Excellent build quality, High-quality included cable, Lanyard loop, Natural and well-structured sound tuning, Deep stage, Black noise floor, Logarithmic volume control
Large 3.5mm plugs won’t fit, Not as dynamic as class leaders, No controls, Lightning option adds to cost
The experience at DD HiFi’s team shows in the refinement of the product despite working within a limited budget. The result is well priced, well made and well outfit.
DDHiFi is a Chinese company spearheaded by Demond Ding who has preior experience at the now renowned Fiio and OPPO. In turn, the company had a great start with a range of innovative yet low-cost accessories that have become beloved by all. Lately, the company has turned their attention to more performance-orientated designs with a range of portable sources of ever-increasing spec. They all carry the TC designation but that’s where the similarities end as each dongle has carried a wildly different form factor and specification. The TC44C is the company’s most orthodox, expensive and highly-specced design yet. Unlike their former releases, this puts it in competition with many pre-existing designs on the market. The TC44C wasn’t just designed to be affordable or hyper-compact but to directly compete with market leaders with its dual-channel balanced circuit, dual PCB layout and lifestyle features that make this a desirable package. And, unlike the similarly specced TC44B, the TC44C has a more slender form factor and removable USB-cable that enhances long-term reliability and versatility with different devices.
The TC44C retails for $119 USD. You can read all about it and treat yourself to a unit on DD HiFi’s website.
I would like to thank Lily from DD HiFi very much for reaching out and providing me with the TC44C for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the dongle free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
DAC Chip: Dual Cirrus Logic CS43131
Output Power: 60mW per channel (3.5mm SE), 132 mW per Channel (4.4Bal. 32 Ohms)
SNR: > 125 dB
DNR: > 120 dB
THD+N: < -110 dB
Dimensions: 40.8 x 22 x 12.5 mm
Weight: 12.9 g
Behind the Design –
Dual CS43131 Chips
The TC44C uses two of Cirrus Logic’s CS43131 chipsets. This is a close derivative of the CS43198 flagship that has nigh identical specifications. The difference here is the inclusion of an integrated amplifier with the 98 being a DAC chip only. By doubling up the circuitry, DD were able to achieve a higher output power as the stock specifications are on the weaker end. The integrated solution is likely also responsible for much of the device’s power efficiency.
Previous DD products have always come in basic wooden boxes, but this has been slightly revamped for the higher end TC44C. It now comes in a cardboard box with a graphic sleeve. Inside is the player and cable within matte plastic bags with some paper padding as seen on their other products. If you were fortunate to buy one of the first 600 units, a leather case will come pre-installed on the device. The perk of buying a source from a company that specialises in accessories is the quality of the all-around package. The TC44C comes with the TC05 USB cable which has sensational quality for an interconnect. It sports metal connectors in matching green and even metal strain relief. The plugs are the high-quality extrusion moulded kind wand the wire itself is silver-plated OCC copper with Teflon and TPU double insulation. This promises high-quality, reliable operation and is something often overlooked on these devices. You can also opt for a lightning version that comes with the MFi06S cable as well for an additional cost.
This section always feels rather repetitive, especially for the sea of black-slab dongle DAC/AMPs that have flooded the market as of late. With DDHiFi, however, I find myself consistently impressed by the small considerations the company puts into daily convenience. The design itself is charming and quirky as we’ve come to expect from the company. However, it is also one of the more compact dongle designs which contributes to practical daily use. The TC44C assumes a frosted 2-piece metal design with a gold endplate that also gives the device additional EMI shielding. The finish is even and tactile, and tolerances are superb with flush fitting connectors. At the top of the device are 2 outputs, 3.5mm and 4.4mm balanced with inputs covered by a single Type-C port on the other end.
The deep green and gold colour scheme works surprisingly well as the gold USB-plate balances out the plugs to provide visual symmetry. The round profile gives the device a sleek feel as do the nicely rounded and finished edges. This ensures it sits nicely in a pocket, aided by the minute dimensions. Further attention has been directed towards visual coherence with the use of an integrated LED indicator that surrounds the balanced output in additional to a small cut-out on the top that can be used for a lanyard should you want to hang the device. This is also a potential downside of the device as the raised edge will obscure the port for larger plugs. In addition, the first 600 units come with a genuine leather hand-stitched case that gives it a wonderful aesthetic. The white stitching and debossed DDHiFi logo give the dongle heaps of character and visual flair.
I am a fan of removable cables on these devices as it doesn’t add much bulk but aids long-term reliability. This is so long as the connection is stable as devices with loose ports or poor-quality cables can cause much frustration during daily use. This luckily isn’t an issue at all here as one thing I noted was that the Type-C plug has awesome engagement. It’s super stable with tight tolerances and this contributed to a perfectly reliable connection when pocketed on the go. No doubt, the TC05 cable is helping due to its high-quality extruded connectors, and I did note that this cable, in particular, had a far snugger fit than my other aftermarket ones. It’s short enough not to get in the way but long enough to bend without kinking. As far as setup goes, the TC44C was plug and play on both my Pixel 6 Pro and Windows PC without the need for a separate driver or app. Similarly, there were no pops or other added noises when plugging in/unplugging the device or earphones. Do note that, at the time of review, no accompanying app is available to change device settings, filters, etc.
Desmon’s experience with sources shows with the efficiency of the TC44C. This is especially impressive given that its power output is in-line with the higher-end dongles on the market such as the Cayin RU6 and Hidizs S9 Pro. Using a balanced connection, volume matched to these devices at my usual listening volume I measured a battery drain of 450-550mAh using Accubattery which is slightly less than both of the aforementioned sources. Drainage was trending closer to the lower figure and was on par with many less powerful dongles which means this shouldn’t be a concern for buyers wanting to purchase this device for use with a smartphone. In addition, the device doesn’t tend to heat up much during operation which is another pro for pocket use where cooling is reduced.
The TC44C features no physical controls which will be a matter of preference. It is a simple plug and play device which contributes to streamlined operation similar to the standard 3.5mm adaptor that is included with many smartphones. That means volume is controlled by the phone as is playback. Though no gain settings are available, I do appreciate that the TC44C has a forgiving logarithmic volume curve that gives more fine-grain control at the bottom end and larger jumps at the top end. This makes a good choice for sensitive IEMs whilst still offering a good top-end volume range for less sensitive gear too.