MQA DAC/AMP review: TempoTec Sonata MHD
TempoTec has once again delighted fans with the release portable amplifier with a DAC. TempoTec Sonata MHD is based on the popular ES9281 chip, supports 8x MQA, DSD128 decoding and high resolution PCM (32-bit/384 kHz). This time, the manufacturer decided to avoid experiments and left the usual 3.5 mm jack. The power is not much, but it is enough to rock the common and popular IEM earphones (70mW @ 32Ω).
- DAC: ES9281 Saber DAC
- Output power: 70mW into 32ohms
- Resolution: PCM: 384 kHz/32 bit, DSD: DSD 128
- DSD support: yes
- MQA support: yes, 8X
- Volume control: built-in / device independent (30 steps)
- RGB indication
- Body: aluminum
- OS Support: iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS, Linux
- Output: 3.5mm
- Input: USB Type-C / Lightning
- THD + N: -112dB
- SNR: 128dB
TempoTec Sonata MHD comes in a small cardboard box. Noteworthy is the rather nice white cover with double application. On the back manufacturer’s contact information (link to the official website, Email). Under the cover was a black dense box with a magnetic fastener. However, everything is the same as in previous versions of portable DACs from TempoTec.
Inside, unchanged, TempoTec Sonata MHD and an adapter from Type-C to USB-A.
In the box:
- TempoTec Sonata MHD USB DAC.
- Adapter for connecting to PC and laptop (Type-C – USB).
- Hi-Res Audio sticker.
- A damp cloth.
- Business card.
The Lightning adapter for Apple devices not be included, the manufacturer sent it to us for review separately.
The body of TempoTec Sonata MHD has become slightly smaller relative to the Sonata E44, the volume control buttons have moved to the left. The central metal block is made from a single piece of aluminum. Instead of two plastic inserts, only one remains, on the back a flat metal surface.
Now two separate metal buttons (30 steps of adjustment) are responsible for adjusting the volume. The buttons fit well, they practically do not dangle. Weight: 13 grams.
The MQA icons at the top are backlit:
- red: no playback
- violet: MQA format
- green: 88.2 – 192 KHZ (PCM), DSD 64
- pale green: 352.8 – 384 KHZ (PCM), DSD 128
- blue: 32-48 KHZ (PCM)
The cable still raises concerns, but this time the twist is more rigid. Wire length from central unit to Type-C: 4.5cm, from central unit to 3.5mm jack: 4 centimeters. There is also additional cable protection at the connection points to the body.
On one side there a massive hexagonal block with a headphone output (3.5 mm). On the other end is USB Type-C. The DAC is recognized by the operating system even when the headphones are disconnected.
We have tested compatibility with earlier versions of Windows. 7 and 8 Windows device was not found (in the Windows device manager an unidentified device “TT USB Audio”). On the Windows 10, everything is fine – we plugged it in and use it right away. You can set the maximum declared resolution for PCM (32 bit / 384).
We would like to note the absence of interference and noise, as well as various dumps and other unpleasant surprises. The sound is very collected and accurate, the E44 sounded differently, slightly emphasizing the low-frequency range and brightening the mids. In this case, the pitch is more balanced and smooth.
TempoTec Sonata MHD is a magical detailing and elaboration of small nuances. We did not observe the skew in this or that part of the range, with really smooth headphones we get smooth and pleasant sound. The scene is open and believable, with a good elaboration in depth.
Inside the TempoTec Sonata MHD is an ES9281 chip with a built-in amplifier. The filling of the device supports 8x decoding MQA and DSD 128. Sonata MHD does not have any additional functions. We managed to achieve the maximum sound quality in tandem with the Hiby Music app by activating the option of exclusive access to HQ sound via USB (bypassing the mixer of the Android).
The physical volume buttons work in both Android and Windows 10. We didn’t have any problems with the volume, however, there may be problems when paired with tight and demanding planar headphone models.
The Tempotec Sonata MHD is currently priced at $89.99, which looks very attractive considering the Sabre DAC and 8x MQA decoding. Yes, it has slightly less power than the E44, but it has its own sound signature and MQA support. If you’re not going to use demanding planar headphones with Sonata MHD and you need MCA support, feel free to choose Sonata MHD. For example, we tested the TempoTec Sonata MHD along with the full-size Meze 99 Classics, and the device delivered more than enough power. Another decent portable DAC from TempoTec that certainly deserves attention. Great device.
And finally, a nice bonus, now when you buy Sonata MHD you can get an MQA subscription voucher, just ask the seller about it.
Buy TempoTec Sonata MHD on the official website.