(Last Updated On: September 23, 2020)

After gaining a lot of experience in designing dynamic driver and hybrid IEMs, DUNU decided to try something different – releasing the Studio series with full BA drivers configured.

Thank you, DUNU for sending me the Studio SA3 IEMs. It was sent to me in exchange for my honest review and opinion.

Introduction

DUNU is an IEM manufacturer from China. Since 1994, they have been researching and designing IEMs for professionals and audiophiles. DUNU is always ambitious to implement the most cutting edge technologies into their IEMs to address the needs of audiophiles who are always pursuing the best.

With intensive experience as an original design/equipment manufacturer (ODM/OEM), DUNU is able to work towards addressing demands and market trends, hence designing IEMs that can fulfill needs.

Since DUNU’s first release, they have been working on IEMs with dynamic drivers. After stabilizing the dynamic driver powered and hybrid configured IEMs, DUNU extends their expertise to design IEMs with full BA drivers, which is configured for the studio. They released two models – Studio SA3 and Studio SA6.

Will the Studio series set a new benchmark for studio IEMs? Let’s find out more in this article!

DUNU Studio SA3

DUNU Studio SA3

"The tuning of Studio SA3 is indeed very studio orientated. However, it is well-balanced between overly dull and overly colored. It can capably deliver a transparent presentation to audiences while preserving the enjoyable factor."

Pros:

  • »Premium stock cable
  • »Excellent fitting and isolation
  • »Great balance between frequency spectrums
  • »Affordable pricing
  • »Accurate bass response
  • »Non-fatiguing highs
  • »Transparent and uncolored mids

Cons:

  • »Small storage pouch
  • »Lack of cable termination option

Unboxing

Unlike DK-2001, which I had reviewed earlier this year, DUNU Studio SA3 comes in smaller packaging. The outer sleeve is printed with blue matching SA3’s faceplate. At the back of the packaging, all the specifications are listed.

The packaging of DUNU Studio SA3
The packaging of DUNU Studio SA3
Specifications are listed on the back of the packaging
Specifications are listed on the back of the packaging

Removing the sleeve and opening the inner hard box, DUNU Studio SA3 is well protected with foam. The accessories are stored underneath the pair of IEMs. These are the accessories that can be found in the box:

  • Ten pairs of silicone ear tips
    • Three pairs of black silicone ear tips (shallow insertion)
    • Three pairs of white silicone ear tips (deep insertion)
    • Four pairs of blue silicone ear tips (medium insertion)
  • Cleaning kit
  • Blue leatherette carry case
The accessories provided in the box
The accessories provided in the box

Technical Specification

  • Frequency response: 5 Hz – 40 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 112 dB
  • Impedance: 13 Ω @ 1 kHz
  • Total harmonic distortion: <0.5% at 1kHz
  • Cable Connector: 2-Pin (0.78 mm)
  • Cable material: 27 American Wire Gauge (AWG) Kevlar-reinforced, high-purity silver-plated oxygen-free copper (OFC)
  • Cable resistance / capacitance: 0.5 Ω / 300 pF (max.)

Build and Design

External factor

The shell of Studio SA3 is 3D printed with biocompatible photopolymer resin. I am glad to see more IEM manufacturers implementing 3D printing technology in production. 3D printed shells can be designed to have better ergonomics, which is closer to custom IEMs. This will improve the fitting and isolation.

The Hokusai Blue photocurable resin faceplate of Studio SA3 is hand-finished. The blue, gold, and white combination of the faceplate gives Studio SA3 a premium physical appearance. The body of the shell is semi-transparent. With the aid of external lighting, you should be able to see the triple BA drivers embedded in the shell.

The faceplate of DUNU Studio SA3
The faceplate of DUNU Studio SA3

Due to the utilization of 3D printing technology, the nozzle of Studio SA3 is in one piece with the shell. DUNU is sufficiently thoughtful when designing the nozzle, there is a lip on the nozzle to provide good catch to the ear tips. A lot of manufacturers neglected this small feature when they produced their shells with 3D printing technology.

