Review: AudioQuest DragonFly – Red or Black?

Disclaimer: Both samples of the DragonFly Red and DragonFly Black were given to me free of charge for this review by AudioQuest during our meeting at High End in Munich last May. AudioQuest isn’t a site advertiser and there’s no financial gain with this review.

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 released a very popular mini USB DAC/AMP called the DragonFly.

The AudioQuest DragonFly isn’t the first AudioQuest product to be featured on Headfonia, the NightHawk headphone, the DragonFly V1.2 and the JitterBug reviews were both published several weeks/months ago already.

DragonFly History

The AudioQuest DragonFly isn’t “new” in the sense that the original multi-award-winning version was launched a long time ago in 2012 already. In the meantime that original version has been replaced by the DragonFly V1.2 which at his turn now has been replaced by both the DragonFly Red V1.0 and Black V1.5.

So the new Black and Red units actually are the 3rd and 4th version already of AudioQuest’s popular DragonFly series. I have to say that the DragonFly from the original version up to now has grown on me and the RED version’s quality actually is very impressive to me at this stage.

If you’re not sure what version of the DragonFly you have then you probably own the original version. The simplest way to distinguish DragonFly V1.0 from DragonFly V1.2 is by looking at the 3.5mm plug as V1.0’s is black and V1.2’s is gray. The latest DragonFly Black 1.5 also has a gray colored 3.5mm plug but the unit on its back has the Black V1.5 details printed in gold. The Red version of course is easy to spot but the material used is also different. It does feature the same gold “specs” on the back of the unit as well.

AudioQuest Dragonfly 5

New DragonFly + Build Quality + Specs

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the DragonFly yet (is that still possible?), you can basically say the DragonFlies are USB-dongles which serve as DAC, pre-amp to a power/headphone amp and headphone amplifier all in one. Small packages with a big bang for buck measuring only 12mm (h) x 19mm (w) x 62mm (l).

The build quality of the DragonFly is excellent. Their finish is great, they’re small and you can put them in your pocket or drop them in your bag without any worries. The Red version does feel nicer as the casing used has a harder feel to it and with its red gloss finish (or automotive finish as they call it) it simply looks shiny and attractive. Both new versions of course still have the DragonFly LED-feature, which shows you what sample rate the unit is receiving from your source. Red: Standby, Green: 44100.0 Hz, Blue: 48000.0 Hz Amber: 88200.0, Hz Magenta: 96000.0 Hz. Be aware the DragonFly units don’t do DSD, but more on that later.

While the original DragonFly defined the market for micro-DACs, its USB power draw made it compatible with computers only. Music lovers have craved a more portable version – one that could be reliably used with Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. The new Red and Black were born. AudioQuest and DragonFly designer Gordon Rankin worked alongside Microchip Technology to develop a new high-performance, full-speed USB microcontroller solution that delivers improved signal-to-noise ratio and significantly lower power consumption. Drawing 77% less current than the previous microcontroller, the new Microchip PIC32MX microcontroller enables true compatibility with Apple and Android smartphones and tablets (OTG with the correct software) although it seems it’s not always 100% guaranteed to work. That however isn’t related to the DragonFly but rather to the OS implementation in your Android or Apple device. It should work on Apple iOS 5 and newer and Android 4.1 and newer (For Android devices, see owner’s manual).

It continues on Page TWO, after the click HERE

Review: AudioQuest DragonFly – Red or Black?
3.4 (67.18%) 326 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he’s the leader of the gang. Coming from a musical family he’s always been interested in good sound. Unlike his family members the only musical instruments he plays are amps and DACs. He loves playing with old tubes and discovering new products while staying faithful to the good old Sennheiser HD650.

123 Comments

  • Reply July 28, 2016

    Fabio Rocks

    I had both the Dragonfly Black and Red for one week and ending keeping the Red because it’s more powerful and can drive also my Sennheiser hd600 just fine.
    My sounds impressions were different from yours, the Black was the one with more bass body and the Red more neutral. Also on head-fi this seems the general idea.
    The killer feature of this device is the iOS compatibility. The 199$ DFR easily outperforms all of the <1000$ daps in the market (according to Darko review) so this is a bit of revolution for Hi-Fi on the go.

    • Reply July 28, 2016

      dale thorn

      Are you saying that the DF Red is iOS compatible, without a powered USB hub?

      • Reply July 28, 2016

        Lieven

        Yes Sir, they both should work

        • Reply July 28, 2016

          dale thorn

          My understanding from AQ (I have the Black and the v1.2) is the Black draws a small enough power to run directly from an iPhone+Camera Kit, but the Red requires more power and will not run directly from iPhone+Camera Kit.

          • Reply July 28, 2016

            dale thorn

            I check the AudioQuest site, which says (apparently) that both Black and Red will work directly from the iPhone plus Camera Kit with no additional power. But since both DF’s are passive and the Red outputs 2.1v compared to the Black’s 1.2v (i.e. almost twice as much), then the Red is somehow pulling more power from the phone to get the increased output, but without triggering the iPhone warning “Device requires too much power”. It would be helpful if someone explained.

            • Reply July 29, 2016

              chopstix

              hi dale…hopefully i understand your comment.
              they were designed to work with ios and android, unlike previous versions.
              low power draw…i have the df red…use it with my ipod touch 6 (using cck cable)…works like a charm…can be more finnicky with android i’m reading.

              • Reply July 29, 2016

                dale thorn

                I am seeing now that Red works with iOS without a powered hub. But, what I want to know is what got sacrificed in order to provide all that extra voltage compared to the Black? Is it really drawing more power and fooling iOS into thinking that it’s not drawing more power? The DF Black surprises me in that it drives my headphones better than the phone itself, yet it’s not logical that a passive device can boost power. Red raises that question to a whole new level.

                • Reply July 29, 2016

                  UFN

                  You’re mixing up voltage and power here I think.

                  The DF in this respect is not a completely passive device. You can use a circuit called a charge pump to generate a negative voltage which gives more voltage headroom, but the power (energy) of course has to come from somewhere and it can only be the device battery since the DF doesn’t have an external PSU.

                  However, the two DFs use different DAC and they could use different output stages. That would explain why same power in might not result in same voltage out.

                  In short, there’s too many unknowns here about the circuit to explain 100% why there is a difference, but there is nothing that makes what AQ specs inherently impossible.

                  //UFN

                  • Reply July 29, 2016

                    dale thorn

                    Actually I’m not mixed up, since I left the power equation an open question (we knew about E=IR and P=EI many years ago). My question, in light of the fact that the Red seemed to be more powerful (in some way), was what was sacrificed to get there. I wouldn’t necessarily expect that the sacrifice (or compromise) would be in the DragonFly, but if it’s in the phone, and given that the iPhone has numerous issues with heat and power drainage, then maybe someone has explored that combination. So whether we say voltage instead of power, in the end the phone has to supply all of the juice.

                    • January 2, 2017

                      Luke

                      I think what he meant was you know that the the voltage is 2x, but you don’t know the current draw differences between red and black.

                    • January 3, 2017

                      dale thorn

                      Since there is no “Reply” button for the post by “Luke”, here is the answer:

                      Nearly all headphone specs specify milliwatts. How much SPL can be expected at what frequency at how many milliwatts. On the very rare occasion that I see a headphone spec in volts, which is meaningless in a world of milliwatts/SPL/frequency, I tend to think the manufacturer is unable to specify milliwatts because either:
                      1) Something about the amp interface is too complex to allow a simple wattage spec.
                      -or-
                      2) They’re hiding something.

                  • Reply January 13, 2017

                    dale thorn

                    I got my answer with the DF Red today. The Red lowers the volume (or efficiency) about 10 db compared to the Black. Not that the Red wouldn’t work with most headphones, but where the Black was amazingly efficient, the Red is not.

              • Reply December 2, 2016

                Yavor Moskov

                I have no issues driving the red with all my android and ios devices. I returned the black version because the red is much better and very close in sound quality to Chord Mojo. I noticed there was not any battery drain difference between the two, but the available volume of both is much, much higher when plugged into pc or laptop compared to mobile devices.

                • Reply April 11, 2017

                  g_t_j

                  Yavor, do you still consider Red’s s.g. being close enough to Chord Mojo?

                  How would you describe Red’s s.g. in general? Is it warm or neutral? I’m after a portable solution to give a hint of warmth to my etymotic’s.

                  • Reply April 13, 2017

                    dale thorn

                    The DF Red is quite neutral with most headphones. It’s possible that someone could hear it as slightly warm, but that would be an extremely subtle distinction.

          • Reply August 1, 2016

            Stephen Mejias

            Hi Dale and everyone. Thank you for your comments and questions. I’ll try to provide some useful information: The original DragonFly and its successor, DragonFly v1.2, were specifically designed to be used with laptops and computers. Although they draw too much power from their host device to be reliably used with smartphones and tablets, some adventurous enthusiasts such as John Darko, Michael Liang, and others, have managed to successfully partner early DragonFly models with mobile devices by incorporating a powered USB hub. AudioQuest admired but never supported that application, however.

            We wanted to achieve a more elegant, reliable, user-friendly solution. We worked closely with Microchip Technology to design a new microprocessor — a low-noise, high-efficiency solution that enables true compatibility with mobile devices. Compared to the previous microprocessor, the Microchip device draws 77% less current. Both new models — Black and Red — use the new Microchip microprocessor and are equally compatible with Android (4.1 OS and newer) and Apple mobile devices, as long as the host device supports audio over USB and adheres to the USB specifications.

            That last bit is especially important because we’ve found that some Android devices do not support audio over USB and many do not adhere to the USB specifications. To be absolutely certain about whether DragonFly will work with an Android device, we ask that potential users contact the manufacturer of the Android device. To verify that an Android device complies with isochronous USB audio, we recommend the USB Host Check application. For a reliable media player that has its own built-in USB device driver, ensuring reliable connectivity to all USB DACs, we suggest ExtreamSD’s USB Audio Player Pro. We are also working on our own solution.

            To clarify, both Black and Red can be used with Android and Apple mobile devices, and DO NOT require an additional powered USB hub. They do, however, require Apple’s Camera Connection Kit (Apple) or an OTG (On the Go) for Android (Android) cable. In the case of Apple, customers must use Apple’s CCK. In the case of Android, AudioQuest offers our own DragonTail for Android USB adaptor. In addition, Apple’s Lightning-to-USB 3 adaptor allows Apple users to charge their mobile device while connected to DragonFly.

            The new DragonFly models also incorporate improved 32-bit ESS Sabre DAC chips—the 9010 in Black and the higher-performance 9016 in Red—both of which employ minimum-phase filtering for naturally detailed, more authentic sound. While DragonFly Black uses the same high-quality headphone amp and analog volume control found in the DragonFly 1.2, DragonFly Red includes the latest ESS headphone amp and a bit-perfect digital volume control that resides on the 9016 DAC chip itself—a sophisticated implementation that ensures maximum fidelity, dynamic contrast, and signal-to-noise ratio.

            DragonFly Black outputs 1.2 volts—enough power to capably drive all preamplifier input circuits and all reasonably efficient headphones. Meanwhile, with its higher 2.1-volt output, DragonFly Red is compatible with an even wider range of headphones, including power-hungry, low-efficiency models.

            I hope this helps. Thanks very much.
            Stephen Mejias
            AudioQuest

            • Reply August 1, 2016

              Lieven

              Thank you, Stephen. Very informative

              • Reply November 9, 2016

                Derek c

                Hi there. I am wanting to purchase the dragonfly black or red , my problem is , as I’ve read.

                I have my pcn has vista , which does not support dragonfly.

                Secondly I have most of my music on ipad 2 . Which needs the older 30 pin camera adapter.

                Then I read that Apple lowered the power on some of their devices from 200ma to 20 ma ?

                So would a dragonfly black or red work for me ? Without a powered hub.

                • Reply November 21, 2016

                  dale thorn

                  I just tested the DragonFly Black with the 30-pin camera kit adapter on an iPhone 4 or 5 (30 pin port), and it worked fine!

            • Reply August 2, 2016

              dale thorn

              Awesome. Awesome product.

              • Reply August 4, 2016

                Stephen Mejias

                My pleasure, Lieven and Dale. There is something I forgot to mention: This may seem counterintuitive, but, despite Red’s higher output voltage, it actually draws less current from the host device. This is because Red uses a superior, more efficient headphone amp. In order to drive headphones to the same volume, Red actually uses about 20% less power than Black.

                • Reply August 4, 2016

                  dale thorn

                  I’ve been able to link here from a few other places for this info. I have the feeling lots of people just can’t believe that the latest DragonFlys can sound so good and play so loud.

          • Reply September 10, 2016

            Yavor

            I have tested them both and the imaging on the red is far better. They both work flawlessly just out of my personal LG phone, my business Iphone 6, Ipad Air 2, Toshiba laptop and PC running Windows 10. Truth to be told, they both have bigger sound out of the PC and the laptop.

          • Reply October 7, 2017

            Gordon Rankin

            Dale, no both red and black draw about the same current. So either will work with IOS without a hub.

            • Reply October 8, 2017

              dale thorn

              Good to hear from you, Gordon. I’ve had complete success now with both, although I like the Red better. Whatever the power draw, one thing that’s been consistent is the much higher output of the Black. That is to say, it plays several db louder across the board.

  • Reply July 28, 2016

    Lieven

    That is a bold statement of him to make but it really is an incredible unit for the price.
    I really do feel the bass of the Black is tighter and lighter in body compared to the Red one. Different ears I guess. Thanks for the comment!

  • Reply July 28, 2016

    golov17

    Ve Zen 320 Ohm, lolz

  • Reply July 28, 2016

    Musikverein

    Lieven, you say for “the DT770 with the Black you get good and full bodied bass and good speed overall. With the Red I find the bass to lose a little of control and I prefer the faster sounding signature of the Black with this headphones.” Fully agree. Weirdly, I thought first to get a similar effect with the K702 as with my DT770 with the Black, adding here noticably fundamental tone/body and softening the treble yet adding detail. Astonishing is – it does similar things with the classic HE60, making it sound like an enlightened HD600 on steroids. And all of that for €99. Very nice indeed.

    • Reply August 3, 2016

      Lieven

      yes for speed (and the DT770), Black is the way to go 😉

      • Reply January 28, 2017

        Marc

        Would you say that about the DT 1770 pro too?

        • Reply January 29, 2017

          dale thorn

          The DF Black works very well driving the DT1770 Pro.

  • Reply July 31, 2016

    Alan Kirschbaum

    I’ve had my DFB for two months. Its the secret sauce for my Amperiors. Soundstage, imaging and base all drastically improved. I use it on the go with my Samsung S4 and at home with my laptop. I can’t think of money better spent. Thinking about getting a jitterbug.

    Wonder if it will drive AGK7xx or fostex headphones?

    • Reply August 1, 2016

      dale thorn

      The DF Black drives my Beyer DT1770 OK, and the K7xx should be even better.

    • Reply August 1, 2016

      dale thorn

      It’s an hour later now from when the email arrived for your latest post, and still it isn’t showing here. Anyway, the K7xx will be a little on the lean side and may seem bright with the DragonFly. So if that turns out to be the case, maybe look for a tube amp. That’s what I use with some headphones.

