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Amp/DACs item created by RHA Team, Aug 25, 2016
Pros - Balanced connection-line in-line out(Dac only)-thunderous bass-can be used to charge devices
Cons - OTG fiddly for my phone - mix of cosmetic styling may not be to everyone's taste
Gratitude and greetings go out to RHA Team and @Glassmonkey - thank you so much for giving me the chance to be one of the very first to get my greedy ears on the CL1/DL1/CL750 trio. What a package! Wow! 2.2 Kgs of the Scottish Company’s Battle Cry to the Audio establishment. Do RHA have the strategy to overturn the status quo? Is it a massacre or will the white flag be waved?
You may be aware of my feelings on the RHA CL1 Ceramic IEM. If not, whet your appetite here. Now, all finished? Good. Part II of a tale in III chapters. The steadfast companion of the CL1 and it’s ultra swanky silver core balanced cable ; the DL1 Dacamp.
RHA’s first foray into the hardware market following a series of successful IEMs. The IEMs have been around since 2014. They are developed in Scotland and assembled in China. This makes the products as good value for money as they can do them.
The product in brief
I have expounded at length how much I enjoyed the CL1. That is now packed safely away ready for the next member of the UK Headfi Review Team as part of the Worldwide campaign are waging through the pages of this illustrious website of ours. I now turn my focus to my 2 remaining RHA products. The CL750 has been in my ears for 10 hours plus by now and will be left until last to review. Last but not least…. The Dacamp is part II. The DL1 is sure to get people’s interest. There are several reasons why I state this with such authority. First of all, it is the first hardware product from RHA. Secondly, it’s looks are eye catching. Thirdly, it has a lot of versatility, not only can it be used as a Digital Product, it will accept line in and will output line out. Thus line in bypasses the DAC and line out bypasses the amp. Clever. Useful. Finally , the price - £399 in the UK. Domestic Headfiers will immediately realise this is of special significance - there’s something else out there that costs exactly that selfsame price - the Chord Mojo. Guess what? I happen to have one of those….Do I have your attention now?
The marriage The DL1 was launched on November 25th 2016. It was launched simultaneously with the CL1 and CL750 IEMs, both of which require an amp to perform at their best due to their high resistance and low sensitivity. The Dacamp can make the CL1 sing, that is a statement I’ve already made here. They were made for each other , a superb match for my ears. Some will hear treble harshness whereas I hear extension, there is possibly a little too much bass there, on the go that’s a bonus. When you think about it, it’s conceivable that I have already started to describe some of the character of the Dacamp whilst talking about the Ceramic IEM.
Sound signature The DL1 Dacamp is a lively sounding Dacamp that gives a splash of extra colour to the low end and attempts to reach new ground in the higher ranges. I tried a range of music across a range of the inputs using a wide palette of IEMs and full sizes over a number of hours before I was happy to reach this conclusion.
The testing starts
Acclimatising of the DL1 took place on a very opportune time for me. Not only was I on my hols therefore having lots of extra spare time, I had the house to myself for a few days as my girlfriend got a holiday from me at the same time. I cannot tell you how many hours of music I have got through during that time, but it was a well spent holiday I can tell you!
I am a fan of vinyl. I make no secret of it. It is arguably not as technically perfect as it’s 0s and 1s partner. It has crackles and rumble, very rarely do I get a black, or completely silent background. But I get a bit of nostalgia and I also(if I use YouTube) get a glimpse into other people’s kit. Some of that kit is amazing. Some is amazing and is let down by the poor quality of the recordings uploaded. A precious few uploads do good justice to the source and the attention to detail is very gratifying to see.
Being determined to show you some gems I have found, I did a proportion of my research online. I came up with examples of Direct Drive Turntables and Manual Contraptions which are consistently good and of which I can easily AB between. MarkPMus uses a Rega RP8 turntable,
Sound Chaser a Thorens TD165,
HiFisquarepants a Technics SL1200 Direct Drive,
Let There Be Sound! uses a variety, but today it’s a VPI Scoutmaster,
perhaps the master of the 4.
Combined with that I have a DSD copy of Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall likewise of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, 24 196 of HDTracks Nirvana Nevermind, a FLAC of Ed Sheeran’s X Wembley Edition and a 24 96 of Karajan’s Berlin Philarmonic recording of Beethoven The 9 Symphonies. With that I have covered a few of the genres I enjoy.
I was able to utilise all of the many functions the DL1 has; the YouTube was OTG’d through my Motorola Moto G4 Smartphone, Optical through Macbook, Audio Opus#2 and Ibasso DX100, USB through MacBook, line in through my Moto G4, line out into my modded First Watt F6 power amp. With a bit of muddling through it all worked fine.
I bundled the Mojo, DL1 and Moto G4 and was able to switch reasonably quickly and did so 100s of times. Optical is just as quick to AB , USB switching takes only a few seconds longer. Here are the results of the battle.
Sound quality Intro
There are differences between the Mojo and the Dacamp that reach way beyond cosmetic. The way I would describe those - the Mojo more natural, less bassy, the Dacamp more V shaped with a thinner sound in the mids. For the bass and mids testing described below I used the RHA CL750s.
For the treble and soundstage test, the Sennheiser HD800 SuperDupont Resonator and lambswool modded was called into action.
