When it comes to sound quality the AKM4377 will not win the V1a any awards. This chip is used with mobile devices too (VIVO X50 pro). It is a low end chip without much to brag about. It is acceptable and the MSEB mixer plays a big role in tweaking the sound. The stock sound is kind of dark and slightly inclined towards bass with overall good mid range clarity. With the MSEB handful of things like bass texture, extension, note thickness, vocal, female overtone, sibilance Low and High Freq, impulse response and air can be controlled to an extend. It gives a bit more freedom to tweak the sound. I am not a huge fan of these things but these settings have audible differences and can fill up some shortcomings of the V1a. You can save presets and increase the range of steps in the MSEB settings located on top left.
I find the V1a to be acceptable with definition and clarity. The transparency is good with acceptable micro details. The bass is fairly good with extension and thump. Irrespective of all the settings the lower end doesn’t have a lot of texture or details to it. The mid bass is slightly more prominent than the sub-bass.
Mid range is good with details and clarity. Instruments have nice attack and definition. There are not much micro details but look at the price point. Vocals are not very accurate, they are slightly on the blunt side with a lush feel. Both male and female vocals share this characteristic. There is okay type definition or resolution. I will not dare to write home about it. The upper mid range is veiled, it lacks some transparency and energy. The treble region is a mixed bag too. The lower treble region sounds good with a bit more energy and transparency but it is a downhill ride from there. There aren’t much details or extension. It is fairly limited with its dynamic range too.
Stage size of the V1a is okay. On par with my mobile phones but nowhere close to the M5s and still smaller than the Sony a-35. The bass region feels taller and wider than the treble region. There isn’t a lot of air or space between instruments. Layering and separation is of okay quality. The stage is acceptable with distribution. Instruments don’t have a vivid placement, the floor is kind of messed up.
WHY YOU SHOULD NOT BUY THIS:-
You should not buy the Tempotec V1a for its wired sound quality, if this is your only mode as source. The SQ of this $110 dap is not inspiring.
WHY YOU SHOULD BUY THIS:-
DAC Sound quality:-
It has a lot more to offer when connected as a DAC. It unlocks the full potential of the V1a. It loses the sluggish sound quality as the amp takes the back seat and the AK4377 comes out to the driving seat with very good clarity and details. The stage is far better with size and has more even dimensional expansion across the spectrum. All complains of the wired version is gone. It delivers better texture, the transparency improves and the micro details are considerably better now, better than the LG G7. The whole spectrum feels more alive and accurate.
The BT gives a lot of freedom and can stream from your mobile phone TAB or pc too. You can use the V1a as your BT dongle for your speakers or headphones making them wireless. The sound quality is more than acceptable with good clarity and details.
It has good amount of influence on most aspects of the V1a’s sound quality. Things can be tweaked with ease but the changes are not huge. The V1a will not grow a bigger stage and better extension but a bit of sharpness, bass texture, treble spikes can be controlled.
The tiny size can be a reason to get the V1a and the dual micro SD slot makes it a win win scenario.
MATCHING WITH HEAD GEARS:-
The V1a is not a very powerful DAP. The output power is rated at 60mw at 16ohm and it is very clear that it will not be able to power full size cans or less sensitive IEMs. The major problem is around the treble area, where it lacks some details and energy. There are a few exceptions nevertheless, surprisingly a couple of BA based IEMs like Audiofly Af180 mk2 and TSMR 4 behaved considerably better than hybrid earphones like DK2001. It can be the earphones with balanced and similar emphasis across the spectrum get along better with the V1a.
Pairing it with dynamic driver earphones yields much better consistency across the spectrum. The KBear Diamond sounds very good out of the V1a, there is minimal loss of details.
If you have a top tier IEM or headphone I will not recommend the V1a as a DAP, it will not do justice to them. Using it with sub $100 IEM is recommended. If you can buy a $500 IEM you should get a better DAP.
COMPARISON (as a wired DAP):-
LG G7 Thinq:-
This one is a very good mobile phone for music. Housing a ESS 9218 chip it is fairly good with balance and clarity and top of the food chain when it comes to mobile phones.
The LG G7 to my surprise does better than the V1a when it comes to definition, resolution and transparency across the spectrum. The Bass is not as rumbly or meaty like the V1a but it has slightly better texture and details. Mid range and treble have better clarity and micro details. The vocals are more accurate. Instruments have more natural attack and spark. The tonality too is slightly more natural too. Treble has better extension and energy. The treble stage is more open and has better depth and width. The overall stage size is an improvement too.
VS Sony A35:-
The Sony A35 is better than the V1a in every aspect. The A35 has bigger display, internal memory, similar battery life, better details, much better balance, considerably better treble energy and details along with better stage expansion.
No comparison at all.
As I said earlier the Temppotec V1a will not win any awards for sound quality when used as a wired DAP. It has a lot going around though which can justify buying one. It is a good DAC, sounds very good as A DAC, can hold most of your library with 512gb of expandable capacity, it can be used as a Bluetooth receiver and transmitter and the form factor makes it a very comfortable device to carry around.
Buy it, if you have extracurricular in your mind, it is not exactly remarkable with its primary discipline which is being a DAP but can be a 2nd fiddle to save mobile phone battery and double up as DAC and BT transmitter. It is a nice device for casual listeners who have inclination towards BT connectivity and battery life or want to use it as a DAC. Or else there are better options in the market like Shanling Q1.
The V1a feels like a half baked wired DAP which is derived from the V1. They just changed a couple of things and the V1 transformed from a BT DAP to a more versatile DAP. Tempotec should give it another go with sound quality in their mind, using better DAC and AMP chips should be their first priority. It is a neat looking DAP nevertheless.