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AudioQuest DragonFly v1.2 USB DAC

Rating:
3.28571/5,
  • AudioQuest DragonFly v1.2: Now With Even Better Sound, Just as Easy to Use, Plus It's More Affordable! Plug the DragonFly 1.2 Directly Into Your Laptop and Listen Through Your Headphones, Run a Mini-to-RCA Cable from the AudioQuest DragonFly to Your Stereo System and Hear Your Music Come to Life, or Connect the DragonFly 1.2 to Any Powered Desktop Speakers for Incredible Sound Quality While You Work The AudioQuest DragonFly 1.2: Winner of Product of the Year Awards from Almost Every High-End Audio Magazine in the World! "I can think of no more recommendable product in digital audio." - Art Dudley, Stereophile The new DragonFly added the color, texture, body, and soul that the older model missed...the v1.2 added a richer, more colorful midband, improved spatial abilities, and a greater sense of ease. Cool stuff!" - Stephen Mejias, Stereophile, March 2014 The audiophile community is buzzing about the new AudioQuest DragonFly v1.2. This tiny USB Digital-to-Analog Converter now features upgraded circuitry. Just like v1.0, Dragonfly v1.2 connects to the USB jack on any Mac- or Windows-based computer and delivers vastly superior sound quality. Stuffed with state-of-the-art features, DragonFly provides unbeatable sound quality. Dragonfly v1.2 has a more direct signal path, yielding huge dividends in transparency and immediacy. The power supply has also been reworked, now more efficient and powerful, DragonFly v1.2 has superior "grip" and even greater dynamic contrast. It's also extremely affordable and incredibly portable. Still incredibly easy to use, DragonFly installs quickly and pain-free. You could be listening to better audio in minutes, put a DragonFly v1.2 in your system and upgrade your listening experience. "The Dragonfly Is dead, long live the Dragonfly v1.2. AudioQuest has managed to do something no other company has yet accomplished which is to swat their own product off our Greatest Bits list by delivering what

Recent Reviews

  1. Mark81
    Bad experience with this Dragonfly DAC.
    Written by Mark81
    Published Jan 5, 2018
    1.0/5,
    Pros - Sound is good i guess.
    Cons - Extremely loud headphone volume.
    I used to plug this into my PC and listen trough my speakers. Sound quality seemed good and all. Then I paused the playback and plugged in my headphones. Pressed play and about 150DB comes blarring out for 1 second before I can unplug the damn thing.
    Came to the conclusion that when plugging in headphones the volume goes up times 10. This is a dangerous device and now I have light hearing damage because of this thing. Worst purchase of my life, I hope they solve this or put a big warning label on top because this i just really bad. So be warned.
      Tolovana likes this.
    1. FastAndClean
      do you know what volume control means?
      maybe you should lower the volume next time, there is nothing wrong with this dac, you are using it wrong
      FastAndClean, Jan 7, 2018
  2. LazyListener
    Best portable USB DAC/AMP I've heard in its price range
    Written by LazyListener
    Published Apr 7, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - neutral tonality; detailed; smooth; clean; clear; very good resolution; great sense of space and ambience; very good sound localization and dynamics
    Cons - could use a bit more bass impact but not really lacking here, just neutral
    Below is a review and comparison against a few other USB DAC/AMPs in the same price range.  Review pasted from a post I made in the Sennheiser HD 598 Impressions thread.
     
     
    I've had my 598s for a few months now, and have been using them mostly with my iphone 6 and the E10K.  I've never been all that impressed with the E10K.  I think my iphone 6 sounds better.  Anyway, the E10K, I guess is decent for what it is and its price, but nothing about it really stands out as anything more than "decent" in terms of sound quality.  My primary reason for wanting to upgrade was that I think the E10K sounds a bit bright overall and a bit sharp at times in vocals, and lacks bass punch.  The bass boost helps with punch but sounds a bit muddy.  Vocals can sound a bit grainy at times.
     
