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Dunu Falcon-C Review – Precision & Punch!

Pros – 

Incredible technical ability, Great transparency, Spacious soundstage, Comfortable and well-built

Cons – 

Lower-treble may be hot for some, Tacky cable

Verdict –

The Falcon-C is an excellent earphone for those wanting outstanding technical ability and a clean, spacious presentation.


Introduction –

If you’re a fan of hybrids or really in-ears in general, you’ve probably come across one of Dunu’s IEMs. They were among the very first to assume a hybrid driver setup after the original AKG K3003 and also one of the most successful, their DK-X line-up becoming immensely sought after. Their most recent hybrid earphone, the DK-3001, garnered no shortage of acclaim on account of its engaging sound and excellent detail retrieval. However, though sonically brilliant, that model did irk with its sharp design that produced comfort issues for the majority. Hot on its tail comes the Falcon-C, a $200 USD single dynamic driver in-ear that Dunu have the audacity to call its flagship.

It features liquid metal housings, a smooth design that promises vastly improved ergonomics and a tuning that is transparent and clean. I had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at Portafes earlier this year and walked away very impressed. If I like a product too much, I give it some additional time for thought; to let my ears adjust to other IEMs and ensure my judgement is unclouded by the initial hype of a new product. Of course, it is not for everyone given the subjective and deeply personal nature of this hobby, however, despite spending almost 6 months with the Falcon-C that excitement still hasn’t died down. This is a terrific in-ear at a steal! You can read more about the Falcon-C here and purchase one for yourself here.

 

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Dunu very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the Falcon-C 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.

 

Accessories –

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The Falcon-C comes packaged within a silver box that foreshadows the metallic goodies inside. Removing the outer sleeve reveals a textured hard box with magnetic latch. Inside are the earphones within foam in addition to the aluminium carry case. It’s a very practical case, well-sized and very protective. The case contains the other accessories, 3 pairs of transparent tips with a brighter sound, 3 pairs of more balanced blue bored tips and 6 pairs of Spinfits in assorted sizes, I find them to provide a more vivid sound. In addition, Dunu provides ¼” and aeroplane adapters and the stock cable comes with a removable Velcro strap attached.

 

Design –

The Falcon-C is a unique looking earphone with a sleek design realised through a tough zirconium alloy. Its liquid metal housings are similar to Campfire’s dynamic driver in-ears, boasting a super smooth satin finish and smoothly formed edges that don’t wear on the ear. It has a 3-piece construction with small, well-matched seams, upholding a high level of finish overall. The earphones are well-weighted, providing confident solidity in the hand while avoiding cumbersome feel in the ear.

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Perhaps most importantly, the Falcon-C’s very rounded design effectively alleviates the comfort issues of Dunu’s last earphone, the DK-3001. The Falcon-C is rather very comfortable long-term, its fairly compact housings minimising ear contact and therefore hotspot formation. This is also achieved via angled protruding nozzles that promote a deeper fit than the DK-3001 while permitting the bulk of the housings to hover in the outer ear. With its well-angled nozzle, deeper fit and over-ear design, the Falcon-C achieves a very stable fit that doesn’t waver during commute, even active use.

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That said, due to prominent vents, the Falcon-C doesn’t isolate as well as fully-sealed earphones like the Campfire Audio Comet. As the vents are on the inner face of the earphones, they still isolate more than most dynamic/hybrid in-ears, providing adequate attenuation for public transport. They also isolate more than Dunu’s past DK and Titan series, however, they still aren’t ideal for air travel.

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Dunu includes a nice removable MMCX cable from factory. It’s a 4-core braided silver-plated copper unit that’s a touch springy and has a terribly tacky texture, however, it partially redeems itself with its excellent build quality. Most notable is its great strain relief and beefy case-friendly right-angle plug. Another noteworthy feature of the Falcon-C includes its reinforced MMCX connectors. They’re tighter than most but with even tension on either side. I haven’t experienced intermittency during my 6 months of testing.

