Dunu SA6 – Organic reference

If you're looking for a superbly built IEM with a reference baseline beautifully spiced with a subtle touch of organic that you can adjust with the flick of a switch, then the SA6 holds fantastic value for the price and will be tough to beat! It packs impressive resolution and a remarkable tonal accuracy across the range. A very engaging reference IEM, that follows in the footstep of hallmark IEMs such as the InEar Prophile 8 at a fraction of the price and with more engaging vocals.

Pros

  • Refined reference signature with the right touch of organicity and bite
  • Excellent transparency and clarity along with very good resolution
  • Open soundstage with excellent separation and precise imaging
  • Engaging subtle and refined vocal presentation
  • Accurate tonal balance for lifelike timbre
  • Superb flagship level build
  • Smart no tool switch system usable on the fly while wearing

Cons

  • Switch system is rather fine tuning, doesn’t really offer an alternate signature but a slightly more organic touch

Product page : https://www.dunu-topsound.com/sa6-detail
Price : 549$

Fit, Build & Isolation

The SA6 features one of the most beautiful build among Dunu IEMs, with its high quality resin acrylic sourced in Germany and hand-poured shells and unique stabilized wood faceplates. As usual it comes with a very nice cable, here an 8 core silver plated copper cable featuring the now famous switchable plug system (you get 3.5, 2.5 and 4.4 termination in the package no less).

The SA6 is a looker but note that you don’t get to choose your color as those are unique handmade pieces but whichever color you get, those are stunning IEMs :

Image courtesy of Dunu

This design is a departure from the alloy housings of hybrids and note that for the Studio lineup Dunu opted to depart from MMCX for a 2 pin 0.78 socket that is more widespread in the pro world. The nozzle is a 3 bore setup with a rather wide and short stem, but the ergonomic custom like shape of the SA6 means you insert them deeper than the stem size would suggest. As you can see in the picture below, craftsmanship is superb on the internals as well.

Last but not least the SA6 is a rather small shell for a 6BA setup and is fairly compact (smaller than its little brother Dunu SA3, see pitcture below). This is good news for those with smaller ears but I had great fit as well with my bigger ears.

Last but not least the switch system : Default Signature (Switch Position ‘I’) and Atmospheric Immersion (Switch Position ‘ON’) is really smart as you can switch with no tools while keeping the IEMs in your ears, kudos for this!

Introduction

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 SA6 with its vented dual woofer and custom midrange and tweeter drivers combined with the superb build show the SA6 is certainly meant as a showcase of what Dunu can do with BA drivers.

Does the SA6 sound as good as it looks? Let’s check this out!

Sound

The first thing that struck me upon first listen (switch off) is the overall balance, transparency and clarity of the SA6, the SA6 is faithful to the recording but not unforgiving either. The imaging is pinpoint precise with a very open and realistic stage. The SA6 is a fast IEM with snappy note attack and realistic decay across the range and remains smooth in its delivery. Turn the switch ON and you get both a lift in bass and lower mids : contrary to a lot of bass boost switches this is subtly done and I feel it’s going to be a nice option to have to turn on and off based on preferences and/or sources.

The bass is snappy and fast, with a bit more weight with switch set to ON but it’s not a punchy bass with impact rather a detailed and agile bass with superb control and suprisingly good sub bass extension. The mids are very accurate with very nice bite and slightly forward vocal presentation (Note : The mids get a bit fuller with the atmospheric switch to ON). Treble strikes a superb balance with good lower treble energy smoothly delivered and a well extended and refined upper treble. Resolution is quite impressive at this price point.

Bass

The SA6 features a very accurate and controlled bass presentation the choice of a vented dual woofer BA certainly fit the bill here. You might loose a bit of punch over sealed BA but you gain in control and extremely low distorsion even on the most bass heavy tracks.

Switch off, the bass is quite balanced favoring neither sub bass, which has good extension and very good rumble for a balanced armature or mid bass which sounded spot on in quantity with very good detail and texture. Turn the switch on and you get a slightly “fatter” mid bass with more heft but I don’t hear the sub bass being affected.

On my test tracks Aphex Twin “Ageispolis” and Sohn’s “Falling” the SA6 was able to render the sub bass section with nice physicality. As far as mid bass goes, the percussions on Jyoti “This Walk”, Fink “Resurgam” or Nenad Vasilic “Lupafte” were portrayed with impressive textures and nuances by the SA6.

Last but not least the SA6 bass is a fast bass and can keep up with the fastest tracks but it’s not a dry and quick bass either with a quick attack but a bit longer decay it has somewhat of an organic touch.

Mids

The SA6 mids are in line with the overall signature which is an organic blend of reference. It’s very balanced with no particular emphasis in the range, except maybe for slight vocal emphasis.

The lower mids are not prominent but they aren’t dipped either and I find that there is spot on body and weight, it’s not a lean lower mids that can make some IEMs clearer but also thinner. I like notes to have a realistic weight and the SA6 certainly not disappoints there and has a touch of organic to its reference tuning that is very pleasing to my ear. Once again setting the switch to ON add just a bit more body and organic touch yet.