    So in comes the Dragonfly 1.2.  Blows the E10K away in every aspect, except for maybe volume.  I actually compared the Dragonfly 1.2 against a few other usb dac/amps (ibasso d-zero mk2, audioengine D3, cambridge audio dacmagic XS, and Meridian Explorer).  The Dragonfly 1.2 sounds better than all of them overall, with a noticeably higher level of accuracy and refinement to the sound.  Here's a  breakdown of what I liked and didn't like about each:
     
    Audioquest Dragonfly (DF) 1.2:  Tested at 24/96 mode with Spotify 320Kbps files.  Excels in all aspects of the music.  Very neutral, clean, crisp, and smooth sound, top to bottom.  Very good resolution and accuracy.  Wide, spacious, 3 dimensional sound.  Very good detail but never harsh and always smooth.  Very good localization of sounds within the soundstage.  Very good dynamics, soft to loud.  Very good transparency.  Beautiful layering to the sound.  You hear everything, nothing is lost, and sounds just flow naturally into and out of the soundscape.  The only negative, and I'm nitpicking here, is that it could use a bit more bass impact for modern bass-driven, rhythmic genres like EDM, metal, and hip-hop.  It has a good neutral bass with some impact, but considering the 598s bass is light to neutral, it's not the best choice for those that listen to these types of genres.  Then again, neither are the 598s, so really I think the dragonfly has a very neutral and accurate bass, and any lack of bass drive or rhythm is more a fault of the 598s than the dragonfly, IMO.
     
    When testing, I don't have a sequence of songs I listen to.  I just go with whatever I feel like, but I tend to pick songs I'm very familiar with and vary the songs between different genres to get a broad picture of the equipment's abilities.  When I plugged in the dragonfly, I was so excited to hear what it sounded like that I just hit play on the first song on the screen.  It was a slower Ed Sheeran song, with his vocals featured and of course guitar.  The vocals really stood out.  Airy, transparent, as if he was singing right in front of my face.  Don't recall Ed's vocals ever sounding this good before.  Janis Joplin, Woodstock Experience, was a showcase of not only her vocals, but the spacious and wide soundstage.  The Dragonfly 1.2 does a superb job of reproducing the ambience and nuances of the recording.  The more I listened to the DF, the more it revealed how excellent of a DAC it is, and the more I appreciated what it could do.  Percussion instruments especially come through with impact and accuracy.  High hats and cymbals sound more realistic than any other DAC/AMP I've heard.
     
    Audioengine D3:  Tested at 24/96 mode with Spotify 320Kbps files.  I fell in love with this DAC/AMP right away, primarily because I was looking for more bass and less brightness than the E10K, and the D3 has the most fun and rhythmic presentation of all I tried.  The bass on the D3 really stands out in terms of impact and it's fairly tight overall.  It changed the character of the 598s from a headphone that's better for slower music to one that's actually fun to listen to with faster, bass-driven music like EDM and hip-hop.  The juicy bass also improves the experience with classic rock and other genres as well.  I spent a good hour and half just listening to various tracks for the pure fun of it.
     
    That being said, the D3 loses out in many other aspects of the musical presentation.  For one, its organic, warm, bassy tonality, comes at the expense of some detail, resolution, and transparency.  Some sounds get lost in the music.  Treble is far too relaxed.  Dynamics are poor (sounds are compressed into almost the same volume).  Soundstage is rather small and compressed as well.  Surprisingly, vocals on some tracks don't sound as smooth as the DF 1.2, and have a certain edge to them.  So other than the fun, bassy, rhythmic factor, the D3 has less going for it than most of the other DAC/AMPs I tried.
     
    Meridian Explorer:  Tested at 24/192 mode with Spotify 320 Kbps files.  The Explorer sounded very good overall.  I would rank it 2nd behind the DF in overall sound quality.  It's a bit smoother and less detailed than the DF in the treble, and maybe has a tiny bit more bass impact.  The 2 are fairly close sounding.  However, the DF excels at all the things I mentioned above in its review.  The Explorer seems to have just a bit less of everything else, but still very good in its own right.  Also, considering it's about 2.5 times larger than the DF, I was expecting a more powerful amplifier, but surprisingly, it was the weakest amp of the bunch.  Had to have it at 50-60% for moderately loud volume, whereas the DF would be around 30-40% for the same volume level.  So very good sound quality overall, but doesn't impress like the DF does.
     
