As usual, my proofreading skills are meh. So more IEMs to try out, and chatter about a good DD IEM for $700 that isn’t complete crap. Where to sign up? Oh wait, right here of course. I was thinking about getting another IEM later in the year to round up my collection of what I have. I was hoping the Dunu Zen IEM could fit the bill. I also heard great things about Dunu 100% BA IEM the SA6. Since I got both in a loaner, lets try them both and see what I think about them. To be on point, I was caught off guard… Sources: Thinkpad X260 via Roon or Foobar2000 via UPnP Output Component or BubbleUPnP > PI2AES [Toslink Output] > Massdrop x Airist R-2R DAC (RDAC) > Zampotech SW51+ Roon or UPnP > PI2AES [Coax Output] or Pioneer DV-79AVi DVD Player (CD Transport) [Toslink Output] > Schiit Bifrost 2 > DNA Starlett Sony WM1A DAP with the Mr. Walkman Custom Firmware Zen Packaging and Design: The loaners only included the packaging of the Dunu Zen. Packaging is damn good and just about what I expect from a near TOTL IEM experience. It isn’t too flashy, but it isn’t too cheap either. Zen comes with with you need to get yourself up and running on them. The carrying case is good but I wish it was a little bigger since it could be a tight fit with the Zen and the stock cable. The stock cable is good but on the heavier side, tug it down and you will feel the weight on your ears. On the plus side the stock cable uses the Dunu socket system, so the included 2.5mm and 4.4mm connectors can be swapped out at any time with the 3.5mm one as well. I can’t stress that this feature is amazing. The Zen does uses MMCX connectors. Stock tips are solid and I don’t feel like I need to try any third-party tips if I have to be honest. The Zen itself is kind of smallish for an IEM. I think the casting is a metal material that can get cold if you have it sitting in a cold environment. The nozzle isn’t the longest, but the design of the Zen was I think designed to go deep in your ears for seal. It would be hard to not have these give you a good seal in your ears. It’s a great looking design, but some might say these don’t look like $700 IEMs. The price comes through in the sound IMO, and the tuning to make a DD IEM not sound like ass. SA6 Design: SA6 loaner didn’t come with the packaging, just the same carrying case and stock cable of the Zen. Same issue on the stock cable with the Zen. It is a little too heavy, but the plus it also uses the Dunu socket system. The SA6 uses the two-pin connectors on these, not MMCX. The design on the SA6 is very different than the Zen. SA6 as you may know is a Six-BA Driver IEM with a switch on each side of the IEM that more/less raise the bass by a few dbs. The SA6 uses this artificial plastic thingy casing, which I think feels better at times than the metalish casting of the Zen. On the outer part of the IEMs is a wood piece (I think) that looks nice, but the color can be different I think when getting a SA6. The loaner has this brownish color to the wood piece. For $550 these don’t feel or look like $550 IEMs. Honestly if I didn’t know what these were I thought they would cost $1000 new. The SA6 fits ok in my ears, but I think some might have issues with the stock cable holding their ears too tight at around the two-pin connector. On my ears if I have them on too tightly or in an angle it kind of hurts my ears. I also get minor pressure and really minor discomfort when having the IEM touching my outer ear for some reason after a while. So I guess Zen fits slightly better for me? I know some did say the Zen was causing issues on the fit for them, so as usual your mileage may vary on IEMs and how they fit in your ears. If there's any real flaw for me with the SA6 that isn't the sound, it is the fit. Zen Sound: It’s a DD IEM, so you will get the DD benefits. For starters, subbass impact is there, but not bloated on a “fun” IEM. Nothing feels too sharp or too “detailed-focus” like higher # BA Driver IEMs in theory. Treble is also on the smoothish side, and as I stated before not shart. Ok enough on that part, for starters this can be the upgrade for those who really like the JVC HA-FDX1. If you were hoping for a little more bass, and more vocal impact, then you will be right at home with the Zen. Nothing feels congested like I get somethings on the JVC, since I think soundstaging (lol on an IEM) is better on the Zen. I think the tuning isn’t too crazy, it’s on the warmish side of things but not warmpoo. I think @shotgunshane calling it W-tuning isn’t too far off. I don’t personally call this a W-tuning IEM, but I can really see where some people could call it as such. To my ears, there’s more bass than the JVCs, and it could be slightly boosted in my view. I found this