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Starting the 2021 year with new Audio Gear

Starting the 2021 year with new Audio Gear

Hi everyone,

Yesterday, I wrote about how my 2020 was in terms of audio gear. Today, I’ll be talking about my initial purchases and what’s to come over the next few days and weeks.

I’m always looking to try new digital audio players and DACs mainly, followed by some headphones, usually from KZ. This year, I’m starting it with new products from Hiby, Hidizs, and Fiio. Let’s see the products below.

Hiby R2

Audio Gear 2021-01 - 4 - Hiby R2

The Hiby R2 is Hiby’s newest ultra-portable player, which has most of the features of the R3, but in a smaller body. It is able to decode and render MQA, and can stream music from Tidal via Wifi. I’m a huge user of the Hiby R3 Pro Saber, so I’m really exited to give the R2 a try!

Hidizs H1

Audio Gear 2021-01 - 1 - Hidizs H1

The Hidizs H1 is a neckband Bluetooth cable that comes with the Hidizs MS1 Rainbow. For the price, it is a real bargain, considering you get both items and also considering that most people will already have 2-pin 2.5mm or 3.5mm cables. Since I already own the Hidizs MS1 and MS4 which I backed on Kickstarter, the MS1 Rainbow is the only one I still don’t own. I also already have Hidizs’ 2.5mm and 3.5mm cables, as well as their BT01 Bluetooth cable. This means that this cable will be new in my collection. The Hidizs H1 is also compatible with the Hiby Blue app. It supports the SBC, AAC, aptX and aptX Low Latency codecs.

Hidizs H2

Audio Gear 2021-01 - 3 - Hidizs H2

The Hidizs H2 is Hidizs newest Bluetooth receiver adapter. It shares a few design details from Hiby’s own W3 adapter, having physical buttons as well as the LED which will be green or blue depending on the audio sample rate. It supports the main Bluetooth codecs, while also having support for LDAC and Hiby’s UAT codec. The Hidizs AP80 and AP80 Pro, as well as Hiby’s products already support UAT, so it is guaranteed we will have the best audio quality when listening on those products with the Hidizs H2. It also supports the Hiby Blue app and can also be used as a USB DAC.

Hidizs S9

Audio Gear 2021-01 - 2 - Hidizs S9

The Hidizs S9 is Hidizs newest DAC, sporting an AKM AK4493EQ DAC. It has both 2.5mm and 3.5mm outputs and supports up to 32bit/768Khz.

FiiO BTA30

Audio Gear 2021-01 - 5 - FiiO BTA30

The FiiO BTA30 is a Bluetooth receiver and transmitter. It claims to transmit audio using LDAC when using an optical or coax cable. My main purpose of this product is to attach it to my TV and see how much the audio quality improves and to try LDAC with it.


And that’s my initial purchased for products I should be receiving in the next couple of days. The Hidizs S9 is the product with the most far date, presumably due to AKM DACs shortage due to their factory fire. I’ll patiently wait, and I’m really looking forward to try all of these new products.

See ya on another post!

My 2020 in Audio Gear

My 2020 in Audio Gear

Hi everyone,

Last year was a great one when it came to acquiring new Audio Gear. In this post, I’ll talk about my acquisitions with a bit of overview for each product.

Digital Audio Players

In 2020, I got the FiiO M5, the Shanling Q1, the Hiby R3 Pro Saber, and the Hidizs AP80 Pro. These 4 companies do great products, so I went ahead and ordered their newest products. I had the Shanling Q1 already preordered on Kickstarter.

FiiO M5

FiiO M5

The FiiO M5 is a hybrid DAP. I say it’s hybrid because it also has a Qualcomm Bluetooth chip inside that makes it work as a Bluetooth receiver and transmitter separately. While products like Hiby and Hidizs DAPs also have Bluetooth receive/transmit functions, these work entirely using their Ingenic X1000E CPU and their Bluetooth chip, while the FiiO M5 uses its CSR8675 chip for this purpose.

The sound quality of the M5 is musical, using an AKM AK4377 with Velvet Sound, which seems to focus on mid details. The only downside is that a USB DAC cannot be used when using it in Bluetooth receive mode, and that it does not supports Opus files.

Hiby R3 Pro Saber

Hiby R3 Pro Saber

The Hiby R3 Pro Saber is a derivative product from the Hiby R3 Pro. Its main difference is that it uses 2x ESS 9218p DACs as opposed to the dual Cirrus Logic DACs found in the Hiby R3 Pro. Hiby claims the R3 Pro Saber offers a more analytical sound, and I can describe the sound as being more airy and open than the R3 Pro. This has been my favorite DAP to this date.

Hidizs AP80 Pro

The Hidizs AP80 Pro is the successor of the original Hidizs AP80 (pictured on the left). Its main difference is that it now offers dual ESS 9218p DACS and the Hiby HBC3000 FPGA. These same DACs and FPGA are found in the Hiby R3 Pro Saber, but they sound completely different. I would describe the sound of the AP80 Pro as being more warmer, especially in the bass, while the sound of the Hiby R3 Pro Saber is more open and fuller. I think that the AP80 Pro would fit those who seek deep bass while the Hiby R3 Pro Saber fits those looking for a more musical and open sound.

Shanling Q1

Shanling Q1

The Shanling Q1 (Pictured in the bottom center) was launched in Kickstarter. This player didn’t had Wifi until a later update added it with the DLNA feature. It also uses an ESS 9218p, but sounds different than the Hiby R3 Pro Saber and Hidizs AP80 Pro. The sound seems to be centered around mids. It sounds good, but different at the same time. The only downside is that the headphone jack is right in the middle and it is slippery. The buttons are also sensitive, but otherwise it’s a good DAP.

DACs and Dongles

Moving to the DACs and Dongles category, last year I got the new Tempotec BHD, the IFI Hip-Dac, and an off-brand very cheap DAC that’s surprisingly good.

IFI Hip-Dac

IFI Hip-Dac

The IFI Hip-Dac is an affordable DAC with a Burr-Brown DAC. It also renders MQA. Its sound is warm. On the back, it has a USB-C port which is only for charging, while a USB-A Male port is used for data. I rarely use this DAC because of the weird ports and I’d rather prefer it having 2 USB-C ports rather than its USB-A port. On the good side, the analog volume potentiometer works great, but be careful with sensitive IEMs as the volume gets extremely loud!

Tempotec Sonata BHD

The Tempotec Sonata BHD can be considered a “successor” to the Tempotec Sonata HD Pro. This one has dual Cirrus Logic CS43131 and has a 2.5mm output. It also shares the independent volume controls as the HD Pro. On the downsides, this one doesn’t have a detachable cable, and like the HD Pro, it has few volume steps. On the good side, it shares the same sound signature as the Tempotec Sonata HD Pro and doesn’t get warm.

Geekuy USB DAC

Geekuy DAC

This one was a surprise find on Amazon. It is very cheap, considering it has an XMOS controller and an ESS DAC. It also features a 3.5mm output. For the price, I was surprised at how good it sounds. It also doesn’t generate heat, is USB Audio Class 2.0, and works great with the PC. However, it had compatibility issues with my DAPs.

Bluetooth receivers

In this category, I got the FiiO UTWS1 (My favorites!), the Shanling UP4, the Qudelix 5K, and the new TRN BT20S Pro.

FiiO UTWS1

FiiO UTWS1

The FiiO UTWS1 seems to be a rebranded TRN BT20S with a different button configuration and better volume control. Its advantages are a more functional button configuration that includes raising and lowering the volume. This is the most warm Bluetooth adapter I have, which would satisfy bass lovers.

Shanling UP4

Shanling UP4

The Shanling UP4 is yet another product using dual ESS 9218p DACs. It, again, sounds differently than other products with the ES9218p. This time, it is warmer yet musical at the same time. When compared to the similar FiiO BTR5, which also uses the same dual ES9218p DACs, the sound of that one is more analytical, working best for treble and more analytical detail retrieval, while the Shanling UP4 works best for concert-like music and to be immersed into the music experience. It has a volume knob and supports major Bluetooth formats, which is standard in this kind of products nowadays. It also supports USB DAC functionality up to 16bit/48khz due to it its Qualcomm CSR8675 SoC.

Qudelix 5K

Qudelix 5K

The Qudelix 5K is made by a team of people who, according to sources, are the same ones who did the original EarStudio ES100 Bluetooth adapter. The Quidelix 5K is unique in that it uses the newer Qualcomm QCC5124 SoC versus the usual CSR8675 that others use. It also supports USB DAC mode up to 96Khz due to the improvements of the chip. It, again, uses dual ES9218p DACs, but sounds different due to the implementation used as well as their DSP processing. It sounds clean and not harsh. My only complaint is the button learning curve.

TRN BT20S Pro

TRN BT20S Pro

The TRN BT20S Pro is the successor of the TRN BT20S. They now include their own charging case which replaces the Micro USB port on the units. The hooks are also replaceable shall they go bad or you’d like to switch from 2-pin to MMCX. Unfortunately, it doesn’t play well with my phone as the volume is too loud. They also still have some hissing noise that’s also noticeable in their previous versions.

Bluetooth transmitters

The only Bluetooth transmitter I purchased last year was the Avantree DG80.

The Avantree DG80 supports aptX Low Latency, as seen on the FiiO BTR5 on the right. It is a small dongle that transmits audio from a PC or other devices supporting USB Audio Class 1 products. I’ve been an Avantree customer for some time due to their excellent transmitter and receiver devices, and their excellent support.

Headphones

Last year, the only headphone acquired was the KZ ZAX.

KZ ZAX

The KZ ZAX uses 8 drivers per side, consisting of 1 dynamic driver and 7 Balanced Armatures. The sound profile is V-shaped. It sounds somewhat similar to the KZ ZS10 Pro, yet more refined and doesn’t have a metallic sound that the ZS10 Pro suffered from. The sound is clean too and I sometimes listen to this over the Hidizs MS4, which are the ones I use the most. They retrieve a lot of detail in the music despite their V-shaped signature. On the downside, they do not isolate sound as well.

Headphone tips

Late in 2019, I ordered the NiceHCK Spiral tips, which I received early in 2020. Later in the year I ordered some tips from AZLA.

NiceHCK Spiral Tips

NiceHCK Spiral Tips

The NiceHCK Spiral tips have a spiral form in them. I ordered them after comparing them to other tips and making the nozzle close to the ears. The sound isolation is very good and improves bass in most cases.

