Review: Dunu I3C-S vs Etymotic HF5

Dunu I 3C-S vs Etymotic HF5 Comparison:

I would like to thank Dunu and Etymotic for providing me samples to create a comparison thread. There will be more IEM’s added as I receive them.
I will try and write as honest a review as possible.

I am by no means an audiophile, I love my music and I like to enjoy it through good headphones and speakers.

All opinions expressed are my own, and this is a subjective review, so others may not agree with me.

Gear used:

IPod Classic 7G (rockboxed)
Modded Fiio L3 + Fiio E11



Specs:

I 3C-S:

Driver: Single Balanced Armature (Knowles BK28507)
SPL: 105 +- 2dB
Impedance: 10Ω
F.Response: 16hz-22khz
Noise Attenuation: 26dB
Cord length: 120cm
Price: $100

HF5:

Driver Type: Single Balanced armature
Sensitivity (at 1 kHz): 105 dB
Impedance (at 1 kHz) 16Ω
F.Response: 20hz-15khz
Cord length: 120cm
Noise Attenuation: 35-42dB
Price: $149



Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality:

Dunu:
Very good packaging job with an attractive black box, with a picture of the IEM on the front, the box slides out to reveal an inner box, with a magnetic flap that opens to show you the IEM’s in a velvet coated plastic inlay and the hard carry case, accessories are underneath the inlay, I think Dunu do an excellent packaging job, the best I have seen so far.

Accessories:
Wow, that’s a lot included with these, 7 pairs of silicone tips, Sony hybrid style (S, M and L), Normal single flange (S, M and L) and a pair of M bi-flanges (slightly wide for the nozzle, so unusable, Dunu have taken note of this problem)

Hard carry case, metal with the inner part lined with velvet to keep them safe, a soft pleather pull string case, a cleaning cloth, cable clip, 3.5mm to 6.3mm adaptor, flight adaptor and an impedance adaptor.


Rubber ear hooks are pre installed.

Build:
These are part of Dunu’s new Silver impact line, with their special patented Silver plated Copper Cables, and I must say they do look good, the sheathing is translucent so you can see the cable, and it feels sturdy. The strain relief on the 90° jack is very well built and should not break, the y-split is also very good quality and has a cable slider. Strain relief into the housing could be better, as it is just a hard piece of plastic, but as these are worn over the ear it shouldn’t be a problem.

The housing is all plastic with a mirror finish, they look very nice and stylish, and the plastic helps keep the weight down, the plastic seems to be of good quality and there are no blemishes to be seen.

Well done Dunu as always your build quality is top notch.

Etymotic:
Another nice sleek black box with a picture of the HF5 on the front, with a tab that can be opened to reveal the IEM’s inside. The IEM’s are held in place in a foam cutout, and the accessories are behind the inlay. Nothing too fancy, but very simple and easy.

Accessories:
Including the small triple flanges already on the HF5, you get a pair of L triple flanges, a pair of foam tips, Etymotic Glider tips and 2 replacement filters. Included is a cable clip, soft carry pouch, with space for extra tips inside.

Not bad from Etymotic, it has everything you need to get a good fit, and a carry pouch, a hard case would have been a welcome extra.

Build:
Kevlar reinforced cables feel strong, medium thickness, the 45° jack has sufficient strain relief, but it could be better, the y-split could have more relief on the entry but in general it is well built, and has a cable slider. The strain relief going in to the housing is rubber and moves adequately.

The housing is plastic but with a rubber coating, giving it a very nice matte finish and smooth touch. Good quality plastic with no blemishes and the housing feels strong. Replaceable filters are a nice touch, and add to the long lasting feel of these.



Comfort, Isolation, Microphonics and nonexistent driver flex:

 Dunu:
I used the M Sony hybrids with these, the fit on these is very important, and tricky to get a proper seal. It took me a while to get the hang of them, but once I had, inserting and taking them out was easy.

These are shallow fit IEM’s, too deep and they will sound thin with muffled mids, too shallow the same thing happens. They have to be just right to get the warm lush signature of these.

Isolation is average as they are shallow fit, alright for busses, but forget airplanes or subways.

Microphonics are none as they are over the ear style IEM’s

As as with all BA drivers, there is no driver flex.

Etymotic
I actually use Shure S olives with these, as I couldn’t get a good fit with the triple flange that came with them. Deep insertion takes a while to get used to, and can irritate after long sessions, but they do provide a secure fit with excellent isolation.

Well Etymotic do say they have the highest isolation of any IEM on the market, and I do not doubt them, the isolation is scary sometimes, but great for public transport and airplanes. You literally get lost in your music, which means you have to be careful when in public.

