My last date with Dunu went very well, so when Paweł told me there is a package from them I immediately said “GIMME”. It was the Vulkan.
Dunu is celebrating its 20th anniversary soon, so it’s a nice occasion for a fancy date you know? This is the only time I didn’t forget about an anniversary in my life. They started their manufacturing adventure with the DN-1000 coaxial hybrid IEM 10 years ago and claimed to be the first one of this type under $1000.
Parallel to the high-end options, they were working relentlessly on introducing the new tech into the budget-friendly territory. Vulkan is the latest evolution of their coaxial designs, done using the top available tools and software. Being priced just under $400, it sits in the middle of their range, between Falcon Pro and EST112.
It makes it the cheapest hybrid IEM in their lineup. Some might say that other manufacturers offer more drivers at this price range. So what? It’s not the size of the boat, it’s the motion of the ocean. Discuss the sound. Compared to other companies Dunu is not trying to go for the lowest price. They focus on craftsmanship and quality. Their strength is in the tuning. Only a few brands can match their skill. Most of those who can, make headphones much more expensive than them, so there is a unique selling point.
Packaging and Fit
The box is quite large for a pair of IEMs. It’s comparable to the box FiiO FH9 comes in. It has a fully printed sleeve with Vulcan branding and some specs on the backside.
Real reviewers don’t read specs! Oh, someone is getting offended… Inside there are two levels, firstly the IEMs in a closed cell foam holder. Underneath, the case, are swappable plugs, a cleaning cloth, and a blue, hard case. A very solid set of accessories gives you everything you might need. I’m a big fan of swappable plugs, it really makes life easier. You lose some quality on additional connections, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal in this price range. Also, lots of people don’t want to play with cables, so it’s even better for them. Compatibility for the win.
The cable is called DUW-02S, with the Q-LOCK PLUS system. It’s a four-core, silver-plated OCC copper. You really can’t complain, it’s a great cable that would easily be solid with even more expensive IEMs.
First impressions of the actual earphones are very positive. Shells made out of metal and fancy faceplates are really impressive relative to the price. Faceplates are inspired by the Japanese art of mokume-game. It’s a 17th-century technology of producing complex metal laminates with separate layers. The name translates to “wood grain steel”. This laminate was then used to produce swords and knives like katana, wakizashi, and tanto.
The faceplates have an imprint that imitates those layers. I dig it, it looks unique. The Vulkan is a large IEM. Unlike other big earphones, its size is vertical, so it doesn’t bother my smaller earlobes. Finding the right tips might take some extra effort, because of this shape most of the weight focuses on the ear canal. You can also tilt them backward in your earlobe to put the weight on the back of the ear. That worked for me. In the end, I’ve found the included tips to suit me very well. This setup allows me to use Vulkan for hours with not too much fatigue.
Design, Build and Tech
Vulkan is made with milled aluminum that is then anodized black. It’s light, stiff, and feels premium in your hand. As previously stated, it’s a large IEM, as there is a lot going on inside. A hybrid design uses a coaxial dynamic driver for bass, and 4 BAs for mids(2) and treble(2). The coaxial bass driver is something that Dunu is known for. Both diaphragms are 8mm in diameter.
The structural foam diaphragm is based on excellent ECLIPSE drivers and is responsible for the lowest part of the music. The flat, titanium-coated diaphragm focuses on the high bass notes and lower mids giving them speed and clarity while providing some extra meat on the bone.
Both drivers play into a 3D-printed waveguide. The loading for the coaxial driver is the ACIS (Air Control Impedance System) found also in the DK-4001, ZEN, ZEN PRO, and EST112 IEMS from Dunu. It’s a form of a bass-reflex/transmission line, but details are unknown to me. A welcome quality is a high sensitivity and reasonable impedance of Vulkan. You should be able to run them even with a simple smartphone or dongle.
All of that fancy stuff didn’t come from the air. It’s all designed in-house, using the best solutions on the market. The CAD (Computer Assisted Design) software can do wonders right now in terms of simulating the acoustical properties of drivers, and even the response of a whole IEM. Using that, you can tune the product even before it is made for the first time. When a prototype is produced the engineers can spend more time fine-tuning the sound, because the majority of work is already done. This is the future of engineering and it’s good to know, that Dunu is at the forefront of it.
