ddHiFi TC44B Review
DDHiFi has quickly become one of our go-to brands for audiophile accessories. Not only are their products reliable, but they are also very stylish. Nearly all of the adapters and cases that we have checked out were very impressive and have become mainstays in our arsenals.
One of our favorite products from ddHiFi was their compact TC35B and TC25B DAC/Amps. They managed to combine looks, portability, and sound quality and remain unmatched in terms of their value proposition. The next logical step for the company would be to introduce a dongle-sized DAC/Amp that had balanced connections for more advanced users.
But before we could even suggest that to the company, ddHiFi has released the TC44B balanced DAC/Amp. And while it looks completely different from their previous offerings, we are just as excited to check it out. Join us to find out the reasons why this is another direct hit from ddHiFi.
The review unit was provided by ddHiFi. We would like to thank them for their support and for making this review possible. However, this does not influence our review in any way. Everything written here is my honest opinion.
Packaging and Accessories
We have always been impressed by ddHiFi’s eco-friendly packaging. They manage to differentiate themselves from the rest of the competition and establish their identity while minimizing waste produced from their products. The packaging on the TC44B is a bit different due to its size, but it still embodies everything that we loved about the brand.
The TC44B is packed in a cardboard box and has all the usual ddHiFi branding. There is a subtle art on the front that resembles the TC44B’s cone-shaped design.
Inside, you will find the TC44B along with an included USB Type-C to USB A converter. It’s not a lot, but it is everything that you will ever need.
Design and Build Quality
The ddHiFi TC44B looks nothing like ddHiFi’s previous offerings. This doesn’t come as a surprise since ddHiFi is well known for presenting innovative designs and ideas.
The TC44B has a cone-shaped design that houses both a 4.4mm pentaconn and 2.5mm balanced jack. The outer shell seems to be made of metal and has a finish that is similar to ddHiFi’s other recent products. I personally find the design to be well-executed and don’t look out of place with my other equipment.
However, one thing that concerns me is that the USB Type-C cable is non-removable. And while the TC44B isn’t the only dongle that has a non-removable cable, it was still a potential point of failure.
Additionally, I do not see any strain reliefs, which is concerning especially when using the TC44B while watching videos in landscape mode on your smartphone.
We have reached out to ddHiFi to ask about the durability of the TC44B’s cable. They told us that the conductor is made of high purity silver-plated OCC with double protection structure which reassures its durability. While I cannot comment on the long-term durability of the product, I have tested the TC44B for several months in different types of scenarios, and it seems to be holding up well.
Aside from that, the TC44B is pretty straightforward. There aren’t any light indicators or gain switches to be found on the device. That is understandable given the device has no extra features such as MQA compatibility.
Tested with: Fostex/Fitear TE100, Ultimate Ears UE6 Pro, BGVP DM8, KBear Believe, Sennheiser HD660S, Harmonicdyne Zeus
DDHiFi’s previous offerings, the TC25B and TC35B, both sounded good to our ears. They did a lot of things right and synergized well with our test equipment. So with the higher price tag and better internals, does the TC44B prove significantly better than their budget offerings? The answer is a clear yes.
The TC44B is running a dual Cirrus CS43131 DAC chip configuration. To put things into perspective, that is the same DAC chip that the Hiby R3 Pro is running. Of course, we know that it’s the implementation of the DAC chip that matters. But having a good foundation is always good to see.
Like the TC25B and TC35B, the TC44B has a natural and accurate sound presentation. However, the TC44B is way more detailed and enjoyable to listen to compared to both dongles.
The low end is thumpy, the vocals are smooth, and the highs are detailed. It sounds exactly how I would expect my test tracks to sound. I’m not getting any weird artificial effects that are usually added on lower-priced DAC/Amps to give the illusion of added detail.
Of course, the subtle differences will start to show when listening to a more high-end IEM such as the Fostex/Fitear TE100. Compared to my Fiio M11 DAP and iFi Nano BL DAC/Amp, the TC44B was missing some details in the vocal region and in the highs.
Imaging and soundstage were also slightly behind. But again, the price gap between the equipment that we are comparing is big. The fact that I am even making these comparisons just shows how impressed I am with this tiny DAC/Amp.
And when I am on the go, these tiny differences aren’t anything I would notice. Its ability to perfectly make my IEMs and headphones sing is enough for me to recommend this dongle.
The ddHiFi TC44B has adequate power for the equipment I used in a portable setting. Even the power-hungry KBear-Believe had no problems with the TC44B.