Microphonics are present when worn cable down, but are less when using the cable clip, and next to none worn over the ear.

As as with all BA drivers, there is no driver flex.


Sound:

I will split this category into the 3 usual parts

Lows:

Dunu:
Fast, tight with good extension, with roll-off only in the sub-bass region. Full bodied bass, with nice texture, very good for a single BA IEM. Bass detail is excellent, very well defined, with more quality over quantity. Not good for bass heads, but plenty for the average listener with no bleed to the mids.

Etymotic:
Very precise and fast, lacking body and quantity. Below neutral quantity and very tight with roll off from 100hz down. Very analytical bass where you need to hear all the details, but not very musical.

Mids:

Dunu:
These have a slightly mid centric signature, vocals shine on these, sounding very smooth but with great detail retrieval. Jazz and acoustic sound very natural. Sometimes the upper mids sound a bit thin, but I think that that is more a problem with the source material. These do not suffer from harsh or edgy mids, with no sibilance detected.

The muffled mids some have complained about are fit related, as I refered in the comfort and fit section of this review.

Etymotic:
Again a little boost in the mids, but with a much colder and drier presentation, not smooth and lush, more analytical. Great detail again but portrayed differently. More micro details and more obvious than with the Dunu’s. They sound a little harsher than the Dunu’s and also a bit thiner than the full bodied signature of the Dunu’s. They do not sound as natural as the Dunu’s.

Highs:

Dunu:
The highs are well portrayed on these except they lack a little presence. The highs extend well and have the right amount of sparkle. These never sound bright or harsh in the highs. Nuances in the highs are easily picked out, and on well recorded tracks the highs do sound very realistic.

Etymotic:
Better presence than the Dunu, but again a colder presentation, with details more pronounced. Well recorded tracks sound excellent again, but these do sound a little harsher in highs too, but never overly bright. Nice sparkle but with more noticeable roll-off, not as realistic sounding either.

Soundstage, Instrument Separation and Imaging:

Dunu:
Soundstage: above average and very accurate, there is a real sense of space, with both width and depth portrayed very well.

Instrument separation: another strong point of BA drivers, they never soung congested, even in faster passages, and you can still pick apart each layer and detail.

Imaging: impressive, with the center image properly centered and sounds coming in from all around, panning is well done and never sounds detached.

Etymotic:
Soundstage: Narrow but with air between everything. Nothing particularly special.

Instrument separation: with a thinner sound, there is better instrument separation.

Imaging: good aswell, but not great again.



Conclusion:

The Dunu has a more smooth full bodied sound, with brilliant detail retrieval and a slightly mid centric sound signature. Does well with all genres, but shines with Jazz and Acoustic. Dunu have done a great job of squeezing every little bit out of the single BA driver, And for the price I would recommend them highly.
Etymotic have been around for a long time and know what they are doing, for a analytical, dry sound they these will be perfect. Picking out nuances is so easy with these, and the isolation is a big plus. The sound signature is mid/high emphasized and very analytical, good for metal because of the speed, but the bass lacks for EDM and the likes.

To amp or not to amp?

These are both very sensitive IEM’s so no need to amp in my opinion, they do not improve much with amping.
The included impedance adaptor for the Dunu doesn’t really change the sound much (slightly more defined highs) but it is good if you use an amp, as they have a tendency to hiss, but with the adaptor there is no hiss whatsoever.

Tracks used:
Skrillex – First Of The Year (Equinox) (320kbps MP3)
Paramore – Franklin (320kbps MP3)
Diana Krall – The Girl In The Other Room (FLAC)
Deolinda – Passou Por Mim E Sorriu (live) (ALAC)
Suicide Silence – Unanswered (FLAC)
Massive Attack – Angel (ALAC)
Eat Static – Dzhopa Dream (ALAC)
The XX – Crystalised (FLAC)
Funeral For A Friend – Bend Your Arms To Look Like Wings (ALAC)
Mumford & Sons – Little Lion Man (FLAC)
The Scene Aesthetic – Humans (259kbps MP3)
A Hero A Fake – Swallowed By The Sea (254kbps MP3)
Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, Spring Allegro (ALAC)
Johnny Craig – Children Of Divorce (161kbps MP3)
Deadmau5 + Kaskade – I Remember (Caspa Remix) (320kbps MP3)
Black Uhuru – Utterance (ALAC)
We Are The In Crowd – Never Be What You Want (226kbps MP3)
Silverstein – Discovering The Waterfront (320kbps MP3)
Concept Of Thought – Our Thought (FLAC)
Nirvana – Something In The Way (Unplugged) (ALAC)



I hope you enjoyed this comparison, all comments are welcome.
Kind Regards
Oscar Stewart

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