There has been some crazy hype over electrostatic IEMs recently but the tried and tested single dynamic driver models are still a favourite for many audio enthusiasts. In this review, I’m checking out the Tipsy Dunmer, an affordable earphone with a single 9.2mm graphene dynamic driver. At the time of writing, the Dunmer retails for $119.
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Tipsy Dunmer Review
Build quality and comfort
Really nice 8-core SPC cable
Limited eartip selection
Lower treble can be a little edgy
Package and Accessories
The Dunmer box has a dark grey outer sleeve with the slogan “Feeling A Bit Tipsy” on the front. On the back is a list of specifications, a list of the box contents and a frequency response graph. Inside the actual box is a foam insert displaying the earpieces. Beneath the foam is the other accessories. What do you get in the box?
Tipsy Dunmer earphones
Detachable 2-pin 8-core SPC cable
3 pairs of silicone eartips
Tipsy branded cleaning cloth
Build Quality and Design
Handmade, just like nana’s socks, the Dunmer takes the increasingly rare handmade approach (as opposed to 3D-printed). The faceplates have a black and grey kind of granite design that shimmers under light.
There are 2 vents, one on the front edge and another near the base of the nozzle. The nozzles are slightly flanged at the end which helps to hold eartips in place but it’s not the most secure and there is a metal mesh covering the opening to keep out ear wax and detritus.
Dunmer’s shells have a fairly simple design but the build quality is really nice. The 2-pin sockets are recessed, offering more protection for the cable pins.
I’m a big fan of the Dunmer’s cable. It’s a braided 8-core silver-plated copper cable with a glossy black TPU sheath. Not only does it look and feel great but it handles extremely well due to its softness. On top of that, there is virtually no microphonics or cable noise.
At the top are some black aluminium 2-pin connector housings followed by some supple pre-formed ear guides. The cylindrical aluminium Y-split is black with a band of carbon fibre around the middle. The termination is a straight 3.5mm plug with the same black and carbon fibre styling as the Y-split and there’s also a small Tipsy logo.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
I found the Dunmer to be really comfortable and have worn it for hours at a time on several occasions. Noise isolation is quite good and with the right eartips, you won’t hear much external noise while the music is playing.
Gear used for testing includes the Shanling M5s and FiiO M5 as portable sources. As usual for my desktop IEM testing, I plugged into the FiiO K3 which was fed a steady supply of FLAC files via Foobar2000. The Dunmer is easy to drive and doesn’t require any extra amplification.
The Dunmer has a light V-shaped signature that is slightly warm and very musical. It has some emphasis on the bass, smooth mids and a light, crisp treble. It won’t blow you away with micro-details or resolution but what I find really compelling about the Dunmer is its natural tone.
The bass has a nice weight to it and delivers with impact and confidence. Sub-bass has a good, strong rumble that is well-controlled but authoritative. Mid-bass is punchy with natural speed and decay and there’s minimal bleeding into the midrange.
At the beginning of “Welcome Change” by Long Distance Calling, there is a series of sub-bass drops that the Dunmer delivers with aplomb. Throughout the rest of the track, the kick drum and bass guitar are prominent but non-destructive to the overall presentation.
Dunmer’s midrange is slightly warm and full-bodied. It’s smooth and emotive but the clarity and resolution are average. The Dunmer aims for tonality over detail which gives it a more natural but less detailed presentation.
Vocals are rich and smooth but they are not the most articulated and are slightly lacking in density. However, it’s a presentation that is easy to get wrapped up in and sing along to. I felt quite moved listening to Anneke van Giersbergen in “The Moment” (very interesting if you look into the story and inspiration behind the album) as the Dunmer sank its teeth into the vocals.
The treble is fairly lively and lifts up to match the level of the bass, giving the Dunmer its V-shaped signature. It can at times be a little edgy, like at the beginning of Pink Floyd’s “Time” where some of the bells and chimes can grate on the nerves (although admittedly, it can happen with many IEMs). I feel the 7-8kHz peak could have been pushed up higher to 8-9kHz or 9-10kHz where it would be less harsh and at the same time increase clarity and midrange detail.
Dunmer has a fairly thick bass which keeps the stage dimensions smaller but its crisp treble does open it up somewhat. However, the Dunmer emphasizes the lower treble which doesn’t expand the stage with airiness, although it does ward off congestion. The result is a moderately sized stage that is wider than it is deep, with fairly average layering. The stage position is neutral, giving the listener some breathing room as the vocals are placed centrally. Imaging and positional cues are a little vague.
The No.3 (review here) has a single dynamic driver. Everything about the No.3 is more forward, more emphasized and more aggressive, which is both good and bad. Its bass sounds massive after listening to the Dunmer; the No.3 has bigger sub-bass and mid-bass, enough to be considered basshead level and leave you in a daze.
No.3’s midrange has more clarity, more separation and is pushed right up very close to the listener almost as if it’s invading your personal space. Then there’s its 7-8kHz peak which is where the No.3 gets its extreme clarity but it can be sharp, fatiguing and compromises the naturalness of the tone.
TFZ No.3 is more boisterous and flashy, it can wow you at first then quickly become tiring. However, it is great if you want that contrasty, ultra-detailed sound. The Dunmer, in comparison, sounds smoother and more natural but at the same time is less resolving.
Toneking Nine Tail
The Nine Tail or 9T (review here), is a single dynamic driver IEM with a very unique design and appearance. It also has a tuning system consisting of 3 pairs of front and rear filters that let you customize the tuning and adjust the frequency response.
The 9T (using champagne front and back filters) has better extension in the low end and puts slightly more emphasis on sub-bass. It has a similarly punchy mid-bass but the upper bass falls off quite rapidly leaving the lower midrange less coloured with less warm air between notes. This gives the 9T leaner midrange notes as well as less vocal density.
9T’s lower treble is less aggressive and it has better upper treble extension, giving it additional airiness and a larger stage. Both earphones are enjoyable but I feel the 9T offers slightly better value.
The Tipsy Dunmer has great build quality and a fun, engaging sound but it could be fatiguing for people averse to the 7-8kHz region. While the included accessories are basic, the stock cable is fantastic and adds a lot of value to the package. After spending time with the Dunmer, I feel that Tipsy has the potential to make some great earphones and I look forward to seeing more from them soon.