I also tested the TC44B in a desktop setting just to see if it can replace my usual portable DAC/Amps for my portable workstation. It did a remarkable job in powering my 150-ohm Sennheiser HD660S.
Of course, I would still turn to my desktop equipment if I ever wanted to power my headphones properly. But for those on a tighter budget or for anyone who just wants to listen to their favorite cans outside their usual desktop setups, this little dongle is a very capable alternative.
Heat and Battery Consumption
Just like most DAC/Amps, the TC44B produces heat while being used. But unlike the Hilidac Audirect Beam 2SE, the power consumption isn’t as noticeable.
The battery drain also wasn’t an issue for me. I could comfortably use the TC44B with my smartphone throughout the day without even batting an eye.
As mentioned in our full review, the ddHiFi TC25B isn’t actually a truly balanced DAC/Amp. It has the same internals as the TC35B, meaning it doesn’t give the full benefits of your balanced connection. It was simply a low-cost way of using your balanced IEMs on the go.
The TC44B, on the other hand, is specifically designed for balanced connection. And having both 2.5 and 4.4mm connections means that you no longer have to purchase additional adapters.
And that isn’t the only advantage that the TC44B has. Its sound quality is miles ahead of the TC25B. It is significantly more revealing and more detailed. It is also guaranteed to pair better with higher-end IEMs. Unless you prioritize portability, we highly recommend the TC44B over the TC25B.
Hilidac Audirect Beam 2SE
The Audirect Beam 2SE isn’t a direct competitor to the Beam 2SE since it only offers single-ended connectivity. But it is a product that we put in high regard and is a worthy alternative to the TC44B.
Compared to the TC44B, the Beam 2Se has several advantages in terms of its build quality. It has a detachable cable and a solid metal build. Its detachable cable also allows you to swap the stock USB Type-C cable to the included lightning connector for iOS devices. The only possible downside in its build is that it is heavier.
In terms of its feature set and sound quality, the Beam 2SE has native MQA support. So if you have MQA files or if you are Tidal subscriber, you might get a lot of use out of the Beam 2SE. The DAC chip that it is using is also very capable of producing great results.
But if you mainly use balanced connectors for your IEMs, we highly suggest going for the TC44B. In my testing, I preferred the way the TC44B handles the mid frequencies.
They were very similar, but the TC44B managed to bring a more enjoyable sound. Of course, if you mainly need the MQA functionality, the Beam 2SE is also a very capable choice.
Overall, the ddHiFi TC44B has managed to impress us yet again. DDHiFi has managed to create a truly great-sounding portable DAC/Amp that has replaced my DAP for quick runs and non-critical listening situations. I would even claim that this DAC/Amp can easily replace sub 200 USD DAC/Amps.
I do have some small quirks about the TC44B. I wish it had a removable cable and MQA support. But with its current iteration, I cannot complain because it has been a reliable tool that I have greatly enjoyed listening to.
If you use balanced connectors for your IEMs or headphones and are looking for a great-sounding lightweight solution, then look no further as the ddHiFi TC44B gets a strong recommendation from us.
With how great ddHiFi’s recent products are, we hope they can deliver an even higher-end solution with a more premium chipset and support for both balanced and unbalanced connections. A product like that would surely be a true DAP killer.
- Output power: 120mW(32Ω)
- Dimensions: 18.3x 16.8x 30.0mm (triangle part)
- DNR: 120dB
- Cable length: 85mm
- THD+N: <-110dB
- THD+N: <-110dB
- Plug length: 13.5mm
- DAC (PCM): Up to 32bit/384kHz
- Weight: About 13g
- DAC (DSD): Native DSD64/DSD128/DSD256
Albums Used For Testing
- Milet – Who I am
- Babymetal – Legend Metal Galaxy
- Mamamoo – Travel
- Periphery- Periphery 3 and 4
- Blackpink – The Album
- Final Fantasy VII Acoustic Arrangements
- Square Enix Jazz- Final Fantasy VII At Billboard Live Tokyo
- Sawano Hiroyuki – Best of Vocal Works
- Yorushika – Plagiarism
- Intervals – Circadian
Stephen is a musician, cinematographer, and headphone enthusiast who is passionate about reviewing audio equipment. He has been playing guitar for at least a decade, which introduced him to professional recording equipment such as headphones and in-ear monitors. With the help of reviews and online content, he was able to learn the ins and outs of the hobby. His goal is to give back to the community by providing quality content to help others enjoy the beautiful (and expensive) world of audio.
Favorite Headphones: Sennheiser HD660s