I’ve had a lot of experience with various types of Amps & DACs, and by and large they all do the exact same thing. The differences between them are fairly subtle, although a Chord Mojo is a definite step up from some of the lower priced options. Just keep in mind that
That said, all 3 of these amps do well in specific circumstances, and we’ll outline exactly what you need to know before making a purchase!
Let’s start with build..
This bad boy is about the size of a deck of cards, being just a tad longer and a bit thinner. It’s also a bit less wide. It’s sleek, sexy, and doesn’t feel cheap. Style over substance? Perhaps, but we’ll get into that later. I’m loving the small and compact volume knob on this unit, but you’ll need to keep it elevated at all times with that rubber foot or else it’s very hard to turn. In fact, using one hand to turn it on results in it moving around a bit more than I would like. A minor gripe but had to be said. All connections on here feel solid and of a high quality.
When you turn it on, it lights up blue and makes a satisfying click in the process.
Weight: 3.5 Oz. (100g)
If you weren’t aware, this is basically a thumb drive with a ridiculously powerful DAC chip inside + Headphone Amp. That a lone should be worth the price of admission. I would hope this thing is durable. Lol. It is. It comes with a cap as well as a small black sleeve for night time. Don’t forget to tuck him in with his blankie 😛
When you plug the Fly into your PC, it automatically defaults your on-board volume controls to link up with it. A pretty nifty feature. No more poopy Soundcards! What is a Soundcard?
Weight:0.77 oz. (22gm)
The D1 is a bit thicker than the Q1 and more hefty, but that’s to be expected given that it’s mostly for desktop use. It’s also deceptively portable. This is a unit I could stow away in my laptop back if I ever wanted to use it somewhere else. The knob on it is solid, but doesn’t have any indicator as to where the volume is. Not a huge issue but something to point out. On the Q1, there’s a small white circle indicating where you are on a clock. This is very helpful but pretty standard on most amps (some sort of indicator is always utilized). Connections on this puppy all feel solid as well. Unlike either of the other two Amps, the D1 does have a power button and it lights up white when you turn it on.
The Q1 doubles as a desktop Amp/DAC as well as an on the go option with your phone. The issue here is power, but we’ll get into that later. Use the micro USB to plug into your laptop, the 3.5mm interconnect with your phone, or utilize the balanced 2.5mm with a balanced headphone. If you don’t have a balanced headphone already and want to make use of that 2.5mm jack, you’ll have to buy some cables and perform a mod.
In addition to that, it’s got a bass boost and gain switch on the back. My only minor complaint is that they’re a little bit difficult to get to quickly, and are entirely too small. It’s a tad cumbersome to use one hand, but not impossible. I do appreciate having both however.
The bass adds about +5dB and I think it’s the perfect amount really. Not intrusive, very tasteful. The gain switch will need to be left on full time if you are using the unbalanced port (which most people will utilize). There’s simply not enough power, and it takes quite a bit of knob turning to get any volume out of the unit. Around 2 o’clock is when you’ll start to hear sound.
It also supports DSD (Direct Stream Digital) which is simply a different way of reproducing the audio signal. Instead of sampling many bits of information as in the case of 24-bit thousands of times per second, DSD samples 1 single bit at millions of times per second. For comparison’s sake, 24-bit only samples a maximum of 96,000 times per second.
Does this result in a sound that’s markedly better? Audio purists/snobs would say yes, the average person may say no. For example, a DSD format of 1 bit sampled 5.6 million times/second is that same 24-bit/172kHz PCM file. This is especially fun when you consider that the average DSD file (DSD64) is about as good as a high quality 24-bit/88kHz file.
So what’s the conclusion? It’s that all this sh*t is vastly overrated. Lol. Check out Cambridge Audio’s great article on What is DSD?
What I love about this unit is that it triples as a dedicated desktop amp/DAC via USB, a Gaming Rig via optical, and can power your studio monitors via it’s RCA/Analog outs. What are Studio Monitors?
More on how to hook it up to your console in a bit!
Aside from that, there aren’t any on-board features like bass boost or gain, but you really won’t need any in my estimation. This is a crisp, clean sounding DAC with plenty of power and headroom for most headphones.
With that, let’s discuss ergonomics and power output!
One of my main gripes with the Q1 is it’s lack of power. At 300 Ohm it only outputs 7mW which is just pathetic, regardless of anything. A lot of people will tell you this is meant for IEM’s and low impedance headphones, and they wouldn’t be wrong. The problem is that the average person turns it on and goes, “I can’t even hear anything.”
Most people aren’t going to use the balanced port, unless they have balanced headphones already or are comfortable doing a mod to their current headphones using balanced cables. That’s completely fine, but for everyone else, there’s no excuse for any headphone amp/DAC not to provide enough power out of an unbalanced port. None.
With the balanced port, you’re getting 220mW into 32 Ohm which is respectable but still not really all that noteworthy. It’s a bit more than you’d get out of an E10K, and that’s about $25 cheaper (albeit you’re not getting the features of the Q1).
All in all, this is the weakest aspect of the Q1 in my mind and makes me not really want to buy it, even at it’s pretty fair price.
This puppy outputs 2.1V which is a ridiculous amount of power for a DAC this size. It’s almost incomprehensible how efficient this little thing is. It can drive an HD600 with ease, and I’d feel comfortable even pairing it with an inefficient HIFIMAN headphone at around 91-94dB Sensitivity. What is Sensitivity in Headphones?
I’d say the DragonFly will work with around 95-98% of headphones you throw at it.
The D1 will also drive an HD600 just fine, as it provides around 2V of power AFAIK.
Some people claim that it’s not enough for the 600/650, but they’re lying. It sounds just fine and PLENTY loud enough.
The most interesting thing about these is that they all have a warm tilt to them.
I would say the Q1 is probably the warmest sounding out of the bunch. It’s very relaxed and laid back. It’s not trying to be intrusive but presents the music in a very natural and organic way, kind of like a Chord Mojo but just not as good.
It’s very smooth and detailed, with crystal clear clarity and a phenomenal sense of attack, sustain, and decay. This is the main selling point of the Q1 for me. It does sound really really good and is pretty versatile.
I will leave some of my notes below! (Coming Soon)
The DragonFly Red has a similar sound, if perhaps a bit more crisp. It’s not trying to lull you to sleep but rather make you aware of how detailed music is. In many ways, the DragonFly Red is all I would ever need personally. I can pair it with my phone or use it on my desktop. It’s not as versatile as the other 2 with regard to features/connections, but if you’re specifically looking for just great sound and the ability to use it on the go, there’s really nothing else I would consider. The sound you’re getting out of this hits way above it’s price point in my opinion.
The D1 is definitely more of a desktop Amp/DAC, but I would feel comfortable carrying it around in a laptop bag. It’s pretty compact. The sound is similar to the Q1 in that it’s laid back and pretty relaxing. This is really a perfect Gaming option as well. I was fully immersed in the environment and even had to pause and listen to the PS4 start up ambient music. Sounds starting coming through from really far away and down, which gave off this peaceful and serene vibe but at the same time demanded my attention.
There was a nice sense of atmosphere and a lushness that you simply won’t get the full effect of with your TV speakers or even straight out of your controllers headphone jack.
Lastly, the Audioengine D1 would make a great Gaming Rig, as well as an all around desktop Amp that can ALSO power your studio monitors. What’s not to like? If you don’t need an Amp/DAC for your phone but do need the other features, this is the perfect solution.
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.