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AudioQuest DragonFly Black

Rating:
4.21429/5,
  • Audioquest DragonFly Black v1.5 USB Digital-to-Analog ConverterDragonFly Black is a USB digital-to-analog converter (DAC) designed to deliver cleaner clearer more naturally beautiful sound from any computer smartphone or tablet. DragonFly Blacks unique design allows for playback of any file type regardless of resolution. Natively DragonFly Black is capable of decoding 24-bit/96kHz data.DragonFly Black Features:USB Stick-Sized Digital-to-Analog ConverterPlays all music files: MP3 to high-resCompatible with Apple and Windows PCs as well as iOS and Android mobile devices (requires Apple Camera Adapter or Made for Android/OTG adapter)Drives headphones directlyFixed output feeds preamp or AV receiverAsynchronous transfer ensures digital timing integrityMedium output (1.2 volts) drives a wide range of headphones32-bit ESS 9010 DAC with minimum-phase filterAnalog volume controlWhat's in the Box:DragonFly Black v1.5 Asynchronous USB DACTravel PouchFlight ManualAudioquest DragonFly Black DAC Specifications:Supported Operating SystemsApple OS XApple iOSMicrosoft Windows (7 8.1 10)Android

Recent Reviews

  1. Aibo
    Two-face
    Written by Aibo
    Published Sep 8, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - - Great energetic sound with headphones
    - Portable
    - Fuss free
    Cons - - Not as great as line-out DAC
    I was curious for some time now to try it out. For me it's kind of nostalgic because original Dragonfly from 2012. was my first DAC ever - introducing higher quality music from digital files to me. But I changed it for better sounding DACs eventually. Fast forward 7 years later and we have Schiit, Topping, SMSL and so many contenders for the crown in the same price range. So let's get to it...

    Build quality and functionality - is as great as I remember it. Heavy, sturdy and with nice soft touch finish. SMSL Idea for example has nothing on it. It doesn't need drivers because it's an USB 1.0 device but becaouse of that same reason it's capped to 24bit/96kHz. That's fine with me because music with higher rates barely exists on the market and even when we find it it's usually just over-sampled BS.

    SOUND QUALITY - I'll talk about it in two stages:

    1. Line-out with an external amp. It's decently clean, forward sounding with strong but loose bass. You also get decent sound-stage width but not that good depth or layering. Simply said, it's fine but there are much better choices for this kind of money - best of them being Schiit Modi 3 and Khadas Tone Board which are both in a different league, offering much more transparency and layering, better and faster bass, more air... Dragonfly just can't compete with them as a pure DAC in a serious room setup hooked to a good amp and speakers/headphones. It's more in line with the likes of FX-Audio DAC-X6 which is again better controlled in the bass and upper bass region but not as open in the top end. Personally I still prefer X6 for it's more neutral approach but I can imagine someone liking DF's punchiness more.

    2. Headphone out. Hooked directly to any of my headphones (AKG K92, Takstar Pro 82, Samson SR850, Sennheiser CX300II, KZ ZSX...) it's a very different story. There's so much energy and excitement to the sound that I can immediately tell you I preferred it to my Cyrus 8vs2 headphone out, FX Audio X6 headphone out and even to Topping NX4 which was so far my favorite headphone DAC/AMP in this price range. Simply put, AudioQuest did something really good with this amp section making this dongle sound more powerful, muscly and alive than you could ever expect looking its size and reading useless measurement charts (yeah I said it). I don't have any high impedance cans at the moment with me, but with these price appropriate cans it really sounds great, combining both great clarity and energy. And with energy part so often missing on these kind of dongles (SMSL Idea, Sabaj Da3...) this was a really pleasant surprise.

    To sum it up, I would give it 3 stars for SQ if it's used as line-out DAC but it easily deserves 5 stars if used as DAC/AMP for headphones. Now add to that low power consumption, size and fuss free operation without drivers and I think DF is still great choice in certain usage scenarios. I'll be keeping this one attached to my headphones so I can get great sound anywhere I go and to whatever I hook them to.

    ...

      volly likes this.
  2. WilliamLeonhart
    Deserving all the praises
    Written by WilliamLeonhart
    Published Oct 20, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - - Neutral and detailed sound. - Small, easy to use. - Huge SQ improvement at a fraction of your Macbook's price.
    Cons - - No USB extension cable included. - More suitable for easy-to-drive cans than high-impedance ones.
    The Dragonfly doesn’t need any introduction. Everybody was talking about it, every publication was giving it some kind of award or another. Which is, unfortunately, part of the reason I chose to stay away from the Dragonfly: How can something be that good? No, I was so sure that this was just another overhyped product.

