Great Leap From 1 to 6
- Possibly the cheapest DAP with Android and great sound quality in the mid-range.
- Total commitment to the best sound at the best price.
- Very competitive components for the price, on a par with all its rivals.
- More than correct behaviour, quick start-up, very acceptable and relatively fluid handling.
- SE and BAL line outputs independent of the SE and BAL headphone outputs.
- Physical volume and playback buttons.
- High quality audio connectors, all metal and gold-plated.
- Good power level.
- Two-way Bluetooth with the latest protocols.
- Android 8.1 with WiFi, compatible with the best audio and online music APPs.
- Tuned version of HiBy Music for better performance and Bit Perfect guaranteed.
- Upgradeable via OTA.
- Capable of playing DSD up to 512 natively, MQA 16x, DXD and PCM 32bit/768kHz.
- Connections at the bottom.
- It could incorporate a cloth bag for transport.
Link to the Store
Link to the WEB
As stated on their website: «TempoTec Corp. was established by a group of audiophiles. Its multinational team consists of experts from China, Taiwan, Korea and Germany». As a final note, «Technology and humanity is the soul and purpose of TempoTec». Under this premise, the well-known Chinese brand has made a multitude of great products, trying to offer the best technology to give us the best sound. I think there is no better way to explain the new DAP TempoTec Variations V6 than with these comments. I have known the brand for many years and I have many of their models that I still use today as the first day. Its long history in DAC/AMPS has made it a reference in dongles and some time ago it took the plunge with its small DAP Variations V1 and V1-A, a model that, fortunately, I own. This small DAP with impeccable handling and two SD slots could be one of the best transports (V1) or get a great sound through the 3.5mm SE output of its V1-A version. It’s been a long time since then and in between all the dongles I missed a new DAP. And it has finally arrived. But the leap between the two is a big one. It’s not just an update, it’s a new product of a very high standard. An Android 8.1 based DAP capable of native DSD512 decoding, 16x MQA, DXD and 32bit/768kHz PCM. It can be used as a music source playing files from your Micro SD, as a USB DAC, via Bluetooth or AirPlay. With a 4500mAh battery, capable of powering a 4.2″ touch screen, it has 4.4mm balanced outputs (line and headphones) and 3.5mm SE outputs (line and headphones). It has two AK4493SE DACs, the Snapdragon 425 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of ROM, as well as 2 OPA1612 and 4 OPA1688 operational amplifiers from Texas Instruments. Of course, it has two-way Bluetooth, supporting LDAC, AAC, UAT, APTX, APTX-HD, SBC and is compatible with third party apps, via WiFi, such as TIDAL, Spofity, Qobuz, Deezer and Apple Music. The result is a great product at an unbeatable price. It is possibly one of the products with the highest quality for the price paid that I have been able to analyse. A new benchmark in the segment. Let’s see why.
- DAC: 2*AK4493SE
- Amplification: 2*OPA1612 + 4*OPA1688 pyramidal digital-to-analog conversion circuit.
- Processor: Snapdragon 425, 2GB RAM and 16GB internal space.
- SNR: 124dB.
- DNR: 124dB.
- THD+N: -111dB.
- Crosstalk: 84dB/32Ω/3.5mm. 116dB/32Ω/4.4mm.
- Output level: 2VRMS/3.5mm. 4VRMS/4.4mm.
- Output power: 330mW/32 Ω/3.5mm, 610mW/32 Ω/4.4mm.
- Bluetooth Bidirectional, supporting LDAC, AAC, UAT, APTX, APTX-HD, SBC.
- Formats: DSD up to 512 natively, MQA 16x, DXD and PCM 32bit/768kHz.
- 4.2″ touch screen.
- Android 8.1.
- SRC ByPASS.
- HiBy Link.
- 4500mAh battery.
- Micro-SD up to 2TB.
- USB DAC.
- Air Play.
- Compatible with third-party apps, via WiFi, such as TIDAL, Spofity, Qobuz, Deezer and Apple Music.
The Tempotec Variations V6 comes in a small black box, dimensions 168x119x48mm. It features a real photo of the product on the front, the brand logo in colour on the top left and the DSD logo on the bottom right. On the back are some specifications, in Chinese and English, the brand’s contact details and other information of interest such as the website, contact e-mail and Facebook. All this is printed on a cardboard cover that pulls out vertically, revealing a plain black box. After lifting the lid, the V6 is wrapped in transparent cellophane. A cloth strap allows it to be removed from the thick, dark foam-rubber frame that efficiently protects it. In the second layer, underneath the V6, there is a black cardboard box also protected with black foam. Finally, at the deepest level, there is the green, faux-leather case, inside of which is another dark box with a further accessory. In summary, all the contents are as follows:
- TempoTec Variations V6.
- One green synthetic leather case.
- One USB Type C to USB Type A cable.
- One instruction manual.
- One warranty card.
- One quality certificate card.
- One screen protector.
It’s worth mentioning that the V6 comes with a screen protector and a back protector. I just miss some kind of carrying pouch to protect the DAP when stowing it in a backpack or similar. Otherwise, the case is essential, in a distinctive colour and I appreciate it highly, along with the screen protectors, which is something TempoTec is accustomed to. Simple but remarkable. The only thing I could miss is a cloth bag to protect the DAP during transport.
Construction and Design
The V6 is a rectangular tablet weighing approximately 202g. Its external dimensions, without case, are 116x68x17mm. The top face has a 4.2″ touchscreen. The left edge is square, while the right edge has strongly bevelled edges. It is on this side that the controls are located: at the very top is the volume control, which is a gold potentiometer with a highly textured rim. It doesn’t protrude from the pickup, but sits flush, as if sunken in, but on both the top and bottom sides, it’s uncovered for access. Underneath is an LED in a narrow, horizontal slot. Its colours represent the status of the DAP. Then there are three physical buttons for forward, play/pause and rewind. On the left edge, slightly upwards, is the slot for the Micro-SD memory card. At the bottom edge are all the audio outputs. From left to right: 4.4mm BAL LO, 3.5mm SE LO, 3.5mm SE PO, 4.4mm BAL PO. It is worth noting that all connectors are metal and gold-plated. This is perhaps to be expected at this level, but I think it is equally remarkable. In the centre of this face is the USB Type C connection. There is nothing on the top edge. The entire edge is metallic and has a smooth micro-sandblasted texture.
The main face has the screen at the top, while there is a narrow, unused space at the bottom, which is used for the model name, on the right-hand side. On the rear face is the brand logo in the first upper third and in the lower third are concentrated the logos of the formats capable of playback, as well as the certifications it has, the brand name, the product description, the voltage and amperage of the device.
The case it comes with fits like a glove, unsurprisingly, and is a dark green colour, which stands out subtly against other brown or black cases.
Internally the V6 comes with a 4500mAh battery that provides up to 12 hours of continuous music playback on 4.4 BAL.PO and 15 hours on 3.5 PO in high gain mode.
It features two AK4493SE DACs, the Snapdragon 425 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal space, as well as 2 OPA1612 and 4 OPA1688 operational amplifiers from Texas Instruments.
Neither the screen nor the processor are the best, but the starting price of the V6 is worth noting. TempoTec has chosen to highlight this device for its sound, not for its display or processor. Although, to tell the truth, it does not mount anything strange, but the same as its immediate superior competition, so it is not unusual, nor inferior to the rest of the somewhat more expensive DAPs. So, in this respect, nothing to complain about.
The V6 has 4 outputs (4.4mm BAL LO, 3.5mm SE LO, 3.5mm SE PO, 4.4mm BAL PO). Two are line outputs and the other two are headphone audio outputs. This gives an idea of its great versatility in this regard. There’s also a USB Type C port, obviously. It’s a charging and multi-connection port. You can get RCA outputs via a USB Type-C to RCA connector. It can also be connected to external DACs via an OTG cable. It can also be used as a DAC connected to a PC or connected to a smartphone or other portable audio device via an OTG to Type-C adapter cable. Simply select the «USB DAC in» option in the V6. No driver installation is required for Windows 10. With older Windows, the audio driver can be downloaded from the TempoTec website.