AZLA SednaEarFitLight

AZLA SednaEarFitLight

I brought these tips accidentally, because it resembled the bass tips of the Hidizs MS4. Turns out the nozzle stays far from the ear, but they did improve the sound stage.

AZLA SednaEarFit Xelastec

Made from a different material than silicone, these have a sticky feeling. I wrote a more detailed review of these that you can find here.


And that was my 2020 in music gear. In my next post, I’ll talk about my acquisitions for 2021 that I will be reviewing as I receive them.

I haven’t received most of the products above, so keep looking forward to my reviews over the year too along with my new 2021 gear!

Optical Quantum Blue CD-R Overview

Optical Quantum Blue CD-R Overview

Hi everyone,

Yesterday, I received a spindle of “Blue CD-R” from Optical Quantum. This brand is a subsidiary of Vinpower Digital and the discs are manufactured by Optodisc Taiwan:

Optical Quantum Printable Blue CD-R 1

I brought this spindle because the “Blue CD-R” caught my attention. Usually, CD-Rs are produced in a very light green color, but these discs should be different. These discs are marketed as having a “Blue AZO Burning Die”, which should be superior than standard CD-Rs.

Optical Quantum Printable Blue CD-R 2

The discs are rated at 52x and can hold up to 700MB of data or 80 minutes of audio, which is standard of CD-R discs. This batch also appears to look like a dark green color, but not too much blue. The discs are printable too.

Checking these discs in Nero DiscSpeed gives us a Media ID Code (MID) of 97m24s01f, and is identified as “Taiyo Yuden”. I’m not sure if this is legit, as it is my understanding that CMC Magnetics has the rights to use Taiyo Yuden codes, but since these are manufactured by Optodisc, I have my doubts.

It has to be noted that these brands tend to source their discs from different suppliers, usually from Ritek, which does use Ritek codes in their discs. Some other brands source their discs from CMC Magnetics, again, using CMC-MAG-xxx codes. In this case, I wonder if Optodisc is legitimately making “Taiyo Yuden-quality” discs. There are some articles that seem to refer to Optodisc making Taiyo Yuden-quality discs, so that may be the reason they are using their media code.

I checked these discs on 4 slim drives that I at the moment. Since I’m on vacation, I don’t have my usual Lite-On drive to check these, but this will give you an idea of what to expect when using them on Slim drives. I also haven’t burned them, so this will just be purely disc information below:

Toshiba-Samsung SN-208AB

Optical Quantum Printable CD-R - Toshiba-Samsung SN-208AB

So far, the most reliable slim drive I have at the moment is this one, which reports burning these discs at 10x, 16x, 20x, and 24.

Panasonic UJ260

Optical Quantum Printable CD-R - Panasonic UJ260

This is a Blu-Ray drive which has been my best Blu-Ray burner in years. This drive also supports CDs and DVDs, but usually burns at low speeds. This is why Nero DiscSpeed is reporting just 2 speeds: 8x and 24x.

LG BP60NB10

Optical Quantum Printable CD-R - LG BP60NB10

This is an LG “4K UHD official” drive. This one gives me headaches sometimes since it seems to lose focus while reading some times, a behavior I don’t see on any other drive. Maybe it’s faulty, but I also found that this drive depends heavily on the quality of the USB port and cable since it’s USB-Powered. This drive supports burning these discs at 10x, 16x and 24x.

LG GT80N

Optical Quantum Printable CD-R - LG (HP-branded) GT80N

This drive is part of an HP laptop, which is why it is branded as HP rather than LG, but it is actually made by LG. On this drive, the disc is supported at a speed of 10x, 16x, and 24x.

Final Thoughts

These discs are marketed as Blue, but they seem to look dark green. This is still different from the majority of discs that look very light green. It seems to burn at a maximum speed of 24x on all of these slim drives, probably because of the use of the Taiyo Yuden media code, although nowadays, most media and drives burn most discs at 24x for Slim drives and 48x for desktop drives.

I haven’t burned these discs yet. That will come when I have access to my Lite-On drive featuring LabelTag, as I also want to see how a label would look on these discs too. I expect these to burn flawlessly at 48x in that particular drive which I have trusted since 2010.

You can get these discs on Amazon below:

Verbatim 4x BDXL 100GB Blank Media

Verbatim 4x BDXL 100GB Blank Media

Hi everyone,

Yesterday, I received my very first BDXL media. These are way more expensive than BD-R and about twice the cost of BD-R DL media.

For my first BDXL recordable media, I decided to get the Verbatim 10-pack spindle. These seem to be one of the lowest-priced media when compared to 3-packs or 5-packs variants of other manufacturers.

These BDXL discs are rated at 4x, but my LG WH14NS40 crossflashed to the WH16NS60 firmware detects them as having a write speed of up to 8x.

The Media ID is VERBAT-IMk-000.

On my Panasonic UJ260, these have a maximum write speed of just 2x.

I added files to burn using ImgBurn, and made sure to use the most space possible. I then started the burning process on my WH14NS14 at the maximum supported speed of 8x.

Añadí archivos a ImgBurn y me aseguré de llenar el disco lo más posible. Luego, comencé a quemarlos con mi LG WH14NS14 a la velocidad máxima de 8x.

