S2 Review - Head-Fi
Hidizs Sonata HD DAC cable - New Tiny and Mighty DAC and AMP
IryxBRO | May 25, 2018
Hidizs continues to conquer HiRes audio world by launching new products one after another. Recently, I have reviewed their AP200 flagship DAP, followed by entry-level AP60II HiRes player and finally - one of the best DAC& available on the market - Sonata DH1000.
Today the topic is about something new and very small. But despite its size - it does deliver the quality many are willing to have - Hidizs Sonata HD DAC audio cable.
The purpose of this little device is obvious - to turn any sound source equipped with USB A or USB type-C ports into HiRes audio device capable of direct reproduction of 24bit|192kHz format by the means of a tiny adapter that would not consume excessive space in your pocket.
Suppose that I don't own HiRes DAP yet, or that my player is too large to fit into the pocket, or that the battery has drained, or else... At the same time, it is very common that other devices like smartphones, laptops and tablets would not even come close to what we mean by a term "HiRes audio". Their outputs are weak, don't have enough driving power, don't have enough volume and the sound is blurred. What shell I do in this case to satisfy my hunger for good quality of sound?... This is exactly the point where I would start to consider Hidizs Sonata HD DAC cable as the best way to upgrade a smartphone or any almost any other typical source to a high resolution sound. It is small, universal, doesn't require additional power supply, doesn't consume additional space - just an adapter between your device and headphones.
Ok, let's dive into technical details:
SNR: 114 dB
Dynamic range: 114 dB
Digital Interface: Micro USB Type-C
Simulation Interface: 3.5 mm headphone Jack, microphone supported
System Supported: Windows/MacOSX/Android
Output Power: 2x60mW @ 32Ω
PCM: 16/24 bit, 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192 KHz
Output Current: 50mA
Accessories: Type C to USB A adapter
Hi-Fi Quality Sound - Fully enhance the sound quality of mobile phones while providing excellent headphone drive capability, it improves the signal-to-noise ratio to 114DB.
Hi-Res DAC Performance - Hidizs Sonata HD DAC cable passed the Hi-Res certification. Its DAC chip helps your mobile phones achieve 24bit/192kHz Hi-Res output capability.
Hi-Fi Headphone Cable - Pure quad-core copper wire, precision construction and quality materials lets Hidizs Sonata HD cable to provide high resolution sound.
Now, back to reality.
Packing, design and construction:
Sonata HD DAC cable was delivered in small soft case with zip tie and Hidizs logo on the top part. There was the DAC cable inside and I've also received microUSB type-C to USB A adapter.
Hidizs states that this adapter is an accessory and I am not 100% sure that it would be included to the standard bundle but other people report that it is.
Even such small product from Hidizs received so many crafting details... First of all - DAC part of the cable is CNC aluminum with Sonata HD print and gold-plated TRS 3.5mm headphones input. Than comes 4 wires twisted soft cable. Cable length between USB type-C connector and DAC part is about 3cm. And, finally, type-C connector made of plastic with Hidizs logo and HiRes certification label (I believe that my unit doesn't have this label due to its evaluation purpose). Both, type-C adapter and DAC part have rubber ends to prevent cable from damage when bent.
USB A to USB type-C adapter is very common nowadays and could be purchased anywhere... still glad that it was included in the bundle.
Before connecting Sonata HD DAC cable to any device:
One peculiar thing before you would try to get the best audio quality from any of your sources...: Hidizs could have released just a mere HD DAC adapter cable like many other companies do. Let's say - Apple. They have removed 3.5mm output and released their own adapter with DAC inside. But they did nothing more. Hidizs, in their turn, didn't stop on that and worked on this product more thoroughly. Not only they've released HiRes certified HD DAC adapter cable but also introduced 3 different ways of using it with the corresponding FW changes.
The 3 modes are:
SONATA _HD-A_Call priority: this firmware can make the Sonata HD cable priority to handle the call.
SONATA _HD-C_Sound priority: this firmware can make the Sonata HD cable priority to handle the sound
SONATA _HD-D_Pure music: this firmware can maximize the Sonata HD cable sound enhance ability, but the call function will not be available under this mode.
Yes, Sonata HD DAC cable is able not only to play music from you smartphone or laptop but also to pass the calls and other system sounds. Its 3.5mm input is TRRS type and supports headphones with microphone.
Don't ask me about the exact differenced between the first two modes. I have tried using Sonata HD in modes A & C and both allowed other sounds to popup while the music is playing (with Xiaomi Redmi 4C Android OS smartphone). The third mode - D - did play only music exclusively and no other sounds allowed. All future tests would be accomplished in this mode.
Overall difference in the quality of the sound between A & C and D modes is apparent. D mode handles all frequency response range better, the sound get more crispness and details.
