The Worthy Successor: Tempotec Sonata E35
E35 I the latest DAC dongle from the well-known dongle maker, Tempotec. I have reviewed and extensively used their Sonata HD Pro and V-1, their product seems to scream an incredible price to performance ratio, in this review we will try to see if it is a clear step up from the Sonata HD Pro and if it is a great product for the price.
Tempotec Sonata E35 (67.8 USD)
Tempotec is stepping up the game with a dual DAC (dual Cirrus Logic CS43131, there was only a single CS43131 on the Sonata HD Pro. The E35 is also having a volume controller on it but sadly without any marking, although it is not difficult guesswork and keeps the design looked cleaner, it is better than not having a volume rocker on it. If you use it on a PC then you will realize how useful is the volume rocker. The cable is unfortunately fixed now (4 Core 6N single crystal copper) for both the Type C and 3.5mm output, I see this as half good half bad, as we cannot choose our cable freely now but the cable is from a very good quality overall and easier to store.
Power output seems reasonable at 80mW @ 32 ohms, up from 70mW from Sonata HD Pro. However I believe this is the standard for dongles now, and to be honest, I am expecting more from Tempotec as this is a Dual DAC dongle and Tempotec is kind of expert in making DAC, it is okay but it just doesn’t have a clear advantage in term of power delivery. Tempotec is making another full balanced (2.5mm output) type C dongle, the BHD, which can deliver 120mW @ 32 ohms of load, however personally I think that this is a missed opportunity that Tempotec didn’t just make a dongle that can support both 3.5mm and 2.5mm output, needless to say, that it didn’t support the MQA rendering as well, if we looked around, the competition is tough.
E35 can decode DSD 128 (DoP) and DSD 256 (Native), of course, high-resolution files as high as 32 Bit 384 kHz can be supported too.
Volume control step is now can be controlled by a total of 32 steps (which is a big improvement from the Sonata HD Pro), it is nice although still not as fine as I would like, I appreciated that this is a big improvement coming from the Sonata HD Pro.
I paired the Tempotec Sonata E35 with Android and PC (ASIO), HZSound HeartMirror is the IEM that I used to test the E35, but I also evaluate the E35 with Fengru TC200, Hifiman Sundara (Which the E35 cannot really drive to the fullest), and other IEMs.
What Tempotec has achieved on the Sonata HD Pro have been improved further with the E35. The E35 to my ears is a much more refined, cleaner and technically more capable dongle. The high-resolution nature of the Sonata HD Pro (which everyone like) is here with the E35 too, but now it is presented in a much more refined and less sterile manner. Treble, midrange and bass are neutral and balanced, there might be some slightest hint of warmth in the sound reproduction but it is nicely done, and hard to notice without some serious comparison. In general, I really love the sound quality of the E35 and think that it is remarkable for the asking money.
Treble is transparent and extensive, the midrange is clean and detailed, and able to portray some emotional cue in the vocal without any problem, the bass is very good and able to deliver some drive and detail, there is ample level of detail in the representation, but it is a slightly more ‘distant’ than the Sonata HD Pro to my ears, I see this as a good thing since I don’t really like my music coming out as too upfront to my face.
The soundstage has been improved too, don’t expect a humongous soundstage out of it, but the shape and space are generous. Imaging is very good, playing some Symphonies and it is very easy to track the instrument placement in the song. To be honest I really don’t have anything to dislike for the Sonata E35. The music just sounded like how it should sound without adding anything or subtracting anything, everything sounded as natural as I would like.
Tempotec Sonata E35
Design, Build and Usage
I kind of liked the design, it is now much more premium, rounded, and refined-looking than the Sonata HD Pro, I think it looks very pretty and premium too, for the look I can rate it highly. Now what not so great is the fixed cable, the 3.5mm output jack and type C cable are fixed and irreplaceable on the E35, although in day to day usage I am liking the fixed cable idea in terms of durability/sustainability it is no doubt questionable, I love the idea of using my own cable (on PC or Android) as I am free to choose the length and design. That being said, the cable is very flexible and quite enjoyable to use, the length seems practical too and easy to fold for storage purposes, between, there was no storage case included in the package, although I appreciated that Tempotec included the sticker protector to apply on front and rear of E35 to protect it from scratch, oh yeah, there is a Hi-Res Audio sticker too included in the box, make sure you apply the sticker on the E35 for better audio quality (if you believe this then please go back to school).
Build quality is very promising, I believe if you didn’t mishandle it should last you few years, every entry and endpoint of cable (nice quality cable between) has some sort of sleeve protector, each component is made from metal, and indeed it feels very sturdy and solid in use. In other words, build quality is excellent.
E35 is just like other dongles out there, it is very easy to use (Plug and play) for PC and Android phones, although I don’t think that you can use it with Apple IOS devices but it is supported on MAC (never tried though). If you are a hardcore audiophile, you can also download the ASIO driver to use on PC, but it works too when plug and play without installing anything. E35 is also worked flawlessly plug and play with Android devices (Huawei P40 Pro, Mate 20, and Redmi Note 10 Pro in this case), of course, worked well with UAPP and Hiby Music.
In terms of usage, the power draw is reasonable (5percent in an hour, Huawei P40 Pro, 4000mAH), it is a little (very slightly) warm in use but I am perfectly fine with it. Generally, the build, design and usage of the E35 are very positive.
Conclusion? I really recommended this dongle to you if you are searching for an on the go dongle at a reasonable price with a volume controller. Between, if you are considering between the E35 and Sonata HD II, then trust me, just get the E35 for the sake of audio quality and usability, E35 is miles better than the Sonata HD II (although Sonata HD II is not bad in any mean)!