Dethonray Prelude DTR1

nihalsharma

Head-Fier
Pros: Good rigid build quality
Powerful output
Outstanding sound quality
Very detailed, balanced and natural sound
Simple UI
Sound quality, sound quality, and sound quality
Cons: None
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This review is coming from a music lover, straight from the heart, without being too analytical. I am not a seasoned reviewer, so please ignore any mistakes.

This is my own unit, purchased in the month of December. No free unit for an unbiased review, no discount, nothing. This hobby is thus making me poor day by day. But in the end, I am happy.

For technical details of DTR1, you can refer to this link: HIFIGO

The question is - why do you buy a dap? Every now and then we have new daps coming in the market. The makers are heard boasting about the fancy UI, streaming capacity, high memory, and many other features. The chips are evolving, the engineering is evolving and so is increasing the user demand. But amidst all these factors, the maker of Dethonray DTR1 chose just the sound quality as the major feature and boy did he succeed in touching the perfection. DTR1 needs no introduction. There is nothing to talk about this dap than the sound quality. When they say that fancy chipsets don't make any sense unless there is a good implementation, they say it right. In worlds of AKM 4499, the DTR1 can be said to implement an archaic chipset (AK 4490 EQ) but the implementation has kicked all those fancy daps out of the room. And there goes the answer to the million-dollar question - why should you buy this dap? DTR1 has exceptional sound quality, so great that you do not want anything else. Forget the slickness of the UI of fancy daps and the fast scrolling of the music folders there, the rawness in this dap is going to make you surrender.

Let's talk about sound quality.

Bass:

The bass is punchy, just strong enough for you to like it. DTR1 has a nice detailed and very controlled bass. It's certainly not bass heavy but just enough quantity. The bass does not dominate other frequencies. Overall, it is very firm and controlled.

Mids:

Mids are where DTR1 shines a lot. There is a beautiful resolution with a lot of details and clarity. Vocals, though slightly laid back, but are really amazing. There is a good separation between instruments and vocal.

Treble:

The treble is little bright with DTR1 but there is no harshness, no piercing, no peakiness, and no sibilance whatsoever. It has a well extended, smooth and highly detailed treble.

Soundstage:

I would say soundstage is pretty wide and deep. There is enough air. The instrument separation and transparency is just outstanding. The resolution in the different frequencies is very well maintained which adds to the overall soundstage.

Power:

The DTR1 is powerful enough to drive most of the iems to their full capacity. It is too powerful for its small size, I tell you. Those power-hungry iems and headphones can be very easily driven by DTR1. I mostly keep it on a medium gain because high gain sometimes seems too powerful for the iems.


Pairing:

With Campfire Audio Andromeda:

A DD iem is a good pair for DTR1. But BA only iems, with a neutral tuning, are prone to hiss and do not pair well with DTR1. Andromeda, by default, is not a good pair with DTR1. There is noticeable hiss and a lot of sensitivity. So, what do you do? There comes in picture the savior - IFI IEMatch. It tames the hiss and brightness of the Andro and I swear to god, this becomes such a deadly combination. Ahh, the greatness of the Andromeda and the power of the DTR1 and those mids and highs and the controlled bass. I cannot get out of this stack for a very very long time.

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With Meze Rai Penta:

I was lucky enough to audition the great Rai Penta with DTR1, thanks to one of my friends. The Penta-DTR1 is a match made in heaven. Penta is a great iem. To me, DTR1 being very little warm goes well with Penta which sounds a bit dark and not exactly neutral. DTR1's powerful output makes Penta shine a lot. That bass !!! Penta becomes a different beast with DTR1. Such lovely mids, very well extended treble and a very good balanced sound is what the Penta delivers. Though Penta has a narrower soundstage than Andromeda, nevertheless it is an easy pairing with DTR1. The Penta sounded better on DTR1 than on Cayin N6ii.

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With DUNU 3001-Pro:

Again, a loaner unit from my friend. Dunu 3001pro is a very very balanced iem. Frankly, what the iems delivers is nothing less than greatness. With DTR1 it is a great pairing again. It has a dynamic driver which produces a great bass response with the DTR1. Lush and very natural mids and very well extended treble response is what I found on the 3001pro. Overall, a very enjoyable pairing.

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Comparison:

I do not want to go for an apple to orange comparison here and talk about the things which DTR1 has and others do not and vice-versa. One common thing where the daps can fight is sound quality. I had owned N6ii before I got a DTR1 and to me, it does not sound any less than N6ii. Well, the pairing can be better for some iems on N6ii but that does mean N6ii is better in terms of sound quality. I would say they both compete for the neck to neck.

Hiby R6, Fiio M11, Sony ZX300 all these daps are costlier than DTR1 and they sound nothing in comparison to it, with the Hiby sounding the worst. I am not sure how does the R6 Pro compares but from what I have heard, DTR1 sounds better than R6 Pro, but I do not want to comment on that. I am very sure the DTR1 sounds better than many other daps in a higher price segment.


Lastly:

I do not want to talk about the other aspects at all. The sound quality of DTR1 is so heavenly that most of the other things are very insignificant. It is a very very user-friendly dap with enough features. One of the features where you can set the shutdown timer is really good. You have good decent battery life on DTR1. It charges to its full capacity in 2-2.5 hours. I do not miss the balanced output much. The dap can support a 1-TB sd card (as confirmed by Anson). It is very very portable and can be easily carried in the pockets (Do not talk about the bulkiness of N6ii).

What else?? Let's get back to sound quality. This is what matters the most for a dap. There is no exaggeration in saying that DTR1 sounds better than many expensive daps in the market priced more than two times its price. To me, DTR1 has given a new dimension to how I listen to my songs. It is such a lovely little thing that I am falling in love more and more, day by day.

UPDATE (Dethonray HPAMP HA-2 impressions):

Stack: DTR1 + HPAMP + Andromeda == Mind blown. Now I understand why people go for stacking. I was not even aware of such a clean sound.

God bless you, Anson.

Here are the impressions.

1. Andromeda is a different monster. Unimaginable sound reproduction. It has a better staging with the amp. No hiss at all. I am still using the Iematch with it(totally out of the habit of using it with DTR1), but the amp's sound reproduction is too clean. So Iematch is not required in it.

