Back to Neutrality
- Neutral sound, but powerful.
- Very good timbre and tonality.
- Compact and complete design.
- Quality of construction, cable and connectors.
- Excellent price/performance ratio.
- Volume steps too wide.
- No cover like the BHD model.
Link to the Store
Once again, Tempotec is extending its Sonata series with a new member, building on the Dual DAC path started with the BHD model. It even uses a philosophy partially implemented in that model: the device is not a single tablet to which USB cables and headphones can be attached, but the connectors are external and connected by coiled cables, which cannot be disconnected. On the BHD model, the 2.5mm connection is on the body, while the USB connector is external and attached to the tablet via a fixed cable. Now, on the E35, both connections have external connectors, linked by cables. For this purpose, a 4-strand 6N monocrystalline copper cable has been used. The E35 uses a 3.5mm SE headphone output with a maximum voltage of 2VRMS. The DACs used are still from Cirrus Logic, namely the DUAL CS43131, capable of achieving an SNR of 128dB. The hardware volume control is still in place, but this time it is a single button, in toggle mode, where the volume is raised or lowered by pressing the ends of the button. After this brief introduction, we will go into more details about this new dongle model.
- DAC: DUAL CS43131
- SNR: 128dB
- THD+N: 113dB
- Output level: 2VRMS
- Output power: 80 mW/32ohm
- Frequency: 0-40KHZ /+-DB
- Crosstalk: -95dB
- Support: 32Bit PCM/384kHz DSD256 (native) DSD128(DOP)
- Support: HW volume control
- Support: PC MAC and Android
- Compatible with W7, W8, W10 and ASIO driver
Changing the colour trend of the external case of the Tempotec Dongles, this time it is white. Its dimensions are 127x100x35mm. On the front side you can see a drawing of the edges of the E35. On the back side there is only the brand, the model, the website, the e-mail address, several QR and an EAN13. But after removing the outer cardboard, the complete black box can be seen again. It opens up like a chest and inside you can see the E35, the USB Type-C to USB classic adapter and some Hi-Res logos stickers inside a thick foam moulding. Underneath, there’s little else. The complete contents are:
- Tempotec Sonata E35.
- USB Type-C female to USB male adapter.
- Gold Hi-Res AUDIO logo sticker.
- 1 protector for the back.
- 1 front side protector.
- 1 wet wipe.
- 1 dry wipe.
The device already comes with protective plastics, but a replacement is appreciated. The two-stage cleaning kit (wet wipe and dry wipe) is also appreciated. But a carrying case is missing, as the Sonata BHD did. It’s funny, because now the price of both devices is practically the same. But my feeling is that the E35 has a better construction, a better cable and a nicer and more attractive design.
Construction and Design
As I mentioned in the introduction, the new E35 is no longer a simple tablet, nor are the connectors integrated into it. Instead, a 4-strand 6N monocrystalline copper wire comes out of each end, which is attached to the USB Type-C connector on one side and the 3.5mm SE connector on the other. Each connector is gold-plated. The USB male connector sleeve is the same colour as the body and is oval in shape. The headphone output connector sleeve starts out as a cylinder that turns into a rather bulky hexagon. It also has the same colour as the body. The colour can be chosen between black and «Coffee Golden». The dimensions of each component are:
- Global 190mm.
- USB connector 22.5mm.
- 3.5mm SE connector 24.5mm.
- Centre tablet 54mm.
- USB cable 51mm.
- Headphone output cable 39.5mm.
The sum total of the parts is greater than the overall size, because the connections are located in an innermost groove of the tablet body.
Each connection point of the cable to the central tablet or any connector is protected by a translucent white plastic sleeve.
The central tablet is constructed of an aluminium housing, on the faces of which a black, glazed surface is mounted. The edges of the housing are not sharp-edged, but bevelled, even at the corners. On the rear side are the model name, the words «HIGH QUALITY USB DAC&HPA» and the logos of the regulations it complies with. On the top side, the glazed part has a longitudinal groove, where the volume control is located. This is a single button, which operates in rocker mode. At the bottom of this face, you can read «Tempotec». The weight is very light and the value is about 15 grams.
From the design I would like to point out that the trend has been reversed to use fixed cable connectors, the rocker button used for volume control, the thick, hexagonal design of the headphone output connector sleeve. I would also like to point out the possibility to choose between two colours, the sober black colour and the «luxurious» and attractive «Coffee Golden» colour.
