Dawnwood GT-36, unboxing and initial impressions, $50 IEM shootout

$50 IEM shootout pre-amble

One of the coolest phenomenons in audio right now is the big improvements moving forward in the budget sector. $100 headphones can and do compete with $400 headphones, and $25 headphones sometimes compete with $200 headphones. It’s a great time to be an audiophile, even if your budget isn’t as large as you’d like it to be. In this series we’ll see how much you get from stepping up from a budget under $25 to a budget under $50. In order to have some comparison with the under $25 segment of the market, I’ll be including the top 2 IEMs from the $25 IEM Shootout, once they are determined

In this $50 IEM shootout series I’ll post a new set of impressions every Friday until I’ve done them all. Then I’ll select my top 3 from the list. After I’ve selected my top 3, I’ll do a post ranking the remaining units and giving them our trademark visual ratings. Finally, a post will compare the top 3 IEMs under $50 that I have in my possession. If any manufacturers want to send additional under $50 units that they think might rank before I’ve done my ranking posts, I’ll add them in. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get the Final Audio e2000 into this contest, too, as

Here are our contestants:


The Dawnwood GT-36 was supplied by Penon Audio, I do not have to return it after the review. I have not been paid for this review. The views are are my own.


Beauty isn’t everything. There’s an old song by Jimmy Soul that goes: “if you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife.”


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. Some folks will dig this design, or maybe the Captain America or Iron Man versions you can also get. These have plastic construction throughout, long plastic fake strain reliefs that have sharp edges, and shiny gold plastic accents. The build quality is such that I am certain that I could break the headphones with my hands. The cable has no strain relief at the jack end, in addition to the fake strain reliefs at the transducer end. The big housing had difficulty getting a good fit in my ear.

The aesthetics aren’t the only failing. The tips included are somewhat bizarre. There isn’t really a medium included. There is a medium-small and a medium-large to go with the normal small tips that are included. All tips are longer than normal. I’m normally a medium, and the medium-small are too small, leading to insufficient seal to get full bass response. The medium-large tips fit me (large tips normally don’t), but they are slightly too large, which makes it so I feel the pressure on my ears. At least the improved bass response is pretty good on the medium-large tips.

They sound pretty great, though. Big soundstage in all dimensions, clear instrument separation. Nice timbre to instruments. Bass that is warm while remaining clear and having some texture without infusing anything into the mids. Good performance with all kinds of instruments. I wouldn’t be surprised if these are some of the best sounding IEMs in the $50 shootout. I’ve listened to some others in this price range that aren’t coming close to the sound of these.

We’ll have to wait and see what to make of these in full. Will the sound quality make up for the other failings?

Could be worse

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