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DUNU Talos Planar Hybrid IEM Review

A Unique Take on a Hybrid IEM

Christopher Coke Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

The year of planar magnetic IEMs marches on, and today we’re looking at the unique and eye-catching DUNU Talos. Unlike most of the others we’ve seen so far, the Talos pairs its 14.6mm planar with a custom balanced armature. Even more interesting, the BA can be turned on and off with a tuning switch on the side of the each shell, giving the Talos two distinct sound signatures. This is the first set of monitors we’ve encountered with their design, so we were excited to get it on the review desk. They come to market at $199.99. Let’s dive in and see whether they’re worth choosing over the ever-growing competition. 

Specifications 

  • Current Price: $199.99 (Linsoul, DUNU)
  • Driver configuration: 
    • 14.6mm dual cavity dual magnetic Planar driver
    • Custom high frequency, ultra-high frequency balanced armature
  • Frequency range: 5Hz-40kHz
  • Impedance: 16 ohm at 1kHz
  • Sensitivity: 100dB±1dB AT 1kHz
  • THD: <0.3% at 1kHz
  • Cavity: aviation-grade Aluminum alloy cavity
  • Conduit: gold-plated brass acoustic conduit
  • Cable: 4 core high-purity OCC silver-plated cable
  • Cable length: about 1.2m
  • Connector: 0.78mm 2pin
  • Plug: 3.5mm single-ended
  • Earbud weight: about 14g
  • Mode Instructions
    • Planar driver mode: switch to I
    • Hybrid driver mode: switch to ON

DUNU Talos - First Impressions and Key Features 

DUNU is one of the most respected brands in the ChiFi space, and it’s easy to see why. Over the last several years, its released hit after hit. If you’re reading a best of list for imported in-ear monitors, there’s a good chance DUNU is going to be on that list. We certainly felt that way, scoring its latest releases, the Titan S and Vulkan, both in the Great spectrum of our scoring system. They earn that kudos for more than just sound too.

Like most of its releases, the Talos comes with a plentiful assortment of high quality accessories. Inside the box, you’ll find the buds themselves, three sets of small medium and large silicone tips, an excellent single-ended cable that matches the design of the Talos’ shells, and a typically great fabric zippered carrying case. 

Among these are DUNU’s new straight silicone ear tips. They’re soft but have an almost sticky quality to them that helps them seal into the ear. Unfortunately, the nozzles are wide enough that I struggled to find a secure fit with these, so I opted for the white silicones instead. With three different shapes to choose from, most people should be able to find a fit that works for them.

Moving on to the earbuds themselves, DUNU has crafted a design that’s genuinely unique and looks darn good. Each earpiece is made from CNC milled aluminum. The faceplates take on a teardrop-like design that’s engraved with ripples around a raised DUNU logo. The edges of the plate and the centerpiece are beveled and chamfered with a copper tint. I am a sucker for black and copper, so I love the look here. 

Flip them over and you’ll find that the inner portion follows a pretty traditional design. You don’t have to worry about the point of the buds poking your ear. In fact, that point lines up with where the shell connects to the detachable cable, so it’s precisely angled and guarded to prevent that exact thing. I do wish there were bit more the the design to make them feel a bit more supported by the ear itself. They’re a fairly heavy set and aren’t a good fit for vigorous movement because of it (so, no exercising in these). But, they’re comfortable for relaxed listening.

What really makes these interesting is what’s happening inside those shells. The Talos uses a 14.6mm planar magnetic driver similar to what we’ve seen from competing IEMs. That in and of itself is cool to see and exciting when it’s coming from a company like DUNU that is so good at tuning. But, it takes things up a notch by adding a custom balanced armature to the mix that can be independently turned on and off to create two different sound signatures for different kinds of listening. 

In its planar magnetic mode, you get all of the crisp, detail richness you would expect from a planar earphone. Planar magnetics are among the most popular drivers in over-ear audiophile headphones, and the Talos offers a genuine, high quality, and much more portable take on that sound signature. 

The tuning is excellent: enough bass to sound full, lush mids, crisp highs. Details pop out but the sound isn’t etched or too crisp. There’s an excellent balance between the lows, mids, and highs that makes the Talos a great fit across multiple genres. I enjoyed everything from pop and electronica (chillstep) to progressive metal to hip hop. It’s also great for gaming thanks to its excellent imaging and soundstage.

Turning on the balanced armature brings out detail in the highs. It’s a brighter signature that’s all about detail. In fact, it might be too much for some tracks and high volume listening. But, you can simply reach up — no tool required — and add treble energy to the mix. 

This, my friends, is genuinely cool and exceptionally interesting design in one of the best looking shells I’ve seen all year. The Talos is an audiophile’s IEM through and through, so let’s dig more into the sound. 

