The Tipsy Dunmer is a sample that was sent to me in exchange for my honest opinion in this review, as part of a review tour. I thank the team at Tipsy & Hifigo for giving me this opportunity.
Tipsy is amongst the bunch of new Chinese HiFi companies that have come into existence in the recent few years out of the blue (2016 in this case) and have tried to establish themselves as a reputable brand and garner a place / compete in the overflowing sea of budget iems (toughest spot to be in in 2020). The Tipsy team, with 25 years of music experience, has been dedicated to designing the professional on-stage in ear monitors and have now jumped ship to woo the cut throat lower of the audiophile market.
The Dunmer in consideration here, is equipped with a 9.2mm graphene diaphragm double dynamic magnetic circuit / double cavity patented structure. With this configuration, (as per the marketing team), the sound should be smooth and clear. The faceplates are hand crafted and very tastefully done with a unique textured finish which is classy and shiny! Not quite sure of the Dunmer naming and if this has any resemblance to the Dark Elves from Elder Scrolls, perhaps to the black shell of the iem.
Tipsy has accompanied the Dunmer with a well-made and sturdy looking 8-core silver plated copper cable (SPC) which is 2-pin design and terminates into a single ended 3.5mm plug which again is tastefully designed with the embossing of the company’s name ‘Tipsy’ at the end of it.
Aune T1s Hybrid Tube Amp/DAC, Marantz SR5014, LG G8X ThinQ & the VE Odessey HD Dongle DAC
Before jumping into the nitty-gritty of the performance of the Dunmer, I would like to highlight my love and bias for an ALL DD implementation. YES, in the day and age when OEM’s are trying to shove in as many drivers into a tiny little shell, anywhere from 10 to 30 on a bad day, there are still plenty of possibilities for companies to perfect the traditional single dynamic driver and have great results. CHiFi is no alien to such good single DD implementations with likes of Tin HiFi, Moondrop, iBasso, Tanchjim leading the pack and we all know well established brands such as Sony, Sennheiser & Campfire Audio to have varying degrees of successful iterations too (both budget thrills and flagships).
The Dunmer from Tipsy in this context is a smooth and euphonic take on what a fun and non-fatiguing iem should sound like, with the renowned traits of having a dynamic driver, slightly marred by the over ambitious tuning & the lack of ultimate resolution in the playing field (more on that later). Let’s dig a bit deeper to understand the Dunmer traits.
Imaging, Staging & Instrument Separation, Timbre & Tonality:
Imaging is above average and fairly accurate with slight fuzziness from being called absolutely perfect. Staging is surprisingly good and realistic with a good (acceptable for the price) sense of depth. Most budget iem’s that I have come across do width and height to good effect in varying degrees, but depth is generally lacking substantially making them more midfi to low end. Instrument separation on the Dunmer is again, adequate, for the lack of a better term. Nothing exceptionally good or bad, which can be taken as a positive trait. Considering this is an iem with substantially bass forward tuning with the rumble settling back in layers and demands attention all the time PLUS the rolled off upper treble, instrument separation wasn’t going to be the talk of the town here from the get-go. However, what is there, is done adequately well and there is a good sense of airiness to the overall presentation. Timbre is natural and in rare cases showcases a metallic twang due to the treble tonality.
The Dunmer can be classified as a V signature or more so an L signature depending on one’s preference to genres and relative comparisons with its competition. There is significant bass boost, mid bass heavy for the most part with a bit of energy in the upper mids to keep things interesting, as, there isn’t much sizzle or energy radiance up top in the upper treble where there is significant roll of post 8kHz.
Bass is physical in nature with good rumble and will keep most bass-heads happy. Mid bass is bloomy in nature and although the speed / decay is pretty quick for the quantity being loaded here, it does overwhelm the lower mids which are already quite recessed a fair bit. There is mid to upper bass bleed in to the midrange but its not too shabby to critic too harshly.
Midrange is recessed but thanks the natural tonal balance and decent stage, mids don’t seem to sound muffled or in a soup of its own. Vocals have adequate heft and body and come off as rich and euphonic. Vocals could have been more textured, but the smoothness is compensated by the lushness and heft overall with decent detailing for the price range.
Treble performance isn’t the party piece here by any means, on the contrary, the Dunmer guns for a relaxed and euphonic representation of the upper registries. There is significant roll off post the 8 kHz peak and the energy waterfalls down making for a less fatiguing albeit less airy presentations as well. Cymbal crashes and high-hats on the whole sound a bit muted and lacking intent, but I can see why this may turn out to be a people pleaser for wider audience.
1. iBasso IT00 vs Dunmer
A DD affair and there is more in common here than differences. Both are nearly identical on tuning with the iBasso being the more refined presentation and the Dunmer being the more engaging one with its bigger mid-bass bloom and slightly wider staging. Tonality with both leans towards the natural side of things for a V signature, but the iBasso wins on timbre accuracy thanks to better representation of the midrange which isn’t as recessed as that of the Dunmer in relativity. Both the iBasso and Tipsy have considerable roll off in the upper treble, but overall presentation is a tad more balanced on the IT00. All things said, both the iem’s perform pretty average from a technical / resolution standpoint, projecting a softer & fuzzier transient response (common for Single DD implementations at this price point). Most hybrid / all BA setups will up the ante in the resolution department over these two.
2. Moondrop Starfield vs Dunmer
Quite the change in presentations here where the Starfield is tuned closer to be harman neutral whereas the Dunmer is your typical V signature (or perhaps an L might be more apt here in comparison). The Starfield has the leaner and cleaner presentation overall, however, that comes with aggressiveness in the upper midrange being a bit too hot on some tracks and fatiguing for treble sensitive ears. Technical ability and resolution on the Starfield is far superior vs the Dunmer and that is highlighted further by the slightly leaner and brighter overall signature of the Starfield. However, where the Dunmer comes right back is the ease of listening to for hours, being the more euphonic and people please signature and can also satisfy bass-heads in general with its elevated bass performance which shouts fun. The Starfield might be the better choice for the pickier audiophile but the Dunmer has its own tricks up its sleeves.
3. Tin HiFi T4 vs Dunmer
Again, this is a day and night difference in terms of tuning. The T4 is Neutral tending to bright and the Dunmer is a V signature. Based on the signature, tonality for both the iems are good in their own way however, the T4 does come off as the more natural sounding, perhaps due to the better treble tuning whereas the treble on the Dunmer has a slight metallic twang to it. T4 again is the more technically sound iem of the duo. The T4 is quite aggressive in its midrange tuning and might be more of an acquired taste whereas the Dunmer is a pickup and listen for anyone and at any time! Staging is superior on the Dunmer as well, however, imaging is more accurately presented on the T4. Bass-heads can ignore the T4 as its clean and lean, gunning for quality over quantity whereas the Dunmer has its bass as its showstopper with a substantial punch on the low end.
The Dunmer is a good addition / alternative to the vast ocean of multi-BA iems with a thunderous bass and euphonic signature which will woo most people. However, you have to address the elephant in the room and that is the rising established competition that the Dunmer has to deal with and ONLY then, you start to see less light at the end of the tunnel for the Tipsy. On its own, it’s a very good iem which showcases that Tipsy has what it takes to up the ante in further iterations in terms of refinement and resolution. The intent is there, and the build quality and faceplates already reek classiness. Looking forward to subsequent iterations for the finesse!
The Dunmer is available to purchase from Hifigo (https://hifigo.com/products/tipsy-dunmer?_pos=1&_sid=cbc724257&_ss=r) for approx. 8,700 INR.