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$299 for a USB stick... seems to be pretty extreme pricing.
I want to get iBasso DC01 instead. iBasso DC01 comes with 2.5mm balanced output!
But I wonder why none of these portable DACs come with 4.4mm balanced? or dual 3.5mm balanced??
What are you doing advertising ibasso in my thread? And to call the Cobalt a USB stick is kind of insulting. Have you heard it? Do you work for ibasso? Would you have the guts to walk into some local shop and talk to the owner like this... well you just did. Rude!
Thank you to all who have made comments in this thread and have actually used the Cobalt or are interested in it. Your participation is most welcome!!! And I don't have problems with someone stating their likes and dislikes about the Cobalt... that conversation is welcome here anytime. And thank you to those who have purchased the Cobalt form us!!!
Honestly folks, I am frustrated with people crapping in this thread. Today I am offering a loaner program for the Cobalt (to be posted in this forum shortly) and wonder if it is worth my time and effort. It seems the experts already know all about the Cobalt....
For what it is worth, I found the Cobalt to be much better than I expected for $300. I use very high end headphone amps and DACs most of the time with high end headphones and I could easily live with the Cobalt. That says a lot from someone who listens to the Apex Pinnacle 2 Ultra...
For those wondering how it could be improved over the Red consider this... if in your big rig you upgrade or at least change the DAC feeding your headphone amplifier, you expect change. And hopefully positive. If you improve the processing and the power usage, that is a good thing. And then if you add power filtering to remove outside interference and noise, you have a better, cleaner sounding set up. And these changes/upgrades in a big system cost a lot of dough. And that is what the Cobalt does for a lot less dough! And to my ear it is a noticeable improvement over the Red. My 2 cents...
Anyone who has brought a product to market knows it has costs. Engineering, production, packaging and more. $300 for a fine audio product is reasonable and in this case I would call it a bargain.
I‘m a bit sceptical. In the specs of the Cobalt I noticed it‘s using a slow roll-off instead of fast roll-off filter in the Red (both minimum phase) . Of course it should sound not that ‚edgy‘, a slow roll-off filter will always attenuate highest treble a bit. So, they changed the filter. But actually the same could be done for a Red as well via a FW update, Sabre supports all kinds of filters, but they are locked in the FW of the Dragonfly and cannot be changed...
So, with exactly the same frontend as Red, the difference one maybe is hearing is very likely just due to a different filter setting or at least to a large extent is affected by it... Hmm...
I own a Red and find it a good value, the only criticism I have about it - it‘s far from having a black background with SE846 and alike... Any information about the ‚blackness‘ of the background on Cobalt? Any better than Red?
I’ll give it a go using the lightening adapter of my iPad Pro to see if there’s an improvement over the headphone socket. Hope to find it at the Canjam London soon.
Well here will be an opportunity to check it out for yourself... I am in the process of setting up a loaner program this afternoon for the Dragonfly Cobalt. I am sending my personal unit out for those who sign up to test it with their own gear and find out for themselves if it is for them or not. And hopefully those who participate and like it will buy them from us. You will be required to write a review and send it to the next person on the loaner program... so you can say thumbs up or down from your own personal experience.
Sign up should be happening within about 30 minutes.
It’s more than just a filter change. It also comes with a newer DAC. In my personal opinion, as long as the headphones are getting sufficient power, the DAC is the most important component for sound quality.
Anyway, my Cobalt arrived today. I’ll give it a listen when I get off work and post my early impressions here.
Thanks, but probably not, as I live in Germany... Not in a hurry though, I like my Red even though it hisses with my SE846, but I guess you can‘t have it all. If it turns out Cobalt doesn‘t hiss, I will probably upgrade, but I see the chances for that being not all too high...
Sure, I know it has a newer DAC, but the changes are incremental, it‘s a same Sabre family with the similar sound signature. Of course it can do better on paper, with much lower SNR, higher sampling rates and so on, but taking into consideration even the the original Red couldn‘t go much beyond 16-17bit of dynamic range because of relatively high level of audible noise, all that hypotetical improvements in paper specs do not necessarily result in better measurements or listening experience. As I said, switching to a slow roll-off filter is already a very substantial change, probably the most significant one...
Do you have a Red to compare? Looking forward to your impressions!
"the DAC is the most important component for sound quality."
This statement is absolutely untrue. The audio stages following the DAC will affect the overall sound quality much more than the DAC itself. This includes the power supply, the quality of the parts used, and the circuit topology. The sonic differences between the different versions of a DAC (9016, 9018, 9038) tend to be small. The 9038 does provide for numerous filtering options and DSP settings that hopefully will be accessible in future firmware updates to the Cobalt.
Yes. I will give you my A and B comparisons later tonight.
Maybe they’re small within the same brand, but amongst different brands (like Burr Brown vs Sabre), it can be a significant difference.
Difference, yes, significant, not so much. Under perfect circumstances you may be able to discern familial traits among manufacturers, but often differences can be masked by a poorly implemented audio stage. For example, I've always felt that the Red was hindered by its headphone amp. Low end dynamics and midrange transparency were lacking on that model, whereas the Peachtree DAC-IT, which used a different and much older version of the Sabre DAC (9022) sounded more dynamic and open - I have to think it's due to its line level output stage not having to provide higher current to power headphones directly.
Reports coming in about the Cobalt seem to indicate that it has solved some of Red's issues. I'd be very interested in listening to one to see if that is the case.
Ok so here’s my take on the Cobalt. I love it and I think It’s worth every penny. But there is a caveat. I only recommend it if you find your audio chain a little bright. Because of the smoother treble tone, the Cobalt would probably make a darker headphone sound too dull. For example, I don’t think it would pair well with a Nighthawk/Nightowl, ZMF Verité, or Ether 2.
I find the Cobalt slightly warmer than the Red, slightly more mid forward, and with a noticeably smoother treble. And it does all of that while still sounding more detailed, with more defined layering, and an easily heard wider soundstage. Compared to the Red, the soundstage sounds closer to you but with greater width. I’ve heard a few early impressions describe the Cobalt as more U-shaped than the Red. I don’t hear that at all. The mids (vocals) sound slightly more forward and clearer. Actually, everything sounds clearer.
I liked the smoother treble so much that I even decided to test it with my 800S. And it didn’t disappoint! Even though I know my 800S is being underpowered by the Cobalt, I still preferred it to my Jotunheim/multibit. The Sabre glare is gone with the Cobalt! The Jot is just too bright with the 800S.
I also tested it with my son’s Fidelio X2HR, which I also find a little bright. Again, it made everything sound wider, more articulate, and with a much better behaved treble end. The X2HR is already known for a wide soundstage (but not as wide as my beloved 800S, Ha!), but the Cobalt pushed it out even further.
Even underpowered, the Cobalt put a wider soundstage on my 800S than my friends IFI Micro Black Label. So take that any way you want.
So in conclusion, unless you already own darker headphones or a darker chain, I can’t recommend this little dac/amp enough. It sounds excellent and has an amazing form-factor for portability. I’m an admitted soundstage junkie, which is why I love the 800S so much. And let me tell you, the Cobalt really accentuates that. It just takes every detail, adds more separation, and pushes it all out further.
The hype is real!
P.S. My USB end does not wiggle at all. Not a picometer of give. So I would definitely send it back if that’s happening to yours.
Out of curiosity, what would you recommend for a darker headphone. I own the Nighthawks and was thinking of buying the Red until I discovered this came out.