DUNU Talos - Listening Impressions 

As I just discussed, the DUNU Talos can be enjoyed in two separate modes that impact its overall sound signature. This is most evident in the treble, as you can see from where the green line (hybrid mode) separates out from the planar-only mode around 3.5kHz and then rises steeply around 8kHz. This rise impacts that timbre (natural sound) of what you’re hearing in a way that I perceive as added crispness in the bass and mids and a pretty stark difference in the treble. In the sections below, I’ll talk about the lows and mids in general, and the treble about hybrid mode specifically; just note that flipping to hybrid mode does slightly alter the lower registers as well, but in a less pronounced way.

Bass: Bass response is fast and detailed, just as you would expect from a planar magnetic driver. That quickness means that the leading edge of bass notes is crisp and lifelike. There’s great definition in the bass notes, which makes texture details come through clearly. The osciallations in low-end synths, for example, are evident throughout Bethel Music’s worship library. Swapping to a track like D.R.E.A.M. by Jonny Craig, you can hear the low end vibration that would usually be left to a subwoofer to really articulate well, but the Talos handles it in spades. 

The bass is great, but it’s not tuned to be a bass-head IEM and you won’t find the same punchy attack as a dynamic driver. If you’ve heard other planars, you’ll feel right at home with the delivery, but the bass here is about supporting the rest of the music or video game soundscape. 

For gaming, this kind of tuning is actually very friendly to hearing what’s going around you. There’s enough bass impact that explosions and cinematic soundtracks will still have the required punch to be effective, but you won’t lose any of the higher end detail because of it. This is especially helpful in competition shooters like Battlefield 2042.

It’s also worth noting that teh bass performance scales well with more power. Bass seems to open more and everything across the spectrum has more room to breathe, so it’s a bit of a shame that the Talos doesn’t use a cable with interchangeable ends like some of DUNU’s other earbuds. That said, these aren’t hard to drive, so finding a source with 100mW or more to push them to their potential shouldn’t be difficult (and sound find without it).

Mids: The mids are my favorite quality of the Talos. Vocals are smooth with both male and female singers. There’s a smoothness here that’s very nice as the Talos glides from the bass into the mids. Most mainstream music also packs tons of detail into the mids, so as the frequencies rise and DUNU’s tuning makes itself known, you hear a lot of those pop out. There isn’t any sense of veiling with these earphones. In fact, the opposite is true. As you listen, it’s the clarity and detail that stands out most, particularly leading into the upper mids.

Treble: Treble is one of the most interesting elements to the Talos. These have good treble extension in either mode, but as you can tell from the graph at the top of this section, with the balanced armature enabled, they receive a sizable boost from 8-10kHz. The thing is, I don’t think the Talos really needs juice here. In the normal planar magnetic tuning, they deliver plenty of air and treble detail. That midrange detail I discussed above is enhanced by the brighter frequencies DUNU draws out here. 

With the BA added, highs have a tendency to sound sharp, particularly in cymbal heavy tracks. Perhaps for less “splashy” genres, they wouldn’t have such an edge in hybrid mode, but for my library, I had to turn down the volume too much to make my rock, progressive, and metal listenable. Chillstep and electronica were fine, however, if a bit crisp.

What’s interesting is that hybrid mode actually gives these IEMs a bit of an edge in gaming. That added crispness makes important audio cues like distant gunshots come through with an added crispness than can help with picking out their exact position. They also make your own gunshots sound a bit harsh, so rolling back volume a bit when you’re not actively listening for enemies is still necessary. 

Technical Performance, Soundstage, and Imaging: The technical performance of the Talos is very good and gets even better in the hybrid mode due to the boosted treble. It has no trouble resolving fine details, like the exact way a drummer is hitting a cymbal or the gentle tinkle of breaking glass scattering across the floor in a first-person shooter. Imaging, layering, and separations are also very good so you can hear how your favorite tracks and video games come together without missing any details. 

The soundstage is also very good, which makes this a great fit for immersive listening and gaming. There’s a good sense of width and depth. If you’re planning on using these for gaming, they do benefit from the added depth of Dolby Atmos and Windows Sonic, but you won’t be at a disadvantage without them.

Overall Impressions and Final Thoughts

The DUNU Talos is a great earphone with a lot to offer. It’s a bit disappointing that the BA mode is as bright as it is because it requires lowering your volume to avoid sharp edges in music and games. Still, it’s a great way to quickly pull more detail from your listening, and to open up darker tracks. The design and tuning are excellent, as is the cable and accessories, which makes this a remarkably solid choice in the increasingly crowded planar magnetic IEM market.

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

8.0Great
Pros
  • Gorgeous looks and design
  • Detail-oriented tuning
  • Excellent build quality and accessories
  • New eartips are very good
  • Scales well with more power
Cons
  • Hybrid mode can be sharp sounding
  • Single-ended cable only


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight