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AudioQuest DragonFly Red

Rating:
4.91667/5,
  • The size and shape of a USB thumb-drive, DragonFly Red is a digital-to-analog converter with a USB plug at one end and a 3.5mm mini-jack at the opposite end. Compatible with Apple OS X and Windows (7, 8.1, 10) PCs, DragonFly Red can be plugged into a USB port to bypass the host computer's compromised audio circuitry and deliver cleaner, clearer, more naturally beautiful sound to headphones, powered speakers, or complete audio systems. Thanks to its low-noise, high-efficiency Microchip microcontroller, DragonFly Red draws extremely low power from the host, enabling seamless compatibility with Apple iOS and Android mobile devices. DragonFly Red requires no additional drivers and plays all digital files-from MP3 to high-res (with native resolutions up to 24 bits and 96kHz). It features StreamlengthTM asynchronous USB code, which ensures low jitter, low resource load, minimal packet errors, world-class audio playback, and reliable connectivity between DragonFly and any computing device compliant with USB Host Mode. DragonFly Red's 32-bit ESS 9016 DAC chip uses a sophisticated minimum-phase digital filter to provide more naturally detailed and dynamic music, while the bit-perfect digital volume control enables maximum resolution regardless of volume setting: With DragonFly Red connected to a PC or mobile device, adjusting the host's volume control will adjust DF Red's onboard volume. With an output of 2.1 volts, DragonFly Red delivers enough power to successfully drive all preamplifier, integrated amplifier, or receiver inputs, as well as a wide range of today's headphones, including power-hungry models. AudioQuest's free Desktop Device Manager application allows for software upgrades to meet future technological advancements. With DragonFly Red, music lovers can enjoy an emotionally compelling listening experience, at home or on the go, with the computer or mobile device of their choice.
Jameshillbilly likes this.

Recent Reviews

  1. unknownuser
    Good enough
    Written by unknownuser
    Published Nov 4, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - - could be a solution to tame overly bright headphones
    - small, plugs directly to USB port so if you want to avoid cable mess then it's a pro
    - good value
    Cons - - no big deal but you can't turn off the LED or I missed it
    M50x sounded harsh, overly bright depending on the recording so instead getting rid of the M50x which is otherwise okay all arounder from games to music I thought that maybe getting rid of the E10k will solve the issue. And it did,DragonFly Red tamed the treble quite well and mostly removed the harshness from cymbals, piano. Now it's not fatiguing as it was with the E10k however the E10k had more bass but I rather give up a little bit bass than listen the too metallic cymbals, also instrument separation is better with the DragonFly Red and the overall sound is more balanced and now just bright not ear piercing bright. I don't think that the M50x can sound any better than this, more or less that's it. So I think that the DragonFly Red+M50x combo is good enough setup. However it has too much power for the M50x, it's not that quiet with the Windows System volume at just 1, 3 is comfortable listening volume and 4 is loudish and anything above volume 5 and it's very loud. You can look at this positively, probably it can drive most headphones.
      hgpardo and rav88 like this.
    1. hgpardo
      Same here with Audio Technica MSR7. DF Red tames the highs and improves bass and mids. Same for hybrid IEMs like FLC 8n or Jays q-jays or iBasso IT01.
      hgpardo, Feb 6, 2019
      unknownuser likes this.
  2. Basshead Paul
    Amazing sound quality for price
    Written by Basshead Paul
    Published Sep 10, 2017
    5.0/5,
    This little DAC produces better sound quality than products costing two to three times as much. Its almost like having a desktop audio system shrunk down to a tiny Gizmo that fits in your pocket.

    The best part of this product is the DAC, not the amp, so it sounds even better if you pair it with a good dedicated headphone amp... Especially if your headphones are hard to drive. The Dragonfly Red is capable of driving up to 300 ohm headphones, but not necessarily as well as a dedicated headphone amp would.
  3. selfdude
    Fantastic Addition
    Written by selfdude
    Published Jun 30, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sound Quality, Portability, Appearance
    Cons - None
    I love this little thing I really do. I bought it for myself as a present for a professional milestone. I can't tell you that it is worth almost 200 bucks, that's your call, but I don't regret the purchase.
     
    Pros:
     
    Sound Quality- Versus my work PC headphone output it's night and day, no more noise, anemic bass, and almost mono soundstage. Versus MacBook Pro headphone Out definite improvement especially in bass and separation. Versus iPhone 6s headphone out a subtle improvement, slightly fuller and more defined bass, better guitar separation.
     
    Portability- Some could argue that a high quality PC sound card would have improved my PC sound cheaper. Fair enough but I certainly couldn't have easily unplugged that sound card and used it on the MacBook Pro or the iPhone 6s. I have no problem folding over the Dragonfly and required Lightning to USB connector into my pocket.
     
