DethonRay is a new boutique audio brand started by Anson Tse – a figure with many years of experience in the industry of personal hi-fi. Their first and only product so far is the DethonRay DTR1 Prelude – a compact digital audio player which does without the bells and whistles of contemporary players and focuses primarily on sound as its main driving force.
Retailing for $549, the little player comes with a bigger price. However, Tse has utilised all his years of experience to develop an outstanding circuitry coupled with superior signal processing quality to deliver hi-fidelity sound.
Akin to the player, the Prelude arrives in a minimalist black flip-lid box with black color foam inserts. As you lift the insert layer, there are a plethora of cards including manuals, warranty and informational bits. Also included is a blue leather case & AC power supply with a micro-HDMI termination. Unfortunately, this means that the player will not be able to connected to a PC for charging or transfer of files. This means that users will have to use card reader slots to host a micro SD card for file transfer or even can use another player that connects to a PC for file transfer.
The Design & Build
The DethonRay is one of the most compact yet powerful DAPs on the marketplace. It is minimalist in appearance with a 5 button layout and miniature non-touch screen. The body is machined from a light weight aluminum alloy to keep not only size down but to also shield the device from EMI disturbance.
On the right hand side, there are two volume keys with the power button directly below. The micro SD slot can be found at the bottom for expandable storage. All keys have good tactile feedback but placement of the volume keys could be more central to aid ergonomic control of the player.
On the bottom, there are three jacks with the line-out on the far left, micro HDMI slot in the middle and the 3.5 mm jack in the right. To keep the design simple, Anson has opted for just a single-ended output.
The DTR1 adopts the single AK4490EQ as its primary DAC which is not the latest by any means. However, the DTR1 strips back the use of the flagship chipsets and instead makes use of implementation to really propel this player into the summit of hi-fi contenders.
The DTR1 also makes use of two OPA1611 amps in each channel (L/R) with low distortion levels and superior loading capability.
It implements a dual high-density battery power system to separate digital and analogue power for a high-fidelity sound. Instead of individual components, the Prelude focuses on the core elements of music decoding without compromising on signal processing quality. It is this implementation which has led to the increasing interest surrounding this player and what a good clean power supply can do.
The User Interface
The DTR1 Prelude is based on a deeply-customised Linux OS audio sub-system which is very simple and does the job. Like the Lotoo Paw 6000, the DTR1’s OS is fast and responsive despite the non-touch operation.
Anson is fast with firmware updates and regular listens to the community which is a very good sign indeed for a growing and evolving start-up.
The User Experience
The size of the DTR1 Prelude is perfect for commutes and trips owing to its small footprint. The operating system is also fast despite lacking a touch screen. However, battery life is not the best experienced with a solid 6 to 8 hours of operation. To this extent, charging can also become a bit inconvenient with its proprietary charger which does not allow the device to be charged from a USB outlet. This is likely due to the high-density battery system which takes a bit of time to charge.
However, it is admirable that the company have chosen to focus on sound alone rather than the bells and whistles which modern DAPs seem to offer.
The DTR1 Prelude offers fantastic technicalities with outstanding layers of dynamism, attack and speed.
This becomes a recurrent theme throughout with bass which stops on the dime with fantastic control, rapid decay, great resolution and detailing.
Midrange performance is equally excellent with an affable out of box tuning with smooth but detailed vocals and a linear presentation. For largely sibilant IEMs, the DTR1 is able to curb some sharpness and infuse a resolute signature without harshness and tight leading edges.
Treble is airy and extensive, again without compromising on tone. The AK4490EQ does a good job here on the sonic characteristics with an agile and linear treble section which is transparent and detailed.
One thing to note, though, is that although the DTR1 has impeccable detail and attack with outstanding instrument separation, it is not the widest of DAPs and hence there is a slightly more intimate presentation compared to other contemporary players.
The DTR1 hosts better instrument separation and smoother sound compared to the slightly more mid-centric and sharper tuning of the Fiio. The Prelude is also more powerful and able to drive higher impedance headphones which is impressive given its size.
These two DAPs are similar in that they both have a small footprint, customised OS experience and aim for reference tonality. However, the Lotoo PAW 6000 boasts a greater soundstage whereas the DethonRay DTR1 has more immediacy to its presentation with rapid decay and slightly more rounded midrange. Both, however, are incredibly capable with abilities of driving more resistant transducers.
DethonRay have clearly released a powerful little companion in the DTR1 Prelude. They have mastered the basics with a clean and powerful battery supply for a great sound. However, the DTR1 is for a specific set of customers who do not require the modern features of a digital audio player such as touch-screen, Bluetooth and more. Instead, the DTR1 capitalises on sound performance in a miniature form factor for better handling and convenience. With that said, the DTR1 Prelude offers the best sonic technicalities in its price category and whole-heartedly deserves an audition.
DethonRay Prelude DTR1