Does the TC44B sound better than my on board sound? Oh yes, without any doubt. Where the onboard sound is light, sharp and lifeless, the TC44B is musical, full and engaging. They both aren’t the absolute strongest when it comes to precision and detail retrieval but the Cirrus driven TC44B is the better one without any doubt.
I especially like using the TC44B with my smartphone. The reason is that it compared to my laptop and TC44B combo sounds more lively with more energy on top.
It’s impressive what USB-dongles nowadays can do, and it’s even more surprising to see how they perform for so little money.
For this section I used a series of custom IEMs as well as the Sennheiser HD660S. the source was my laptop and Oneplus 8 Pro smartphone.
To be honest I straight from the start was very pleasantly surprised with the TC44B’s performance. The key characteristics here are musicality, body and smoothness.
What I especially like is the depth and note extension the Cirrus chips bring to the – eurm – table. It’s certainly isn’t the widest kind of sound, but the depth and layering is very nice as well as the note extension and decay.
Everything at all times is dead silent, even from my smartphone with the Wi-Fi active. You get a perfectly black background and that’s something we always enjoy seeing, especially with balanced IEM units.
The CS43131 chips in this implementation produce more than enough detail but the TC44B isn’t analytical or highly detailed. You never get the feeling you’re missing out, but compared to higher end gear, there of course still is quite a difference. Honestly, for this price the level of detail is good. Period. So what you get in the end is a musical experience with a more intimate and very engaging sound, and just enough precision. The TC44B presents full body from top to bottom, an engaging bass line, sensual mid-timbre and soft to energetic treble depending on your digital transport..
All-in all the TC44B is easy and pleasant on the ears. Vocals are a pleasure to listen to as they sound natural and blend in perfectly.
The overall amount of body is “good” and it’s evenly present. Bass body has good size and comes delivered with good impact and kick. It’s not a bass heavy DAC/AMP though, but it’s on the pleasant side of neutral, in this regard.
As referred to earlier, bass can go deep and the layering is quite nice. At the same time it’s more about getting an engaging experience than it is about getting a very detailed, precise one.
The mids come delivered with smoothness and musicality. The vocals as said blend in perfectly. The separation and detail retrieval are good in this section, but just like for the bass, it isn’t the absolute detailed and precise one. Again the musical enjoyment here is more important than the precision, though it’s not lacking either.
The treble section is soft and easygoing. With my smartphone it is more energetic than wit my laptop. It’s never hard on the ears though and it at all times has enough energy to keep things exciting. Treble energy is at a medium to high level depending on the source and it will never get sharp or sibilant or aggressive. It’s the kind of treble how most people like it nowadays, especially the younger ears.
The TC25B is ddHifi’s even smaller USB-C to 2.5mm DAC/AMP, selling for only $40 USD. For that money you get an ALC5686 DAC chip is a micro sized package. You can find out all about it here. It’s the balanced version of the unit Nano reviewed just a few weeks ago.
To me the TC25B sounds lighter, sharper and more forward and it gives you a less spacious and wide presentation. So you end up with a more intimate, in-your-head kind of sound with less note extension and decay. Think of a smaller sound stage in both width and depth, with less precision. Bass and mids are lighter in body and you get a technically less strong performance. For the price the TCB25B’s quality is amazing, but it falls short in comparison to the TC44B. Purely based on sound quality, the choice it easy. It’s more than double the price however, but you do get an extra 4.4mm output and a higher SQ in return.
Power – Driving
Using the TC44B with IEMs is easy and it has enough headroom and volume steps to listen to IEMs with ease. Some units such as the Dragonfly’s or Eagle’s get loud very fast and they’re not always the easiest o set right. None of that is happening here with this unit, so that certainly deserves a mention.
Switching to a full sized headphone such as the Sennheiser HD660s also is not a problem. The TC44B has more than enough juice to power it but it’s not only about power. You can really drive the Senns, not to just make them sound loud. They sound good as well.
Often these smaller type of units can get you the volume but not the quality but this luckily isn’t the case here. The TC44B doesn’t sound like it’s in overdrive. It doesn’t sound forced but it sounds at ease as if it’s doing it all without having to work hard. Of course with these ratings there are limits in what it can do but I don’t expect headphone enthusiasts with an HE-6 or Susvara to be using their top-level yet harder to drive headphones on the go.
All-in all I don’t see any issues at all to drive IEMs and normal to drive full sized headphones.
The market of compact DAC/AMP modules is getting stronger and better each month. ddHifi with all of their units, and especially this TC44B, prove they are one of the most important players when it comes to high price/performance ratios in miniature sized portable units.
For $89 USD you get a pocketable and surprisingly well performing DAC/AMP which you can use with both your laptop as well as your smart phone. At this price level, I really don’t have anything in my portable collections that comes close to the performance of the ddHifi TC44B.
It’s a very easy recommended buy at this price. Well done ddHifi.