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AudioQuest Dragonfly Review : Affordable, Outstanding, Tiny DAC / Amp - Page 42

post #616 of 1949

So a noticeable improvement from just using the MacBook output to the MM-1's?  

post #617 of 1949

yes...they image better, more volume. Definitely a noticeable improvement. If you are using them as background as opposed to NFM for critical listening, I don't think the difference is massive. When I do critical listening I very much prefer the DF vs not having it.

post #618 of 1949

Thanks appreciate the feedback on the DF & MM-1s.

post #619 of 1949
Quote:
Originally Posted by longbowbbs View Post

Same for me. I use the hf3's with the Custom ear molds 4+ hours per day with my iPhone... Awesome phones.

I got a pair for review, and my wife and I liked em so much I had to get (buy) another pair for her.

I think they're fantastic, especially at that price!!!

post #620 of 1949
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikemercer View Post

I got a pair for review, and my wife and I liked em so much I had to get (buy) another pair for her.

I think they're fantastic, especially at that price!!!

I had an extra pair, then my son tried them...Now my wife has a pair as well.... I put the custom tips on mine so no one else can wear them...biggrin.gif

post #621 of 1949

Will PC --> DF --> HDP (amp only) be better than PC --> Halide Bridge --> HDP (DAC + amp) that I currently use as my portable setup?

I guess that DF > uDAC2 as my super portable setup.

And DA11 beats anything here as my barely portable setup...

Thinking of getting one (DF) tomorrow...  bigsmile_face.gif

post #622 of 1949
Quote:
Originally Posted by CanDude View Post

Will PC --> DF --> HDP (amp only) be better than PC --> Halide Bridge --> HDP (DAC + amp) that I currently use as my portable setup?

I guess that DF > uDAC2 as my super portable setup.

And DA11 beats anything here as my barely portable setup...

Thinking of getting one (DF) tomorrow...  bigsmile_face.gif

 

The DF replaced the uDAC2 as my portable DAC. I have never heard the Halide Bridge so I can't help you there.

post #623 of 1949
A friend of mine bought a Dragonfly at Best Buy today, during lunch, played with it on his work
PC this afternoon, then loaned it to me for the weekend!

Nice guy, huh?

I will be comparing it to my DACport LX. Here are the two chains:

WAV -> Foobar2000 -> Dragonfly Line Out -> 16V-powered iBasso PB2 with LME49990s and HA5002 Buffers -> balanced out to Toxic Cables' Silver Poison -> LCD-2 rev.1

vs.

WAV -> Foobar2000 -> DACport LX -> 16V-powered iBasso PB2 with LME49990s and HA5002 Buffers -> balanced out to Toxic Cables' Silver Poison -> LCD-2 rev.1

I was told I can get Line Out from the Dragonfly by just maximizing system and Foobar volumes.

Here goes...

Mike
post #624 of 1949
Quote:
Originally Posted by zilch0md View Post

A friend of mine bought a Dragonfly at Best Buy today, during lunch, played with it on his work
PC this afternoon, then loaned it to me for the weekend!
Nice guy, huh?
I will be comparing it to my DACport LX. Here are the two chains:
WAV -> Foobar2000 -> Dragonfly Line Out -> 16V-powered iBasso PB2 with LME49990s and HA5002 Buffers -> balanced out to Toxic Cables' Silver Poison -> LCD-2 rev.1
vs.
WAV -> Foobar2000 -> DACport LX -> 16V-powered iBasso PB2 with LME49990s and HA5002 Buffers -> balanced out to Toxic Cables' Silver Poison -> LCD-2 rev.1
I was told I can get Line Out from the Dragonfly by just maximizing system and Foobar volumes.
Here goes...
Mike

 

popcorn.gif

post #625 of 1949

If this has already been answered, please direct me to the link, or post - how would this work with the SR-71A?  I take it that it would make no sense to use the dragonfly together with the UDAC-2, correct?


Edited by 563 - 9/15/12 at 6:57am
post #626 of 1949
Quote:
Originally Posted by 563 View Post

If this has already been answered, please direct me to the link, or post - Can the dragonfly be used in conjunction with the UDAC-2, and if so, how would they be hooked up together (is there some kind of adapter for the USB to 3.5mm jack on the dragonfly?  Is that combination recommendable?   

 

Ditto - can this work with the SR-71A, and if so, how would that be hooked up?  (I don't have either the SR-71A or UDAC-2 in front of me, so I can't recall exactly what jacks would be involved) ..

