TENTO Porta DAC 1866 – All Your Bases

Headphone pairing

Distortion and IMD figures are low, as is signal noise. This is a high-performance part. The only thing to really keep in mind is that its low pass filter softens high frequency signals. I’ve been bumping with the Koss Porta Pro- its both a semantic, and sonic fit. Ditto the DT880. Ditto ZMF headphones. In other words, it sounds good, even with thick-sounding headphones.

As noted above, drive capabilities are best suited to headphones with medium-high impedance ratings. That, and the medium amount of background noise makes it less suitable to listening with sensitive earphones.

Again, even at high volumes Porta DAC supplies good current to headphones such as the DT880/600, and harder to drive high-current headphones, so clipping and other drive artefacts are next to nill.

Features

Naturally, Porta DAC’s standout feature is its inclusion of a Bluetooth receiver. TENTO’s version works far better than the prototype I tested two years ago, which at best, managed to catch signal from a smartphone or computer at distances up to 50cm, but was best used 20cm from the source.

TENTO’s version manages 5-6 metres in a country home. Add in Wifi signals and that distance drops to about 4 metres. Add mobile phones, and neighbours, and it drops to about 3 metres before signal breaks up here and there. Next to its Venturecraft competitor, that is a shame.

As long as the DAC sits within a metre of your source, its signal is strong and will remain uninterrupted. Computer/iPad/smartphone users: need for cables!

No need for cables!

Of course, bandwidth is something to watch out for. My lossless 16 bit files get on just fine over Bluetooth, but only in that country home, and after shooting the neighbours. Lossy files always get on fine.

But Porta DAC has a much richer sound. And, Bluetooth is just one input. Despite not boasting a great antenna implementation, the receiving end is tip-top. I’ve yet to meet a single person that could tell the difference between the Porta DAC decoding Bluetooth signal and coaxial, or optical. USB is another thing. As is often the case with decoders, signal quality drops over USB, mainly putting out lower stereo separation, and introducing different noise.

That’s all to say that if you just have to have the best signal, keep to coaxial, optical, or if you dare, Bluetooth. And if you do, you will get all the goods this DAC can spit out.

If you’re not keen on using headphones, Porta DAC works peachy as a pass through. Its line out is high quality, and thankfully, like every other input, is situated aft, making it a breeze to use in a HiFi, or on your desktop.

On a Mac, it’s plug and play, from Bluetooth to optical, to USB. Ditto when syncing over coax or optical from other sources. I couldn’t get it to play via USB with an iPad. The error was that the iPad couldn’t supply enough voltage to power the hungry DAC. Which I’m totally fine with. This thing’s Bluetooth is a life-changer.

No need for cables!

Battery life

I’m quite surprised. While you won’t get 20 hours, or even close, getting more than 10 hours per charge is absolutely possible. I measured battery rundown time by hooking the Porta DAC up to my Edirol FA66 and had Sound Studio record how long it could playback John Denver. Thanks to having to use the computer for work, I wasn’t able to ever run the battery completely down.

When I get the chance, I will complete the test again.

Conclusion

TENTO Engineering’s take on MyST Audio’s masterpiece is just what Porta DAC needed. While it does look like a cigar case, it is tasteful and understated. Bluetooth signal quality has received a notable bump. Not enough to survive without hiccup on the commuter train, but perfect for desktop use. And then there’s the sound: rich, thick with micro contrast, and otherwise relaxing. It’s a sound that stole much of the show at the world’s most trafficked headphone shop: Akihabara’s e-earphone.

The price at 599€ is high, but then again, prices for DACs and amps have risen across the board. I think it is well worth it.

Correction: The price has been corrected to 599€.

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

16 Comments

  • Reply October 31, 2014

    lowbies

    Hai Nathan…

    Does it work with iphone 4s via bluetooth?
    SQ wise, how does this compare against fostex hp-p1?

    • Reply October 31, 2014

      Snoopy

      Yes, it works with iPhone via bluetooth or LOD-cable)

      • Reply November 4, 2014

        ohm image

        It won’t work via LOD cable. It only accepts digital inputs, and its USB requires:

        1. too much power
        2. a jailbreak or iPad

        in order to operate.

    • Reply October 31, 2014

      ohm image

      They are different, but in some ways comparable. Firstly, the HP-V1 is valve, and a sweet-sounding one at that. It rings a bit in the high end, while the Porta DAC does not.

      The Porta DAC is richer from the low end, with fuller detail. But the HP-V1 is better at driving earphones as well as headphones.

      However, the HP-v1 is only a headphone amp. Porta DAC turns all your digital sources into headphone out and line out capable. Completely different.

      If I had the choice (and I do not), I’d go for the Porta DAC.

      EDIT: as long as you have a digital output, Porta DAC will convert it. iPhone 4s has no problems with connecting via Bluetooth. But, unless you jailbreak, you can’t use USB with the Porta DAC. Again, USB gives somewhat inferior sound quality to the other inputs anyway.

      • Reply October 31, 2014

        lowbies

        Sorry Nathan, but what I’m asked is HP-P1 not the HP-V1:D

        Porta DAC + HP-V1 i think it’s gonna be freakin awesome btw…

  • Reply October 31, 2014

    Lower Listening

    so where can we buy this in europe? No sense if its made in germany me buying from Mr Thrush

  • Reply November 1, 2014

    MusicaAcoustics Int Jp

    Nice review. I cant wait to listen to the Tento DAC even though the made in Russia version was a real pain…

    • Reply November 4, 2014

      ohm image

      The Russian one was as unpolished as a lava stone, but sounded great. TENTO’s is even better.

      • Reply November 5, 2014

        Lower Listening

        worth upgrading to from the apex glacier dac/amp? I am seeking a more powerful and upfront yet smooth sound. currently using stagediver sd-2..any thoughts here also Dima?

        • Reply November 5, 2014

          ohm image

          They offer very very different sounds. That, and the Apex is an analogue amp whilst TENTO is digital only. If you prefer the digital volume pot of the Apex, there is only one choice. If you prefer relaxing, moving listening experience, TENTO is a great choice.

          EDIT: I should mention that the Glacier offers better response definition for low-Ω earphones.

          • Reply November 5, 2014

            lowbies

            Hai Nathan, just in case you’re forget to read my comment below, i want to ask you, is it worth to upgrade from HP-P1 (not the HP-V1) to Tento?

            • Reply November 5, 2014

              ohm image

              Lowbies: I’m sorry but my experience with the HP-P1 is shallow to say the least. I’ve spent a grand total of about 2 hours with it.

  • Reply November 15, 2014

    gagetbOy

    how is the sound compare to the hm801 or the tera for that matter?

    • Reply November 17, 2014

      ohm image

      gagetbOy, I don’t have the Tera player, nor the HM801. Remember, this is a DAC, not a player. You’d have to use it with something with a digital output.

      • Reply November 17, 2014

        gagetbOy

        I understand that but I was wondering if the signiture of the sound is the same. On head-fi one member said that from memory the myst 1886 was like a better version of the tera. So I was just wondering that was true. I know that the usage scenarios if different but I am currios about the sound.

        • Reply November 17, 2014

          ohm image

          Alas, I’ve spent very little time with the HM801 and never more than ten minutes with the Tera.

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