DUNU EST112 Review
Pros: – Very balanced and natural tonality
– Excellent timbre
– Silky smooth highs
– Great bass extension
– Wide soundstage
– Nice design
– Build quality
– Modular cable of high quality
Cons: – A little bulky
– Soundstage could do with more depth
The EST 112 was kindly provided free of charge after my own request and is under the ownership of Dunu.
Dunu never asked for a favorable review and as always this is my honest and subjective evaluation of it.
This is my first Dunu review so I don’t have any previous models to compare.
The Dunu EST 122 retails for $489.99 and you can order it directly from Dunu
The EST 112 is Dunu’s first quad-driver triple-hybrid pair of in-ear monitors.
The number 112 denotes the driver configuration of the pair.
It is equipped with a large 13.5mm dynamic woofer, a high-performance Knowles balanced armature driver, and two Sonion EST drivers.
These four drivers are fitted inside beautiful & lightweight aluminum alloy ear cavities with designer stainless steel face panels.
The pair is tuned to produce a relaxing, gentle sound signature with lively, resolving output.
The large 13.5mm dynamic woofer has a dual-sided beryllium coating.
Its diaphragm is thicker with a finer & regular grain pattern so it helps bass and lower midrange frequencies maintain their palpable texture and separation with ultra-low distortion ratings.
A revised diaphragm topology allows for a 9% greater effective sound reproduction area.
Combined with refinements to beryllium deposition, diaphragmatic mass is now 13% lighter than that of the previous generation.
The layered beryllium is now even thicker, with a finer, more regular grain pattern than ever before.
Additionally, a revised motor structure carries a 20% improvement in magnetic flux density at the coils. This augmented driver design, married with Dunu’s proprietary Air Control Impedance System (ACIS), allows bass and lower midrange frequencies to maintain their palpable speed, texture, and separation, along with improved distortion characteristics.
A high-performance balanced armature driver from Knowles handles the mid-high frequency response with a transparent and reference response to produce lively and engaging vocals with high-resolution clarity.
Long gone are the days when EST drivers were only being used in high-end headphones.
The technology is advancing at a rapid speed with its implementation in many flagship IEMs.
Dunu has implemented two high-performance EST drivers from Sonion (a highly renowned audio driver manufacturing brand) that present a smooth, elegant, and well-detailed high and ultra-high frequency response.
Development work was largely spent on fine-tuning crossover points to optimize driver corner frequencies, resulting in a cohesive, neutrally voiced sound signature.
Housing build quality and fit
Machined from lightweight aluminum alloy via a 5-axis CNC lathe and finished with a scratch-resistant gunmetal anodize, the durable shells encapsulate doubly reengineered driver circuitry.
Stately, polished stainless steel faceplates cap off the package in a simple, yet timeless design.
The EST 112 is very beautifully designed with a modern twist that we liked a lot.
Build quality is excellent and the mmcx connectors are nicely integrated and feel sturdy.
The shells are lightweight at 7.5gr each and while they are a little bulky the fit is excellent with a custom like feeling.
They fit very easily without extra pressure and sit comfortable inside the ear without causing any kind of discomfort or irritation even after an extended period of use.
After you get them properly fitted then sound isolation is good and well above average.
The EST 112 is bundled with its premium 1.2m DUW-02S cable.
It is a high-quality mmcx , Litz braided silver-plated copper cable with Dunu’s patented Quick-Switch modular plug system.
Apart from the standard 3.5mm single-ended plug, the package includes 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced termination plugs.
Build quality and handling are excellent and the plug system is very sturdy and easy to interchange.
The mmcx plugs are patented catch – hold and reinforced while the part of the cable that hooks around the ear is stiffened and protected with an extra layer of nylon.
The EST 112 comes fully bundled with a lot of accessories.
There are three different kinds of ear tips , one of them being spinfit , with three pairs of sizes for each plus one pair of memory foam tips.
A hard carrying case of good quality is included plus an extra carrying pouch , a cleaning brush , a 3.5mm to 6.35mm and a flight adapter.
The EST 112 is rated at 10Ω with a sensitivity of 110dB so they are very easy to drive and they don’t pose special power requirements but noise floor can become an issue.
Moreover they respond extremely well to upstream gear and while they were readily enjoyable with entry level stuff like the ddHiFi TC44B the experience got seriously uplifted climbing higher the quality ladder to players like the FiiO M11 Pro or even higher to the iBasso DX300.
The EST 112 does require some serious burn in of at least 50 hours because out of the box the dynamic driver is much slower than the EST units and bass feels slow , hollow and distanced.
After that time it settles down and all the drivers sound perfectly integrated and aligned , a proof of the well implemented crossover design.
The EST 112 is one of the best tuned iems we have ever experienced till now with a very natural and balanced sound signature that favors timbre and tonality.
A very mature sound profile that feels successful in the way that it provides a speaker like timbre that concentrates at connecting the listener with the music rather than merely producing sound.