It seems the drive use a Z-CLV (Zoned Constant Linear Velocity) strategy to burn these discs. The write pattern was as follows:

  • Layer 0: 4x -> 6x -> 8x
  • Layer 1: 8x -> 6x -> 4x
  • Layer 2: 4x -> 6x -> 8x

We can see the pattern below:

Some times, when the writing was at 4x, the drive would go down to 3.3x for about 1 second or 2:

The same happened when the drive was recording at 6x, going down to 5x for a second or 2:

The drive successfully burned this media, having an average speed of 5.7x:

Burning VERBAT-IMk-000 Average speed 5.7

Verification was slower than the writing itself, as it limited the read speed to 6x:

The verification was successful and no errors were reported:

The average read speed was 4.3x, slower than the 5.7x average when writing to it. It also seems that while ImgBurn set a read speed of up to 6x, the drive went all the way to 9x, according to the Maximum Verify Rate.

Here, we can see the written disc with its Z-CLV zones:

Conclusion

These discs seem to be compatible with the LG WH14NS40 Blu-Ray writer. They also burn at a faster 8x speed which is more than its rated speed of 4x. The drive was able to successfully burn them and read them. These discs, while expensive, allow us to write up to 100GB (about 93GB of actual storage) on a single medium. It would have taken us 4 25GB BD-R or 2 50GB BD-R DL media to write an equivalent amount of data.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any BDXL scanner I can use to test the quality, but the media can be read back on the LG drive as well as on my Panasonic UJ260. The latter seems to read the disc in Z-CLV too, but it was able to read the data back successfully too. It is just slower than the LG drive.

If we compare the price of having 10x 100GB Blu-Ray discs to owning a 1TB Hard Disk Drive, we can see that the BDXL media is a couple dollars more:

The BDXL media on eBay (It was at $53.15 at the time of puchase):

On Amazon. They seem to have lowered the price to $49.99 at the time I took this screenshot:

The price of 1TB Hard Disk Drives on Amazon:

Ultimately, it all would depend on your needs. Personally, I like to write data that will not be used frequently on optical media, while having frequently-changing data on the discs. I’ve also had a bad experience of having Hard Drives fail, and while I’ve had optical media fail too (Some bad Blu-Ray batches that deteriorated in a couple of years), the data loss is not as much as losing a whole hard drive. Remember to back-up your data!

Ritek Mini CD-R Photos and Quality Tests

Ritek Mini CD-R Photos and Quality Tests

Hi everyone,

Yesterday, I received some Pocket/Mini CD-R I purchased on eBay, which were being sold for cheap due to them not being branded or not having their specs listed.

The seller was selling 3 packs of 100 unbranded silver surface Mini CD-R, and since the price was lower compared to other branded media, I decided to buy all 3.

Ritek Pocket CD-R 210MB media - 1

The discs were wrapped with no spindle.

Ritek Pocket CD-R 210MB media - 2

The discs have a silver surface:

Ritek Pocket CD-R 210MB media - 3

Here we can see a single CD-R:

They have the usual light green color on the data side.

The disc loaded fine on my LiteOn iHAS524 drive. I launched ImgBurn which says that the discs are made by Ritek. Their media ID is 97m15s17f:

Pocket CD 97m15s17f Ritek Media 1

They also have a capacity of 210MB or 24 minutes and a maximum write speed of 24x.

Pocket CD 97m15s17f Ritek Media 2

This is the first Mini CD I use with this LiteOn drive, which has the unique LabelTag feature to add labels to the data side. The software detected the disc and a label can be created:

Pocket CD 97m15s17f Ritek Media 3

I burned some of these CD-R with Nero Express, which allows the creation of the label on the same run. I also burned them at its maximum speed of 24x without any failure.

Quality tests

I ran a Disc Quality test using Nero DiscSpeed. Below you can see the results of those tests. I limited the test to the first session of it, as the second one is the label produced with the above software and contains unreadable data. This makes the test fail. By limiting it to the first session, we can get the actual data track quality.

Disc 1

The first test gave us a maximum of 14 C1 errors with a total of 58. The average was 0.11. There were no C2 errors reported. The Quality Score was 98%.

Disc 2

This test was perfect! No C1 or C2 errors were reported, making the Quality Score be 100%.

Disc 3

This disc had a maximum of 9 for the C1 Errors with a total of 13. The average was 0.07. No C2 errors were reported. The Quality Score was 99%.

Disc 4

This final disc I burned had a maximum of 13 C1 errors with a total of 27. No C2 errors were reported. The Quality Score was 98%.

Final Thoughts

These blank CD-R media seems to be good to write small amounts of data. This could be an MP3 album, some photos, or software you’d like to archive. The burns seem to be of good quality and the 24x burning speed is adequate. This sure was a great find on eBay!

The Hidizs Mermaid MS1 and MS4 IEMs with their cables and accessories

The Hidizs Mermaid MS1 and MS4 IEMs with their cables and accessories

Hi everyone,

Yesterday, I received the brand-new Hidizs Mermaid MS1 and MS4 In-Ear Monitors Absolute Kits.

