With more devices getting rid of the trusty 3.5mm headphone jack, DAC dongles for laptops and smartphones are popping up all over the place to give you a better listening experience. DDHiFi has been putting out a ton of these recently, with products like the TC35 Pro Tetris and Mountain supplying improved DAC chips to enjoy for a portable scenario. Their most popular model though has to be the TC35 Pro Eye, as it’s their most common model advertised for a much wider consumer market. With its popularity, is the TC35 Pro Eye all hype, or does it have more to offer?
This is built like your standard headphone dongle, with DDHiFi’s shape gimmick fully on display. The eye shape shell with DDHiFi’s color scheme gives this dongle a good look, and with surprisingly sharp ends. The part that stands out to me the most is the Pro Eye’s connecting cable made of silver-plated OCC that makes the dongle feel even more premium. One feature that isn’t as noticeable is the Eye’s RGB light which indicates different sample rates. It’s located on top of the main shell, and is so small it’s hard to notice. Here’s a list of what each color represents.
red → PCM 44.1kHz/48kHz
blue → PCM 88kHz-384kHz
green → PCM 705kHz-768kHz
yellow → DOP (DSD over PCM)
white → DSD Native
magenta → MQA
When looking at the Pro Eye it’s hard to avoid the MQA label on the face of the device. No matter what you think of MQA itself, it still makes the Eye a capable dongle for its generous price. Inside of its little shell is an ESS decoding chip that supports sampling rates up to 32 bit/769kHz.
Each set of earphones I listened to with the Pro Eye gave me a similar level of enhancements to the soundstage. Overall, these improvements aren’t as vast, but the differences are still noticeable when switching back and forth. I started my testing with the Kinera Norn, an IEM with an already well-scaled soundstage, and I could already hear its improvement with depth. Although I didn’t notice much height given to the image, the spatial properties of the bass definitely gave the Norn much more significant layering, positioning the frequency response within a much wider sound field. The same can’t be said for high frequencies though, as they seemed to appear more solidified and concentrated in a more strict position. For an IEM like the Norn, this can prove not ideal, as the already shouty treble can have a more concentrated headspace.
The TC35 Eye gives the bass a ton of room to resonate and showcase clean textures with interesting detail. There’s a fullness to the tonality that never feels exaggerated or overblown. Its response with balanced and consistent while providing a much more revealing reproduction of the low-end. A bit of sub-bass lift emanates a lot easier, forming a throatier response while keeping the mid-bass crystal clear and separated for greater clarity.
One of the Pro Eye’s consistent characteristics is its naturalistic midrange timbre. When listening to the Campfire Dorado IEMs, I began to notice a much more spatially aware response coming from the mids, and it gave the sound signature a ton of extra clarity and dynamic range. There’s a more present air to the tonality that gives the frequencies much more enhanced transparency. Instrumentals appear more floaty, and vocals are provided with a wispy aura that made their timbre very realistic.
When it comes to the treble region, the Pro Eye seems to like to flatten things out. You don’t get any roll-off which I appreciated, but the detail extension that I liked in the bass and mids seems to stop in the higher frequencies. There are still some nice details, but overall the tonality is leaner and less heightened.
For its price, you’re not going to do find a much better option for less than a hundred bucks. You get some pretty noticeable enhancements to your headphones or IEM’s sound signature while boasting a simple construction that’s portable. It’s not perfect, but it still makes an impression compared to the large array of DAC dongles available right now.
The DDHiFi TC35 Pro Eye is available at Audio46.