    Cambridge Audio DACmagic XS:  Tested at 24/192 mode with Spotify 320 Kbps files.  Has a very good, clean, smooth sound to it.  However, nothing about this DAC/AMP really stood out or impressed.  Everything was good, but not great.  Bass impact was just okay.  Treble didn't shine.  Resolution was just average.  Soundstage was not immersive  Vocals were pretty good, smooth and full.  Again, other than a nice, clean, smooth sound, nothing about the musical presentation really stood out or impressed.  For that reason, this was the DAC/AMP I listened to the least.  I prefer the sound of my iphone 6 over this, but probably prefer the XS over the E10K.
     
    iBasso D-Zero MK2:  Tested at 24/96 and 16/44.1 modes with Spotify 320 Kbps and iphone 6 (as AMP only).  So this is a full blown portable headphone amp and dac with battery, unlike the simple inline USB dac/amps above.  Obviously, this one had the most power, volume, and drive.  In terms of SQ, it sounded very good and organic when used as only an amp connected to headphone jack of my iphone 6.  You could really crank the volume and feel the rhythm and drive of the music, and the vocals had a weighty full sound to them.  This was actually my 2nd favorite listening experience behind the Dragonfly connected to PC.  The Explorer had the 2nd best overall sound quality from the PC, but the D-zero connected to the iphone 6 was the 2nd best overall sound experience, primarily due to the rhythm, drive, and full, rich, organic sound.  I still prefer the detail, resolution, spaciousness, and accuracy of the Dragonfly, overall.
     
    The real test of the D-zero came when I used both its amp and dac, plugged into my PC.  Initially, I had set the mode to 24/96.  I listened to some 90s EDM tunes and immediately noticed that the music sounded too bright.  There is a wide range of the treble that is accentuated over that of the mids and bass.  The D-zero also had pretty good bass impact, but it's overshadowed by the brightness.  I found myself cranking the volume to feel that good bass a bit, but then things sounded too bright, and I found myself lowering the volume which lead to not feeling the bass as much.  Some songs even sounded a bit harsh.  Of all dacs, this was the one that lead to listening fatigue rather quickly.  Changing the mode to 16/44.1 for music seemed to lessen the brightness a bit, but it was still obviously too bright.  Still, the brightness isn't terribly excessive, and I can see some folks with less sensitivity to high frequencies, or ones using warmer or darker sounding headphones, actually enjoy this amp/dac very much.  The brightness does lift a veil off of the 598s and increases transparency.  I particularly enjoyed it when watching movies as I heard little details in the background that I didn't hear with other dac/amps.  Overall, I think the Dragonfly is a much better DAC, while the D-zero is a much better amplifier.
     