2. There is an elevated bass for sure. Not much though, but since DTR1 is more of a neutral-sounding dap (read: no elevated bass), I can feel the increased bass. The lows are a lot punchier without compromising the other frequencies. Treble is totally sorted. No peaks, nothing at all. Each instrument sounds so proper, so properly distinguishable.

3. Andromeda is bright iem and way too sensitive, which is why I have to using Iematch with DTR1. But with the amp, the brightness and sensitivity are very very controlled which is why Andro is much more enjoyable.

4. The synergy of this amp is amazing with the DTR1. It's like the amp is totally complementing the dap. Made for each other pair.

5. With my Macbook Pro (15inch), the sound reproduction through the amp is great, well, but not as great as it is with the DTR1.

6. This is my first amp experience. I had never imagined the Imagine album could sound so unimaginable. No hiss (at least none recognizable in a silent setting), so much clarity, such detailing, I was almost in tears. Mind you, I am no seasoned audiophile, no reviewer, just an avid music lover talking straight from the heart.
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Cat Music
Cat Music
Your review made my interest in Dtr1 arouse again!
nihalsharma
nihalsharma
@Cat Music You should definitely try it out and thank me later.
rishabhgkp
rishabhgkp

F700

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Small, real portable device
- Powerful DAP
- AK4490 implementation
- Stable and simple UI
- Neutral, clear and detailed sound
- Let your drivers express their sound identity at their best
- Hardcore player without any fancy features (might be a con for some)
- Amazing support from Anson, Dethonray's CEO
Cons: Case is sold separately
- Noise floor with some BA-only IEMs
180 grams. This is what a Dethonray DTR1 Prelude Digital Audio Player weighs. Exactly as much as a premium pressed vinyl. The comparison ends here, but 180 seems to be a good number, at least for me.

Please skip to the "sound" section if you just care about the product

Gears used and music listened for this review:

- Final E5000
- Fibae Black
- Blon BL-03
- Sony N3
- BQEYZ Spring 1
- Audeze LCD-X
- Dethonray HA-2 (amp)
- Calyx M (DAP)

Music
I am listening to almost everything since more than 30 years. Pop, Classic Rock, Dub, Tech, Electronic, Drone, Ambient, Trip-Hop, Hip-hop, Classical, OST, Jazz, Vocals... it's difficult, because I like music a lot and I am open to almost everything (Country, « Religion » music and Brass are no-go, still).

Some favorites tracks (in no specific order):
Everything properly recorded and mastered, from MP3 320kps to AIFF/ALAC/FLAC

- The Sight Below: Staggered (track)
- Johnny Cash: Hurt (track)
- Roxy Music / Bryan Ferry: Avalon, More Than This, Jealous Guy (tracks)
- Amos Lee: His acoustic/live stuff
- Bruce Springsteen: Everything from him…
- Joy Division: Love will tear us apart (track)
- Björk: Homogenic (album)
- Kate Bush: Watching you without me (track) -> I love that woman, literally....
- Mulholland Drive: OST (album)
- Heat: OST (album)
- Gladiator: OST (album)
- Blade Runner: OST (album)
- Madonna: Something To Remember (album)
- Dire Straits: On Every Street (album)
- Mark Knopfler: Long Cool Girl (track)
- Massive Attack: Mezzanine (album)
- Alain Bashung -> Bleu Pétrole, Fantaisie Militaire, Osez Joséphine (albums)
- Francis Cabrel -> from « 1982 » to « Des Roses Et Des Orties »(200X)

... and a lot more. For the electronic/drone/synthwave/extreme stuff, please check my Bandcamp profile (F700)


Personal Background

What follows will be my long overdue and as short as possible review of this amazing music player. Sorry for my English, it is not my mother tongue. I have done my best.

I am not a technician or any earphone/headphone/DAP guru of any kind, just a guy loving music and intensively listening to it in every way and sort since 1987. From there, it was point of no return, meaning buying records, rave & concert, open air festivals, mixing own mix tapes, loving a music genre, hating another one (and rewind), getting married, getting kids, going crazy with USD 50K stereo home system, selling (almost) everything, taking the desktop setup road back in 2010 and today enjoying portable audio devices with IEMs, something that I never could have imagined 3 years ago, before I decided to "try" a FiiO X5III with a pair of on-ear Meze Classics 99.

Today, I still am listening to music every evening, even just for 10 minutes, ideally 1 hour at least, with a good setup. I need it in my life. You too, aren't you?

After having sold the X5III, I got the Sony ZX300 running in 4.4mm and the Cowon Plenue M2, almost at the same time. Two different DAPs with different sound signatures and features. I tried a lot of other DAPs from there, i.e DX200, WM1A, AK300, AK240, SP1000M, SP1000, KANN, Opus 2, Plenue P1, Plenue L and FiiO X7II. I might have forgotten one or two. All of these DAPs had their strengths and weaknesses. The best in my list remain the SP1000M and the WM1A, both surpassing ZX300 and the Cowon Plenue M2 soundwise. Still, in my opinion, having two soldiers at hand was better than a sole lieutenant. Until the Dethonray DTR1 Prelude came to my knowledge via « Penon Audio » (I have no affiliation with Penon Audio and never got any free sample or reduction from that webshop), I was happy with my existent setup and I am sure I still would be with it now. Still, I read the early pages in the dedicated thread, which led me to spend the USD 530.- to get the DTR1. I sold my 2 above-mentioned DAPs and the FiiO Q5 to finance the DTR1 and some IEMs (which I sold afterwards). It was mid-May 2019. An eternity in this hobby, isn't it? And now we are.

A musical and "affordable" setup for less than USD 800.- / DTR1 and Final E5000
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Personal sound signature and musical genres

I like a slightly warm and darkish sound signature since more than 30 years. Call it analog if you want, bass has to be solid and tight, not too bloated but present anyway. Mids are everything, don't take away my mids, there are like my kids, ok? :) The treble embodies a love and hate relationship. I like mine smooths but detailed. Not overly sharp or sizzled, but the top end needs some sparkle. Sometimes, the source takes care of it, sometimes the drivers. I prefer when the source does this job, because the drivers tend to get too hot when the intended sound signature was meant to be a bright/revealing one. With IEMs, soundstage remains within head range. Maybe a bit larger, but I don't think that anyone going the IEM's route awaits a real out-of-your-head sound presentation.