    Appearance- This thing looks the business nice shiny red with a not subtle glowing dragonfly.
     
    Cons: 
     
    Really none. Shy of a bit of heating up (less than the iPhone itself) this thing does not disappoint.
     
    Comparison:
     
    The only other dedicated DAC I have is my RME FireFace audio interface. Compared to that the Dragonfly it isn't really in the same league. The RME sounds like I'm sitting in the studio with the band. But I can't pack a full rack space device in my pocket. 
     
    A little about my setup:
     
    My primary listening is lossless files on my iPhone 6s >> Apple Lightning to USB 3 camera connector >> Audioquest Dragonfly Red >> Sennheiser HD380 Pro (with a swapped out cable)
     
    The Apple Lightning to USB 3 is a must have for me. It allows for the charging of the phone while listening. It is slightly wider than the standard connector but that doesn't really matter to me because the phone is still twice as wide as the connector. Being able to charge is a must for travel in my book. 
     
    A little about my musical tastes:
     
    I tend to listen loud. I listen to mostly alternative rock and mostly hard guitar centric stuff but not metal, think 311, Smiths or Less Than Jake. I also listen to some more synth oriented stuff; Depeche Mode, NIN, Prodigy. Occasional hip hop mostly Tribe Called Quest.
  4. drykoke
    Top-notch portable DAC
    Written by drykoke
    Published Jun 19, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Open, clear and detailed sound; can drive difficult headphones
    Cons - Poor compatibility with Android
    Six weeks into ownership, and I still find myself completely impressed by the sound quality.
     
    Headphones: Sennheiser HD600, Sony XBA-H3 IEM
    Comparator equipment: Cambridge Audio DAC Magic XS, IPad Air, a variety Android tablets and phones, Windows 7 and 10 laptops.
     
    This is the best that I have ever heard my HD600 sound - the only DAC/Amp where I feel that the Sennheiser veil has been banished, and I can truly hear right into the music.
     
    The tone and timbre is spot on, the sound flows naturally - I have had the fortune to hear some of my music on expensive set ups at hifi dealers, and in comparison, the Dragonfly Red gets many of the things absolutely right for a fraction of the cost.
     
    Caveats:
    1) Headphones that have a highly resolving midrange/treble with open spacious sound seem to benefit more from Dragonfly Red; I have some less expensive headphones where I don't get that much joy.
    2) Compatibility with Android is hit or miss, I strongly suggest try before you buy, otherwise you might end up disappointed. Partial work-around with Onkyo HF Player and USB Audio Pro Player (UAPP) on Android but you have to fork out extra cash for this, and you can't get Spotify streaming. Personally, for the price that AQ are charging for Dragonfly Red, I would have thought AQ could have arranged discounted or free UAPP for the unlucky customers who are struggling to get the DAC/Amp working with their Android devices.
    Either that, or AQ should be more upfront on their website and declare that Android users should fully test Dragonfly Red before buying because compatibility is uncertain.
      rav88 likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. twister6
      What Android phones/tablets did you test it with?  And what android version are they running?
      twister6, Jun 19, 2016
    3. drykoke
      This is what I have found in my previous postings:
      Good - works with IPad and CCK; also hassle free with Windows 7 and 10.
       
      Bad - Android issues, all running Android 5.0 or 5.1.1. (None of my Android KitKat phones, Lenovo, Huawei are able to work with Dragonfly Red)
       
      Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 - works only with UAPP. Drop outs and crackles with Onkyo HFP. Spotify - no sound at all.
       
      Doogee X5 Pro Android Chinese phone - very soft with Spotify, lots of crackles. I did not bother testing further.
       
      Xiaomi 4S - acceptable volume and no crackles with Spotify and You Tube if using sensitive earphones, but too soft with Senn HD600. Works perfectly with UAPP and Onkyo HFP because the app takes over the volume control.
      drykoke, Jun 20, 2016
    4. abm0
      It's a bit funny to see someone complain about having to buy an 8-dollar player app while on the other hand they're more than happy to shell out 10 bucks or more _every_month_ for a subscription-based music service that they have to pay continuously whether they're discovering new music every month or not, and that restricts their technical capabilities for playing back the music. All this while downloadable music is still available to buy from places like Bandcamp (at any quality level you want, BTW) or Google Play Music (320-MP3), where you get the files on your disk and then copy them wherever you need to copy them and play them back with whatever you want.
      abm0, Sep 25, 2016
  5. crazywipe
    A Tiny Killer DAC That works even with your coffee machine!
    Written by crazywipe
    Published Jun 19, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Upgrade in Detail, Clarity, SoundStage width and depth.
    Cons - Could use a bit more power? (maybe I am asking too much)
    IMG_4736.jpg
    Disclaimer: I am no way associated with Audioquest, I bought the Dragonfly RED with my own money and this review reflect my honest opinion after 1 month of daily usage. I am more an audio enthusiast than an audiophile, so take this in consideration. Plus, English is not my native language and to write this review (my first one) took time and patience. Happy Reading!!!
     
