- The best Tempotec sound in one dongle: Dual DAC CS43131, dual output SE 3.5mm and BAL 4.4mm, dual volume button.
- Possibility to change the sound profile via firmwares.
- Adequate size, sober construction, efficient, attractive and effective.
- It is a wireless pickup, unlike its brothers E35 and E44.
- Good power level.
- 60 volume steps.
- Great quality/sound/price ratio.
- ASIO drivers.
- No gain selector.
- Perhaps not the most powerful dongle in its class.
- For iPhone it is necessary to purchase a separate Lightning to Type-C OTG cable.
Link to the Store
Tempotec is known for its long history of pursuing the best sound quality, and the most convenient user experience. Well known for its dongles, it now continues to squeeze the double DAC CS43131, adding a professional FPGA and 3 high-performance oscillators to achieve low latency and high precision data transfer capability. It supports up to DSD256, 32Bit/384kHz PCM and high-resolution MQA and lossless music. It has 3.5mm SE and 4.4mm BAL outputs. RGB light indicates operating status. Two physical buttons facilitate volume control. It has an SNR that reaches 131dB, with a THD+N of 0.00012% and achieves up to 280mW at 32Ω through the balanced output. Its power consumption is very low and it can play for up to 35 hours on a 4000mAh battery. Finally, its body is metallic and has a transparent window through which you can see its circuitry. In addition, Tempotec has an ace up its sleeve, as it allows the sound profile to be modified by means of firmwares. Let’s take a closer look at what the new Tempotec Sonata BHD Pro has to offer.
- Model: Sonata BHD Pro.
- DAC used: 2*CS43131
- SNR: 131dB.
- THD+N: 0.00012%.
- Maximum output level: 2V RMS SE. 4V RMS BAL.
- Power: 280mW/32Ω balanced output.
- Volume control: Physical + and – buttons. 60 volume steps.
- DSD: DSD64~DSD256.
- PCM: 16Bit 44.1kHz-32Bit 384kHz.
- MQA: Native.
- LED: Operating status.
- USB: TYPEC OTG.
- Headphone ports: BAL 4.4mm, SE 3.5mm.
- Dimensions: 55x21x11mm.
- Weight: 18g.
- Material: Aluminium.
The Tempotec Sonata BHD Pro comes in a small cardboard box painted black. Its packaging is very reminiscent of the previous March III where the cardboard waves can be seen through the paint. The dimensions are 107x97x42mm. The box opens up like a flap box and on the upper side is the name «Sonata» in orange and on the top is the brand logo, towards the left side. On the back is the brand name in white lettering, while on the bottom right is a sticker with the model name and colour. The brand logo is repeated on the closing tab and on the back it appears again, this time accompanied by the name of the series, Sonata, of course. After opening the box there is a transparent plastic sheet protecting the product packaging. The BHD Pro is encased in a black foam mould. Below it there is another level containing the rest of the accessories. In a nutshell:
- The Tempotec Sonata BHD Pro dongle.
- A cloth pouch.
- A warranty certificate.
- One warranty card.
- A user manual.
- A thank you card from the company.
- One short silver-plated copper male-to-male USB Type-C cable.
- One USB Type-C female to Type-A male adapter.
The packaging is relatively small, with a sober presentation, in line with the previous March III. It is appreciated that it comes with a cloth pouch for storage. The cable is short as it is intended for use with mobile devices.
Construction and Design
The BHD Pro is made of textured aluminium. In my case its colour is called titanium grey. It is a tablet whose upper face has two levels separated by a rounded edge. The upper side is shorter and features the brand logo and the name in white ink. On the lower face is a transparent window, flanked by a black border which reads «Dual Osc FPGA» in gold lettering. The window allows a view of the interior, the oscillators and the FPGA, as well as some of the circuitry. A little closer to the bottom edge is a horizontal slit that allows the light from the bottom LED to exit. On the side near the letters is a physical, rocker-mode double knob that controls the volume. The + button is in the centre, while the – button is closer to the USB connection. The USB connector is Type-C. At the other end there are two audio outputs, SE 3.5mm and BAL 4.4mm gold-plated. The underside is a cover that has two screws for closure. At its centre is the MQA logo and the Hi-Res Audio logo in white ink.
The dimensions of the dongle are 55x21x11mm. At the thinnest side it measures 10mm. Its weight is 18g.
Its design combines sharp edges with more vivid ones, located on the face of the window. The face of the window is the one that allows you to see the inside of the electronic circuit and its moderate size. In reality, the design of the BHD Pro continues to maintain a classic and sober air of the brand, without great fanfare, something more modern and attractive, but without being very striking in this aspect.