Hidizs Mermaid MS1 and MS4 IEMs with their cables and accessories
Hidizs Mermaid MS1 and MS4 IEMs with their cables and accessories

The Hidizs Mermaid MS1 is an IEM with 1 Dynamic Driver, while the Hidizs Mermaid MS4 is an IEM with 1 Dynamic Driver and 3 Knowles Balanced Armatures.

Hidizs Mermaid MS4
Hidizs Mermaid MS4

My initial impressions are excellent. These IEMs do a lot to reproduce the music. I found that the MS1, with just the Dynamic Driver, produces a warm sound with great mids and smooth bass and treble. The MS4, on the other hand, improves the bass and treble while having great mids. Since the MS4 uses 3 balanced armatures for the mids and treble, they do a great job, and since the Dynamic Driver is focused on the bass, it also does a great job. The MS1, on the other hand, produces a warmer sound since the Dynamic Driver needs to reproduce the entire frequency spectrum.

The Hidizs Absolute Kits come with a choice of a 2.5mm or 4.4mm balanced cable, USB-C 2-pin cable and an aptX Bluetooth Cable using a CSR8645 chipset. They are also compatible with other 2-pin 0.78mm IEMs and you can also use other aftermarket cables due to their 2-pin connectors.

The IEMs can be driven easily since the MS1 only has an impedance of just 15Ω while the MS4 has an impedance of just 12Ω. However, you can use your favorite DAC like the Hidizs DH1000/Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus and use the balanced output to enjoy an even better sound. You can also use them with the 3.5mm cable with the Hidizs AP80.

Now, here’s my unboxing video I recorded yesterday where I unbox both kits, their cables and accessories:

I personally like the MS4 due to their more punchier bass and their extended treble. The MS1 have more forward vocals, so if you’re looking for that, the MS1 is for you, but if you want the treble and a bit more bass, go for the MS4.

Here’s the review video I also recorded with my thoughts on the IEMs and the cables:

Overall, Hidizs did a great job with these new In-Ear Monitors.

You can purchase these 2 Hidizs IEMs at Amazon using the following links:

The Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus

The Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus

Hi everyone,

Yesterday, I received the Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus:

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 1
The Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus Box

This is a DAC and AMP all in one device. It has Dual ES9018K2M, Dual ES9601K amplifiers, as well as a Balanced 2.5mm headphone jack as well as the regular 3.5mm jack.

The device is very similar to the Hidizs DH1000. In fact, it is a rebranded Tempotec product. Today, I’ll take a look at a newer Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus revision.

The Tempotec unit I received should have some problems that the Hidizs DH1000 had. In particular, this unit should have the Blue LED problem fixed, where it would be permanently turned on at some point of the Hidizs DH1000 lifetime. I’ll also be comparing this version to the Hidizs DAC.

As seen in the picture above, the box look very similar. Let’s take the wrapping off:

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 2
The Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus Box without the wrap

Now, it’s time to open the box:

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 3
The Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus inside the box

We find the Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus inside the box. It is the first thing we see. Below the box, we find some more items:

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 4
Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus cables

We find a USB-A to Micro USB, a Micro USB to Micro USB OTG cable, and a USB-C to Micro USB cable. We also have the manual and other stuff.

Let’s take a look at the Sonata iDSD Plus:

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 5
Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus

It came well protected. The bag keeps the iDSD free from scratches, since it uses glass on both sides.

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 6
Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus

Not a single scratch in the bag. That’s great. Now, let’s take out our Sonata iDSD Plus:

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 7
Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus Front

This is the front. While we can’t see the charging LED, it is in the bottom left corner. It is blue, just like the Hidizs DH1000, and will turn on while charging. Also, on the upper left, we can see the volume buttons. We’ll see them later in details.

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 8
Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus Back

The back has the Tempotec branding, just like the Hidizs DH1000 also had the Hidizs branding.

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 9
Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus USB ports

The Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus has 3 USB ports. The USB-A is the so called “Private” port. This allows you to connect your compatible DAPs like the Hidizs AP80 and HiBy R3 when the USB mode is set to “Dock”. It also should work on Android and iOS devices when using the HibyMusic app.

The other ports are Micro USB. The middle port is for data transmission while the right port is for charging. The Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus charges at 5V/1A, usually drawing 800 mA but it can draw 940 mA if it is also turned on while listening to music and it is charging.

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 10
Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus audio jacks and power button

On the other side, we can see the standard 3.5mm audio jack on the left, the 2.5mm balanced jack in the middle, and the power button on the right. Between the power button and 2.5mm audio jack, we see the power LED, which will be green if it’s turned on, and will turn red when the battery is low.

Next, we’ll take a look at the cables:

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 11
USB-A to Micro USB cable

Above, we have the USB-A to Micro USB cable. This is the cable that you’ll be using to use the Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus in your computer, unless yours have a USB-C port, in which case you can use the included USB-C to Micro USB cable:

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 14
The USB-C to Micro USB cable

The USB-C to Micro USB cable also works with compatible Android devices. It works really well in my Samsung Galaxy S9+.

If your device has a Micro USB port, you’ll probably need this OTG cable, which is also included:

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 13
The Micro USB to Micro USB OTG cable

However, not all Micro USB phones support the OTG connection, so please be sure to check if your phone is compatible with USB Audio Class 2 audio devices.

The Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus manual comes in 2 languages:

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 15
The Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus manual in Chinese

In Chinese.

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 16
The Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus manual in English

And in English.