      • Reply October 7, 2017

        Gordon Rankin

        Dale, I use Red&Black with my K702 and have great results. Their somewhat higher impedance seems to like the flys a lot.

  • Reply August 1, 2016

    Liviu

    I want to buy sony A25 or FiioX3 or Dragonfly Black or Red.SQ wise which one do you recommend?

    • Reply August 1, 2016

      dale thorn

      You will get better SQ from the DF’s, but to decide on red or black depends on several factors, so you would need to read the review and ask about specific factors that are important to you.

  • Reply August 1, 2016

    B

    The whole review sounds like paid advertisement for AudioQuest DragonFly…I understand that the author “likes” the product “a lot”…but reading the review i get that feeling that his neutral bias is challenged..to say the least….

    • Reply August 1, 2016

      Lieven

      I can’t say I agree. Have you read my 1.2 and JB review? I can assure you we can freely write whatever we want.

      The DragonFly units simply are very good, especially the RED and that comes from me, a guy that doesn’t like USB dongle sized audio gear.

    • Reply August 1, 2016

      dale thorn

      That’s silly. I’ve had 3 DragonFlys so far, all were amazing values. Reviewing a DragonFly is a win for everyone, because everyone pretty well knows what it is.

    • Reply August 4, 2017

      Nasra Idub

      Just got the red one, immediately downloaded AQ Device Manager and updated the firmware without any issue. Sounds amazing with my hd25…

      • Reply August 4, 2017

        dale thorn

        Do you know if the update included the MQA codec, and whether you can use it on any music tracks?

  • Reply August 9, 2016

    Edward

    How would you compare dfr to the oppo ha-2?

    • Reply August 10, 2016

      dale thorn

      The Black is better, more spacious, so I assume the Red is better yet.

    • Reply August 10, 2016

      Lieven

      I’m afraid I don’t have the HA-2 with me, sorry.

  • Reply August 16, 2016

    ipromesisposi

    Nice review.
    How would you compare the Red Dragon to the Apogee Groove?
    Of course paired with my beloved Sennheiser HD 650.

  • Reply August 28, 2016

    Philippe Wolff

    Hi there,

    I listen to my music files from a pc on Altec CS21 amplified speakers and wondering if adding a Dragonfly usb unit would add something and provide noticeable better sound through the loudspeakers. Is it woth the try and which one would be the best for this ?
    Will be setting up my system difficult ? Will I be able to listen to all other sounds like youtube vids again or is it only possible by playing music files by using foobar for example ?
    thanks for your help !

  • Reply August 29, 2016

    dale thorn

    How exactly do the speakers connect? What output port on the PC to what input port on the speakers? What type of connecting cable?. Do you control volume on the PC or the speakers? Do the speakers have volume controls?

    • Reply August 29, 2016

      Philippe Wolff

      Hi !

      speakers are connected directly on the dedicated 3.5 mm output from the soundcard.I have volume adjustment on one of the 2 satellite speakers and control the volume from there
      .

      • Reply August 30, 2016

        dale thorn

        You can then use the DragonFly as the DAC, and instead of the 3.5 mm output of the sound card, the 3.5 mm output of the DragonFly will feed the speakers. The amount and type of improvement is unpredictable.

        • Reply September 25, 2016

          Alan Kirschbaum

          I listened to a pair of KRK VXT4s with my phone and dragonfly black. The sales person, who was more familiar with the speaker, wanted to know what it was and where I bought it. Significant improvement.

          • Reply September 26, 2016

            dale thorn

            My first impression was how spacious it sounded, without increasing any treble. But the slight grainy effect (on headphones) would improve with the right amp attached.

  • Reply August 29, 2016

    James

    I’m using ODAC atm. How does the dragonfly Red as a DAC compared? Also how do some older USB-powered DAC like the HRT or Herus (pretty pricey) compared to the DFR?

  • Reply October 4, 2016

    Bojan

    I plan to buy iphone 7 and I am usually using my dunu-2000j on the go and Fidelio X2 when I am home (I do have access to schiit uber stick, though).
    Do you think buying red would be an overkill for iphone7+dunu2000j combo?

  • Reply October 4, 2016

    dale thorn

    Do you have to adjust the volume a lot between the Dunu and the Philips?

    • Reply October 6, 2016

      BOJAN

      No, just a bit.

  • Reply October 5, 2016

    nishelo

    Hello!

    Thanks Lieven for the review.

    I bought the Dragonfly Red after reading this (and I’m quite happy with it). However, I would need a recommendation.

    When I am using it with a pair of LCD 2 (fazor), though they sound good, I still have a feeling it could sound even better. Most of my jazz tracks are OK/enjoyable, but quite all my RnB/Hip Hop tracks feel weak and thin in the bass section.

    From multiple reviews/comments/forum discussions I’ve gone through so far, I hesitate between getting: the Chord Mojo, the Theorem 720 and the Shiit Lyr 2 (within the limits of my budget). Can you recommend what would be a good matching with the LCD 2F (one of the 3, or something else), please? I use a mac (with Roon player, uncompressed files), a Fiio X1 and CL Picollo amp (I got this after reading the X1 review actually). Thanks.

