User Review The best (budget) USB DAC AMP - Apple USB C to 3.5mm

Hi all,
This might seem a bit of a strange review but this has been one of the most surprising purchases for me. I had been searching for USB based DAC AMP from about 2 months, and came to know about Apple's type c to 3.5 dongle about 2 weeks ago (made for the newer iPad Pros which don't have a 3.5mm jack for some reason only God knows), and in one word I would review it as: fantabulous!

First things first, the primary reason tjic caught my eye was because it was the cheapest USB DAC AMP on Amazon from a known brand (to me) at INR 900. I did a bit of research and lo, it's actually really good. Other reviewers online, who've done a far better review on the technical aspects of it than I ever will be able to, have found that the noise floor and signal to noise ratio of this little thing is comparable to stuff which costs more than 100USD! I even saw one review (for the A2155 version specifically which is sold here in India) that it actually had db higher Snr than even the Chord Mojo, a DAC AMP which retails for 35k on headphonezone!

Coming to my usage and experience, I will be using these primarily with my triple driver IEMs - Signature Acoustics Raven. Before coming to how theey sound through the dongle, a bit of background - I like listening to a slighly V shape sound quality, and value detail. Before getting this dac amp, I was listening to music via my laptop's (Acer Nitro 7 i7 9750H GTX 1650) internal audio header via MusicBee (sometimes via Dolby), and through my phone (Vivo V15 Pro) using JetAudio+ and heavy use of equalisers. I listen to 320kbps MP3 (with the occasional flac/wav thrown in) and YouTube for recommendations.

My benchmark for sound quality was the detailed preset through Dolby Atmos' Gaming preset, and those were previously the best my IEMs had ever sounded. The stock audio quality from my laptop was very muffled with muddy bass and no Soundstage.
With Atmos, I experienced (relatively) wide Soundstage in IEMs for the first time, and started noticing much mkre details. But bass was still mostly muddy. I was willing to accept this compromise, and did so for the past 8 months or so.

Now, I'm not exaggerating when I say this, but this 900INR dongle blows even Atmos's sound quality away. Superb clarity, wide Soundstage, much tighter and very well controlled bass, comfortable yet very smooth highs and all that. Music had never sounded so good before.

As a bonus, even the mic sounds better through these dongle, and the one button remote on my IEMs actually works via these on Windows which wasn't the case before.

So in a nutshell, to all beginner and budget audiophiles (and actually even those higher up in the game) , I would absolutely recommend these. The best QoL improvement I've experienced yet in my audio journey.

The only thing that is a hit concerning is the build quality, but since I'm still using my stock iPad cable from 2016 hopefully this will last at least as long as that. You do need to be a bit careful handling it since the 3.5jack is quite tight and if you aren't careful, you might easily break the thin wire.

PS: doesn't really work that well with Androids, or at least on a Xiaomi Mi A1, Samsung S8+, Poco X3. Volume is really low and I don't think the dongle's DAC is being utilised since there's no difference in SQ for Android phones.
Also my reference point for reviews of this dongle while researching was chiefly the below website:
 

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Yup, the same should work on a Mac as well but I can't confirm since I personally don't own one. In any case, would be worth testing and seeing for yourself. The dongle is definitely not "quiet" since it has adequate power to power almost any IEM in the market (barring the crazies which cost upwards of 50k or other crazy amount :p)

My 16ohm IEMs required barely 20% volume while using them on my windows laptop and iPad, but had to pump it up to 60+% on my android because it was still using the android audio engine and as a result sound quality as well as volume was noticeably lowern (since I assume the dongle wasn't getting powered properly or sth)

Where did you order the tempotec from. I can only see android versions online. Unable to find the iphone version
 
you can get a refund if you apply for it within an hour of installing, I think. check the T&C of play store once.

I got it at 100rs during some sale

yes it will work. I'm using an USB A to C adapter for the dongle on my PC

So I managed to get a older version of the app for testing. When I open the app I got a notification to allow access to usb c to 3.5mm adapter. I clicked on yes. I got a notification that usb audio connected.

But now when I play any song I get only static noise through the headphones. No music plays. Only static screeches.


The exact same issue with Fiio music app on granting it access to the adapter. No music only screeching noise.

Am I doing something wrong?
 
Where did you order the tempotec from. I can only see android versions online. Unable to find the iphone version
I bought it from theaudiostore.in
Though they don't specify it being iPhone version specifically, I did get a lightning to micro USB cable in the box. Would be a good idea to ring them up before ordering to confirm the same.

I bought it from theaudiostore.in
Though they don't specify it being iPhone version specifically, I did get a lightning to micro USB cable in the box. Would be a good idea to ring them up before ordering to confirm the same.

Oh I just noticed that they now have 2 variants of the DAC - Android and Universal. This wasn't there when I had ordered from then. The only other place where the Tempotec HD Pro is available for purchase is conceptkart.com but back when I checked it was out of stock there as well.
 
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I bought it from theaudiostore.in
Though they don't specify it being iPhone version specifically, I did get a lightning to micro USB cable in the box. Would be a good idea to ring them up before ordering to confirm the same.


Oh I just noticed that they now have 2 variants of the DAC - Android and Universal. This wasn't there when I had ordered from then. The only other place where the Tempotec HD Pro is available for purchase is conceptkart.com but back when I checked it was out of stock there as well.
Tried listening to music without the apple dongle on a macbook air. The deterioration is stark. Can only imagine what a proper dac-amp would do. But dont want to go for non-portable setups. So will have to wait till this comes up for sale again.
 
