ddHiFi TC44C USB DAC Review

I can’t help but gonna ask it. Isn’t it the cutest audio gear that you have ever seen? The TC44C is so tiny, that its height is barely longer than ddHiFi’s own 2.5mm to 4.4mm adapter.

ddHiFi TC44C comes with dual Cirrus Logic CS43131 DAC chips for converting the digital data to analogue sound. This is the first time that I review a unit with Cirrus Logic SOC, except for the old motherboards in PCs but those were simple DACs for simple tasks. High-quality (fidelity) solutions started after Cirrus Logic acquired Wolfson Microelectronics in 2014.

The CS43131 DAC chip is one of the two flagship-level offers from Cirrus Logic with the CS43198. The specs difference between CS43198 and CS43131 are actually very small. Most numbers like Dynamic Range, THD+N, sample rate etc are basically identical between the two. The difference is really in that CS43198 is a DAC-only chip while CS43131 is a DAC+AMP chip with a built-in headphone AMP section. More on the power output later.

The 4.4mm headphone socket has many pins, so opening holes on the circuit board may seriously affect the circuit’s wiring. The circuit board design of TC44C simplifies the wiring by separating the socket from the mainboard. Moreover, OCC copper is for connection and lead-free soldering tin with 3% silver for soldering is used.

Greenish frosted metal with rounded corners gives you a comfortable grip. There are no assembly gaps around the headphone sockets, which are susceptible to electromagnetic interference. Also, the golden thick bottom cover shields the USB socket thoroughly, the place where you only realize from the logo and product name that this is a ddHiFi product.

The transparent 4.4 mm socket on the TC44C can transmit light to indicate the status: Blue indicates PCM output, and green indicates native DSD decoding output. However, when the 4.4mm socket is plugged in, the light may not be visible depending on the plug. It’s not a problem with ddHiFi’s 4.4mm adapter as you can see in the main photo of the review.

ddHiFi also prepared a limited quantity of 600pcs (first batch) leather case with hand stitching as free gift.

ddHiFi provides a high-quality OTG decoding cable named TC05 in the package, released and sold separately on the market. The cable is made of high purity silver-plated OCC with Teflon and TPU double insulation. The plug is integrally formed, which is sturdy and durable.

What’s in the box

SPECS

  • DAC chip: Dual Cirrus Logic CS43131
  • Output power: 120 mW per Channel (4.4Bal. 32 Ohms)
  • Auto-impedance sense function
  • SNR: >125dB
  • Dynamic range: >120dB
  • THD+N: ≤-110dB
  • PCM decoding capability: Up to 32bit/384kHz
  • DSD decoding capability: Native DSD64/DSD128/DSD256
  • Dimensions: 40.8×22×12.5 (mm)
  • Weight: About 12.9g
  • Price: 119$ (the first batch of 600 units is out of stock)

I would like to thank Lily Lee from ddHiFi for providing me with the review sample of TC44C  (no affiliate link).

This is what the second batch of TC44C will look like with its new leather case.

Before I begin the sound analysis I want to point out about the output power of the TC44C. On paper, it has an output power of 120 mW per Channel (32 Ohms) for the 4.4mm balanced port. I had read many compliments about this in the comments on ddHiFi’s Facebook page. That wasn’t a big deal for me because I am an IEM guy, and don’t use power-hungry headphones in my daily routine. But here is the fact. This little cute DAC can output much more power than it states. Let me show you.

This is Hidizs S9 Pro USB DAC which supports 200mW (32 Ohms) output power for the 2.5mm balanced port. Using the DAC in exclusive mode (bit-perfect) and with the same song testing with the IEM BQEYZ Autumn (Impedance: 46Ω. Sensitivity: 110dB.). The volume level is around %80, yes the test track has a poor volume level in this example, this is why I chose this one.

This is the TC44C as you can see. The volume level is around %40. No, I did not mix the photos, this is how powerful in real the TC44C is. I don’t know the scientific answer for this but I guess it has something to do with voltage levels that the TC44C can use from the USB port.

Sound

ddHiFi TC44C will treat you with a well-balanced sound signature. The bassline has more authority than I came to expect from a portable device. It’s deep but well-controlled and quite nimble. Midbass is also very well judged, present but tidy, and doesn’t colour the midrange. Because of this, all vocals and instruments sound very clean and neutral. The TC44Cs manage to join that clarity with the natural smoothness and liquid-like character of the midrange.

The midrange is full and lush with a rich timbre. Instruments have a full body and weight. Vocals are rendered in a similar fashion. This full-bodied core is overlaid with an open upper midrange that adds a layer of texture and brightness, making for quite balanced and natural tonality. This creates a sensation of bold, yet open and texture-rich tone. This openness extends to the highest registers too.

The highest spectrum is not very pronounced and if anything it’s on a slightly sweeter side of things. Since there is no sharpness, glare, or edginess I could hear, my testing quickly turned into listening to music and simply enjoying it. This really doesn’t happen every day, and it’s something reserved only for the well-rounded performers.

Moving on to the soundstage, it’s exceptionally well-developed for a product of this price. All tones have plenty of room to breathe and are arranged in front of a very black background. Pinpointing a source where the sound originated is easy, but in doing that TC44Cs avoid ever becoming analytical or tiring in any way imaginable.

Finally, if we’re talking about dynamics, there’s not much to criticize here. TC44C is a lively-sounding performer, but it won’t win any awards when it comes to big dynamic swings. Then again, it’s really hard to find any DAC that is doing better in this regard but doesn’t come at higher prices.

As a final note, the TC44C never gets hot during use like some other USB DAC-AMPs that we used to feel.

Sum-Up

The ddHiFi TC44C is a well-engineered tiny device, both in terms of its one-of-a-kind looks, and its capabilities. There are many other options out there in the portable USB DAC-AMP world that will get you into audiophile-grade sound, but they’re not as unique as the TC44C. I found that what the TC44C does so well is the fact that it delivers an incredible overall experience in terms of sound quality, sight, and feeling. It’s well worth it as a ticket to high-end portable sound without a doubt.

 

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