AudioQuest DragonFly Asynchronous USB DAC

General Information

DragonFly is an affordable and easy-to-use device that delivers far superior sound by bypassing the poor quality sound card that is built into your computer. DragonFly is a sleek, flash drive sized Digital-Audio Converter that connects to a USB jack on a Mac® or Windows® PC, turning any computer into a true high- fidelity music source.Whether you're on the go or at home, listening on ear buds or connecting your computer to a stereo system, DragonFly reveals all the emotional expression and nuance that makes your favorite music, or movies, so enjoyable. However you connect it, DragonFly simply and easily makes any computer sound better.How DragonFly Does ItThe heart of DragonFly is the 24-bit ESS SabreTM conversion chip, a high-performance solution that's typically found in better CD and Blu-ray DiscTM players. DragonFly can accept audio and music files ranging from MP3s and CD-standard 16-bit/44kHz to native 24-bit/96kHz high-resolution, regardless of music file format. If your computer's software can recognize and play a format, DragonFly will make it sound its best.However, high-quality digital-audio conversion alone isn't why DragonFly sounds great. How the audio data is transferred from the computer to DragonFly required particular attention from DragonFly's design team. Remember that digital audio is stored on computers and delivered to DragonFly as streams of 1's and 0's. Making beautiful music out of 1's and 0's isn't a case of simply getting all the music data from point A to Point B. Maintaining subtle digital timing relationships is crucial in order to be able to reconstruct the analog waveform that we hear as dialog or music.Timing errors have long been the plague of digital audio playback, never more so than in recent years as computers have been pressed into service as audio source components. DragonFly uses a very sophisticated "asynchronous*" USB audio data transfer protocol.

Latest reviews

Pros: good sound, works with usb on linux, windows, and android
Cons: hiss on my sr-535's, only accepts 24-bit input, volume on sr-535's ranges from pretty loud to intolerable
i've had this dac for a while and it was a major upgrade from the internal dac on my laptop.
the imaging is much better, the bass is much more well defined, the trebles don't tear, and the mids don't cloud out the entire rest of the dynamic range.
while there is hiss on my sr-535 iems, it isn't intolerable - it is mostly only audible when the source volume dips particularly low.
at the lowest volume setting (zero) the audio is barely a whisper in the 535's, but kick it up one step and it is much, much louder. there isn't really any in-between and sometimes, for background listening, i would really like an in-between. beyond about 5 it's just painful.
the other major problem with the module is the design. it sticks straight out of the usb port and having a headphone cable attached at the end of a stick causes a lot of flex that could potentially damage the port. so i had to buy a usb right-angle adapter for the device and make a metal support bracket to keep it from torquing apart my usb port in it's new orientation parallel to my laptop's chassis.
it's nice to have the usb-otg support for android. i've used it on my phone and it sounds great but the form factor makes it a little ridiculous. it always elicits comments, "why do you need ANOTHER headphone jack on your phone?" the response to which is, of course, just because it looks the same doesn't mean it SOUNDS the same. but that doesn't make it look any less hilarious to have a giant usb stick protruding from the bottom of a phone.
it would be nice if the device could handle 16 bit audio natively. seems like a bit of an oversight to handle several different sampling rates but decide not to implement something as simple as bit depth scaling in hardware. i'm seriously not intending to make so many puns in this review.
even with all these gripes, i'm not dissatisfied with my purchase. it's tiny, portable, compatible with most of my devices, and it sounds great, especially for the price point.
Pros: Excellent sound, no driver needed, superb build quality.
Cons: None
The DragonFly v1.2 sounds clearly superior to my laptop's built-in Realtek HD chip. There is no driver installation needed and I had no problems to use it on Windows, Linux, and MacOS X. The analog volume control works with the OS' volume control. With Debian Linux I experienced once that changing from the built-in sound to the DragonFly put the later on max. volume, which is ear-damaging loud... so beware.
To my ears, the DragonFly sounds better than the X3 in USB DAC mode and far better than my laptop's built-in sound card. If you're looking for a small USB DAC that can be used with any OS, I heartly recommend you check out the DragonFly v1.2.
PS: The 'Review Details' don't show as expected. I would rate 'Audio Quality' 10/10, 'Quality' 10/10 and 'Value' 9/10.
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Insatiable One
Insatiable One
better than an X3 in DAC mode? are you sure? just curious. I use a DX90 :)
I like it better, yes. The DragonFly sounds fuller to my ears. Also with 24bit/192kHz files (the DragonFly only goes up to 24bit/96kHz). The difference between the X3 and the DragonFly as USB-DAC is more like that between two hi-res DAP's (X3 & DX90). The difference between the DragonFly and the built-it Realtek HD chip like that between a hi-res DAP and a cheap mobile phone.
Pros: Bang for the buck
Cons: Easy to lose?
The only other piece I have owned that is similar is a Head Room Total Bithead. Being that the DF is MUCH smaller and does 24/96 I'd say there isn't much comparison at all as far as a computer interface goes. On the other hand the Total Bithead ran on batteries and could be used with my iPod on the go. I liked the Head Room image processing very much, why don't other manufacturers make similar systems? Is it considered a gimmick or a sham of some sort? Anyway... I am very much in the honeymoon phase with the DF and listen to 24/96 material almost exclusively through a brand new pair of Sennheiser Momentums Black which aren't even broken in yet.  So far so good!


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