Review: Kotori Audio Dauntless – Right the First Time

Kotori Audio designs the Dauntless to render your music with exceptional precision and clarity.
Kotori Audio designs the Dauntless to render your music with exceptional precision and clarity.
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Powered by a single 10mm PU+PEEK composite dynamic driver and tuned for technical listening, the Dauntless render your music with exceptional precision and clarity.

Thank you to Ray Tan from Kotori Audio for providing the Dauntless for review purposes.

Kotori Audio is a relatively new audio company that started with manufacturing IEM cables. I have auditioned a few of their products and I am glad to have them in the market because they genuinely understand what audiophiles want. They are passionate and implement many creative ideas that no other manufacturers dare to try.

The founder of Kotori Audio, Ray Tan, approached me in October with their first pair of IEMs, the Dauntless. I immediately agreed to provide my honest opinion as I am eager to know what the Dauntless can deliver. Let’s reveal their actual color in this article!

Kotori Audio designs the Dauntless to render your music with exceptional precision and clarity.
Bottom Line

Although they are the first pair of IEMs from Kotori Audio, the Dauntless show a high level of maturity in tuning. Using a dynamic driver, they achieve excellent fidelity through tuning techniques, such as sealing the driver vent. The Dauntless may be the best choice for those looking for a pair of sub-USD$100 IEMs with a bright sound signature and excellent clarity.

What We Like
  • Excellent midrange clarity and transparency
  • Precise bass
  • Well-extended and clean treble
  • Comfortable fit with great isolation
  • Affordable price
What We Don't Like
  • Insufficient depth in the soundstage
  • Lack of sub-bass rumble

Company Introduction

Kotori Audio is a Singapore-based company founded by Ray Tan, an audiophile and audio hobbyist. Ray can relate to the typical audiophile journey: trying out different products, buying some, regretting a few of them, and accidentally destroying a couple along the way.

Looking at the audio industry over the years, Ray feels that many manufacturers are churning out “new” products simply for business gain and profit, without considering the user’s needs and wants. With all his experience as a consumer, audiophile, and hobbyist, he founded Kotori Audio to offer products and services that minimize the unpleasant feelings that the current market can create with consumers.

“Here at Kotori audio, we create products for a purpose – to share the joy of the hobby with others.” – Kotori Audio

Technical Specifications

  • Form: IEMs
  • Drivers: 1 x 10mm dynamic driver with PU+PEEK Composite Membrane (made in Japan)
  • Impedance (Ohm): 12.2Ω @1kHz 100dB
  • Sensitivity (dB): Not stated
  • Frequency Response (Hz): 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Removable Cable: Y
  • Source Jack: 3.5mm
  • Cup/Shell Jack: 0.78mm 2-pin

Packaging

I received a pre-release version of the Dauntless, with no outer sleeve. However, I did receive the inner box and complete accessories. The retail version will have a white sleeve covering the inner box.

The unboxing experience is relatively straightforward – the Dauntless ships in a black box with a shiny logo. The IEMs are well-protected within the carry case in the box.

In the box

  • Dauntless IEMs
  • Carry case
  • 3 x silicone ear tips (S, M, and L)
  • 1 x Ultra-Flexible Cable (3.5mm/ 0.78mm 2-Pin)
  • 1 x Carabiner hook
The Dauntless ships in a black box with a shiny logo.
The Dauntless ships in a black box with a shiny logo.

Cable

According to Kotori Audio, the stock cable is named “Ultra-Flexible Cable”. I can confirm that it is supple and does not create significant microphonics when moved around. The only con I can think of is that this white cable may eventually turn yellowish when the outer sleeve gets dirty. Otherwise, the cable is perfect for daily usage.

The stock cable is supple and neatly braided.
The stock cable is supple and neatly braided.

Design

The Dauntless have a semi-custom 3D printed shell using industrial hard-tough resin. The body is then coated with skin-safe lacquer, which gives it a shiny piano-like finish. The overall physical appearance is modern and classy, especially with the silver Kotori Audio logo.

The nozzle is averagely long and wide, making it easy for users to source ear tips. The lip on the nozzle could be deeper to better secure the ear tips. I occasionally lose a tip when I remove the IEMs from my ears.