Dethonray & Anson (CEO)

After the purchase, some Head-Fiers (incl. myself) came in contact with Anson in order to get FW updates, which happened in most of the cases. Anson, an engineer who decided to manufacture his own device(s) and has implemented the tech he wanted in those after having duly served other's companies' agendas, is a trustworthy person, always ready to help/answer/assist DTR1's owners, and with a touch of humour s'il vous plaît. Anson, if you read this, I thank you for everything, the support, the good and constructive discussions. You have brought big sound in a small device, not being afraid of taking the old school way, maybe the most cost-effective also for the time being and you were right I think. You seem to have a plan, you know what you are doing obviously. You are a music lover too and we need someone like you in this hobby today and in the future.

Ps: I have no affiliation with Dethonray and/or with Anson. I never got free stuff or anything like that from the company. I paid for my gears.

Sound:
How much do you to like (your) Music? How much do you need It in your everyday life? The answer is not very important at the end of the day, because if you end trying/getting interest/buying a DTR1 it means you care about « your » sound. That's all. The DTR1 sports a 3.5mm HO only. No balanced output here. I say it once for all, that's my conviction after having had several 4.4mm DAP/IEMs combos, the power counts. That's all. And the DTR1 has lots of clean and clear power in store. Don't regret the missing 2.5mm or 4.4mm outputs here. You will forget about that after you have started to listen to the DTR1.

I will pass the technical datas exercice if you don't mind. If you mind, the dedicated website or even HF will help you get the figures you are looking after. Here are some, for me at least, key information:

Output: 3.5mm
Battery: 8 to 10 hours with 16/44 lossless files
LO: 3.5mm, an excellent and clean LO with FiiO A5 and Dethonray HA-2 portable amps.
Charging time: 2.5 - 3 hours
Case: Optional. Get one, it's cheap and almost mandatory IMO, because the player is prone to fingertips and easily can get damaged.
DAC Chip: AK4490, which is very well implemented. Filters hardly make a difference IMO, especially in this DAP configuration.
SD-Card: 1 slot, needs to be FAT32-formatted. Otherwise, the FW updates won’t be installed. I have no problem running a 400GB SD-Card.


The amp section and the digital one are fed separately. You know it, you hear it. If you don't know it, maybe you won't notice it.

BASS
The bass is firm and controlled. Even IEMs like Final E5000 or Sony N3 will get their bass being tamed a bit. A big plus for me, who needs the bass, but not the one that overshadows mediums. It could seem to be a dark signature if you aren't not used to it or if you don't like it, but the DTR1 does a nice job at retaining bass punch while improving it and rubbing out the bloating edges slightly. The inexpensive Blon BL-03 sounds great with the DTR1. Neutral bass lovers will be served with the DTR1. BA-only IEMs with a neutral tuning and prone-to-hiss are not a good pairing, or only if you prefer a (very) bright and revealing combo. My now sold « Fearless S8F » hissed quite a bit. BA IEMs with tuned armatures in the bass segment will likely give you the "oomph" you need as long as the noise floor is tamed to a minimum. I am not a basshead, but I cannot live with a so-called light "reference" bass. Bass needs weight and impact, no need to debate about it in my musical universe. You can get it perfectly mastered with the DTR1, but choose your drivers wisely, considering the fact that the DTR is neutral sounding.

MIDS
Mids are neutral as it can gets, meaning that your drivers will bring them into play as they are meant to be presented. It is simple as that. For example, my Fibae Black, a musical darkish mid-centric IEM, licks every bits of power delivered from the DTR1 in order to expose what it's capable of. Great pairing actually. A set like the BQEYZ Spring 1, whose mids are recessed in favor of the bass and treble, takes the clarity and power from the DTR1 in its face. A nice, clear and detailed pairing, but we need to like the treble being pushed forward. The vocals with the Final E5000 are just amazing. Meaty, wide and clear presented at the same time. The DTR1/E5000 combo brings depth at a very good level here.

TREBLE
The treble is clear and detailed. This is where a combination with IEMs can become too bright for some. As already mentioned before, choose your drivers wisely. The BQEYZ Spring 1 is my brightest IEM and it’s a pleasure to get such an airy treble, packed with details and layers in the music. On the other hand, warmer and darker sets like the E5000, BL-03 or Fibae Black see their treble being pushed higher, reducing the darker tone. I would say that the treble is perfectly presented for my taste.

DETAIL RETRIEVAL
Compared to my precedent DAPs and the ones I tried or got on loan, the DTR1 is one of the stronger competitor in that segment, while keeping a pleasant neutral signature. You will hear everything your records have to offer. It's an impressive performance, indeed.

POWER
The DTR1 can drive any IEMs to very loud levels. Even full-sized headphones will be driven with authority. The Audeze LCD-X is going very loud with the DTR1, but lacks just a bit of the dynamics that are to be found via desktop amplification. Still, the DTR1 is excellent in that regard.

PAIRING/UPGRADE
Please consider that the DTR1 might present some noise floor with BA-only IEMs. It was the case with the Fearless S8F. With my current drivers, absolutely no problem of that kind. The best pairing remains for me the DTR1 with Final E5000 or Fibae Black. The Blon Bl-03 also benefits from the available power and neutral signature from the DAP.

If you want more power reserve, a slightly wider soundstage with even better layering and a tad smoother treble, then you might want to try/to get the new portable amp from Dethonray, the HA-2 (USD 199.-). The HA-2 was clearly developed to match the DTR1. This purchase is not mandatory, because the DTR1 is a fantastic standalone device. In my opinion, the HA-2 allows to extract the last 5% from the DAP, by adding small refinements in the sound presentation as stated above. If you want to drive power-hungry headphones, then I think that the portable HA-2 is a smart investment.

