Dethonray DTR1 Prelude

Sound Analysis.

I analyzed DTR1 sound using various earphones/headphones, such as IE800S, U18t, Solaris, and Empyrean while playing a variety of my favorite test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ariana Grande “Break up with your girlfriend”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”.  The DAP was on loopback playing for about 4-5 days, so it got plenty of burn in.

As I hear it, DTR1 has a neutral sound sig with a slightly brighter and more revealing tonality.  The sound is very transparent, without any hint of coloring.  It has great dynamics and very good layering and separation of sounds where I feel more air between the layers.

Background is black, but due to a high voltage/current output when dealing with low impedance higher sensitivity IEMs, you will hear some hissing, and I highly recommend using iEMatch in those situations.  More examples will be covered in Pair Up section of the review.

Soundstage is wide, expanded, and holographic in many pair ups I tried.  This was one of the biggest surprises since we are talking about single AK4490 DAC and single ended 3.5mm output while other DAPs achieve similar using dual DACs and balanced outputs.  Soundstage is very spacious and imaging has a great accuracy and precision of instrument and vocals placing.

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Line Out Test

With the only other output (LO), I wanted to compared DTR1 sound between HO and LO + FiiO E12A which I consider to be a transparent portable amp.  I found the tonality between direct HO vs LO + E12A to be nearly identical, but the technical performance of direct HO connection sounded better with a wider more holographic soundstage and more expanded dynamics.

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Pair up.

In the following pair up tests, in addition to a sound description I also noted if iEMatch was necessary.  Also, the hissing test was done while focusing on the first 30sec of Agnes Obel “The curse”, in both low and mid gain settings.

64 Audio U18t – wide holographic soundstage.  Connected directly I hear a mild hissing and overall tonality is rather lean with slightly reduced sub-bass rumble, thinner lower mids, brighter upper mids and crisper treble.  With iEMatch, background is black and dead silent, and the tonality is more natural with a deep sub-bass rumble, fuller body more natural detailed mids, and less fatigue treble. In this case iEMatch corrects the tonality and scales up U18t to a level I’m used to with other high-end flagship DAPs.

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64 Audio Trio – wide holographic soundstage.  Connected directly I don’t hear hissing as much but the tonality is leaner and the weight of the bass is lighter.  iEMatch brings Trio sound back to a balanced signature with a little extra emphasis in the low end which extends with a deeper sub-bass rumble and punches through with a stronger mid-bass.  Mids are natural, layered, detailed, and treble is crisp, airy, and non-fatigue.

Campfire Audio Andromeda – wide holographic soundstage.  Connected directly hissing is quite noticeable, even at low gain.  Similar to U18t, connected directly the sound is on a leaner side, especially mids being brighter and treble being crisper.  With iEMatch it’s a night’n’day difference with hissing completely gone, tonality being more natural, the sound being deeper, more balanced and with fuller body, just a very detailed musical layered sound.

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Campfire Audio Solaris – wide holographic soundstage.  Connected directly it’s exactly the same story as Andro where there is a noticeable hissing and the tonality is on a leaner side reducing some rumble and making mids a little leaner, more forward, and treble crisper, airier.  With iEMatch, the background is dead silent, tonality is more natural, with fuller body, deeper bass, more organic mids, and less fatigue treble.

In the examples above, those are lower impedance higher sensitivity IEMs where using iEMatch has a great benefit of reducing the hissing and making the sound more natural, with fuller body, deeper bass and less fatigue treble.  The treble sparkle is reduced a bit, that could be an artifact of iEMatch, but to my ears it’s an improvement, because the sound is still very natural, layered, dynamic, and detailed.

HiFiMAN RE2000 – holographic expanded soundstage.  No need to worry when connected directly since there is no hissing.  The sound is very detailed, layered, separated, excellent dynamics, deep sub-bass, fast mid-bass punch, more revealing mids, airy crisp non-fatigue treble with a little extra energy.

Empire Ears Legend X – holographic expanded soundstage.  No need for iEMatch here, hissing is not noticeable at all.  The bass here slams very hard, like full-size speakers resonating in my ears, pushing lots of air, but the bass is well controlled with a precise separation from lower mids.  Mids and treble are very detailed, natural, yet still revealing.  For my personal taste, I would have loved to use EQ here in order to reduce bass by at least 3dB.  But if you are a basshead, your ears will be bleeding in happiness.

