Tempotec Sonata HD/Pro English Review

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Past and Present

Ratings Sonata HD

Ratings Sonata HD Pro

Pros Sonata HD

  • Remarkable sound for its Price.
  • Size.
  • Price.
  • Quality of construction.
  • Possibility of installing different firmwares, depending on the use.
  • It does not heat up.
  • Very low output impedance.
  • ASIO drivers.

Cons Sonata HD

  • Only has USB Type C connector.
  • On the PC, the volume jumps are big.
  • On the PC, the operation is a little more rough, compared to the HD Pro version.
  • It does not decode DSD.
  • Not compatible with iPhone.

 

Pros Sonata HD Pro

  • Excellent sound/price ratio.
  • Power.
  • Very low output impedance.
  • Remarkable neutrality with headphones connected.
  • Reduced size, possibility of different uses depending only on cables.
  • Solid construction.
  • Volume buttons: the device memorizes the last volume set.
  • Turns off when no headphones are connected.
  • Low consumption.
  • Smoother operation than its predecessor.
  • Does not heat up.
  • Native DSD file decoding.
  • Compatible with iPhone/iPad/Android/PC.
  • ASIO Drivers.

Cons Sonata HD Pro

  • The volume jumps could be smaller.
  • The automatic gain setting may not be suitable for low-sensitivity, high-impedance headphones.

 

Purchase Link

Sonata HD

AliExpress

Amazon

Sonata HD Pro

https://es.aliexpress.com/item/4000328408705.html

Link to the Store

https://es.aliexpress.com/store/4377041

Introduction

Lately, USB Dongles are having quite a bit of acceptance among portable audio fans. Sometimes, to improve the sound of our mobiles, gaining more power, or to be used in portable or desktop PCs, even in tablets. In this occasion, I’m going to review two products of the already, classic, Tempotec brand, which have such good products in their catalogue, like the DAC Serenade iDSD, the DAP Variations V1-A and the DAC/APM Sonata iDSD Plus. This is the Sonata HD and its improved and more current version Sonata HD Pro. The Sonata HD is a classic dongle, consisting of a USB Type C connector + cable + 3.5mm headphone output, all assembled, with no possibility of being split. As a DAC it uses the CS42L42 chip and its maximum resolution reaches 192 kHz, with no possibility of DSD playback. However, the newest model, the PRO version, mounts the CS43131 chip. It is a small aluminium box, which, on one side has a micro-USB connector and on the other, the 3.5mm headphone output. It also has integrated volume keys. Using the different cables, which come with the product, it can be used, both for PC, Android or Apple mobiles. Of course, it already has the ability to play DSD natively, up to DSD256 and a resolution of 32bits/384 kHz. Throughout the review, I will delve into the rest of the issues, besides, of course, talking about the sound of both devices.

Specifications

Packaging, Content, Construction and Design

Sonata HD

The dongle comes in a small black cardboard box, size 94x66x21mm. On the upper side, in silver letters, it only appears, the brand, above and the model, below. On the back side there is more information, in particular the company’s address and similar data. The box is sealed at both openings by two transparent stickers. Once the packaging has been removed, a metal box with the model name and brand logo appears on its lid. After opening it, you can see the dongle, inserted in a foam mold, a USB adapter and a Hi-Res AUDIO sticker. The device has a total length of 110mm. On the USB connector, the brand name appears in white letters and, on the cylinder, where the audio output is located, the model name. The female connector is gold, 3.5mm. The covers of both connectors are metallic, black. The cable is composed of a four-wire braid, whose flexibility is very adequate. A USB female C-type to USB male A-type adapter for connecting the dongle to the PC is included in the package. The construction is solid, looks durable, the connectors have quality finishes and the cable looks well protected on both connections. I just think the cable could be a bit thicker, as it seems to be the current trend.

Sonata HD Pro

The Pro version, comes in a very similar box, but with a larger size, specifically 120x89x26mm. The screen printing on the box is in a more intense black. On the upper side, the model and the brand logo are shown. On the back, the brand, model, brand information and a bar code, in white. The box is also sealed with two circular and transparent stickers. Inside, there is a metal box with the model name and brand logo in black letters. On this occasion, the packaging is somewhat more complex. After lifting the lid, you can see a black cardboard, just like the packaging. Attached to it, on its back, is a black foam. Once removed, you can see the dongle, a female USB adapter type C to USB male type A and another adapter, with cable, micro USB male type B to type C male. This cable is very similar to the Sonata HD, with metal connectors and, this time, with a thicker cable, also with 4 strands. Its total size is 95mm. In the unit supplied for this review, the cable for Apple devices did not come.