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COMPARISON WITH CALYX M-XBATT COMBO / SOUND ONLY
My 2nd DAP of choice is the Calyx M. It is a hardcore player from 2014, which has a lot of caveats (battery, UI, folder system, features), but that sounds fantastic. The DTR1 has a clearer and more "reference" sound than the Calyx M. The Calyx M has a Class A amplification and a gorgeous OLED screen that drain the battery like there is no tomorrow. Still, the warm, analog sounding Calyx M will enchant you with its great tonality. There are no better sounding device than the Calyx M for me, but the DTR1 offers better portability and longer playback time. Stacked with the HA-2, the DTR1 sounds as good as the Calyx M in terms of pure enjoyment, because both sound signatures are different and complement themselves. There is no winner here. The DTR1 is a more user-friendly and allrounder DAP, the Calyx M a beautiful device with analog sound. I need and love both.

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End words:
I am no reviewer, just a music lover with some good working ears in its 40. I have tried and listened some high-end stuff in the past 15 years, especially in the desktop setup area. Musicality tends to be forgotten in the favor of technicalities and specs. Don't forget why you have come here, not reading this review, but on this platform. It's about music and emotions. Find your way and trust your ears. We don't have the same ears, music tastes and sound signatures. Maybe we have. Who knows? Now talking from my ears and heart, I tell you something: if you don't mind a slight dark signature, boss bass, mediums to kiss-on-the-mouth for, elegant treble, fantastic detail retrieval and amazing comfort, please consider the following setup:

- DETHONRAY DTR1 (USD 549)
- DETHONRAY CASE (USD 22)
- DETHONRAY HA-2 (USD 199)
- FINAL E5000 (USD 279) or FIBAE BLACK (USD 500)
-----------
USD 1 - 1.3K (and you are musically speaking set)

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Thanks for reading.
L
LetItPlay
Very nice review! Bought the setup before reading. Currently waiting for it to arrive.
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bancanus
bancanus
I like your review! Have you tried Lark Studio LSX with DTR1? Do you think it will be a good combo?
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Reactions: F700
F700
F700
Thanks for your comment. I did not try the LSX unfortunately. It's a 10BA, so beware the hissing, eventhough its sound signature seems to be warm, so balancing out the DTR1 quite well. This combo needs to be tried before being purchased, especially considering the LSV very high price. I am pretty sure you can get a similar sound for 60%-70% less money.

terry1109

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: 1. Tone neutral, transparent sound
2. Smooth and simple UI
Cons: 1. Lack of balance output
2. Small display
As the owner of the dtr1 for over 6 months, i am still happy with how clean, tone natural and transparent is the sound. And this player has a really powerful headphone out, i tried many iem and headphone with the dtr1, it can even run hungry beast like the hd600 to a satisfactory level. However, i usually only put it on low gain and run my pair of hum Dolores for daily use.
The passion and the knowledge of the designer is unparalleled as the team is willing to listen and improve the player throughout firmware update and take users feedback for future product development, which becomes rare nowadays.
The UI of the dtr1 is really simple, smooth, but nothing fancy like those new dap with Android UI.
i would say that the firmware seems quite stable and its quite snappy without much lag.
Which is a big well done considering that the player uses a custom Linux OS
However, the screen is a little small for my liking.
it would be better if they use touch screen instead and make the screen bigger.
One thing I kinda need to complain about is the lack of balance option such as 2.5 or 4.4 output, which is quite common nowadays, but i am enjoying the dtr1 more than those balance player and this product dtr1 has proven to me that balance doesn't mean superior performance.
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justrest

500+ Head-Fier
Pros: Detail and resolution level, musical sound, average battery life, size, amp power, price performance ratio, fast and responsive UI
Cons: No usb charge
Before starting this review, I would like to share technical aspects and package details.

This is the link where you can get the DTR1: https://penonaudio.com/dethonray-dtr1.html

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Specifications:

Micro SD card supported

Color: Black

Format Supported: WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF/DSF, OGG

Sample Rate Supported: 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192 kHz

Line-out & Earphone output

Battery 10 hours

Frequency Response: 20Hz ~ 20kHz

105db SNR

0.008% THD

Max Power Output: 1.7Vrms+R: 1.7Vrms+L (16Ω)

Dimension: H100 W56 D16.4 (mm)

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Package Details:

DTR1 Digital Music Player

USB Cable

Charger Cable

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Test Equipment:

Fearless S6 Rui

Nocturnal Atlantis

Campfire Andromeda

Astell & Kern AK120

Lotoo Paw Gold

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Package & Design:

DTR1 coming with black cartoon box and it has power charger and usb cable inside. There are no any other accessories like screen protector or case. Package contents are a bit disappointing but it has everything you need.

DTR1 doesn’t look fancy like some other daps on the market, but it has cleaned and simple design and somewhat it feels nice quality in your hand. The unit dimension is 100mm x 56mm x 16mm which It is quite small and handy. You can carry it anywhere you wish. The screen quality is decent and nothing special to mention about. There are 5 physical buttons on the front side. Left and right buttons are mainly changing settings, folders. Up and down buttons are like forward and backward and the center bottom has mainly as select/enter function. Right side of the unit has up/down volume button with power button and micro sd card slot that supports up to 256GB. (I tried with 400gb micro sd card and it works without any issue) All the buttons are easy to access and very easy to manage. Rear side of the unit has glass and it looks gorgeous. Bottom side has line out, headphone output (3.5mm) and usb/power socket. DTR1 is a beautifully made device, and ergonomic body will be slid into your pocket.

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Techinical:

DTR1 uses single AK4490EQ sound chip inside. I always find AKM chipsets more musical and warmer than the Sabre chipset, but of course it is all about tuning. Here are some details about chipset and amp circuit.

DTR1 selects AK4490EQ for its reliability and specific sound performance, the chipset supports up to 32Bit/768K and switchable digital filters offering different auditory experience. AKM, since its first delta-sigma D/A converter (DAC) in 1989, strives for reproduction of the original sound. Such becomes the philosophy” Velvet Sound” aiming at providing an active space in the reproduction of sound just like a live performance.

In pursuit of “Real Live Sound”, an important part along the signal path – LPF (Low pass filter) adopts two TI OPA1611 on each channel (L/R). Together with the AK4490 chipset the design illustrates a very lively, dynamic output. The amplification circuitry features a mature AD8397 implementation with low distortion, super loading capability not to mention slew rate of 53v/us and 69M bandwidth, further boosted with ±7V power supply. The ideal power supply breaks limitations in shaping sound, achieving powerful, clean sound with effortless extension.