The side view of the nozzle
The side view of the nozzle
The nozzle of DUNU Studio SA3
The nozzle of DUNU Studio SA3

DUNU utilizes a 0.78mm 2-pin connector on the Studio SA3. This makes the cable replacement to be as easy as ABC. 0.78mm 2-pin connector is one of the universal connectors that IEM manufacturers always use. The 2-pin connector is non-recessed, this further widens the cable replacement choices.

The 0.78mm 2 pin connector
The 0.78mm 2 pin connector

Internal design

DUNU Studio SA3 is equipped with triple BA drivers – dual customized BA drivers for mids and lows paired with single customized BA driver for highs. DUNU uses a two-way crossover, maintaining the coherency between the triple drivers.

Besides the two-way crossover, Studio SA3 has a damper-less design. Damper tends to smooth out the frequency response of the IEMs. DUNU avoided this, making Studio SA3 more realistic sounding and suitable for studio usage.

Cable

The cable provided in Studio SA3’s packaging is a four 27 AWG Kevlar-reinforced high-purity silver-plated OFC wire braided cable. The cable is 3.5mm unbalanced terminated. As mentioned in my previous review on BQEYZ Spring 2, I think DUNU should consider giving consumers an option on cable termination when they order the Studio SA3.

The provided cable is great but I have to put it aside if I wish to utilize the balanced output on my DAP. I’m always in this dilemma.

The neat braiding of DUNU Studio SA3's stock cable
The neat braiding of DUNU Studio SA3’s stock cable
The stock cable
The stock cable
The 0.78mm 2-pin connector
The 0.78mm 2-pin connector
The Y-splitter with model name printed
The Y-splitter with model name printed
The 3.5mm TRS unbalanced jack
The 3.5mm TRS unbalanced jack

Case

The case provided in the packaging is blue leather. There is a small pocket in the case for users to store smaller items, like ear tips or even SD cards. This is a thoughtful design because these small items face a higher risk of disappearing without it.

However, I find the case to be a little too small to store the IEMs. I always need to spend some time coiling the IEMs tightly in order to fit it into the case.
DUNU Studio SA3 in the case
DUNU Studio SA3 in the case

Fitting and Isolation

Thanks to the 3D printing technology, DUNU is able to produce the semi-custom shell of Studio SA3 in a relatively lower cost as compared to the computer numerical control (CNC) machined cutting technology used by InEar to produce their semi-custom shell. The Studio SA3 semi-custom shell gives me superior fitting and isolation.

It’s as close to custom IEMs that I have. This, along with Simgot EK3, could be one of my best fitting universal IEMs (UIEMs).

With the provided ear tips, the insertion is sufficiently deep. This deep insertion further enhanced the isolation. With this great isolation, the bass response is more dynamic and pronounced because there is no leakage when the air is punched the bass.

Sound Analysis

To analyze the sonic performance of Studio SA3, I paired it with my entry-level reference DAP, Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII. The impression in this article is based on a combination of stock cable and stock silicone ear tips.

Rated at 13 ohms for impedance and 112db for sensitivity, the Studio SA3 can be easily driven with entry-level DAPs like Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII. I tested it with my iPhone XR and Macbook Air, both of them have no difficulty in driving the Studio SA3 properly. For those who are using smartphones as a source, Studio SA3 is definitely a great choice because of its drivability.

DUNU Studio SA3 with Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII
DUNU Studio SA3 with Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII

Sound signature

The sound signature of the Studio SA3 is well-described by the series name, Studio. It has a typical studio monitoring signature – slightly cold and dark. There is minimum coloration in the sonic presentation. It returns every note in the most original form to the audiences, without any exaggeration or alteration. I am glad that DUNU chose a cold and dark combo for their Studio series instead of cold and bright.

The brightness in a studio monitor is always the fatigue causing factor, although it helps improve the detail retrieval capability.

DUNU Studio SA3
DUNU Studio SA3

Soundstage

The Studio SA3 has good width in terms of the soundstage. I like how DUNU positions the presentation to be slightly further away from the audiences, to introduce a bigger headroom and space. Within the reviewing period, I didn’t experience congestion in the presentation; even complicated tracks can be well-handled by Studio SA3.

The depth is slightly weaker compared to previous releases from DUNU due to the limitation of driver configuration. Normally, a dynamic driver will be able to create a better depth, with more ups and downs in the performance. Despite the depth being reduced, Studio SA3 still managed to layer frequency response well, to yield a layered and textured presentation.

DUNU Studio SA3 with Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII
DUNU Studio SA3 with Lotoo PAW 5000 MKII

Lows

”Studio monitors can never have good bass” – this is a misconception that a lot of beginners have towards studio orientated IEMs or headphones.

Let’s first define “good bass”. To me, a bass response that is accurate, realistic and well-controlled are considered good bass. The quantity of bass should not be the sole factor in defining its quality. Yes, studio orientated IEMs or headphones tend to have less bass in terms of quantity to achieve a balance across the frequency spectrum.

Studio SA3 has this characteristic as well. However, the quality of Studio SA3’s bass is definitely up to the standard.

The bass response of Studio SA3 is well controlled and accurate. Listening to rock bands, the kick drum sounds realistic and has a sufficient amount of depth. However, due to the reduced quantity in bass, it does not create the sub-bass rumbles where a lot of bass head audiophiles are looking for.

Moving to the mid bass, it has slightly more emphasis compared to the sub-bass. Despite having more emphasis, the accuracy and precision are well-preserved. There is no significant bleeding towards the mids, making the overall presentation to be clean and neat.

DUNU Studio SA3
DUNU Studio SA3

Mids

The lower mids have good emphasis, which transitioned from the mid-bass. The transition is smooth because DUNU chose to couple dual drivers together to handle the lows and mids. These two drivers are receiving the same signal from one of the two crossovers. The full bodied and energetic lower mids present a penetrating and realistic male vocals to the audiences.

The layering has been done well here, the lower mids are taking the more forward spot while the bass is flowing at the back.

The upper mids have slightly less emphasis compared to the lowered. Don’t get me wrong – less emphasis actually helps to create a more airy and spacious upper mids. It hits the sweet spot between not being too energetic or too recessed.

Female vocals are sweet. With the help of the wide soundstage of Studio SA3, the instruments are well-positioned, leaving sufficient space for female vocals to flow without collisions and congestion.

DUNU Studio SA3
DUNU Studio SA3

Highs

The highs are individually handled by one of the BA drivers, with one crossover feeding the signal. Studio SA3 is Hi-Res certified. The high frequency is able to extend up to 40kHz – which is not audible to humans. However, thanks to this, the highs of Studio SA3 are well extended and no early roll-off observed.

To achieve better extensions, a lot of major manufacturers, such as Sony, design their headphones to have frequency response up to 100kHz.

The highs of Studio SA3 are positioned slightly behind the mids. This reduces fatigue causing factors. For those who have lower tolerance towards overly forward highs, Studio SA3 is a savior for you. The decay of highs are well-handled too. At higher frequencies, there is no distortion, further enhancing the cleanliness and tidiness in the overall presentation.

DUNU Studio SA3
DUNU Studio SA3

Verdict

As the first model of the Studio series, I wish to congratulate DUNU for achieving such great success. The tuning of Studio SA3 is indeed very studio orientated. However, it is well-balanced between overly dull and overly colored. It can capably deliver a transparent presentation to audiences while preserving the enjoyable factor.

This makes Studio SA3 an amphibian – for both audiophile and studio usage.

DUNU Studio SA3 is retailing at USD$139.99. You can purchase it from DUNU’s official website.

I am looking forward to the flagship model of this series, the Studio SA6. Studio SA3 set a high benchmark for both it and other manufacturers. I have high expectations!

Dunu Studio SA3
Dunu Studio SA3