Today, we review the TempoTec March III M3, which is an affordable desktop DAC and integrated headphone amplifier with wireless capability. It is priced at $129 SRP.
Disclaimer: This sample was sent to us in exchange for our honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links. We thank TempoTec for this opportunity.
To learn more about TempoTec products that have been previously featured on Headfonics you can click here.
Note that this article follows our latest scoring guidelines which you can read up on here.
TempoTec March III M3
The Tempotec March III M3 is a great value proposition for anyone looking for a versatile and feature-rich desktop DAC/AMP that can handle high-resolution audio formats, MQA unfolding, and Bluetooth connectivity. Especially at this price point it offers a lot of features and versatility for the class.
TempoTec, the Chinese brand made famous by its value-centric high-performance Sonata dongles and V6 DAP has taken the next step in expanding its product stack by leveraging its know-how from past hits such as the Serenade iDSD to release its latest product: a Bluetooth-capable all-in-one DAC and headphone amplifier under $150.
As a value-centric audiophile, I am aware of the versatility such a unit could provide, but let’s see if TempoTec’s March III M3 really is a jack-of-all-trades or just a master of none.
The TempoTec March III M3 is an integrated DAC and headphone amplifier equipped with an AK4493SEQ DAC chip and four OPA1688 op-amps that deliver a clean and detailed sound with low distortion and noise.
The device supports PCM up to 32-bit/768kHz, DSD up to DSD512, and MQA up to 8x unfolding via the USB input.
The device can be used as a standalone DAC/AMP with headphones or powered monitors or as a DAC only via the coaxial, optical, or RCA outputs. The March III M3 can drive up to 630 mW and 310 mW into 32Ω via its 4.4 balanced and 3.5mm SE output respectively, easily driving a wide range of hard-to-drive over-ear headphones.
The unit also supports the wireless LDAC codec and offers near-lossless quality with compatible devices, while the AAC codec offers decent quality with iOS devices. The device also supports NFC pairing for quick and easy connection.
The TempoTec March III M3 is encased in a sleek metal frame with a smooth black finish that has some subtle curves on the sides.
The front panel has a 4.4mm balanced headphone output, a 3.5mm single-ended headphone output, a volume knob that also acts as a power button and an input selector, and an OLED screen that shows the relevant information.
Coming in at 10 x 8.5 x 3.4 cm, the unit’s compact chassis easily fits even in cramped dorm room desk setups. It is worth noting that the included Bluetooth antenna protrudes beyond the upper edge of the rear facia.
The unit is not covered by too many logos or pieces of branding, in fact, the sole branding on the unit is the small “March III M3” logo on the upper left portion of the unit’s front.
The OLED screen is easily visible in both bright and dark environments, but it is also not distractingly bright in dimly lit rooms. This, alongside the tasteful gold accents of the front output jacks, gives the unit a sleek appearance that fits-in in any audio setup.
The bottom of the unit also comes with 2 rubber strips that span the length of the unit, ensuring the unit stays stable even when placed on slippery surfaces.
The TempoTec March III M3 has a suite of input and output options, making it versatile and flexible. It has two USB-C ports on the rear panel: one for data and one for power.
The data port can be connected to a computer or a smartphone via the included USB-C to USB-C cables or third-party USB cables compatible with laptops and iOS devices.
The unit also comes with Bluetooth input options that support LDAC (990 kbps), AAC (256 kbps), and SBC (328 kbps) codecs. It can be paired with compatible devices wirelessly via Bluetooth 5.2. The Bluetooth antenna on the rear panel ensures low latency and stable connection up to 30m.
It is worth noting that when connected to my 4th generation iPad Air 4, the 44.1 kHz AAC playback sounded extremely garbled, especially towards the high end. I did not experience the same issues when connecting to my Realme GT Master Android smartphone and Windows over LDAC.
The unit also has a coaxial output and an optical output on the rear panel that can be used to connect to external DACs or amplifiers via digital cables, as well as RCA outputs on the rear panel that can be used to connect to powered speakers or amplifiers.