The Dauntless provide excellent isolation and I can happily use them on noisy public transport and most external noises are blocked. Besides splendid isolation, the Dauntless also provide a comfortable fit. Some semi-custom IEMs have extreme insertion, which irritates my ears. I am glad to report that Dauntless do not!

The Dauntless shell is coated with skin-safe lacquer, which gives them a shiny piano-finish.
The Dauntless shell is coated with skin-safe lacquer, which gives them a shiny piano-finish.
There is a lip on the nozzle to secure the ear tips, but I feel the lip can be deepened to catch the ear tips better.
There is a lip on the nozzle to secure the ear tips, but I feel the lip can be deepened to catch the ear tips better.
Dauntless utilizes 0.78mm 2-pin connectors, which make cable-rolling easy!
Dauntless utilizes 0.78mm 2-pin connectors, which make cable-rolling easy!

Internals

The Dauntless are powered by a Japanese-made 10mm dynamic driver with a combination polyurethane (PU) and polyetheretherketone (PEEK) composite membrane. The configuration is simple to design, but the sonic quality does rely heavily on the manufacturers’ tuning.

Dauntless Sound

The Dauntless sound signature is towards the brighter side, emphasizing the midrange and treble. They remind me of the Campfire Audio Orion, which I like a lot. There are a lot of details delivered by Dauntless, and every piece is handled decently.

The Dauntless are a good candidate for entry-level audiophiles looking for a pair of affordable IEMs with clarity.

The soundstage is wide but with average depth due to the lack of extension in the sub-bass. The headroom is more towards planar (two-dimensional) rather than three-dimensional.

The Dauntless sound signature is towards the brighter side, emphasizing midrange and treble.
The Dauntless sound signature is towards the brighter side, emphasizing midrange and treble.

Bass

The bass is fast, unlike typical dynamic driver-powered IEMs, which often have slower attack and decay responses. The quick and lean bass makes the Dauntless sound bright and transparent. They do not have much sub-bass extension to create headroom depth, but you can still feel their presence.

According to Ray, to achieve the fast response speed using a dynamic driver, they sacrificed including a vent on the shell intended to mitigate driver flex. The driver’s response is more immediate by sealing the shell and suffocating the dynamic driver, but bass extension and volume are sacrificed. This tweak is the reason why the Dauntless bass is lean and fast.

To achieve the fast response speed in a dynamic driver, Kotori Audio sacrificed the vent on the shell.
To achieve the fast response speed in a dynamic driver, Kotori Audio sacrificed the vent on the shell.

Midrange

Thanks to the bass precision, the Dauntless transparently present the midrange. There is no coloration due to bass bleed. The midrange position is slightly forward on the stage, but it is not shouty. The timbre of Dauntless in the mid-frequency is accurate too.

The upper midrange is spacious and airy. Despite having more emphasis, the midrange is still comfortable to listen to without fatigue. The presentation is smooth and soft when listening to female vocals. It has good penetration and tickles the eardrums.

I auditioned Adele’s latest album, 30 with the Dauntless. The vocals are presented with a spacious body and preserve sufficient air. The fidelity is outstanding!

The Dauntless present midrange transparently, thanks to the bass precision.
The Dauntless present midrange transparently, thanks to the bass precision.

Treble

Despite having more upper-frequency focus, the treble is well-handled. I did not experience fatigue from piercing treble or sibilance. This tuning makes the Dauntless a pair of unique IEMs – more like all-rounder single BA IEMs with better detail retrieval capability than typical single dynamic driver IEMs.

There is sufficient space and air in the treble to avoid it becoming too “stiff”. The spacious soundstage allows the treble to flow smoothly and comfortably. The treble of the Dauntless has a controlled decay and does not get distorted when reproducing very high frequencies.

The Dauntless have better detail retrieval capability than typical single dynamic driver IEMs.
The Dauntless have better detail retrieval capability than typical single dynamic driver IEMs.

Where to Buy

Conclusion

Although they are the first pair of IEMs from Kotori Audio, the Dauntless show a high level of maturity in tuning. Using a dynamic driver, they achieve excellent fidelity through tuning techniques, such as sealing the driver vent. The Dauntless may be the best choice for those looking for a pair of sub-USD$100 IEMs with a bright sound signature and excellent clarity.

For those who are considering gaining some experience before entering the high-end portable audio market, I strongly encourage you to try the Dauntless. They are a great low-cost introduction to how high-end IEMs sound!

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