Dodocool 3D (DA131) Earphone Review
Dodocool is an accessory manufacturer who has a modest presence on Amazon making some nice little gadgets and gizmos for reasonable prices. However, recently they have branched into audio, launching a very nice audio player based on the IQQ C18 in addition to a few sets of earphones geared towards various users and uses. And perhaps most intriguing among them is their new 3D earphone, the DA131, an in-ear earphone that claims to produce 5.1 sound through a number of patent pending technologies. And priced at just $25, they make for an accessible impulse buy or a simple gift. Let’s see whether the Dodocool 3D performs as described under various conditions including gaming, film and critical music listening.
I would like to thank Summer from Dodocool very much for her quick communication and for providing me with the DA131 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
The DA131 has no real unboxing, they simply come within a hard faux carbon-fiber case. The case is quite nice, both pocketable and protective, it has an internal pocket that holds the accessories in addition to the earphones themselves. Dodocool includes 3 sets of ear tips in various sizes in addition to an adapter cable that allows users to use the earphones integrated microphone on computers with separate audio and mic ports. It’s a decent setup that is well considered for the earphones intended uses.
The 3D earphones immediately surprised me with their build quality, for a $25 USD earphone, their full-metal build was quite a treat. I would put them above the Mixcder X5 and the plastic Fiio F1 and F3 though the Xiaomi earphones do feel more premium with a nicer fit and finish. They are a tubby earphone; they aren’t super low profile nor are they particularly stylish, though their clean black finish, smooth forming and record inspired machining on the outer face do make them feel a little nicer than the status quo.
And as far as ergonomics go, the DA131 is modestly sized though admittedly on the larger size as far as iems go. However, for my average sized ears, the DA131 provided a reliable seal and stable fit that both presented no issues during long gaming or listening sessions apart from some driver flex when first inserted. The most notable aspect of their fit is probably those ear loops that lock into the ear like the Bowers and Wilkins C5. Basically, the cable exits at a perpendicular angle, looping around and back down through the housing itself. It looks a bit eccentric but works really well in daily use, transforming an otherwise uninspiring fit into a notably stable one. Once inserted, you simply push the cable up until it locks into the outer ear, I felt that the housings could hold the loops position a little better as they did tend to get a bit loose over time though the earphones remained stable at all times.
In terms of comfort, the earphones are quite wide and bulge in the centre to accommodate a larger driver. As such, they do put some pressure on the tragus of the ear which forms mild discomfort after an hour or so of wear.
And when combined with their shorter straight nozzle, this does limit fit depth, resulting in above average but not exceptional noise isolation despite their fully sealed design. That being said, their smooth styling, metal build and stable fit definitely make for one of the better experiences I’ve had with a budget earphone, they just aren’t outstanding.
Though they don’t feature anything exceptional like Fiio’s earphones, the fixed cable on the Dodocool’s is among the better units I’ve come across. The cable is sturdier than the vast majority of budget earphones and feels far better equipped to deal with the rigors of daily use. This starts with the cables smooth texture that doesn’t catch on clothes and those ear loops that actually act as excellent strain relief on the earpieces, preventing the cable from getting tugged out of the drivers or otherwise damaged in the event that the cable snags. They have a low profile metal y-split and a case friendly straight 3.5mm plug that also has some nice strain relief.
To top it off, the DA131 has an inbuilt remote with mic which works well enough for gaming and phone calls even if audio comes through somewhat muffled. And despite having a cable down fit, microphonic noise is lower than most earphones though the over ear Fiio F3 still provides the more ideal experience.
The way Dodocool marketed these earphones is very consumer geared so for me, it was an immediate turnoff. 5.1 sound? 3D surround? Ultra-bass with frequency division? Not from what is essentially a 2.0 driver setup, blatant blasphemy! But behind these bold, attention grabbing claims, there always lies a semblance of truth. Suffice to say, my curiosity ended up getting the better of me and the DA131 ended up in front of me for a full review.
Starting with the specifications, the DA131’s use a 12mm dynamic driver which is on the larger side for a budget earphone, making them well equipped to deliver that ultra-bass. Moreover, they feature an anti-resonance chamber to improve audio fidelity. They also have a lower 32ohm impedance and a 110dB sensitivity which is well above average, allowing them to reach notably high volumes even from portable sources such as my iPod Touch and HTC 10. And in listening, the earphones are indeed well suited towards gaming and film with a large soundstage and bombastic bass response yet their tuning is too skewed for enjoyable music listening.
