Water drop in-ears!
PROS: W-shaped energetic and exciting signature, very good technical performance for the price, wide, deep and open soundstage, very good left to right separation, imaging, detail retrieval and resolution, attractive shell design, good tips and case for the price.
CONS: Stock tuning can come off slightly bright, would’ve much preferred a Planar + DD bass boost switch instead of treble boost in the Planar + BA hybrid mode – which is too bright!
Starting off as an OEM/ODM establishment in 1994, DUNU developed and manufactured professional and consumer earphone products for some of the largest and most prominent audio & telecommunications companies. After gaining vast experience in the industry, DUNU launched products under its own brand name in 2006. With very capable and technically rich staff and comprehensive production facilities, DUNU started developing drivers fully in-house, developing myriad composite, metal, and micron thickness diaphragm down to the 4 μm level. Since then, DUNU has managed to acquire multiple internationally recognized acoustic research achievements and patents, something that they are extremely proud of. DUNU has since built a loyal and enthusiastic fan base and actively participate in the community, offering insights into how they develop and manufacture their products, which is always very interesting to read.
Official Website – Dunu Talos ($199)
- Frequency Response: 5Hz – 40 kHz
- THD: <0.3% @ 1 kHz
- Impedance: 16 Ω @ 1kHz
- Sensitivity: 100dB ± 1dB @ 1kHz
- Planar Magnetic Driver: 14.6mm Dual Chambered, Dual Sided Orthodynamic Driver
- Balanced Armature Drivers: Custom Dual Super-tweeter
- Net Weight: 14 g
Included in the box.
- DUNU Talos IEMs
- 2-pin cable with 3.5mm jack
- Eartips – S&S Tips (SML), Light Grey wide bore tips (SML) and Black wide bore tips (SML)
- Carrying case
- Cleaning brush
- 3.5mm to 1/4″ adapter
Talos’ droplet shaped shells are not only one of the coolest looking IEM shells to have launched this year but are also excellently CNC machined from aviation-grade aluminium alloy. This should be no surprise if you know Dunu’s rich history of making some very well made metal IEMs. Talos has a nozzle with a substantial lip that makes sure the tips stay in place, in fact a little too much that it takes some effort to take them off. Better to have this than no lip at all, leading to tips slipping out and getting stuck in the ear canal. Lol!
Cable – Talos’ stock cable is made of high-purity silver-plated monocrystalline copper with a Litz structure. Sadly it is not a modular cable, isn’t very supple and the 2-pin connectors and jack could’ve been better. I’m mostly nitpicking here since Dunu have offered some really nice cables with their IEMs in the past. This is still a pretty decent stock cable for a $200 IEM but I’ve come to expect great things from them in this department. The build and quality of the cables that came with DK2001 and DK3001 Pro were significantly better than this one.
Fit and Comfort.
The shape of the shells don’t look like they’d fit very well but they do! Dunu have included 3 different types of ear tips for you to customise the fit as per comfort. I wish they would’ve included a pair of foam tips too since those are the ones I like most with the Talos for fit as well as sound.
Graphs are measured using an IEC60318-4 (IEC711) setup. You can compare all the graphs on my IEM Graph Database here – Animagus Squiglink.
Summary – Talos has a slightly bright leaning W-shaped take on a reference-neutral signature. It has around 6dB bass shelf, fairly neutral lower-midrange, forward upper-midrange with around 12dB of pinna gain, slightly warmer lower-treble, brighter mid-treble and fairly neutral upper-treble with good air and extension up top. It has a drier and leaner presentation with a very clean soundstage, good detail retrieval and really good separation for its asking price.
It does have some caveats, which I’ve gone into detail in the frequency wise breakdown below. I should also point out that there is slight channel mismatch post 2kHz in my unit, where the right channel is slightly brighter than the left.
Switch – Talos is a hybrid IEM with a dual-BA super tweeter that you can activate with a switch. I personally don’t like the hybrid mode at all because it boosts the 6-11kHz region way above neutral, resulting in a very bright signature with sharp attack on steroids and vocal sibilance as well as cymbal splashiness left, right and centre! I much prefer the Talos with the switch (dual-BA) off and don’t really see a use for it even with warmer mixed songs because it’s a bit too north of neutral for my preferences. I would’ve much preferred a dynamic driver activating bass boost switch instead!
Let’s dig in deeper…
Bass – Even though Talos has an excellently tuned bass shelf, the overall focus of the signature still leans towards the upper-end of the FR. This results in a bass presentation with extremely fast and precise transients but with punch coming across only when the song’s mix demands so. The bass otherwise has high levels of clarity and separation, with every nuance in the bass tone and performance coming across cleanly.
Midrange – Talos has a fairly neutral lower-midrange but the forward upper-midrange with 12dB pinna gain can come across a bit on the shouty side for people who prefer it on the easier side. Pinna gain sensitivity in general is quite subjective and I personally don’t really have a problem with it in the Talos. Overall, Talos has better midrange presentation compared to all the other planar IEMs I’ve tried under $200, with very good layering and separation across the whole spectrum.