It also came with the Hi-Res Audio stickers:

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 17
Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus Hi-Res stickers

Here’s how it looks when it has both USB ports plugged in:

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 18
Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus with both Micro USB ports plugged

Comparison with the Hidizs DH1000

Let’s compare the device with the Hidizs DH1000. Please note that due to hardware problems, I tried to repair the Hidizs DH1000, and while it works, I have it covered differently than how it used to look.

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 19
The Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus with the Hidizs DH1000 side by side (1)

We can see they look similar.

Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus 20
The Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus with the Hidizs DH1000 side by side (2)

The back also look similar. However, here is where we’ll see the main difference:

The Hidizs DH1000 has the volume buttons marked with paint, while the Tempotec iDSD Plus has the actual marks deep in the buttons.

Finally, both the USB ports and audio jacks look the same:

Sound

Tempotec iDSD Plus in Windows Sound Settings
Tempotec iDSD Plus in Windows Sound Settings

The device is detected on Windows a USB HD AUDIO as soon as it is plugged in.

The sound quality of the Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus is the same as the Hidizs DH1000. I seem to find it more pleasant, but I tried switching between the Hidizs and Tempotec to see if I could find any difference. I may prefer the Tempotec sound, but the Hidizs one sounds quite similar, if not, identical. They both use the same ES9018K2M chips and ES9601K amplifiers. Theoretically, even the printed circuit board should be the same, or almost identical, except for the charging circuit, where it should be different to prevent possible charging issues.

I’m using the KZ ZS7 IEMs with a 2.5mm balanced cable. The bass feels powerful. This is especially true when listening to Twenty One Pilots “Trench” album. The mids are balanced, vocals are very well presented, and the treble, that’s the part where this DAC shines. The frequency response, I would say, is neutral. Other DACs would prefer to focus on providing forward vocals, and other instruments would sound recessed, but this is not the case with this DAC. Instrument separation is also pretty good. The sound feels open and wide, and the overal sound presentation is just as good and even relaxing. I can confortably listen to music in Tidal and enjoy every note in the song.

For around $130, this DAC does not dissapoint. The Hidizs DH1000 was my favorite, but now I have this Tempotec which will be with me at all times, and I’ll be attaching it to my HiBy R3 and Hidizs AP80 DAPs. Really, I haven’t found a DAC that outperforms this one.

The UGREEN 2.5-inch HDD and SSD to USB-C 3.1 Enclosure Unboxing and Testing Video

The UGREEN 2.5-inch HDD and SSD to USB-C 3.1 Enclosure Unboxing and Testing Video

Hi everyone,

As I promised in the original post of the UGREEN 2.5-inch Hard Disk Drive and Solid State Disk to USB-C 3.1 Enclosure post, here I share with you my unboxing and testing video.

In the video, you’ll first see me as I go through the unboxing process and then I’ll be using CrystalDiskMark to test how the enclosure handles a 1TB Hard Disk Drive.

Watch the video below:

Video: Unboxing and testing the UGREEN 2.5 inch USB-C Hard Drive Enclosure
The HyperDrive: USB-C 2018 iPad Pro Edition

The HyperDrive: USB-C 2018 iPad Pro Edition

Hi everyone,

Today, I received my HyperDrive USB-C iPad Pro 2018 edition which ran on Kickstarter from December 10, 2018 to January 15 of this year.

Hyper Drive 1
The HyperDrive case.

The HyperDrive 2018 iPad Pro Edition is a USB-C Hub designed mainly for the 2018 iPad Pro, but it is also compatible with other USB-C devices. It has a USB-A 3.0 port, SD and MicroSD Card Reader, 3.5mm TRRS connector, compatible with headsets including inline buttons, USB-C Charging passthrough, and an HDMI output.

Because I backed it on Kickstarter, it was nice to have received it in a Kickstarted-branded case.

Hyper Drive 3
The HyperDrive case opened.

Immediately after opening it, we can see the HyperDrive along with another grip, USB-C extender cable, a screwdriver and some additional screws.

The HyperDrive features a grip that is removable, to make it compatible with other devices. It is attached using screws, so it makes sense to include the screwdriver. Also, since the screws are small, it comes with additional screws in case we lose the originals.

Let’s take a closer look at the HyperDrive:

Hyper Drive 4
The HyperDrive Front.

The HyperDrive Front does not have any branding in it. That’s on the back. It looks beautiful in the Space Grey color, which I chose when the project survey was sent so that we could choose our HyperDrive color.

Hyper Drive 5
The HyperDrive Back.

As I stated above, here we can see the HyperDrive branding and other regulation logos. We can see the USB-C port better since the grip didn’t allowed us to see it in the previous image.

Hyper Drive 6
One of the side.

On one of the sides of the HyperDrive, there’s nothing. However, that changes in the other side, where we can see the HDMI connector:

Hyper Drive 8
The HDMI connector.

We can plug our HDMI cable into it to duplicate or extend our screen (If we are using the HyperDrive in the PC). Now, let’s take a look at the other connectors

Hyper Drive 7
The connectors.

From Left to Right, we can see an LED, followed by the passthrough USB-C charging port, which we would use to charge our devices. We then have the SD Card slot on the top and the MicroSD Card slot on the bottom, followed by the USB-A 3.0 port and a 3.5mm TRRS jack. This is compatible with headsets and is also compatible with in-line controls.

