Dethonray Prelude DTR1: Device of the year. Period.

Dethonray Prelude DTR1 ($549): It’s always about the music. Device of the year. Period.

Dethonray DTR1

ngoshawkblog’s product of the year: the Dethonray DTR1! Amazing sound, amazing value.

In a few words:

  • Product of the year, easily
  • Exceptional sound qualities overall
  • Nirvana for your ears
  • Incredible value
  • Superb detail

Through a trade of gear with @wiljen, I came upon his DTR1. It got to the point where he messaged me and asked if he would ever get it back. I joked that I should just buy him a new one and keep the one he sent. Through contact with Anson Tse, the proprietor and one-man designer I purchased one from Amazon. He sent the case for free. Rumor has it a DTR2 is coming out in 2020. Let us just get this out of the way now: including my QP2R and N6 mk2, the DTR1 is the best sounding DAP I have heard. Period. Costing 1/2 to 1/3 of the other two, the story here is indeed all about the music. It is in that regard in which I bestow my first ever award for device of the year.

Many eschew these awards as superfluous and a means to keep traffic flow to their site. I will not disagree, but with something this good, and set above (or equal to) my newly purchased N6 mk2 that means a lot to me. In conversations with Will, we both agree that the DTR1 is proverbially one of those rare, rare gems that does not garner the attention it deserves. It is through this that I hope to get more attention to the Dethonray (I really, REALLY want to call it the Deathray for it absolutely kills the competition).

This will be a short synopsis of a review, with a longer one forthcoming. As laziness abodes, the initial will indeed be in 2019, but the full will be in 2020.

Pulled from Headfonics regarding the Linux:

Linux Audio Sub-System

“Quite a lot of DAPs process based on the ALSA, (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) audio sub-system. The DTR1 differs by using an OSS sub-system and a customized Linux decoding engine called “Nature”. Dethonray claims the OSS sub-system is 30% more efficient than an ALSA audio sub-system and will do a better job of reducing transmission delay.”

“The sub-system is tucked away also in their own GUI OS layer of Linux called Ocelot which I am told by Dethonray is pretty light and flexible. Certainly, since speaking to Anson Tse, the CEO of Dethonray it does seem the company is very fast with firmware updates and correcting errors which is a very welcome trait in new DAP OS’s these days.”

DTR1 Prelude Specifications

  • Menu Language support: Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean
  • Format supported: WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3
  • APE (normal, high, fast)
  • Sample rate supported: 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192 khz
  • Micro card support: 2t(exfat)
  • Output: line-out & earphone
  • Battery endurance: 10 hours
  • 2.32″ TFT screen
  • Frequency response: 20hz ~ 20khz
  • SNR: 117db
  • THD: 0.008%
  • Max. Power output: 1.7vrms+r: 1.7vrms+l (16Ω)
  • Dimensions: 100 x 56 x 16.4 (mm)
  • Weight: 146g

Comparisons/gear used:

Cayin N6 mk2

Questyle QP2R

Noble Savant II

Empire Ears Legend X

Oriolus Finschi

In a nutshell:

The DTR1 is a plain looking almost retro-looking DAP, that has one sole purpose: to bring you the best sound capability it can. And to me, it pretty much does. This would be an example of why spend more money on something to achieve little to no more gain. Well, people want gizmos and gadgets (I know I am just as guilty), and the DTR1 has none. It has filters but no EQ. No touchscreen, no balanced, no fancy attachments. Just 3.5mm out and a LO so it can be used with another amp.

Simple to operate, you make your choice and just go. This is like that 1950’s sports car meant for one thing only, to go as fast around a course as possible; driver comfort be damned. And in that regard, the DTR1 thrives and succeeds. The combination of the circuitry listed above just works. Using the tried and true AK4490EQ DAC is easily tunable and I can say that between using Will’s and when mine came there was a firmware update, which changed how things worked. Mine ran much smoother in the operating room, but to my ears lost some power. It’s almost like we went from the high-pressure turbocharger needed to compete at Le Mans to the low-pressure, which suits Brands Hatch better. I do feel that under the exact same settings and gain, Will’s provided more power. Mind you I have nothing, which needs the kind of Ferrari-like power of Will’s.

And that sound is fantastic. Clear, concise and detailed; the DTR1 is not as analytical or bright as one might assume. It has the guts to give a good grunt down low when the song warrants it but provide that air between note to give as good of a detail rendering as I have heard. Running the newly acquired Noble Savant II through its paces I noted that the sound opened up a bit from the N6 mk2. The Mk2 is a warmer sounding DAP, and I love it for that. The DTR1 is phenomenally clear and detailed. On “Ride Across The River,” from Dire Straits, each succinct note is separate and meticulous. The song is already of the detail variety but hearing it on the DTR1 is one of those times when the music is poised, and each individual note is heard.

I still cannot get over how precise the music sounds here, but in no shape or form analytical. There is meat to back the sound up.

Look for a more detailed review in early (or late!) January.

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