T.H.E. Show 2022: Dongle DACs and Adapters

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Technology


Sometimes the smallest things make the biggest impact and so it was for our experience at T.H.E. Headphonium booth at the show. We brought an assortment of gear including the Topping D90SE/A90, Singxer SA-1, and Apos Caspian which was generously loaned to us by Apos; Lynn Miller had a lot to say about the trio which you can read here.

We also want to thank Schiit Audio for loaning us a Ragnarok 2 Integrated Amplifier, Astell & Kern for the Kann Maxx DAP, and HiFiMAN for their generous donation of headphones for the show.

Lynn and I brought a very wide selection of Dongle DACs including the Cayin RU6, Questyle M12 and M15, Centrance DacPortHD, Helm Audio Bolt and many others. At one point we had over 30 Dongle DACs on the tables for show attendees to try.

The Dongle DACs received more attention than some of the other gear, not that any of the gear lacked for it, but we were quickly inundated when the show opened and those interested in personal audio showed up.

What also quickly became apparent was that we had two groups of attendees; we had the people who came to try out specific models they had read about in our reviews and were interested hearing for themselves, and we had the people looking for the smallest Dongle DACs that would work the best for them.

The “Head-Fi” listeners came to try the Cayin RU6, Apogee Groove, Centrance DacPortHD, and Questyle M15 with the largest headphones on display and with their own IEMs; you can’t bring an amplifier or loudspeaker to a high-end audio show but you can certainly bring your headphones with you.

What also received a lot of attention from this group was the little adapter that we were using to convert USB Type-C to Lightning. We were using a DD-HiFi TC28i Lightning to USB converter ($34.99 at Audio46) rather than swap cables and trying to keep up with all of the options in front of us.

The little adapter worked with every iPhone and iPad that came through without exception. With its anodized aluminum body and superb build quality, the DD-HiFi TC28i survived more than three days of heavy abuse as it was easily used more than 300 times at our table. Being connected and disconnected it showed that it is worth every penny of its $35 asking price.  

When asked what it was and where people could buy one, we offered Audio46 since they had US stock but were told they had sold out by late Friday afternoon and had to direct people to the DDHiFi website for the remainder of the weekend. 

At $49.99, the little adapter is a must-have for Apple users. We don’t control the price.

Audioquest Dragonfly Cobalt

Not everyone wants something bulky like an AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt or Questyle M15 hanging off the end of their smartphone and this group of people were very interested in the tiny DDHiFI TC35B (USB Type-C) and TC35i (Lightning) models that work really well; they are also not inexpensive for those wondering.

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These two models weigh less than 5 grams, are about 19mm in length while offering 32-bit/384kHz PCM playback support. The pricing varies between the two models due to Apple licensing fees, but both Lightning and USB versions are available for less than $80 USD. Between size, construction, and price, the little TC35 models were very popular with users.

ddHiFi TC44b DJ44b DJ44 and DJ35 Dongle DACs
Clockwise from top: ddHiFi TC44B, DJ44C DJ44B, DJ44AG, and DJ35AG Adapter DACs

On top of the Lightning adapters and smaller Dongle DACs, there was a third DDHiFi product that drew a lot of attention and that was their line of headphone adapters.

IEM and headphone users always have issues with termination and many people asked if we had adapters with us because their headphones had connections with 2.5mm or 4.4mm terminations.

Our answer was always the same; “we have an adapter for that.”  

DDHiFI adapters are all anodized aluminum and brass construction and offer 2.5mm to 3.5mm, 2.5mm to 4.4mm, 2.5mm to 6.35mm, 4.4mm to 2.5, 4.4mm to 3.5mm, 4.4mm to 6.35mm, 4.4mm to XLR, and 3.5mm to 6.35mm converters.

Those who are not heavily invested in the headphone category are likely to be very confused by all of those sizes and options and it’s easy to understand why; the industry does need to simplify things for people looking to get into high-end headphones and not blow the opportunity with this potential market.

DDHiFi even make a specialty connector for A&K players that uses both the 2.5mm and 3.5mm jacks on the player to provide a fully grounded 4.4mm output on the adapter. Prices vary from about $20 to a little over $50 USD depending on which adapter is needed.  

When people picked up and used the adapter, the overwhelming response was the quality was much higher than the price suggested. Here again, we saw companies with US stock of the more commonly used adapters sell out by mid-Friday afternoon. 

It was interesting to us that with all the big name gear there to see and buy, the company that probably sold the most gear was a small shop 7000 miles away in Shenzen.

Continue reading: Show Reports from T.H.E. Show 2022

Related reading: Best Dongle DACs



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