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March 2013
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
World Premiere!
The Dared Retro Dreams RD-1
A modern day vacuum hybrid design digital radio.

Review By Anthony Nicosia

 

Dared Retro Dreams RD-1  The following quotation can be found on DARED's Chinese website as an explanation to the origin of the company. "The name DARED derives from the partial Chinese tonation of "Dan yigao" which means High-end tube amplifier and artistry. In English DARED is personified as DARING, ARTISTIC, RELIABLE, ELEGANT and DEFINITIVE."Prior to my experience with the RD-1 ($799) my one other firsthand experience with a product from Shenzhen Danyigao Audio Equipment, of which Dared is a registered trademark, came from my August 2009 review of the DV-6C 5.1 channel tube hybrid integrated amplifier. It so impressed me with its sonic abilities and affordability that when the California Audio Show returned to Burlingame California (about 15 minutes from my home) it was on my list of places to be sure and visit when reporting about the show for "Enjoy the Music".

Looking around their room there were the usual audio products, amplifiers, preamplifiers etc., but then looking over to a table off to one side I noticed the RD-1 parked all alone. Now this was something different, an FM table radio looking like something out of the past. Made of a beautiful outer casing, lightweight and sporting three tubes in its design I could not wait to hear it, hoping it would be as good as it looked. On further inspection it became obvious this was not your father's radio but rather a modern product disguised in antique clothing. As other models were playing on the main table it was necessary to ask permission to hear this intriguing little product and its sound immediately delighted me playing Elvis Presley songs via its Bluetooth mode. Of course not being one to make a hasty decisions from just one all too brief listening session I decided to return the next day. Suffice to say that second visit proved just as delightful as the first and hence today's review was born.

 

More Than A One Trick Pony
The Dared RD-1 is a versatile product that found it doing multiple duties in my home. It not only is a tube/hybrid FM radio but can also playback music from outside sources via its RCA inputs and outputs located on the back panel. It has the ability to stream music from smartphones, iPhones, iPads or even a computer via Bluetooth and has RCA Line inputs for CD/DVD/Blu-ray/iPod/MP3 Audio playback. The RD-1's RCA outputs can connect to your main audio system for use as an FM tuner or you may playback music via the above mentioned sources. I had a difficult time deciding which way to use it for my wife loved having the RD-1 in the kitchen to keep her company while she cooked and in the bedroom at night singing her to sleep. Thinking back I am not sure if I should have been a little jealous with my replacement or grateful for just how happy it made her. For me though it was most useful placed in my review system as an FM tuner or playing music through our portable MP3 player. The RD-1 comes with a remote that does just about everything except turning the unit on or off, for that one must manually flip the switch on its rear panel. Switching between sources, adjusting or muting volume, finding radio stations or going between the user preset FM channels could all be performed with the factory supplied, compact and easy to use remote control.

Surprisingly it came equipped with not one but two antennas. One was a small black model, with a tiny stand to prop it up and attached cord to connect to the RD-1. The cord gives you the ability to move it further or closer, left and right, up or down in relation to the unit, in your search for proper reception. The other is a Chrome antenna attached to the radio by screwing it in giving it a little less flexibility. It could however stretch out or compact down as well as point in a variety of different directions. That antenna however worked very well for me and was used throughout this review. The RD-1 sports an attractive high gloss MDF cabinet, cream colored front faceplate, eye catching gold knobs and gold lettering. On its front faceplate are two knobs, one to gather information such as the name of the station, title of the song with performer, date and local time, or used to tune to your desired channel. The other is for adjusting volume and or to access the units menu where you may do things like adjusting bass and treble, in fact you can even change the language to display in either English or Chinese. Via its jack on the front panel the RD-1 supports Headphone Impedance up to 600 Ohms allowing you to listen to music without disturbing others.

 Dared Retro Dreams RD-1If you move to an area that requires you to change the AC voltage from 110-120V to 220-240V or vica-versa you only need flip the switch on the back of the RD-1 and that is allow that is necessary. It would be great if more audio gear had this option included as standard equipment. Recently my friend bought a used amplifier from a European seller then had to send it back to the factory to switch voltage over for use with US outlets, at his expense for parts, labor and shipping both ways of course. Just think of the time and money he could have saved if it was possible to just flip a switch to accomplish the same thing. The RD-1 is great for people who frequently travel aboard and in the US who want to take quality music wherever they go all in one relatively small package. Another nifty feature is the CAT EYE Tube (6E2) VU meter for channel strength monitoring. The RD-1 is a hybrid design tube stereo Radio using vacuum tubes in the first stage preamplifier section then a solid state power amplifier. Included inside is a pair of 4" Tailor made loudspeakers which the factory claims to be of audiophile sound quality. Listening to their sound it seemed liked a reasonable assessment to me.

