TempoTec continues to develop its line of portable DAC/amplifiers. The new TempoTec Sonata E44 is built on a dual CS43131 chip. Implemented a balanced output of 4.4mm (Pentaconn), and the built-in amplifier is capable warm up almost any IEM in-ear plugs.
The TempoTec Sonata E44 is the third incarnation of the BHD model. The first version was released with 120mW of power and had a balanced 2.5mm output. The second generation was called Sonata E35, with a regular unbalanced 3.5mm output and 80mW of power. Today, we will talk about the latest solution, which took into account all the advantages and disadvantages of each of the previous versions. Well, the result was just amazing.
The TempoTec Sonata E44 comes in a small cardboard box. As we can see, TempoTec decided to keep the design of the previous version Sonata E35. On the back of the package is the official website of the company, where you can download drivers for older operating systems and ASIO support.
Inside we found two films for the front and back side of the device, wipes for cleaning the device surface, a small sticker with the Hi-Res Audio certification logo, a Type C to standard USB adapter to connect to a computer or, for example, to a TV box, and another small adapter with 4.4 balanced plug to 3.5mm unbalanced output. The cable here is very flexible, with anti-fracture protection, and the plugs themselves are made of metal and have gold-plated contacts.
The most relevant connector for today is a 4.4 mm balanced pentacon. However, just not many users today have headphones with the 4.4мм cable. Therefore, a second link of this chain was added to the kit. An adapter from balance to unbalance is a really useful and necessary gift from the manufacturer. For the first time, you will be able to use TempoTec Sonata E44 with your standard 3.5-jack headphones, but we recommend that you definitely buy a Pentacon 4.4mm cable for your favorite headphones in the future.
Let’s talk about design and build quality. In the center is a metal block with volume buttons. There are plastic inserts on both sides; they are initially protected by a shipping film. The frame is made of regular aluminum. By design, this is a complete copy of the previous model E35, the body remains the same. Dimensions: 185mm*21mm*7mm, weight: 19 grams.
The volume is controlled by a solid metal button (32 steps). The button block does not dangle, it has a pleasant soft click. It is worth noting that the button is not software, but hardware, the benefit from this is obvious, if you set the maximum signal level at the source, then you will be able to avoid any unnecessary recalculations. Also you can use any digital player. During operation, the device almost does not heat up, which is most important, it does not have any extra noise during pauses. Which is quite rare for such a powerful device.
TempoTec Sonata E44, of course, does not have its own power supply, but the DAC consumes just surprisingly low 5 volts – this is only 0.063 amperes. For comparison, the previous version with a power of 80mW consumed only 0.004 amperes less. That is, for its capabilities, the device is unrealistically economical in terms of the source battery.
The manufacturer promises full compatibility with the Windows 10. In fact, we get support for early operating systems from Microsoft. Sonata E44 is detected without any drivers in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. However, we recommend installing an additional ASIO driver. You can download this driver on the official website. The volume cannot be adjusted in the system, since hardware adjustment is implemented (adjustable by buttons or in the Sonata E44 itself). You can choose the maximum declared resolution, 32 bit/384. Defined by the E44 as “Sonata BHD” – this is not surprising and strange, the manufacturer has retained all the components of the previous version.
Android smartphones also automatically detect the device and are ready to work with it through the system mixer on absolutely any applications and streaming services. However, the maximum quality will only be in BitPerfect mode, with software players that support it. Examples include HiBy Music, FiiO Music, USB Audio Player and Neutron.
The sound is clear and very detailed. We were pleased with the amplification – we tried a huge variety of headphones, the volume is enough in most cases. Yes, it will not be enough for some tight full-size models with planar drivers, but in general here is quite good gain. The pitch is both detailed and dense, with deep and tight bass.
High frequencies – extended and detailed. Elaboration of small nuances at the highest level. TempoTec Sonata E44 is picky about the quality of the listened material, download music in high quality or use online services like Tidal.
The mids are quite energetic and musical. The strong point of TempoTec Sonata E44 is juicy and at the same time detailed middle range with excellent resolution. Owners of inexpensive smartphones will experience a huge increase in quality. Owners of budget players based on ES9218P codec will also feel the increase. The virtual stage is three-dimensional, huge, with an excellent study in depth.
The bass of the relatively previous model (Sonata E35) has become more massive. This does not mean that the high and medium range have receded into the background. Sound has become smoother and more natural. Low frequencies are well controlled, do not interfere with the middle, do not affect the rest of the range. The bass is fast, with good texture reproduction.
One of the best portable DAC from Tempotec. The budget DAC Sonata HD 2 loses on all parameters. Sonata E35 loses in power and naturalness (sharper treble with simplified attenuation, less detailed mids). The disadvantages are the rather bulky design and non-replaceable cables. The advantages of TempoTec Sonata E44 include low power consumption, the ability to use a DAC out of the box both in terms of balance and through a standard 3.5mm output, and record output power for a similar class of device. Which is enough not only for some sensitive in-ear headphones, but also for quite demanding full-size headphones. And, of course, the main advantage of the new device is the best sound quality in the TempoTec portable DAC lineup. Great device, TempoTec once again pleasantly surprised.