Review: AudioQuest Cobalt – First Impressions

Dragonfly Cobalt

Disclaimer: The AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt was sent to us free of charge in exchange for this preview article at the launch and a full review.

 

Intro

AudioQuest launched the very first DragonFly back in 2012 and has been improving it ever since. A few years ago the BLACK and RED came in to play and now in 2019, AudioQuest is back with a new and improved version of the RED: The Cobalt!

AudioQuest

AudioQuest is a US based company and the EU headquarters is located in the Netherlands. AudioQuest since the 1980’s is mostly known for their cables but they became even more popular among “head-fiers” when they started releasing personal audio gear with an excellent price-quality ratio.

 

This AudioQuest DragonFly isn’t the first AudioQuest product to be featured on Headfonia, the NightHawk and NightOwl headphones, the older DragonFlies and the JitterBug reviews were done a long time ago already. You can find all our AudioQuest reviews here: https://www.headfonia.com/?s=audioquest

DragonFly History

AudioQuest launched the very first DragonFly back in 2012 and back then it could only be used in combination with a PC because of the power supply. Later on AQ added mobile support and that made them even more successful

The units were and are extremely popular and loved by audiophiles all over the world. The reasons are simple:

  • it’s small and pocketable,
  • it can take a beating,
  • it’s beautiful
  • it can be used in combination with laptops and phones
  • it’s a DAC, AMP and PRE-AMP all in one
  • it does MQA (renderer)
  • it offers extremely good value for money
  • the FW can be updated
  • it sounds awesome

Taking that into account, it’s no surprise that AudioQuest has already released several versions of the DragonFly, and the versions available up to today are the BLACK and RED. These were launched back in 2016 and the RED version is on our list of Best AMP/DAC combos (Best buys) as well: https://www.headfonia.com/best-dac-amp-combos/

DragonFly Reviews

Never heard of the DragonFly before? Almost impossible, but in that case I advise to read up first:

DragonFly black 1.2:

Dragonfly Black and RED:

DragonFly MQA + Video

AudioQuest likes MQA and they were fast to jump on the MQA wagon, and make the DragonFly an MQA renderer. In this article and video we explain and show how to set up your DragonFly for MQA streaming in Tidal.

And now let’s take a look on the Cobalt on the next page. Click HERE or use the jump below.

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

21 Comments

  • Reply July 9, 2019

    Booker

    Have to say I didn’t see a new Dragonfly coming, but it has been some time since the Black and Red were released.

    One question:

    I had the Black for a while but one limitation was it was simply too powerful! By that I mean using it with my PC and easy to drive headphones like the Sennheiser Momentum I had the volume slider on Windows set to around 7 or 8 (out of 100). So fine grain volume control was gone, it was jumps of 10% or so between steps.

    Do you get the same issue with the Cobalt? Or does the digital volume control on the Cobalt and Red help avoid this?

    • Reply July 9, 2019

      Lieven

      It’s actually the same thing with black, red and Cobalt. I was listening at 82 (-18db) but from there on, it gets very loud very quickly

      • Reply July 9, 2019

        Booker

        Thanks. 82 with those IEMs isn’t too bad, seems better than my previous experiences. Once the Cobalt arrives in NZ I’ll go have a listen 🙂

    • Reply July 13, 2019

      R.O.

      Just got my Cobalt today. Compared to the Red, the sound to me is not worth $100 more. That could well just be me. Also, the copper connection portion is loose within the shell. I need to return it as a result.

      • Reply July 16, 2019

        dale thorn

        It takes time for the sound. What I did was plug into my iPhone XsMax using the larger Apple USB-A to Lightning adapter with charging port (but never charge while listening). Then I fired up a highres copy of Steven Wilson’s Luminol – the experience was amazing – full body of bass with no bloat, no hump, no boom. I tried the DF Red next, and it was good – but not the same.

      • Reply July 21, 2019

        R.O.