    In conclusion, the Dragonfly 1.2 is the best dac/amp combo I've tried yet under $150 (current prices).  It excels in virtually all aspects of the musical presentation, whereas the others had more shortcomings, or had not much about them that really stood out.  I highly recommend if you're looking for a small portable, usb dac/amp for use with a computer, that you definitely at least try the Dragonfly 1.2 with any others you're considering
    1. View previous replies...
    2. LazyListener
      That's good to know.  I didn't test it with smartphones because that's not my intended use for it.  Plus I heard it's too power hungry to run off iphones and most other phones.  The new Dragonfly Black and Red models coming out soon are supposed to work off most any smartphone power, and drain considerably less.
      LazyListener, Apr 13, 2016
    3. Mr Makarov
      Nice review! I agree with almost everything you said about DF 1.2, love the detailed sound, I also think that a little more bass impact would be nice. But I just cant consider the overall SQ to be better than Meridian Explorer´s. Yes, DF is a little bit more clear/transparent but to me ME is more refined, has better dynamics, better bass and mids are noticeably better (more forward compared to DF, and that is what I noticed first..and I like it more than DF´s mids). I don´t know if I have one of those versions of ME with high output impedance but it definitely is mid-centric, sound is more rich and alive, more layered, with smooth treble. Friends who had listened to both (at my place) also prefer Explorer´s SQ and often describe DF as "clean/clear sounding but dry and not as engaging as ME". Honestly I was a little bit disappointed by DF 1.2 because I first got Meridian Explorer for $138 and liked it a lot, then I had a lot of curiosity about DF 1.2 and paid $180 for it...and my first reaction was "this is definitely a step down from ME". Then I liked the neutral tonality but still prefer Meridian Explorer for long sessions.
      Just my personal opinion. 
      Mr Makarov, Apr 13, 2016
    4. LazyListener
      @Mr Makarov  Thanks for sharing your opinion.  It's certainly no less valid than my own.  I did like the way the ME sounded.  I just thought the DF stood out more in most areas.  First and foremost being detail and transparency that really stood out on the DF.  On the DF, sounds, especially background sounds, were more apparent and easily discernible.  On the ME, some sounds tended to get lost a bit in the background.  Also, I heard a more spacious soundstage on the DF with better imaging and localization of sound than on the ME.  On the DF, it was easier for me to pick out the location of specific sounds, whereas the on the ME, the soundstage was more diffuse.  Also on certain percussions, I felt the resonant vibration more on the DF, than on the ME.  The ME is a very good sounding DAC, especially if you prefer a slightly smoother presentation.  I just preferred the detail, transparency, and sense of space, primarily, on the DF.  Both very good DACs.  Just comes down to personal tastes.
      LazyListener, Apr 14, 2016
  3. Aornic
    A good but expensive portable DAC option
    Written by Aornic
    Published Apr 1, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Portability. Very clear and somewhat bright sound. Very clean and articulate.
    Cons - Expensive. Only a 3.5mm output.
    [​IMG] 
      mvenegas98 likes this.
  4. Coffeefan
    Too bright for my tast
    Written by Coffeefan
    Published Oct 16, 2015
    2.0/5,
    Pros - Detail
    Cons - Crackling, Sibilance
    First all, my main source of music is Youtube videos because lately I think that video and music have evolved into a multimedia performance and I really enjoy very much the video experience as a whole. The previous statement implies that I have little or no control into how the music stream is encoded, compressed or whether I can get bit-pure music, which I cannot and thus I am not interested in.
     
    This review then is based solely on listening tests as to the fitness of this device for the above scenario.
     
    As for the test, as soon as I plugged the Dragonfly, I compared the sound to the headphone output on my PC, things looked more crisp and detailed, but I did not notice much difference. I tried the DragonFly with three cans: Sennheiser 280 PRO, Sony MDR-7506 and AKG-K501. Upon listening got more detail and the 280PRO as well as the MDR-7506 seemed to work well, but the K-501 mid-range became just too revealing of artifacts, still musical but just weird artifacts.
     
    Next I plugged behind the DragonFly a tiny Bravo Audio V1 tube amplifier. Things got much better in that I got a sweeter sound and the bass became more rolled, but still punchy when needed. So, mostly the tube stage improved things.
     
    I then left the combo PC+DragonFly+Bravo V1+K-501 running unattended for about a week continuously. During the long run I would occasionally pick up the cans, to check the sound. A couple of times I would find a very messy bass sound, full of crackling and distortion. I tried fixing it via volume tweaking, but the only fix I could find was to unplug the DragonFly, plug it back in and keep going. This way I would get back a cleaner sound. I am in no position to understand whether the root cause was the Dragonfly, but the smell seems to point to it.
     
    After a couple of weeks I decided to switch my configuration from the PC to a Macbook Retina I have. I first tried Macbook+DragonFly+Bravo V1+K-501 and things worked well, no surprises, but at this point I was becoming a bit allergic to constant ear fatigue I was having with the setup. So, I decided to swap things in and out.
     
    In the end, I simply removed the DragonFly from the setup, such that I would have Macbook+Bravo V1+K-501. The resulting setup, greatly removed most of the bad effects I was hearing, like unclean bass, crackling and sibilance. This simpler setup yielded a much more musical sound to my ears and something where my listening sessions would last at least twice as long before incurring in ear fatigue.
     