I don't see the value with the uDAC2. Basically 2 of the same type of device. The DF is superior (I have both) You could use the DF as DAC only with the SR-71A, but I have never tried that combo. It should work, I have never had the opportunity to try them in combination.

post #627 of 1949

Having borrowed a friend's Dragonfly...

 

 

Here's a comparison of the AudioQuest Dragonfly vs. the CEntrance DACport LX
 
 

 

 

Looking at this picture that includes the AudioQuest Dragonfly, it's hard to believe that not long ago, the CEntrance DACport LX was billed as one of the world's smallest USB DACs.  I included my shortest USB cable in this photo to emphasize that you don't need a USB cable with the Dragonfly.  That's obvious, but worth emphasizing.

 

 
First, let me say that I had planned on comparing the following two chains:
 
WAV -> Foobar2000 -> Dragonfly Line Out -> 16V-powered iBasso PB2 with LME49990s and HA5002 Buffers -> balanced out to Toxic Cables' Silver Poison -> LCD-2 rev.1
 
  vs.
 
WAV -> Foobar2000 -> DACport LX -> 16V-powered iBasso PB2 with LME49990s and HA5002 Buffers -> balanced out to Toxic Cables' Silver Poison -> LCD-2 rev.1
 
 
Unlike the Dragonfly, the DACport LX does not have an analog volume control mapped to the PC's system volume, so a fair comparison requires the use of an external headphone amp, while keeping Foobar and system volumes at their maximum settings with both DACs.
 
Using these chains, after just a few tracks, the two DACs were sounding so similar in sound quality, I wasn't able to discern one from the other except in the mids, where the DACport LX is just a bit fuller and more organic than the Dragonfly.  I could tell, however, that I wouldn't be able to assess any difference in resolution as long as the iBasso PB2 was in the chain - not while it was equipped with LME49990s and HA5002 buffers.  When the PB2 is using an external power supply at the maximum permissible 16-Volts, that particular combination of op-amps drives my LCD-2 (balanced out) with a lot of slam, dynamics and bass control, that just aren't available when the LCD-2 is driven with less power.  But using that particular combination of op-amps comes at the expense of ultra-fine detail.  
 
To achieve the greatest possible transparency with the iBasso PB2, I have to use OPA1612 (duals) in the voltage gain section and forgo using buffers entirely (replacing them with the dummy buffers that iBasso provides). This brings my iBasso PB2 close to sounding like a Meier Stepdance in terms of detail and transparency, but also in terms of reduced power output.  Using dummy buffers, the loss of current provided by buffers like the HA5002s is dramatic, thus the punch, bass control, and dyamics are reduced when you use dummy buffers with the OPA1612s, but you get spectacular detail.  (Hint: Rolling op-amps in the PB2 taught me how to listen, but I'm still learning...)
 
With the goal of improving the resolution of everything downstream from the DACs, rather than opening my PB2 to roll op-amps, I just replaced it with my Meier Stepdance, powered at the maximum permissible 15-Volts, using an Energizer XP8000 external power pack - this pushes the Stepdance to amazing performance, and if you look at the datasheet for the Texas Instruments OPA1611s used in the Stepdance, you can see that as the supply voltage increases, the THD + Noise actually decrease - thus making the Stepdance even more transparent than it is on 9V internal battery power.  The datasheets for nearly all op-amps used in audio reveal that they offer less THD+N - a good thing - when the supply voltage is near, but not quite at, their respective absolute maximum permissible supply voltages - at 15V vs. 18V with the OPA1611s, for example.  Moral of the story:  Most portable amps sound way better when operated at the maximum voltage specified by the amp's designer.  Get an external battery pack with voltage regulator or an external, linear regulated power supply.
 
So, with my most transparent amp in place, I proceeded with the comparison using these two chains:
 
WAV -> Foobar2000 -> Dragonfly Line Out -> 15V-powered Meier Stepdance -> single-ended out to a pigtail adapter for balanced Toxic Cables' Silver Poison -> LCD-2 rev.1
 
vs.
 
WAV -> Foobar2000 -> DACport LX -> 15V-powered Meier Stepdance -> single-ended out to a pigtail adapter for balanced Toxic Cables' Silver Poison -> LCD-2 rev.1
 
 
Ahhh...  Now I was hearing almost all the detail that these two DACs can deliver - and the winner is (for detail):  The CEntrance DACport LX.
 