        The sound quality of the DFC has really grown on me. The clarity and the separation with the DFC are dramatic. However, I am waiting for my third DFC now since the first two had wiggling usb connectors where my DFR and DFB never had such an issue. A wiggle free DFC would be great. The sound coming out of this DAC is really quite wonderful.

        • Reply July 23, 2019

          R.O.

          I just spoke to Audioquest Support and, according to them, a little jiggle is expected with the new design, so apparently it’s not an issue. Good, cause I love this little item!

    • Reply July 16, 2019

      dale thorn

      The Black is much louder than the Red and Cobalt – those 2 are about the same.

  • Reply July 9, 2019

    Tibor

    Hi.
    You have made a typo?

    First impressions – at the end of the sentence you should have written new *DAC section?

    cheers

    • Reply July 9, 2019

      Lieven

      correct. Thanks!

    • Reply August 21, 2019

      Artsiom Falevich

      How is it compared to COZOY Takt Pro? Thanks

  • Reply July 10, 2019

    Sp12er

    No comparison to the black? Boohoo.
    The increase in price is. Abit steep IMO, yes we’re getting the dragon tail, but, any other usb c- adapter works anyway.

    • Reply July 10, 2019

      Lieven

      Cobalt is a RED upgrade. To see how black compares to red, all you need to do is read the black vs red review. But probably I’ll compare black to Cobalt in the full review 😉

      I find the improvement in sound worth the price increase, though maybe $250€ would have been better

  • Reply July 10, 2019

    Hector

    DragonFly Cobalt vs Chord Mojo?

    • Reply August 29, 2019

      Zak

      Cobalt is a $300 DAC that costs $500 (AUD) – because it’s small and easy to carry, while Mojo is a $2500-sounding unit that costs A$700, because it’s a gateway drug into Rob’s expensive PLC DACs…

  • Reply July 12, 2019

    Jonathan

    How does the Cobalt compare to Spectra NextDrive X?
    Thanks!

    • Reply July 16, 2019

      Bonzai

      i had spectra X one week ago, but i quickly had issue with the cable and send it back… i got today the DragonFly Cobalt.

      Listening with BGVP DM7 and bose Q20 iem and oneplus5 phone.

      I loved the bass on the spectra x, but i’m disappointed to don’t retreive it on the Cobalt, also, not impressed with medium details and voices, seems like a peak down somewhere in the middle range so that soundstage is not that impressive.. on the other hand, cobalt seems equilibrate, but not sure…

      Cobalt is small and very easy to switch between PC and phone, that’s nice.

      Does The cobalt worth spending 300€ with my setup,,, not sure…
      The better should be to listen to compare before bying…

  • Reply July 30, 2019

    Jose

    Hi Lieven you said ‘Some on the other hand will prefer the typical tuning of the RED over that of the new Cobalt’. I have the Red and I would be most grateful if you could elaborate about the tuning of the RED. The only thing I did is to add the Jitter Bug.

  • Reply August 29, 2019

    CJSIII

    I received my Firefly Cobalt last week and have been testing it with an iPhone, iPad Pro and with my Razer laptop. Sound output has been high quality in-ear headphones and very high quality preamp-amp-speakers. It has no effect on sound quality. I’ve even done blind listening test with someone else selecting the output. It appears to be working as the color coded lighting is tracking input sources accurately. I’m convinced this is yet more audiophile snake oil. Like Hospital grade power outlets and oxygen free copper. Reviewers like this get one for free, they get advertising and they will never admit the emperor has no clothes. Don’t be fooled. Don’t waste $300.

    • Reply August 29, 2019

      Lieven

      It’s not because you can’t hear the difference that it’s snake oil ;-).

  • Reply September 26, 2019

    temskee

    For iPhone use & big headphones, I prefer the dragonfly black over the cobalt. Somehow the dragonfly black drives my dt1990 on iOS properly at 50% volume. while the cobalt needs to be at 75% to 80% before I can achieve the same volume. though cobalt sounds more organic overall with better instrument separation but the black sounds fuller due to proper amping..

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