    • Reply October 5, 2016

      Lieven

      Hi! Don’t you like the LCD with the picollo? I do. The Theorem is basically an improved version of the Picollo with the LCD.

  • Reply October 5, 2016

    nishelo

    I have tried these combinations: X1+Picollo+LCD, Macbook+Dragonfly Red+LCD, and Macbook+DF Red+Picollo (max gain)+LCD. The last two give a sound I enjoy more (slightly more with the 3rd combo). I was thinking there could be something else I could put between the Mac and LCD to have a far more better sound. Can you think of something? But if neither of the Mojo, Theorem or Shiit (or anything else) would give a “day-and-nigh” difference, that’s OK. I will just stick to what I currently have. I just want to be sure there is no real improvement I can make. Thanks.

    • Reply October 19, 2016

      David

      Way to complicate a very simple plug and play device. Most of us are audio purists trying to get the best sound from our mobile devices, laptops included. Today very few people want to be anchored to a desktop PC or Mac with the configurations of so many of todays best convertible laptops and powerful tablets. Yes, Im speaking Surface Pro 4 as an example. Android smartphones, Samsung in particular actually have very good DAC’s built in. Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 as well. Audioquest is by all means an excellent company providing cutting edge audio devices and extremely well built cables. The over-complication of Red, Black, Black 1.2 and so forth lead me to believe money is at this driving force now. More devices, more choices, more confused end users. I will say this in conclusion, my Dragonfly 1.2 is balls to the wall amazing. It works quite well with all my devices. I love the simplicity of it. Moving forward ALL versions max out everything from MP3s to FLAC to BluRay at 24-bit/96kHz high-resolution. Simplicity people, that is the fine art of natural, audiophile acoustics. Too many chefs is the kitchen…you get the idea. Thanks.

      • Reply October 19, 2016

        dale thorn

        My DF Black is superior to my DF v1.2 – more spacious and airy – verified at some length. But how a person relates to that depends on their source as well as their music and what they listen for. Speaking of complicating things….

      • Reply October 7, 2017

        Gordon Rankin

        David, really the dacs in any of these mass produced phones and tablets really don’t preform very well. As someone who has designed for them, they have too many cost accounts holding back their capabilities.

  • Reply October 14, 2016

    Leon

    Regarding your problem with Foobar when encountering music at 192khz, you can use a plugin called resampler-v where you can set 192khz and 176.6khz to be downsampled by half, all other music of compatible sample rates will be left alone.

    Personally, I am disappointed that neither dragonfly accepts 192khz as it really it a sizeable improvement over 96khz. I still have a cambridge audio dacmagic xs which you can switch between usb 1 and 2 modes so on a public computer you can just plug and go whereas at home you can install a driver to get 192khz. I don’t buy the arguments about increased rf noise at 192khz, many dacs are even simpler and manage just fine.

    I’d imagine the majority of buyers are audio enthusiasts, I wouldn’t mind a physical button to switch sample rates and adjust the volume. For the moment though, I won’t be buying this because of a lack of 192khz. A lack of dxd and dsd is more understandable as those content are rare and you can use your desktop dac back home.

    • Reply October 19, 2016

      dale thorn

      I put a higher priority on low power because it makes the DF’s more universal. Either way, Some people might find the Red or Black to sound better at 96k than another DAC at 192k. At the price they sell for, well worth trying.

  • Reply October 21, 2016

    Nel

    Very helpful review. I just bought DF Red. 🙂

  • Reply November 6, 2016

    IwanW

    Thanks Lieven for the review.

    May I ask how would the Dragonfly Black & Red compare with FiiO E17K Alpen2? I listen to mostly classical & instrumental songs using my HD 598.

    • Reply November 6, 2016

      dale thorn

      DragonFly has a more spacious, airy sound.

  • Reply November 9, 2016

    Derek c

    DEREK C
    Hi there. I am wanting to purchase the dragonfly black or red , my problem is , as I’ve read.

    I have my pc has vista , which does not support dragonfly.

    Secondly I have most of my music on ipad 2 . Which needs the older 30 pin camera adapter.

    Then I read that Apple lowered the power on some of their devices from 200ma to 20 ma ?

    So would a dragonfly black or red work for me ? Without a powered hub. As I’ve seen a few vids on YouTube of people trying to work round this fix ? Want to be sure before purchasing

    • Reply November 9, 2016

      dale thorn

      Chances are that if the 30-pin camera kit supports other low-power devices, it may support the DragonFly too. My DragonFly works on Windows XP, and since Vista is newer, why would Vista not work? Are you missing a driver?

    • Reply October 7, 2017

      Gordon Rankin

      Derek, vista is supported, you just to deal with KMixer which is well documented.

  • Reply November 9, 2016

    Derek c

    It clearly states on the audioquest website that vista does not support it.

    Apparently Microsoft and audioquest are working towards a solution.

    But I do have a Samsung s7 so I could use a on the go usb. But back to the ipad 2 issue .read on YouTube that you could use powered hubs or plugable for some devices , but not all.