Hyper Drive 9
The USB-C connector.

The USB-C port is pretty standard, and is centered in this Hub.

This is the other Grip that came with my HyperDrive:

Hyper Drive 10
The other Grip that came with the HyperDrive.

Altough we cannot see it in the above picture, it says that it is for use with covers. The grip that initially came with it was for use WITHOUT screen protectors. I myself don’t have any use for these grips, so I removed it from my HyperDrive.

Hyper Drive 12
The USB-C extender.

The HyperDrive came with a USB-C extender cable and grip that you can use if you’d like to connect your HyperDrive without it having direct contact with your devices.

Hyper Drive 13
The USB-C port of the USB-C Extender cable.

This way, we can simply attach the USB-C cable to our devices and the HyperDrive will fit perfectly, because when we use it without any grip or the extender, our HyperDrive will have a little gap in between.

Hyper Drive 15
The Screwdriver.

To remove the grip from the HyperDrive, we’ll use the included screwdriver.

Hyper Drive 16
The screws.

Be sure to keep the screws in a safe place! They are so tiny that they may get lost.

Hyper Drive 18
The HyperDrive with the USB-C Extension cable attached

In the above picture, I have attached the USB-C Extension cable to my HyperDrive so that you can see how it look.

Hyper Drive 17
The HyperDrive without the grip.

I have removed the grip in the above photo. The reason is so that I can use it directly connected to my laptop. I do not have the iPad and my main reason to get this is to use it in my Windows machines and other devices:

HyperDrive connected in my laptop
The HyperDrive connected to my laptop.

I attached the HyperDrive to my Lenovo Y720 laptop I purchased as my birthday gift. This laptop has a USB-C connector and you can see that the HyperDrive fits into it. You can also see there’s a bit of a gap, as I explained above. We could have solved this by using the extender USB-C cable, but I prefer to just have the HyperDrive in direct contact with it.

HyperDrive connected in my laptop with headphones connected
IEM attached to the HyperDrive.

I attached my KZ ZS7 IEM to the HyperDrive. The PC does not detect the USB Audio if there’s no headphone connected to it. Once we connect them, the laptop recognizes the audio adapter as USB PnP Audio Device.

The volume is very loud!! I always turn it down before playing back anything, and having it at just 1 or 2% was just enough.

Hyper Drive DAC 1
The Windows Audio Settings.

As seen in the above image, I have the audio at just 2%. Let’s take a look at the device settings itself:

Hyper Drive DAC 2
The HyperDrive in the Sound Control Panel.

We can see the HyperDrive audio listed as USB PnP Audio Device above. We’ll double click it and then go to the Advanced tab to see the device bit deph and sample rate:

Hyper Drive DAC 3
The HyperDrive Bit Depth and Sample Rate.

The DAC (Digital-Analog Converter) used in the HyperDrive only has a bit depth of 16-bit and a sample rate of 48 Khz. This is enough for some, but audiophiles would have preferred it to have a depth of 24 or 32 bits and a sample rate way above the 48 Khz. However, we must remember that Audio CD has a depth of 16 bit and a sample rate of 44.1Khz. Since the HyperDrive supports 48Khz, that means that Windows needs to resample the audio to 48Khz. Still, the audio quality is good.

I’m using Tidal to stream CD-Quality tracks and I’m not noticing any quality degradation. In fact, it sounds excellent, altough I do need to turn down the volume further down. Also, there’s a little background noise, but it’s barely noticeable when there’s audio playing.

Tidal using Hyper Drive
Tidal using the HyperDrive and with the volume turned down.

So, the HyperDrive does a great job handing audio. It even works in my Nintendo Switch!

Hyper Drive connected to the Nintendo Switch
HyperDrive connected to the Nintendo Switch

What does the HyperDrive looks like with its ports being used? It looks like this:

HDMI, SD Card, USB, and 3.5mm connected to the HyperDrive
HDMI, SD Card, USB, and 3.5mm connected to the HyperDrive.

It’s been less than a day using this USB-C Hub, and so far it is handling everything great. I have experienced some problems, but it’s most likely problems related to the operating system rather than the HyperDrive. My laptop sometimes would not detect the HyperDrive or would not show any image in my external monitor, but now it’s all working fine. Also, it’s worth noting that the HyperDrive heats a little. You’ll not get burned while touching it, but I would also not have my hand at it. Even with it being warm, I wouldn’t say it overheats. It’s also working fine and haven’t experienced any disconnection issues with it.

The Kickstarter experience with this project was great. It is usual of the start of the year to get some delays due to China celebrating the Chinese New Year holiday, but this was a project where the holiday didn’t affected them so much. We are just starting March, and today I received it. Delivery was quick and they sent the tracking number very fast. It was also working at the moment they sent it to me.

I’ll definitely consider backing another of their projects, supporting them while having another gadget to play with.

The Hidizs Sonata HD USB-C to 3.5mm DAC Cable

The Hidizs Sonata HD USB-C to 3.5mm DAC Cable

Hi everyone,

Today, I received the Hidizs Sonata HD USB-C to 3.5mm DAC Cable.