    So, my conclusions were: 1) The Macbook seems to have a much better on-board DAC than my PC. 2) The Macbook DAC is more musical than the DragonFly, so no need for it.
     
    I decided to return the device as I cannot stand a session longer than 5 minutes with it at this point.
      shureThing likes this.
    1. amigomatt
      You should try the HRT Microstreamer
      amigomatt, Oct 18, 2015
    2. Coffeefan
      @amigomatt thanks for your comment. Based on your recommendation I did some research on the HRT Microstreamer and this review seems to indicate that it is even brighter than the Dragonfly, quote: "On first listen, the MicroStreamer seemed clearer and more detailed, while the DragonFly had a smoother, more-natural sound that wasn’t as instantly impressive, but that I preferred over longer listening periods".
       
      As I mentioned, I tend to favor sweeter sounds at the expense of detail, due to tired ears :wink:. So, what has been your experience with the HRT Microstreamer?
      Coffeefan, Oct 18, 2015
  5. Stereocilia
    Iridescent Beauty
    Written by Stereocilia
    Published Aug 20, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Price to performance ratio, SQ, Form Factor, Simplicity of Use
    Cons - Digititis, Ringing
    Review Setup
     
    AudioQuest DragonFly v1.2 USB DAC
     
    Schiit VALHALLA 2 amp
     
    Grado Labs GS1000e headphones
     
    Tributaries 2YP-MFF Y cable
     
    AudioQuest Golden Gate interconnects
     
    DAC.jpg
     
    The DragonFly is a good match with the Valhalla 2, this DAC lives up to the hype surrounding it. I must admit I had my doubts about the DragonFly but don't let the small form factor thumb stick looks fool you go out and get one but keep the receipt. I don't like the DragonFly as a standalone DAC/AMP the sound has a ringing in my ear kind of digititis signature. Match the DragonFly to the "exceptionally accurate, neutral, and resolving, without being strident or etched" kind of amp like the Valhalla 2 and Ride, captain ride, Upon your mystery ship, Be amazed at the friends, You have here on your trip. The synergy is a Lit-Up sound, this combo is euphonic and vivid to my ear in a way the helps trigger an emotional connection. My Decware Zen Head amp paired with the DragonFly sound is not as Lit-Up or Hot, the sound is cooler and the euphoria factor falls but the technicalities of the sound are better and more balanced.  
    1. View previous replies...
    2. davide256
      Its not a bad product, loses some fine details and limited to 96khz. Most of its issues are when you use it with a PC instead of a Mac... USB quality  for PC's is awful. The new AQ Jitterbug is a  must to use with the dragonfly if you are plugging this into a PC.
      davide256, Aug 23, 2015
    3. davide256
      davide256, Aug 23, 2015
    4. Stereocilia
      http://www.audioquest.com/usb_digital_analog_converter/dragonfly-dac
       
      "Fixed Output Feeds Preamp or Receiver" just knock that hard edge off this DAC with a good amp. The mids on DragonFly paired to the mids on the Valhalla2, matched with the mid-centric Grado = Lit-Up iridescent coloration = major bang for the buck, value city at its best  
      Stereocilia, Aug 23, 2015
  6. twister6
    A mighty dragonfly with a smooth soundbite!!!
    Written by twister6
    Published Apr 1, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - small form factor, great build quality, LED sample rate indicator, clear smooth sound signature
    Cons - a bit pricy considering some competition, not a robust usb otg support (though, not intended by design)
    Before I start my review, I would like to Thank AudioQuest for providing me with a review sample of their product in exchange for my honest opinion.
     
    No matter how much I enjoy listening to music from a portable DAP or a smartphone, laptop is still a very important part of my personal entertainment, and I'm not giving up on it especially since nothing can substitute for me a physical keyboard!  Unfortunately, my laptop audio performance is subpar which becomes painfully noticeable whenever I use premium headphones trying to play higher res audio.  It's a common problem recognized by a number of manufacturers with their own USB DAC/amp solutions in a form of a small external usb device used like an external audio card.  In the past few months I had an opportunity to review a number of such products, but after every review I have been asked to compare it to Dragonfly - a portable device that started its journey almost 3 years ago and paved a way for a lot of other similar products.  Now, over a year after their hardware update to v1.2, I got an opportunity to review this friendly insect and would like to share with you about its infectious soundbite!
     
