The ambush of the combos: AudioQuest Dragonfly vs FIIO E17 & Dragonfly with Burson Soloist, Dragonfly vs Conductors' DAC
I had some luck this week and my good friend , Traian, lend me his Audioquest Dragonfly and his Sennheiser Momentum. I was talking with him this week and from nowhere he says that his new Sennheiser Momentum arrived.
I was like..."Headphones...new headphones you say???"
Then he said: "You can have to for the w/e if you want"
The good part is that he also gave me the AudioQuest Dragonfly in the Sennheiser Momentum package :D .Well I have a lot of toys this w/e.
I will start with the Fiio E17, Dragonfly and Burson Conductor, and in the next post I will talk about Sennheiser Momentum compared to AKG k550.
In the title I mentioned Burson Soloist. I am using the Conductor but this time only its' amplifier section which basically is the Soloist, so I will be referring to it as Soloist in this post from now on.
I was looking at Dragonfly and event though I liked the build quality & design I cannot say I was impressed.... It was so small... how good could it be??
When I started listening to it for the first time, my jaw dropped.
It really has a nice wow factor as the details really pop out.
I started comparing it with my Fiio E17 with both AKG K550 and Sennheiser Momentum .
I listened to a couple of songs back and forth. Here are my impressions on each song:
The Hobbit: An unexpected party.
With Dragonfly I can hear all the extension of the instruments, I almost can feel them near me. The subtle drum in the back is much easier to hear, the separation of instruments is much better on AudioQuest .
Dragonfly wins on the details hands down. It really made me feel the orchestra much better than the e17.
On fiio e17 the sound is blurry compared to Dragonfly. All instruments blend in and you loose them in the crowd.
Infected Mushroom: "Project 100", "Noon"
With k550 (32 ohm)
The bass has more impact on the Fiio E17. It is deeper, more extended and punchier. Again, the details part was easily won by DF. It is like taking a thin veil off your head. However the bass made me like this song better with the e17, as I found it to be more controlled (I think the amplification on e17 had the last word here).
I also tested Dragonfly as Dac input for e17 (on aux). The bass and control improved as I expected , confirming my thoughts on the amplification.
The differences in the bass were still present but they were not that big this time. However the bass was still tighter, more extended and punchier than with dragonfly, sometimes too much in my opinion. I like the dragonfly more with momentum as it tames its bass a little and pushes more details into it as Momentum is not as detailed as k550.
All the next tests were done with K550.
Leonard Cohen "Here it is" , "Love Itself "
On Dragonfly, Leonards's Cohen voice was more detailed , presenting his uniquely low hoarse voice in a very nice but slight thinner way than Fiio.
E17 kept strong in this fight. It presented his voice with a stronger presence and more natural, as I have been to one of his concerts and it was closer to what I have heard there.
Even if it was a close fight I liked the more natural and heavier presentation FIIO brought to the "fight" :D. The fight was very close and I am sure there would be many liking the sound presented from Dragonfly.
Gorillaz "Double Bass" - In my opinion Fiio E17 wins here with ease. The bass is more extended, punchier, fuller. The control is better on E17 and it was easy to hear.
ACDC - "Beating Around the Bush" - The advantage e17 presented in the lower frequency and the more relaxed sound (due to less details) made me favor it against the Dragonfly. I think I like e17 with rock better.
Vivaldi - Flute Concerto in D-21 - The Conneticut Early Music Festival Ensemble
The Dragonfly won easily . The sound was more opened, the separation of instruments again much better, the details were very good. I could hear all the extensions of all instruments.
I found Dragonfly to be a very good combination with Sennheiser Mommentum, as Momentum is a bassy headphone and not as detailed as K550. So Dragonfly brings more details to it and does not kill you with the too heavier bass.
I also found Fiio E17 to be a little more natural sounding than Dragonfly, especially with vocals. Also the amplification part from E17 is stronger than in Dragonfly. This may be one of the reasons why I liked the K550 a little more on the lower frequency spectrum, and the differences were not so big with Momentum (K550-32 ohms, Momentum -18 Ohms)
DAC wise, I think there is no question that Dragonfly is technically better than E17. It brings more details, better instrument separation, better 3d positioning.
Fiio E17 comes with a more relaxed sound, and it seemed to me a little more natural and warm. You can listen more to it without getting tired. It is a good combination with brighter headphones like K550.
I think both E17 & Dragonfly are very nice, and Dragonfly really amazed me with what it can do at that size. If I would have Sennheiser Momentum I think I would go with Dragonfly, but with K550 with E17.
I have done one other interesting test with my Burson Soloist (amp section from my Conductor) and Dragonfly and used the Dragonfly as Dac with Burson Soloist and Audeze LCD2.
I can say I was amazed of the results :
The combo is pretty damn nice.
It has a very nice prat, nice punchy bass, really nice mids and smooth highs. The details are also nice.
I mean I tried all the songs from above and more and it really got me tapping and enjoying the music. So... for anybody who wanted to buy a Burson Soloist and pair it with AudioQuest Dragonfly until he gets something better, but did not know if it is a good combination or even a possible one, GO FOR IT!
I think it would amaze you what this little guy and this combo can do.
Now to compare it to the DAC section from Burson Conductor.
It is clear from the start they belong to a different class, and there is no question about it or even space to debate on it.
Conductor has far more details and is amazing at that, the bass is more extended, deeper, the soundstage is bigger, the sound is 3d , multi-layered, the separation of instruments is much better and you can easily concentrate on each instrument in an orchestra for example.
However you can easily enjoy your music very well with AudioQuest Dragonfly and Burson Soloist as well, and in this case the Dragonfly is better for longer listening sessions as it has less details and is less fatiguing.
To use it with Soloist you have to set the volume to maximum from windows and use the Bursons' volume knob, or you will get degraded sound.
I also observed some static noise when I set the volume knob to the max from Burson, but I used a normal old cable of mine between Dragonfly and Conductor, and I think that is the reason. (So with a good cable I think you will get even better results than I did).
Hope this helped and stay tuned for my impressions on Sennheiser Momentum compared to Akg K550 ...
Edited by dan.gheorghe - 3/17/13 at 12:44pm