Originally Posted by 0rangutan
I am due to receive my Black today.
Will be using it with iPhone 6, Lightning to USB adapter and a range of IEMs (Sennheiser IE800's, Echobox Finder X1, Klipsch X10 and Yamaha EPH100).
Will share initial thoughts and comparisons with the Oppo HA-2 later this evening.
Here are my first impressions, running the new Dragonfly Black from my iPhone 6 via the Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter cable. Music used: Jon Hopkins, Matthew Dear, Champs, Courtney Barnett, Laura Marling, Josefin Ohrn, Vampire Weekend, Lydia Ainsworth.
Firstly, I had forgotten just how nicely weighted the Dragonfly is. Combined with the soft touch finish and the gold plated USB connector, it is a pleasure to hold. The cute little leatherette pouch is actually quite useful. The weight of the Dragonfly doesn't present any problems for either my IEMs or the Apple cable - the whole assembly fits and hangs together surprisingly well.
On plugging it into the iPhone the Dragonfly lights up red and then magenta in quick succession, before turning green/blue immediately that I play 44.1/48 tracks. No awkward pauses, it just works. There is a small start-up noise but nothing alarming. It also works immediately as the phone comes out of sleep - something that the Oppo HA-2 would never do for me, requiring unplugging and re-plugging. This drove me mad with the HA-2, contributing to me selling it, irrespective of its sound quality. The only oddity I have noticed is that, left plugged in, the Dragonfly causes the iPhone screen to wake up briefly occasionally. Not a big issue but you wouldn't appreciate this if left bed side when trying to sleep.
I was a little worried about volume levels for the Black given its 1.2V (compared to 1.8 for previous model and 2.1 for the Red) but am pleased to report that it kicks out plenty of volume on any of the IEMs that I tried it with. I couldn't safely go above 50% volume through the Dragonfly, whereas I would normally be up at 90+% when using my IE800's directly. I haven't tried to measure battery consumption with or without the Dragonfly, however I am happy that I can't discern any obvious extra battery drain while using it. Certainly nothing to worry about.
I tested using the four pairs of IEMs that I own. The Yamaha EPH-100's and Klipsch X10's both sounded better than direct from the iPhone. The combination with the Yamahas had a tendency to pick out more detail than you might like on some tracks. While most songs were clearly better using the Dragonfly, it wasn't a very forgiving combination and poorer recordings were occasionally harder to listen to using the Dragonfly than going direct. The X10's worked superbly and without any of the more aggressive edge that I heard using the Yamahas. The Dragonfly is a lovely match for the X10's.
Moving on to my Echobox Finder X1's, these have been characterised as an inexpensive IE800 and with good reason - they offer a surprising amount of the IE800 sound for a small fraction of the price. They are also a great match for the Dragonfly, simply providing a scaled up version of what they already do well when used direct from the iPhone. Bass is reasonably well defined with minimal bloom (if I had to find a fault, the slight bloom would be it). Treble is very detailed and extends well but isn't inflated or sibilant - perfect to my taste. The Dragonfly seems very neutral in this respect - it hasn't notably changed the sound signature of any of my IEMs. In comparison, however great the Oppo HA-2 is, I found that it made almost all recordings sound thicker with over inflated mids and resulting in a sound that I can only describe as cloying. The Dragonfly sounds more open and spacious without being overly airy.
Lastly (and what I bought it for), the Sennheiser IE800's. I find these to sound superb directly from my iPhone 6 to begin with and, while I have tried a few portable amps, I haven’t found anything that sounded much better and certainly not better enough to justify the hassle of dragging them around. The HA-2 was the best so far, but I am delighted to say that the Dragonfly Black combination beats the HA-2 quite comprehensively - a better and more open sound (to my taste), way more portable, no rubber bands, no charging required, just one volume control, wakes from sleep fine, costs a third of the price. For my particular use case there is just no contest. As with the X1’s, the Black doesn’t change the IE800’s sound signature much at all, but brings even more detail, a more usable volume range, slightly wider sound stage and possibly a slight lift in the upper bass region. Positive results so far.
Looking forward to hearing comparisons between the Black and Red. I am happy enough with the Black that I won't be looking to upgrade too quickly :)
Edited by 0rangutan - 4/25/16 at 3:31pm