DDHiFi TC44C ($129): Yet another winner from DDHiFi.
Intro: I have reviewed many DDHIFi products, and it is no secret that I am a big fan of the brand. Stating early that the company “came up with solutions to problems we didn’t know we had,” they marketed a superb line of adapters, breaking into IEM’s with two versions, cables and then DAC’s. Early DAC’s were good. Very good. With the TC44C (both iOS and USB-C), DDHiFi has raised the lev el of portable dongle/DAC’s. Always stunning at which to look, their products were; and the functionality worked in concert with the sound emanating from within. I have yet to come across a product of theirs that isn’t superb in every way. This carries over to this dongle/DAC, providing a wonderful option in the ever increasingly tight market. Many will balk at spending this kind of hard-earned for an addition to a most likely already good Smartphone. My opinion is why not? If you can purchase something that raises the level of your products across the board, then why not?
I consider this a solid cost/benefit lesson, and one in which many should pay close attention. You get what you pay for, and this would be one of those that the extra cost is worth the investment.
DAC Chip: dual Cirrus Logic CS43131
Output Power: 120mW (4.4bal, 32ohms)
Dynamic Range: >120dB
PCM Decoding Capability: Up to 32bit/384kHz
DSD Decoding Capability: Native DSD64/DSD128/DSD256
Dimensions: 40.8x22x12.5 (mm)
iPhone 13 Pro Max
Fir Audio Frontier Xenon 6
DDHiFi Janus 2 w/ Nyx cable
In The Box:
USB-C (iOS cable sold separately)
As mentioned above, DDHiFi always seems to innovate solutions to which we did not know existed. Here though, with the TC44C, they grab onto what is likely the hottest market out there right now. The dongle/DAC. In doing so, the model can compete with the best out there with regard to build. It is top notch. A cylindrical shape exudes a low profile, in the typical burnished blue of DDHiFi. But over this they have a sewn cover, which mimics a baseball stitched glove. Ever since Porsche did their baseball gloved interior of the Boxster variety, cars have mimicked the pattern and other products as well.
When connected (mine also came with the iOS cable for use with my iPhone), a light comes out of the 4.4bal jack. It glows blue for PCM and green for DSD. I had no problem with connectivity either with my MBP or iPhone. Using the same dual Cirrus Logic CS43131 chips as the TC44B, the headphone socket is separated from the mainboard using lead-free soldering to maintain the integrity of the circuit board. By keeping the board and headphone jacks separate, you minimize interference, thus making for a better overall sound quality. With a modest power of 120mW, which is below most of the competitors the DDHiFi needs to make that up with sound quality. And it does.
One would think that with the modest output, the TC44C would suffer. It doesn’t. I could easily drive the Fir Xenon 6 as well as harder to drive units such as the Earsonics Onyx without a problem.
Many dongle/DAC’s tend to try and force a house sound on the unit. Not so here as a nearly neutral signature permeates my ears. There is sufficient bass to keep my interest, but not too much to drown out the overall character. Crisp, clear, articulate mids help soothe the overall character, but with a sense of smoothness as well. That crisp nature helps to allow the clean sound to come through. Not with an overabundance of sound, which could be too far forward and pressing, but with enough detail to provide a resolving sound, but without any strident characteristics. I rate this right up with some of the best I have heard, which includes some much more expensive ones.
The ability to run both 3.5se and 4.4bal is a plus, allowing you to use both your balanced headphones and single-ended without losing much in terms of the sound signature. I used both regularly and appreciated the addition of the balanced, even if it has become de rigor. What I find is an overall character that runs on the smoother side, but with an evenness of character that allows the music to flow through unencumbered. That is all I could ask for in a dongle/DAC at this price.
The TC44C continues the trend of quality DDHiFi products by giving the consumer an easy to use product that works across many platforms, providing you have both cables. With sufficient power to drive most of today’s IEM’s and headphones, the TC44C add a quality offering to your Smartphone, computer or whatever you hook it to. Even though it has no volume control, nor can it process MQA (no big deal anymore) the TC44C provides listeners with yet another typically fine product from DDHiFi. It works, it allows your music to come through, and it does so with excellent build quality and a sound that I like as well. This is an easy recommendation for me and well worth a look.