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Another day — another invention…

Dawnwood audio company has been on the Western market for a while with couple of IEMs and some contradictory reviews. Initially,  Dawnwood,  (Chenmu is the name of the company in China), is the brand of Dongguan Chenmu Acoustics Co., Ltd. Their website states that their team possess many years of experience in research & development of acoustic products.

Buy Dawnwood ST08 with 20% discount at Hidizs store: http://bit.ly/20offHidizs

Buy Dawnwood ST08 at PENON AUDIO store

Link to the official Dawnwood website

Very peculiar information that we’ve found on Dawnwood website is the mention of Anime Audio Alliance that produced Dawnwood GT-36 version of headphones. Quoting next:

The Anime Audio Alliance is composed of several professional audio brands such as Dawnwood, Hidizs, NF AUDIO, and Hiby Music. It is committed to providing consumers with audio products that are better to listen, look better, and have genuine cartoon images.

Dawnwood GT-36 is the first product of the Anime Audio Alliance. It has been licensed by MARVEL and is designed with Captain America and Iron Man.

Another perculiar fact is that we’ve got our Knight ST08 from the official store of another and more well-known company in HiRes world — Hidizs … Going back to quote — it seems that we are now tracking the roots of why ST08 are listed among other IEMs on Hidizs official website… if there is an alliance — there might be cross-licensing or other OEM|ODM agreements between aforementioned companies. Although, it is still not very clear which company is responsible for technical specifications and final audio quality… Anyway, who cares as long as the quality is great… Right?

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Going back to Dawnwood — there are 3 series of IEMs in their lineup:

  • Dawnwood ST  — silver triangle series: entry-level, stylish design.

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  • Dawnwood GT — golden triangle series: higher-level (better materials, craftsmanship and higher audio quality).

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  • Dawnwood IP — intellectual property authorized series: hobby choice (based on animation, games, movies, music, literature — excellent listening experience for friends who love modern culture).

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This review would cover ST08 model — entry-level IEMs according to Dawnwood positioning.  To keep more intrigue — we do not agree with such marketing placement of this model and really believe it worth much better description.

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Technical specifications:

  • Type: In-ear headphones
  • Drivers: Dynamic
  • Drive unit: 10mm Polymer composite titanium plated diaphragm with double cavity design
  • Impedance: 18Ω
  • Sensitivity: 108dB/mw@1khz
  • Maximum power: 100mw
  • Wire connectors: 0.78 two-pin
  • Wire: 1.2m 5N5N oxygen-free copper wire,  detachable
  • Connector: 3.5mm, gold-plated
  • Headphone accessories: silicone and sponge ear tips, earphones bag, user manual
  • Colors: red, blue, black

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Some additional information from official Hidizs website about Dawnwood ST08 technical design:

Resonant circuits tuning and double cavity design for HD detailed sound

Most of the earphones users say that plastic material lacks of strength while metal is uncomfortable when mentioning the circuits tuning. By combining the best of the two, we made a double resonant metal-plastic rear cavity design to offer the perfect balance in terms of sound quality and comfort for your ears. The front and rear damping balance system helps to reduce distortion, produce a smooth diaphragm movement and provide HD sound.

Box contents:

This part would be long… in terms of box description and contents inside. In both cases Dawnwood Knight ST08 really shines.

First — it is the box itself. A nightmare for logistics department but a piece of art for every owner!

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As you can see from the picture it is relatively big package for IEMs indeed but hey — it looks just beautiful: wild west style carton, thick enough to secure the contents, with aged look and perfect graphics. Dawnwood design team staff should be very proud of themselves — countless hours spent to create all those themed images and logos…

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Moreover, all images, box material and colors match well together and look organic. Lots of tiny details, satin finish of box surface, even semi-transparent sticker with the brand name to pull the inner part out — all add to the overal pleasing feel.

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This what we call a perfect packaging. Really, people, how often do you see so much efforts spent to create so much positive impression of the owner? Even Apple can’t catch up with their boring white boxes… Just a great job done by Dawnwood and a huge additional value to the product.

Box contents didn’t disappoint either:

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  • Dawnwood Knight ST08 IEMs
  • Detachable 5N5N oxygen-free copper wire + wire velcro strap + 3.5mm gold-plated jack plastic protection
  • 6 pairs of silicone ear tips + 1 pair of sponge tips
  • enveloped with Chinese user manual and couple of stylized stickers
  • beautiful carrying case for ST08

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Couple of words about the accessories:

Despite the fact that ST08 are positioned as entry-level IEMs, audio cable is detachabe what bring even more value for this product especially for those who either like to experiment with the cables or who would regularly damage it. Besides, stock cable is not bad at all — 1.2m of twisted 5N5N oxygen-free copper wire and 0.78 two-pin connectors…

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Carrying case looks to be made of shammy-leather with brand name imprint and magnetic lock at front and large product logo at the back. Looks perfect, feels perfect, perfectly done — another proof that Dawnwood craftmanship deserves the highest appreciation.

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Design and materials:

Knight ST08 earbuds are totally made of two layers of plastic. First layer is gray and acts as a base and second one — red — is a top cover. Covers can have different color selling options — red, blue, black. Actually, red and blue options look kind of strange in the whole bundle theme, while black would be the most suitable one… many might disagree and that’s why there are other color options.

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All plastic parts of earbuds are perfectly aligned and there is no sound when trying to squeeze it.

Other than that the design and shape is more or less universal and should fit any ear, especially taking into consideration that there are plenty of silicone ear tips options supplied in the box + a pair of memory foam tips. No discomfort or pain after 3 hours of wearing.