The level of construction and solidity of the product is very good and, without a doubt, it is not weak in any way, but rather robust, even in the window area.
The BHD Pro is compatible with PC, Android Smartphones and iPhone. It can be used with PC and Android with the standard cable. For iPhone it is necessary to purchase a separate Lightning to Type-C OTG cable. For Windows 10 no additional driver is required and ASIO driver is available. Allows exclusive mode with the HiBy Music APP. MQA certified.
The BHD Pro has a 60-step volume control. It supports PCM from 16Bit 44.1kHz up to 32Bit 384kHz, DSD64 up to DSD256. It also supports MQA. It has ASIO drivers. Connects in exclusive HQ USB Audio mode with the HiBy Music APP. It has a multi-coloured LED status indicator:
- Red: Connected, paused.
- White: DSD64~DSD256.
- Violet: MQA (TIDAL music application).
- Yellow: 32kHz~48kHz playback.
- Cyan: 64kHz~192kHz playback.
- Orange: Playback >=352.8 kHz.
It has USB Type-C input and 3.5mm SE and 4.4mm BAL outputs.
It works smoothly whether connected to a PC, SmartPhone, DAP or PAD. It only heats up if the output volume is high, something that I was able to verify when I carried out the power tests. Although the temperature was not high and it is necessary to take into account an ambient temperature of 27ºC during the tests. I didn’t experience any dropouts during playback, nor did I experience any clogging. The volume steps start with small jumps, which get bigger as they get closer to the maximum.
There is no gain selector. 2V RMS at no load, by SE 3.5mm and 4V RMS at no load, by BAL 4.4mm.
To make the measurements I have connected the BHD Pro connected to my PC using foobar2000 and pure amplitude 1 tones created with Audacity.
The oscilloscope used for this occasion is the new VIMU MSO21, a two-channel 12-bit USB oscilloscope with logic analyser, digital inputs/outputs and DDS. It can be used as a spectrometer, data recorder, logic analyser, etc. Works on PC, including Android. It has a vertical resolution of 12bits, giving it 4096 levels of resolution. You can find more information about the oscilloscope used here:
No Load SE
2V RMS over the entire frequency range.
15 Ω SE
1.223V for 15Ω means 100mW and a current of 81mA. A great value.
33 Ω SE
With the 81mA it is capable of delivering for 15Ω I expected a great value for 33Ω. But the BHD Pro delivers 1.65V RMS, which is 82.5mW and 50mA. It falls a bit short compared to the performance for 15Ω.
100 Ω SE
I was expecting the BHD Pro to deliver full voltage for this impedance value, but it falls a little short at 1.91V, which is a delivery of 19mA and 36.5mW.
No Load BAL
Clean 4V RMS across the entire frequency range.
15 Ω BAL
Strange behaviour by BAL for 15Ω, well below the performance by SE. 0.828V RMS, which is 46mW and 55mA.
33 Ω BAL
We continue with the strange behaviour of the BHD Pro, but now for the better. For the 33Ω per BAL you get 1.83V RMS, which is 100mW of power. The brand specifies 280mW for 32Ω, which would mean a delivery of 3V RMS, with an amount of current of 93.5mA, exceeding the limit of those «mythical» 90mA. As you can see, it’s a bit far, but it’s a good value.
On the other hand, I anticipate some questions that may be asked by amateurs who have read other reviews made with more professional measuring devices. In that review, 137mW is reached at 33Ω, which means a voltage of 2.13V RMS. I understand that this measurement has been made with a pure 1khz sinusoidal tone. As can be seen in the following measurement, the BHD goes up to 2.33 VRMS. But if a 20Hz tone is played at the same volume, the distortion is very evident. My measurements try to find the maximum RMS voltage value over the whole frequency range. I think it’s no use if at 1kHz it gives a spectacular measurement if the bass is completely distorted, as it is in this example.
100 Ω BAL
Again, the BHD Pro fails to deliver the full voltage for 100Ω, staying at 3.6V RMS, which implies a power of 130mW and 36mA. Not a bad value at all.
Totally flat from 20Hz to 40kHz, even at different volumes. The R and L graphs overlap, there is no difference between channels. The roll-off between 5Hz and 20Hz is very small, while the roll-off between 10Hz and 20Hz is not noticeable. This is definitely a Hi-Res product.
The Tempotec Sonata BHD Pro has the possibility to alter its sound signature through the use of different firmwares. At the time of writing this review, from the Tempotec website, you can download firmware version 1.01. This package contains two firmwares: S-BHDPRO-HMN1.01.bin and S-BHDPRO-HMF1.01.bin. The firmware ending with F1.01 is the default version. The N1.01 version has a «different sound style». I have tried both, the operation is simple but it takes a few minutes and it is possible that the memory of each sound profile is lost in that time. It is true that there is a difference in sound, but it is not night and day. I think the N1.01 version is somewhat warmer and the F1.01 is more neutral, within a sound that is already subtly warm in itself.
