Great little device with refined sound

A Review On: AudioQuest DragonFly Asynchronous USB DAC

AudioQuest DragonFly Asynchronous USB DAC

Rated # 3 in Sound Cards
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Price paid: $250.00
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Pros: DAC quality, portability, value

Cons: Single output

When I was looking recently at upgrading the sound in my main listening room I researched DACs and found some useful info at head-fi so I thought I'd contribute by writing a review on what I decided to go with. I don't have a lot of history in high end audiophile investments but I know good sound when I hear it wink.gif

For reference I was using an Apogee Duet FireWire audio interface with an Arcam AVR 250 and some Orpheus Nexus 1.5 loudspeakers. The source is a Mac Mini. The Duet has now been replaced by the Dragonfly and I'm surprised how immediate the improvement was. I'm not versed in the audiophile terminology so I'll just tell it how I hear it. The first thing that jumped out at me was the better definition in the bass which I was really not expecting. I thought the slightly wooly bass was due to porting and speaker positioning which I couldn't do much about. The Dragonfly has really improved this situation making bass much more dynamic and tuneful.

Another immediate impression was greater clarity across the whole spectrum. I could hear more details in music like the space of the reverbs used on the vocals and I could follow individual instruments much more easily even with a lot of competition from other sounds elements. There seemed to be a more defined soundstage too. I would say the Dragonfly is a little brighter sounding than the Duet but it's never harsh in the high frequencies. I think the clarity comes from the better conversion (although the Duet is highly regarded in pro audio circles). I should also add that my system probably benefitted from a more accurate expression of high frequencies as the amp speaker combo is a little on the mellow side (which I quite like). I think the Duet has been described as analog sounding by some. Don't get me wrong though, the Dragonfly is not harsh or digital or emphasised in the higher frequencies, just perhaps more accurate than warm in my opinion. Perhaps the controversial issue of burn-in will change things. I'll report back if I can determine such an effect but to be honest I'm not sure about some of the delicate intricacies that some people talk about with high end gear. There are so many factors that can influence your impression of sound at any given time.

The headphone output didn't drive my Beyer DT 990 Pros (250 ohm) as well as the headphone output of the Arcam but I suspect there may be a lot of different outcomes with various headphones. The sound was good but a bit thinner and crisper (which is not desireable if you know the DT 990s). Then again I think the Beyers would probably pair well with a tube amp to reduce their slightly exaggerated high frequency response which always seems to become more apparent with lesser amps. They sounded really bright with the headphone output of the Duet.

Overall I'm very happy with this little package. I'd be interested to hear comparisons to some other DACs below $700 like the Dacmagic +, Yulong D100, Bitfrost, etc . Unfortunately I don't have access to other DACs but it seems there are some enthusiasts here with experience of many DACs that will be curious. I think the Dragonfly might end up setting a new standard at the price.

1 Comment:

i heard the dragonfly on a PC system with a mcormack amp and i think a tube preamp on a pair of vandersteen model 5s and was surprised at just how warm and relaxed the sound was with decent imaging with the speakers 10 feet apart at that.
i was looking for a review of the bitfrost though as i'll be needing a co-ax input, but for the price, especially if you have a PC system, the dragonfly is pretty refined sounding.