For this review, I chose to pair the ddHifi TC25i with my old Onkyo IE-C3, while I paired the TC28i to the EarMen Eagle and BGVP’s new DM8. If you’re curious about them, I let you know that the review is already out, and (spoiler alert) they are great IEMs.
(soundwise, the TC25i sound EXACTLY like the TC25i, so you get the same text)
Out of the (wooden) box, the ddHifi TC25i felt like a good improvement compared to Apple’s (infuriating) dongle.
Not just because it was sturdier/easier to fit, but mostly because it seemed to be sonically superior, at least to my ears. It’s not night and day, but the absence of ground noise is already a big improvement on its own.
The soundstage is good, voices are clean and if bass seemed a bit thin, I’m still keener to use the TC35i than Apple’s dongle. Even more, if you feed this DAC with high-rate files like Tidal, Qobuz, or Amazon Musics, where you’ll definitely feel the difference.
Out of curiosity, I plugged my Meze 99 Classics, with Meze’s Balanced cable, and the TC25i was able to drive them comfortably. The warm signature hid the lack of power, and the bass didn’t seem as weak as before.
Long story short: it works well with sensitive IEM/CIEM, and if you want to use a headphone, favors mellow ones like the Meze.
Using the TC28i doesn’t give you an advantage over the CCK, at least if we focus on sound only. It’s neither better, nor worse, it just works.
That said, it’s a real pleasure to use and across all the DAC I tried, almost none seemed to malfunction with the TC28i. I tried the EarMen, but also Chord’s old, but faithful, Mojo, or xDuoo’s TA-30 (my 2020 amp of the year), and even my good old Cayin iDAC-6 was keen to welcome the new ddHifi.
In simple terms: it’s a must-have if you want to pair a DAC with your iPhone, period.
Highs: clear and clean. The TC25i offers a good level of resolution and scales up easily with Hi-Res files. There is no harshness nor distortion, even at high volume, and through all my listening, I never encountered any humming noises or buzz.
Mids: open and forward. Vocals and acoustic tracks were not a problem for the TC25i, even more once paired with a good IEM. The soundstage seemed wide enough on my Onkyo but, to no one surprise, fell short with the Meze as the lack of power became more problematic.
Lows: thin but good. The TC25i struggled to reach deep notes and sub rumble, with my 99 classics. The low power output can’t deliver enough juice to push the drivers hard enough, but once you’re outside, this is less of an issue. With my IE-C3 and BGVP DM8, I didn’t encounter this issue and was able to get enough lows to meet my needs. Hurray
In my opinion, every audiophile, iPhone users, should have a ddHifi TC28i on its to-go list. It’s a simple but sturdy solution that allows you to plug every DAC/AMP you have, into the one device you carry everywhere. I tried countless 8-pin adapters and almost one out of two had issues once connected to my iPhone, but that never was the case here.
Regarding the ddHifi TC25i, it offers the same features found in the TC35i, but in a 2.5mm form factor. It’s not the best DAC on the market, but considering its size and ease of use, it’s also one of those DAC that should be kept in your bag, or wallet, to improve your commute in the most simple way.
So big kudos for ddHifi, which keeps offering affordable premium solutions, for those who already spent a little fortune on their phone and DAC (!). Joke aside, it’s fantastic stuff!