Just wanted to post a quick review of this worthy little DAC that I was able to pick up at the 11.11 sale @ Linsoul for $45 (a steal imho). This is not meant as a deep dive but more of what I hear and how it sounds compared to my current daily driver ESS ES9016S DAC that’s in my Motu M4 interface. Also, just to preface that I like including helpful links to all subject matters discussed, which you’ll find referenced as hyperlinks for the equipment mentioned.
My Rating (1-5, higher is better)
- Build Quality: 5
- Ease of use: 4
- Battery Drain: 3
- Headphone Output Power: 4
- Overall Sound Quality: 4
- Sound Signature: Slightly Warm (Stock S-BHDPRO-HMF1.01 Firmware)
- Windows Driver Performance
The TempoTec Sonata BHD Pro is pretty much built like a tank, except for the small window which seems sturdy but maybe not able to withstand too much blunt force (shouldn’t be an issue 90% of the time). The USB-C connector accepts cable connects easily and feels like it holds the connection snugly in place (for now, time will tell).
Ease of Use
Not much to say here, volume rocker is easy to use and feels like it makes solid tactile contact to the switches inside. The reasoning for the 4/5 rating was due to the volume increments being very small as other reviewers have stated. At the end of the day, not that big of a deal.
Middle of the road here, I did a test on my iPhone XS with the screen off and after listening to this setup with constant shuffled songs, found the drain acceptable for the amount of time I used it. I did get the Shanling L3 USB-C to Lightning OTG cable to connect the two. Further, the reasoning for this cable, versus others, was due to the apparent 5V 500mA power load handling…for future-proofing if I audition more power hungry DACs in the future.
Headphone Output Power
I will let Amir over at Audio Science Review go into this one with the review he recently did. needless to say, all of my IEMs and my efficient Senn HD598cs cans are able to be powered by the single ended output, save one. The AFUL MagicOne demanded use of the balanced output to drive it a bit better, since it is a bit more demanding in this area (as owners well know).
Overall Sound Quality
What can I say, amazing little DAC and especially for the price. Its ever so slightly warm sound signature is nothing to worry about and it handles all the music I listen to very well. I also own an Apple Lightning to 3.5mm adapter and in comparison, I prefer the sound of the Sonata BHD Pro over it. It also powers the headphones and IEM’s a bit better, especially with the handy balanced output. In the end though, I slightly prefer the sound signature of my ESS DAC for my daily driver…hence the 4/5 rating.
It has a slight warmth to it with its CS43131 DAC chip, compared to my more neutral and analytical ESS ES9016S in my Motu M4. I find it actually refreshing to have as another option for tuning, which can help some brighter sounding IEM’s give them a touch of “color”. I had no issues with any of my (few owned) IEMs and quite enjoyed its sound signature.
Windows Driver Performance
I wanted to add this section in, in case readers of this review are intending on using it on their Windows-based computer as a sound source. As of the writing of this review, and using the v3.26.0 Windows drivers and the HMF1.01 stock firmware that came with mine, there is some latency (i.e. audio popping-like sound) that is audible at times with all settings of the USB Speed setting in its sound device control center (which is installed with the drivers). This is usually a firmware/driver issue that can play off of one another but might also be CPU/OS attributed with how the driver interacts with the system as a whole in this department. I am running an older CPU (Intel i7 4770k) and am on the latest version of Windows 10 (versus 11, for my own reasons) and even though that should be fine, YMMV in case you have a newer, more efficient processor and are running Windows 11. Some owners have reported that flashing the firmware to the one it initially came with when released in Q2 of this year (v1.0) fixes the latency but I have not yet tested this as I don’t use it as my daily driver sound source on my computer. If you are interested in trying this, here is a site you can download the archived firmware from. Make sure to also test it on your phone afterward if you do flash it as there might be fixes with later versions of firmware for mobile OS compatibility that were later coded in. Hopefully with newer drivers and firmware this will be fixed and it’s also worth mentioning that when using it with my iPhone (on latest v17 of iOS), this latency is thankfully non-existent.
In conclusion, a great little DAC. Easily portable, sounds great, and won’t drain your battery excessively (though YMMV depending on your phone model and OS version). At $45 I felt like I got a great deal but even at its regular MSRP @ $89, it is a worthy choice. I do still have some others on my wish list but for now, I am happy to keep listening and discovering my music through the TempoTec Sonata BHD Pro.
I hope this review helps those that are considering getting/auditioning this DAC. Happy listening!