The dongle is all metal and black. On its upper side, at the bottom, you can read the mark, in white letters. In the middle, there are the plus and minus buttons, they are made of semi-translucent plastic, red in color, but they do not light up. On the back, at the bottom, it is written «DSD» in white letters. The micro USB type B female connector is on the lower side, while the 3.5mm headphone output is on the upper side. The dimensions of the dongle are 48x17x8.5mm. The construction is simple and correct. It consists of two parts: a rectangular parallelepiped, whose edges are bevelled, and a cover, located on the back side. The set is solid, light and very practical.

Connectivity

Sonata HD

Connectivity is only with an Android phone or PC. Depending on the use you want to give this model, when connected to the mobile, you can use a firmware or other. Instructions for upgrading the firmware can be found here:

http://www.tempotec.com.cn/en/2-Product/Sonata/SonataHD/firmware.htm

The three types of firmware are:

Version A: Call Priority

Playback 16 / 24bit 48khz;

Both music and calls are played by the Sonata HD Please note that a headset with a microphone can be connected to the device.

Version C: Sound Quality Priority

Playback 16 / 24bit 44.1 48 88.2 96 176.4 192khz

It plays music and calls.

Version D: Pure sound

Playback 16 / 24bit 44.1 48 88.2 96 176.4 192khz

In this mode, the device can only be used for music.

For the next revision, version D has been used.

For connection to the PC, the ASIO drivers must be used, which can be downloaded from the following address:

http://www.tempotec.com.cn/download/SONATA_HD_DRIVER.zip

The current version is V3.3.136.1

After the installation of these drivers, the PC recognizes the device without problems and can be used with the Foobar2000.

Sonata HD Pro

The Pro version does not have different firmwares as the old version and can only be used for music, once it is connected to the mobile, as it is not compatible with the microphone. The driver used for PC, is the same as for the non-Pro version. However, it is worth mentioning that this version reaches a resolution of 32bits/384 kHz.

Both devices can be used, without problems, with the Tempotec V1/ V1-A DAP.

Measures

Tempotec Sonata HD

No-Load              1.004V

32Ω                       0.996V                  31mW

100Ω                     1.001V                  10.02mW

320Ω                     1.111V                  3.86mW

From these measurements, it can be extracted, which has a power of 31mW to 32Ω and an output impedance lower than 1Ω.

The frequency response is completely flat, from 20Hz to 20kHz.

 

Tempotec Sonata HD Pro

No-Load              2.01V

32Ω                       1.853V                  110mW

100Ω                     1.992V                  39.68mW

240Ω                     2.00V                    11.76mW

320Ω                     2.00V                    12.5mW

620Ω                     2.00V                    6.45mW

 

The power of the Pro version is higher and its output impedance is still lower than 1Ω.

The frequency response is completely flat, from 10Hz to 40kHz.

A special feature of the Pro version is that it adapts the voltage to the output impedance. It is clear that with low impedances, for example, from 16Ω, the volume is much lower. In addition, the dongle does not work if there is no jack inserted in its audio output. This way, it neither consumes battery power nor is recognized by the PC as a USB device. Once a headphone is connected, it works. In case you want to get the 2V, for headphones lower than 100Ω, my advice is to connect first, a 3.5mm male to 3.5mm female cable. This way, the dongle is activated by having a plug connected and, in addition, when detecting a high impedance, it will be configured in high gain mode. Then, any earphone can be connected and we will always have the maximum power.

The volume, can be configured from the dongle and from the mobile or PC. It is important to point out that the dongle remembers the internal volume, which must be taken into account in order not to damage the headphones when starting the reproduction, in case it is configured to the maximum.

 

Sound

The sound of both devices has a fairly similar profile, where the treble has a more crisp and bright tendency than the other ranges. Both the high mids and the high zone are more easily distinguished than the rest of the frequencies, standing out for that greater sparkle.