    Would like confirmation that I can use ipad 2 with dragonfly.

    • Reply November 10, 2016

      dale thorn

      I ordered a 30-pin Apple camera kit, and when that arrives (Friday) I’ll find someone with a 30-pin iPad or iPhone and try it. It will probably work, but we will see then.

    • Reply November 10, 2016

      Scott

      Just so you know, the S7 (or any Samsung device for that matter) doesn’t work properly w/ the new Dragonfly DACs. Samsung cripples the USB OTG…you basically have to turn the device all the way up to get any volume out of it. Contrast that w/ the iPad Pro 9.7 I’ve got and the device is at about 25% when it is ear piercing. I’ve got a Oppo HA2 and it works properly w/ S7. So clearly an issue w/ the software’s not talking properly back and forth.

  • Reply November 10, 2016

    Derek c

    Hope so, it’s to do with a too much power error message that people get on some devices.

    Then they work round it with a plugable hub or a powered usb hub.

    But since the new red uses less power than the new black it may work.

    Also I read that the 30 pin camera adapter has 2 slots .one for sd card and one usb .and sometimes the sd works but the USB not. There could be a switch on the side that could fix this?

    Im fascinated to see how it goes.

  • Reply November 26, 2016

    ChrisNunz

    Hi! Quick question — if I am using an iPhone 7 Plus and IEM’s (V-Sonic GR07 Classics to be specific), should I be fine with the Black or should I go with the Red?

    The GR07’s are 50 ohm IEM’s and even with my old iPhone 6 Plus and my current 7 Plus with the Apple dongle I reach my maximum comfortable listening volume at 75% of maximum volume, if that.

    If I get the Black, I assume the volume controls won’t change that much but with the Red will that mean my ideal maximum will be less precise? Thanks!

  • Reply December 2, 2016

    George

    Hi!
    How do they compare with ifi products and especially the Nano iDSD?
    it is a bit bigger but it looks like its going to last quite a bit longer than the dragonfly

    • Reply December 4, 2016

      AMGB,

      Good cuestión.

  • Reply December 4, 2016

    AMGB

    Fiio X5 first gen. vs ifi Nano IDSD vs Encore MDSD (Sonic Unity) vs Dragonfly Black.
    Better sound?

  • Reply December 12, 2016

    Jimbolia

    My df 1.2 is much better sounding than my df black, in particular with a much wider and deeper soundstage. The 1.2 sounds so much better to my ear that I gave the black 1.5 away. Just to note, I’m using them as a dac\pre into a power amp\florestander combo. I know this is a headphone site…

    • Reply December 12, 2016

      dale thorn

      That makes sense. A better comparison would be the Red compared to the v1.2.

  • Reply January 17, 2017

    Gregory Martin Wodark

    Supposedly, Audioquest is going to make the Dragonflys MQA enabled somehow. They are doing it with an update, I believe. Do you know the facts?

    If so, will it do as good of a job of decoding MQA as the Meridian Explorer 2, or the upcoming Mytek Clef? As you know, these are similarly priced DAC/ headphone amps that do have MQA technology.

  • Reply January 27, 2017

    Riley

    Hi. I read the review, great stuff. I had the black dragonfly and lost it (god bless my soul) a few weeks ago which I simply cannot find. It was the newer black dragonfly, as I purchased it last fall (and I believe it was the v1.2).

    Sucks. My question is, now that I’m looking to reinvest in one, because yes these DACs are just amazing,

    I’m unclear about what you mean when you compare airy bass and crisp bass. Or, when I read your article I did not know how the basses were explained. I’ve been listening to bass-defecit audio lately but I think it’s due to the speakers or headphones. I just need help adding bass to my system, its bass depleted and I listen to heavy electronic/rock music. Details of my system can be explained if someone responds. Ty!

    • Reply January 27, 2017

      dale thorn

      Airy and Crisp aren’t used to describe bass as far as I know. The bass descriptions are more like Tight, Firm, Impactful, Layered, etc. What headphone are you using that is bass-light, with what amps?

  • Reply March 6, 2017

    Mike Moyer

    Anyone know how the red or black would compare to the PONO player?

    Specifically for hi-res music on my iphone.

  • Reply March 6, 2017

    dale thorn

    John Atkinson has done the best reviews of the Pono player that I’ve read. The DF Red sounds very very good – likely at least as good as Pono. The real important differences are the one-box Pono solution with fixed features, versus the flexibility of the Dragonfly.

  • Reply May 17, 2017

    Ed

    I know I’m late to the party, but I was wondering if should get the red or the black? My purpose is to use it for my mobile device to stream music from Spotify and Pandora. My headphone jack is not enough to tickle my fancy anymore ha.

    • Reply May 18, 2017

      dale thorn

      The Black plays much louder being more efficient, but the Red is better quality – smoother, less grainy (or something like that). I gave the Black away and bought the Red – very happy now.

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Alex

    Can the RDL plays with Beyer DT 1990 Pr (250 ohm)? Anyone try? Pls let me know! Thank you!

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Lieven

      By all means, now if you like the sound or not, that’s only something you can decide about. Any way to audition?

