Tag Archives: USB-C

Hidizs Sonata HD DAC Review – USB C to 3.5 mm



There’s no doubt that USB C is the new standard for smartphones, tablets and laptops and it replaces a plethora of legacy ports, including all the annoying variants of USB. In addition, USB C supports digital audio and several device manufacturers have decided to remove 3.5 mm audio sockets from their phones and tablets. Google, OnePlus, Samsung, Huawei and LG all have at least one model which only has USB C.

This is not good news if you have invested in high-end headphones or earbuds that connect via a cable. Yes, manufacturers typically include a USB C to 3.5 mm adaptor for the devices but my experience is that the sound quality isn’t that great – frankly, it’s rubbish.

Both my smartphone (OnePlus 6T) and tablet (Huawei Mediapad M5) are USB C only devices, and as an owner of some half-decent headphones, I’d been looking to improve the audio experience. I came across a recommendation for the the Hidizs Sonata HD DAC Cable II so I thought I’d try it out. I ordered via Amazon.com to be shipped to the UK, so it set me back about US$45 in total.

The Hidizs DAC comes in small zipped case typical of audio goods. Inside there’s the Sonata DAC cable itself, plus a USB A to USB C converter for use with laptops and PCs that don’t have the newer type of USB. It’s also needed for flashing the firmware, but more on this later.

First impressions are that this is a good product – the cable has lovely plaiting and the socket is metal….but we’re not here to look at the Sonata. What does it sound like?

Brilliant. The difference between the Hidizs DAC cable and the Huawei OEM one was easily noticeable. The sound was much clearer, with greater clarity and really opened up the performance.  Very impressed and would definitely recommend the Sonata if you have any kind of quality headphones. I tested with a range of headphones from Sennheiser to 1more, both over-ear and in-ear.

Using the USB A to C converter gives the benefits of the DAC over whatever penny chip was used in a PC or laptop. Windows 10 picked up the DAC on insertion and resetting the audio output to the new device yielded much better sound across the board too.

Finally, the Sonata 3.5 mm input is a TRRS type and supports headphones with a microphone, meaning you can take phone calls when you have your headphones on, as long as there’s a mic on the ‘phones. Interestingly, the firmware can be updated too and if you don’t use the phone function, the output audio quality can be enhanced further to 24bit/192kHz. I didn’t actually try to flash the firmware…

Overall, the Hidizs Sonata HD DAC Cable II is a big improvement over the cables provided in the box with smartphones and tablets sporting USB C. Recommended.

There’s more in the video below.

 


Topop USB C to 3x USB A and LAN Adapter Review



The physical USB type A interface connector seems to have been around forever and to be fair, it’s had an impressive lifespan starting with USB 1.0 back in 1996. Since then, the communication standard has been updated several times and the connector is still very relevant with USB 3.1 which now sports transfer speeds of up to 10 Gb/s.

USB type C is the latest connector design providing high speed data comms in a neat reversible design. So neat that a couple of manufacturers have ultraportables with a single USB C port. No USB A, no ethernet, no video. Looks great but a pain in the port if there’s a pile of cables to plug in. Accessory makers have stepped in to address the problem and here we have the Topop USB C to three USB A 3.1 ports and RJ45 Gigabit LAN adapter.

As the unboxing video shows, the adapter arrives in plain packaging and it’s a fairly functional device: this isn’t brushed metal milled from a single block of aluminium to complement the MacBook. It’s a sturdy matte black plastic . In terms of ports, there are three USB 3.1 type A ports on the top and a Gigabit network port on the far end. A short cable terminates in a USB C plug.

Topop USB C Adapter Topop USB C Adapter

Having three USB A ports and a network port is very useful on these minimalist devices. Who has a USB C memory stick? And there are always wireless dead-spots. The Topop adapter gets out of these predicaments.

However, I discovered quite quickly that the presence of a USB C socket on a device does not guarantee functionality, so check compatibility on the website and assume that the adapter only works with phones, tablets and laptops mentioned. Believe me, it doesn’t work with the OnePlus 2, 3 or Google Pixel C, but find a device that is compatible (Apple Macbook, Google Pixel Chromebook) and the adapter will work fine.

Topop USB C Adapter Topop USB C Adapter

Priced just under GB£20, the adapter’s in the right price bracket for the features that it offers. There’s no doubt that the Topop is a handy gadget to throw in a bag for occasional use, though if I was looking for a dock-lite on my desk, I think I would pay more for a better match to my laptop. Of course, your aesthetic requirements may differ.

