TempoTec V-1a : Budget DAP flying high!

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*TempoTec Audio send us the TempoTec V1-A for our review, we don’t have to send the DAP back to them, the review will be done in an honest and unbiased manner as possible.

I just reviewed the TempoTec Sonata HD Pro not so long ago, you probably already know how much I love about this little dongle, it just worked. The tiny size surprised me with such high audio quality, and I still use it daily. I am fascinated when TempoTec agreed to send me their DAP V-1a, this is their DAP (Digital Audio Player) as far as I know, the specification sheet seems quite promising, it is always good that I can review them and provide some of my listening impression to my readers.

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TempoTec V-1a (107 USD)

Apart from V-1a, TempoTec has another product named V1 and looks exactly like the V-1a, but V1 is a Digital Transport only, which doesn’t have a built-in DAC, so you will need an external DAC and amplifier in your system to listen to music, in my opinion, it is better that you buy the V-1a instead of the V-1 even if you want to use it as a transport only, V-1a is way more flexible if you’re going to change your mind. Please keep in mind I am reviewing the TempoTec V-1a so don’t get confused.

V-1a built nice, very solid yet small in hand. I love the minimalist look of the player, when you look the front panel, the all-black panel combined with the high-res logo looks classy. The tactility of the button is very good for the price as well, the overall solidity of the player truly impressed me, when you consider it is a player that sold less than 200 USD, although I do think that the button can be bigger for easier operation, no complain here. The power/lock button is on the top panel, there is a light indicator beside it to light up when you charging and using it, quite a neat looking player. Oh yeah, it is using USB type C, another good thing that seems very well implemented in this price bracket.

 

HibyOS

What makes V-1a stand out from the budget DAP market segment is the Hiby OS, the Operating System is vital and if you have tried some lower end DAP, the OS is especially shitty, I am having high hope on V-1a’s OS as it is using HibyOS that is quite renowned in the audio community, the OS indeed is very user friendly and straight forward, I immediately stick to it when I start playing with the OS, it is quite dummy-proof. While it is super simple to operate, the OS doesn’t look cheap, of course, the low-resolution screen is letting down the overall impression of the OS, but even so, the OS looked reasonably good, and I don’t experience any lag nor any inappropriate waiting time when I am operating it, unlike the Sony low-end Android OS Walkman player that I have reviewed before, the super-duper affordable V-1a felt smoother and faster to operate overall, I much prefer this to the lower end Android OS DAP (but cost 3 times more expensive) that I have tried, although Android OS let you installed Tidal and Spotify, so if streaming services are essential for you, they Android is still a way to go. I hope HibyOS can support streaming services soon, we really can’t miss streaming services in this era of time, everyone relies on it heavily.

Features

Everyone talks about MSEB but I don’t use it, I think it does harm more than good to the overall sound quality, but I can see how some guys will like to tweak the sound closer to their preference, but I don’t see this is necessary because I appreciate the purest sound possible without tweaking it. However, there is a lot that you can do/change to the sound, such as overall temperature, bass extension, bass texture, note thickness, vocals, female overtones, sibilance LF, Sibilance HF, Impulse response and air, you can even tweak the equalizer (10 bands) too. The changes that you can do the sound is very obvious and significant, if you are those who like to tweak the sound then I believe you will found love with MSEB, but for entire of my review session I turned that off.

The Bluetooth is a 2 way Bluetooth, which enable you to control the DAP with your smartphone, very neat feature if you use V-1a in your speaker system, for example, I have tried some Bluetooth headphone and V-1a can play them nicely, not only V-1a can stream headphones with Bluetooth technology, but it also supports SBC, LDAC and aptX format for wireless streaming, which I think is super impressive for the price.

 

Tempotec managed to make V-1a supported dual MicroSD card too at this price range. Wow, V-1a is a little widget that able to do it all. V-1a is very versatile too, there are few ways that you can use it to:

  1. As a DAP, plug in IEM/headphone and it can play music from your MicroSD card.
  2. As line-out (DAC only), connect to your Android/IOS/PC and use it as a DAC only
  3. DAC/Amp, connect to Android/IOS/PC and use the DAC (can support ASIO too with PC, download the driver from Tempotec official website)
  4. As a digital transport, carrying music files and output through 3.5mm as coax, or through the Type C USB cable to external DAC, not all DAC is supported of course, but those supporting smartphone should be able to work with it.

