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.