As previously mentioned, the unit comes with two headphone outputs on the front panel: a 4.4mm balanced output and a 3.5mm single-ended output. The unit also has GAIN and BASS switches on the bottom side that can adjust the output power and the bass response according to your preferences and headphones.
Controlling the March III M3 is straightforward aside from a few quirks. The front of the unit has a graphic telling the user to press the volume knob to turn on the unit, but no matter how many times you press the unit, you won’t turn it on unless you press and hold the volume knob.
I would have preferred this to be communicated a bit more clearly since I took an embarrassing amount of time figuring out how to power the unit.
Once the unit is powered on, the rest of the controls are simple. The volume knob is digital and does not have the set start and end positions of an analog potentiometer.
Cycling through the USB and Bluetooth inputs is done with the mode button, cycling through the two gain options is done with the GAIN button, and the BASS buttons turn the Bass-boost on and off.
Packaging & Accessories
The Tempotec March III M3 comes in a simple black cardboard box with the product name and logo embossed in gold on the front of the box. Inside, you will find the unit itself, 2 USB-C to USB-A cables, a USB-A wall adapter, a detachable Bluetooth antenna, a user manual, and a warranty card.
The accessories are minimal but are more than enough for the price point. Some DAC AMPs such as the iFi Audio ZEN DAC fail to include a power adapter, although such units can be powered completely off bus power, unlike the March III M3.
Similar to other DAC/AMP units that make use of the AK4493SEQ DAC chip, the March III M3 has a warm and lush tonality that gives the music a pleasing “organic” feeling timbre. This coloration isn’t blatant enough to obscure details in the recording, but it is enough to be noticeable when compared to more neutral sources.
The March III M3 can deliver an above-average amount of power, especially through the 4.4mm Balanced output, easily driving my 300Ω Sennheiser HD580 Precision headphones without sacrificing the staging performance.
Unfortunately, the bass boost of the unit is borderline unusable. Unlike the bass boost of units by brands like FiiO and iFi Audio, the March III M3 overemphasizes low-end tones and completely sucks the life out of the mids and the highs.
The March III M3 adds slight warmth to the original timbre of the recording. The additional warmth makes itself heard in deep bass strums in Funk, Jazz, R&B, and Hip Hop tracks. Additionally, it adds layers to the vocals of male singers with deep voices.
The mids, especially wind instruments are represented in a very pleasing manner, with great body and emotion. I often found myself returning to the March III M3 for this very reason. This is definitely one of the stand-out traits of the March III M3.
Like other warm-sounding sources, it reduces the sibilance in harshly mastered hi-hats, as well as “S” and “T” tones. When compared to more neutral sources like the Topping L30 II, there is a slight decrease in fidelity, but it is only evident in A-B testing.
Staging and Dynamics
The soundstage is wide and spacious, with good depth and height. Even compared to other desktop-class DAC/AMPs, I observed sound stage improvements when plugging in my Koss KPH30i to the March III M3.
The KPH30i is not particularly demanding, and I never fully maxed out the volume knob, indicating that this increase in soundstage is attributed to just having more current running through the headphones.
The imaging is precise and accurate, with good localization and separation of sounds. Despite the increased soundstage, it never came off as artificial or exaggerated, but rather natural and realistic. The soundstage created an immersive and engaging listening experience.
The March III M3 has an output power of 310mW and 630mW @ 32Ω on 3.5mm SE and balanced 4.4mm respectively.
This is an impressive level of power output from a sub-$150 DAC/AMP unit with Bluetooth input, making hard-to-drive headphones accessible to more budget-conscious audiophiles, whilst still maintaining quality-of-life features such as Bluetooth connectivity and the option to connect powered monitors via RCA.
When connected to the March III M3’s balanced output, it was able to drive the Sennheiser HD 580 Precision to a more than satisfactory level. Similarly, it was able to drive my Modhouse Argon MK3s to a satisfactory listening volume via the 3.5mm SE port.
However, it did not maintain the same staging and detailed performance from the Argons when plugged into the Topping L30 II.
At the low gain setting, the March III M3 was able to easily drive IEMs such as TempoTec’s own IM05 or the Moondrop Blessing 3 without any audible hiss.