      • Reply May 31, 2017

        Alex

        I mean that could the DT 1990 has fully preformance when combine with RDF? Or we need orther additional equipment? I use IP7 as sourse and I will get RDF next week.

        • Reply May 31, 2017

          Lieven

          It won’t be bad but it won’t be the full potential either

          • Reply May 31, 2017

            Alex

            Could you please recommend some DAC?AMP which could use all potential of this headphone? Thank you.

            • Reply May 31, 2017

              Lieven

              CDM, HUGO; WA8, first ones that come up in my mind. And many other even some DAPs, but do try your RED first

              • Reply May 31, 2017

                Alex

                Thank you so much!

  • Reply June 11, 2017

    Kjetil

    Hi. 🙂 Has anyone tested Red or Black with Bowers&Wilkins P5 headphones from an iPhone 6?

    • Reply June 11, 2017

      dale thorn

      I’ve tested the Red with a lot of headphones with iPhone 6 and 7 (all good), and I’ve also tested the Black with a number of headphones and devices, including an iPod Touch that has the 30-pin port, using the old Camera Kit. That all worked well too. I found the Black much more efficient – several decibels, so it plays a good bit louder than the Red. Still, the Red has enough volume to damage your ears right now with the B&W P5 – more than enough. And it’s smoother, much better than the Black. BTW, adding in a JitterBug can also make a difference in some cases.

      • Reply June 11, 2017

        Kjetil

        Thank you! Very helpful. 👍 Seems like Red is the one to go for. 😃

  • Reply June 21, 2017

    Jos van Zetten

    My English is not perfect but i try.
    Verry good and detailed review, thanks for that.

    I own the v1.2 and the Black and use them a lot. I am verry happy with the DragonFly’s, specialy the Black (don’t know the Red yet).

    But one thing, i don’t agree with your opinion about the build quality.
    Out of the box they feel verry sollid, but after a wile chanched the were not so sollid any more.
    The usb plugs of both my DF’s are getting lose in the body. I can move the usb when i am holding the body in my hand.
    The Black stoped working when i moved the usb plug in a specific position, when i moved the usb back it worked again.
    I received a new Black from my dealer and this one is still ok after a few months.

    Perhaps i had bad luck, but becouse of my experiance i am a little afraight to buy a DF Red.

    But overall i am verry happy about the SQ of my Audioquest product.

    Jos van Zetten
    Amsterdam, Netherlands

    • Reply June 21, 2017

      dale thorn

      Since both of your DF’s have problems, it’s probably not just bad luck. But since none of the 4 DF’s I have (or had) have had problems, then my guess would be that yours must be getting strain around the connectors.

      Oddly enough, the warnings that AQ usually gives about the DF are not about the headphone jack, but about the USB jack on the computer, which can be loosened by weight placed on the DF from heavy cables and tugging on those cables.

      • Reply June 21, 2017

        Jos van Zetten

        Thanks for your reply.
        When i use them in the usb port of my Mac or laptop i use a AQ Dragontail so they can rest on my desk to prevent force from the audiocable to my amp.
        But when i use the Black during travling (daily in the train) in my iPhone i can imagine there will be some force on the USB jack.

        • Reply June 21, 2017

          dale thorn

          Do get in touch with AudioQuest to get their ideas on how to protect the DF’s (assuming of course it’s not defects) in daily use. These little DACs are a valuable add-on for phones – I couldn’t get along without them.

  • Reply July 6, 2017

    Martin

    Hi all..

    Some interesting points here.

    I’m thinking of purchasing the Black V1.5 as I just can’t justify the spend of the Red given how little time I get to listen to my audio collection 🙁

    I’ve got the Klipsch X10i IEM’s which IMO sound great on my iPhone 7. Been using these with an app called Radsone which plays flac files (bit of a pain to load them onto the device but that’s a story for another day).

    My question is: Is there a specific audio app that one should use with an iPhone which will allow the device to switch from using the phone’s dac to the DF’s or does this happen automatically when one plugs in the DF?

    • Reply July 6, 2017

      dale thorn

      It switches automatically. And just a note: The Black is way, way more efficient than the Red, and a tiny bit grainy at that. It wouldn’t be my choice for an IEM, but since each IEM is different, who knows? It might work OK for you.

      • Reply July 6, 2017

        Martin

        Great!
        Thanks for the feedback… Gonna pull the trigger on the Black for now… our exchange rate here in South Africa complicates things somewhat.

  • Reply October 28, 2017

    Pierre

    Hi guys, has anyone tried one of these devices with Grado cans? I need a DAC/amp at work (impossible to install any drivers) and I have the SR325is and just bought last week used RS-1 in perfect condition (I really fell in love with it’s musicality). At home, the RS-1 sounds a bit too bright with my Audiolab M-Dac, but I like the pacing and transparency. I’m listening to all kinds of music, but especially classical as I’m writing CD reviews (in French, so sorry for my English).

    • Reply October 28, 2017

      dale thorn

      In my opinion, the DF Black would be too rough sounding with the SR325, assuming you’re using the standard earpads. The DF Red should work very well, but it could still be bright depending on your music tracks and your tastes. I think anyone who finds the Grados (from the 325 down) too bright or harsh, should try tube amps if they can.