Finally, the fact that the connectors are wired together can in principle ensure a better connection quality, as the fixed cables are of apparently good quality and the soldering should be up to standard. This design loses the smaller size of the initial idea, but offers more flexibility and avoids losing accessories. I guess everyone will have their own thoughts on whether this design is an advantage or a disadvantage.
The Sonata E35 has a USB Type-C connection, which limits it to Android, PC and DAPS compatible systems. Connected to a Windows PC it is Plug&Play, being compatible with version 10 without the need for additional drivers. For previous versions such as 8 or 7, it will be necessary to use the ASIO driver. However, the use of this driver is also recommended for Windows 10.
When connected to an Android device, it is advisable to activate the «OTG» and «USB debugging mode» options.
Finally, compatible DAPS, such as the Tempotec V1/V1-A itself and others like the HiBy R3 Pro, will recognise it without any problems and can be used without restrictions.
The E35 has 32 volume steps. As usual with powerful systems, the volume steps are usually relatively large. Using a PC, a DAP or even a smartphone, the volume can be additionally controlled by the source device itself. This is one way to improve its accuracy. However, I think it would be better to have a larger number of volume steps available.
On the other hand, the operation is not very mysterious, apart from the fact that it seems to remember the volume position.
The measurements were taken at maximum volume, at which the waveforms were free of visible distortion. FLAC files of 96000 Hz, 24 Bits, with pure frequencies of gain 1, generated with Audacity software, were used.
To compare it with some other dongles, at 16Ω/32Ω it is more powerful than the Earmen Sparron by SE, being very similar for higher loads.
As the specifications state, the maximum output of the Sonata E35 is 2V RMS, even a little more. With the following measurements, the output impedance is around 2Ω.
The average RMS voltage is 1.06V. This means a power of 75mW. A slight noise can be observed at the lower peak of the waveforms. Anyway. In my opinion, a value of 1V for 16Ω is always a reference value. This phenomenon disappears by reducing the volume by 0.5dB.
Tempotec specifies 80mW for 32Ω. This would imply a voltage of 1.6. In my measurements, the closest I have been able to get, due to the large volume jumps and aided by the 0.5dB fine-tuning provided by the Foobar2000, is 1.58V. The power value is very close to the specified value, but, critically, there is a very slight distortion in the lower crest of the waves, which disappears when the volume is lowered.
To my surprise, with this impedance connected, the E35 cannot reach the 2V RMS cleanly, staying at a value of 1.82V, which means a power of 33mW.
At this value the 2V RMS is already reached and the resulting power is just over 20mW.
The frequency response has been measured for 11 different volume steps, in both channels. The response is flat from 10Hz to 40kHz and no crosstalk is observed between channels, the response being identical. What can be observed is that the volume jumps range between 2db and 3dB, which are very large jumps. This makes it a bit difficult to fine-tune the volume.
The first impression I had when I first tried the E35 was of the loudness of its sound, in general, but of its low end in particular. The idea that came to mind was that typical wall-of-sound feeling. And it remains so, without implying that the sound is totally cohesive, without air or separation. Rather, I want to refer to its level of punch and the energetic capacity it is able to transmit to the sound. With a neutral and flat profile, but as I say, energetic and power-packed, with a tendency to be prominent, especially in the low end, the Sonata E35 sounds in a very analogue, physical, dynamic and realistic way, moving away from more analytical and over-defined sensations. It could be described, briefly, as natural, restrained, yet vitaminised. Turning, again, to the low end, the E35 bases the bass representation on its physical power, but without actually colouring the area. In this way, the lower range is penetrating, with a good level of darkness and depth, characteristics that favour that analogue and physical sensation in its perception. This is how the zone feels quite round and complete, seamless, with a great punch, a good level of definition, air and separation, but without being excellent in the description of textures. It is true that between the energy level and the sense of cohesion, the bass has a tendency to roundness and to feel more continuous. But, even so, with a slight roughness, the result of the rawness of its forcefulness, just enough to be very pleasant and enjoyable. Thanks to the good dynamic level that it possesses, the recreation of planes, the speed and its decay move in quite good values, being very capable of contributing these goodnesses, to the connected earphones.
Moving into the mid-range, the E35 lowers the piston in its level of forcefulness, giving way to that more sober and less spectacular feeling of neutrality, without this implying a drop in quality. The range still feels quite analogue, very realistic and natural, where the amount of air and separation never feels forced or unrealistic. There are still quite good dynamics, but the representation is perceived as eminently frontal and without departing from the coherence of the presented sound. In this way, the music comes across as uncontrived, but never dull, thanks to remarkable levels of dynamics and transparency, high definition and resolving power, but fully in keeping with reality, producing a fully canonical and reference timbre.