I can’t believe that is so many things we can do with the Tempotec V-1a, Tempotec squeeze so many features in such a small and affordable entry-level DAP, if you want me to nitpick, I will say I would like it to support MQA, supported streaming services such as Tidal and Spotify, supported full balanced audio and have more driving power, okay, maybe for 250USD, for 107 USD however, I am impressed!

Audio Quality

We have tested Tempotec V-1a mostly as a DAP only, with Philips Fidelio X2HR, Venture Electronic Monk Plus and Monk Lite, Thinksound On1 and First Audio EB-6. I think it sounded the best when connected to PC and functioning as DAC/Amp, but differences are not that apparent. I have use V-1a extensively with my humble speaker system too. V-1a has been burned in more than 48 hours with ISOTEK Burn-in CD.

First of all, V-1a is a very musical DAP instead of being some technicality monster, not a bad thing at all, why? Because I found that normally when an entry-level wants to tackle technical capability, they will fail miserably, it is a safer bet for them to tackle musicality rather than technical capability.

I will start with the bad thing first, the soundstage is small and average at best, especially on the width, if you are listening headphone with small soundstage, the tight soundstage hardly gets any additional space for instruments to breath. Imaging and positioning are not what I can say as pinpoint accurate as well. Another thing, while the macro detail is okay, the micro detail is not V-1a’s strong suit here. Between, if you want to drive some high impedance or hard to drive headphone, you better off with an external headphone amplifier, the internal headphone amplifier is not powerful at all, although it drives my Philips X2HR decently loud at 79 out of 100 steps of volume level, if you have something hard to drive, you need an external headphone amplifier for sure. So enough for the not so good point, every gear has their weaknesses, even when you are buying something more than few grands, however, I love V-1a despite some of the weaknesses that I have just mentioned, let we dig deeper together.

First of all, is the coherency and linearity of the sound. I admire the way they tuned the sound, the treble region is quite smooth although I will not say it is lacking high if you are expecting something very airy and bright V-1a isn’t like that, the linearity and smoothness of sound are so neatly done that I admire what the designer decide the sound signature of V-1a, not trying to be discriminate but I can’t believe that V-1a is a Chinese based company, they really know what they are doing, there is a line between being sibilant and lack of treble energy, IMHO V-1a positioned right at the middle of that line, while I never found it to be sibilant sounding but the treble never sounding dull or boring, I love the tuning here.

While the treble is backward following contemporary standard, the mid is full and upfront, however, the mid will never intimate until touching your ear, there is always a nice distance between you and the mid (although it is still what I say closer than neutral), in short, the vocal has good proportion and never sounded rush, I kind of liking the midrange presentation here, unlike what we see from those V-shape sounding DAC/DAP, this one is quite enjoyable, this is not a well-detailed midrange that some of you are expecting, but the mid is nonetheless very coherent, organic and forward, V-1a has a good synergy with the Philips X2HR, which not only tame the treble down a bit but also give more forward midrange.

 

Bass is quite tasty, not anything like boasted nor bloated bass response, but anything from mid-bass to sub-bass region has good authority, power and potion, which I never sound it is boring sound or anything, very good musicality for sure. The transient and speed of this region are reasonably good, to my ears the bass is quite neutral here so don’t worry, it is nicely tuned and not overcooked.

Final Thought

As I said, I will go for something different if I want to have some critical listening session, but for the time I spend with TempoTec V-1a, I am impressed with what it can achieve for 110 USD, the versatility of it is remarkable, while sound quality is not technically excellent, V-1a managed to have great musicality, which in my honest opinion is very important for DAP in this price point, I don’t have a problem at all to recommend this DAP for beginner or audio enthusiast to find a DAP on the go, without breaking the bank.

However, I wish TempoTec can make something higher-end, especially supporting Wifi (Audio streaming service), MQA and has the better technical capability, I can’t wait to review another product from TempoTec, they are like a new shining star in the audio game!

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