     
    Introduction:
    The Audioquest Dragonfly RED (DFR from now) is the third incarnation of the classic Dragonfly that was introduced in 2012. There are big changes with the DFR, the major upgrade is the compatibility with all the iOS device. The internal DAC is upgraded too, we got a highly regarded ESS Sabre 9016 chip inside. The Power Output is set at 2,1 Volt, very good value for a tiny device like this, considering It will drain (just) 35 ma of power.
     
     
    Build Quality and Accessories:
    The product is very well built and comes in a very nice box, the unboxing was really a pleasure. The Red color is made of a glossy-shiny paint. In contrast the DFB (yes I got the DFB first, but I returned it) was matte finish with a different feel in the hand. All in all, The RED screams more quality, and It's more classy and I like it.
    To store your precious Dragonfly RED, you got a nice leather case with the Dragonfly logo on it, also very nice touch.
     
     
     
     
    Sound Quality With Various Headphones:
    My previous DAC was The FIIO ALPEN and I was not very impressed to be honest. Of course the Amp section was very good, and with 3 gain stage, you can almost drive any headphone on the market with good results. On the DAC section I was a bit more sceptic, I really cannot spot much of a difference between my Macbook Air headphone out and the ALPEN. After some time and ear training, the difference was clear, the ALPEN was more warmer and a bit more open sounding, but again, not a night and day difference.
    When I got the DFR I was impressed from the start. This device really unlock the true potential of your headphone. The results are stunning with easy and medium to drive headphone, and very good with hard to drive cans.
     
    The first headphone I tested was the community favorite Audio-Technica M50x. The result was impressive. The M50x sounded almost like an open headphone, soundstage was dramatically improved in width with a better detail retrieval. Gone was the slightly boomy bass and the harshness in the treble, the sound was much more controlled and smooth. 
    Usually I like to listen some Math-Rock, a genre with nice clean guitars and fast technical drums (check This Town Need Guns). The sound of the DFR was effortless, It can handle even the most busy part with almost no congestion, clean guitars sounded crystal clear, drums were life-like.
    From this test I can say that the DFR is pretty natural and smooth sounding, you hear pretty much your headphone with very slight coloration. The M50x has a very refined driver inside that "scales" with better equipment.
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Second Test was more hard: Sennheiser HD600
    This headphone as many of you already know, is a 300 ohm impedance one. Not extremely hard to drive in my opinion, it can go pretty loud with a simple amplification. Of course to unlock the full potential a tube amp is recommended. 
    Even with the HD600 the DFR in a word: Deliver!
    For the first time I can use the HD600 with my Iphone with the DFR and get an amazing sound quality on the go. The maximum volume is still high and sound is very refined. With the Fiio Alpen the sound is a bit more bassier and veiled, the DFR is smooth but at the same time very clear. The hd600 is a mellow headphone with balanced sound, usually it doesn't have an immediate WOW factor because of the sound-signature. So I was not expecting the WOW factor with the DFR. What I got is a very pleasant smooth sound that impress mostly in long listening session. Do you like to rock-out quickly? No problem! The hd600 is not a sleepy cans and can handle rock and metal very good, and so with the DFR.
    All in all, nice pairing! 
     
    Fostex T50 RP Mk3
    The mk3's is planar magnetic headphone and hard to drive. I was expecting the same performance of the HD600 but it's not happening. Sure you can drive them with the DFR and sometimes I do, but I think the DFR is a bit short on power in this case. So the pairing is just average in my opinion. 
     
    Various iem: Hifiman re400, Yamaha Eph100, Shure se215, Sennheiser IE80, Mee M6pro, Xiaomi Pistons 3. I will be short and sweet. These iem's are very simple to drive and the DFR really boost up the sound quality, I got no hiss. Highly Recommended.
    IMG_4734.jpg
     
     
     
    Compared to other DACS:
    Audioquest Dragonfly Black: As i said I got the DFB and I returned it. The main difference between the two is the Output power, the DFB is much less powerful and can drive only portable cans and iems in my opinion. It was struggling with my HD600 where the DFR is brilliant. The Sound-Signature is more bassier on the DFB - a bit like the Fiio Alpen, honestly I like less coloration so this is another point where the RED is superior. 
     
    Fiio Alpen: It was my first DAC and It's a good one but not outstanding. It's more powerful in the amp section than the DFR but the DAC section is one league below. The DFR has more clarity and It's more balanced overall with a better soundstage.
     