Treble – Talos has slightly warmer lower-treble but is in turn brighter in the mid-treble region. The mid-treble boosts in Talos help a ton with clarity, detail retrieval and perception of excellent resolution but also result in cymbals sounding a bit brighter than natural, instruments having sharper attack than neutral and the overall instrument timbre coming across slightly on the dry and cold side. They also cause slight thinning of the signature, with Talos coming across slightly clinical as a result. I personally prefer EQ-ing this region down by a couple of dB to tune it in line with my preferences. Talos’ upper-treble on the other hand is fairly neutral and has really good air and extension up top. Just very slight EQ-ing of the treble region does wonders for the overall tuning.
Technical Performance – Talos has very good technical performance for its asking price. It has an open, airy and spacious soundstage with very good left to right separation. It has really good macro and micro detail retrieval because of its brighter than neutral tuning, but sometimes at the cost of coming across slightly lean and dry. Also, the bright and sharp instrument attack may seem impressive at first but isn’t very accurate or natural.
Moondrop Stellaris (Single planar IEM).
Stellaris has a much brighter signature compared to Talos. Stellaris is too bright for me in stock form and requires corrective EQ to make it listenable. It does have a slightly bigger bass shelf but it doesn’t come across much bassier because of a more forward upper-midrange and significantly brighter treble boosts. Talos in comparison is a way better balanced IEM with better tonality as well as technical performance. I’d recommend spending a bit more and going for the Talos if you’re specifically looking for a planar IEM.
Shuoer S12 (Single planar IEM).
S12 is a warmer tuned planar IEM. It has more sub-bass as well as mid-bass. It has slightly fuller instrument body because of fuller lower-midrange in the 250-400Hz range. It has a similarly forward upper-midrange presentation but slightly brighter lower-treble and warmer mid-treble tuning. Talos has better technical performance because of a cleaner, more open and airy soundstage with better imaging, detail retrieval and left to right separation.
THHiFi Face Red (1DD+2BA).
Face Red is a hybrid with 1DD+2BA. It has punchier signature with more sub-bass and even more mid-bass than the Talos. It has a similar midrange presentation but one which sounds slightly more natural. It has more neutral lower-treble tuning but is warmer in its upper-treble tuning. Face Red is no slouch in technical performance but Talos is better, primarily because of its tuning than anything else. Talos has a cleaner, more open and airy soundstage as well as better left to right separation. Face Red on the other hand is more musical with a more dynamic and punchy sound signature.
Moondrop Kato (1DD).
Kato is a single dynamic driver IEM and still one of my benchmark IEMs at the $200 mark because of its well-tuned signature and a very pleasing and easy to like tonality. Kato has slightly more mid-bass and very slightly more instrument body because of fuller 250-350Hz lower-midrange. Because of its warmer treble tuning in comparison to Talos’, Kato’s bass comes across much more punchy and rumbly and has much stronger impact. Kato has a more natural lower-midrange to upper-midrange tuning which is mainly responsible for its excellent tonality and timbre of instruments. Talos is slightly on the brighter and drier side of reference-neutral tuning where Kato is more on the warmer, musical side. Talos has slightly better upper-treble air and extension. It also has slightly better technical performance with more open and spacious soundstage with sharper and quicker transient presentation. Kato has a more natural tonality, more natural transient presentation as well as a more punchy and musical sound signature, which is characteristic of well tuned dynamic drivers.
Talos has a slightly bright W-shaped take on a reference-neutral signature and is the most competent planar IEM out of the ones I’ve tried till now under $200. Its slightly brighter than neutral tuning does wonders for technical performance, especially an open and airy soundstage as well as very good micro-detail retrieval and left to right separation, but at the cost of coming across slightly clinical, dry and lean. This is a great IEM for people who are suckers for detail retrieval and like a vivid and energetic signature but not as much for people who like a slightly warmer signature with more natural tonality and timbre of instruments. So, if you’re from the former category and in the market for a planar IEM, Talos is one of the best you can get around the $200 mark!
Gear used for testing and review.
- DAPs – iBasso 240 | Shanling M6 Ultra
- Phone – Oneplus 7 Pro
- Laptop – Apple MacBook Pro 15″
- Desktop – Universal Audio Apollo + DROP THX AAA 789 Amp
Artists I like and listen to.
- Rock – Foo Fighters, Linkin Park, Switchfoot, Imagine Dragons, Daughtry, Green Day, MuteMath, X Ambassadors, Dave Matthews Band, Vertical Horizon, Our Lady Peace, Lifehouse, Fall Out Boy, Breaking Benjamin, Muse, ACDC, Audioslave, Rage Against the Machine, Biffy Clyro, I Am Giant, Normandie, Paramore, Slash & Guns N Roses, 3 Doors Down.
- Pop Rock – John Mayer, Coldplay, Paul McCartney, James Bay, Hunter Hayes, Niall Horan, Keith Urban, The Bros Landreth, Bryan Adams.
- Progressive Rock/Metal – Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson, Karnivool, Tool, Dead Letter Circus, Periphery, Lamb of God.
- Pop/Soft Rock – Ed Sheeran, Adele, Taylor Swift, OneRepublic, The Script, Gavin James, Magic Man, Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, Charlie Puth, Dua Lipa, The Weeknd, Oasis, Panic! At the Disco, TwentyOne Pilots.
- EDM – Chainsmokers, Zedd.