Dethonray DTR1 Prelude

Comparison.

In these comparisons I was using IE800S IEMs with corresponding 3.5mm, 2.5mm, or 4.4mm cable adaptors (depending on the source), volume matched in every comparison.

DTR1 vs HiFiMAN R2R2k Red (4.4mm) – nearly identical and almost holographic quality soundstage expansion, maybe with Red being just a touch wider, but you need to listen very closely and have a capable pair of monitors to pick up that difference. Tonality is nearly identical as well, very neutral, transparent, a bit more toward the revealing side.  In this particular pair up with IE800s, Red has a little more sub-bass rumble, otherwise the technical performance of layering/separation and dynamics expansions of the sound is very close.  We are comparing a dap with AK4490 chipset to a dual PCM1702 R2R DAC, plus it’s at half price, though you have to keep in mind Red has usb-c port and also USB DAC and Bluetooth DAC functionality.  Btw, physical buttons of DTR1 is a big plus over Red’s touch, though both have a very minimalistic interface.

DTR1 vs Lotoo PAW Gold Touch LPGT (4.4mm) – another surprise with nearly identical holographic soundstage expansion (relative to IE800s pair up).  And tonality is close as well, being neutral, transparent, leaning slightly toward the more revealing side, but still closer to neutral.  Contrary to comparison with Red, here DTR1 has a deeper sub-bass rumble, while Touch keeps it a bit leaner in quantity.  And again, I’m doing A/B with IE800s, and technical performance is very close with a similar layering and separation of sounds, and both having a great dynamics (vertical) expansion.  Aside from sound quality similarity, Touch is a lot more expensive and also has more functionality, thus everything has to be taken into consideration.

DTR1 vs FiiO M11 (4.4mm) – M11 been making some serious waves and in the same price bracket as DTR1, so I’m sure many will be curious about this comparison.  I do hear DTR1 soundstage to be a little wider, while both have a similar depth; and with this difference DTR1 feels a little more holographic to my ears. With tonality, they are relatively close, and with some iems M11 could be a touch brighter.  Also, I hear M11 bass to have a little leaner sub-bass with less rumble.  The bigger difference here is in technical performance where DTR1 sound feels more layered with more expanded dynamics.  M11 is not compressed or congested, just that DTR1 feels like it has more air between layers and better dynamics. Of course, M11 is also more consumer friendly with lots of added features.

DTR1 vs Sony WM1Z (4.4mm) – soundstage expansion here is nearly identical, making pair up with IE800s in both cases closer to holographic.  Tonality has some variation since 1Z has a little more impact in the bass and also more emphasis in treble, making pair up with IE800s more v-shaped while with DTR1 this pair up is more balanced.  Both have a deep sub-bass rumble, but 1Z slams a little harder in mid-bass.  And with treble, 1Z is crunchier while DTR1 sounds more natural.  Technical performance is very similar with a layered dynamic sound.  Of course, WM1Z is more expensive, with more features, and touch screen GUI.  Btw, both feature proprietary charging ports.

DTR1 vs iBasso DX220 (2.5mm) – very similar soundstage expansion, maybe with DTR1 being a touch wider with IE800s, but need to listen very closely to pick up this difference.  Tonality is very close, but I do hear a few little differences (relative to IE800s pair up) where DTR1 has a little stronger mid-bass punch while both have the same sub-bass rumble, and DX220 has a little more sparkle and airiness in treble.  Technically, they are very similar with comparable layering and separation and similar dynamics expansion.  It’s pretty impressive how DTR1 with its AK4490 can keep up with ES9028Pro.  You also need to keep in mind the price difference, though DX220 offers a great value considering its modular design and open Android interface.

dethonray_dtr1-30

Conclusion.

DTR1 is not a commercial mainstream feature-packed DAP.  Instead, it occupies a space allocated to boutique audio players with a unique design focused on one main thing – audio playback.  This DAP ($550) generated a lot of buzz with people comparing its sound performance to some of the top flagships, as I have in my review as well.  But you also have to be realistic and understand its limitations, something I noticed quite a few people missed based on the questions I continue to receive.

It’s not a jack of all trades that going to replace your android DAP, there is no wi-fi or streaming or Bluetooth, you can’t use it as USB DAC or tap into EQ to adjust the sound, and you might need iEMatch for your low impedance sensitive IEMs.  If these features are at the top of your priority list, perhaps look at DTR1 as a companion to another DAP which going to cover everything else.  But if you are looking for a portable DAP with an optimized pure hi-res audio performance and the power to drive many demanding full-size headphones – DTR1 deserves a serious consideration.

What impressed me the most about this DAP was its design around a single AK4490 chip, an older DAC I heard in so many other DAPs with sub-par sound quality.  Yet, inside of DTR1 it was transformed to perform like I have never heard it before, proving again that it’s not about the component but its implementation.  Now, considering this is Dethonray’s debut release, named as Prelude, I can’t wait to see and to hear what Anson going to come up with next!

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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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