Another difference in those modes is how Windows 10 based laptop would recognize the device and show its properties. No extra drivers needed in either mode but in case of mode A & C - Windows would say that this device does or doesn't have a microphone and the best possible audio quality would be limited to 24bit/48kHz. Therefore, when trying to perform bits-by-bits direct play of 24bit|>48kHz to Sonata HD DAC by Wasapi means from Foobar2000 - it would say that such stream is not supported. At the same time it means that we are not getting the full quality this little device is capable of.
In order to get the best sound - we would have to switch into mode "D" and reconnect to PC or other source. Windows laptop would now recognize this device as capable of 24bit|192kHz and Foobar2000 would deliver the corresponding stream with Wasapi.
The default mode preinstalled is either A or C (not the best audio quality).
Here is the page with all 3 FW to change modes: LINK
The process of flashing FW is easy, with only 1 trick:
Download FW file (archived exe or executable for Mac)
Connect Sonata HD DAC to PC
Run the program
The program would tell VID and PID of the device and would wait until you'd hit "flash". If it would tell you that the device is not found after you pressed "flash" - it means that VID and PID of the device are wrong. Go to device driver and properties, find device ID information and its corresponding real VID & PID. Enter those ids to the corresponding fields of flashing software. Than hit "flash" and the process would begin. It would notify you upon finishing.
If you have just flashed to "D" mode - go to device properties and set the quality to max 24bit|192kHz.
Note: when connecting to Android smartphone - it is better to use HibyMusic app to send audio to Sonata HD DAc cable. This player would recognize the device and act similarly as in case of Windows-based PC + Foobar2000 + Wasapi driver
More good news: there is no visible lag between video and audio streams (PC, smartphone) with Sonata HD DAC.
Xiaomi Redmi 4C 3.5mm own output VS Sonata HD DAC adapter connected to USB type-C:
The pure winner is Sonata HD DAC cable.
Original Xiaomi audio output is muted and have some tube feel. Its power is low and not enough to drive 48Ohms Audio-Technika ATH M50 studio monitor headphones. Volume is low. Sound gets distorted at higher volume levels.
With Sonata HD DAC cable connected the sound would improve much: volume would become higher as well as the driving power, mid bass would become tight, there would be great improvement in crispness and resolution. Bass would not overlap with other sounds, tube feel would go away and highs would not be distorted. Besides that, more details and scene depth would be heard. For this usage scenario, Sonata HD DAC is way better than the regular headphones jack of this smartphone.
Lenovo Y500 (Intel HD audio integrated sound card) VS Sonata HD DAC adapter connected to USB A:
The winner is Sonata HD DAC cable.
The difference in the audio quality is still apparent. Sonata HD DAC cable is able to deliver more resolution, details and more driving ability to full-sized headphones. Sound is more crisp and bright. Although, this laptop audio output is much closer to Sonata nature than my smartphone. But still lacking power and looses the details.
Hidizs AP60II VS Sonata HD DAC adapter connected to USB A of my laptop:
Round draw: AP60II is a winner in terms of audio quality and Sonata HD DAC cable is a winner in terms of power, driving ability and absence of audio lag.
This is very logical and expected. No miracle here. AP60II is a full standalone DAP with great technical design and efforts applied to create a very capable entry-level HiRes player. It is packed with lots of supplementary amp and DAC electronic components that would improve overall sound quality to even further extent. Therefore, the result of the direct comparison between a tiny HD DAC adapter (that would not fit so much of sophisticated elements inside) and standalone DAP - is apparent... In terms of the sound - AP60II can deliver more tiny details and even more resolution to each single instrument. It has better channel separation and wider stage. It can also handle DSD64/128... At the same time, I would say that Sonata HD adapter resolves high octave better and it also has more output power (35mW AP60II and 60mW Sonata HD DAC) which means more volume and more driving ability for large or high impendence headphones. Moreover, audio lag is absent - you can watch movies and other video media while the sound is passed through this DAC. So, even in comparison to standalone DAP, Sonata HD DAC has some advantages.
I've decided to stop with my comparisons here because comparing Sonata HD DAC cable to any more advanced DAPs (Hidizs AP100, AP200) and external AMPs with DACs (Sonata DH1000, Line6 Studio UX) would be meaningless.
To be honest, my current habits leave listening to music on the go aside. Why? Because I prefer quality over volume or background noise. Carrying additional HiRes DAP is not an option for me - I don't liketoo much of weight and possessions in my pockets. Besides, I prefer large size headphones... Smartphones were not an option for me either - audio quality sucks. Making a sandwich - combining smartphone with external DAC& is too cumbersome for me... And guess what? Now it seems that I have the solution - just my smartphone + Sonata HD DAC cable that would deliver a good sound quality together with the convenient operation. No additional cables, batteries and devices. Definitely my choice!