—About Sound Rhyme:
Sound Rhyme is not a new brand to Chinese Local audiophiles. They are like AFUL, a hidden gem, but with much longer history serving IEMs.
Sound Rhyme uses ENVISIONTEC 3D printer for modeling, like AFUL did for their Performer 5 with its the unique bass range internal resonator chamber.
They are situated at Xiamen and probably one of less known IEM OEM to western market so far
It will be last 3 IEMs I’d keep and the only tribrid among my collection to remain for “what if you were asked to destroy all of your collections and pick last 3 IEMs to keep with you for the rest of your life”
—DTE500 Distribution Channels
Sound Rhyme DTE500 is currently having couple of agent that ships internationally:
▶︎Best EST implementation among existing tribrids, EST driver that is “energetic and natural” is nowhere to be found other than DTE500
▶︎Accurate yet non-sibilant treble extensions which BA drivers aren’t capable of
▶︎Rich and fuller vocals
▶︎Organic textured bass
▶︎with stock cable, Image positioning is not very high performing
▶︎same to above, due to overly emphasized mid by stock cable, Image focusing is skewed toward mid, this can be solved by recabling to “Null Audio Ethos Mkv”
DTE500 extensive review and 30 hours critical listening time spent on A-B test with My Best IEMs. -About A-B test ▶︎ I performed this analytical A-B test in a pitch dark closet with following reasons: 1: Pseudo-double blind test | Trying to minimize psychoacoustic bias in analytical / critical listening, IEMs are picked up by hands blindly and tested without much visual pre-info. (this worked to a certain degree that I thought I was listening Monarch but it was SR5 after the showdown) 2: From my experience, a pitch dark environment with no outer noise will let human to concentrate 100% on sound, there are scientific studies indicating that human skin can “see” light. So the pitch dark room (it’s located within a room, double noise insulated) will shut-off those “extra interference” . Same rationale in observing / detecting gravitational wave or neutrino.
-DTE500 tech details: Sound Rhyme DTE500 spec: 4way crossover 3 acoustic tube
▶︎UHF/HF | 2 x Sonion EST65 powered by Empire Ears developed Voltage multiplier EIVEC
▶︎Hi-MID | 1 x High BA : Knowles ES30095
▶︎Lo-MID | 1 x Mid BA : Sonion 2300
▶︎BASS | 1 x 3-layer composite DD ( Sound like the one used on MEST MKII)
—Story with qdc tuning
Yes. I am officially a qdc tuning fan.
Of which You probably would have couple in mind. DUNU SA6, Tri Starsea, See Audio Bravery and high-end models, the qdc itself Anole series.
Nobody would expect a company had zero FR recording on western measurement database would ever be able to tune a good IEM.
Sound Rhyme, did proof their tuning skill by SR5 now, then we came up with simple question, “Are they really good or just one miracle shot?”.
Probably Sound Rhyme is a master tuner.
Here comes Sound Rhyme‘s latest 5-unit EST tribrid, DTE500 sitting in between qdc family King —qdc Anole VX —and Queen —Aur Audio Neon Pro.
Very color matched trio of Silver / Rose Gold / Obsidian
DTE500 is a qdc tuned IEM with its primary focus in warm and natural bass floor, very rich overtones, and Monarch beating very clear air /finesse, meanwhile Neon Pro has more energetic treble with a bit less elevated mid compared to other two, with powerful head knocking bass. Anole VX has matured and calmer tonal balance among all three yet reserved best resolving and layering capabilities when called.
I’d see the raison de’tre of DTE500 as TOTL beating EST performance yet very rich mid sounding which leaves not totally neutral but a well colored warm essence added in mid reverbs. Piano’s reverb will sound very impressive, wether it’s monitor-like natural like Monarch or not.
—As many of you already know, I set up a poll to see if head-fi community is OK with me receiving a free review unit, in reviewing this DTE500 from Penon, the feedbacks were very unanimous “just go and review it, nobody can provide an objective review, it’s subjective thing so just be honest”. So here comes the review Unit. Anyhow, please be advised to put up 10% of positive unconscious bias in this impression note. $459 is not a joking price, you have to put some serious guts in clicking “buy” button.
Here is link to Penon DTE500: https://penonaudio.com/sound-rhyme-dte500.html
▶︎DTE500 is tested with stock modulated cable with 4.4mm balanced and Feaulle H570 ear tips. I don’t think stock cable is particularly a good match to DTE500 as it has pushed 1.5khz mid gain level too forward, more than regular qdc tuning, resulting in imaging projection to be too near fielded. [EDIT 5 hours of listening session actually had myself fit to this imaging projection It’s the immersion tuning. I’m proud of myself to not jumping to conclusions too quick, as most of commercial reviewers do, they have too many IEMs to review and give a very quick 5 sec listening on judging IEMs, which I feel that’s just a thin slice of the experience you’d get from actual users standpoint who paid the real money to the IEM]
-A/B test result of DTE500 could vary upon cable swap, I paired Linsoul’s EST cable and it immediately fixed mid-focus and improved image focus and positioning. However to be fair, I used stock cable.
Top Note: Full-bodied, Rich overtones, enveloping, warm, clear and immersive mid range Middle Note: cutting edge resolution, Burmester style “the high-end” subtle / inoffensive, yet lifelike and extending indefinitely all the way to the skyline, Monarch EST beater. Bottom Note: fast, tight, very very neutral but MEST MKII-like very organic bass
▶︎How is tuning of DTE500 vs SR5?
DTE500’s approach is a bit different from SR5, the treble articulation for SR5 is “vivid but pleasant“ vs DTE500 “subtle yet extremely resolving and extending all the way to horizon”.
Perceived energy amount of upper registers and lower registers will be more on SR5. At least with stock cable of DTE500 which I’m listening right now.
DTE500‘s tuning is a little bit more mid-upper mid emphasized DUNU SA6 with less bass floor. If you like qdc tuning DTE500 is very delicately tuned mid+ neutral mild U approach.
▶︎A-B Test against close tuning and composition IEMs
Left to Right
Thieaudio Monarch (2EST+6BA+1DD) : Minitor-style lean neutral with sub-bass boost DUNU SA6 ( 6BA) : Mid-flat Neutral U Unique Melody MEST MkII (2EST+1dBC+4BA+1DD): Warm neutral with an extra dimension of sound imaging Aur Audio Neon Pro (10BA): mid-focused neutral + U shape Sound Rhyme DTE500 (2EST(with Empire Ears developed voltage multiplier EIVEC) + 2BA +1DD) qdc Anole VX (10BA): mid-focused neutral + U shape Moondrop Variations (2EST+2BA+1DD): VDSF with sub-bass boost See Audio Bravery (4BA) : Mid-focused Neutral U Softears RSV (5BA) : Uppermid focused Neutral with sub-bass boost Sound Rhyme SR5 (4BA+1DD) : Mid-boosted U Xenns Mangird Tea (6BA+1DD) : Monitor-style warm neutral
-Fletcher Munson considered, I tried to level sound volume of each IEM at the same level based on personal listening
️Bass Presence: overall bass range mass x transient speed (if too quick, no perceived presence) https://tidal.com/track/272909903
Modern Drum N’ Bass with Piano and spatial spices added, Bass presence is a must. MEST MKII > Variations > SR5 > Neon Pro (on) > Monarch < Bravery > RSV > Anole VX (1-1-0) < DTE500 < SA6 (on) < Tea
️Bass Slam (Heavy > Light) Transient Speed x Sub Bass Mass x Carrying Energy https://tidal.com/track/91580143
From the Intro, the bass drum slams hard with deep deep reaching Floor Tom, an easy pick for the Bass Slam test. MEST MKII > Variations > SR5 > Neon Pro (on) > Bravery > Monarch > SA6 (on) > RSV > Anole VX (1-1-0) > Tea > DTE500
️Bass Organic Quality (Organic > Artificial) Yes I care about bass a lot.