 

Listening Within My Main System
So what did it sound like? Placed in my review system to first be used as a tuner (with the volume set off on the RD-1), played back through my Von Schweikert VR-35 loudspeakers power by a McIntosh MC452 (400-Watt amplifier) by way of my Aesthetix Saturn Calypso tube/ hybrid preamplifier, the sound was simply amazing. Reception using the factory supply antenna was wonderful and being that I live in a difficult area at the bottom of a hill that is saying a lot. Center fill was spot on revealing a nice deep soundscape no matter what music was played through it. If you like a good wide soundstage, look no further as once again the RD-1 did not disappoint. Music did not lack for what I would say is its "soul", you know that something special which truly great performers convey when they sing; think Nat King Cole or Johnny Mathis as examples. Never once did I cry out to put back into my system my McIntosh MR67 tube tuner but was instead quite content listening through the RD-1. The McIntosh is indeed a tuner I enjoy and while not saying it was quite its equal sonically it did make me do some careful listening comparisons in an effort to determine the differences between the two. It seemed the MR67 had a slightly wider soundstage and a tad more weight to music played back with it, but the call was close. In fact with the RD-1's remote controls ability to change channels, to preset stations, digitally display songs/ radio stations and be used via Bluetooth, it was actually my preferred listening source.

 Dared Retro Dreams RD-1People would come by my house only to be shocked when informed it was this beautiful little radio that was making them smile. Try as I might it did not disappoint me, being equally satisfying listening in the Bluetooth mode, attached to an MP3 player or as a standalone FM radio. Versatility wise the RD-1 earned big points with me and my family. The real fun though was when switching loudspeakers and substituting my Von Schweikert VR-35's with a pair of Martin Logan Requests. As good as the VR-35's are those electrostatic panels from Martin Logan certainly do have midrange clarity and speed to make one stop in their tracts. Ah yes Tubes and Electrostatic loudspeakers now that is a great combination. Here the soulful sound of Keyshia Coles voice singing "I Remember" filled the space between my loudspeakers as if she were there in private concert for me and my friends. Yes this little radio with the "big" sound felt especially right when playing Rhythm and Blues. Not that it had trouble with other types of music thrown its way but I must admit to a particular fondness for R & B or jazz played back with the aide of tubes somewhere in the setup. "Hey Soul Sister" performed by Train had good left to right width in respect to soundstage. There was also a fair amount of front to back depth placing individual performers in proper perspective within the soundscape. Percussions on "Some Nights" by Fun displayed a good sense of PRAT and one could also feel a proper sense of weight behind the percussions adding fullness to the music which one hopes to hear from a good system.

Natasha Bedingfield, "Pocket Full of Sunshine" showed off the RD-1's ability to reproduce proper layering of background and main vocals, as well as the band as a whole. Listening to "Somebody that I Used to Know" by Gotye made me forget that it was a radio station playing and for a while I had to remind myself it was this little tube/hybrid design from DARED that was captivating me so. Use one of the supplied antenna or better yet hook yourself up with a proper professional setup if necessary, then sit back and listen to radio like people did before TV concerts were on your local cable station. Want to get more modern, then stream something from a variety of sources, either way you are sure not to be disappointed with this beautiful gem of a product from DARED.

 

As A Stand-Alone Radio
It was time to experience the RD-1 as a table radio and see if would please me as much as it did without all that associated expensive gear helping it along. Perhaps the best compliment I could give it was by telling you that my wife sat up in bed one morning and proclaimed what a great radio it was. This was something she does not do very often and especially without any prodding from me to ask if she liked a particular product. It had been placed on the floor about ten feet away from her pillow and was playing her favorite radio station. That little RD-1 with those two small speakers filled the room with its cathedral ceiling and after about a ten minute warm-up (for the tubes) was starting to crank out some serious tunes. It had a way with music that was a definite step up from your normal clock radio. The one addition that would have been nice to see would be if one could have the RD-1 turn on to a pre-set radio station to wake you up to the glorious sound of an audiophile radio. Could that be accomplished, making it a sort of clock radio I am not sure, but I can dream. Listening to music played back whether in the kitchen placed on top of a counter or located somewhere in my bedroom the RD-1 was always a pleasure to hear. Yes of course it did sound much better connected to my main system, but with its ease of portability as a table top radio it was wonderful to be able to go room to room providing quality music wherever was needed. Normal sized rooms will find it quite satisfying as the internal speakers can play loud enough to fill them with music without breaking up (all within reason for their size of course). Did it have deep bass, no but for what it is, it sounded wonderful. Did the highs extend into the stratosphere, again no but the mid-range was far more than adequate, making the listening experience quite enjoyable. All in all it performed above my expectation for something from its genre and especially at this price point. If you want it to do more than be just a table top radio, connect it to your main system, otherwise relax and enjoy it for what it is.

