Today we’re checking out a neat little accessory from DDHiFi, the TC35B.
As we all know by now, smartphone manufacturers are slowly weeding out the 3.5mm jack in their more premium offerings, forcing users to either go wireless or carry around a cumbersome dongle to add that feature back. Not ideal.
DDHiFi is well known for their various adapters that solve a wide variety of problems. One of them, the TC35B, brings back the headphone jack to those devices the utilize USB type-C and have dropped the venerable 3.5mm port. It also provides additional amplification and improved sound quality to devices that have a 3.5mm jack, but otherwise have fairly mediocre output from their aux port. You might be thinking to yourself that there are plenty of devices that do this. What makes the TC35B special? Easy answer: size. This DAC is by far the smallest I’ve ever come across, making your typical dongle DAC look and feel massive and awkward in use.
Packaging and Accessories The TC35B arrives in packaging that is in line aesthetically with other products from the brand, but fairly unique among the industry in general. The exterior sheath is mostly plain, uncoloured cardboard with the same black bands we saw used for the C-2019 carrying case, but of course this time around it contains model info and descriptors for the TC35B. Sliding off the sheath reveals a simple, fairly squat wooden box with the DDHifi logo cut into the front. The use of wood gives the TC35B’s unboxing experience a premium feel that none of the competition matches.
Opening the box you find the TC35B safely stored in a plastic bag, a silica packet, some balled up paper strips to keep everything from moving around too much, a social media information sheet, and a lone accessory; a small strap with a plastic nub that tucks into the 3.5mm opening of the TC35B.You could use this to attach the DAC to a keychain when not in use, but I’d still worry about losing the TC35B. I’m glad it’s included, but I personally prefer to leave the device plugged into my phone, DAP, or attached to an earphone cable since it’s so light, compact, and low profile, especially compared to other dongle DACs.
Build Quality/Features The shell of the TC35B is composed of a slab of hallowed out 316 stainless steel. A gold-coloured plate surrounds the 3.5mm opening on the front containing the brand, year, and model information in extremely small but very clear laser-etched writing. Out back is the Type-C USB plug. Everything fits together perfectly. Not much else to say. There are no obvious weaknesses or negatives to the build or design. It is very compact, durable, and with no controls or cables there is no learning curve. You plug it into your device, plug in your headphones or earphones to turn it on, and enjoy.
With Earpods and the TC35B plugged into my laptop, I was surprised to find it would allow me to play/pause music and videos through the inline controls, though the volume controls ceased to function. The experience was the same with my LG Q70. Switching to earphones not specific to Apple, namely the Brainwavz Omega, I had full control over play, pause, and volume on both my laptop and phone. Nice!
Sound and Power The TC35B isn’t a powerhouse which shouldn’t be expected given the size. That said, it does offer improvements in volume output and driving power when compared to a cell phone like my LG G6 or Q70. I found it more than adequate for most headphones and in-ears, though overly sensitive or demanding units caused issues, such as the Astrotec Phoenix. The Phoenix is absurdly difficult to drive for an in-ear, benefiting from powerful amps. Through the TC35B the Pheonix sounded grainy and the powerful low end lost most of its grunt. There was also noticeable distortion when exceeding even fairly modest volume levels. Flipping over to extremely easy to drive products like the 2020 Campfire Audio Solaris, the experience was also sub-par thanks to plenty of background noise and a minimum volume that was way too high for comfortable listening. With more typical and less picky and/or demanding gear, like those from brands like KZ, Moondrop, BGVP, etc. the TC35B felt much more at home.
The sound signature is fairly neutral and uncoloured with a slight upper end lift that adds a bit of brightness, quite like the Cozoy Takt C. It pairs best with warm-leaning products since it tends to exacerbate the treble and upper mids of bright earphones. End-to-end extension seems quite good. I never felt that sub-bass heavy products like the Dunu DM-480 were being held back. The same could be said for treble focused gear like the EarNiNE EN2J, keeping in mind it and the TC35B are not actually a good pairing due to the treble lift inherent to both products. When it comes to aspects such as texture and overall clarity the TC35B keeps up with the Takt C, though it isn’t quite as clean and sharp sounding. The note presentation of the TC35B is slightly thicker and slower, most evident in the midrange where the Takt C comes across somewhat cold and sterile, but with a snappier feel to everything. The TC35B almost feels like a mix of the XDuoo Link and Cozoy Takt C, taking qualities from each without sounding exactly like either. That said, both of those dongles offer additional features, more power, and in my opinion sound better overall, but they are more expensive (the Link by only a small amount) and have a number of other downsides. Those downsides being they are significantly larger and more cumbersome to use with questionable long term durability thanks to their cables. They also generate more heat (Takt C especially) which is uncomfortable in the pocket and hits the battery life of your device harder.
Final Thoughts The TC35B is a very unique product. Sure, it may not be as full-featured as other dongles on the market since it lacks any form of physical control options. Nor is it ideal for pairing with either extremely sensitive or extremely difficult to drive products. What it brings to the table that the competition cannot match is size. If you want the smallest, least obtrusive dongle possible so you can return a 3.5mm jack to your device, or maybe to provide a boost to the volume output of your device without having to carry around a portable amp or awkward dongle DAC like the Link or Takt C, the TC35B is one heck of an option. It doesn’t hurt that it is it is wonderfully constructed and quite affordable, aspects that are often sacrificed in the efforts necessary to shrink a device to the extent DDHiFi has.
Keeping in mind the TC35B has some clear limitations on what it can and shouldn’t be used to drive, it’s an easy product to recommend. It does a good job with boosting the volume of most earphones and headphones, offers a clean, detailed sound, and the size… the small size is its ace in the hole. The last many, many months spent living with with it as one of my daily use devices has shown that the compactness of this DAC cannot be overstated. Heck, you can just leave it attached to the jack of your earphones at all times and forget it’s there. I honestly didn’t think I would miss the TC35B after switching back to the Link or Takt C, but it didn’t take long to tire of the more traditional dangling dongle DAC design. I’m more than happy to give up physical controls and a bit of power for a device that has such a pleasant user experience.
Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer A huge thanks to Lily with DDHiFi for reaching out to see if I would be interested in covering some of their products, and for sending the TC35B for coverage. The thoughts within this review are my own subjective opinion based on time spent with the TC35B since June (so sorry Lily!). At the time of writing the TC35B was retailing for 52.00 CAD / 39.99 USD: https://www.ddhifi.com/productinfo/1474339.html