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As already mentioned — the cable is detachable, 1.2m in length and with thin plastic ear brackets to secure earbuds during active movements. All connectors — 3.5mm audio jack (soft touch silicone) and 0.78 two-pin (plastics) that go to earbuds — have neat semi transparent base holders. Earbuds connectors are very tough to discoonect and there is no chance that they would get loose even during the most active workouts.

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Unfortunately, driver potection grills are non-removable and it would be harder to clean.

Sound quality test and source equipment:

As always, we are using several audio sources that would not be limiting or painting earbuds performance. Hidizs AP200 as the high quality bare DAP output, Sonata DH1000 as the best audio quality external DAC&AMP, Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 smartphones as a general audio source.

ST08 with a smartphone:  

A good match concerning 108dB sensivity and 18ohms relatively low resistance. Xiaomi can easily drive these earbuds to the appropriate volume and add a little bit of juice into performance. The problem is that we’ve never liked the quality of audio from this phone in comaprison to any entry-level DAP… and ST08 did not improve that. Sound lacks some low bass presence and more pronouced on mids and highs. The dynamics of a midbass is also lacking  power… The whole picture reminds of placing a speaker into a cattle 🙂 Anyway, this is regular for Xiaomi bare audio output and most of other good IEMs would sound almost the same. We would say that buying ST08 to use with Xiaomi Redmi Note lineup would be a waste of money and ST08 potential. Perhaps, other smartphones with more capable audio hardware would be able to drive ST08 IEMs to more acceptable quality but we would switch to a better source right away.

ST08 with Hidizs AP200 | Sonata DH1000:

This is where Dawnwood Knight ST08 clearly show their mighty potential: low and midbass get the appropriate presence and control with enough of power for the lovely dynamics; mids get the strength, clear shape and warmth with slight touch of velvet play; highs begin to sparkle and resolve much smaller details… Entire sound picture is balanced well with a tendency to the bright side. Vocals are standing out a bit more than regular but the detail resolution is very high. High octave, despite some additional emphasis, remains under a good control with no harsh or lisping sounds. In overall, very good listening experience and well balanced throughout the entire frequency range. Moreover, no matter whether it was external DAC&AMP, flgship DAP (AP200) or entry-level DAP (AP60Pro) — the picture remained the same. This clearly shows that ST08 IEMs are universal but hungry for a good audio source.

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Scene width and depth is good and showing clear instrument separation in all planes. Listening to monaural recoring is a lovely experience with ST08. Vertical separation in such recorings is obvious, although not so distant as in case with full-sized ATH-M50 overheads or with Hidizs Seeds IEMs. We would say that we’d prefer a little bit more horizontal distance to make some additional space with a singer but this is mostly depends of the music material. Some compositions sound wide enough and some gather all instruments just almost at one place. This effect is just a bit more obvious with Dawnwood ST08 compared to Seeds, M50x or RH5Ma headphones.

Noise level is kept relatively low, it is hardly noticeable in gaps between sound files.

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Comparison: 

The closest rival that we can think of it terms of price to quality ratio are the Hidizs Seeds that we have reviewed couple of weeks ago. Despite the fact that technical specifications state clear difference in choice of diaphragm material (composite titanuim plated in ST08 V|S graphene in Seeds), case materials (plastic in ST08 V|S aluminum in Seeds) and some differences in technical design of voice chambers — the sound quality and signature is very close to each other with a slight advantage of Hidizs Seeds over Dawnwood Knight ST08. Seeds are even more balanced in sound, resolve a little bit more details in lows. We wouldn’t be surprised if there is one company behind both products technical developement and production…

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On the other hand, ST08 have a perfect packing, weight less, have more accessories right out of the box and interchangeable cable.

So, just to summarize:

Dawnwood Knight ST08 pros:

  • One of the best packing on the market
  • Very good stock bundle
  • Detachable cable
  • Very good, balanced sound
  • High resolution of details
  • Price

Cons:

  • A bit less resolution on lows.

Hidizs Seeds pros:

  • Aluminum body
  • balanced|unbalanced connector type options
  • Good stock bundle
  • Very good,  balanced sound
  • Slightly higher resolution of details in bass

Cons:

  • A bit on the heavy side
  • Cable is not detachable
  • Less accessories out of the box
  • Price is higher

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And as a final word to this comparison — we can really advise to buy any of those two products. Both are win-win and safe purchase cause both are capable of excellent audio quality and really should belong to a higher segment. The aforementioned cons are only a subject to give a couple of words about but do not minify their value to any extent. You would hardly find other IEMs with such potential on the market and especially at this price point. We’ve talked to different people who bought either Seeds or ST08 — all are 200% satisfied with their purchase.  By the way, we read some reviews of Dawnwood GT-36 IEMs and found that many complined about their tendency to emphasize bass… ST08 do sound balanced and definitely not a choice for bass boost lovers.

Conclusion:

Dawnwood Knight ST08 is a great product. Very good IEMs with excellent price|performance ratio. Moreover, this product appeal to emotions right from the start and building positive user experience and feedback even with its packaging… And the last but the most important — ST08 don’t disappoint with the sound quality either. If you’ve happened to possess a good HiRes audio source — the result of pairing it with Dawnwood Knight ST08 IEMs should be very pleasing as it was in our case while testing different DAPs and AMPs. Therefore, we can strongly recommend to try ST08 for yourself!

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Buy Dawnwood ST08 with 20% discount at Hidizs store: http://bit.ly/20offHidizs

Buy Dawnwood ST08 at PENON AUDIO store

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Thank you for reading, stay tuned — more reviews to come!

 

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