The upper mids show the same restraint, with just the right amount of bite and don’t seem to be affected by the “atmospheric” switch. I like my upper mids to be safe from any harshness but at the same time I like them to have a bit of bite especially so that there is good presence to acoustic guitars, sizzle to hi hats, snare drums crispness and buzz to the electric guitars among other. The SA6 certainly has it and at the same time remain safe from any harshness, this is harder to do than it seems.

Treble

The SA6 treble is going to be a very coherent story with its bass and mids : it has a superb balance between good lower treble energy and upper treble presence. Just like its mids, the SA6 treble are exciting and engaging but smooth at all times a rare and very enjoyable combination.

I loved the lower treble energy on one of my favorite test track The Hot Sardines “Comes love (l’amour s’en fout)” the piano notes are delightful with both superb presence and beautiful overnotes along with a spot on tone. On Vaiteani beautiful polynesian folk “How they call it (accoustic version)”, the chimelike Kalimba sound heavenly on the SA6.

The upper treble on the SA6 is very refined with excellent extension and it’s also very natural sounding with no overly done emphasis. The SA6 has therefore good air and the resolution is quite impressive at this price point.

Verdict

The SA3 gave us a preview of what the Studio series held in store for us with a reference tuning and very good value for the price. The SA6 is the current top of the line of the Studio series and it’s a very clear step up in every way : build quality is great at any price and stunning at its price point, it’s both flawless and spectacular both external and the internals.

The tuning of the SA6 reflects great mastery across the range and it’s the epitome of reference with the right touch of organic with its full lower mids, the right amount of upper mids bite and good lower treble energy smoothly delivered combined with good upper treble presence. The SA6 sounds great out of mid tier sources like the DX160 and PAW S1 but plug it into flagship DAPs such as the PAW Gold Touch or the Hiby R8 and it will scale beautifully with yet other layers of nuances and in the case of the R8 yet a bit more organic character and a tad more bass presence that makes it even more engaging. In this setup it sounds more like IEMs over double the asking price and I have heard a share. Impressive.

If you’re looking for a superbly built IEM with a reference baseline beautifully spiced with a subtle touch of organic that you can adjust with the flick of a switch, then the SA6 holds fantastic value for the price and will be tough to beat! It packs impressive resolution and a remarkable tonal accuracy across the range. A very engaging reference IEM, that follows in the footstep of hallmark IEMs such as the InEar Prophile 8 at a fraction of the price.

Listening notes
I spent approximately 60 hours with the SA6, listening on iBasso DX160 and PAW S1 and the Hiby R8 using the stock cable balanced. 

Special Thanks
Thanks to Kevin at Dunu for providing a review unit of the SA6 As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review. 

Select Comparisons

Tansio Mirai TMSR-5

When I reviewed Tansio Mirai TSMR-5 I was quite impressed at the value for money for a mid tier priced IEM : very good soundstage, excellent resolution and a similarly balanced and engaging signature. I wished I had TMSR-6 handy but I do not so the TSMR-5 is a close enough competitor. Let’s see how the SA6 compares to it! For this comparison, I’ll use the SA6 cable on both IEM and as it’s my prefered setting, SA6 switch ON and all TSMR-5 ON and DX160 as a source.

The first thing I noticed when doing the A/B session is the TSMR-5 is significantly more sensitive which equates to lower volume but also a bit of hissing that is totally non existant on the SA6. This give the SA6 an edge on quiet passages with a much blacker background. This is important has note contrast is greater and depending on the type of music you listen to it can be important. The second thing I noticed is the TSMR-5 has a slightly bigger soundstage (in width and height but not depth where SA6 is better) with significantly more upper treble presence on the flipside the SA6 has a much more natural treble tone where the TSMR-5 can be a bit edgy at times. Last but not least I found the TSMR-5 to have a snappier attack and quicker decay sounding overall drier and less organic than the SA6.

As far as bass goes the snappier attack and quicker decay means a tigher, punchier bass on the TSMR-5 where the SA6 is more textured and tonally more pleasing to my ears feeling more natural. Sub bass extension is similar with a bit more presence and rumble to the TSMR-5 but it’s also affected by more mid bass presence on the SA6 where percussions and double bass sound “fatter” with more body.

The midrange is probably where a key difference lie, the TSMR-5 has leaner lower mids with a tuning focus biased towards clarity and bite (this holds true even with the mids switch off). The SA6 is fuller sounding with more body and weight as well as richer texture while not lacking bite compared with the TSMR-5. Vocals are similarly placed but the SA6 thanks to its lower mids presence makes the male vocals more seated but also a more natural tone a better tessitura on both male and female vocals with a touch of sweetness the TSMR-5 lacks. The SA6 is also exempt of any sibilance while the TSMR-5 can exhibit hints on some tracks. For the same reason, instruments notes sound drier and less textured on the TSMR-5.

