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TempoTec Sonata HD V

TempoTec Sonata HD V

Author:Andy.EF

Review Date: 27 February 2022

SPECIFICATIONS

DAC Chip: ESS Sabre ES9219 DAC Dual

Full MQA decoding

3.5mm Single Ended Headphone Out

RGB Indicator light

Supports Multiple Devices: Windows/MAC, iOS/Android

Output Level: 2VRMS

SNR: -123dB

THD+N:-105dB

Output Power: 145mW@16Ω, 95mW@32Ω

PCM: 32-Bit/384kHz

DSD: Up to DSD256 natively

Test Equipment

Headphones:

  • FOSTEX T40RP MK3 (Magnetic Planar, 50 Ohm, 91db Sensitivity)
  • Beyerdynamic DT880 (Dynamic Drivers, 600 Ohm, 96db Sensitivity)

IEMs:

  • Etymotic ER4SR (Single BA, 45 Ohm, 96db Sensitivity)
  • TRN VX Pro (8 BA + 1DD Hybrid, 22 Ohm, 106db Sensitivity)
  • TIN HiFi T3 Plus (Single DD, 32 Ohm, 105db Sensitivity)
  • Kinera Idun Golden (3BA + 1DD Hybrid, 32 Ohm, 112db Sensitivity)

Sources:

  • LG V50 ThinQ (UAPP USB Exclusive Mode, Bitperfect)
  • Sony Xperia X Compact (UAPP USB Exclusive Mode, Bitperfect)
  • HiBy Music Player App (USB Exclusive Mode)

LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING

The continuation of TempoTec Sonata line-ups. Sonata HD V appeared modest and simple. Competitively priced and now with MQA support.

Build, Functions, Usability

The build and construction of Sonata HD V is simple and practical. Aluminum chassis sandwiched between two glass faceplates. Being glossy glass, Sonata HD V will attract fingerprint smudges that would otherwise tarnish the elegant look from time to time.

The unit that I ordered is specific to USB C only variant. But TempoTec provisioned for consumers with options between USB or iOS Lightning, similar to Sonata HD Pro. The USB cable constructed in twist braid design and complement the look of Sonata HD V perfectly. I do observe though, that the braid can unwind itself if the Dongle unit is subjected to active usage where the body may turn clockwise.

At the front, there’s a big LED RGB indicator to show the current resolution level being played. Typically Green and Red for different PCM levels, purple for MQA.

On the subject of MQA. I must state that my Sonata HD V does not seem to work properly with Tidal own native app on Android. It gets recognized properly on my LG V50 ThinQ, however the volume was stuck at MAX, any attempt to adjust the volume simply futile and unresponsive. It will only work properly when accessing Tidal via UAPP. I switched to Sony Xperia X Compact and it gets even more baffling, Tidal app does not even recognize Sonata HD V and thus playback was only possible via native Android SRC (no exclusive mode), which means MQA does not load properly and played at fixed resolution as sampled by Android.

Endurance wise, Sonata HD V scored 5 hours of continuous play on Sony Xperia X Compact (Android 8, 2700 mAH battery, UAPP USB Exclusive Mode, driving TRN VX Pro). That’s on par to the battery drain of Colorfly CDA M1 and FiiO KA3. In comparison, iBasso DC05 and Cayin RU6 scored 6 hours. Admirably, Sonata HD V remained cool enough to the touch after prolonged use with minor hint of heat.

Sound Impressions

Simply put, Sonata HD V is Sonata HD Pro with MQA support. Yes, they are practically identical sonic wise. Neutral bright and highly resolving, the timbre lacks some organic touch to it, but it remained polished and crisp enough to not sound outright digital.

Dynamics range exhibited great extensions end to end. Sparkly and crisp Treble exhibiting proper details and texture, Deep Sub-Bass with crisp decays, Fast and Impactful Mid-Bass that remained neutral and uncolored. Mids equally neutral and devoid of any coloration. The overall theme of dynamics handling being well balanced and truthfully neutral.

There’s maturity in the way dynamic transients is handled. Greatly controlled attack and vibrancy to keep it from sounding outright euphonic. I am relieved that Sonata HD V does not exhibit any of the dreaded ESS Sabre Pinna Glare, at least not pronounced enough to cause for concerns. However, with neutral/bright partners like Etymotic ER4SR, TRN VX Pro and Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm, there’s some hint of aggressive upper Mids brightness. Luckily it wasn’t offensive enough to spoil the output that could ended up being sibilant.

Sonata HD V has ample note weight and density to dynamics body. It does not sound lean or dry even when paired with flat neutral partners. I would have preferred a more organic touch to it, but that can be easily solved by pairing Sonata HD V with strongly organic sounding partners like TIN HiFi T3+, Kinera Idun Golden, Shure KSE1500 or Fostex T40RP MK3.

The highlight of Sonata HD V, it is one hell of competent Dongle with technicalities. Soundstage appeared admirably wide with proper depth and headroom. Spatial imaging and positioning crisp and very holographic. Macro and Micro details practically on par with the top dogs of #donglemadness. Sonata HD V has the speed to resolve even the most complex of passages as it is agile with outright speedy tracks. Layers separation crisp and well laid out making it easy to discern individual instruments.

Driving Power

Rated at 2 Vrms, Sonata HD V exhibited admirable driving power to drive Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm and Fostex T40RP MK3. With DT880, I was able to get proper listening loudness at 26/32 volume on HiBy Music App USB Exclusive mode. For T40RP MK3, volume at 21/32. By my estimation, the performance of Sonata HD V is at approx 60-65% fidelity as compared to iFi ZEN Stack of ZEN DAC V2 + ZEN Can driving those two juggernauts, losing on headroom, soundstage and dynamics density. Otherwise, it is still commendable as I have observed worse performances from other Dongles within the same power bracket.

On the other hand, Sonata HD V proved to be very clean serving as AUX feed for my Electrostatic Shure KSE1500. And this is where Sonata C performs the best. The output being amazingly well balanced, organic and natural.

 

VERDICT

TempoTec Sonata HD V is a very well-tuned Dongle. It continues the legacy of Sonata HD Pro with similar sound signature – neutral bright. This also means Sonata HD V prefers warmer sounding partners. Pairing it with natively bright partners may result in something which appeared overly crisp and edgy. Pair it with an already organic sounding IEMs/Headphones and there’s good balance that I consider great.

However, all is not dandy with this Sonata HD V. The MQA playback with Tidal own App exhibited major flaw of not being able to adjust the volume. I hope TempoTec can fix this with FW upgrades. Other than that, TempoTec Sonata HD V is a solid Dongle all things considered, especially how amazing it is with technicalities.

Highlights

  • Well balanced neutral timbre
  • Great resolution, details and transparency
  • Great technicalities
  • Good power with loudness to match
  • Elegant build quality

Lowlights

  • MQA has issues with native Tidal App
  • MQA unable to work on exclusive mode on some devices
  • Slightly below average battery endurance
  • Fingerprint magnet

Best Pairing: Prefers warmer pairing partners

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