quite helpful on the various genres that I thrown at it. Maybe there were times that in some of the milder tracks on David Sylvian – Gone to Earth the bass was almost hitting into the mids for me, but it never got to that point. I think it is very tastefully done since I don’t mind a minor bass boost, which is what I’m getting on the Zen. So if you hate a pure BA IEM on bass since you think it has no air/life, then you will be right at home with the Zen with its enough rumble without being stupid. I do like the DD bass decay on these. Midrange for me gets most things right. If I have to be honest, I found the Zen to have slightly forward Midrange. I think some where saying the same thing about the JVCs having a forward Midrange, but I didn’t have that problem on mine with the green filter. On the Zen, I noticed it right away on Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On, provided if I have the volume a little too high on the Zen. If you have the volume too might, the midrange becomes too much and can be crazy. Even without the volume being too much, on some recordings the vocals can also be slightly too much and can bleed at times like in Bee Gees – Odessa. However, it wasn’t a big problem for someone like me, but I can tell that for some people this could be a problem. I’m not going on and on about this part, but male/females vocals sound right on to me with the Zen, and same for musical instruments. Treble is what I was expecting on a DD, kind of relaxed a bit but with some life in there. I do think for someone with a treble fetish they should either stick to BA IEMs or EQ this one. Per Dunu’s FR graph, it seems to be downward sloping with some sparkle. I agree with this. I don’t think this is lifeless at all, but I think on some tracks I wish the treble was little more there if that make sense. I think of the same thing with the JVCs and on the Moondrop Starfield as well. I guess that’s what the limitations of a DD driver are I guess. Soundstage is great here on the Zen, much more than the JVCs. I do find the staging to be upfront, which make sense since I found the vocals to be a little forwarding sounding. As long as you don’t blast the volume too loud, then the soundstage doesn’t sound compressed at all. Layering is good for a DD IEM, but I do believe BA IEMs with multiple drivers can outclass this part here over a DD. DD IEMs feel like everything in the sound meshes together, while on BA IEMS everything is more separate. Adjusting the Input Z on the Zen didn’t do too much on the sound, including switching the Output Impedance on my amps. I will also say that the Zen does do a good job telling the difference between the sources, and yes it can scale depending on your source. SA6 Sound: Sounds like an excellent BA IEM for the price of only $550. However, it does sound different depending on Input Z. Run them directly in a desk amp and most likely it will be a darker sounding IEM that’s bassy. Use an IEMatch on 2.5 ohm Input Z/High Mode to make it a lot less bassy and more treble. So using an IEMatch and you want to make it a little more bassy? Put the switch on and you have a little more bass and treble if you want to make it kind of U-Shaped sound, but not really if that even make sense. These should in theory be neutral with a bass boost, but the more I keep changing things around the more it can sound different. I prefer to use an IEMatch for these most of the time (since I’m 99% using desk amps), but I don’t mind having the SA6 sound a little more bassy when I feel like it, so I just remove the IEMatch or put the switch on the IEMs to do that bass boost when using the IEMatch (to keep the treble and add some bass). The stuff that I just typed above may not even make sense at all to some, and to be honest you might be right. To make this short: Excellent sound quality for $550 + With the switch to adjust the bass + Have the IEMatch near you = Tons of Flexibility with a killer tonality for the most part. Treble is one of the slightly weakest points of the SA6. It barely, barely have the sharp BA treble that people love to hate. Also, I don’t think it extends as far as it could. Then again, this is a $550 IEM and there’s stuff in the $,$$$ range that will beat the treble of the SA6. If you aren’t plugging into something that’s 2.5 ohm Input Z, it might be too dark for you. I stated before that on some tracks I don’t mind this at all. If you want more crazy extension and details, well remember how much this retails for. I wouldn’t be shocked that my old OG Andromeda has better treble over the SA6. Or maybe I should get longer tips? The Midrange here is excellent with fantastic layering and separation that BA IEMs are known for. Like @shotgunshane I’m