 

Conclusion
 Dared Retro Dreams RD-1The fact that its appearance pleased my wife was a big plus for me as nothing gets into our lovely home without her final approval. Looks alone though will not cut it for her so luckily when used as a radio it delivered quality music to back up its fine physical attributes. The RD-1's ability to be used not only as a table top FM radio but in Bluetooth operation connected to other sources did the trick for me. The biggest problem you might encounter, as we did, was that one RD-1 is not enough. Do not be surprised if you find yourself wanting to use one in the main system, another at the office, a third in the bedroom and a fourth in the kitchen. What an addictive little machine this turned out to be. Will the RD-1 make much more expensive tuners shake in their boots, no but it sure was impressive at this price range and made me sit and take notice. This one is recommended for sure.

 

The Listening Environment
The review room is eighteen feet eight inches long by thirteen feet wide with loudspeakers and equipment kept on the short wall. The cathedral ceiling starts at eight feet from the short wall slopping upwards to reach a height of thirteen feet in the middle than returning to eight feet at the opposite end. The hardwood floor is partially covered by a nine by six foot oriental rug lying down the long ways facing toward the loudspeakers, placed dead center between but not under the listener or the audio system. The room has no doors but there are two openings. One opening is in front of the right loudspeaker giving access to the hallway while the other is behind the listener's position opening to a formal dining area. There are three large floor standing acoustical panels and numerous Auralex Studiofoam panels placed around the room as well as three GIF Tri-traps one in each of three corners. All the audio equipment is located in a Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack placed about a foot away from and in the middle of the short wall opposite the listening position.

 

Review Equipment
Von Schweikert VR-35 Export Deluxe Loudspeakers
Martin Logan Requests Loudspeakers
Aesthetix Saturn Calypso Preamplifier
OPPO Digital BDP-95 Universal player
Oracle Delphi MK 1 Turntable, Grace 707 Tone arm with custom made
interconnects
Audio-Technica Prestige AT33PTG Moving Coil Cartridge
Musical Surroundings Nova Phonomena Phono Stage
VPI 16.5 Record Cleaning Machine
Acoustic Revive RPT-4 Ultimate Power Supply Box
APC S15 Power Conditioner
Loudspeaker Cables: Kimber Kable 4TC and 4PR (bi-wired to loudspeakers,
top and bottom respectfully)
Interconnects: Monarchy Audio DAB-1 XLR Balanced cables
            Acoustic Revive XLR Balanced cables
Power Cords: Tek Line PC-8 Signature Power Cords (2)
            Mr-Cable Musician Power Cord
            Monarchy Audio AC-1 Power Cord
            Acoustic Revive Power Cords (2)
Cherry Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack

 

Specifications
Type: Vacuum Tube Digital Radio
DAB, DAB+ Receiver Sensitivity: 98dB
FM Receiver Sensitivity: 98dB
Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
Stereo Output Power: 2 x 25W
Speaker Impedance: 8 Ohm
Headphone Output Impedance: 32 to 300 Ohm
Input: DAB, DAB+, FM Stereo RCA Line Input,
Bluetooth, 3.5mm Phone Jack
Line Input Impedance: 47 kOhm
Line Out: 2VRMS (Max)
Input Voltage: AC115V/230V
Tubes: 6N1,12AX7 and 6E2
Weight: 7 kg
Size: 320 x 170 x 165 (WxLxH in mm)
OLED Display: Chinese & English Character
Remote Control
Price: $799

 

Contact Information
Dared
Luen Hing Electrical (HK) Limited
G/F., 152 Apliu Street
Shamshuipo
Kowloon, Hong Kong

Voice: +852 2728 8745
Fax: +852 2729 2962
E-mail: joehant@dared.com.hk
Website : www.dared.com.hk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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