 

Sound –

I most preferred Final Audio E-tips that tamed lower-treble, provided greater bass control and slightly aided midrange body compared to the stock ear tips. Of the stock tips, the blue tips provided the most balance. All testing below was conducted with the Final Audio ear tips from the iBasso DX200 with AMP5. The Falcon-C received 200hrs of burn-in prior to review to ensure optimal performance.

 

Tonality –

The Falcon-C is a modestly V-shaped earphone that impresses through its nicely even midrange and clean low-end. It’s a bright earphone up top though neutral in tone elsewhere. In addition, as the Falcon-C’s background and midrange aren’t overly bright, it doesn’t sound unnatural. Its sound ultimately demonstrates maturity and a more realistic timbre than most competitors while remaining engaging and open in its expression.

 

Bass –

The Falcon-C has heightened sub-bass slam set to a natural mid-bass and a slightly attenuated upper-bass. As a result, its low-end is neutrally toned but impactful, delivering satisfying depth. This is aided by strong sub-bass extension that provides solid, tight slam. Through this style of tuning, the Falcon-C’s bass is well-integrated with its midrange, retaining separation while aiding overall transparency. Meanwhile, slight emphasis of mid-bass retains bass note body while its lesser upper-bass presence creates a very clean low-end presentation that lacks any hint of tubbiness or congestion.

The Falcon-C also demonstrates a very high level of control, bass notes are focussed and decay fairly quickly, delivering great pace during complex tracks. Notes are well separated and each is textured without coming across as overly aggressive. Bass is very defined on a whole and both bloat and muddiness are absent entirely. Some may want for more warmth or body, especially given the Falcon-C’s brighter high-end. However, its low-end showcases great technical performance and an impressively neutral tone while retaining engagement via enhanced sub-bass slam.

 

Mids –

The Midrange is one of my favourite aspects of the Falcon-C. Though not for those wanting warmth or organic body, unlike many Chi-Fi earphones, it’s not over-done, not too bright and not thinned out either. What Dunu provide instead, is a slightly more recessed vocal presentation in return for greater linearity and a more natural timbre. Lower-mids feed evenly from upper-bass with neutral presence, while centre mids receive a few dB of emphasis to bring vocals slightly more into the fore. As upper-bass is a touch attenuated, the Falcon-C’s midrange isn’t full-bodied, it’s slightly cool to neutral but also transparent and very clean. Upper mids begin a small but gradual incline before an emphasized lower-treble.

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Compared to most competitors, this frequency range is not over-done and body is retained via the Falcon-C’s linear lower and centre midrange. As a result, the earphone sounds pleasantly clear but not forward or thin; it has vastly more appropriate density than most, aiding body, smoothness and precise vocal placement. Due to its lower-treble emphasis, the Falcon-C’s midrange does sound over-articulated at times, however, for the most part, its midrange is smooth. The Falcon-C isn’t as immediately vivid as competitors, but over longer listening sessions, they are more refined and natural while retaining a high level of transparency.

 

Highs –

Highs are mostly defined by a lower-treble spike that brings intricacies to the fore. It can sound disjoint with the upper-midrange with focus centred around 6KHz, however, this does imbue great crispness and attack to treble instrumentation without introducing midrange grain as lower frequency peaks tend to. Treble instrumentation is generally thin as a result though hardly to the extent of most competitors such as Kinera’s IDUN and the Pinnacle P1. Though not perfectly integrated, the Falcon-C’s high-end is well-detailed, excelling with rock and acoustic. To my ear, it doesn’t sound too sharp, though some are more sensitive to lower-treble emphasis than others. This is aided by the Falcon-C’s neutral middle treble that delivers a well-positioned background.

As such, instruments have more appropriate shimmer than most that implement a middle treble emphasis to mask poor extension or attenuation to compensate for excessive upper-midrange presence. The Falcon-C isn’t overly bright and doesn’t have to compensate for a lack of technicality, it retains plenty of air. An uptick of upper-treble energy contributes to this impression, providing pristine clarity to highs and a hint of extra sparkle. It also serves to draw attention to the Falcon-C’s very strong treble extension, especially within its price class. Accordingly, it delivers high resolution and micro-detail retrieval in addition to a wide soundstage. If you like a bright, open sound, the Falcon-C is one of the best examples I’ve come across around its asking price and even above it.

