibles

The Luna is very detailed, digging deep into recordings for information. It’s easily the most resolving single DD IEM I have yet heard, but I have auditioned multiple hybrid and multi-BA offerings that surpass it in that aspect. Imaging capabilities are average for an IEM, but the mid-treble bump does help the Luna feel somewhat “open” and airy despite some lacking energy in the highest frequencies. Note weight is also fairly light due to rapid decay, with dry and moderately metallic timbre. Finally, dynamic contrast and attack characteristics, especially in the midrange and treble, are easily the finest aspect of this IEM, making it remarkably engaging. It’s certainly a strong technical performer, albeit one with many tonal quirks that cannot be overlooked.

Verdict

DUNU Luna pictured with Sony IER-Z1R, both retailing for $1700.

When looking at the $1700 price tag, many will wonder: is this IEM worth it? Well, the answer is complex. The Luna appeals to a very specific niche. Acoustic listeners looking for a highly technical, colored and vivid sound will likely be pleased by it, as it delivers a truly special experience in that sense. For example, I found its rendition of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “1996” album to be the most strikingly beautiful I have heard out of any IEM. When it works, it works fabulously. Unfortunately, however, fulfilling such a specific slot is both a blessing and a curse. The Luna is a much less safe option than many of its similarly priced crowd-pleasers such as the Sony IER-Z1R, which will offer more consistent, less genre-specific performance. It’s more of a “flavor IEM” than an all-rounder, and will probably serve best as part of a collection. This specificity is further compounded by the hefty price tag as a strong reservation against me openly recommending it as a potential blind purchase.

Nevertheless, I strongly suggest that you demo a Luna if given the opportunity, simply because no other IEM I’ve heard offered a truly similar presentation. As demonstrated by the stark contrast between my and my friend’s experiences, it might be a “love or hate” type of sound…

… but certainly not one that will relegate itself to indifference.

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