The bass in the DL1 with all the dials set to flat - huge! I gave a listen to MarkPMus . He has uploaded only a couple of recordings but they have been done with an RP8 - one heck of a Rega turntable- in contrast I have a 30 year old RP2 which does not compete with this one iota. I followed the bass guitar and kick drum and general rhythm of Mark’s recording of Thriller. The lower bass conveys an oomph or warmth ; the upper bass has an impact that feels like it’s pushing against my lower jaw. The delay is slow.
The Mojo has slightly less warmth to the lowers , much less impact in the upper bass area and is faster; there much being much less delay.
Mark’s tracks are in fact quite bassy - the Erasure Hideaway song’s sparsity develops a huge bass beat that is even easier to follow. Try it. It’s a great track anyway.
You Make Loving Fun Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie announcing to the world she had found another lover, is a masterful track and it’s difficult to imagine it sounding much better through that crackly old medium than the recording we have here. The DL1 is being treated here. I found Christine’s voice a tiny bit reduced with the backing vocals soaring beautifully behind her. With the vocals reduced it’s often too easy to be distracted by all the other stuff taking place in the mix and coming out of the track wondering what it was all about.
The Mojo moves Christine’s voice more to the front of the stage, the guitars are easier to follow and those jaunty little effects the VPI brings out , like the tambourine juxtaposed against the spartan backdrop of Mick Fleetwood’s drumming, like the 2 keyboards playing against each other; I find them all easier to follow than the DL1.
The DL1 has an enhanced treble presence. For the CL1 it works perfectly. The Sennheiser HD800 - which I have modded quite a bit to alleviate some of the edginess in the treble and add some presence in the bass, would be a true test to see whether these phones could deliver through a newcomer. I used a FLAC of One from Ed Sheeran’s X. An acoustic track with lots of falsetto echo and a heart wrenching guitar. The mid section onwards features a string quartet. 2 min 57 onwards - that is why I have a Sennheiser HD800. Turn it up loud, not as loud as @glassmonkey listens(couldn’t resist Micah please forgive me) and please - be moved. I’ve forgotten where I was…
The DL1 moves me with that track. The bass is a bit much , but it is wonderful. The Mojo moves things on a notch. The 3 voices of Ed , which if you start from 2.38 stay there till that incredible peak at 2.58 one stays on the left the original ed in the middle and his mate Ed 3 on the right are locked in place; with the string quartet behind Ed 1 and further across to the left.
The DL1 is a worthy opponent of the Mojo. If you like your bass and you feel your current setup is bass shy you simply have to look at the DL1. It chucks out bass like there’s no tomorrow and that’s on flat settings. However, the DL1 comes across as slightly too recessed in the mids and too strained and thinly stretched across the higher FR.
The Mojo has a more linear response through all of the frequency range and achieves a more believable soundscape of the music. This makes it easier to follow the music either in it’s individual elements or as a whole. The magic that is the Mojo has come up against a pretender to the throne - but the King retains his crown.
The DL1 looks lovely. Someone has taken the time to get the cosmetic appeal , brushed rounded silver angles , gold inputs , discrete white lighting slightly offset colouring on the decal , a signature on the back of the unit. All works harmoniously.
The volume control is a dial and is very sensitive, and is pretty powerful. It is fierce enough to push my HD800 to very loud at 4 out of 10 in low gain. My preferred level for these 300 Ohms monsters is a puny 2.5/10.
For OTG , on my Moto G4, what you need to do to get 100% success is the following. Open up UAPP, set the hardware volume to full. After that, if you want to play youtube for example, open up UAPP, play a track for a second, close the application completely, then open youtube and it’ll work flawlessly from there. OTG has less interference through the DL1 than through the Mojo as a matter of interest. Both were whisper quiet 99% of the time through my smartphone.
Iphone users - I have an Android but am assured that the DL1 works through iOS.
The line in function is another added benefit of the DL1 and it uses a 3 switch system underneath the micro USB port. This is a fiddly switch to use especially with the usb plugged in. It’s a plastic switch but feels strong enough.
Whilst we are talking of fiddly , there is a nice secure fit to the micro usb port. It will feel like it is fully in but you need a decent amount of pressure to get it right the way home. Definitely something to try if there’s no sound, but for the love of god do not try and turn the volume up to full and forget to turn it down before you try this! It hurts!
The 3 switches , for gain bass and treble , I didn’t really use, other than by accident. But for something which needs more , or less , they are there. They don’t fit in the with the general look of the unit but undoubtedly people will find them handy in a crisis.
The gain switch will also allow you to charge a device. This needs for the DL1 to be switched off and then it gets some juice into your smartphone, which will drain quite quickly as with every other smartphone when it’s being used on OTG which you’ll want to do a lot of if you’ve got this.
Value for Money
With line in , line out , usb in , OTG in , charging capabilities, separate bass treble and gain switching, coupled with a balanced in and 3.5mm in, RHA are offering a lot for the money. The Mojo will output 2 phones at the same time , but the DL1 is reserved to 1. 2 earphones are better than 1 for us headfiers but for the real world this probably isn’t a deal breaker.
RHA have also thrown in an OTG cable , a USB charging cable and some note rubber straps for your smartphone/iphone.
The RHA is worth a listen. It is a great sounding dacamp that looks gorgeous has lots of versatility and power in reserve. Up against the Chord Mojo it came 2nd between my ears. The DL1 has tremendous bass presence; (possibly too much), recessed mids, a slightly thinner treble and less defined soundstage than the Chord.
If you are looking for more punch downstairs in the bass department this will deliver a slam in the kisser, maybe even a knockout blow. For more linear phones, my vote still goes to Chord. Hats off to RHA though - you fought till the end.