The treble, of course, is still in keeping with the idea of coherence and neutrality. The result is a logical, objective, simple treble, but with a good character and temperament. Their definition is not outstanding, nor are they remarkable for their level of transparency or brilliance. But it is clear that their reproduction is still realistic and analogue, with a great balance between subtlety and edge, between roundness and finesse, managing to balance even the most unpleasant notes, but without any loss of information or nuance. In this way, the level of detail and resolution, without being remarkable for its shape and personality, is quite high, being at the mercy of the quality of the connected earphones, but always within the docility of the E35’s profile.
The scene, as I mentioned at the beginning, is eminently wide, predominantly frontal. There is a good degree of depth, but the sense of three-dimensionality is not very high. The amount of air is moderately good, as is the level of transparency and separation. Being the Sonata E35’s natural and neutral character, the musical recreation is realistic, with a logical and direct positioning, no artifice, no unrealistic flares that detract from the coherence of the sound.
On this occasion, Tempotec returns to the path of neutrality and naturalness, eliminating the warmth and softness of the BHD model, adding a plus of forcefulness, energy and punch. These are the hallmarks of a product with a very complete sound, perhaps not very spectacular, but I reaffirm the canonical feeling it offers musically, with an ad hoc, reference timbre. The result is a seamless sound, forceful and powerful, clear, with a remarkable level of transparency, resolution and detail. An example of musical craftsmanship in its price range.
Tempotec Sonata HD Pro
It is the version with Single DAC CS43131 and volume control and one of the most read articles on my blog, which is sure to become a real bestseller. Its sound quality is unquestionable and it has a great price/performance ratio. In this sense, the question is clear: Is it worth buying the E35 when you have the Sonata HD Pro? The question is not easy to answer, because the difference in sound is not night and day. Where there are more differences is externally. The pickup design of the new E35 is superior, more elegant and eye-catching, while the HD Pro is rather simpler. While it is detachable, the cable seems better in the new version. I even prefer the headphone output on the E35. Going back to the pickup, as I said, the HD Pro model is very simple, with somewhat crude, more inaccessible buttons. The E35 has a double toggle button, which seems much more efficient to use, not only to the touch, but also in operation.
In terms of sound, both share a very similar profile, if not almost the same. Thus, the low end approach is very similar. Both offer that initial sense of power, but the HD Pro’s behaviour is somewhat simpler and more restrained, while the E35 expands more, generating greater extension, more travel, depth, energy and more appreciable texture. The sense of space in the low end also feels larger, so bass development is more optimal.
The differences in the mid-range are along the same lines. However, in this range, the greater dynamic range of the E35 is more apparent, providing a wider soundstage and greater separation. The sound profile remains the same, but the greater tonal and tonal richness of the E35 adds more sweetness and delicacy to the sound, as well as higher definition and resolution. This makes the sound richer, more complete and complex, with a more precise and deeper level of detail, allowing more micro nuances to emerge.
But it is in the high end that the differences are at their clearest. Those who like crisper, more realistic and extended treble should definitely buy the new E35. The timbre of the high notes is more natural and has more extension. In the HD Pro you can feel the limit, while in the E35 you can feel that threshold being crossed, but without losing the naturalness and realism. Flashes are more vivid and sparkling, with a superior brightness that doesn’t lose its delicacy and creates a less harsh, much more pleasing feel overall. The treble is finer, better defined, and the sense of air and separation between them also feels improved.
It is clear that the stage, the instrumental positioning, the distance between notes, the separation and the amount of air are all parameters that benefit, in the first instance, in the new E35. This is where the new Dual DAC configuration comes into its own. The feeling of dynamics, power, transparency and definition, as well as a more subtle and pleasing delicacy, are also superior factors in the new model. And, to answer the initial question, for those who don’t own the Sonata HD Pro and are hesitating between that older model and the E35, I would not hesitate and spend a little more on this new model. For those users who already own the Sonata HD Pro and want to buy the E35, looking for a clear difference, I can tell you that there is a difference, but it may not be so obvious to some. In this case, my recommendation would be the next new model from Tempotec, in balanced configuration, the Sonata E44, a very similar product to the E35, but with 4.4mm balanced output, better THD and SNR.
With a similar configuration, although without volume control and retaining the single tablet construction, which requires a USB connector for use, is the also famous #9030D. It is true that this dongle, manufactured by a small family-owned company, has been very well received by enthusiasts, thanks to its large size and high power. Model D is the model with 3.5mm SE output, which was released after the balanced option. The measurements published in a famous forum dedicated to this type of articles, reveal this E1DA, as one of the best in its segment. Without going into comparing these numbers, as I cannot measure them, I can say that the power of the #9038D is not as great as it is published and this is something I commented on that same forum and received a reply. Be that as it may, in any case, this «real» measurement (160mW at 32Ω) is just double what Tempotec specifies (80mW at 32Ω).