It also has Bluetooth connectivity as a transmitter, supporting LDAC, AAC, UAT, APTX, APTX-HD, SBC codecs. It can also be connected as a Bluetooth receiver by selecting the «Bluetooth Audio Input» option and pairing the V6 with any Bluetooth source.
As a good Android DAP, the V6 supports 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi connection. The WiFi connection can be used to transfer songs to and from the V6, remotely control the V6 via HiByLink and access remote music via DLNA, all using the installed HiBy Music APP.
The V6 comes preloaded with an Android v8.1 operating system. This means it is very similar in use to any Android smartphone. Third party apps such as TIDAL, Spofity, Qobuz, Deezer and Apple Music can be installed. Personally, I have used my TIDAL subscription to check that it works properly, getting great sound, better than using TIDAL from my PC.
To turn the V6 on, just press the volume button for a moment. To turn it off you have to do the same, but you will get a menu to choose to turn off or restart.
By default, the HiBy Music APP is installed, which I was able to upgrade to a higher version that was available. It seems that the V6 uses a custom version of this APP. The version is as follows:
HiBy Music V6 Professional Edition V2.0.1 build 6052.
With this application, Bit Perfect output is achieved, as well as native DSD512 playback. The manual warns that other APPs may not be able to achieve Bit Perfect.
It also says that the V6 uses «DTA full-time bit perfect android audio framework». DTA stands for Direct Transport Audio. Android’s global lossless output system, it bypasses the oversampling SRC in the Android system by modifying its audio stack to output bit perfect audio.
There is no big mystery when it comes to adding your own account to access the App Store, just as with any Android device.
There are some very basic APPs pre-installed, such as gallery, calendar, file manager, clock, Play Store, calculator, system and a browser called Via. Really, it is very basic and the storage memory is 16GB. Not a very high figure but enough to install the online music APPs and some other tools that we think we need.
Of course, the HiBy Music APP can be controlled via the touchscreen, but the V6 has a volume control that clicks at each volume step and three buttons for playback control: forward, play/pause and rewind.
The audio menu can be accessed from the top drop-down, where WiFi and Bluetooth can also be activated. The audio options allow you to select the «Low-pass anti-aliasing» filter from 6 options, gain (low/high), plugins, MSEB, «DSD gain compensation», «Channel balance» and maximum volume (up to 100 steps).
Finally, the multicoloured LED under the volume wheel has the following meaning:
- PCM ≤ 48kHz: Blue.
- PCM 64kHz – 192kHz: Green.
- PCM > 192kHz: Orange.
- DSD: White.
- Charging/low battery (< 20 %): Red.
And as a bonus, despite being an Android device, the V6 boots up quite quickly.
The TempoTec V6 has 4 outputs, two line outputs (3.5m SE and 4.4mm BAL) and two headphone outputs (3.5m SE and 4.4mm BAL). As usual, the SE outputs go up to 2V RMS and the balanced outputs up to 4V RMS. And this is strictly adhered to. But it happens that up to 90 volume steps, both in low gain and high gain, the volume is very progressive, slow. From the 90th step onwards the volume increases rapidly. This effect makes it seem that the V6 has less power than other devices. But this is not the case, you just have to turn up the volume more to reach a similar output voltage.
On the other hand, let’s do a little maths using Ohm’s law. If the maximum voltage is 2V RMS at the SE output, the maximum power for 32 Ω would be 120mW. I don’t know how it is possible to reach the specified 330mW. That would mean an RMS voltage of 3.25V.
Similarly, for the balanced output, 4V for 32 Ω would give 500mW, but not the specified 610mW. This is at a theoretical level. In reality, the V6 does not exceed the mythical 90mA barrier, so the real measurements are well below these power values. But they are by no means bad measurements.