Sennheiser IE800S – holographic expanded soundstage.  No need for iEMatch, hissing is not noticeable and background is perfectly black.  The sound sig is very balanced, not even a hint of being mildly v-shaped like in some other pair ups.  This is the best I heard IE800S to date, with a very articulate punchy bass, natural layered very detailed mids, and crisp airy non-fatigue extended treble.  I have been spending a lot of time with this pair up lately.

VE ZEN Omega Edition – depending on pair up, usually ZOE soundstage sounds wide, but here it was on a holographic level.  Very good pair up, bringing these 320ohm earbuds to life with a sound that was more expanded, a little more layered, and even with some improvements in dynamics.  Tonality is similar to pair ups with other DAPs, being smoother, warmer, more organic, but technical performance, especially soundstage expansion had improvements.

Meze Empyrean – while the soundstage still remains more oval-shaped due to it being wider than deeper, the depth is a little further out of your head.  The tonality is very natural, detailed, non-fatigue, with a very balanced signature, deep low end, layered natural mids, and crisp and airy treble.  The sound is quite revealing and yet still very natural.  DTR1 had no problem driving these planar magnetic cans to their full potential like I’m used to with desktop amps.

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Audio-Technica ATH-R70x – holographic expanded soundstage.  DTR1 drives these 470ohm open back headphones with ease, and the sound is exceptionally balanced, natural, more revealing with excellent retrieval of details, deeper than usual bass, and a little more sparkle in treble.  Usually, R70x is a little more reserved when it comes to treble, but in this pair up I hear more airiness and crisper details.

Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd gen – holographic expanded soundstage, and typically I don’t often use “holographic” term when describing T5p soundstage.  The sound is balanced, a perfect example of W-shaped signature with emphasis on deeper and faster bass, fuller body detailed layered mids, and crisper airier and still under control treble.  Very good pair up with a little more body in mids than usual.

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Page 4 – Comparison and Conclusion.

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14 thoughts on “Dethonray DTR1 Prelude

  1. Nice review, I’ve been keeping an eye on the head-fi thread and eagerly awaiting your impressions. My wallet is about to get lighter, but thankfully not by too much by today’s hifi standards!

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  2. Hi !
    Great review as usual, I ordered the DAP, please let me know which type of cable you are using in you T5P showed.
    Thanks and best regards

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    1. That was a Whiplash silver plated copper cable from many years ago. That company no longer in business. T5p 2nd gen actually benefits greatly from pure copper cables.

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      1. Exactly, they supply a pure cooper 7N cable very good, but it is NOT silver plated, so the sound might be slightly different

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  3. this player came in about ~10 year too late…. to charge this kind of $$ for a device that only plays audio in 2019….even if it sounds totl, in such an old format, no internal storage, no os… there’s no excuse to it…
    the audiofoolery money making machine keeps on going…

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  4. Any chance you can compare to the iBasso DX120? Different price and spec, but similar concept of a bare-bones DAP that prioritizes sound quality.

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    1. while a similar concept, totally different technical sound performance and set of features. DX120 is a nice average mid-fi level DAP. DTR1 is in a league of summit-fi flagships, especially when you want to drive demanding headphones or need more current for those planar magnetic drivers. On the other hand, DX120 has regular usb port, touch screen interface, and other options which DTR1 falls short of.

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  5. Another question – did you try the DTR1 with any Westone IEMs? I’m particularly interested in how it pairs with the W60s and ES60s. Thanks!

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    1. Just tested it for you with W60 and ES60. W60, doesn’t sound too go in Low gain, so I switched to Medium, more clarity and less congestion in sound, I have to keep the volume 8. This is a touch of background “waterfall” hissing, then, I switched to iEMatch, can raise the volume to 40. The pair up is really good, very balanced, natural, detailed sound. Btw, I’m sure W60 v2. Now, with ES60, it sounds very close to W60 v2, but straight from DTR1 there is a lot more hissing, so need to use iEMatch. With iEMatch, ES60 pair up is even better than W60 v2. More transparency, better dynamics. Really like this one! But either one pair ups great with DTR1, but you will need iEMatch here.

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