Kotori Audio Dauntless Review: Tight and Bright

  • Tight, clean textured lows
  • Very comfortable shells
  • Great technicalities

  • Highs can get too intense sometimes

Kotori Audio is a company from Singapore that produces cables for in-ear monitors. Recently, they decided to create their own IEM, hence, the Dauntless is born. As of writing this review, the Dauntless is up in Kickstarter, where you can get it for an early bird price of just 44 USD, while stocks last. After the crowdfunding campaign, it will go back to its regular retail price of 69 USD. The Dauntless was provided to me for free by Kotori Audio in exchange for this review.

Driver unit: 10 mm dynamic, PU (polyurethane) + PEEK (polyetheretherketone) composite membrane
Impedance: 12.2 ohms
Sensitivity: not specified
Frequency response range: 20 Hz - 20 kHz

Poco X3 paired with FiiO KA3, iBasso DC03, Shanling UA1, Tempotec Sonata E35 and Zishan U1

Test tracks:
Africano - Earth Wind and Fire
Dark Necessities - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Gurenge - Lisa
The Chain - Fleetwood Mac
Monsters - All Time Low
Ours - Taylor Swift
Stay - Mayday Parade
Snuff - Slipknot
Yesterday Once More - Carpenters
So Slow - Freestyle
Aurora Sunrise - Franco
Attention - Pentatonix
Blue Bird - Ikimono-gakari
You're Still The One - Shania Twain
Anyone Who Knows What Love Is(Will Understand) - Irma Thomas
Salamin - Slapshock
AOV - Slipknot
Hey Jude - The Beatles
The Way You Make Me Feel - Michael Jackson
...and a lot more.

Unboxing and Accessories:
The Dauntless comes in a small black and white sleeved box. Removing the sleeve and the top lid will reveal the fabric carrying case with a rather large logo of Kotori Audio at the top containing the earphones with the cables already attached. The cable has a velcro strap and a plastic cap for the plug. Underneath is the instruction manual and right next to the case is a smaller box that contains a carabiner and two sets of silicone eartips in small, medium and large sizes.
The shells are made of 3D-printed resin with a smooth, glossy finish. The faceplate is decorated with the Kotori Audio logo in silver color. Kotori Audio also decided to not put a vent in the shell. The shells are also smaller than average, so it should be comfortable even for those with small ears. The nozzles have a lip that helps eartips stay in place, and equipped with a fine metal mesh.
The cable is a basic twisted 4-core silver plated copper. This is your typical cable commonly included in custom in-ear monitors. It is thin and very flexible but some minor microphonics can be heard. The male 0.78 mm 2 pin connectors, splitter, chin slider, and L-type 3.5 mm gold plated plug are all made of hard rubber.
Now let's get to the sound.

The lows are clean and rolls off early. Subbass has minimal presence. The depth is slightly below average accompanied by a tight, quick decay. Midbass is slightly more upfront. Its weight is slightly below average as well and sounds more like a "thud" than a "thump".

Overall, the lows of the Dauntless reminds me of a balanced armature driver. For the most part, the lows have sufficient substance but can feel lacking sometimes especially in tracks where you expect the bass to takeover.

The mids are slightly forward. Lower mids have an average weight but there is a bump in the upper mids that boosts female vocals and gives it extra shimmer. This also results in a slight hint of shoutiness when female singers hit some high notes. Percussion and string instruments sound open, airy, and has good definition.

Overall, the Dauntless has that midrange that is focused on clarity but does not lack body at all. Shoutiness can rarely be perceived but it is otherwise negligible in most tracks.

The highs have a very significant elevation. Treble reach is great for a dynamic driver, along with an above average level of decay. Lower treble is boosted but well-controlled so sibilance is never an issue, but the upper treble can sometimes get out of hand causing instruments like lead guitars to get a little too  aggressive on some tracks.

Overall, this is the most dominant part in the Dauntless' sound. There is a good amount of air here but it does get a little too much sometimes and might cause fatigue over long periods of listening.

Soundstage and Imaging:
The stage of the Dauntless has an average expansion. The width and the height expands equally. Imaging is slightly above average with each note having good resolution. The layering and instrument separation is also slightly above average and congestion is minimal even in tracks with multiple instruments playing at the same time.

Kotori Audio Dauntless (1 DD, 69 USD) vs. TinHiFi T3 Plus (1 DD, 69 USD)
The T3 Plus has a tad more quantity in the lows. The T3 Plus is able go deeper and with a slightly stronger rumble. Length of decay is just about the same. The midbass of the T3 Plus has more powerful slam and is also more loose. The Dauntless has slightly thinner mids in both the lower and upper section, also the level of clarity is slightly better in the Dauntless. The mids are also a bit more forward. The T3 Plus on the other hand, has more substance and body in the mids and yet the difference in the transparency is very minimal. In the highs, it is evident that the Dauntless has more bite, better reach, and longer decay. Cymbals has more presence and sound more defined in the Dauntless. With the soundstage, they have about the same size in the width but the T3 Plus has more height and the difference is very noticeable. Imaging is almost identical but the T3 Plus has very small edge in the separation of instruments.

Cold or bright sounding gears are a bit rare especially in the budget range, and it's good to see them slowly growing in population. The word "dauntless" means showing fearlessness and determination, and Kotori Audio was able to show that characteristic by giving this in-ear monitor a somewhat uncommon tuning. A slight reduction in the treble could improve the Dauntless in terms of comfortability, but nonetheless, the Dauntless is a good choice for those who are looking for an analytical sounding gear.

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