not able to find anything wrong in the midrange. Everything just I dunno, flows well without anything annoying sticking out. The midrange here is not even close to being forward like on the Zen, so none of that here at all. Vocals and instruments sounds right, and it does an excellent job on detail retrieval. I’m having a hard time telling what is sticking out. Tone is fantastic and not dumb like in most IEMs. The bass is great, considering this is a BA IEM. With the switch control you can add more heft to the bass. It’s a borderline BA IEM tightness and DD IEM bass for me.. Of course if you want to make this more tighter, use an IEMatch on High/2.5 Input Z. I found the bass to be excellent on Electronic Music, Rock, and other things that I prefer a more bass impact. While the bass is not limp here at all like a lot of BA IEMs, a DD IEM at the end of the day for me will still be better for bass decay and its weight floating through the notes, if that even make sense. The soundstage here is worse than the Zen, but not upfront/front like the Zen. I think it is a good balance here between close to front row seats and a few rows back. This part doesn’t change too much depending on your source. Zen VS SA6: SA6 wins on separation/layering/details for the price. SA6 can be more flexible on sound depending on Input Z changes and its bass switch. But you better have an IEMatch near you if you want to obtain the full benefits of the SA6. SA6 for the most part doesn’t have the stereotypical BA IEM flaws except for minor moments in treble. SA6 works quite well on my WM1A DAP with the Mr. Walkman firmware. Zen might fit better on more ears than SA6. Zen being a DD IEM works better on desk amps like SW51+ and DNA Starlett than SA6. Zen also have a plus of scaling good, and I think it scales better than SA6. SA6 does work on desk amps, for example the DNA Starlet works better on the SA6 IMO than the SW51+. Still, you are the judge and make sure you have your IEMatch around. Zen also being a DD IEM will give you the bass impact and decay. While having less separation/layering/details than SA6. Zen has more soundstage than the SA6 but due to its upfront nature it can be too much depending on your volume knob. Zen I consider to be a nice upgrade from the JVC HA-FDX1, but it may not be the big upgrade that some might be hoping for. I think some might prefer the SA6 over the Zen if upgrading from the JVCs. Conclusion: This is hard. I do enjoy the sound of the SA6 more than the Zen, considering for $550 you get a lot of IEM for the price. However, the fit of the SA6 is less than ideal for me over the Zen. The Zen being a DD IEM is more useful for my needs, since 99% of my listening is on desk amps. Even the SA6 being a pure BA IEM, honestly I think for those who have the HA-FDX1 might like the SA6 a lot even if it doesn’t have all the DD IEM benefits. This is going to be a hard decision since I like what the SA6 and the Zen brings to the table. For people here on SBAF I think the real crowd winner is the SA6. I’m fully convinced Dunu can sell the SA6 for more money and people would believe it sounds for more. Thankfully I’m not planning to get another IEM for a bit, since I have real-life bills I need to take care of first before I decide what to get next. I’ll say this: This is a hard decision I need to make, but even with my comments I’m heavily leaning towards the SA6 since the tonality and the flexibility wins me over the Zen, even if the fit is less than ideal. In other words: Zen fits better on my ears than the SA6, but the SA6 has that special sauce shit for the price. Zen is good, but it doesn't have that special sauce and it doesn't hold the same appeal for $700 as the JVCs at $280, even with the improvements on the Zen. SA6 > Zen Tips and predictions for those who are on the loaner tour: If using both IEMs on SW51+, run them in high output impedance for best sound IMO. But as stated before, you better have IEMatch near you. @Merrick If using DNA Starlett, make sure on both IEMs you have IEC switch on (not low) and -6db switch for SA6 and you can leave that db switch to 0db for Zen if you want. @crenca if you don’t have a 3.5mm to ¼ adapter, get one. I don’t need you need the IEMatch for the Starlett with the SA6. Dynamic sounding sources will make both IEMs sing, avoid the warmpoo stuff. $10 bucks that @rhythmdevils will complain about the fit on the SA6. @neogeosnk I dunno what your setup is, but if you can use the Zen on your TOTL stuff then it should scale like mad in theory, but these are IEMs. @purr1n most likely not find the Zen to have that special sauce, but instead will find the SA6 to have that special sauce. Curious on the BA treble if it might bug him on the SA6.