    Starting with a packaging, the first thing you notice is a colorful image of dragonfly on the cover.  I typically don’t analyze a product name since often it’s a boring mixture of letters and number, but I actually found it here to be rather unique.  Furthermore, I think it was brilliant how their projected this image even further by having a custom shaped “dragonfly” led with changing colors corresponding to a sample rate (more about it later).  I found a read around the box to be quite educational to learn about the product description, capabilities and features.  Basically, you can familiarize yourself with DragonFly USB DAC even before taking it out.
     
    Out of the box, you will find a dense foam tray with a cutout for the Dragonfly DAC and the included leather case.  Typically I would find a case for usb-stick size device to be an add-on filler, but here it looked and felt like a premium accessory which I’m definitely planning to use moving forward with this USB DAC.  I know, this is only a small pocket case, but the level of details with a neat stitching around it and stamped dragonfly logo with a model and a company name was very impressive.  Plus, it will protect soft touch finish of the DAC when not in use.  Another must-have accessory worth mentioning is DragonTail 4” usb extender.  This is NOT included with DragonFly and has to be purchased separately, but I really hope that moving forward AudioQuest will consider adding it as a bonus with their DAC (considering competitive pricing of other similar products).
     
    DragonTail is not just an accessory for convenience.  DragonFly itself comes with a built-in full size usb connector (covered with protective dust cap) which requires you plugging it into your laptop/PC/Mac, etc.  Often due to adjacent usb ports or location on the back, it’s not always convenient to have a device plugged in directly, so extension helps mitigate this problem.  At the same time you have to remember that AudioQuest is a well known company that also makes top quality digital and audio cables.  A cable is a conductor with multiple wires where a proper isolation of power and data lines while keeping it further away from a noisy motherboard of your laptop will improve signal integrity and EMI interference.  The effect could be subtle, but keep in mind there is a good reason why bringing out audio digitally from your laptop to process analog part externally yields cleaner audio signal.  Thus, I would strongly recommend getting DragonTail as an accessory to DragonFly.  Plus, if not paying attention, it’s easy to disengage DragonFly by accident from your host usb socket if you pull on headphone chord by mistake.  With USB extension cable you have more flexibility if you pull on a chord by accident.
     
    Unboxing and accessories.
     
    dragonfly_v12-01_zpsvfwjvxgh.jpg
     
    dragonfly_v12-02_zpske3kbxut.jpg
     
    dragonfly_v12-03_zpskokgtbrg.jpg
     
    dragonfly_v12-04_zpsyisqsnxq.jpg
     
    dragonfly_v12-05_zpsnvb2ny5x.jpg
     
    dragonfly_v12-06_zpsseyluga0.jpg
     
    dragonfly_v12-07_zpspepr8bbe.jpg
     
    dragonfly_v12-08_zpscjjxhjfl.jpg
     
     
    The first impression you get when holding DragonFly in your hand is how much it resembles an ordinary USB stick.  It has very similar dimensions with full size usb connector on one end (and a traditional dust cap), and 3.5mm headphone jack on the other end.  The build is very solid and has a little bit of weight to it, definitely feels sturdy.  By feeling a slightly colder surface, I'm pretty sure the shell is made out of aluminum or some lightweight alloy, and it has a soft touch rubbery finish similar to ThinkPad laptops (perfect match for me since I only use ThinkPads).  Also, right in the middle of the module there is an emblem of a dragonfly with DragonFly name above it.  What is really cool, the emblem is a hidden led in a shape of a dragonfly that lights up in different colors to reflect sample rate of your source: 44.1kHz (green), 48kHz (blue), 88.2kHz (amber), 96kHz (magenta).
     