Tempotec has accustomed us to a clean, neutral sound and is already an expert at using the Cirrus CS43131 DAC in a dual setup. It has added an FPGA to expand the possibilities of the sound already showcased in the larger E35 and, above all, E44 dongles. Tempotec needed to combine the two models into one and add a bit of novelty to them. And it has succeeded, even though the power performance is almost the same for both models. I think the E44 is somewhat cleaner and more neutral, with a subtly wider sound. Although it may also be a bit suggestive of the good regard I have for it. Going back to the Sonata BHD Pro, it has 60 volume steps, although the voltage jumps in the last steps are slightly high. But that’s not uncommon for powerful sources. 100 steps would have been very appropriate, or at least, a button to use low/high gain.
One of the things I prefer about the E models is that it is a wireless tablet and its design has improved compared to those, being more elegant and eye-catching, although within the sobriety that Tempotec is used to.
As I said, the profile of the BHD Pro is neutral but subtly warm and pleasant. It has an organic and realistic tone. It is not spectacular or analytical, but moves in a melodious and effective environment. I don’t mean it’s soft because it breaks and rips when it needs to. It has a good drive starting from the low end, although there is a subtle colouring in the lower frequencies, where the sound is less sensory than audible, perhaps that makes the sound warmer. This sensation is something that I was able to verify by comparing it with the xDuoo Link2 Bal, whose sound is a bit deeper. In terms of power I feel the same, the punch is powerful and energetic. The volume occupied is large and the capacity for resolution, layering and breakdown of complex bass lines is very good, at the level of the xDuoo.
The vocals have a subtly sweet sonority, which makes them more organic, natural and appealing. In this respect the xDuoo is a little more nondescript and neutral, while the BHD Pro adds a melodious edge that is more pleasing. Instrumentation is clear, noticeably separated, accurate and full in resolution, but not analytical. With respect to the xDuoo, again that subtle warmth gives the sound a more pleasing, less incisive feel that makes it more pleasing, captivating and euphonic. The level of detail and resolution is very good, as good as the xDuoo and that’s saying a lot for the performance for the price of this little BHD Pro.
The treble is quite crisp, clear, transparent and clean. They retain that natural flavour that is never crisp and remains delicate and delicious in equal parts. The BHD Pro, in this sense, is a very suitable dongle for long listening. And, as you can see from the measurements, the treble extension is full and there is no drop or loss of energy in the high end, maintaining an excellent sense of air at all times.
The scene is big, as big as the xDuoo can offer, and I even find it a little calmer, a quieter sound that gives it a slightly superior vaporous and transparent feel. As I said, the level of detail is quite descriptive, but without losing the organic and natural character that determines it. But it also offers a vivid and expressive temperament, which adds a higher level of expansiveness. It is effective in the positioning of the image and the distribution of the elements. It has a high level of resolution to arrange the notes and present them clearly, without any opacity, achieving a notable separation of the components and a dark background between them.
It’s amazing what Tempotec can do for so little money. The Sonata BHD Pro seems like a trivial product, one more in the brand’s long list of dongles. However, it tries to fill a gap in their catalogue, a mix between the E35 and the E44 with its Dual CS43131, with both outputs, a smaller body, no cables and with the addition of an FPGA that allows the use of different firmwares capable of modifying the sound. This is certainly something that sets it apart from the competition and goes beyond the filters that are built into ESS DACs. At the moment there are two sound styles, but there could be more, which would make this small device even more attractive. In terms of power level it does not go beyond its smaller siblings, although it has the necessary power to drive a large catalogue of headphones with sufficient authority. My measurements will tell you that.
Its level of construction is sober, a trademark of the company, but robust and faultless. Its design is a little different from the established Tempotec design and it is true that it can remind us of other models, with that transparent window towards the inside. Sound buttons are a must, and the BHD Pro has them, with 60 volume steps. There is also a status LED, which has become essential for the information it provides. Of course, the ASIO driver is also available right out of the box. All this makes the new BHD Pro possibly the dongle with which Tempotec should bid farewell to the Dual CS43131 that it has been so successful with. And it would do so in style.
Earphones and Sources Used During Analysis
- Hidizs AP80 PRO-X Red Copper LE
- Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro
- ISN H40
- Hidizs MP145
- Hidizs MS5
- KiiBOOM Allure
- KiiBOOM Evoke
- 7Hz Sonus
- Rose QT9 MK2