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Power and Hiss:

DTR1 looks small but it’s powerful as Hulk. This little device has some serious power inside and it drives my HD6XX very easily. Probably it is enough to drive all IEMs in the market and most headphones. With the high gain I’ve listened Andromeda with %10 volume which is quite louder to listen. High gain with HD6XX is enough to drive with %60 level. It’s really impressive for such a small unit.

There is some hiss on the background and it is more audible with sensitive earphones like Andromeda, Zeus, or Solaris. But Dethonray minimizes the hiss level with the latest firmware. In case you still didn’t upgrade it, I would highly recommend to do it.

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Firmware - UI:

DTR1 has quite fast and simple UI which reminds me Lotoo Paw Gold in that case. Both devices are focusing to usability and they don’t care about fancy animation or gorgeous looking display. When you press the power button it takes like 4-5 seconds to be ready. UI is quite responsive and fast. Micro Sd card's scanning time is also another great thing about the DTR1. It scans my 200gb card for a very short time. Overall, I quite impressed by the UI and it is better than most of music players that I have.

Play screen shows all the details like; artist name, song, bit rate…etc


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Settings menu screen. There are language, play mode, backlight, brightness, cue settings.

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Gain selection, Filter, Auto shutdown, database upgrade and factory reset section.

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You can change your backlight time 10 to 60 seconds or always on.

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You can change your screen’s brightness.

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Low or High gain selection.

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Battery Life:

Battery life depends very much on how the battery is used and there are many parameters for that like screen brightness, volume level, gain etc. Dethonray claims it'll last for 10 hours, and I got approximately the same battery life. This is pretty enough and I don’t have any complaint about it. I would like to criticize the battery adapter. I wish they had charge on USB because adapter is hard to carry with you if you need it.

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Sound:

DTR1 sound is far better than its retail price. Period. I don’t want to exaggerate but it’s true. Its sound dynamic and engaging. The liveliness of the sound comes at the bottom to top of the audio spectrum. General sound is clean, natural but a little bit colored. DTR1 is a bit warm side, and playing a relatively thick note. Detail and resolution levels are pretty impressive. Actually, better than some of the expensive Daps on the market.

The upper frequencies are spacious and distinct. It does not fall behind the lower and mid frequencies as a quantity. The presentation is very forgiving and it does not have a character that makes mistakes prominent in the music. It is not aggressive and uncontrolled; on the contrary it is highly balanced. The treble is slightly brighter but this brightness is not like peaky or sibilance point. The treble has a beautiful natural tonality and it is effortless. The treble is never too cold or lifeless and the resolution is also extremely successful. It is possible to hear all kinds of instruments. I can say that it helps to expand the soundstage because it puts the gap between the instruments pretty well. The notes are a little bolded and but it is not as like AK120 or another warmest DAP.

One of the best parts of DTR1 is the mid frequencies. Although the mid presentation is not forward, the tone plays lightly colored, emotionally and naturally. The notes are a bit warm and bold which makes full bodied presentation. The harmony of the mids with the bass and treble are really great. There is no grain or veil in the mid frequencies. The upper mids are highly controlled and slightly thick, depending on the earphone/headphone. The vocals are slightly laid back and positioned in the middle of the stage, not from a wide area. The level of resolution and detail is certainly very successful. There is no distortion at high volumes.

DTR1 has good weight and extension on the low frequencies and It is not bleeding or dominating the other frequencies, it is doing its job when it calls. If there is a bass in the music, it hits without exaggerating, not boomy way. Bass has nice decay and prat and it has nice amount of quantity. There is a natural rumble and articulated with smooth timbre. It never loses its control, but I liked authoritative bass response and I wish the bass had a little more in quantity, but as I said, you can always add some extra slam with the filters. Bass has nice detail and resolution overall.

Soundstage is not the best I’ve heard but it is pretty wide and airy to listen. The best part of the soundstage of DTR1 is the separation and positioning of instruments in fast passages. Every instrument clearly selectable and I really impressed by layering and imagining in this respect. The layering of positioning provides a high level of distinction to the listener.

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Comparison:

DTR1 vs AK120:

Both DTR1 and AK120 sharing some similarities in terms of tonality and musicality but they are differing in some other way. AK120 is one of my favorite Astell & Kern players and after many years still loving this little device. Both players’ physical size and battery life are very similar. Ak120 is powerful enough to drive most IEM and it can drive some headphones but it can not match with DTR1 in this regard. DTR1 is crazy powerful DAP for its size. Sound wise, both are musical and they have lively and engaging sound. AK120 is darker and veiled and its upper frequencies are laid back. Overall presentation of the AK120 is smooth and dark. DTR1 is also musical and it is on the warmer side, but upper frequencies are more prominent and detailed. Far detailed actually. There is adequate space between instruments, so separation is much better on DTR1. Mid frequencies smoother and forward on AK120 and vocal sound is more in your face while DTR1 is slightly laid back and there are more rooms between instrument and vocal. AK120 has more quantity in bass department and more boomy than DTR1, but it is losing its control and sometimes it dominates other frequencies. On the DTR1 bass is more controlled and tighter with nice slam. Soundstage is wider and deeper on DTR1, bright trebles has some role on here. Overall, they are sharing musical and dynamic presentation but I can easily say that DTR1 is far better DAP than the AK120.

DTR1 vs Lotoo Paw Gold:

For my personal taste, LPG is one of the best players I’ve ever listened. It’s sound and build qualities are phenomenal. Opposite to some people, I really love its unique design and bulky structure. LPG size is bolder, bigger and heavier than the DTR1. Both daps’ firmware are amazingly fast and responsive. No lag, no wait, no issue. Battery life is also almost same like 10 hours. DTR1 is seriously powerful music player and it is almost powerful as like LPG. Sounds, DTR1 and LPG are very different animals. LPG has aggressive and prominent upper frequencies with more bright presentation while DTR1 is more controlled, slightly smooth and musical. LPG’s technical level is higher than DTR1, but musicality is better on DTR1. When I listened side by side, I found LPG’s tonality is a bit dry and dull. Don’t get me wrong I love LPG sound and still the one for me, but DTR1 is so delightful and detailed yet. Resolution and detail level are better on LPG as you expected but not so much. LPG is more capable device with its PMEQ equalizer and you can significantly change the sound. Overall, LPG is still better but it is 4 times expensive than the DTR1 and it is not better 4 times. Frankly, price and performance are amazing with DTR1, that’s for sure.

