Review: Audioquest DragonFly V1.2 – Success

Disclaimer: The AudioQuest DragonFly V1.2 was loaned to me by Audioquest directly, it was part of the NightHawk & JitterBug review package.

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The Audioquest DragonFly DAC/amp isn’t that new and the original version in the meantime has been replaced by the DragonFly V1.2. The Audioquest DragonFly V1.2 isn’t the first Audioquest product to be featured on Headfonia, the NightHawk headphone and the JitterBug reviews were both published several weeks/months ago already. The Audioquest DragonFly V1.2 however arrived later as Audioquest couldn’t keep up with the growing demand. That made me have high expectations for this unit and at the same time that explains why we’re a bit late with publishing this article.

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. I never had the opportunity to listen to the V1.0 myself, do take that into account. A new DragonFly Red will be hitting the market soon but I haven’t heard anything official about it myself. The Red will use less power allowing it to be used with Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. It will also have a new 32-bit ESS 9010 DAC inside.

Dragonfly V1.2 – Not Sound

The DragonFly V1.2 is small (12mm x 19mm x 62mm) and it came in a very nice (oversized) box that looks almost identical to the JitterBug’s box. That Jitterbug in fact can easily be used in combination with the V1.2. The latest DragonFly is very well built and it looks and feels very nice. It basically has the same size as the average memory stick and so it’s very easy to take with you.

The DragonFly V1.2 is USB stick-size digital to analog audio converter (DAC) and amplifier, all-in-one. According to Audioquest, the DragonFly V1.2 is an affordable and easy-to-use device that delivers far superior sound by bypassing the poor quality sound card that is built into your computer. DragonFly is a sleek, flash drive sized DAC that connects to a USB jack on a Mac or Windows PC, turning any computer into a true high- fidelity music source.

I’m not the biggest fan of this type of devices and I really didn’t like the last one I tested – the Geek Out 1000. I do however like the Resonessance Labs Herus, Stoner Acoustics UD120 and some others. These in contrast to the DragonFly all connect using a standard USB to micro USB-cable. Having heard nothing but good about the DragonFly however, I really wanted to give it a chance and I’m glad I did.

Audioquest DragonFly 1.2 D

The DragonFly V1.2 plays all music files using an unknown 24-bit ESS Sabre (word is it actually is a 9023) chip to do the decoding and amplification. The DragonFly V1.2 does 16-bit/44kHz to native 24-bit/96kHz with an asynchronous USB audio data transfer protocol (Texas Instruments TAS1020B). The V1.2 drives headphones and earphones directly but can also be used in ‘variable’ output mode with computer-controlled analog volume control when connected directly to powered speakers or a power amplifier. Or when connecting to a traditional preamplifier or AV receiver, DragonFly V1.2 can be set to a “fixed” output mode by turning the volume to maximum.

When correctly using the DragonFly V1.2 the DragonFly logo on the USB-stick will light up in a different color depending on the bitrate the chip is receiving: 44.1 kHz (green), 48 kHz (glue), 88.2 kHz (amber) and 96 kHz (magenta). You don’t have to install any proprietary drivers and you can just use the Windows drivers. I myself use Foobar2000 on my laptop and the DragonFly V1.2 works perfectly using KS (Kernel Streaming). The DragonFly uses two discrete onboard “clocks” so that the math algorithms used to convert the digital audio data to analog are always optimized for the native sample rate of the audio file or stream being played. This ensures the least amount of mathematical manipulation to the native audio data, which results in fewer errors and better sound.

