No BS Audiophile
TEMPOTEC SONATA IDSD REVIEW :
TEMPOTEC is an OEM audio company specialize in PC audio wich collaborate in the creation of usb-otg DAC-AMP with other companies since 20 years. They are mostly know as having collaborate with HIDIZ for the creation of DH1000 and Sonata DAC-AMP, but its a little unclear to what extend they manufacture products for this company.
One thing sure, they are the creator of HIDIZ Tempotec IDSD and still sell it under their own brand, so, we can conclude HIDIZ are more conceptor or rebrander than a proper all-in-one company like FIIO or Ibasso for example.
Now, its time to give some credit to this excellent audio company and today I will begin by reviewing a very affordable portable DAC-AMP called Tempotec Sonata IDSD.
At a very competitive 70$ price, the Sonata IDSD is an extremely capable DAC-AMP that use the great ESS sabre ES9018K2M dac in it as well as asynchrous USB mode, 4 oscillator clock and can play 64/128 native DSD music format.
Strangely unknow among audio enthusiast, this portable DAC-AMP offer one of the best price value in term of sound, battery life, construction and power output. Let’s see why in this review.
You can buy this wonderfull DAC AMP at best price directly from Tempotec HERE
INFO & SPECS :
Mobile phones & PC computer supported
DSD 64/128 native & DoP supported
Dual headphone outputs
ASIO USB Asynchronous driver for Windows
Supports PCM decoding: 32Bit、192KHz
Support DSD decoding: DSD 64、128
Stereo resolution: 120dB
Frequency response: 0Hz-50KHz
Output Power: 75mW/32 Ohms
Output Interface: 2×3.5mm
input interface: micro USB，USB(iOS)
System support: Android，iOS, PC, Mac OS
ASIO driver: Windows7/8/10
Exclusive APP: HibyMusic app
Play time: 10 hrs
CONSTRUCTION, DESIGN AND ACCESSORIES :
UNBOXING experience was better than expected, securly packaged in a nice black box but mostly including quite a good amount of accessories. It include all the usb or otg cables you will need as well as 2 rubber band for hooking the IDSD to your phone and a cute carrying pouch.
CONSTRUCTION is all a metal, it have 2 phone output at the top with on/off switch, at the other buttom it have micro usb, usb for iOS and a charging port. At the left side we have 2 volume control button, made of metal too. The IDSD have a reassuring weight but do not feel overly heavy with its 357g. It is quite portable with a dimension of 12cm x 6.6cm x 1.5cm, but even if it will fit in a pocket, i do not consider this DAC-AMP as particularly small.
DESIGN is nothing to wow about, there only the volume control and on/off switch to play with. Volume control buton have a good click to it so you will not change volume by error, but something strange is that you never know volume level because you don’t see it on the screen of your phone or laptop. Personally, I prefer dac-amp that bypass volume of your phone so when you change it you see the level on the screen, but this isn’t a big issue, just a detail.
CONNECTING the IDSD was plug and play with my LG G6 phone and do not drown the phone battery at all. When it come to connect it to my window laptop, I need to install a driver and after this it work like a charm.
BATTERY life is very impressive and sure go up to 10H as stated, I use it everyday for a week without the need of charging it.
DUAL output is sure practical, especially for a reviewer like me that now can compare 2 earphones without having to disconnect reconnect etc. Still, sound quality is inferior due to amping instability and depending the earphones you use, it’s possible you encounter distortion in bass when listening at high volume.
To me, this make this dual phone output unusable.
AMPING power is average, at 75mw for 32ohm it can drive properly (aka at full potential) 64ohm headphones or earbuds as well as any earphones, wich is quite enough for portable audio gear….but i would not even care to use this dac-amp with 300ohm headphones or even 150ohm earbuds, sure, it will drive them but not at there full potential.
I’m already a big fan of the es9018 dac inside the IDSD as I own the Ibasso DX90 and Xduoo X20 that use this decoder. Because of this my expactation was very high toward this dac-amp, I could not accept it sound inferior to my DAP even if both sell above 200$. Fact is : it sound near identical to Xduoo X20 and perhaps even better!
SOUNDSTAGE is average wide but have great deepnest to it due to a pristine clarity.
IMAGING is very accurate, vivid and clear.
BASS have realist timbre and great texture, lower and mid bass are well separated. Some will find the bass slightly dry or tamed when in fact it’s accurate and neutral.
MID RANGE have a very high level of definition, with slightly bright timbre and a linear presentation that do not have any artificial peak to it. It feel analytical due to the very clear presentation that avoid sounding cold with a lively dynamic range. Instrument separation gain in accuracy and attack due to silent background.
TREBLE extend up to 20khz easily, delivering crisp, sparkly highs and plenty of micro details. It perhaps have a little colouration in upper highs but nothing drastic, this give extra brilliance and definition to metallic instrument or percussion.