    Keeping that thought to myself, I’d managed to stay away from the Dragonfly for 6 years straight. Then a big change happened to my life: the company starts sending me onto long business trips more and more often. The most recent one lasted for 3 months, and for those 90 days of being away from home, the “laptop onboard + great earphones” just became more and more unbearable.

    Then I thought to myself: oh what the heck, let’s get the one that started it all.

    SQ: It is that great

    910.jpg
    2 siblings, 4 years apart.

    3 months later and I’ve now got both the one that started it all (Dragonfly 2012) and the newest one (Dragonfly 1.5). So, while this review is technically for the Dragonfly Black 1.5, it is actually for both.

    Let’s start with the 1.0. I bought it well used at only $40, shipped and PP fee included. For this price it wouldn’t expect it to be a great DAC – the only great DAC that I could ever buy for < $100 was the ODAC, and pretty much no other DAC has ever convinced me otherwise.

    Needless to say, the 1.0 did. The sound actually reminds me of a rougher version of the ODAC + O2 combo: overall it’s a neutral sound with no particular bias towards any frequency range. The improvement over the onboard sound was immediately noticeable. Most significant perhaps were the more “pronounced” and better controlled bass notes, resulting in what can be perceived as “more rhythmic” even though the low ranges bleeding are reduced/eliminated. This was especially important to my Notes Audio AT10 (also known as Simphonio Xcited 2), as in quiet environment the IEMs almost always suffered from bloated bass notes until the Dragonfly came to the rescue.

    56.jpg
    A small thing to plug into your laptop, a big increase in fidelity for your earbuds.

    On the other end of the spectrum, there are a lot of energy in the trebles (more on that later). There are no traces of sibilance nor hissing, but there are moments where I wished the high-ranges were more delicates. Regardless, if you are looking for an entry-level product that helps you pick out “things that weren’t there before”, this is the one DAC/amp you’re looking for. Moonlight Shadows, November Rain, High Hopes were my favourite tracks to re-discover on the Xcited 2 upon buying the Dragonfly.

    As for the mid-ranges I have no complaints and no particular praises for the Dragonfly. It certainly does its jobs well, adding no harshness and no “tinny-sound”-ness to my favorite Pop records. Details are of the right amount, with better gears (Grado RS2e, Simphonio Dragon 2+) you can hear more “feelings” to

    0.5 added: Same package, more greatness

    Yes, the original Dragonfly deserves all of its praise. I could barely ask anything more out of this tiny DAC, especially when I bought it specifically for my more mobile, more transportable headphones like Simphonio Xcited 2, Simphonio Dragon 2+ and Master & Dynamic MH40. You know, the stuffs in-between the audiophile world and the “no I just need it to output sound” world.

    And yet Prime Day came with all its glory. Before I realized it, I already indulged myself with another Audioquest: the Dragonfly Black 1.5.

    As it turned out, Audioquest can stuff even more greatness into the same form factor.

    12.jpg
    The Dragonfly 1.0 already had great control of the bass, but the Dragonfly 1.5 is a much better all-arounder.

    What’s changed? As good as the Dragonfly 1.0 is – especially at the price I paid, it still has its drawbacks. The most noticeable of all is the overall “hardness” – coming from the Aune S16, and before that, the O2 and the M9xx, I’d love to hear a more “natural”, more “subtle” high ends. There’s a certain robotic feeling to the highs. It might the right amount of energy for my favorite Metal tracks, but I’m now 29yo and thus don’t need all that anger: there and then the trebles will feel a bit out of place. It doesn’t ruin the songs, and overall the SQ is still great, but once I realized it's there, I started to think of my ODAC more and more.

    Thankfully the newest Black ironed that out. Once the aggressiveness is tamed, it is much easier to focus on other parts of the frequency ranges and enjoy them. The mids benefit the most. Removing the “robotic” traces in the higher ranges result in much smoother Vocals, saxophone and cello performance, allowing my Grado RS2e to shine through as the ultimate Norah Jones headphones. The bass remains as articulate and as impactful, though at times (on both units), some notes roll off faster than I’d like.