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Verdict:

Well, Dethonray has greatly done of their first dap DTR1. Its sound performance is truly amazing and it is easily challenge to the more expensive dap on the market in terms of sound performance. Heavy duty amp power is great to have which you can listen your power-hungry IEM or headphones without any power issue. Fast and responsive UI is also great. If you want a high class, high performing player and small and almost powerful enough to drive anything on the market, go and buy it. I don't think any other dap can match with DTR1 in price and performance ratio. Hype deserved.

IryxBRO

500+ Head-Fier
Pros: clarity, resolution, good sound balance, responsive and simple UI,
Cons: use of irregular data & power port
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In contrary to highly saturated market of IEMs, new brand names in HiRes DAP segments appear much less often. A portion of excitement hits the first rows of most active audiophiles and either being carried further to the masses or subsides in silence. This mostly depends of the price to performance ratio, in which the second variable addresses the sound quality and user satisfaction in overall. Tough work for any company or person while making their first steps on this minefield. A person (or group of people) behind Dethonray (Prelude) DTR1 was brave enough to give it a try, supported by the years of experience of working for other well-known HiRes DAP brands. Therefore, this horse is not that dark after investigating its roots and the decision of a founder to start as well as a future cutomer to purchase become less adventorous.

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First impressions of DTR1 DAP have already been spotted on the net and those are positive. My idea was to spend at least a week of playing with this product, comparing it to the most popular DAP with the same price tag and to try it out with some good IEMs. The time has come to share my own impressions and opinion.

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Note: this unit was provided to me by PenonAudio in exchange for the honest opinion and review.

Prelude DTR1 technical specifications:
  • Type: HiRes audio player
  • DAC: AK4490EQ
  • AMP: 2 x TI OPA161 (Left+Right channels)
  • Sample rates: 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192 kHz
  • Audio formats: WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, APE (Normal, High, Fast), AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF/DSF, OGG
  • Frequency response range: 20Hz ~ 20kHz
  • SNR: 117dB
  • THD: 0.008%
  • Max. power output: L: 1.7Vrms + R: 1.7Vrms (16Ω)
  • OS: Linux + Ocelot GUI
  • Memory: MicroSD (exFAT), up to 2TB, handles > 100,000 songs
  • Audio outputs: 3.5mm Line-out + 3.5mm headphones
  • Connectivity: MicroHDMI (data + charging port)
  • Battery: 2cell, LiON, ±8.5V PSU, life 10 hours
  • Dimensions HxWxD: 100x56x16.4mm
  • Color: Black
Most important features of this DAP:
  • Separate power for decoding and amplifying: DTR1 adapts dual high-density battery customized power system, designed for High-Fidelity while ensuring separation of digital and analog power to eliminate circuit noise from the source, alike an enhanced DAP + Amplifier system but with a minimal path and hard soldered joints with no compromises. The ±8.5V PSU remarkably improves efficiency of clean power supplied to the system, with noticeable qualities in transparency and background noise control without the need to excessively damping the output.
  • AMP + LPF: an important part along the signal path – LPF (Low pass filter) adopts two TI OPA1611 on each channel (L/R). Together with the AK4490 chipset the design illustrates a very lively, dynamic output. The amplification circuitry features a mature AD8397 implementation with low distortion, super loading capability not to mention slew rate of 53v/us and 69M bandwidth, further boosted with ±7V power supply.
  • EMI shielding: with the precision machining on aviation grade, light-weight aluminum alloy, DTR1 is shielded from EMI disturbance for a cleaner background during play. Precise structural designs with high reliability parts also a patented user interface are combined in pursuit of perfection in sound and optimization of both hardware and software within the design.
  • Custom LinuxOS and Ocelot GUI: DTR1 runs on a deeply-customized Linux OS audio sub-system which utilize a OSS sub-system 30% higher in efficiency than the ALSA audio sub-system. The customized and optimized decode engine ”Nature” synergize effectively with the Linux OS, decodes in optimal condition and reduces transmission delay. Patented ultra light weight GUI system ”Ocelot”, Customized GAI (Graphics Abstract Layer), GDI (Graphic Device Interface), IAL (Input Abstract Layer), SCM (System Control Module), Audio files indexing system – promises minimal MMI, high speed navigation and supporting up to indexing 160000 songs.
Packaging, design and build quality:

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DTR1 comes in a matt black folding box with extra layer of cardboard cover. Neither of those two reveals any additional information about the product. The only design elements are white brand and product name prints at the center. Minimalistic approach in packaging design is usually a sign of highlighting the main product purpose instead of hiding the shortcomings behind colorful presentation… In either case, box does its job of securing the purchase during the transporation well. Came safe and undamaged.

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Box inner compartment is split into two layers. Top layer is a soft insert with the opening for DTR1 and bottom one is for keeping the rest of the accessories. Both DTR1 screen and bottom glass panel have a protective film layers preapplied but those are for the transporation purposes only.

Box contents:
  • Dethonray Prelude DTR1 DAP
  • USB A -> MicroHDMI data cable
  • wall charger
  • DTR1 founder business card
  • user manual
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Pity that there was no permanent screen / back panel protectors or any type of case among the accessories. I feel that such beatiful device is too vulnerable to possible physical damage without any type of protection. Hopefully, Dethonray would release leather case soon. At least there are such rumorses travelling around the net.

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DTR1 case is made of CNC aluminum with the glass panel covering almost the entire space at the back. Design is very clean and strict but at the same time very attractive. Everything is matt black except for the polished beveled edges of the front cover and all physical control elements outlining their shape.

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Back glass panel and metallic brand logo underneath contribute a lot to the overall beauty of this device and also add some splendor.