This is not quantity, it’s imaging texture x timbre dynamism (impulse response & inertia ) x spatial bass range resonance
️Mid-Bass level (Scooped vs Bleed) https://tidal.com/track/167963393
J-POP generally has a lower tolerance floor toward mid-bass. The Bassist and other mid-bass instruments/sound needs to at least stay 5m away from the main vocalist. If Bassist is positioned localized or in front of a vocalist or interfered with, unless the original mix is intended, will be considered a mid-bass bleed. DTE500 < Monarch < Bravery < Neon Pro (Off) < Anole VX (0-0-0) < RSV < Variations < SA6(Off) < Tea < SR5 < MEST MKII
Masters of harmonics, Brian Eno and Roger Eno, they speak Harmonics instead of English. This whole album is a masterpiece. Let you know by the magic of simplicity and complexity can co-exist and each track has synesthetic colors. MEST MKII > Tea > Neon Pro (Off) > Monarch > SR5 > Anole VX (0-1-0) > SA6(Off) > RSV > DTE500 > Variations > Bravery
️Female Vocal Presence - Eastern
Princess Mononoke Theme Song is covered by Korean Singer Dazbee, a female vocalist with a translucent and fragile beautiful voice. Not a specific FR gain spot, but more of an overall presentation. Micro detail-oriented. Bravery > Monarch > DTE500 > Tea > Anole VX (0-1-1) > Neon Pro (Off) > SR5 > MEST MKII > RSV > SA6(Off) > Variations
️6khz Sibilance (Not painful < Painful) https://tidal.com/track/155965268
One good example of harsh-sounding vocal tracks is order from less sibilant. One of the deal breaker factors for some. Manually leveled overall gain equally to see if 6khz stands out. SR5 < RSV < Tea < DTE500 < SA6 (Off) < Variations < Monarch < Bravery < Neon Pro(Off) < Anole VX (0-0-0) < MEST MKII
️Treble detail articulation https://tidal.com/track/77611296
This Karajan x Berlin Phil x MQA x Mussorgsky is a very good test track for treble detail articulation. This will reveal IEM’s true spec when A-B is tested. No excuses because 10BA and EST drivers do outperform 2BA or Single BA, DDS. Anole VX (0-0-1) > Neon Pro(Off) > Monarch > MEST MKII > DTE500 > Variations > SR5 > SA6 (Off) > Bravery > RSV > Tea
️Sense of Air /Finesse (10khz+ performance) https://tidal.com/track/108119224
Heavily layered strings and brass would need good 10khz+ articulating capability. Very hard part, it took me 5 hours to sort out the order just for this section alone…Here is the result. Anole VX (0-0-1) > Neon Pro(Off) > Monarch > DTE500 > MEST MKII > Bravery > RSV > SR5 > Variations > SA6 (Off) > Tea
Thanks to @FranQL for the discovery this track, from 7:00 has an exceptionally good imaging focus section. Upper mid balance will be crucial for imaging focus and it will be very personal HRTF dependent, I have 3.1khz pinna gain peak, so this imaging focus will only be beneficial for people close to mine. https://tidal.com/track/154520073
️Sound Pressure actuation (Macro Dynamism) https://tidal.com/track/131729675
To some people, realistic sound pressure comes to the first of all checklist, this track has a wide range of sound pressures, sub-bass to air /finesse.
️(Artificial /Colored) Diffusion Field -Size
This Mushishi SoundTrack is actually an artwork of Japanese Wabi&Sabi simplicity x complexity ; great for image diffusion field size & positioning conformity test.
track @02:01 is specially great for this test. Note that is simple size not how well the diffusion field is textured, that will be detail articulation sections above.
MEST MKII > Bravery > DTE500 > Monarch > Neon Pro (Off) > Anole VX (0-1-1) > SR5 > SA6 (Off) > Variations > RSV > Tea
️(Artificial /Colored ) Diffusion Field -Position Conformity & Imaging Localization
track @27:00 is specially great for this test. Diffusion Field /Headroom / Sound Stage size is not an evaluation point, this is to tell how well sound image within the projection field moves smoothly and how accurate imaging localization occurs without sudden hiccups. Both tuning and hardware performance are required.
️Overall Resolving Capabilities (all frequency ) https://tidal.com/track/222971113
Again, very highly demanding orchestral that has resolution requirements from sub-bass all the way to the top end. Neon Pro (Off) > Anole VX (1-1-1) > MEST MKII > DTE500 > Monarch > Variations> SR5 > Bravery > SA6(Off) > Tea > RSV
Anole VX (S) MSRP $2,600 wins 1st due to perfect balance of musical expressions and technical expressions. The full-band resolving capabilities is second to none, whether you call it vivid and more than naturally presented (when compared to Monarch), I still prefer somehow digitalized expressions of BA drivers for many occasions.
Here my take on visual expressions of EST vs BA treble expressions:
EST: Natural / Rich in overtone / Soft but extremely detailed and silky, low in contrast
BA : High contrast, vivid, not always highest and seamless analog presentation maybe a little exaggerated, however entertaining.
Aur Audio Neon Pro (S) MSRP $730 wins 2nd, another qdc family tuning, a little bit U-tuned than VX, with similar overall performance, just yet not VX level of image localization and detail articulations on very top end, just a thin slice behind it with 25% of the asking price is definitely justifiable.
Thieaudio Monarch (S-) MSRP $760 wins 3rd, very natural monitor like tuned IEM with end of the world type sub-bass. If only that bass dynamic driver is not old school one and can keep up with rest of the drivers, Monarch could score higher, so the MKII with LCP instead of regular slow transient responding DD would be definitely an endgame material to seek. If you hate mid-bass bleed and looking for overall high technical performance yet not sounding too dry Monarch is a
good choice. It doesn’t cast “female poison” spell like Bravery do for detail-oriented vocals, but if you are looking natural yet detailed, Monarch is the best performing one.