    Though it is not a night and day upgrade, I do feel that this refinement helps to improve the overall musical landscape greatly: the 1.5 offers a more composed, more cohesive experiences across the ranges.
    It is also because of this that the Dragonfly 1.5 turns into a much better source equipment than the 1.0. Part of the reason I bought the Dragonfly were to feed it into the Burson Fun, yet unfortunately all Dragonfly drawbacks became Dragonfly 1.0 + Burson Fun drawbacks.

    23.jpg

    The next improvement: with the Dragonfly, maybe you wouldn’t need your own Burson Fun. On the Dragonfly 1.0, most of the times I have my IEMs at around 30-40. On the 1.5, basically I only need 0-10 (on a scale of 100 steps). The 1.0 can comfortably drive my HD58x, but the 1.5 does that with extreme ease: ~20 would be way more than enough. Hell, even the HD6xx poses no challenge.

    Even the Back isn’t perfect

    There's only so much you can ask for from a USB-pen-sized DAC/amp. With cans like HD6xx and Q701, the 1.5’s own shortcomings became quite evident. Volume isn’t a concern here, but comparing the Black 1.5 to my bigger, more expensive amp/DACs (Burson Play or Aune S16 + Burson Fun) is just like comparing onboard sound to the Black itself: the high ranges feel more grainy and the low ranges not as tight. The Play handles complex passges on the HD6xx with ease, which is something the Dragonly, with all of its efforts, cannot. It's also easier to pick out microdetails on the Play than on the HD6xx. Lastly, those more expensive DAC/amps have better soundstage (bigger, more depth, more width) and better layering of instruments.

    Even with low-impedance cans, soundstage and imaging isn’t the Dragonflies’ strongest suits. Instruments feel very much as if they were placed to the left and to the right, so it isn’t quite immersive as my desktop DAC/amps.

    4c.jpg
    It does offer a decent listening experiences, but for more demanding cans, I'd still stick to my bigger amps.

    The final deduction points have nothing to do with music. First, I’m a bit disappointed that there’s no USB extension cable included. While the 1.5 is not as heavy as the 1.0, added weight from the headphones’ plug (especially Grado’s) leaves me worried for my laptop’s USB sockets. Next, as you’ve seen from the photos, the Dragonfly 1.0’s exterior finishes will wear out with use. Even my new Dragonfly 1.5 already has scratches on it. I’m starting to feel that this is unavoidable, these tiny DACs are meant to be taken out of my backpack in the morning, stay on my work desk till 6pm and stay in my backpack for the rest of the day.

    King of the pen-DACs

    It certainly helps that all Dragonflies are so small and extremely easy to use (plug and play, no drivers needed). The 1.5 even supports OTG output for iOS and Android devices. The only task left is to convince people to overcome the inconvenience of plugging in something that their laptop already has.

    j43.jpg
    Sometimes it's hard to imagine something so small could bring with it such a huge improvement.

    For years, I could never be bothered to overcome that minor inconvenience. For me, “real audio” had never come in a thumb-sized package. And yet, the criminally low price of $100, the Dragonfly 1.5 achieves what I previously thought was impossible: putting the same “naturally neutral and detailed” sound into the compact USB-pen factor. The Dragonfly 1.0, while audibly behind its brother in terms of subtlety, still offer greatly improved sound quality and thus should be the ideal first step into the “real audio” world.

    So, no overhyping here. The praises are well deserved.

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    1. unnamed.jpg
      volly likes this.
  3. suburbanite
    Warm Source Component?
    Written by suburbanite
    Published Dec 31, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Ultraportable
    Works with Windows and macOS
    Totally plug n' play- no drivers, no software, no nothing
    Cons - Warm Sound Signature
    Easy to Lose
    This review is for the AudioQuest Dragonfly "black." To disambiguate which DragonFly is which, you can read Audioquests's blurb:
    OK, disambiguation addressed, I'll start my review by saying that like most anyone who's ever bought a DragonFly, I bought mine to bypass my onboard sound processor because with earphones, the sound was polluted with noise.

    What I knew but completely forgot was that a weak source component can cool down the sound, thereby making unbalanced/warm headphones/earphones sound flatter which is more to my liking.

    This was the case with what I use, that being:
    • Sennheiser HD 25-1 ii
    • Sony XBA-H1 (the base model, that has only two drivers)
    • Etymotic HF5
    Of course the (DragonFly) Black brought out the warmth in the HD 25's and the XBA-H1's, my saying "of course" because those are known to have warm sound signatures.

    What I didn't expect was for my HF5's to gain to much warmth as to lose some of their clarity.