     
    Conclusions:
    The DFR is a brilliant little DAC that can drive almost any headphone with awesome sound quality. For the first time (for me) it was obvious that I got a better sound. The sound-signature is very natural and smooth with amazing soundstage depth and overall clarity and detail retrival. It is impressive as a computer DAC alone, take the fact that you can hook the DFR to any Iphone and turn it in a Hi-FI DAP, that is killer dude! It's like to get 2 device in one. The only drawback for me is that I would love to drive my T50RP mk3 with it! Maybe the next Dragonfly will output 4 volt? I hope!
    Kudos to Gordon Rankin and Audioquest for this magic little Dragonfly!
    Ps: Don't try to connect it to your coffee machine, It won't work, I was kidding!
      rav88 and CactusPete23 like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. ContractorHei
      Nice review! I was wondering how loud you've had your (master) volume generally with the HD600?
      ContractorHei, Sep 30, 2016
    3. crazywipe
      Usually 50/70% for moderate listening level. 80/90% When I want to rock-out :)
      crazywipe, Feb 10, 2017
    4. Vargulf
      Great review, thanks! I've got the ALPEN and similarly wasn't disappointed/wasn't impressed. I only need to drive AT ESW9a's and Shure 535's so this sounds like the device I'm after. How quickly does it drain a phone battery?
      Vargulf, Jul 28, 2018
  6. Stereocilia
    The best price to performance ratio in HiFi under $200.00
    Written by Stereocilia
    Published May 4, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Discernable improvements over DragonFly V1.2
    Cons - None at this price point
    Nobody said HiFi was cheap, spending $200 dollars on HiFi doesn't get you very far these days. The AudioQuest DragonFly RED is one of those rare exceptions, I think it's the best value on the market today. The second best value in HiFi for under $200 is the UpTone Audio USB REGEN. Put these two products together and your grooving your way towards the HiFI summit. RED is significantly better than the previous version, more drive, better resolution, better sound-staging, the difference in SQ between the old and new version is easily discernible. I can't compare the RED to other DAC's other than the DragonFly V1.2 and some older apple products. I don't know how it sounds compared to higher priced offerings on the market and I don't care, I'm good with this. I like the small size and versatility of the RED and I like the price. Red DragonFly is slaying it   
    20160504_133154-1.jpg
    1. View previous replies...
    2. ldp216
      What are you using this combination with? What source and into headphones or active speakers or what?! I though the UpTone Audio USB REGEN only worked with USB cables... so, how do you have this thing connected with the DrangonFly's 3.5mm (1/8) port? What's the difference between something like the "USB REGEN" & say a product like The "iFi iUBSPower?"
      ldp216, May 7, 2016
    3. Stereocilia
      The photo above shows the UpTone Audio USB REGEN with the power cable the USB cable is not shown in photo. http://uptoneaudio.com/products/usb-regen
       
      I'm using a Surface Pro 4 Intel Core m3 (fanless) tablet to stream Tidal tracks (Flac 1411 kbps - Lossless) (16/44.1 khz) into the UpTone Audio USB REGEN the DragonFly RED sends a 2.1 Volt signal via Mini to RCA, Audioquest cables into the rockin' WooAudio WA6SE. I'm using the HiFi MAN HE-400 with stock cable, Grado GS1000e, HiFi MAN HE-300 with stock cable. for this review. My Schiit Audio Valhalla 2 with Super Cryo Reflector 6N23P-EV was also used for this review. Guess you could say I'm in the Mid-Fi range.
       
      Woo Audio states that Signal/Noise: 93 dB is the limit of WA6SE, my ears are telling me that the DragonFly RED is tapping that Woo Audio potential at or close to the limits. For me the question was do I go with the easy cheaper source to save cash to buy rare NOS tubes or spend the money on a DAC with a much higher price tag. The world of DAC's is constantly changing, the chipsets are constantly changing. It seems like every year a new DAC product is labeled "revolutionary" to the industry. But what about the price? That fancy DAC you got yourself five years ago, is now 5 revolutionary products behind the times. Anyway I went the cheaper route with my source and I don't feel cheated. I don't know anything about the iFi USBPower products, I noticed that iFi Audio products have X-Bass and 3D switches that spells gimmicks to me.       
      Stereocilia, May 9, 2016
    4. Foolwolf
      I can agree that this nifty little thing is quite the bomb. I have now paired my Samsung S7, USB Audio Player Pro (highly recommended espacially for S7 owners!) and I have thrown Tomahawk, Onkyo IEM, Philips Fidelio X2, OPPO PM3 and various IEMS like Yamaha EP1000 etc. This little thing is really great. I haven't compared it that much to my HA-2 yet, but the HA-2 feels like it is slightly more of everything, but not by much. Have to do some more quality testing though. Sound memory and all that...
      Foolwolf, May 10, 2016

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