Most of the smartphones in 2020 have gotten rid of the headphone jack. So whether you like it or not, you’d have to use dongles if you still want to use your wired headphones, earbuds, or IEMs with your smartphone. But not everyone is happy with using dongles.
Most of the generic options available do not have good sound quality. And if you lose or forget them at home, then your day will surely be ruined.
I have personally experimented with using small DAPs like the Sony NW-A55, portable DAC/Amps like the iFi Nano iDS, and even Bluetooth receivers such as the FiiO BTR5-384K.
But none of those were as convenient as just plugging my IEMs straight into my smartphone. But just when I was about to give up using my smartphone as a portable audio source, ddHiFi comes up with a clever solution.
DDHiFi has solved every smartphone listener’s problem by creating what is quite possibly the smallest USB Type-C DAC/Amp in the market, the TC35B. It is a dongle that is just as big as your 3.5mm connector. With its small and compact form factor, it aims to be the most convenient solution in the market.
However, does it have the audio quality to satisfy serious listeners, or is it just a novelty item? Keep on scrolling to find out.
If you wish to learn more about ddHiFi’s accessories, make sure to check out our ddHiFi C-2020 Carry Case Review.
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.
DDHiFi TC35B USB DAC/Amp Review
Packaging and Accessories
DDHiFi has done a fantastic job in the packaging of their adapters. We usually don’t put emphasis on the packaging, especially in this price range. However, ddHiFi has done something unique that makes the presentation very good without using extravagant materials.
The TC35B is packed in an eco-friendly wooden box. There are some nice touches, such as the engraved ddHiFi logo on the side of the box. Upon opening the box, you get the TC35B, a dummy 3.5mm keychain, and a calling card. These are unexpected for an item this small, but they are always a welcome addition.
Design and Build Quality
A lot of people hate dongles because they are an additional accessory that you have to carry around with you. And if you forget to bring it, then it would be impossible to use your IEMs or headphones with your smartphone. This is where the TC35B’s excellent design comes into play.
The TC35B doesn’t add too much to the size of your 3.5mm. You can leave it plugged into your IEM so you will never forget to bring it with you.
In terms of its build quality, the TC35B has an all-metal build. It has a solid feel that truly inspires confidence in the product. I can take this wherever I go, and I know that it won’t just suddenly stop working or fall apart.
Typical dongles, even the high-end ones offered by audiophile companies, often consist of the 3.5mm jack, Type-C port, and a cable in between. The cable can experience wear and tear and eventually break. That’s why companies often employ more expensive materials on the dongle to increase durability. But I feel like eliminating the cable removes a big point of failure for the TC35B.
Of course, the TC35B has its fair share of issues. Due to its size, it’s incredibly easy to lose. You can use the dummy 3.5mm to turn the whole thing into a keychain, but it is still small and easy to lose or misplace. But I think that’s just nitpicking at this point.
Overall, the TC35B has an excellent design and build quality. But of course, all of this would go to waste if it didn’t sound good.
The build quality and form factor isn’t the only special feature of the TC35B. It also features an ALC5686 DAC chip from the company Thitronix. It is good to see that ddHiFi was able to cram a DAC chip inside the TC35B’s very small chassis.
In terms of its sound signature, the TC35B is leaning close to neutral, with slight hints of warmth. This is most evident with its rolled-off highs and emphasis on the lows and mids.
The TC35B can extract an impressive amount of detail, given its small size. The bass and mids have a transparent presentation. I never felt as if the lows were too thin or the mids were off.
It always sounded good whether I was using more budget options such as the KBear Diamond or even more expensive options such as the BGVP VG4 and BQEYZ Spring 2.
It does start rolling off in the upper treble. What this does is helps reduce any harshness that you might encounter from bright-sounding IEMs. This was evident in IEMs such as the Moondrop SSR, where the highly energetic upper mids and treble were kept under control.
Overall, I didn’t expect it to go toe to toe with my more expensive DAC/Amps and DAPs. But I did enjoy the experience, and it has since been my default choice when listening with my smartphone. I never had the urge to stop listening and switch to my more expensive gear.
Of course, given its size, the TC35B isn’t expected to perform miracles and drive high-impedance headphones. It is, after all, mostly designed for IEMs and easy-to-drive headphones.
I tried powering my 150-ohm Sennheiser HD660s with the TC35B. It wasn’t able to provide an enjoyable listening experience, even with the volume maxed out. So don’t expect even higher impedance headphones such as the Drop HD6XX/Sennheiser HD650 to be powered by these. But for most of my IEMs, I didn’t encounter any issues at all.
Throughout my testing period, I did not notice any electronic noise that was leaking from my phone. This has always been a common problem with the cheaper options that are available in the market, and I am glad that ddHiFi was able to address this in this small DAC/Amp.
External DAC/Amps and dongles without a built-in battery typically consume a lot of your phone’s battery when in use. But that isn’t the case with the TC35B.
There weren’t any noticeable changes to the battery life of my smartphone. The TC35B sometimes got hot, which is an indication that the DAC chip is doing work. However, this was barely noticeable, and I had no issues with using it.
The TC35B is a plug-and-play solution, so there shouldn’t be an issue with most smartphones. It is also compatible with pc, but you will need to install additional drivers. I also tried it with my Nintendo Switch, but unfortunately, it did not work.
Comparison with Ugreen 3.5mm to USB Type-C
I decided to compare my generic USB Type-C to a 3.5mm dongle just to see if there were any noticeable differences between it and the significantly more expensive TC35B. The Ugreen dongle has a respectable build for what it is. But it pales in comparison to the premium all-metal build quality of the TC35B.
In terms of sound quality, there is no competition here. The TC35B manages to extract more details from my IEMs. Notes have more definition, lows had more impact, and mids were fuller.
Overall, the TC35B is an exceptional product. It manages to combine form factor, build quality, and sound quality. It isn’t only a tool for convenience. It is legitimately something that I enjoy using.
If you mainly use your smartphone for listening to music or if you are looking for a compact alternative for your bulky DAP, then the TC35B is one of the best solutions that you can get right now.
Also, if you are an iOS user, the TC35B is available in lightning. And if you mainly use 2.5mm balanced cables, DDHiFi will soon offer a 2.5mm version of the TC35B.
The ddHiFi TC35B can be purchased at ddHifi’s AliExpress Store as well as on Amazon.
- USB Codec: ALC5686
- THD+N: < -92dB
- DNR: > 110dB
- SNR: > 120dB
- Output Power: 30mW@32ohms
- Drive Ability: 16-200ohms
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20 KHz
- PCM Sampling Rate Support: Up to 32bit/384KHz
- Weight: 6g
- Dimensions: 18.8 x 11.2 x 10.2 mm (excluding Type-C plug)
Albums Used For Testing
- Milet – Eyes
- Babymetal – Metal Galaxy World Tour in Japan
- Babymetal – Metal Galaxy
- Mamamoo – Reality in Black
- Nobuo Uematsu – Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy
- Pentatonix – Pentatonix Volume 2
- Lindsey Stirling – Artemis
- Moe Shop – Moe Moe
- Terminal Velocity – John Petrucci
About the Company
DD Electronics Technology Co. was founded in 2017 and specializes in accessories for different kinds of audiophile equipment. They currently offer adapters, bags, DAP leather cases, and IEM cables. DDHifi is also venturing into the IEM market and is expected to soon debut their IEM lineup.
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