TempoTec Sonata HD Pro: A True Miracle in a Dongle!
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*TempoTec Official Store at Aliexpress send us the review unit of TempoTec Sonata HD Pro, the review need not send back to them, however, the review will be done in a pure unbiased and honest manner.
TempoTec is quite new to me, but I can often hear their brand being mentioned in audiophiles forum and Facebook group, out of curiosity I really wish to see how they performed, especially after I read the Audioscience Review on the Hidizs S8 (which basically is a rebadge/OEM version of the Sonata HD Pro, the measurement part is performed exceptionally well, let it be as a dongle or as a full-sized DAC, the measurement is really amazing from Audioscience Review, even better than a lot of full-sized DAC that sell much more expensive and way bigger in size before I forget to tell you, this tiny DAC dongle cost only 45USD!
I have been told that even the brand is quite new, but the team is building a group of audiophiles that are multinational, from China, Korea, Taiwan, and Germany, thus we can easily see that their products easily become audiophiles’ favorite, especially the Sonata HD Pro and the V1A (DAP), from audiophiles to audiophiles, they are not just bunch of Engineer Nerd, they are audiophiles experts that have 20 years of experience, at least this is what they told me.
TempoTec Sonata HD Pro (45USD)
Sonata HD Pro is a DAC dongle that you can use on PC, Android and Apple smartphones, necessarily adapter is including in the packaging. It works without driver for PC, but if you want it to decode DSD for example, you can download the driver from their TempoTec official website, for Android and IOS smartphones, it is just plugged and play. I am surprised with the form factor when I first held it, it is super small and really tiny in size, much smaller than what I expected from the pictures I see.
The construction is rather simple too, it is connected by a micro USB cable (type C to Micro USB OTG cable, lightning to Micro USB and a USB to Micro USB (Female) is included). You can easily spot a volume controller on the body, which of course lets you control the volume level, the volume control button is not lit though, the feedback is okay. For the selling price of just 45USD, I actually think the build quality and finishing have nothing to complain about, the metal casing feels reasonably solid and the button has a good tactile feeling (although nothing to shout about). The outlook is clean looking, even the included accessories are all quite well made and I can see some cable company will sell you the same cable but way more expensive than 45USD.
For Android phone, it is as simple as plug and play, I believe it is the same for Apple IOS but I have not tested one yet. For PC, you can plug and play without installing anything too, but to fully decode the high-resolution files (such as DSD) or with ASIO, obviously, you will need to install the driver, the driver is the same as the regular Sonata HD (non-pro version), you just need to install it from the TempoTec official website, installing the driver is a breeze.
I have tested the TempoTec Sonata HD Pro with my Huawei Mate 20 (streaming Tidal Master and Spotify Premium), the majority of the listening was done with PC through Foobar2K with ASIO, high resolution and lossless music were played including DSD files. Headphones being used are Philips X2HR and Sennheiser HD600, KZ Acoustics AS10 and Venture Electronic Monk Plus. Occasionally connected to M2Tech Marley II and Teac HA501.
From the moment I start listening to the Sonata HD Pro, I instantly know that I love it.
The transparency is top-notch, really, regardless of price. I simply love how transparent it is, and how speedy it is, which decay nicely, the timing of the music is precise and super-fast, this is characteristic of high-end DAC, but we are seeing it now in a 45 USD DAC! What a surprise? I have never felt anything is slow with the Sonata HD Pro, not only it is lightning fast but it also delivered timely and precisely, I am not trying to exaggerate anything but the Sonata HD Pro is really good and capable of delivering what a high-end DAC was delivering.
Another thing that I love about the Sonata HD Pro is the bass impact and energy. Make no mistake, the bass is not boosted, but it is the ‘quality’ that really shines, with powerful impact and depth, playing ‘The Hit, Patriot Games – James Horner’, the depth and impact of the bass is really surprisingly good, the bass decay with great speed and it is a very clean presentation here. The bass definitely has a good punch here. The thing is, you are wrong if you think that it is a thick and warm sounding DAC with excellent dynamic range, Sonata HD Pro is relatively neutral and balanced, not being thin nor thick, it is full sounding but never thick and shabby, now if you tell me this thing is tuned by real and experienced audiophiles I believe it.
If I have to complain about the sound quality, I believe it is in the midrange. The midrange is a little rush at the time, notice that I use ‘rush’ instead of ‘harsh’ because it is not harsh sounding in any mean, it is just a little harsh (a little near) to your ears, the good thing is it still has adequate space for every instrument and vocal to breath, so not really a big problem, when I connected it to my M2Tech Marley II (2200 USD) I can see good improvement here, but in my honest opinion that is a way more expensive headphone amplifier, so what Sonata HD Pro achieved here is already quite remarkable, I have actually heard a very positive improvement in this regards after 48 hours of burning in, so this never really bothering me. Looking from the big picture, the midrange is flat, clean, nuanced and detailed, listening to audiophile-grade of vocal recording and you will be kindly rewarded.
Treble is not harsh nor bright, but you have a good ‘air’ going on, don’t get me wrong, treble is not recessed, it is still there but never disturbing you, it presents naturally as music and I don’t get any sibilant in the vocal and there is no hard edge to the sound, it is a very good presentation here, very well detailed and airy.
The background is dark, and the soundstage has a very good shape but not as wide and extensive as the very best, I don’t feel that it is small in any mean, but it is not what I will describe as ‘super-wide’ or ‘boundaryless’, in fact it has good shape and Sonata HD Pro defines the shape expertly while having a remarkable imaging capability. I can tell where the instrument is, the timbre of the instrument is believable as well, heck, I really enjoy listening to the Sonata HD Pro!
The volume control step is too little, the step is too big and not refined enough, difficult to get a precise volume level as I would like to. Other than this, it is hard not to like about it.
I really love the Sonata Pro HD, not only because of the price, but also the form factor, usability, simplicity, and SOUND QUALITY! With the Sonata HD Pro, I have never found me needing to go for my bigger system to get sound quality, the sound quality is insanely good and I have yet to find any shortcoming in sound quality, I am not saying it is better than the high-end product, but personally, I think that it is as good as the Chord Mojo and JDS Labs Element if not better, I can’t believe this as well but the way it makes music sound is really staying true to the record and maintain all the technicality pretty well if something powered by USB can be this good, why should we go for something bigger, more complex and expensive? I am not going to hype about it, but it is really good, it is just 45USD, miracle, man, a real miracle!