Sound after the click on Page 2

Specifications:

  • Sample rates supported, LED indicator color codes: 44.1kHz (Green), 48kHz (Blue), 88.2kHz (Amber), 96kHz (Magenta)
  • Output voltage: 2vrms
  • Minimum driven impedance (headphones, electronic input): 12 ohms
  • Maximum headphone driver output power: 125mW @ 32 ohms
  • Analog Audio – Frequency Response: DC – 22 kHz (44.1kHz sample rate) DC – 24 kHz (48kHz sample rate) DC – 44 kHz (88.2kHz sample rate)
  • Asynchronous Transfer Ensures Digital Timing Integrity
  • Dual Fixed-Frequency Master Clocks Enable Optimal ‘Clocking’ (Digital Timing) For All Sample Rates

Sound after the click on Page 2

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Review: Audioquest DragonFly V1.2 – Success
4.1 (81.67%) 12 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.

16 Comments

  • Reply March 22, 2016

    Barun C

    Nice review Lieven, although today, I only find these kinds of devices good for form factor advantage and that’s it. I think there is a potential of these kind of devices improving in terms of delivering performance as good as full sized portable DAC/AMP combos in the next 5 years or so.

    On a sperate note, hope you are okay Lieven, just heard about the horrible things going on at Brussels.

    • Reply March 22, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      Thanks Barun. I just made it back home from a very confusing and terrifying day in the capital.

  • Reply March 22, 2016

    dalethorn

    This review matches my experience very closely.

  • Reply March 31, 2016

    ipromesisposi

    Nice review. I’m in the market for an update for the awesome Fiio E10. Considering that it’ll have to push a HD650, What is your recommendation?

    • Reply March 31, 2016

      dalethorn

      You can buy an all-in-one DAC/amp that’s portable, or not portable (check the reviews here). If you buy a Dragonfly or other USB DAC-plus-“amp” that has USB power only, you could get by with it for some time, then add an amp with more power later on, using the Dragonfly as the DAC to drive that amp.

      • Reply April 1, 2016

        ipromesisposi

        I’m afraid I haven’t explained well. I’m looking for an (remarkable, if possible) upgrade for my Fiio E10. Preferably affordable (not the gorgeous Phatlab reviewed yesterday, out of bounds completely) y with enough punch for the Sennheiser HD 650. Maybe as simple as the Fiio E10 Olympus…

        • Reply April 2, 2016

          dalethorn

          So are you looking for ideas of different amps, DAC/amps, specific budget, your source….?

          • Reply April 5, 2016

            ipromesisposi

            Yes, I’m looking for an appreciable upgrade for my venerable Fiio E10 (first version). Preferably USB DAC+Amp all in one. The cans are (and it’ll be) my beloved HD650 and the source is a laptop which treasures 2 terabytes of classical music in lossless formats. Budget? Sparse, 400$ tops.

  • Reply April 20, 2016

    Keattikorn

    Hi,
    I do have the Audioquest dragonfly v1.2 and Fiio X3ii. I would like to hear your opinion on them compared to Astell and Kern AK100II for sound quality/signature aspect. I could sell the dragonfly and X3ii, then purchase AK100 ii.

    The AK100 ii can be used for home-wifi playback as a DAC, which is pretty convenient. It also has Bluetooth connectivity/touch screen interface.

  • Reply October 18, 2016

    NOPPAROOT

    this one vs e10k what is your opinion i’m just gonna buy my first dac and i’m so confuse

    • Reply October 19, 2016

      dale thorn

      The DF v1.2 is a big step above the FiiO. But the DF might not work everywhere the FiiO works. In that case the DF Red or Black is better.

      • Reply October 21, 2016

        NOPPAROOT

        i just wanna use it with my pc but i didn’t know that df is really better than e10k that far. this is really make me confuse the price of df is much more than e10k 50% is it worth for that price ?

        thank you for comment i’m really appreciate this 😀

        ps. sorry for my bad eng

        • Reply October 22, 2016

          dale thorn

          The DF is much better – dramatically better. The price difference is not just $30, it’s the hundreds of dollars you spend on all your music and your gear, which gets filtered by the DAC/amp that you use.

          • Reply October 24, 2016

            NOPPAROOT

            that made my decision lol thx for information i’m going to buy it next weekend 😀

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