 

 

 
Listening to one of my 96/24 tracks, Tibet, from I Ching's Of the Marsh and the Moon, beginning at about 54 seconds into the song, a vibrating percussion can be heard that sounds like bamboo reeds being plucked.  To my ears, the DACport LX offers more detail than the Dragonfly, but it's a close call.  Using either DAC, I felt like I could almost count the number of reeds that are being struck.  The Dragonfly is noticeably smoother and just a bit darker than the DACport LX, but not so smooth as to destroy texture and clarity.  Remember, I couldn't even hear a difference in detail until I replaced the iBasso PB2 with the Meier Stepdance.  With some comparisons, you find yourself wondering if a perception of greater detail isn't just due to increased brightness, but in this comparison, I'm comfortable saying that although the DACport LX is a little brighter, it's also rendering more detail.  
 
This difference in detail can be heard with the chains I've described above, but even more so when I plugged my Shure SE530 directly into the  DACs, abandoning the amp and LCD-2, while matching the volume levels to 85.0dB using a white noise file and an SPL meter iPhone app by JL Audio. Neither of these DACs are harsh or grainy, but the smoothness of the Dragonfly is alluring - especially when, in this same track, Tibet, the shrill instrument that carries the melody starts to kick in at about the 60-second mark.  The DACport LX just doesn't sound quite as natural as the Dragonfly at handling that extremely shrill voice - in fact, it's on the border of sounding etched with my SE530, but not quite.  All I can say is that for that paricular moment of that particular track (and obviously, with similar moments in other songs), I'd much rather listen to the Dragonfly than to the DACport LX if there's nothing downstream to soften things a bit.  The Dragonfly is more forgiving and relaxed in the highs, for sure.  
 
Again, I have to emphasize that these distinctions in detail disappear when I use the DACs to drive my iBasso PB2, as currently configured, into LCD-2, instead of the Stepdance into LCD-2.  I want to make that clear so that readers understand you might not hear this difference in resolution if you were using a dark and smooth amp like the wonderfully dynamic but less resolving Schiit Lyr.  For truly transparent chains, or when using efficient IEMs without an amp (as I have with the SE530), the DragonFly wins for smooth detail in the highs, while the DACport provides even more detail, not harsh or fatiguing, but with the risk of sounding analytical and unforgiving if not tempered downstream.  I'm belaboring this point, but you have to remember that it's easy to start with a very crisp source and make it more diffuse downstream, where it's impossible to begin with an overly smooth, diffuse source, and restore detail that it has already withheld.  As a pure DAC, where you intend to use your choice of amps downstream, the DACport LX is superior for the greater detail it offers.  But as a terminal device - an all-in-one solution into which you plug some efficient IEMs or headphones, the Dragonfly is a better choice.
 
It comes down to personal taste and the rest of your chain, of course.  For use with the Stepdance -> LCD-2, I prefer the brighter, more detailed highs of the DACport LX, but for the directly connected SE530, I prefer the darker, smoother highs of the Dragonfly.  Note that, going on my memory of the JDS Labs Objective DAC (ODAC) and the iBasso DB2, I'm finding the the Dragonfly to be a kindred spirit of the DACport LX and the Objective DAC - it is nowhere near as dark and smooth as the Wolfson-equipped iBasso DB2.
 
OK, I think I've beaten that horse to death.  redface.gif
 
---
 
In the mids, still using the SE530 without the Stepdance, I have to say I very much prefer the DACport LX. Vocals like Diana Krall's Insensitive, from her 96/24 From This Moment On, or Marta Gomez' Lucia, from the 96/24 HDTracks Ultimate Download Experience, are just more natural, more believable - they are simply more appealing with the DACport LX.  This is hugely subjective, of course.  The difference is not dramatic, but it is readily detectable when you can switch back and forth between the two DACs.  I'm not splitting hairs to say that I prefer the mids of the DACport LX.  The best I can do to describe the Dragonfly's female vocals is to say that they sound more mechanical rather than organic.  I'm using that adjective reluctantly, because "mechanical" would be an inappropriate adjective for describing the Dragonfly's mids in relation to all sources, but I feel it is enlightening to say that the Dragonfly's mids are "more mechanical" sounding than the DACport LX mids.  I found the same to be true with male vocals, as in Steely Dan's My Rival, from the 96/24 Gaucho.  And it's not just the vocals that sound better in the DACport LX mids.  The lead guitar in My Rival seems a little thin - it has plenty of texture and detail, but it lacks fullness and body. The Dragonfly's mids are just not as accessible as the DACport LX mids.  I feel like I want to EQ the mids to boost their amplitude, but that's not what's needed - it's more just a difference in naturalness. 
 