Bass quantity is more than sufficient with all the extension down to the sub area while maintaining an accurate response up to the mids without any extra emphasis following a Fletcher-Munson loudness curve.
There is no mid bass bloat or colouring so the EST 112 is able to portray successfully all the various bass instruments even in very crowded passages without masking.
Take for example Mahler’s 6th Symphony first movement where the double bases dominate the passage but we can also clearly distinguish the cello desks and other low pitched instruments like a bassoon solo.
The dynamic driver recovery is very fast and bass feels tight and well controlled with great depth and layering in a very dynamic and impactful result.
This is not the visceral bass that will blow your head away but you can’t call it lean either and it strikes a balance between fullness and clarity so purists are going to love it while bass heads may find it a bit lacking.
Mid range is slightly and tastefully elevated in order to be present without lagging behind.
The region is nicely portrayed without glare and is left ample space to shine without becoming dominant.
Voices are full bodied and well articulated while solo woodwind stands out rounded and clear with horns blazing away with excellent brass timbre as for the electric guitar solos they are just electrifying.
Harmonies are blended together in a shivering and very addictive experience that is usually reserved for much more expensive earphones.
Rising to the higher frequencies we meet the real star of the show.
Nicely extended and perfectly balanced without any signs of brightness and hardness they stand out for being lively and luminous but silky smooth and polite.
This is not a boring and lifeless metallic sounding treble , we are talking here a horn loaded experience with full bodied notes , finely articulated with excellent timbre and ultimate quality.
Harpsichord higher registers are one of the most difficult instruments to reproduce, posing great challenges to every headphone but the EST 112 passed the test with flying colors and we were able to tell even the instrument maker , so good was the timbre and the sound palette.
The silky smooth treble performance does not imply that this is a forgiving iem but on the contrary as is always the case with high quality gear it is very transparent and faithful to source.
So it is going to expose everything that is badly recorded but on the other hand it will highlight and breath life to well mastered material.
Another striking aspect that left us impressed was the very natural time decay especially at the complex higher frequencies.
Bells , high huts , cymbals and other high percussion instruments fade away in the most effortless and natural manner adding greatly to the overall sense of reality.
Detail retrieval and clarity throughout the whole band are exemplary and if you think that you are missing something then you should probably check with your dac/amp and not the EST 112.
But don’t think it as an analytical self exhibitionist iem because in our case we are only served with the finest extracts and the pure essence infused into the whole picture rather than provoking unnecessary attention.
The soundstage is astonishingly wide but rest assured that it is always fully proportional and naturally expanded without artificial widening.
There is a certain lack of depth layering so we perceive a more two dimensionally expanded plateau rather than a fully holographic and reverberant scene.
Separation is excellent with precise pinpoint positioning and enough space for each instrument to breathe so we never get the congestion feeling even with large symphonic works.
As a whole a very lifelike and musical experience well suited for all kinds of music but especially gratifying with classical and jazz where it reigns supreme and without near competition.
Brief comparison against the FiiO FD5 ($319.99)
The FiiO FD5 (with the standard nozzle) reviewed here is a five star favorite of ours but there are several differences between the EST 112. (level matched by ear)
Bass extension is the same as both iems don’t roll off and can easily reach down to the lower notes.
But while bass tuning on the EST 112 can be considered neutral and linear that’s not the case with the FD5 where we can hear a significant boost reaching upper bass.
So bass response is accentuated and while it feels more visceral and full it is slower , less detailed and more loose and above all low bass is masking bass and upper bass.
As that is better suited for one note bass heavy electronic music but can’t compete with EST 112 reference tuning when the music calls for busy passages full of various low instruments.
From lower mid up to mid range tuning is almost the same and timbre done well with both iems.
FD5 voices , especially woman sound more rounded and full bodied but detail retrieval and clarity are better on the EST 112 which is a better technical performer.
Higher frequencies are tuned more or less the same , very evenly and without any annoying harshness or brightness.
But again quality and clarity are much better for the EST 112 that punches ahead with more smooth and finely articulated sound.
The EST 112 is more detailed without feeling analytical and truth is that clarity is much better for the whole frequency band.
Soundstage on the FD5 might feel a little deeper and while it doesn’t lack on wideness the EST 112 is greatly extended with better precision on instrument placing and much airer presentation.
The FD5 is less expensive and a fine one driver performer but the EST 112 perfectly integrated multi driver array gives it a significant edge in all departments and especially in the overall emotional depth.
A reference tuning mostly suited for the snobbish classical music listeners while the FD5 is the perfect EDM and bass head companion.
At the end
The Dunu EST 112 is plain and simple a true high end performer that punches well above its price point and sets new standards at the mid price category.
Perfectly tuned and with an exemplary technical integration is characterized by it’s effortless way to present music in a natural and engaging manner able to communicate a great sense of musicality and emotional depth.
The EST 112 is probably the best mid priced iem in the market right now and not only is very highly recommended but we would dare to go as far as to suggest it as a must buy per se.
Copyright – Laskis Petros 2021