Hidizs Sonata HD 1
Hidizs Sonata HD Box

This is a cable (or dongle) that allows you to connect your 3.5mm headphones to your devices that have a USB-C connector, or to a USB-A connector by using a USB-C to USB-A adapter. It features a sample rate of up to 24-bit and 192khz, but you’ll need to update the firmware to be able to use it. We’ll see more about the firmware update process later. First, let’s proceed with the unboxing.

Opening the box reveals a carrying case:

Hidizs Sonata HD 2
Carrying Case inside the box

Taking it out we can clearly see the Hidizs logo in it:

Hidizs Sonata HD 3
Hidizs Sonata HD Carrying Case – Front

The back is just plain:

Hidizs Sonata HD 4

Hidizs Sonata HD Carrying Case – Back

Inside, we can see the Sonata HD Cable and a USB-C to USB-A adapter:

Hidizs Sonata HD 5
The carrying case content

A closer look at the cable and adapter inside the carrying case:

Hidizs Sonata HD 6
A closer look at the contents inside the case

A closer look at the DAC We can see the Hidizs Logo at the USB-C connector side:

Hidizs Sonata HD 7
DAC – Front

We can also see the Hi-Res Audio logo on the other side at the USB-C connector:

Hidizs Sonata HD 8
Hi-Res logo on the back

Side by Side comparon with the Google and Apple DACs:

Hidizs Sonata HD 10
From left to right: Google DAC, Apple DAC, and the Hidizs Sonata HD DAC

Now, let’s see the USB-C to USB-A adapter closer:

Hidizs Sonata HD 9
USB-C to USB-A adapter

I connected the cable to the adapter and to my USB Hub which is connected to my desktop PC:

Hidizs Sonata HD 11
DAC connected to USB Hub

And I then attached my headphones:

Hidizs Sonata HD 12
DAC connected to the USB Hub and the headphones

The Firmware Update process

First, we need to go to https://www.hidizs.net/apps/help-center and download the Sonata HD Firmwares. We then need to extract the ZIP files:

The firmwares
  • Sonata HD A: Prioritizes the Call. When I tested this firmware, it allows simultaneous voice and music. This is the firmware you’ll want to use if you’re going to stream on YouTube, Twitch, etc.
  • Sonata HD C: Prioritizes the Audio. When I tested this firmware, it was similar to the Sonata HD A firmware but I could no longer use the microphone as soon as the system produced audio. This firmware has a sample rate of 24-bit/192khz
  • Sonata HD D: Pure Music. This firmware will also provide 24-bit/192khz but it will disable the adapter input function. You’ll still be able to use earphone inline remote control.

To update the firmware, you’ll want to launch the respective executable. You’ll be presented with the firmware flashing utility:

Hidizs Sonata HD Firmware Flashing Utility
The Hidizs Sonata HD firmware flashing utility

We should write in the Vendor ID: 22e1, and on the Product ID: e202. You can check these values by going to the Device Manager and selecting the Sonata HD Cable under the Sound, video and Game Controllers section:

Hidizs Sonata HD Firmware in the Device Manager
Sonata HD DAC in the Device Manager
Hidizs Sonata HD Hardware IDs
VID and PID of the Sonata HD Cable

We can press the Write EEPROM button on the firmware flashing utility and we’ll be shown with this message:

Hidizs Sonata HD Firmware Flashing Utility 2
Firmware Flashing message

We’ll simply disconnect the DAC, connect it again, and press OK. The firmware flashing will begin:

Hidizs Sonata HD Firmware Flashing Utility 3
Flashing the firmware

If it finishes successful, you’ll see a successful message:

Hidizs Sonata HD Firmware Flashing Utility 4
Write to EEPROM OK! Message

That’s it! We now need to unplug it and connect it again and then we can go to the sound settings and check that we can choose a sample rate of 24-bit/192khz:

Hidizs Sonata HD in the Sound Settings
Hidizs Sonata HD in the Sound Settings

We click on Sound Control Panel and double click on the Sonata HD:

Hidizs Sonata HD Sound Settings 1
Sonata HD in the Sound Settings

Now, we can go to the Advanced tab and select 24-bit/192khz:

Hidizs Sonata HD Sound Settings 2
24 bit and 192 Khz mode in the Sound Settings

We can also use Tidal’s WASAPI mode with this adapter. Just be sure to turn the volume very low. This DAC is very loud!!!

Tidal using the Hidizs Sonata HD Cable
TIDAL with the Sonata HD cable

Just select the Exclusive Mode button and that should be it. Now, you can enjoy your music!

Tidal using the Hidizs Sonata HD Cable 2
Tidal

Sound Impressions

Listening to this DAC the sound is detailed, but the vocals seems to be more forward. It has a good sound separation, and it is very loud, which is why I have my DAC at just 2%. My headphones (KZ ZS7) are high sensitivity, low impedance IEM’s, so they will sound loud at low volume levels. The Bass is great, and so is the treble. No complains here. I also own the Hidizs DH1000 and their AP80 player and they all sound excellent. The Hidizs DH1000 provides a more neutral sound and the AP80 just shines at all of the frequencies, altough the DH1000 is still a more neutral and extended treble option.

I hope you liked this post. Do you own the Sonata HD Cable? Let me know in the comments.

If you don’t yet have this dongle, you can get it on Amazon using the following link: