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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So I’m going to clump this all together. Treble is fatiguing…I can’t quite put my ear on it 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”.
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.