One of the frustrations of my job is the difficulty of convincingly communicating differences in sound quality. If I want to inform you of a great new camera, such as the Huawei P30 Pro’s low-light heroics, I can post side-by-side photos and demonstrate exactly how much of an upgrade the latest tech is. A great new display can also be photographed to show off its strengths. New video game with awesome graphics? More visual evidence can be provided. But if I want to tell you about an amazing pair of headphones, all I have is words. So I suppose you’ll have to just trust me when I say that a $28 USB-C audio dongle by an obscure company called Hidizs is the best you can buy.
It’s 2019 and the issue of headphone dongles is very much still with us. Most people buying new headphones these days are looking to get a wireless pair, but the majority of headphones and earphones that we already own tend to have a wire terminating in a 3.5mm connector. As of right now, if you want a headphone jack on your phone, you have a choice between either getting an LG flagship, which offers easily the best sound quality in any smartphone with its quad-DAC audio setup, a Samsung Galaxy device, or a mid-ranger from some other company (such as Huawei’s P30, for instance, which sits just below the top P30 Pro model). Or you can buy a separate dongle.
The Hidizs Sonata HD is my favorite audio dongle, surpassing the quality of all the (mostly mediocre) audio adapters bundled in the box with various smartphones. The great thing about this USB-C adapter, which happens to also be a DAC and amplifier, is that it’s characterless. It doesn’t tinge your music in any direction, it doesn’t boost or deaden any frequencies, just plays things straight. It also gets plenty loud enough, which is not something that every USB-C dongle can claim.
Being as tiny as technically possible, the Sonata HD comes in a robust metal construction with a tightly braided wire that makes it extremely hardy. Plus, it includes a case and a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter, should you wish to plug it into an older computer. Macs, Windows PCs, and Android devices recognize the Sonata without a problem.
Before coming across the Hidizs option, I had used Essential’s audio dongle happily for months. It gets especially loud, has a sweet bass boost to its sound, and is a bargain at $15. But it’s not as crisp, pristine, and unaffected as the Hidizs Sonata. I’ve also heard positive things about the $25 Razer phone audio adapter, but haven’t heard it for myself and, in any case, it loses out in the ergonomics stakes to the Hidizs and Essential alternatives by being quite a chunky dongle. Hidizs asks for $27.99 on its own website or on Amazon, or $30 on AliExpress.
Whichever of its various prices you pick to judge it at, the Hidizs Sonata HD is a great buy. I’ve used it reliably and consistently across all of my devices, and it’s really shown off its capabilities when connected to more high-end portable gear such as Denon’s D9200 or even Focal’s $3,000 Stellia. If you’re not planning on buying an LG device anytime soon, this is your best option for true high-fidelity audio coming out of your Android smartphone.
Update, 12:45PM ET, April 6th: In response to this article, Hidizs has corrected a price difference between what it asks on its website and on Amazon. Both are now $27.99. The article has been amended to reflect that change. You’re welcome.
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