Treble is consistent with the rest of the range, with TMSR-5 being drier with faster decay and sharper attack with overall more upper treble presence that sometimes feels a bit like a sharpening filter and can become edgy at times. Lower treble is the most similar with a smart tuning providing excitement while remaining safe. The SA6 lower treble carries a bit more weight there and I must say it’s the little details that make the SA6 a very refined proposition at its price point. Similarly the upper treble is better balanced with the lower section on the SA6, and the tone is overall more pleasing with a slight warm hue where the TSMR-5 is more neutral.

Dunu DK-3001 Pro

While the DK-3001 Pro is a hybrid with 1 dynamic and 4 BA, it makes sense to compare the mid tier hybrid from Dunu lineup for those who wonder which one to pick on a similar budget (469$ for the 3001 Pro and 549$ for the SA6).

The DK-3001 Pro is a hybrid with a very compact shell even side by side with the rather compact acrylic shell of the 6 BA driver SA6. Ergonomically both work perfectly for me but the DK-3001 Pro has the smaller footprint. Cable wise both get a very nice stock cable but feature different termination the DK-3001 Pro being MMCX while SA6 is 2pin 0.78. For this comparison I’ll use both IEMs with their stock cable balanced out of the DX160.

Upon the very first A/B session it’s very clear that the SA6 has a very different tuning from the DK-3001 Pro. The DK-3001 Pro is warmer and the 13mm beryllium coated driver provides a more physical and powerful bass while the SA6 is more resolving and has better upper treble presence and extension. Soundstage is taller on the DK-3001 Pro and a tad deeper as well, vocal placement is more neutral where the SA6 has more emphasis on vocals. The SA6 has a much more precise imaging and better separation between instruments.

Bass wise the DK-3001 Pro 13mm driver physicality and sub bass extension can’t be matched by the SA6, it’s more a reflection of the technology than anything there is no way around the ability of a fairly big dynamic driver to push air. This being said the DK-3001 Pro has more bass presence than my Dunu Luna for example, it’s also a matter of tuning. On my sub bass test tracks sub bass was so very satisfying with the DK-3001 Pro but it has always been a superb performer. The SA6 exhibits a bit more control, the vented dual woofer certainly fares very well there and the bass is more agile and fast. Of notes is how detailed the SA6 is bass wise compared to the DK-3001 Pro clearly more on the fun side and more focus on rythm where the SA6 is more serious which rich detailed textures (DK-4001 is a bit of the best of both worlds there but it’s another price point as well).

The DK-3001 Pro midrange has some key differences with the SA6 : there is a bit more lower mids making for an overall warmer tilt, vocals are not emphasized but rather a bit farther away making for more depth soundstage wise but a presentation that is less clear and smoother. This is closely related to the SA6 upper mids providing more instrument bite and more vocal presence. The SA6 is more resolving and the nuances in interpretations are just not on the same level the SA6 conveys more emotional vocals. Brass instruments, snare drums and hi hats are more exciting on the SA6 where the DK-3001 Pro is more relaxed. Different philosophies.

Treble wise, the DK-3001 Pro has a warmer tone and a bit less lower treble energy although both share good treble weight the delivery is smoother on the DK-3001 Pro while it has more bite on the SA6 which I feel is more exciting without ever being agressive. The upper treble is more of the same story and a key differentiator : the SA6 has significantly more upper treble presence and extension with more air and subsequently better separation and resolution. Both are fatigue free but the SA6 feels more open and exciting, the DK-3001 Pro is almost cozy in comparison.

In the end, it boils down to which tuning you prefer : the SA6 is more refined with more nuances, better tonal accuracy and significantly higher resolution while the DK-3001 Pro has more bass power and presence, smoother mids and treble for a fatigue free fun listen.

Accessories

  • Leather zipped carrying case (blue)
  • Collection of tips

Specifications

FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 5 Hz – 40 kHz
SENSITIVITY: 113 ± 1 dB at 1 kHz
IMPEDANCE: 60 Ω at 1 kHz
TOTAL HARMONIC DISTORTION: < 0.5% at 1 kHz

DRIVER CONFIGURATION:

  • BASS [2]: Sonion AcuPass Vented Dual Woofer
  • MIDRANGE [2]: Knowles Custom Midrange Driver (×2)
  • TREBLE [2]: Knowles Custom Dual Tweeter

TUNING MODES:

  • Default Signature (Switch Position ‘I’)
  • Atmospheric Immersion (Switch Position ‘ON’)

HOUSING MATERIAL:

  • SHELL: German Nice-Fit Hand-Poured UV Acrylic Resin
  • FACEPLATE: High-Grade Stabilized Wood

CABLE CONNECTOR: 2-Pin (0.78 mm)
 WIRE MATERIAL: 8 Core, High-Purity, Monocrystalline, Silver-Plated Copper

PLUG CONNECTOR:
Patented DUNU Quick-Switch Modular Plug System
 

INCLUDED PLUG TERMINATION(S):

  • 4.4 mm TRRRS Balanced,
  • 3.5 mm TRS Single-Ended
  • 2.5 mm TRRS Balanced

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