 

Soundstage –

With an extended top-end and neutrally toned sound, the Falcon-C delivers an especially open sound with both large dimensions and high-separation. It does so at the risk of sounding a touch diffuse, however, the Falcon-C’s impactful bass and denser midrange avoid a sparse sound. The Falcon-C excels especially with width where it frequently extends beyond the head. Depth is also impressive, especially as vocals tend to be more laid-back, producing a spacious ovoid presentation. Another speciality of the Falcon-C is its great separation, achieved via its generally neutral tone and great space. Imaging is also strong, the midrange is pushed back but the Falcon-C upholds a fast, accurate sound with precise placement and defined, well-delineated layers.

 

Drivability –

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The Falcon-C is very easy to drive with a low 16ohm impedance and 108dB sensitivity, making it very efficient. As a result, it doesn’t require much voltage to reach high volumes, making it suitable for smartphone users. Being a single dynamic driver earphone, it also isn’t overly affected by output impedance. Still, it does scale with higher end gear, most notably with regards to resolution and soundstage dimensions. Bass control also improved though it doesn’t sound that much warmer or looser from a source with low current output. The Falcon-C is one of the better choices for those without a dedicated source.

 

Upgrade Cable (KMOCS2601) – 

Dunu has offered first-party upgrade cables for a few years and the KMOCS2601 launched directly alongside the Falcon-C, offered for an additional 85 USD. It has 6N silver plated copper internals and terminated with a 2.5mm balanced connector. Its construction quality is almost identical down to the gauge and braid pattern, however, the upgrade cable has hugely improved ergonomics. Chiefly, its insulation is softer and more compliant, lacking the springiness of the stock cable and it has a very smooth texture that avoids tangles very well.

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I tested the cable from the Fiio Q5 with AM3A module. Its circuitry is essentially identical between single-ended and balanced outputs, however, the balanced output outputs more current. I used an SPL meter to volume match between cable swaps. The most prominent change I noticed was a marked improvement in separation and soundstage expansion. This can be attributed to higher control throughout, delivering more focused notes, in addition to greater extension of treble. Accordingly, the upgrade cable enhances resolution, resolving more micro detail, and foreground detail retrieval was noticeably improved too due to smoothing of the lower-treble. Bass depth improved, with more discernible rumble at the very bottom. This is a well-rounded upgrade for current Falcon-C users, especially those listening from sources with a stronger balanced than single-ended output.

 

Comparisons –

iBasso IT01 ($99): The IT01 has a similar style of tuning to the Falcon-C but less refined and balanced, it’s a great alternative at a lower price. It has similar extension combined with greater sub and mid-bass presence, producing a fuller-low end. In addition, it has less upper-bass and lower-midrange, producing a sharper bass/midrange separation. It also has an upper-midrange peak in addition to lower-treble. The Falcon-C is more even throughout, and its midrange is more natural with greater density and body as a result. It does so at the cost of a little clarity, though it’s still on the clearer side of neutral.

It is less mid-recessed and its timbre is more accurate. The Falcon-C has a more aggressive lower-treble producing similarly thin, crisp instrumentation. However, the IT01 has a sharp attenuation of middle-treble to produce a cleaner background where the Falcon-C extends more linearly, producing greater air and shimmer. The Falcon-C has greater treble extension and resolution, it delivers a larger soundstage with more precise imaging due to its more linear sound.

Kinera IDUN ($140): The IDUN is less mid-recessed but not necessarily more balanced as it is clearly brighter and thinner, suiting those preferring more forward vocals. It has a touch less bass extension but also a more neutral sub-bass and similarly neutral mid-bass. The Falcon-C is more controlled and robust, it has higher definition and detail down-low. The IDUN’s upper-bass is actually a touch fuller, aiding body to a degree, however, as its lower midrange has a sharp dip preceding considerable centre and upper-midrange emphasis, it sounds very thin.

The Falcon-C has less vocal presence and less clarity, but it is a lot more natural with more appropriate body and density. Both earphones culminate in a lower-treble peak that produces crisp yet thin treble instrumentation. The Falcon-C is more detailed here with more accurate timbre on account of its midrange tuning, it sounds a little less spiked. The Falcon-C has a more even middle treble that retains greater air and its extension is superior at the very top, delivering higher resolution and more micro-detail. The Falcon-C has a considerably larger soundstage in addition to greater separation. It images better due to its more linear tuning.

