HomeAmps/DACSAudioquest Dragonfly Black vs. Red | GREAT SOUND ON THE FLY!
November 4, 2017
Audioquest Dragonfly Black vs. Red | GREAT SOUND ON THE FLY!
Greetings comrade and Welcome aboard!!
Before we get into the Audioquest Dragonfly Black vs. Red comparison, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
Today I will outline the Audioquest Dragonfly Black and compare it to the Red version towards the end. 🙂 Also contained in this article will be the various other generations that are part of the line.
Who this DAC benefits?
Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
Similarities & Differences
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!
For as long as I can remember, the audio coming straight out of a computer or laptop has always sucked. Lol. For whatever reason, PC manufacturers seem to always neglect this very important aspect of a computer: IT’S SOUND.
Yes, a computers primary job as far as sound isn’t to knock your socks off, but it’s still an important component to any device. Sadly, it has been neglected for a long time, and to this day continues to be.
The good news is that companies like Samsung and Apple are making an effort to improve the quality of the internal DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) in most mobile devices, but Audioquest has taken it a step further.
Enter the Dragonfly.
Audioquest Dragonfly v1.0 = First Generation. Distinguished by a Black 3.5mm plug.
Audioquest Dragonfly v1.2 = Second Generation. Distinguished by a Gray 3.5mm plug.
Audioquest Dragonfly Black v1.5 = Third Generation.Gray colored 3.5mm plug.
Audioquest Dragonfly Red = Third Generation.Black 3.5mm plug.
The Dragonfly Black DAC is a third generation piece that allows you to bypass the poor on-board sound of your laptop or PC. It also can be used with your phone or mobile device, but you will need some sort of adapter. More on that later.
Audioquest brilliantly created a device that bridges the gap between the audiophile and your average consumer. It just screams convenience. At about the size of a typical USB thumb drive, you can literally take it anywhere.
Plug it into a USB port on your computer, wait for roughly 20 seconds, and you’re all set. I’ve never had an easier time with driver device software. After it’s ready to go, head on over to Sound, and look for the Dragonfly. Right click and “Set as default Device.”
The fun begins when you plug in your headphones, as this baby will render you speechless. I just had to smile knowing how bad my laptops internal sound card is. Being able to bypass the headache of buying a bulkier amp/DAC combo is truly priceless.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my Schiit Magni/Modi stack, but it doesn’t compare to the convenience of having a DAC that’s roughly the size of my thumb. Hehe.
I can’t get over the sound of the Dragonfly. It’s crisp, alive, loud, detailed, and leaves me with a warm feeling all over. I used to have to jack the volume up on my laptop just to hear anything. Now I only have to turn it up just a few notches and it’s already plenty loud. Amazing!
If you miss the subtle details in your music, the Dragonfly is for you.
If you want convenience, the Dragonfly is for you.
If you don’t want to spend a lot, but want more in return, the Dragonfly is for you.
If you want to take that first step to better sound, the Dragonfly is for you.
There’s nothing more I can say. This thing is worth every penny and more. How designer Gordon Rankin was able to get something this small to sound so big is beyond me.
Convenient. Just plug and play.
Good build and materials. Doesn’t feel cheap.
Attractive, sleek, sexy.
Portable. Take it anywhere.
Who this DAC benefits?
Everyone. If you have a pair of headphones that don’t sound good out of your laptop, the Dragon Fly Black is the solution. Be mindful that the black version won’t do as well with higher impedance cans like the HD600/800, etc. More on that in the Similarities and Differences section. 🙂
The cool thing about the Dragonfly is it’s ability to light up in different colors according to file size playback. This is done via 1mm LED inside the device that illuminates the logo on the outside.
Green = 44.1 kHz
Blue = 48 kHz
Amber = 88.2 kHz
Magenta = 96 kHz
Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
If you plan to use any of the Dragonfly models with a phone, you’ll need an adapter.
Both the Black (v1.5), and Red employ the 4 light sample rate code.
Both have the LED feature.
Both have 24bit/96kHz resolution, which bypasses the need for separate drivers. The only issue here is that a lot of people (myself included) have music files that far surpass these limitations. It doesn’t take away from the overall sound however.
The Dragonfly Red has a 32 bit ESS 9016 chip while the Black version has the 32 bit ESS 9010 chip. This basically provides a more realistic sound for each, but the Red is improved over the Black. Both have minimum phase digital filtering.
The Dragonfly Black has a 1.2V output while the Dragonfly Red has a 2.1V output. The difference is that the Red version will work for more expensive audiophile type headphones (with a lower sensitivity) like my beloved Sennheiser HD600, while the Black version will work for most headphones, but not the pricier models. See: Sennheiser HD600 Review.Also:What is Sensitivity in Headphones?
The Blackversion sounds more enjoyable and has a “bigger” sound, while the Red has a more audiophile type of sound: it’s more elegant and there’s less clutter/artifacts in the mix. There’s more nuance and detail with the Red version. It’s able to provide a clearer, smoother, more accurate overall image of the soundscape.
The casing on the Redhas a glossier, more elegant finish than the Black.
Differences between v1.0, 1.2, and 1.5
(All black models)
The microchip micro-controller present in the Audioquest Dragonfly Black 1.5 doesn’t draw as much current as the chip from v1.2 (Texas Instruments chip). So it’s easier on your phone, as it won’t suck the battery life nearly as fast (Audioquest says 77% less current).
The v1.2 has better dynamics, detail, and clarity than the original v1.0.
The v1.5 (Black) is more balanced sounding than the v1.2.
The v1.5 (Black) has better mid-range clarity than the v1.2.
The v1.5 (Black) has a better Soundstage than the v1.2, with a clearer image of the artists, instrumentalists, and singers in question. What is Soundstage?
The v1.5 (Black) is livelier sounding than the v1.2.
The v1.5 (Black) has a tighter bass than the v1.2, which is more bloated and flabby sounding by comparison.
The v1.2’s bass sounds leaner than the original v1.0, which came across as a bit fuller but also more loose.
The v1.2 overall sounds cleaner, with more clarity than the original v1.0.
If you’re simply looking for big, enjoyable sound out of a tiny DAC, and you don’t have audiophile headphones laying around, the Black version will do you just fine. It’s the go to solution if your headphones are in the more affordable range (say from $0 – $200). It’s going to sound phenomenal with most headphones, but definitely nothing in the 300 Ohm range and up.
If you want the absolute best sound, and do have some audiophile types laying around, the Red is the solution. I demoed one and it sounds great with everything I paired it with: From the 63 Ohm Sony MDR V6, to the Audio Technica ATH M40x, to the 300 Ohm HD600. It’s the most powerful DAC in this series, and is like having a mini headphone amp in the palm of your hand. You just can’t go wrong with it. It transformed all of my music and can do the same for you. Interested in learning more?
Stu is determined to provide the truth about all things audio, and strives to deliver excellent content to you the reader! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, attend church, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His attention to detail and perfectionist attitude are what allow him to excel, but it can be both a blessing and a hindrance at times.