FLC Technology - DD21, DD31, DD41

FLC Technology - DD21, DD31, DD41

New Single Dynamic Driver IEMs - Impressions

Sharing here some impressions on the new announced models from FLC Technology using only single dynamic drivers with a much different design than their previous 8 hybrids series. They were announced by the end of last year (2018) but surprisingly haven't reached the international market yet, even from some known China based distributors. The new models go from DD21, 31, 41, 61 and 71.

Of course they all arrived with no retail package, just in small plastic bags with the usual FLC type of ear tips and a small card stating the specifications of each model. In fact, I'm not sure if these are even the final versions in design or build quality (and do hope they are not), but at least in terms of sound quality there should be no changes. As such, I won't comment much on build quality and design aspects being these demo units, but should focus more in their sound characteristics.

By a current price conversion, the prices should go from around U$ 70~80 for the DD21, 110~120 for the DD31, and ~200+ for the upper DD41. Quite a competitive price for each model yet relatively affordable compared to the previous 8 series.

As can be seen the three models differ a bit in their specifications. The frequency response is the most standard to be found on an earphone, just 20Hz~20kHz, and the usual cable length. The sensitivity is just below the 100dB mark and while the impedance is mostly normal they do require a bit extra volume to sound comfortable enough.

More interesting are the drivers implemented in each model. The 2 lower options, DD21 and D31, have 8.6mm drivers. Not sure if it's the exact same driver but differently tuned, though. However, the 8S and 8D and 8N also utilize a 8.6mm drivers for their dynamic part, and while the newer 'D' and 'N' might have a different driver than the original 'S' version, it wouldn't be surprising if the DD 21 and 31 share those exact ones. Actually, the bass presentation is similar on both and do share strong similarities with the 8S and 8N.
For the DD41, the driver is supposed to be a larger 10mm driver, which sounds different than the 8 series and better than the 21 or 31 here.

The design is identical on the 3 DD models. A small round disc shaped shell with a bit angled nozzle. They're meant for over-ear wearing, although can be used with the cable down if someone insists. They only differ in the faceplate color/design. The nozzle has not much of length so the fit is very shallow and the half in-ear like form factor lowers the isolation to below average, and there also a few vents on the inner part.

A good thing is that all are still using the same detachable cable connection of 2-pin 0.78 plugs like the 8N (and not as tight as the 8S). The cables here are different. The 21 uses a simpler cable which consists of 2 strands stick together (something found on much cheaper earphones), rather thick and not very easy to handle, a bit springy but not noisy. The 31 and 41 use a thinner cable but way much more comfortable than the 21, and won't mind saying they're more friendly than the 8s and 8n cables, regardless having the upper models a 'better' wire. They are compact, soft and easy to wear around the ears. The connection is very decent to the earpieces sockets too. Again, this might change on the retail version (if there're any).
Comfort wise, they all are around average, lightweight with a low profile fit but not the easiest to get a seal with.

Sound Impressions

As for what sound matters, the 3 models approach a different presentation but share more or less a lively signature. The DD21 and DD31 have a similar sound quality level so could be compared together, while the DD41 goes noticeable higher. Let's say that for their price the 21 and 31 score an average rate, while the 41 is a much better deal, at least in sound quality alone, competing with the better options around the $200 price mark.

Portable players used, the iBasso DX120, Aune M1s and small Lotoo Pico. Earphones for comparison, final E4000, iBasso IT01, Dunu Falcon and own FLC 8s and 8n among others.

Starting from the D21, it has a more v-shaped sound but with a narrow presentation. It is not that the midrange is distant per se but rather about being the lows and highs boosted and forward giving a more aggressive sound. The bass is not particularly large in amount and also has its limitations in extension and layering. Mid-bass, while more elevated, maintains a good balance with the sub-bass, and upper-bass doesn't blend much into the midrange. Aside from being less forward, the midrange is not thin sounding if a bit dry. However, it sounds rather closed and lacks separation and air with an average resolution. Treble is not really sharp or hot though shares a similar limitation in the upper extension, having more emphasis on the lower treble.

The DD31 at its higher price goes also a bit better sound quality. It technically sounds more coherent and natural than the 21. It does also require a higher volume level over the DD21; about 10 steps more out of the DX120. Sound is darker and smoother in comparison with a more even bass response and bit more control. While extension is not really further it does sound less congested and more effortless. Mids are thicker and fuller; detail is not really higher, but being less v-shaped it has more presence. Treble is more laid-back and smoothest here among the three. In comparison, the iBasso IT01 has more powerful bass and thinner midrange with more sparkly and energetic treble, but also wider stage and higher resolution with better extension on both ends.

As mentioned, the DD41 is the real deal among these 3 FLC models. A larger 10mm dynamic driver with a much better sound quality that seems more competent on its ~$200 price tag. Build quality and design aside, it could easily compete with the Falcon-C, ADV GT3 or B400, and wouldn't fall too far from the own FLC 8s. The signature is more of a wide u-shaped sound with more extended lows and highs but by sounding wider and more open it leaves a good place for the midrange. Bass is strong and well controlled, tight with good sub to mid-bass balance. Speed is good (not as fast as the GT3 and Falcon-C) with a slower natural decay and very good dynamics. The midrange is clear, no bass bleed whatsoever, with a rich and sweeter texture. There is clean instrument separation and weight on them, and vocals sound rather natural. Overall it's thicker and fuller than the Falcon-C or GT3, and more airy and spacious than the B400. Treble has good balance and extends nicely, not peaky while not reserved either, and with the open design it sounds more open with a wider stage than average. If a final retail design and overall build quality would be improved to match its suggested price tag, then the DD41 could be a very strong offer from FLC without resorting to their multiple tuning system or hybrid setup, but simply with a good sounding single driver.

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