But let’s break that sound down a little more. The DA131 is designed for gaming so one would expect the DA131 to assume a vented design or perhaps boost high frequencies in order to aid imaging and general space. However, Dodocool have gone about this the completely wrong way, the DA131 instead has a very recessed mids and a treble response that borders on complete non-existence. As a result, any sort of high-frequency effect or cue sounds very distant which provides the impression of a large soundstage. That being said, they don’t really give gamers any kind of advantage because imaging (accuracy of placement) is terrible, elements are smeared, a lot of details are missing altogether and placement is hard to perceive due to their general muddiness and lack of separation. The Fiio F3, with its considerably more balanced sound and airier treble response, may not sound as large as the Dodocool, but they are far superior on a technical level, which not only benefits their musical performance but really helps when gaming, allowing users to more accurately pinpoint direction and distance. The same can be said for the Xiaomi Pistons earphones which all provide a warmer sound than the F3, and a tuning that will immediately please even bass heads while remaining considerably more balanced than the Dodocool.
The DA131 has a very L-shaped sound with huge bass emphasis, mainly mid-bass combined with a recessed midrange and almost non-existent treble response. They actually have commendable sub-bass extension for a budget earphone, bass digs deep and provides dollops of slam and impact to electronic, drums and bass. They are pretty darn bloated sounding on account of a huge mid-bass boost though they still resolve some decent texture and bass is clear considering the nature of their tuning. Upper bass also has a huge boost, which makes the earphone sound kind of boxy, I suppose this enhances their impression of space and largeness for lack of better terminology. Of course, more balanced earphones like the aforementioned Fiio F3 do provide a tighter, snappier response with a lot more definition. I would also consider the Fiio to retain enough fullness down low to service more bass craving listeners without sounding hideously muddy, they are simply the superior audio product.
Mids are okay, they are somewhat recessed behind that elevated bass response and vocals are quite distant but clearly audible. Voices can be discerned relatively easily when watching videos and movies though clarity is noticeably lacking and mids sound overly thick on account of their excessive bass spill and warming. Female vocals also come off as truncated and lacking clarity though again, they are perfectly serviceable for videos and films, I had no difficulty understanding dialogue and sound effects have less issue than music. And booting up a game of Dirt Rally and the Dodocool did provide a much more agreeable experience than with music. The growling engines sounded raw, the rustling of dirt against the undercarriage visceral, the Dodocool has a permeant reverb that gives everything just a little more impact. That being said, they were still too muffled and distant to provide the immediacy I look for when gaming and again, their placement of sounds was not at all accurate since their tuning is simply too sculpted.
Highs are unremarkable, the DA131 resolves cymbals and a tinge of crispness to guitars and strings but any kind of air, separation or clarity is non-existent. The earphones strongly roll off after lower treble and what remains sounds flat and lifeless with little detail or texture. It goes without saying that the more technically proficient Pistons 3 and Fiio F3 sound considerably more sparkly, detailed and generally resolving. Those earphones have some real shimmer to highs, a lifelike accuracy to instruments and decent extension that provides atmosphere to live recordings. Dodocool promise the same kind of immersion with their talk of 3D sound, however, by distancing treble to expand the soundstage, the DA131 is missing all of that information and it ends up sounding closed in and uninspiring as a result.
So what we have here is another product that finds moderate success with its intended uses; games and films are imbued with a broad sense of space even if they are too thick sounding to really separate or resolve detail and placement. However, Dodocool also market these as a music earphone and that’s where they really fall flat on their face. I understand that $25 isn’t a lot of money and the DA131 is definitely passable, the average listener probably won’t notice or care that mids are distant or that highs are almost non-existent. My criticisms mainly stem from the fact that competitors are that much more compelling and those looking for a resolving earphone that really reproduces your music with detail and accuracy should look towards options like the Fiio F3 and Xiaomi Pistons 3/Hybrid. If you judge an earphone purely based on fit, build and bass quantity, then the Dodocool 3D earphones are a good choice, otherwise, they are not at all a wise purchase, the aforementioned Fiio F3 is not only more musically talented, it also features an even more robust cable design and a similarly stable fit.
Verdict – 5/10, The Dodocool’s are honestly subpar when it comes to sound quality. I’m sure plenty will enjoy their thumping bass but above that, the Dodocool’s really provide no more insight than a regular dollar store earphone. Their large soundstage does a good job on films and games but directional cues are muddied and generally inaccurate. Their saving grace will inevitably be their metal build and stable fit which is arguably more important for non-discerning listeners. At a modest $25, I can excuse some of these faults and they do work for gaming in a pinch though the DA131 is not an earphone I can widely recommend.
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