Fiio F9 Pro ($150): The F9 Pro is more V-shaped and brighter in every regard suiting those wanting great clarity and very aggressive detailing. Its sub-bass is less extended and a touch less emphasized while its mid-bass has greater emphasis, producing a fuller, warmer low-end. The Falcon-C is more controlled, it has considerably more control and detail in addition to a more neutral tone. The F9 Pro has an attenuated lower-midrange to heighten bass/midrange separation where the Falcon-C is more integrated. The F9 Pro has a more prominent centre and upper-midrange, it is brighter by a fair degree, granting it greater vocal presence but also thinning out body considerably.

The Falcon-C has less clarity and female vocal presence, in particular, but it is a lot more natural and accurately bodied. The F9 Pro is quite over-articulated on account of its large lower-treble spike. It is a lot thinner and more metallic than the Falcon-C which is has a considerably smaller peak in addition to more linear extension into middle treble. As such, the Falcon-C is more detailed and it has more natural air. It extends a little further at the very top, delivering higher resolution. The Falcon-C has a larger soundstage with considerably better separation and more accurate imaging on account of its more balanced, linear sound.

TFZ King Pro ($170): The King Pro is a markedly brighter earphone in all regards and it is more V-shaped, it suits those wanting great clarity and even greater air. The King Pro has great extension in addition to considerably more sub-bass quantity. It has similar levels of mid-bass with a touch less upper-bass and lower-midrange, sounding thinner and cooler as a result. It has very good bass control, just a touch less than the Falcon-C, so definition is impressive and it has tight slam, however, it has less bass body overall. The King Pro’s midrange is a lot brighter but also very open sounding. It has a considerable upper-midrange emphasis that makes it sound very clear in addition to being forward, especially female vocals.

The Falcon-C sounds more natural and accurately bodied. It doesn’t sound as forward, taking a denser, more focused approach. The Falcon-C has more lower-treble presence, creating a crisper presentation. It is more detailed. The King Pro has notable middle-treble emphasis giving it a brighter background and greater air where the Falcon-C is more neutral, sounding a lot cleaner as a result. Both extend very well, the Falcon-C a little further, retrieving more micro-detail. Both a similarly spacious, however, the Falcon-C is more organised with more accurate placement. Its more even signature is more separated.

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Campfire Audio Comet ($200): The Comet is a slightly warmer earphone with a clearer, slightly more present and denser midrange. It has less sub-bass extension in addition to less emphasis, however, the Comet has a fuller mid and upper-bass, producing a fuller low-end. As it’s a BA earphone, the Comet has similar levels of control and definition if not slightly more detail. Actually, both earphones have a similar midrange presentation through the lower and centre midrange. Where they differ is the upper-midrange where the Comet employs a 3K spike before sharp attenuation to mitigate over-forwardness and redeem density.

Meanwhile, the Falcon-C climbs more gradually through the upper-midrange, it has a touch less vocal presence but is also more extended and fuller despite its more neutrally toned low-end. The Comet has a smoother more organic lower-treble while the Falcon-C is more aggressive. As such, the Comet doesn’t sound as thin and peaky, however, the Falcon-C is more detailed while retaining similar air and a clean background. The Falcon-C is more extended up top, delivering higher resolution and micro-detail retrieval. It also has a larger soundstage with superior layering and imaging.

1More Quad-Driver ($200): The 1More Quad Driver is a markedly fuller, warmer and darker earphone. It has less sub-bass extension and considerably less sub-bass emphasis than the Falcon-C. However, it has a touch more mid-bass and a lot more upper-bass, contributing towards its significantly warmer, fuller sound. As a result, its low end is more bloated and less defined, the Falcon-C demonstrates greater control and is generally cleaner. The Quad-Driver counterbalances this with greater upper midrange presence, so its midrange sounds warmer but also clearer.

