AudioQuest Dragonfly Black USB DAC/AMP - Official Thread

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#21

One of these?


I wish…

This would be for the HiFiman HE 560s. I had been taking Dragonfly Black out to the Headroom Standard headphone amp, and driving the HE-560s from that. Maybe a Dragonfly Red would have enough power, but I have my doubts.

I was looking at the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label DAC and Amp with MQA as a possibility. It looks like it could be generally useful, and has a line out in addition to controls. I want something portable, stick is better.

The HE-560s are the heavy lifting. Other than that, there is nothing that the Dragonfly Black can’t power. The Dragonfly Black is presently stuck in the Mac Mini - I could always take it out and move something else to where the mini is.

I don’t want to go overboard on this. Someday I may get a good DAC for my main system, replacing the TEAC UD-H01 that lives there now.


#22

I love the Dragonfly Red but I wouldn’t have thought it had enough grunt to really power your HE-560’s. You may get the volume but to properly give them all they want I don’t know. I could be wrong. Personally I have only ever powered iem’s through the DFR. I could power my bigger cans but it didn’t give them enough. If you know what I mean.

-Paul-


#23

I’m happy with the Dragonfly Black – if it powers the Headroom Standard Amp first. That’s my sittin’ around setup. If I’m really portable I go to an IEM, or the Grados, and leave the plug-in to the wall amp home.

I’ve just added a listening spot, and while I could easily unplug the Black every time, I’d rather not disturb other wires.


#24

I have a Topping NX4 which works nicely with my iPhone because it actually doesn’t need the CCK (just hooks directly into iPhone’s lightning port), and it has a decent amount of power. Unfortunately, the new NX4 DSD version needs a CCK :(. If you can find a used NX4 it might be worth a look. It’s also not as portable as a Dragonfly, though I could argue that once you add the CCK cable it’s a wash.


#25

Yes I get where your coming from. Personally I haven’t used the DFB but understand it to be a very good bit of kit. I have often used my DFR with an amp myself and it does a great job as a Dac. I now use a Dap so to be honest I don’t really use the DFR.

-Paul-


#26

Yes I don’t particularly like using the CCK cable as besides it being expensive it is also a little flimsy. Never tried the NX4 but I’ve often heard you give it praise. I like Topping gear myself.

-Paul-


#27

Right now, unless you use either Roon (won’t work away from Roon Core) or Amarra Play as your player/client, you won’t get MQA output from your iOS device. The TIDAL mobile app doesn’t support it.

I also don’t know if you actually want MQA support or not here.

Either way, if you continued to use your existing Dragonfly Black with your phone, you would have a broader range of options to go with your Mini - as those wouldn’t be dependent on CCK compatibility and, I assume, you wouldn’t need to be portable (or at least not AS portable).

If you do want MQA support, then at $250 or under your options are:

  • Dragonfly Black
  • Dragonfly Red
  • iFi Nano iDSD Black Label
  • Meridian Explorer2 (will not work with CCK/phone).

If you don’t care about MQA support there are dozens of excellent options.

The sweet spot, to pair with your Mini, is probably the Nano iDSD Black Label, though. As you can, if you ever want to, at least use it portably with the phone in the future. If MQA is a focus, the Meridian Explorer 2 with the Mini is a cleaner solution.


#28

Good points from all of you. As I’m happy with the DF Black and camera card, it might be smart to just go back to that for the iPhone, and put something else with the Mac mini.

I’ve loaded Tidal on the iPhone, but have not yet chosen a Roon controller or app. I’m not sure if I will continue to use Roon. Tidal integrates with Sonos, and I’m not sure of the value Roon is adding. It does seem to have some nice music discovery features.

I see that the Meridian Explorer2 is on sale for $199 at Audio Advisor. I don’t know what chip it uses. For the same price, there is the iFi Nano iDSD, which uses Burr Browns, that I know I like. Drawback is that looking at the iFi line, the one I would WANT is the iFi Micro DSD Black Label, which comes in at $599. If I bought the $199 one, in a few weeks I’d be kicking myself for not getting something that should easily drive the Hifiman HE-560s without a separate headphone amp, and I could have freed the Headroom Standard for use at the office or elsewhere.

And of course, I could just get the very portable DF Red, since I’m so happy with the Black…

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions.


#29

Ok this is my preferred method of using this device…it isn’t very convenient, but it allows for me to control the volume without blowing my ears out. I’ll put an impression piece up on it here this week, I’m focusing in on this Lil guy. So far in this setup it is enjoyable…but look at that dragons head and tail…does not make for the easiest pocketable commute setup.