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The use of aluminum and total weight of 146 grams creates the perception of holding durable and cold piece of technology at your hands. Despite that DTR1 doesn’t have a unibody construction, its top cover and base parts are aligned so perfect that it still feels as one solid block. Moreover, buttons don’t have any free play and don’t rattle at all which also adds to the overall feel.

Control elements and user experience:

Screen:


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Top part of the front panel is occupied with 2.32″ TFT screen. The type of the screen and its resolution numbers are not provided among other device specs but my guess would be IPS with something like 640×480 pixels. At least, the viewing angles are ok and thin diagonal lines on the screen don’t produce a so called «ladder effect» common for low resolution screens in combination with larger physical size. Screen edges are ~4.5mm, partially hidden by black screen outlines that visually merges with the shell when the screen is off. Screen doesn’t have a touch sensor layer, thus all user interaction happens with the help of numerous physical buttons. Which is great, I believe. Always preferred phyical controls over touch screens for easy blind operations.

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While in operation, DTR1 screen is doing its job very well. Size is totally enough for convenient interaction with this certain UI, fonts and other graphics are large enough to stay visible at all times. The main and the only concern is the maximum brightness level which is kind of low comparing to any other DAPs on my shelf and is not enough to fight the direct sunlight or even a very bright environment. Possible solution would be to introduce white color theme (or inverted colors) for Ocelot GUI and get away from dark interface. This suggestion has already been passed to the DTR1 designer.

Physical controls:

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There are 5 buttons located at the front facing part and 3 buttons on the right side edge.

Front buttons and functions:
  • Left:
    • Short press: Left (main player) / Back (in settings, now playing, playing options)
    • Long press: Seek back (during playback)
  • Right:
    • Short press: Right (main player screen) / Select (file browser, playing options)
    • Long press: Seek forward (during playback)
  • Up:
    • Short press: Next (main player, now playing, playing options) / Up (settings, file browser)
  • Down:
    • Sort press: Previous (main player, now playing, playing options) / Down (settings, file browser)
    • +Power in switch off state to enter FW update mode
  • Select
    • Short press: Select (main player, playing options, settings), Play/Pause (now playing)
    • Long press: Playing options (now playing)
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Right side edge:
  • Volume UP/DOWN
    • DOWN + POWER at device OFF = enter to FW update mode
  • Power ON/OFF
    • LONG PRESS TO SWITCH ON
    • LONG PRESS TO SWITCH OFF
Looks kind of complicated but it takes only five minutes to get used to all button functions and their additional meanings. Moreover, all buttons have pretty tight move with apparent «click» when activated which means that blind operations are totally convenient and self activations are not easy to occur. Of course, those might become a problem when someone would be wearing tight jeans and carrying DTR1 in a pocket. A dedicated button lock function could’ve helped in this case if it existed. But my point is that such devices worth better destiny rather than ending up in a tight pocket without any extra case protection…

Outputs and connectivity:

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Both 3.5mm audio outputs for headphones and LineOUT are located at the bottom edge. LineOUT is true — with volume locked to the appropriate level and no further possibility to control it. Both ports are very tight while receiving the corresponding jacks and both are single-ended.

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One more port on the bottom edge — microHDMI. Such a weird choice for data transfer and charging port can be explained the next way: since there are some extra requirements for the charging unit to supply a specific voltage to 2cell battery + the need of regular pins for sending and receiving data = more pins and power ratings necessary than available with microUSB connector. I would also take a guess that DTR1 designers didn’t want people to try to use their regular 5V USB power supplies with this DAP. It also means using less regular type of connector. Of course, from the stand point of a customer using one extra wall charger + data cable dedicated to this device only is a waste of space, time and place in mind to store this data. And this also means that you should take care of the accessories due to its uniqueness. Personally, I can live with that as long as it concerns such single function pure music device with long lasting battery…

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The only option when connecting to PC with the supplied cable is to transfer data between the connected devices. DTR1 would be recognized by Windows OS as external hard drive. Transfer speed is ~30Mbps and jumps a bit higher sometimes. No possibility to use DTR1 as USB DAC or to charge from PC USB.

FW upgrade:

Can’t think of any other brand that would be so fast and responsive when it comes to supplying changes in the newest FW builds. The same day I’ve provided my feedback about couple of misspellings I’ve got the latest build free of those minor problems. Moreover, I was told that additional suggetions would be considered and implemented in the next releases that would show up very soon. So, the latest build for the device now is v1.23. FW can be downloaded from the official website or requested through Dethonray FaceBook page.

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Upon receiveing — copy update.zip to the root of your SD card, press and hold DOWN + POWER buttons until FW upgrade screen appears. Just wait until upgrade is complete and DTR1 goes OFF. Switch it on again and you are done. The default language would be Chinese now but thanks to the logical and simple UI — it is easy to go to Settings->Language (second menu item) and select English. Information about current FW version is stored in System Information menu item.

Device functionality:

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UI structure:
  • Main player screen:
    • Playing now screen (current track + navigation through tracks)
      • Long press Select to go to Play options
        • Play options:
          • Favourites
          • Play mode
            • Repeat all
            • Repeat one
            • Shuffle
          • CUE
            • allow or not
          • Delete
    • Library (list of all tracks in alphabetical order)
      • Press Right or Select to select track and move it to play now screen
    • Favorites (list of tracks added to favorites)
    • Browse (browse through folders with tracks)
    • Settings
      • System information
      • Language
      • Play Mode
        • Repeat all
        • Repeat one
        • Shuffle
      • Backlight
        • 10-60 seconds or stay ON
      • Brightness
      • CUE (allow it or not)
      • High/Low gain
        • High
        • Low
      • Filter
        • Sharp roll-off
        • Slow roll-off
        • Short delay sharp roll-off
        • Short delay slow roll-off
      • Auto shutdown
        • 10-60 minutes
        • always ON (disabled)
      • Database upgrade
      • Reset all settings
Ocelot GUI over Linux OS in DTR1 feels very responsive and stable. Haven’t noticed any jitters, bugs or freezes while playing with it for a week. Boot time is fast but ends up with showing SD card availability warining and waiting until the track database would be rebuild. This happens at each boot with no option to avoid it. Fortunately, it takes only ~15 seconds to rescan all files and start playing. Developers claim that this it the fastest process among all recent DAPs no matter the amount of files on SD card and the only payback is indexing upon each power cycle. MicroSD card slot is located on the right edge and accepts cards up to 2TB. 400GB card was tested.