Thanks to GoldenSwing for providing the Topop USB C to USB A 3.1 and Gigabit LAN adapter.


Choetech USB-C Power Adaptors



Choetech LogoChoetech USB C chargersAs USB-C becomes more prevalent, it’s unsurprising to see non-OEM vendors start to produce power adaptors for this new standard. On review here are two Choetech USB-C power adaptors designed for the UK power sockets. No, I don’t know how to pronounce Choetech and their marketing rep was non-committal too, so I will leave that as a linguistic exercise for the reader.

First up the Choetech 3A Rapid Wall Charger that has a single USB-C port. Available in black, the TC0001 provides 3A at 5V from a reasonably compact unit though it protrudes around 4.8 cm from the socket. In use, the adaptor appeared to recharge my phone at the expected rate. Here’s an unboxing video for the charger and a USB-C cable.

Next is the Choetech 39W USB-C Power Adaptor. Again designed for UK sockets, this has two USB-A sockets top and bottom, and a USB-C port in the middle. There’s a small blue LED at the very top too. The TC0013 is bigger than the TC0001, extending about 5.4 cm from the socket which is unsurprising given the larger power output. The USB-C will provide 3A and the two USB-C powers will charge at 2.4A each. At full pelt, the charger did get warm but not so hot as to cause concern. Both the TC0001 and the TC0013 are CE marked which gives some level of safety reassurance.

The Choetech USB-C Fast Charger is available from Amazon for £13.99 and the 3 port Power Adaptor is £15.99. Both are worth considering if you are looking for a USB-C charger but I think I would go for the 3 port charger for that extra flexibility.

Thanks to Choetech for the supply of the review units.


Griffin BreakSafe Magnetic USB C Power Cable



Griffin LogoMagnetic power couplings are a godsend for the clumsy and accident prone, snapping away under stress and preventing physical damage to cables, connector and laptops. Owners of new USB C devices, such as the latest Apple MacBrook or Google Pixel, have had limited choice up to now but at CES, accessories outfit Griffin announced a new BreakSafe magnetic USB C power cable. Available from April for US$39.99, it’s pricey compared with a standard USB C cable, but think of the magnetic coupling as an investment in protection for your expensive laptop.

Daniel J. Lewis is the host of the award-winning podcast about podcasting, The Audacity to Podcast. Daniel helps others launch and improve their own podcasts for sharing their passions and finding success.

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Griffin iMic for USB C



Griffin LogoGriffin’s iMic has been a long term favourite with those who need 3.5 mm audio jacks on USB-only PCs and laptops. With a USB A plug on one end, and two audio sockets on the other, it does the job of converting audio brilliantly.

But with new MacBooks now only sporting USB C sockets, it was inevitable that Griffin would bring out a new version of the iMic with a USB C connector and here it is. Available in Q2 2016 for US$44.99, Daniel chats with Jackie from Griffin to find out more about the latest iteration of this great gadget.

Daniel J. Lewis is the host of the award-winning podcast about podcasting, The Audacity to Podcast. Daniel helps others launch and improve their own podcasts for sharing their passions and finding success.

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CalDigit Announces New Line of USB-C Docks



CalDigit USB-C DockUSB-C is still a fairly new type of connection for computer peripherals. But, it’s growing acceptance means it’ll surely become ubiquitous over time. Due to the nature of how USB-C works, it may be necessary to use adapters or convertors to make USB-C ports work with all of your devices. CalDigit is the latest manufacturer to bring new USB-C docks and adapters to the market.

First up is the CalDigit USB-C Dock. As computers like the new Macbook or Google Chromebook are shipping with limited ports, connecting devices such as monitors or external drives has become more complicated. Adding the CalDigit USB-C Dock would allow users to charge their computer and connect all their devices at the same time. The USB-C Dock is available in five different colors and adds all of these connectivity options thru a computer’s USB-C port: 2 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 3 x USB 3.1 Type-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet, Audio In/Out, and A/C Power.

Next is the CalDigit USB-C Mini Dock, which has many of the features of the larger USB-C Dock, but the mini version can be powered over the USB-C connection to the computer, whereas the larger dock requires A/C power to operate. The mini dock comes with these types of connections: 2 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.1 Type-A, HDMI, VGA, and Gigabit Ethernet.

The mini dock is considered to be more portable, and would be a good device to have in the field for remote work or on-site presentations. Both docks are available for preorder now, with the mini dock starting at $89.00 and the larger dock starting at $149.00. CalDigit will be selling these devices in the U.S. as well as most other major markets.