Finally, let’s talk about the output impedance. It is as it should be, close to zero, both for the SE output and for the BAL output, both at low and high gain.
No Load SE
At low gain, the maximum output is 1V RMS. At high gain, 2V RMS, with a linear frequency response.
15 Ω SE High Gain
For this impedance, the measured value is 1.2V providing 96mW and 80mA. A great value.
33 Ω SE High Gain
Splendid, just over 2V RMS for this impedance, maximum: 130mW and 63mA. Also, the output impedance is close to zero. Very good.
100 Ω SE High Gain
Likewise, just over 2V RMS, 43mW and 20mA.
No Load BAL
A copy of the SE output but with higher voltage. At low gain, the maximum output is 2V RMS. At high gain, 4V RMS, with a linear frequency response.
15 Ω BAL High Gain
The V6 squeezes the current output and reaches 1.3V RMS: 110mW and 86mA. Just shy of the 90mA barrier.
33 Ω BAL High Gain
The reference value, 2.58V RMS, 200mW and 78mA. A great and round value. Within the reach of few.
100 Ω BAL High Gain
And as you’d expect, over 4V RMS for 100 Ω, which means a current delivery of 41mA and a power output of 170mW. It’s clear that the V6 doesn’t take kindly to just anyone.
As can be seen in the graph, the frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz is fully linear and equal in both channels. It can also be seen that the frequency extension ranges from 5Hz to 40kHz, with very slight dips, clearly meeting the Hi-Res specification.
It may sound like an excuse again, but I think that analysing the sound of a source is more complicated than analysing it over headphones. Basically, most of the sources I have tested have a high level. And the differences between them, when the response is normally flat, are not that big. It’s more about looking for differences in sound profile, in clarity, in depth, in separation, in sound space, in timbre… All those things that the best THD, SNR and other specifications can reflect, even if the human ear is not able to quantify them, but it can perceive them when compared to other sources. But when you get into a higher category than what I am used to testing, it is normal that you can distinguish the differences more easily. And first impressions are often the best, because people tend to get used to the good stuff and quickly forget great quality on a daily basis. That may be one of the reasons why we always want or look for something better, instead of enjoying what we already have. And what I have here is not «peccata minuta», but a major sin, worth enjoying or at least boasting about.
And my first impression was great, very good, with a smile. There was not a hint of doubt. The V6 has an undeniable quality and my ears appreciated it. And another thing I also appreciated is the return of AKM. I’ve never hidden and have always commented that I like the sound of the cooler, more analytical Sabre DACs. But a bit of warmth and smoothness is not a bad thing, without losing the shapes. That’s what the V6 gives. It’s not a deliberately warm sound, but more musical. Although the great and first virtue I appreciated was the spatiality and grandeur of the low end, the space occupied and its separation. In this sense, the V6 is a tasty source, one of those where you want to turn up the volume to get into the sound and dive into it. And that can only be done with highly musical, pure and spacious devices, because they don’t get in the way. Not strictly sweet, but very attractive. It is the AKM brand, slightly redefined after the fire, as their slogan «Velvet Sound» always tries to reflect. But back to the bass, it has a special colour, it’s really deep, dynamic and silky, with a very nice texture and with that ability to take up a lot of space. The best word to define them would be expansive, as well as juicy. It is not a totally dry and concise bass, but apart from air and volume, it has a wet excitement that adds an enormously attractive, seductive musicality to the sound, bringing an additional point of fascination to the sound. They also possess an expansive capacity that adds a superior laterality. It is easy to observe how the bass travels from the distance to appear in the centre of the scene, giving an idea of the great three-dimensionality they possess, as well as a huge realism generated inside the head.
Spatiality, mixed with a great ability to expose detail across the full breadth and width of the music, remains the predominant note in the V6’s midrange. There is undoubtedly a great deal of dynamics in the sound, and this is clearly noticeable in the centre band. The V6 is like going from 4:3 to 16:9 but with an even bigger picture.