#30

Introduction

This is the first time I have listened to a Dragonfly USB DAC/amp, I will say it isn’t for me. Now I don’t think it is a bad DAC/amp, it just has quirks that aren’t for me, and I don’t have a good use case for it. Now if it filled a hole in my audio gear then I feel this review might have gone ever so slightly differently. Being as this is a very subjective hobby while trying to be objective reviews can be a difficult thing. So I try and approach it as objectively as possible, while understanding that subjective aspects will leak through.
Also I tend to be a very optimistic, and empathetic, I tend to see the good and down play the bad (unless it is really bad lol). Once again subjective while trying to be objective from my point of view. As I’m writing this up I have the Dragonfly Black 1.5 in the chain with swapping between Fostex XOO PurpleHearts and the CA Cascade.

I am being granted the opportunity to “play” with this little gadget from The HEADPHONE community and the very generous Community Preview Program.

Technology

image
I’m going to leave this here for your perusal, this is a screen cap taken directly from the Audioquest website and the description of the Dragonfly Black. I am a big fan of not recreating things.

I think the fact they shoved all of that plus, a very cool multicolored LED into a USB stick is awesome. Technology as a whole fascinates me, and I truly enjoy seeing how it progress or innovates. I am a big fan of the LED Dragonfly logo on this stick, it speaks to my inner RGB lights gamer, plus I’m a sucker for non-traditional manly colors (purples/pinks/neons etc) I grew up with Donatello from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as my favorite, so I tend to be a fan of Purple and technology.

Tackle

HD58X (least used), Fostex X00 Purple Hearts (least used), CA Andromeda (least used), CA Cascade (most used). I tend to do a lot of listening these days at the office so closed backs are my new reference lol. I will say this, after a month of serious quality time with the CA Andromeda, and CA Cascades, they are both really great sets, and well worth the asking price. The CA Cascades have really mellowed out for me and are a go to set, (maybe it’s brain break-in, or mechanical break-in, but they really sound great to me now more than in the beginning, bass is still powerful, but more manageable; tangent over).

I listened to mostly Spotify premium through the laptop/workcellphone/cellphone (Lenovo thinkpad/Samsung Galaxy S9/Pixel2XL). I also listened to my collection of FLAC files on my phone but it was not my primary source.

Quality Control

Not much to say here the thing is solidly built with no buttons or knobs. You could probably run it over with a car with minimal damage (I’m using this figuratively please don’t run it over with a car). It has a nice soft rubber velvet feel to it and the connectors are solid. Can’t fault it on really anything here. Solid device.

Sound

Slightly sucked out sounding/distant. Also slightly boring, but can’t quite place why it’s boring to listen to. It provides adequate power and the DAC is fairly neutral to my ears, but it just seems to be missing something/or things. Very loud when plugged into a laptop, I have it at 04 of 100 on windows 10. My least favorite way of using this device….it isn’t bad but is relatively annoying due to having to either use the keyboard shortcuts or the in GUI volume slider. Sound while attached to the laptop is “brighter” I’m actually not the biggest fan of the sound profile of this device. It isn’t bad it just isn’t for me.

The sound profile comes out flat, in a neutral boring way for me. I don’t know why I feel bored or un-impressed while listening to this device. It is solid and a good performer but if I had a choice I would go for something else. Maybe when I get more time under my belt with DACs I’ll better be able to describe what is missing for me.

Treble/Midrange/Bass

So I’m going to clump this all together. Treble is fatiguing…I can’t quite put my ear on it :wink: it is not quite piercing but it flirts with being too bright. Midrange is good, but a little pushed back or behind a wall of light fog. Bass is sufficient and is probably the highlight for these three, but that doesn’t make it great. Bass is solid but isn’t anything that made me go “oh oui”.

Conclusion

There is something boring about the sound profile, it has the power, but the “joy” just isn’t there, I just don’t get excited to plug into this device. I really like the aesthetic, and Idea behind it but in practice I just find it kind of annoying and bland. I need me some dials and knobs to turn!

Using this on a laptop/desktop has a lot to be desired and I wouldn’t put it as the natural use case for this device well specifically on a desktop, laptops and cellphones are where this device fits proper. That being said while using this with Windows10 controlling the volume is irritating enough for me to not like using it (this is just like, my opinion man). Also it sits pretty far out on laptops, and doesn’t have the best connection via USB, it waggles around and is loose (at least with my Lenovo thinkpad ports).

Mixed with the other irritations I’ve had with this device, it isn’t really all that great with a phone due to the nature of how it sticks out. But it is easier to control the volume when used with the phone (physical buttons). These are all little annoyances that aren’t a huge deal, but for the money I would rather save a bit more and just pick up the iFi Audio Nano Black Label. Or go cheaper and pick up a Razer dongle DAC, and the iFi iEMatch (only really needed for sensitive IEMs).

The Dragonfly Black does the job, and it does it well for what it is, but for me it just isn’t a fun listen. It doesn’t have that Je Ne Sais Quoi that I personally look for in gear I want to own.