The Dragonflies Have Landed!
The original DragonFly Digital to Analog Convertor (DAC) was released almost 4 years ago and became a bestseller instantly. Connected to a computer/laptop, it significantly improved the sound of music files. You could listen through a pair of headphones or connect it to your stereo system.
Enter the Dragon…or to be precise, the new and much better DragonFlies. There are 2 models, the Black and Red.
Both have the same form factor as the original – they look like a USB memory stick, finished in black and red.
One of the best benefits of the new DragonFlies is that you can now connect your iPhone/iPad or Android device to it. For iPhones/iPads, you will need an Apple Camera Adaptor (about $39). Android devices require On The Go adaptor or Audioquest’s Dragontail ($24.99).
The new DACs also draw 77% less current than the original, placing far less stress on your phone/device while simultaneously improving the signal-to-noise ratio.
The DragonFly Black uses the superb ESS Saber 9010 chip with analog volume control. The Red uses the upgraded ESS Saber 9016 chip. These chips are usually found in DACs costing $500 and up to over $6,000. And these other DACs are not usually portable.
The Black has 1.2V of output, enough to drive most of the headphones on the market, while the Red has 2.1V of output which will drive virtually all headphones easily. Audioquest describes the sonic difference this way:
“The Red has much more “torque”, “grip”, and “muscle” than the Black. Red simply sounds cleaner and clearer overall, enabling a larger soundstage with each instrument or voice nearly in its own space”
Both Black and Red will decode up to 24bit/96kHz files, even though the internal chip is capable of more. Through extensive listening tests and use, Audioquest determined that this made the DACs simple to use without having to download and install new drivers. More importantly, the company says that faster processing can mean more noise, so that while some of the best component DACS may offer sonic advantages while playing back 24bit/192kHz files, many DACS actually sound better when the computer downsamples to 24bit/96kHz. I applaud Audioquest for sticking with their guns and going with what they feel to be the best sound possible.
Finally, the new DragonFlies are software upgradable. As new developments arise, users will be able to incorporate updates into their DACs.
The Black sells for $129, with much better sound than the previous DragonFly, while the Red is even better at $249.
So how do they sound? Spectacular. Connecting the Black to my iPhone playing Tidal music, the sound was instantly more punchy, dynamic, bold, and powerful. The difference is immediate and obvious. The Red made the music richer and warmer, more “musical” and organic while retaining the Black’s qualities.
I spend a lot of time daily listening to music through my phone; walking my dogs, working out, long drives commuting and visiting clients. For me, the Red is a no-brainer. I’ve long resisted “portable” headphone amp/dac devices because they are not really portable (they are often the size of your phone or larger), and most are quite costly. Given how easily I lose things, I’ve been reluctant to buy these amp/dacs. The Red, however, fits my needs perfectly. It slips into my pocket and draws very little current. My music sounds so much better, and I love showing everyone how good this little DAC is.
And these DACs are great for watching movies and playing games too! If you enjoy watching programs on Youtube or playing games on your portable device, the improvement in the sound will astonish you.
The new DragonFlies may well be the best value in our industry today. I do not know how to improve the sound of my computer or phone to the degree that these DACs do for the cost.
Try it for yourself. Keep it for 7 days. If it does not substantially improve your music, return it for a full refund. No questions. I know you will love it as we do