     Design details.
     
    dragonfly_v12-09_zps59ohcpqr.jpg
     
    dragonfly_v12-10_zpsjkwe3mvm.jpg
     
    dragonfly_v12-11_zpsjjlhvuwc.jpg
     
    dragonfly_v12-12_zps27gmt9va.jpg
     
    dragonfly_v12-13_zpsv3sia46y.jpg
     
    dragonfly_v12-14_zpsqavgaxgp.jpg
     
     
    One might wonder, what can you possibly pack inside of such a small footprint?  Well, apparently you can stuff it with ESS Sabre DAC, analog volume control (controlled through computer with 60-position resolution), and analog output buffer section.  Furthermore, it supports asynchronous Class 1 USB data transfer using some proprietary protocol which enhances performance of digital audio.  Personally, I prefer to make my final judgment of a sound quality based on what I hear with my own ears rather than fancy design terminology, but I was still impressed that AudioQuest provided details of the design unlike some other companies that prefer to keep it as a "black box".
     
    Connection to my laptop was flawless, and after initial "pair up" of installing/checking all the necessary Windows drivers, it worked in a true instantaneous plug'n'play fashion with the last volume setting being recalled upon each plug in.  I don't have any high impedance headphones to confirm, but with most of my IEMs and headphones I didn't have to raise volume higher than 1/4 of the way, but you can pump it pretty loud with a linear performance and no distortion.  One unique feature of DragonFly is that you can enjoy variable volume output while adjusting the level through your audio player and/or computer system.  But once you set the output of both audio player and computer to a maximum level, you can feed it directly to external portable amp or desktop preamp/AV receiver.  It wasn't clear to me if internal amp gets disabled at maximum volume output, acting like a typical LO, but I assume the intention of that was to avoid double amping.
     
    Connected to laptop.
     
    dragonfly_v12-15_zps9rcfcrtm.jpg
     
    dragonfly_v12-16_zps5pnzhoww.jpg
     
    dragonfly_v12-17_zpsm46mvbww.jpg
     
     
    One feature that is not advertised as part of DragonFly spec is their compatibility with smartphones.  The original intent of DragonFly design was to provide a pure USB DAC functionality, but with support of USB OTG connectivity offered by so many smartphones - it begs to give it a try, which is exactly what I did with my Galaxy Note 4.  There are a lot of variables in this equitation, depending on DAC and power requirements of DragonFly as well as USB OTG support of your phone, and eventually I was able to get it to work but only while using USB Audio Player Pro app (free demo available from Google Play).  It was truly a joyful moment to get it to work with my phone, but results will vary (and might not always work) with different phones and Android OS versions.  Considering an expected improved support of USB Audio with the latest Android 5.x (Lollipop), I'm looking forward to test it again once the official updates start to roll out for Note 4 on Verizon (I prefer to stay stock, rather than rooted).  But in general, USB OTG feature is not fully supported by DragonFly v1.2.
     
    With Note 4.
     
    dragonfly_v12-19_zpsl1awgmzq.jpg
     
     
    After this introduction of design features and functionality, the only remaining question is how does it sound and if it provides any improvement over the HO of laptop/PC?  Without even a slight hesitation in my answer - the sound improvement over my laptop headphone output is definitely noticeable.  Everything from an improved texture of the bass to a full body of mids and crispier treble shows a big step up from my stock laptop sound.  In more details, bass extends down to a warm texture of sub-bass and adds a more aggressive mid- bass punch to drive low end with more authority.  Lower mids get thicker with more body and improvement in tonality, especially making both male and female vocals more organic.  Upper mids are clear and detailed, but still smooth and warm.   Treble gets a better extension, but remains smooth and not offensive for extended listening.  Soundstage gets a little bit more airy with improved depth, definitely above average, while width remains just average.  Sound remains smooth and balanced, a little more on a warm side but still with plenty of detail retrieval.  It's not exactly bright/analytical, but still very detailed with a nice balance across entire spectrum.
     