Every detail lasts longer, takes up more space, and can be seen throughout, as if the music were slowed down so that more nuances can be seen in it. But no, the speed is normal, nor is it an over-exposure of music, nor is it more overloaded. It simply possesses a superior richness that brings it closer to a purer and more real sound. Because the level of musicality of this DAP avoids any artificiality in the sound. And that is something I prefer. I have been able to test supposedly better and more expensive DAPs that try to generate a more unreal sound to captivate the listener. This is not the case here and for that I have to thank AKM and their great ability to extract information from the music and expose it in the most natural way possible. That is my perception of the middle zone, a vast range, very exposed, opulent, succulent, lush and abundant, at the same time very delicious and pleasant. Exquisite and very enjoyable. Designed to bring out the best in our headphones.
To finish with the midrange, the smoothness of the sound and its warmth are felt in a more pleasant and subtly warm timbre, which brings even more sweetness to even the coldest and most analytical IEMS, as well as superior realism. Lovely.
And it is in the treble that I find the biggest difference to Sabre’s heritage. The V6 has no crunchy treble. On the other hand, it is commendable how it is able to maintain musicality and never become piercing, without losing personality or sounding blatantly nuanced. There is no loss of information in the high frequencies, just a diverse, expertly rendered reproduction, which allows itself the luxury of exposing the treble with a calmer timbre and rounder notes, which are never sharp, cluttered, clumped together or blended. The treble is expressed in a broad, more spaced out manner. There is no rushing, no exaggerated speed in its execution, but rather that good workmanship is maintained that allows the true impact of the high frequencies to be revealed, as well as more information in its exposition. Again, the richness excels, both tonally and informatively, to complete an extensive, melodic, musical and very well executed range, without sacrificing the natural brilliance of the high notes. Very delightful.
From the very first moment, the V6 stands out for the size of the scene, for the breadth of the music. The concept of width is redundant, but I must emphasise that this DAP has a great laterality, a representation that goes beyond the listener’s plane to envelop the listener even from behind. And yes, this is stereo music only, there are no multi-channel sound effects. Actually, I have always thought that this is not necessary, and this TempoTec proves my point. The sound is enveloping, loud, but without sounding unreal or too ethereal. The representation of the scene advocates a realistic grandeur, offering a natural sound, subtly warm, but quite pure and crisp. It is not a brilliant sound, but it is undeniable how much clarity and separation it possesses, but always respecting the music, without over-exposing it, or over-elaborating it. The V6 tries to exalt the purity of the sound, and in this sense, I feel the choice of a more gentle, organic and melodious AKM DAC is appropriate. And that’s what you get here: sharpness, clarity, great dynamics, enormous width. But I must also emphasise something unusual, which is not usually found in lower-range sources, but which eloquently underlies it here. It is the life of the notes, their journey within the scene, their representation within it. In simpler sources, this life of the notes is simpler, more fleeting, the elements appear and disappear without trace or trace. Here, one can see the birth of many sounds, their propagation in time and space, as well as how they gain and lose intensity over time. This is a virtue that adds a superior value to the reproduction of the music, which brings a very great richness, as well as raising the volume and dimensions of the music, as well as its realism and vivacity, allowing us to enter a more immersive and live universe of sound.
Hidizs AP80 PRO-X
This model is not comparable in price range, but it is one of the best DAPS I have and has a more pure SABRE sound. It is tiny, comparatively speaking, but it is very powerful, even, in some respects, more so than the big V6.
In the low end the V6 boasts more headroom, deeper projection and more authoritative, musical bass. The Hidizs is more concise, more concrete, more defined and drier. It also has great authority, but less expansion limits its range and creates a smaller enclosure. There is a difference in range in the low end of the V6, as well as greater width. The sound feels more congested in the Hidizs. It is very exciting to see how sounds come from further away in the V6 and how they settle into the scene when they appear closer. It’s something that the bass allows you to bring in, that sense of approaching and flooding the scene. That feeling doesn’t exist in such a pronounced way in the Hidizs, where everything happens faster, having a beginning and an end more similar to each other.