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No problems found with either function of settings in the menu. Functionality and GUI is simple but very convenient, mostly logical and very responsive. You wouldn’t be able to sort by different tags but you can also navigate through folders or list of files to reach the desired track faster. Adding it to the favorites would make this process even easier. If adding tracks to favorites is not an option and since there is no additional sorting by tags — the only way to organize tracks properly is to create the appropriate folders on SD card with limited amount of tracks to make the list in each one shorter instead of scrolling through thousands of tracks located in a single folder.

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Each track is provided with bit/KHz information on playing now screen, long names are cut if don’t fit the screen width. No scrolling for now. Album art is coming in the next FW release as promissed by the developers.

Low/High gain option is working and what is the most important — doesn’t change the frequency response, only the output power. Low gain is mostly for sensitive and low impedance IEMs while High gain is for harder loads such as full-sized overheads. Be very careful switching to High gain with IEMs as the change in output power might damage it.

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DTR1 heats up very little even while decoding 24bit/192KHz and playing with 50Ω full-sized overheads at High gain setting. The only time it heats up a bit more is while taking a charge and especially when playing music simultaneously. Case reached about 34C at max which is absolutely no issue. Charging time is ~2H and full battery drain happens in ~10H of 24bit/96kHz playback with 32Ω IEMs.

Sound quality:

Tested with AudioTechnica ATH-M50, Tanchjim Oxygen, Magaosi K6, Earnine EN2J, Moondrop Kanas Pro, Anew U1, HIFI BOY OSV3…

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Driving ability: most of the time the volume with IEMs of up to 32Ω was kept < than 50 at low gain setting. The only time I had to go to 80% first and than to switch to High gain and get back to <60% was with my 150Ω earbuds that require much more power to sound juicy. Therefore, I can assume that anything up to 150-200Ω should not be a problem for DTR1 DAP.

Lows and midbass:

Bass plays an important role in the sound presentation by DTR1. It does a perfect job on highlighting bass contours with fast decay and transitions. Bass has a decent weight here, even a bit emphasized but not shadowing other ranges. Lows are perfectly exposed, have extra clarity and seem to stand out a bit to the front. Extension and amount of textures are slightly limited in a favor of accuracy, speed and integrity of the perception. Such reproduction of lows is less regular but quite interesting and highly appealing. Midbass is perfect, neither too bright or too dark, natural, powerful, tight and engaging. Drums never get too harsh even in the tracks with some extra gain added to this part.

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Mids and vocals:

If you ever wanted a DAP with huge amount of details, clarity and resolution on voices and instruments in mid section — DTR1 is here to capture your mind. The first try overwhelmed with the feel of extra detalization of keen mids even with the reference dynamic IEMs. Pairing it with BA extends this perception even further. Outstanding resolution and bears the clarity of each single sound which leads to reconsidering the knowledge of the most favorite tracks. And this is not a joke — most of the DAPs on my shelf are more or less similar, tending to the reference side with neutral or warm tonality and moderate amount of details for the sake of melodious presentation. DTR1 acts completely different — it reveals maximum amount of details in a piercing impulse to convey emotions. It does carry thiner and colder sound along that even gets more prone to hisses but this is nothing compared to the new experience it gives. Absolutely impressed by the fresh approach of DTR1 towards mids, especially with neutral and mid-sensitive IEMs.

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Treble:

This is logical that if mids are impressing with exceptional resolution and clarity — treble would be even more capable of the same as the part of such perception on mids originate from the reproduction of treble. This is true — decent clarity, transparent and airy sound here. Treble is not overemphasized or piercing, it has the same weight with only a slight accent, sounds extended, accurate and balanced to other ranges. Some lack of gentleness is compensated by the amount of details and distinct exposition.

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Soundstage:

Another good outcome of excessive clarity and resolution is the extended depth of the perceived soundstage. Instrument separation and overall sound tranparency is so good and the location of each instrument is so evident that the stage gets the necessary and pleasing depth of field. Although, width is not that impressive as the lows don’t spread out much to side but rather kept collected.

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Sound in overall:

Dethonray Prelude DTR1 sound can be described as tedning to colder tonality, highly detailed, perfectly balanced between the ranges, trasparent, emotional and crisp. This makes DTR1 a best contender when it comes to HiRes tracks with lots of instruments and drive. Such genres as metal, hard rock and orchestra sound perfect which is kind of rare.

Compared to HiBy R6Pro:

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The main battle as for me is the choice between HiBy R6Pro and Dethonray DTR1 for a real audiophile the only respected function for whom is the ability to provide maximum sound quality. If the rest of the device functionality matters — HiBy R6Pro is the ultimate choice with its screen, connectivity, applications and so on. DTR1 has nothing to oppose to all of that. But when it comes to sound quality, DTR1 and R6Pro are quite different and present similarly interesting sound even for the same auditory. R6Pro sound is smooth and accurate with textured and extended lows, gentle treble and thick mids. DTR1 shows the same perfect exposure on lows but does it more contoured instead of textured. Its sound in overall is much more detailed, emotional and transparent. One is for calm genres, other is better for fast genres with lots of instruments.

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Conclusion:

DTR1, code name Prelude, is the first DAP by Dethonray designed for one main purpose — providing maximum sound quality for the audiophiles. Truthfully speaking, DTR1 is not only proving this statement but also became a total revelation for me. Whenever a new brand joins — it should have some hidden aces to beat the competitiors… DTR1 deviates much from the most of the recent DAPs securing their market demand by sound neutrality and brings quite unique signature with less standard approach. This is the first DAP than really shows what «HiRes» term is meant to be — higly detailed sound with huge resolving potential. It pronounces the difference between IEMs, headphones, earbuds and audio tracks or even the inconsistency of the recording process. In addition to such sound, everything is based on lightweight, fast and glitch-free firmware packed into stric, beautiful and durable externals. And no matter how much Tidal or other online services would be missed out — this DAP certainly goes to the collection of audiophile-grade sound.

Dethonray Prelude DTR1 is available at PenonAudio store

Dethonray Prelude DTR1 HeadFi thread
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