    Overall, I really enjoyed DragonFly v1.2 USB DAC and actually found it to pair up nicely with many of my neutral and brighter sound sig IEMs/headphones.  As I mentioned in my intro, I had a chance to review quite a few different USB DACs, and in general found some subtle audio differences with sound among them being either relatively brighter or darker/smoother and some variations in a level of soundstage width/depth or the amount of power they can pump out.  But often a final decision comes down to a difference in extra features and build/design preferences.  Nothing is 100% perfect, but some offer more robust compatibility with smart devices while others more features like dedicated volume knob or gain switch.  I can't judge improvement of DragonFly v1.0 vs v1.2 since I never tested the original one, but I can tell you with certainty this latest release from AudioQuest really stands out with a smooth/warm-ish and detailed sound signature and a rather unique design which going to capture attention with its compact footprint and clever sample rate dragonfly led indicator.  I also think its build quality and size is perfect for traveling, including that really cool leather storage sleeve.  Sound improvement is always subjective when comparing to the original HO of your laptop/PC, and you also have to consider a synergy with your particular set of headphones, but I definitely recommend giving DragonFly USB DAC a try to check it out how it works in your setup!
    1. View previous replies...
    2. SoAmusing777
      If you can pick up a geek out 450 for $150 or less, might as well get that over this. The Dragonfly is $100 and up if you look around ebay, for sale here, and what not. 
      SoAmusing777, Apr 8, 2015
    3. Butter123
      Would you say this is the best flash drive sized dac amp for the money? Im interesting in upgrading my Asus U3 for my Surface pro. 
      Butter123, Apr 8, 2015
    4. twister6
      @Butter123 : "the best" is a relative term.  With some mid-fi headphones and regular mp3 files you won't even hear a difference between what someone else considers the best and the worst while listening with their $1k pair of CIEMs.  All these USB DACs are unique in their own way.  I really like AudioQuest as a company and how much technology and innovation (especially in cables) they bring to the table.  But there are other cheaper and relative good solutions available if you are looking for the best value.  Here is my dSp review with comparative analysis: http://www.head-fi.org/products/hrt-dsp-headphone-digital-sound-processor/reviews/12849
      twister6, Apr 8, 2015
  7. Nimbu
    Underwhelming device that doesn't live up to the hype.
    Written by Nimbu
    Published Feb 23, 2015
    2.0/5,
    Pros - Looks nice, Slight difference in sound
    Cons - Expensive, Difference in sound is hardly noticeable.
    I paid around $120 for this device and felt pretty underwhelmed by it's performance.
     
    At work, i use a bog standard dell pc with an on board sound card (which one would presume is not of great quality). When i plugged in the DragonFly - I noticed a slight (and i mean ever so slight) difference in sound but I could not tell if that was a good thing or not. It certainly sounded a little different, but did it sound better? I'm not so sure.
     
    I have a variety of different headphones:
     
    HiFiMan RE-400
    Sennheiser hd 25
    HiSound-Audio Crystal
     
    And to my ears i could not hear a noticeable difference in sound quality. I compared the device to my Macbook Pro and (in my opinion) the Macbook actually sounds slightly better (the sound stage is wider and the bass is punchier).
     
    I wanted to like the Dragonfly - it's well made and looks nice plugged into my computer. However for the price it was just not worth it. Spending the money on some improved headphones would have been more worth while.
     
    I cannot recommend this device based on my experience. Would be great to hear the thoughts of others if they have owned this device.
      Shini44 and Coffeefan like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Svperstar
      I have been into headfi since 2004 and heard many different setups and the Dragonfly is amazing for its price, far and above my MacBook Pro. Have I heard higher quality? Of course, but for like 3x more $. The dragonfly is amazing for what it is.
      Svperstar, Sep 2, 2015
    3. canali
      i agree....lots of hype but didn't impress me all that much....guess i'll try something else
      iFi looks interesting, so does Geekout v2..or the schiit vali/modi combo
      canali, Dec 13, 2015
    4. Nimbu
      So almost three years later and i still think it's an overrated DAC. I recently acquired some NightHawks and they sound much better through the Macbook - with the Dragonfly they sound rather thin. The Dragonfly is a terrible DAC!!
      Nimbu, Jan 18, 2018

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