In the mid-range, the Hidizs’ speed gives it almost better descriptive projection than the V6. The detail is very pronounced, but its sonority is not as rich or adequate as in the V6. I can’t say that the V6 offers more detail than the Hidizs, just that its sonority is different. In the Hidizs, the mids are simpler, with a defined execution and separation. On the other hand, the V6 expresses the music in a different way, it is not so concrete, and in its reproduction the mids have a purity that brings it closer to real life, offering a more organic and also more elaborated sound, as if it possessed a higher resolution, as if it were a photo with more megapixels. This is the sensation of true, marked Hi-Res, music that is enhanced by its richness, by its volume, by the space it generates. There is more body and fleshiness to the vocals of the V6 and the notes of the instruments have a longer and superior travel and life. The level of overtones is higher and each sound is more complex, but it is never diffuse or redundant, nor unreal. On the contrary, its colour is more organic and pure.
The high end is clearly different, all of the above becomes more palpably noticeable. The highs of the Hidizs are dry and thin, thinner and more soaring. Whereas in the V6, the high frequencies have a superior extension and are never piercing. When the Hidizs is crisp in this range, the V6 remains musical and harmonious, being able to describe the zone in a more extended and prolonged manner, with a distinct colour and a more natural, pleasant and enjoyable timbre. In the Hidizs the treble is speed and agility, while in the V6 it is flowing and extended.
The V6’s scene is the crowning glory of the V6. While the Hidizs is finite and both its separation and the space it occupies is large, but distinguished and finished, in the V6 everything is less quantifiable, because even the volume is variable depending on the music. And, if necessary or if the music has a higher stage, the V6 will provide it in all its splendour. The three-dimensionality of the V6 is more apparent and has a width that expands beyond and surrounds the listener, without the sensation being ethereal or vaporous, because there is no loss of information. The distance between elements and the separation is more natural and there is an elasticity that is not shown in the Hidizs. It is noticeable that the V6 is on a higher rung than the AP80 PRO-X, the latter being a great DAP in its range. But the price difference is more than justified and the price jump is noticeable. You can’t ask the Hidizs to be better than the V6 because it costs over $100 more.
TempoTec is a solid company, very serious and committed to what they do. I have had the pleasure of reviewing many of their products over the last few years and all of them still work as good as the first day. Not only are they committed to offering quality devices, but their goal is still to offer the best sound at the best price. The V6 is the epitome of that commitment.
TempoTec has moved from the V1 to the V6 with an ambitious leap in quality. Yes, it really is a $200 difference, but that little DAP has little or nothing to do with this one. Well, actually they share AKM DACs and little else. The V6 is possibly the first mid-range DAP on the market for its price level. It uses Android 8.1, a 4.2″ tempered glass touchscreen, a 4500mAh battery and a Snapdragon 425 processor. So far all the components are entry level and very similar to the next higher priced competition. As DAC it uses a dual AK4493SE and a 2*OPA1612 + 4*OPA1688 amplifier circuit. In this respect, the sound treatment has been TempoTec’s priority and that is something that is noticeable even on a quick listen. And I believe that this is the differentiating element compared to the competition. I don’t doubt that other brands are looking for that quality, but do they all manage to find it? TempoTec has found the key for a launch price of $300 and manages to stand out from the rest, creating a product that could be a reference to beat, even with a lower price than the rest.
In terms of sound, the V6 generates music to be enjoyed unhurriedly, calmly and quietly. And it is under this influence that one realises the true quality of its sound and that music should sound, at the very least, as this V6 presents it. A pleasure for more affordable ears that want to increase the sound quality for just a little bit more.
Earphones Used During Analysis
- Rose QT9 MK2s
- Dunu Falcon Pro
- Yanyin Aladdin
- Penon Globe
- Penon ORB
- ISN H40
- NS Audio NS5 MKII Extra Bass
- Letshuoer S12
- Ikko OH10
- Rose Martini
- BQEYZ Topaz
- TRI Meteor
- TRN Kirin
- Hidizs MD4
- Takstar Pro 80
- SoundMagic HP150