    My first reaction was to blame the Black for this and to resent AudioQuest for having "sold out" to the bass-hungry masses, and... that's still my reaction now. I still suspect AQ designed the Black with more warmth in response to customer feedback that the earlier DragonFly versions didn't bring out massive bass in the earphones that Apple includes with its iOS devices.

    Also, my admittedly limited experience does include my beloved HT Omega eClaro, which I've reviewed on this site. I've long felt that the eClaro has a cool sound signature and I still do, so that's my point of reference.

    Thus, my review is one of my griping about what I perceive to be the excessive bass delivery of the DragonFly Black.

    As always, though, you gotta test drive it yourself to form an opinion. On that note- I'm in the Silicon Valley, so I suppose you can try mine if we meet at a Starbucks or something. No, not trying to sell mine, and if you want one, you can get a Black or a Red by ordering from Best Buy, so they're not hard to get.
  4. IngAirPeh
    Put your headphones on steroids ;)
    Written by IngAirPeh
    Published May 10, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - - small form factor
    - easy to use (plug and play, no drivers required!)
    - great sound quality and wide soundstage
    - works great with smartphones, too (iOS and Android)
    - outstanding value for money
    Cons - - only 3,5mm output, no other options like RCA-/Chinch
    I am giving this review since this is my first dedicated DAC for listening pleasure only. I recently started out on my "audiophile journey" by getting a pair of decent headphones (beyerdynamic dt 880 pro, 250ohms) plus a headphone amp (little dot mk2 with, with voskhod 6ZH1P-EV and 6N6P-i power tubes).

    At first I was very happy with my headphones and the amp in conjunction with my macbook air early 2015 as my sound source. But then a friend told me to think about getting a DAC for improving the sound even further. He uses the fiio e10 and so i tried the e10k. I was not happy with the sound of this DAC at all, neither used directly with my Beyerdynamic headphones nor in combination with my LD MK2 amp. The LD MK2 tamed the high frequencies of the Beryers in a very pleasant way and the little dot made everything sound very "hard" and "edgy" and there was not a big overall improvement over my macbook airs internal output imho.

    So i went on looking for further options. Since i am a music producer, too I thought why not invest into an new audio interface with great converters. so i ordered the audient id14 interface which uses Burr Brown converters. I did a decent job, but again, there was not a big improvement as far as my ears were concerned that could justify spending 239€ for this interface.

    So i went back to look for a DAC only option once more. So I found the Dragonfly Black version 1.5 and ordered it to compare it to the audient id14 and the internal output of my macbook air.

    What can I say? I was simply blown away by the performance of this little beast! Not that it colours the sound in a certain way, absolutely not. It simply does just what it was designed for: Great conversion.

    It sounds neutral in a very pleasant way. I used it only with my headphones at first and then plugged my Little Dot MK2 in between this and my Beyerdynamic cans. THIS combination blew my mind!!!

    I listened to my favourite rap album of all time - The 18th letter by Rakim as FLAC. The soundstage was amazing. I could easily hear all FX used, an incredible seperation of instruments, the attack on drums and basslines was amazing. Everything came to life so much more than without the dragonfly.

    Then I went on to Gregory Porters "Liquid Spirit" album. I felt like he was standing right in front of me and i was lgiven a private concert.

    Next I listened to Joss Stones "Mind, Body & Soul" album. The sound stage was huge, instruments came from everywhere across the room :)! Joss` voice was so intimate, you could hear and feel every breath and this certain "airyness" in her voice was translated so well by the dragonfly that i almost cried and laughed at the same time!

    Finally I can do nothing but HIGHLY recommend this DAC to anybody who is starting out listening to music in an audiophile way. The Dragonfly itself already sounds great but in conjunction with a nice headphone amp = match made in heaven!

    I am very, very pleased with my purchase and want to thank the guys at AudioQuest for developing such an amazing product at an affordable price. I paid 88€ for mine.
  5. Dewan7825
    Superb Quality Sound
    Written by Dewan7825
    Published Dec 22, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Compactness, sound quality, no need to charge
    Cons - Could not found any
    This is really a must buy for an iPhone owner who likes to listen high quality music on iPhone. I am using it with my iPhone 7 Plus and the sound quality it improves will surely blow your mind. I know it is not that good like Chord Mojo and I am also owner of Mojo too but on the go it is very hard to manage it when DF Black will give you full flexibility because of it's compactness and it is really very pocket friendly in terms of pricing. Go for it.
     