BASS : 8/10
MID RANGE : 9/10
TREBLE : 9.5/10
TIMBRE : 9/10
SOUNDSTAGE : 8/10
ATTACK-DECAY : 9/10
MUSICALITY : 8.5/10
VS XDUOO XP-2 Bluetooth receiver DAC-AMP (100$) :
Firstly, at 245mw@32ohm for the XP-2 VS only 75mw@32ohm for the IDSD, its clear that the Xduoo win in term of power output and can drive higher impendance earphones and headphones to their full potential. As well, it have a gain switch.
Secondly XP-2 can be use as bluetooth dac-amp as well as standalone portable amplifier, wich the IDSD cannot. Here again, it justify the little price jump but, and this is a big BUT, the dac used with XP-2 is an inferior AKM AK4452 and this is where it became interesting.
The IDSD have a clearer sound with lower harmonic distortion and complete black background noise floor where the XP-2 is more coloured, bassy, warm with less clean background.
SOUNDSTAGE of XP-2 is strangely wider while the IDSD is deeper due to better clarity and imaging.
BASS of IDSD is more balanced with a more detailed timbre and faster presentation compared to a more thick and boomy XP-2 presentation.
MID RANGE is more accurate and detailed with the IDSD, with better clarity and separation but a more intimate presentation than the XP-2 offering wide sounding vocal that can veil other instruments.
TREBLE of IDSD is more refined and extend further delivering micro details effortlessly in a natural way that feel sharp but never agressive. XP-2 have upper treble roll off and an analogish kind of treble, its smooth, thick and slightly grainy.
All in all, XP-2 offer better value as an all-arounder while the IDSD offer better value for sound quality alone.
The Radsone Earstudio ES100 is ultra praised among audiophile for legitimate reasons, it sound fabulous, is quite powerfull for its size, have both balanced and unbalanced output and it score a dual AKM dac inside its small body. At 100$, its the king of convenience as well as value.
If we compare power output of 3.5 phoneout, it is about 50mw against the 75mw of the IDSD, this make the IDSD quite impressive for power ouput and most likely louder too.
Still, the ES100 can be use as bluetooth and USB-OTG dac-amp, and when you use it balanced the output is more powerfull than IDSD.
When it come to sound, even if I was thinking ES100 is unbeatable with its dual AKM dac, I was surprise another time by how accurate and reference sounding was capable the sabre ES9018 dac well implemented into the IDSD. The difference without being night and day is quite evident, ES100 having a thicker weighter bassier sound while IDSD having richer timbre, clearer, more delicate and dynamic presentation.
BASS of ES100 is thicker and more grainy, it feel more elevated and impactfull too, while the IDSD offer a more realist timbre, better separation in lower range and faster attack, having a overall more accurate and less coloured bass presentation.
MID RANGE sound warmer and slightly veiled with the ES100 compared to ultra clear and well separated mids of IDSD. Vocal sound little wider with ES100 but more opaque with softer timbre that tend to stole some definition. IDSD have sharp mid range with excellent imaging, timbre is slightly bright but never sibilant, agressive or artificial sounding. Vocal sound more foward and energic, and instrument have better attack, faster decay, with better grip and dynamic.
TREBLE is more delicate and sparkly with the IDSD, while highs can sound kind of crunchy or dryier with ES100. The ES9018 dac sure extract more micro details and deliver it in a balanced way, as well, level of clarity being higher with IDSD, overall sound is more airy, giving beautifull brilliance to upper treble.
Again, IDSD is unbeatable in term of audiophile level of sound quality.
VS AUDIRECT BEAM :
The BEAM use an entry level sabre ES9118 dac that we can found in hifi phone market. At 49mw@32ohm it is less powerfull than the IDSD.
In term of sound, its even more linear and bass light than the IDSD.
SOUNDSTAGE is more intimate and lack the deepnest of IDSD.
BASS feel rolled off and too dry, definition as well as separation is less accurate than IDSD.
MID RANGE is less detailed, have thinner timbre and more recessed vocal than IDSD, attack is smoother and level of details is inferior.
TREBLE is softer and have a polished approach to texture that make it liquid compared to the livelier, sharper and more extended one of IDSD.
At 100$, the only positive aspect of the BEAM is being ultra small and portable, but in term of sound quality, dynamic and amping, the IDSD feel from another league even if 30$ cheaper.
Let’s be no bs clear here: at the asking price, this DAC-AMP offer phenomenal sound value and should be seen more like a dedicated dac than a powerfull portable amplifier. I really do not suggest this dac-amp for headphones above 32ohm and pesonally only use earphones with it.
The fact it use the high end sabre ES9018 dac and its excellently implemented to take full advantage of its vivid dynamic range and low total harmonic distortion is already incredible. The ES9018 do not sound perfect with every dac-amp or DAP, and to be honnest, i prefer the sound of the IDSD over the 250$ Xduoo X20.
Battery life is another big plus, at 10H, it beat all dac-amp I tested in term of autonomy.
If you do not have enough money to buy a great sounding DAP and search for an alternative to transform your phone or laptop into reference sounding audio system, i can’t recommend enough this obscure DAC-AMP that deliver pristine clarity, vivid and accurate mid range and a very revealing musicality.