As such, it can lack density, sounding less focused than the Falcon-C, it is less natural and less transparent in general. The Quad-Driver has a narrow band treble emphasis for crispness, however, it sounds very thin with just mediocre detail retrieval. The Falcon-C sounds more even and its midrange feeds more smoothly into its treble. It is a lot more detailed and not as thin or metallic. The Falcon-C has more air and it extends further, delivering higher resolution. The Falcon-C has a larger soundstage with better imaging and greater separation on account of its more linear, more neutrally toned sound.

Oriveti New Primacy ($300): The New Primacy is more balanced overall, it has less bass presence and a more full-bodied midrange with darker background. The Falcon-C has a hair more bass extension in addition to greater emphasis. The New Primacy is more neutral here as is its mid-bass. It’s more defined and similarly well-controlled if not more so. However, the two crossover through upper-bass and the lower-midrange where the New Primacy has slightly greater presence. As such, it’s on the full-bodied side where the Falcon-C is more neutrally bodied if slightly thin. The Falcon-C has more upper-midrange presence where the New Primacy is a touch dark, creating a denser midrange presentation.

The New Primacy has a similar lower-treble emphasis to aid detail presence, both are crisp, the New Primacy is a touch more bodied and more detailed here. However, the New Primacy has a fairly sharp decline into its middle treble, aiding its dark, clean background. The Falcon-C is more neutral and extends similarly but with greater emphasis. As such, it has more air and sparkle. The Falcon-C has a slightly larger stage where the New Primacy separates slightly better. Both image well, the more linear New Primacy is more layered.

Dunu DK-3001 ($480): The DK-3001 is more balanced with greater vocal presence and detail. It has similar low-end extension and similar tuning but with slightly more upper-bass body, making it a little warmer, more full-bodied and less sub-bass biased. However, as it’s more controlled, definition is just as high and the DK-3001’s low-end is more detailed. With similar lower-midrange tuning paired with a more prominent centre midrange, the DK-3001 has considerably greater vocal presence. However, it avoids sounding thinned out through its greater upper-bass presence and smoother lower-treble. The DK-3001 also has a touch more upper-midrange so it sounds slightly clearer at the cost of a little density.

Lower-treble is less emphasized and more even on the DK-3001. Accordingly, it is more detailed by a fair degree with greater instrument body and micro-detail. The DK-3001 has a similarly neutral middle-treble, retaining air and it extends further up top, aiding resolution and sparkle. Both have spacious soundstages, the Falcon-C can sound larger due to its more laid-back vocals, however, both have similar proportions in actuality. The DK-3001 is more separated due to its higher control throughout and especially due to its more restrained treble. Both image very well. The DK-3001 is a logical upgrade in the sound department, however, its ergonomics and isolation are a step-down.

 

Verdict –

Reviews of Chi-Fi gear tend to restate the same points, and it’s something I’m guilty of too; these earphones impress for the price rather than impressing in general. There’s a big distinction. Looking back at my extensive history with Chi-Fi, there are plenty of nice offerings that offer strong performance for the money, however, very few truly stand out from the other top contenders. The Falcon-C is such an outstanding IEM, it’s simply good, and I spent almost 6 months with it to ensure that stance. It has great technical ability and its tuning isn’t disturbingly upper-midrange forward. Its lower-treble spike is its most polarising aspect and will surely bother the treble averse, however, as its middle treble tuning isn’t too jarring, it maintains a collected presentation.

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The Falcon-C’s low-end and midrange are also well-considered, with an impressively neutral tone, appropriate vocal body and density and great control. The Falcon-C doesn’t disappoint with its design either; its liquid metal construction feels solid and its cable is tacky but well-constructed. Isolation is suitable for everyday commuters and comfort is hugely improved over past Dunu earphones, now wearable for hours on end with little issue. It will lack vocal intimacy for some and its high-end is definitely something to consider. However, the Falcon-C remains an excellent earphone for those wanting outstanding technical ability and a clean, spacious presentation.

The Falcon-C is available from Penon Audio (International) for $209 USD and the KMOCS2601 at Dunu’s official Aliexpress Store for $85 USD at the time of writing. Please see my affiliate link for the most updated pricing, availability and configurations.

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