Sound Rhyme DTE500 (S-) MSRP $459 is 4th, another qdc family tuning, with “higher than normal qdc” early pinna, or mid boost. Bass is pretty natural with main weight on sub-bass region, not like Variations’ unnaturally lifted sub-bass, DTE500 is more natural one. It doesn’t have best layering , and revealed its weakness in image positioning, yet still, DTE500 beats Monarch, Variations’s EST implementation in terms of EST performance. MEST MKII’s EST is backed by dual bone conduction drivers so MKII has got a better detail articulating and layering than DTE500, but I’d day DTE500’s EST is a proper S-tier implementation. Thanks to Empire Ears’s EIVEC voltage amplifier to power that Sonion EST, you certainly can feel DTE500’s treble has got more energetic and natural expression, which is second to none at least to the A/B tested group.
Softears RSV (S-) MSRP $730 scored 5th even though it is not best technical set. What made RSV to 5th is due to non 6khz sibilant natural sound x ”almost” best image positioning. RSV is a VR-simulator, it casts whatever original mixer or recordings are intended. Timbral and Spatial accuracy magician RSV is.
SR5 (A+ / faint S-) MSRP$149 due ranked 6th due to its resolving capability and overall good performance even against S-tier rivals. Elite in both Micro detailing and Macro dynamism it will satisfy both demands.
$149 cost performance to hit solid A+ may not S-tier beater like SA6 (S-), RSV (S-), Variations(S-), but dangerously close, depending on mood, on a blind test, I would value SR5 as S-tier out of whim. That close.
I value cost to performance more than actual performance in picking favorite, so that we may all benefit in having “great sound” at an affordable price by prompting fair market competition, so this SR5 comes to first with that in mind. Truthear, Moondrop, don’t slack off, tigers are behind you.
SA6 (S-)MSRP$560 is at 7th. There are very little weaknesses of SA6, the “elite”overall performance, and hard to beat qdc neutral tuning placed SA6 a S-tier and I still love listening to SA6 even today, it is that well tuned. Looking forward for SA6 MKII that is about to come out in reflection of SA6 Ultra‘s calmer tuning.
Bravery (A) MSRP$279 a 8th ranked IEM for being colored IEM but in a good way. When paired with PWA Legend II and TRI Clarion, Bravery will generate one of a kind fragile/translucent/clairvoyant timbre.
Unique Melody MEST MKII (S-)MSRP$1,800 is at 9th. There is no doubt MEST MKII is a king in true holographic imaging and resolving capabilities its bass is one of best sounding and other technical performance aren’t behind among test group. I purchased MEST MKII for mainly rock source, but later I find it’s a bit fatigue causing due to 6khz sibilance. It can be dealt with cables and ear tips, but it will
tone down MEST’s own strengths as well. If you are not 6khz sensitive, then you can see MEST MKII basically knocks all other IEMs out of table for many imaging categories.
Variations (S-) MSRP$520 is 10th. Surely an S-tier performance, but its cost-to-performance when compared to others maybe just an average one. Imaging positioning and localization, inoffensively tuned EST, and LCP bass will be one of a great sales point, and I didn’t mentioned above that I have a best fitting experience with Blessing series shell, so Variations isn’t the exception. If you need to listen all day long, Variations would be a great companion.
Xenns Mangird Tea (A) MSRP$
260 is 11th. I’ve added Tea, an A-tier IEM besides SR5 and Bravery because they each have their own ”best” categories that can trade blows with bigger fish. That’s the reason I didn’t add Blessing 2, Dusk, N5005, HEXA, Performer 5, W80, Timeless, Wu Zetian, to this A-B test, as they have better performing upper hands.
For Tea It has best sounding midrange back by quad Sonion 2600, very high density mid harmonics you could take advantage of. But rest of performance are slightly behind others.
—Final impression score (based on my HRTF)
Overall | S-
Tonality | S
Resolution | S-
Overall Coherence | A
Diffusion Field coherence | A-
Image coordinate positioning coherence | B-
Image Focusing Coherence | B-
Sound wave momentum & Sound Image vectoring coherence | A
My other A-rated IEMs:
SeeAudio Rinko (A-) | Moondrop Droplet (A-) | LetShouer Galileo (A-) | Audiosense DT200 (A-) | Audiosense AQ4 (A-) | Simgot EA500 (A-) | DUNU Titan S (A-) | JUZEAR A41T (A-) | Truthear HEXA (85/100: A) l AFUL P5 (A) | Blessing 2 (84/100: A) | Blessing 2 Dusk (85/100: A) | Mangird Tea (84/100: A) | AKG N5005 (A-) | See Audio Bravery (A)