ddHiFi TC44A Review
ddHiFi TC44A Reviy
Tiny and wonderful
Pros: + Balanced and natural sound signature with good transparency
+ Very silent without EMI noise
+ Power efficient
+ Plug and play
+ Excellent build quality
+ Beautiful looking
+ The most compact sized DAC dongle with a 4.4mm plug
+ Featherweight and ultra compact
Cons: – Not very powerful
– Will not decode MQA
– No accompanying application
– No indicator LED
– Be careful not to lose it
The review sample was kindly provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
I didn’t receive monetary or any other kind of compensation and I don’t use affiliate links.
The price of the TC44A is $81 and you can order it from the ddHiFi official store.
ddHiFi might not be a very large company but they are very well known in the personal audio community for making some of the best, and rare to find elsewhere, audio adapters as a couple of tiny USB DAC dongles.
Like the ddHiFi TC35B and now the TC44A, a miniature USB DAC dongle that attaches to a type-C port and outputs sound in a 4.4mm jack to enhance the audio experience.
The TC44A utilizes the well known CS43131 DAC/amp chip which supports native DSD256 and up to 384kHz/32bit PCM decoding.
The power output of the TC44A is 30mW/32Ω per channel and the device is plug and play with Android and Windows OS.
Of course the 4.4mm output is not really balanced but is essentially an embedded adapter for people who have earphones with 4.4mm plugs and don’t want to use extra adapters.
The conventional 4.4mm terminated devices are generally large in size but the TC44A adopts a brand new process structure, so as to make the 4.4mm socket look small.
The USB-C plug is also separated from the motherboard and connected with high purity OCC wire, soldered with lead-free silver containing soldering tin.
Unfortunately in such a compact chassis there was no room left to accommodate a sampling rate indicator LED.
A version with a lighting plug is also available.
Build quality and appearance
The TC44A is made from CNC aluminum alloy with a black and blue finish which is enhanced with metallic texture to match the appearance of popular smartphones.
The TC44A has a minimalistic design with a luxurious feeling and a durable construction.
The dimensions without the plug are 19.5x21x12mm and the weight is 5.5g only so we are talking about the most compact sized and lightweight USB DAC dongle with a 4.4mm plug.
Power output and noise
The power output of the TC44A is typical for a single CS43131 chip and as such is suitable for driving most of the regular to high sensitivity earphones like the Penon Vortex and the FiiO FH15 that I have mostly used.
The TC44A has a low noise floor and is immune to electromagnetic interference, at least with the phone I used.
It gets mildly warm during use but is power efficient and it will not drain your phone battery too fast.
The overall sound signature is typical of the CS43131, a favorite DAC chip that is frequently used in a lot of entry level USB DAC dongles.
The TC44A is musical and engaging with excellent technicalities for the category without really missing anything compared to the competition despite its miniature size.
The frequency response is linear and balanced, the TC44A is crystal clear, clean and open sounding with plenty of transparency and excellent detail retrieval for the category while it presents the music with a convincingly natural timbre.
My guess is that ddHiFi is using the default, fast roll-off filter and it would be great if there was a compatible application for choosing between the five embedded filters of the CS43131 including a NOS one.
Anyway, NOS or not, the TC44A is a DAC with an extended low end and a bass that is impactful, fast and dynamic with great control and definition.
The presentation is more full bodied and weighty than most of its ESS based counterparts, not only in the low end but throughout the whole frequency range.
The mid range is sweet, vivid and transparent with clearly articulated vocals and solo instruments.
There is lots of harmonic variety and naturalness, the overall presentation is quite realistic and very musical.
The treble is extended and resolving with plenty of energy lying around but still smooth and controlled without sounding too artificial and digital.
The TC44A has an easy going nature to it’s presentation, it is a smooth sailing listen without lacking too much in technicalities and detail retrieval.
The soundstage is open and airy with good positioning accuracy for the category, it certainly can’t reach the expansiveness and the holography of really balanced DACs with dual CS43141 chips, like the Moondrop Dawn, but the truth is that it sounded pretty satisfying with Schumann’s piano concerto.
In the end
Ultra compact and lightweight with excellent sound performance for the size and the category, the ddHiFi TC44A is highly recommended for enhancing your listening experience on the go and the only thing that should bother you, is trying not to lose it in your pocket.
Copyright – Petros Laskis 2023.