The March III M3 shines when paired with headphones and IEMs that not only maximize the juice it can offer but also benefit from its slight elevation in the bass region.
Based on my testing, I found that the HD580 paired extremely well with the March III M3, giving it a more pleasing timbre that almost resembles a tube amplifier.
Additionally, I was pleased with how much more frequently I was using my HD 580 since I could simply pair my phone to the March III M3 via Bluetooth, whilst being assured that I was maximizing the capabilities of the HD580s.
iFi Audio ZEN DAC V1
The March III M3 features the AKM AK4493S DAC chip supporting PCM up to 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512, in addition to supporting MQA decoding. Whilst the iFi Audio ZEN DAC V1 features a Burr-Brown True Native chipset that supports PCM and DXD up to 32-bit/384kHz, and DSD256.
The ZEN Dac only has a sole USB-B input connector, compared to the USB C and Bluetooth inputs of the March III M3. The ZEN can be powered solely off bus power with the 5v power input being strictly optional, whilst the March III M3 needs to be always plugged into 5V power.
The March III M3 offers more output options as well. Both units have front SE outputs (3.5mm on the March III M3 and 6.3 on the ZEN DAC) and 4.4mm BAL outputs, as well as rear RCA outputs.
However, the March III M3 also has digital coax and SPDIF output, while ZEN also has an additional 4.4mm balanced output at the rear.
The March III M3 has an output power of 310mW and 630mW @32Ω on 3.5mm SE and balanced 4.4mm respectively, whilst the ZEN DAC has an output power of 280mW and 380mW @32Ω on 3.5mm SE and balanced 4.4mm respectively, making the March III M3 substantially more powerful.
The March III M3 makes use of a sleek metal frame with a smooth black finish that has some subtle curves on the sides.
Additionally, the OLED screen is easily visible in both bright and dark environments, but it is also not distractingly bright in dimly lit rooms. This, alongside the tasteful gold accents of the front output jacks, gives the unit a sleek appearance that fits-in in any audio setup.
The iFi Audio ZEN DAC V1 on the other hand has a sleek trapezoidal aluminum chassis with curved edges and a smooth volume knob on the brushed front panel. The ZEN’s unique shape and two-tone color scheme make it stand out compared to most Hi-Fi equipment, making it more eye-catching than the March III M3.
The ZEN DAC has a warmer tonality than the March III M3, making male vocals and bass strums sound lusher on the ZEN DAC. Additionally, the March III M3 plays back with better fidelity and clarity, especially toward the mids and the highs.
The larger power output of the March III M3 makes harder-to-drive headphones sound more dynamic than plugging them into the ZEN DAC.
Lastly, unlike the unusable bass boost of the March III M3, the bass boost of the ZEN Dac is done tastefully and gives the tonality more warmth and body, making it more enjoyable without reducing fidelity on the other regions of the FR.
The Tempotec March III M3 is a great value proposition for anyone looking for a versatile and feature-rich desktop DAC/AMP that can handle high-resolution audio formats, MQA unfolding, and Bluetooth connectivity. Especially at its price point of $129, it offers a lot of features and versatility for the class.
It isn’t all good though. The bass boost is barely usable, making the overall playback sound muddy, whilst removing all details and nuance. Additionally, I experienced sub-par Bluetooth performance when connecting the unit to my iPad.
However, despite those issues, the March III M3 is a good first DAC/AMP. It has good power output for the price, whilst also making use of DAC chips with a nice, lush tonality. Additionally, audiophiles that grow out of the good DAC and AMPs of the unit can use it as a Bluetooth receiver and simply connect the March III M3 to a newer DAC via the optical output.
When simply considering the feature set, power output, and price point of the unit, the March III M3 is a class leader for versatility and has my recommendation.
TempoTec March III M3 Specifications
DAC/AMP Chip: AK4493SEQ
Output Power: 310mW@ 32Ω (SE), 630mW @ 32Ω (BAL)
Input(s): USB, Bluetooth 5.2
Output: 3.5 mm SE, 4.4 mm BAL, RCA, Coaxial, SPDIF