If you're looking for an engaging entry level reference IEM with solid technical foundations and an emphasis on vocals, along with good sub bass extension and rumble then the SA3 should definitely be on your list! If you want a more organic take and can afford mid tier pricing then check out the SA6.
- Highly coherent tuning
- Remarkable vocals with great presence and spot on tone
- Engaging and fatigue free treble with good extension
- Very good instrument separation and precise imaging
- Well extended sub bass with good rumble
- Very good resolution
- Leaner lower mids on reference sources means less engaging presentation with weaker bass line (SA3 sound much more engaging with beefier sources!)
Fit, Build & Isolation
The SA3 shell are made of a transparent blue lightweight 3D printed biocompatible photopolymer resin. The shell is a bit surprisingly bigger than the 6 drivers SA6, and is ergonomically shaped with a metal grille to protect the bore.
The SA3 feature a 2pin 0.78 connector which the choice Dunu made for all Studio IEMs in the lineup. As usual with Dunu the SA3 comes with a nice 27 AWG kevlar-reinforced, high purity silver plated OFC with a (fixed) 3.5 termination (as opposed to the SA6 interchangeable plug system).
The cable is supple and nice to wear and of high quality for an entry level IEM.
Dunu is a well established brand in the audiophile world, which started as an OEM for famous brands. Since 2014, Dunu builds its own IEM and now has a fairly complete lineup of dynamic and hybrid IEMs (Titan series, DN series, DK series and the flagship Luna I reviewed recently) but until the launch of the Studio series with SA3 and SA6, no full BA IEMs.
The Studio series is a totally new lineup and the SA3 targets a new market segment with an entry level reference tuned 3 BA IEM.
I was curious to see how the first Studio series IEM sound, let’s check this out!
From the very first second listening to SA3 it’s clear that Dunu has built a reference IEM with subtle touches. The SA3 sound very clean, articulate and fast with no particular emphasis on any part of the range with the notable exception of a clear vocal emphasis. Background is black and totally exempt of hiss and the resolution is quite good. The soundstage features very good width but average height and depth but is very good considering the price range. The stage is coherent and imaging is very precise with good layering.
Now, let’s dive a bit deeper!
Bass is quick and clean with a snappy attack and quick decay, ranging from a bit lean and dry (DX160) to just north of neutral and more organic (Lotoo PAW S1).
Sub bass is well extended and for a BA a fairly impressive rumble, I didn’t expect this out of the SA3 but given the shell size and what I can see I’d say the balanced armature driver is on a bigger side which in my experience does help.
Relatively to the sub bass, the mid bass presence is lesser and I felt myself wanting for a bit more slam there out of the DX160. Switching to the Lotoo PAW S1 there is quite a bit more mid bass presence with more power to the bass line with better toe tapping factor. The AAW Capri DAC/cable for the iPhone fell somewhere in between the leaner mid bass of the DX160 and the fatter ones of the PAW S1. On the flipside the SA3 packs very nice detail and impeccable control as well as excellent speed.
The mids are on the leaner side out of DX160 with a slight lower mids dip for clarity but not so much that it would sound hollow or thin.
Again the source affected how I heard the SA3 and the Lotoo PAW S1 is adding just a little more lower mids presence which makes the SA3 fuller bodied, straying from the pure reference presentation of the DX160 but I feel the S1 is more natural sounding. The AAW Capri cable again fell somewhere in between the DX160 and PAW S1. The upper mids are consistent across sources and the SA3 sounds very articulate with good separation of instruments and nice bite with a safe tuning and no peaks.
Vocals are remarkable on the SA3, as I hinted above there is a clear vocal emphasis and vocal stand out with great vocal presence and a very faithful tone as well as plenty of detail. Female vocals convey good nuances and emotion with a slightly sweeter twist on the PAW S1, and male power have good power on the PAW S1 but can be lacking there with the DX160 lacking a bit of body.
The SA3 treble is a display of a well mastered tuning : it packs enough lower treble energy to be exciting and engaging yet is neither agressive nor fatiguing. I found the lower treble tone to be spot on and unlike bass and mids, unaffected by source.
The upper treble on the flipside was significantly better on the DX160 with better extension and more presence with airier and more refined presentation. The DX160 retrieves more detail and shows what the SA3 is capable of there and I was very pleased by its performance. Combined with its black background the SA3 exhibits very good resolution and even more so considering the price point.
The launch of a new lineup is always a very exciting time, and I looked at the Studio series launch with anticipation. After a fun acclaimed hybrid range and a stunning dynamic driver flagship, what would Dunu do with all BA IEMs with a reference tuning?
If you’ve read my SA6 review you know I loved it’s reference tuning with its beautiful organic touch. The SA3 is a purer reference with a clear and beautifully done vocal emphasis. I must say I love how complimentary the Studio series is to the DK Line.
If you’re looking for an engaging entry level reference IEM with solid technical foundations and an emphasis on vocals, along with good sub bass extension and rumble then the SA3 should definitely be on your list! If you want a more organic take and can afford mid tier pricing then check out the SA6.
I spent approximately 20 hours with the SA3, listening on iBasso DX160, Lotoo PAW S1 using the stock cable and also the AAW Capri lightning cable out of the iPhone.
Thanks to Kevin at Dunu for providing a review unit of the SA3. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.
- Three Sets of Ear Tips (S/M/L each)
- Cleaning Loop
- Blue Leatherette Carry Case
- Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 40 kHz
- Sensitivity: 112 dB
- Impedance: 13 Ω @ 1 kHz
- Cable Connector: 2-Pin (0.78 mm)
- Cable Material: 27 AWG Kevlar-Reinforced, High-Purity Silver-Plated OFC
- Cable Resistance / Capacitance: 0.5 Ω / 300 pF (max.)