    I also uploaded a small unboxing video on youtube. You can watch it here:
     
    https://youtu.be/jLGpTH6vkdM
     
    Thanks...
    1. swannie007
      That was a review!? OK then.
      swannie007, Dec 22, 2016
    2. Dewan7825
      chicken beer, thanks for those motivational words. There is flood of information already available why would I repeat and copy paste them. I am just trying to be honest and keep it short... 
      Dewan7825, Dec 23, 2016
    3. Rearwing
      chicken beer, if you don't have anything good to say, best not to say anything.
      Rearwing, Dec 24, 2016
  6. kwirky88
    Good amplification, bad noise issues
    Written by kwirky88
    Published Aug 16, 2016
    2.5/5,
    Pros - Lots of amplification for size, (kind of) works with Android
    Cons - Intermittently has horrible digital noise after an hour of use
    Plenty of amplification.  Also works great as a line out from my lap top to my integrated amplifier.  Sometimes, after an hour of use, I hear horrible digital noise/jittering.  The music is completely unrecognizable.  I'm going to contact the manufacturer because I think I need to send it in for warranty.  Issue is more prominent on android.  Doesn't feel warm to the touch when it's happening so I don't think it's overheating.
     
    When it works I'm very pleased.  When it doesn't (which is almost all of the time on Android after an hour of use) it's useless.
     
    Canadian resellers don't sell it at a very fair price (much more than after USD exchange).  Amazon.com won't ship it to Canada.
    1. Pastapipo
      Apparently you've got yourself a faulty pair, that's very unfortunate. However I don't think the review section of head-fi is a good place to write about broken equipment. Maybe it is a good idea to get a replacement first and then write your impressions of Dragonfly's sound quality. Good luck!
      Pastapipo, Aug 16, 2016
      Caldrumr and FastAndClean like this.
    2. Matthew Rudy
      mine does the same thing =(
      Matthew Rudy, Sep 1, 2016
  7. Mightygrey
    Brilliant mobile/portable solution that works better than expected as standalone DAC
    Written by Mightygrey
    Published Aug 5, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Form-factor; portability; separation + clarity; lack of noise
    Cons - Form-factor when plugged directly into computer; lack of on-board controls; build.
    Got the new Dragonfly 1.5 Black mainly as a solution for transit and working on-the-go, and noticed an appreciable difference in quality immediately when using DT770 (80 ohm) and Zero Audio Carbo Tenores. Running it through an LGG4 running FLAC/ALAC via USB Audio Pro through a generic OTG cable (more on this later).
     
    First thing you notice - it's LOUD! Of course it is, it amplifies. So don't be like me and turn it down when you first try it out. Next? Clearer. Greater separation and bass becomes less flabby. I mainly listen to rock, and there's much better attack on guitars. The noise floor is non-existent to my ears anyway.
     
    It stacks up pretty well as a standalone DAC too, using its line-out functionality (source volume @ 100%) to feed both my Little Dot 1+ tube amp for my Grado GH1s and my Asgard 2 for DT770s. It's size/portability is it's selling factor, and for $160 (AUD) it's worth every cent. I can't fault it for performance for the price, as well as convenience. I shouldn't complain about the lack of on-board controls or flexibility given it's simplicity is its selling-point, but hey. I feel like it really shines with the Carbo Tenore IEMs, and this pairing has really stepped-up my portable game! 
     
    Build-wise it's developed a slight 'wobble' with the internal components feeling ever-so loose inside the (very well built) chassis, but main gripe is that it feels like it's an accident waiting to happen...when sticking straight out of my laptop's USB. While it may look like a thumb-drive, thumb-drives don't have to bear the weight of a cable. And my Grado cable is like a garden hose - meaning it feels pretty precarious sticking out of there and might snap. Audioquest really should ship this with the Dragontail extender as standard, but any old USB 2.0 extender will do the trick.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Wilderness
      See the instructions, too, on the Audioquest website.  There are a few easy settings you will need to enable on your computer, but Audioquest's instructions are easy to follow.  Enjoy
      Wilderness, Aug 7, 2016
    3. Wilderness
      I am curious about how the Black works with a car audio system.  I have the Red, and it sounds awful with my iPad Pro when connected to my car's audio system.  Does the Black work well with a car's audio system?
      Wilderness, Aug 7, 2016
    4. Mightygrey
      No USB in my car so I'm not able to help out I'm afraid. Still rocking a 6-stack CD-player!
      Mightygrey, Aug 7, 2016

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