While still focused on Steely Dan, I switched to using the PB2 balanced out to the LCD-2 Rev.2, as I had originally planned, because I love the mids of the LCD-2 and I wanted to drive them with 2500mW (16V PB2, est.) instead of 1000mW (15V Stepdance, est.)  I had earlier determined that the Dragonfly just doesn't have enough power to drive the LCD-2 directly - no slam.  On the PB2, starting out with the Dragonfly, the mids of My Rival sounded so much better with the LCD-2 than with the SE530, I was really impressed with the Dragonfly in this chain.  But then I switched to the DACport LX, and just as the mids had sounded better with the DACport LX to SE530, the DACport LX outperformed the Dragonfly with the PB2 -> LCD-2.  I wish I could quantify the distinction,  but the best I can do is to say that it's neither subtle nor a showstopper for the Dragonfly.  The Dragonfly is still very detailed and smooth in the mids, but for my ears, my tastes, I much prefer the more organic, more natural sounding mids of the DACport LX - whether using an amp to fullsize phones, or no amp with directly connected IEMs.
 
Still, I have to emphasize, the Dragonfly is in the same league as the DACport.  Again, this difference in tone in the mids relative to the DACport LX is not a showstopper, by any means.  
 
---
 
Bass was a different story - I cannot find a single trait in the bass performance with which to distinguish the Dragonfly from the DACport LX. So far as I can tell, they are clones in their handling of bass - taut, controlled, textured, with very fast transients and good extension - they are both very satisfying, especially when I use either of them to with my 2500mW PB2 balanced out to the LCD-2 - amazing bass. Beck's 24/96 tracks, Paper Tiger and Lonesome Tears, in Sea Change, have a very entertaining, 3D-like roundness and texture in the bass, with either DAC. Even with the the SE530 directly connected to the Dragonfly, these are very enjoyable tracks for their bass notes, not to mention the Dragonfly's crisp yet smooth handling of the accoustic guitar throughout the entire album.  The 44.1/16 track Walking Wheel (live), in Bel Canto's Retrospect, also does a great job of showing off the bass of the Dragonfly and DACport LX, mixed with a great female vocal and some very textured, very shrill highs (that again, are handled better by the Dragonfly than by the DACport LX, when using transparent gear downstream or in the absence of an amp.)
 
---
 
So... Looking just at sound quality, I'd have to say the DACport LX wins, for its fuller, more natural sounding mids, especially if you're using an amp or headphones that are either dark or smooth or both - where the slight advantage in detail and brightness offered by the DACport LX would be welcome.  But if you're using a very transparent, highly resolving amp and headphone combination and/or a headphone and amp combination that are a little brighter and analytical than you would otherwise prefer, I'd have to recommend the slightly smoother, darker Dragonfly.  And if you're using efficient IEMs without an amp, the DragonFly is a much better choice than the DACport LX, even disregarding the DACport LX' lack of an analog volume control.  I just prefer the smoothness of the Dragonfly when there's nothing else in the chain to make things more forgiving.
 
Now, when you consider the difference in size and feature set of the two DACS, the Dragonfly is very competitive and for some uses, the clear winner.  I want one, but I've spent enough money on audio lately.  
 
tongue_smile.gif
 
Mike
 

Edited by zilch0md - 9/16/12 at 5:59am
post #628 of 1949

Mike, great review. I love the detail and your efforts to make it apples to apples in comparison. I am curious how many hours were on the DF prior to the  comparison. I know mine didn't really fill out its capabilities for at least the first 200+. I liked the DacPort LX too, but for me the portability won out as I travel a ton and am trying to carry as little as possible. The DF let's me do that with minimal compromise.

 

Looks like you had a good time with the review as well!  

 

Thanks!

 

beerchug.gif

post #629 of 1949

The Dragonfly is brand new, so it's had no burn-in to speak of.  I only have it for the weekend, but my friend will probably let me borrow it some time in the future when he has put a lot of hours on it.

 

Thanks,

 

Mike

post #630 of 1949
Quote:
Originally Posted by zilch0md View Post

The Dragonfly is brand new, so it's had no burn-in to speak of.  I only have it for the weekend, but my friend will probably let me borrow it some time in the future when he has put a lot of hours on it.

 

Thanks,

 

Mike

Nice friend! I suspect you'll get more out of it when there is some time on the unit. 

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