      • Reply October 29, 2017

        Pierre

        Thank you Dale. Tube may be a solution. The guy at the HiFi Store told me exactly the same thing yesterday. Hope I’ll find something that doesn’t need any drivers!

  • Reply November 14, 2017

    DC

    If the Dragonfly Red does not have all the power for the Hd650s, what equipment to use 650’s potential at this price range?

  • Reply November 14, 2017

    Lieven

    Doubt there is any

  • Reply November 14, 2017

    DC

    Between € 200 and € 300 DF Red is still the best choice? and for that value have some amp / dac desktop that is better for the 650?
    for a small amount, is it better to invest in someone else who makes the 650 better?

  • Reply November 15, 2017

    DC

    I’m going to look better at THE ELEMENT, but it’s almost double the value of DF Red, so it’s got to be worth that amount. I intend to use the amplifier and Dac with 2 headphones at the same time, so I would have to look for an adapter for that output of The Element (1/4 “), and since it costs almost the same value as the A20 that Lieven indicated, compatible with 650, so now the doubt is. I’m almost giving up on getting the two 650 …

  • Reply November 15, 2017

    DC

    Before any decision, I’m waiting for you to review with the HD660s, I want to hear from Lieven if the bass of the 660 is better or equal to the 650. For the 660 being similar to the 650, it has only 150ohms, being so easier to drive, maybe even with a dragonfly. thank you guys.

    • Reply November 16, 2017

      Igni Ferro

      @DC,
      Just so you know, the HD 660 S was designed with the same frequency response curve (relative volume of each frequency pitch) as the HD 650, however it has better technical performance and lower distortion. Sennheiser had a different measurement coupling 14 years ago for the HD 650, so while the SPL sensitivities on their product website are only a little different, the HD 660 S does in fact require less current and voltage.

      I got to hear the HD 660 S alone for about an hour… it will indeed be an interesting headphone to read reviews on, because the AMOUNT of bass/mids/treble is the same, and yet the HD 660 S sounds like a whole different headphone. Oh, and the HD 660 S also needed a bit less gain to get the same volume level as the HD 650 (had to turn the volume down 10-15%), and Sennheiser confirmed that the HD 660 S is more efficient in addition to having half the impedance, so…

      I can’t guarantee the new headphone is a match for the Dragonfly Red, however I bet both headphones would get “loud enough,” while your experience will be better with the HD 660 S. As Lieven said, the bass energy won’t compete with a full-size good amp, and I would add to that separation and soundstage… the HD 6-series scale up with source gear costing more than the headphone itself.

  • Reply November 15, 2017

    Lieven

    Can you wait till 2018? Bass w
    Isn’t like the 650 on a good amp imo

  • Reply November 16, 2017

    DC

    I could wait until it was worth the HD660 and if it was a good final acquisition. I am in these doubts about these two headphones and the amp and DAC because it will be a choice that hit them, it will be the sound I would use for many years, because I would not seek other headphones. I like the signature of Sennheiser.

  • Reply November 16, 2017

    DC

    To close then Lieven. If in your opinion, the sound of the 660 is not like the 650 and seen the HD650 have the best bass and a more pleasant sound to hear. I’ll take the 650 then! Since I can only buy one equipment at a time, due to the budget. Would I buy the HD650 first. would first look at an amplified or a DAC? From what I noticed the amplifier is more important, then invested more in it than in the DAC. AMP A20 has sufficient power for HD650, but how does it present its sound? A neutral/warm/bright sound?
    And the DAC you’d use with the A20, would DF black give that combination?

    Note: In purchasing the HD650, considering the average value €340, for more €119 in case €459, on the Sennheiser website, buy the 650 Groove pack. For €119 worth investing in this configuration? I would try to use Groove as DAC along with Amp A20, what do you think?

    • Reply November 16, 2017

      Lieven

      I don’t like the Groove, no idea why they are selling that for the 650.

      Check our a20 review to find out more about the synergy with the 650. I recommend a clear and detailed dac and a warmer powerful amp. The A20 isn’t the very best amp but that combination works with a good clear dac. Something like the herus or from Chord or the DFs

      • Reply November 18, 2017

        Alma

        Would you recomend the a20 or the JDS El Amp with the 650s?

  • Reply November 16, 2017

    DC

    Thanks for the reply, Lieven. I saw your review of the Amp A20, and I saw that you liked the sound of it with the 650, so I mentioned it. On a clear Dac, I saw in the Review of DF Red that you defined his sound as clear and neutral, so I’m looking at the DF Red. Chord is above what I can now, I would only look at him if he could play the role of amp and dac that the HD650 needs and give it the power it needs.

    @IGNI FERRO, From what I’ve seen so far about the 660S is that even the frequency response curve being similar to the 650, the 660S sounded brighter than the 650, looking more like the 600 with more bass power. I would really be interested in it if it had the 650 signature (bass / mids / treble) and since it has half ohms of the 650, it would be more compatible with amplifiers that do not have that much power. Like the DF Red, if it does not account for the 300ohm of the 650, maybe it would account for the 150ohms of the 660S. That would be very good as it would save on amp. Thanks for the comment.

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