Specification considerations aside, as well as its external physical differences, the E1DA mounts the classic Sabre ES9038Q2M DAC, accompanied by the OPA1622/OPA1602, Susumu resistors, C0G Murata capacitors, AVX tantalum capacitors and Taiwanese connectors. Everything you need to be able to provide excellence in these measurements. Again, the question arises, is it worth buying the E1DA #9038D or choosing the E35? In terms of pricing, the #9038D currently costs approximately €84, without cables. The E35 costs 58€, a difference of 26€. Speaking bluntly, in a scenario where power is a priority, I would choose the E1DA. In other cases, the price difference is not so justified. We are talking about a dual DAC versus one of the best Sabre DACs and people who read me regularly know that I am a fervent fan of Sabre sound. Although it is also true that with the #9038D I found the sound less analytical than I could have expected. My impression of the #9038D is that its sound is more aseptic and neutral than I expected. Its analytical ability is not as clear and distinct, the result is not as cold sounding as I had expected. In fact, it feels quite neutral, but very open, but also quite restrained and unspectacular. In that sense, the E35’s sound is somewhat more concise, finite, but less open and somewhat tighter. The sensation of air and separation, I feel, is slightly superior in the #9038D, offering a slightly smoother and more elongated, more fluid sound. In the E35, the perception of greater homogeneity and forcefulness persists, as opposed to the more dispersed and ethereal sound of the #9038D. In the low end, the level of punch is very similar, slightly more powerful in the E35 and with a richer texture.
In the mid-range, things change and there seems to be a closer presence in the vocals of the #9038D, offering a more intimate, but also more three-dimensional experience. The E35 offers a less smooth, more pronounced, more distant feel, where the vocals are a little more diluted, not as defined and present. With the instrumentation, this feeling is not as clear, even reaching a sense of parity, depending on the instrumental density: with few instruments, the greater closeness in the #9038D is more apparent.
Just as the weight is greater in the lower range of the E35, so it is in the upper range of the #9038D. Despite the neutrality of both models, comparatively speaking, the E35 tends globally towards the bass and the #9038D towards the treble, without this predominance being clear with respect to the rest of the bands. Thus, the projection of the high notes is higher, more precise and defined in the E1DA, with a neater sound, a touch more brightness and an amount of air that is noticeable, both in the soundstage and in the level of transparency of the whole.
The E35’s eminent front stage contrasts with the #9038D’s greater sense of openness, separation and three-dimensionality. The punchier, more homogeneous sound of the E35 gives way to a smoother, more vaporous presentation that doesn’t lose detail, nuance, or resolving power offered by the #9038D. It is in those small nuances hidden in the sound dispersion that the E1DA is above the E35, having a finer point of delicacy, a wider and slightly more extended soundstage on all three axes. Admittedly, though, the differences require good headphones to distinguish.
The summary is that the E35 is a great choice, with a good amount of power and a neutral, reference sound, at a great price/performance ratio. If you want more power and a slight improvement, you’ll have to pay the 26€ difference, if you think it’s justified. I have serious doubts.
Tempotec continues to advance, in its line, without fanfare, but with constancy and know-how. It knows the components well and knows how to evolve to improve, getting the best performance out of them, without increasing the price. The result of all this is the Sonata E35, a very serious product, which has gained in both beauty and musical quality. With a sound signature that returns to neutrality and naturalness, Tempotec provides this new Dual DAC CS43131 dongle with extra energy and power, in a market that is beginning to be saturated with similar products. But its line is still there, offering a well-built product, with good specifications (which are indeed fulfilled) and a reference sound, which advocates purity, without losing sight of the quality or the good technical features it possesses. This is the new Tempotec Sonata E35, a solid value that will not disappoint its future buyers.
Earphones and Sources Used During Analysis
- HiBy R3 Pro
- Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro
- Tempotec Variations V1-A
- NF AUDIO NM2
- NF AUDIO NM2+
- BGVP ArtMagic VG4
- ISN H40
- NS Audio NS5 MKII Extra Bass
- Tin HiFi T4
- Tin HiFi T2 Plus
- NiceHCK EBX21
- Ikko OH10
- Reecho SG-03
- Rose QT9 MK2
- Takstar Pro 80
- SoundMagic HP150