Dunu Zen Review

The Zen is a new in-ear monitor from Dunu and comes with a newly developed dynamic driver made of  magnesium-aluminum alloy diaphragm coated with a nanoporous-amorphous diamond-like carbon coating. This unique and new driver is the main heartbeat of this new product and comes off the heels of their full beryllium Luna and their recent all-BA SA6 models.

Before I get into this, I'd like to thank Tom and Kevin from Dunu for providing a review sample of the Zen to me, and for providing a small glimpse into their product development and thoughts.

The Zen is priced at $699 and competes with the Moondrop Illumination directly as two new dynamic driver IEMs at this price point. Unfortunately, I have not had an opportunity to try out the Moondrop product, so if you're looking for comparisons, you're out of luck with me. 


The Zen comes in a small box and within it is a standard set of accessories that comes with their premium products. It's actually a nice unboxing experience and the gear they include are all well thought out and useful. 

This includes a set of tips in their own case, cleaning tools, a leather zippered case with internal pockets, and their new drawstring pouch to protect the black anodized metal shells from dings during transportation. The Zen also includes their DUW-03 cable with proprietary quick connect feature that is also included in the SA6 model previously. The cable comes with quick-connectors for 3.5mm, 2.5mm and 4.4mm. A 1/4 inch adapter is also included.

I've probably mentioned this before, but I'll just say it again here. The DUW-03 cable has a very nice look, with a thick braid of silver and gray wiring ending with chrome-look connectors. It looks great to be honest. Unfortunately, I am not a big fan of it when it's being used. It is a just a little too thick, a little stiff, and a little too heavy for my tastes and I opted to swap it out for Dunu's cheaper and lighterweight DUW-02 cable, which I absolutely love. These cables are terminated with mmcx connectors for those interested.

Now onto the actual design. The Zen has a similar look and feel to the Luna as well as their DK series. This shell is round and looks, as TylersEclectic put it, like a Star Trek Enterprise. It's all metal, with a glossy piano black finish and looks quite stunning. It's also very nicely built and feels sturdy. There is a strong magnetic field on these and if you put the two sides next to each other, they will cling.

Comfort was very good on these with me. I use these with wide bore, and wide flange tips, that are much larger than what I normally wear, however I find this type of tip works better with shallow fit IEMs for me. They fill in the cavity instead of getting a deep insertion to grip.

Sound Impressions

The Zen has a balanced U-shaped sound signature that has an elevated bass response, warm-mid-range, an elevated and very forward upper-midrange and a slightly uneven treble response with a peak at 8-9KHz. It's generally well-tuned and to my liking except a few caveats which I'll discuss here.

There are really no major weaknesses of the Zen. It doesn't do a lot wrong and it does a lot of stuff well. My major gripes with it come with having a bit too forward of a sound signature, which reduces some of dynamic range and level of depth in soundstage, and a slightly shouty upper-midrange and a peak in 8.5KHz range in treble, which can really rear its ugly head in some music.

These two peaks are not super offensive, but can occasionally be a little jolting. I found this in my normal everyday listening of Tingvall Trio, a piano-contrabass-drums jazz unit. There are times when piano notes come in too heavy and other times when constant cymbals ring just a little too much, both giving a tizzying sensation that I don't always agree with. Now, I am one who can be sensitive to this, so other people may find this more forward presentation delightful, as it brings out some of these areas into more focus.

The general sound overall, along with many of the technical areas I care about is very good for the Zen, especially considering its a single dynamic driver IEM, and there aren't really that many out there that are great. Many of the ones that are tuned-well lack good dynamics and soundstage (Moondrop KXXS, Kanas Pro, etc), and the ones that have this lack tuning chops (Dunu Luna, Final A8000, Sony EX1000). 

As with every single dynamic driver IEM I've heard, treble extension isn't as airy as a good multi-BA or multi-driver set, but this isn't a big deal. I feel like the tuning is really meant to be a more intimate experience, and this does come to a bit of preferences here. I am used to a little bit more of an open and bigger soundstage, and so the Zen may not totally provide one that I am used to, but for something a little more forward and engaging, it does a nice job of separation and imaging for the smaller space it's compacted into.

Where I find the Zen really does well is the low-end including the lower mid-range and the bass response. There's a really good balance here of solid tuning and performance. The driver exhibits a very good amount of resolution, texturing and natural decay. Bass notes are punchy and impactful, yet not bloated and very tactile. It's not the best bass I've heard though, but it does a more than adequate job here and sounds natural.

The midrange has a slightly warm tilt in the low end, and I find it makes for a good listen. Male vocals are accurate and sound full. The upper mid-range, again, is where I find things a little messy, but not necessarily inaccurate sounding. For the most part, everything sounds mostly correct, but with just emphasis in certain regions that bother me more than it may for others.

Comparison with the Dunu SA6

There will be and has been a lot of questions posed on which of the two new Dunu IEMs to get: This new dynamic driver Zen or the multi-BA SA6. They are a bit different in how they present things, but both are generally slightly warm, neutral-ish in-ears that have similar enough tuning. It's the other factors that really distinguish the two, mainly the differences between the driver configurations.

In general tonality, I find the SA6 is a lot easier to listen to, with its more smooth upper-midrange and relaxed treble. It does not exhibit the forward mid-range that I mentioned above on the Zen nor does it have a peak at around 8-9KHz. So in this quick look, there are definitely some genres of music and some personal preferences that can quickly steer someone to the SA6.

When it comes to just natural, warm mid-range tuning, the bread and butter I'll call-it; the Zen wins a lot here. The dynamic driver is coherent, and very, very rich and pleasant to listen to especially if you want a nice engaging sound. It has a more natural resonance and decay to it, and a slightly more lush sound.

And while I do think the SA6's low end bass performance is quite good for sporting only balanced armature drivers (this one being equipped with vented ones), there's really not contest when comparing it to the Zen. The Zen is punchier, more impactful, and brings out a much more dynamic sound that I don't think the SA6 can compete with if you're looking for a more authentic lively presentation, and not one that is more reference and sterile.

Overall though, this is a tough one. I don't think the SA6 has any inherent flaws, but the Zen has some occasional jarring sound due to its frequency response. For people who may have sensitivities to upper-mids and treble spikes or want a bit more soundstage and improved imaging, the SA6 is a safer bet. But otherwise, the Zen is one of the best dynamic driver IEMs I've heard to date and it's a nice recommendation.

View the product ratings on Antdroid's IEM Ranking List and/or Antdroid's Headphone Ranking List


  1. hi, thx for the detailed review. i know that it is apples to oranges, but how does it compare to Thieaudio Monarch? thx Lacas

  2. Can you make any comparisons to the Moondrop S8?

    1. Headphones.com pulled a switcharoo on me and now I'm getting Zen's instead of the S8's I ordered.
      And not even getting them when they promised, so, a bit irritated, but none the less I have headphones I didn't originally want coming my way, later than when I needed them by. Yipee. Cheer me up.


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