Tried listening to music without the apple dongle on a macbook air. The deterioration is stark. Can only imagine what a proper dac-amp would do. But dont want to go for non-portable setups. So will have to wait till this comes up for sale again.
I wouldn't actually wait for it to go on sale again since apparently Tempotec will soon be launching the next version this dac/amp. Not a bad idea to get the regular version of this and purchase a micro USB to lightning cable separately.

And btw the audio quality between the apple dongle and tempotec HD pro is indistinguishable - I bought it purely because I needed a bit more power to drive my HE400i 2020. Otherwise the Apple dongle is fine for powering upto 64ohm headphones comfortably imo.
 
Tried listening to music without the apple dongle on a macbook air. The deterioration is stark. Can only imagine what a proper dac-amp would do. But dont want to go for non-portable setups. So will have to wait till this comes up for sale again.
M1 Air? Apple possibly used the worst possible DAC in these machines, even my 2009 MBP wasn't this noisy.
However things are perfectly reasonable with the16 inch MBP. The amp section is typically weak for 3.5 out, but the signal chain is clean.
 
M1 Air? Apple possibly used the worst possible DAC in these machines, even my 2009 MBP wasn't this noisy.
However things are perfectly reasonable with the16 inch MBP. The amp section is typically weak for 3.5 out, but the signal chain is clean.
Its the 2018 Macbook air. The normal i5 one. Cant say much about the noise. It just sounded quite harsh.

Otherwise the Apple dongle is fine for powering upto 64ohm headphones comfortably imo.
Ohh in my case the impedance is just 50ohm. I anyway dont crank up the volume as we have genetic hearing loss in my family. I got tested and came out to have more hearing loss than 90% people at my age. Dont want to go to 95% :D.
Sound of metal scared me further.
 
That's a great movie!! This is how cruel life can be with you. I don't know the pain of deafness for a drummer ( it must be devastating...but surely know the pain of loosing soneone gradually to indifference, it still hurts, and it will always...but that's the whole point of life..you loose someone, someone picks and fixes you up...this is life... experiencing all the emotions without trying to alter them with chemicals is the challange... congratulations!! If you did that)
 
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That's a great movie!! This is how cruel life can be with you. I don't know the pain of deafness for a drummer ( it must be devastating...but surely know the pain of loosing soneone gradually to indifference, it still hurts, and it will always...but that's the whole point of life..you loose someone, someone picks and fixes you up...this is life... experiencing all the emotions without trying to alter them with chemicals is the challange... congratulations!! If you did that)
Yes that’s a great movie because it is so identifiable. Things could happen that one can do nothing about. So many challenges but like that guy said, that silence is always there with you :)
 
One of these is not like the other!

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First impressions of the A2049 - there is no difference in loudness when I use the Deva with it connected directly to it. The sounds definitely feels better, it feels crisper? (I suck at describing sound)
 
One of these is not like the other!

BzkXTiN.jpg


First impressions of the A2049 - there is no difference in loudness when I use the Deva with it connected directly to it. The sounds definitely feels better, it feels crisper? (I suck at describing sound)
Interesting where you got these from esp a2049.

Anyway , sound cannot be different they have same dac chip iirc just one is voltage capped.
 
Have you tried on any Androids other than Xiaomi Mi A1, Samsung S8+, Poco X3?
I'd say all are in the <20k segment, would love to know review with some higher-end phones
 
Have you tried on any Androids other than Xiaomi Mi A1, Samsung S8+, Poco X3?
I'd say all are in the <20k segment, would love to know review with some higher-end phones
Exactly this. People use it on 10k android phones and generalise it for 80k phones as if all the dacs on phones are the same
 
Have you tried on any Androids other than Xiaomi Mi A1, Samsung S8+, Poco X3?
I'd say all are in the <20k segment, would love to know review with some higher-end phones
I have tried with OnePlus 8T, the volume is low, not sure if that phone can be counted as high end, however the volume is normal and loud when playing any songs through USB Audio Player, rest all apps i.e. Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music the volume is low
 
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I have tried with OnePlus 8T, the volume is low, not sure if that phone can be counted as high end, however the volume is normal and loud when playing any songs through USB Audio Player, rest all apps i.e. Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music the volume is low
Fair but doesn't seem like "volume" is the best metric to quantify the performance of a DAC
 
technically no , no regulations here but we get the ones made ( imported from ) in europe here rather than Us ones in apple stores I think hence we get the volatge capped model here
Hmm.. I initially thought that the cap was not on the H/w itself as even the US version gets capped on EU devices. But no, the EU one is crippled in H/W as well.
 
Have you tried on any Androids other than Xiaomi Mi A1, Samsung S8+, Poco X3?
I'd say all are in the <20k segment, would love to know review with some higher-end phones
Exactly this. People use it on 10k android phones and generalise it for 80k phones as if all the dacs on phones are the same
The Mi A1 supports headphones upto 600ohms courtesy of its 10V amplifier, while the s8+ is definitely not in the same league as the Poco. As already mentioned, the low volume and sound quality is due to Android's piss poor implementation of how audio works. Also, 80k phones don't even have a DAC nowadays since most of them don't have an audio jack in the first place, plus if Android handled USB C DAC dongles properly, and you played the same file through the same players on a 5k android phone and 80k android phone through the Apple Dongle, it should sound exactly the same.
That's the whole point of a USB DAC/AMP - the audio processing is shifted from the device to the dongle, so the on board dac doesn't matter. Just that Android's shitty implementation of audio means that people have to pay for an app to get that.
 
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