Using high-quality BA drivers from Knowles allowed Vulkan to be Hi-Res certified. This Japanese certificate means that the IEM can play above 40kHz, fully utilizing the 96kHz sampling rate. While we don’t hear those frequencies, this amount of linearity means that what we hear up to 20kHz should be absolutely perfect.
The Vulkan. I mean, the name says it all, doesn’t it? It erupts with sounds straight into your ears. I know. It was a bad volcano pun. Unlike my puns, the Vulkan is lots of fun.
Let’s start with the tuning because it’s quite original. I can’t recall an IEM that sounded in a similar way. Usually, it’s bass-boosted, v-shaped, or bright sounding. Vulkan sounds like everything is boosted. There is a lot of excitement in the sound. It reaches out and engages you directly. It keeps you on your toes all the time.
Every range is rich with full-bodied sound. This is the IEM equivalent of the new Top Gun: Maverick movie. It’s not subtle, it’s not too detailed. It’s a fighter jet that flies only on the afterburner. It’s loud and over the top. It can be a little hot in the treble area, but that happened to me only in a few songs up until now. The clear tips are putting a little break on it, but they also take away some of the detail. I have stayed with the dark ones, as I have found them to be more energetic.
So, is Vulkan any good? I have a few pairs of IEMs including some much more expensive pairs, but I have taken Vulkans to the CanJam in London last month. Stuff like Daft Punk, Dr.Dre (not a medical doctor apparently), and Avenged Sevenfold sound superb. Compared to higher-priced IEMs I didn’t have the feeling that I’m missing out on something. When I switched to more sophisticated music the difference between other earphones and Vulkans was more noticeable. Still, for traveling Vulkan is more than sufficient.
In terms of soundstage, this IEM plays it pretty closely and narrowly. While a wider sound might be wanted by users, I believe this is an intentional choice. It adds up to the excitement and engagement of the user. Also, you can’t have all, can you?
The Vulkan. I mean, the name says it all, doesn’t it? It erupts with sounds straight into your ears. I know. It was a bad volcano pun. Unlike my puns, the Vulkan is lots of fun. Let’s start with the tuning because it’s quite original. I can’t recall an IEM that sounded in a similar way. Usually, it’s bass-boosted, v-shaped, or bright sounding. Vulkan sounds like everything is boosted. There is a lot of excitement in the sound. It reaches out and engages you directly. It keeps you on your toes all the time. Every range is rich with full-bodied sound. This is the IEM equivalent of the new Top Gun: Maverick movie. It’s not subtle, it’s not too detailed. It’s a fighter jet that flies only on the afterburner. It’s loud and over the top. It can be a little hot in the treble area, but that happened to me only in a few songs up until now. The clear tips are putting a little break on it, but they also take away some of the detail. I have stayed with the dark ones, as I have found them to be more energetic.
So, is Vulkan any good? I have a few pairs of IEMs including some much more expensive pairs, but I have taken Vulkans to the CanJam in London last month. Stuff like Daft Punk, Dr.Dre (not a medical doctor apparently), and Avenged Sevenfold sound superb. Compared to higher-priced IEMs I didn’t have the feeling that I’m missing out on something. When I switched to more sophisticated music the difference between other earphones and Vulkans was more noticeable. Still, for traveling Vulkan is more than sufficient. In terms of soundstage, this IEM plays it pretty closely and narrowly. While a wider sound might be wanted by users, I believe this is an intentional choice. It adds up to the excitement and engagement of the user. Also, you can’t have all, can you?
Fast, punchy, and very detailed. I really like the unusual tuning of Vulkan, as while bass-heavy, it has more treble. The bass range goes very deep but is super-fast and nimble. It reminds me of good closed-box speakers, but with great extension. The texture of the synth bass in Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” is incredible. You can almost feel it with your body. The only way for it to be better would be to use bone conduction, but that would require the Vulkan to be MUCH more expensive. It’s possibly the best bass in this price range. You have the pros of the dynamic driver without its flaws. At least I can’t find them.
When I was visiting London I sat down at the Thames bank. I played “Imagine” by John Lenon. Vulkan’s expressive style together with the surroundings of Westminster created an amazing experience. His signature voice was close and smooth. Amazing atmosphere, combining music and surroundings that the artist lived around.
Back to the Vulkan, the integration between bass and midrange is excellent. While the midrange is a little behind bass and trebles, it provides lots of emotions, a spark that keeps you invested. I’ve found Vulkan to be excellent with hip-hop music too. The combination of bass-heavy beats and vocals can get muddy on some earphones, but not here. Thanks to the coaxial driver and excellent crossover, vocals are never overtaken by the bass, even, when there is a lot of it in the recording. Take a listen to the absolute masterpiece of Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) “This is America”. The rolling bass background never colors his vocals. It builds the authority around his message but never goes too forward. At this price range, it’s not too common to hear earphones like that.
If one range is to be the dominating one, it would be treble. While the bass is just behind, the high frequencies are more pronounced. The main energy is in low trebles, close to the midrange. It might be what creates this excitement and expressiveness of Vulkan. The top of the trebles is rolled off, so if you look for a top treble extension, look somewhere else. But they have the Hi-Res certificate!? Yup. They play up to 40kHz, just not as loudly. Welcome to real-life kids. Most of the fun here is in drum cymbals, they really have this nice kick, which you hear when listening to them in reality. It’s a big piece of metal that gets absolutely slammed. It should sound powerful and aggressive. Vulkan gives you that, but not in a way that will wear you out. As I have stated previously, the tuning is just right. Also, you can switch to clear tips if you want less treble. Treble in Vulkan delivers fast, detailed, and full-bodied sound, with a rounded off top octave.
Mammoth is known as the king of bass-head IEMs around its price range. While in real life volcanos are bigger than mammoths were, in our case Vulkan doesn’t deliver the amount of bass that American IEM does.
In terms of bass, the quantity and slam of the Mammoth are unparalleled. Vulkan is faster, but that’s it. The midrange of Vulkan is better because it doesn’t get drowned in lows. Treble of the Mammoth is rolled off even more than Vulkan’s and it lacks the authority to counter the bass. Vulkan provides much more enjoyable mids and highs but had to give up in terms of bass delivery. The soundstage of the Vulkan is a little more open than Mammoth’s, but not by much. Mammoth is a more comfortable IEM in my case. Mammoth is way harder to drive, you should have a balanced cable and amp for it.
I like the B1’s soundstage more, it has much more space in between the instruments. Their target audience is completely different. B1 is made for people who look for relaxation, not a wild ride. The bass in B1 is okay, but it’s not even close to what Vulkan can do. The midrange of the Vulkan is cleaner but doesn’t deliver the intimacy and emotion of the B1. The Treble of the B1 is smoother and more extended. Two different worlds.
Dunu Titan S
While made by the same company, their sound signature is very different. Titan S has an excellent soundstage and detail for its price. Vulkan has a much more closed-off width and depth. It offers light, smooth sound for people who prefer a brighter style of presentation. In the bass department, it’s a no-brainer, Vulkan slays its younger brother. Midrange is another point for the bigger brother. It’s more detailed and open than what Titan S can offer us. Vulkan lacks the treble extension of Titan S but delivers a more powerful and engaging performance.
Dunu Vulkan is one of the most interesting IEMs in this price range. It has a very fun-focused, entertaining tuning. This IEM is really exploding with the sound. It makes your foot tap along the rhythm. Over-the-top sound with an emphasis on bass and treble (but not your typical V) is perfect for music genres like hip-hop, rock, and EDM.
While not as rich in drivers as the competition its strength lies in fantastic crossover design and an excellent finish. The accessory set that you get with your purchase is A+. The stock cable is very good and the swappable plugs are a blessing. The amazing quality of this IEM is its sensitivity. You can run it with anything, really.
Disclaimer: Big thanks to Dunu for providing the Vulkan for this review. This review wasn’t influenced by anyone, all of the above is my subjective, honest opinion.
I can really say “been there, done that” in regard to audio. Designing, building, fixing, reviewing, selling. All of that for big boy stereo. Headphones are something new and fresh for me. We all need something exciting now and then, so join me in my quest of discovering this cool world. We will listen to, drink and WE WILL bring the balance to the force. Oh, I like beer.