Tempotec Sonata HD

The HD version, has a harder and less dynamic sound, offering more tightness, but also a more vivid sound and something more out of control. The lower zone is powerful, follows the line of explicit and direct sound, but has a point of color, is not too deep and does not extend abyssally. The definition is quite acceptable, but it is not a soft low zone, but rather a cheerful and marked one, following the sound that characterizes this dongle. The voices move away from the abrupt profile of the low zone and offer the most pleasant version of the whole frequency range. Its projection is moderately high and it enjoys a good situation, within the scene. The instrumentation takes advantage of the immediacy and vividness of the sound, something that can be appreciated in fast and not too dense genres. But when the passages are more descriptive and full, you can appreciate that lack of dynamics and smoothness, bringing out that more direct and raw sound.

The high zone is the paradigm of the HD Sonata sound. Starting with the high mid-range, it is the point on which the sound revolves, showing that immediacy, brilliance, emphasis, sparkle, clarity and strength. This very explicit sound also has an influence on the production of a good dose of fun. Although, also, it causes the appearance, something earlier, of fatigue, due to the force of its so direct sound.

The scene is not very wide, nor does it enjoy great depth. But, really, they offer a much better recreation than DAPS of equal, even superior, price. The same goes for their level of detail: it’s simply good, based on a remarkable clarity and pleasant feeling of separation, but without too many nuances, offering a fairly clean and compact sound.

Tempotec Sonata HD Pro

The HD Pro version offers a softer sound, but with more power and depth. The profile is very similar in both dongles, but the quality is revealed in the best technicalities and resolution capacity that this new Pro version has. From the base, the sound is not so direct, its edges are smoother, there is more space, silence and refinement in the reproduction. The notes are played much more quietly, aware that they have a wider range and greater depth, so that they can be extended. The Pro version, still retains a good spoonful of immediacy, freshness and punch, but its sound is more dynamic and mature, embracing more space and reaching more remote confines and tiny nuances.

The lower zone is deeper and more spacious than its predecessor, managing to extend into the sub-bass zone, in a more natural and realistic way, forming sound planes in a more orderly and coherent way, without suffering from colouring in the mid-bass. The definition and the descriptive capacity, in the low zone, also feels increased, more mature and relaxed, with greater resolution and air.

The mid zone continues to present that colder aspect, with greater emphasis on the upper mids, which gives it greater clarity, but which, in turn, presents less warmth and a midrange with less body and density. The feeling of tension is no longer as high as in the old model, but the sound is still vivid and energetic in this section. The analysis capacity is improved and the sensation of dynamics is appreciated at first sight. But the perception of a faint thinness in the voices and instruments still lingers.

Another step forward, compared to the HD version, is the treatment of the high zone: the higher resolution and dynamics, produces more effective, refined, defined and less abrupt trebles, more adapted to a harmonious and higher quality sound, showing off the «Pro» surname. In this sense, the HD Pro dongle proves to be much more reliable with the sound capabilities of each earphone, respecting its profile, based on the neutrality of the amplifier and its very low output impedance.

In the same way, the ability to recreate the scene is closely linked to the virtues of each headphone, without minimizing its qualities, managing to offer a remarkably open sound for a device of its price. The level of separation, amount of detail and richness of nuance is surprising and scales the better the headphone is connected.

Conclusion

From Sonata HD to Sonata HD Pro, there is a two-year difference and a fully justified price increase. With the arrival of the «big brother», the HD version becomes a very desirable occasion to get an economical dongle, which improves the sound offered by low-end mobiles, even medium, providing up to 1V output. Moreover, it will be the ideal complement for PCs, laptops, etc., as an enhancement of the typical sound card. For its affordable price and good sound, the Sonata HD, becomes a very desirable device for any fan.

The Pro version, with its DAC CS43131, widely used in this type of devices, has undoubted specifications, in addition to 2V output, automatic gain control, depending on the connected load and integrated volume control. All this contributes to a minimum energy consumption. In addition, its automatic shutdown in the absence of connector, minimizes the waste of mobile battery. If you add to this a simple design, but very suitable and light, in addition to an excellent sound for its price, the Pro version becomes an interesting option, to buy, almost forced, for all those who look for a device like this, at the best price.

Headphones Used During Analysis

  • Ikko OH10
  • Soundmagic HP150
  • Dunu DM-480
  • NS Audio NS5 MKII Extra Bass
  • Magaosi V3
  • Shozy Neo BG
  • OurArt QJ21
  • Smabat M1
  • BGVP ArtMagic DH3
  • TFZ My Love III