Welcome to my review of the Audioquest Dragonfly Red. The Dragonfly Red is a USB DAC, Preamp and Headphone amplifier all squeezed into the size of a USB memory stick.
The Key Specification
– USB Stick-Sized Digital-to-Analog Converter
– Plays all music files: MP3 to high-res
– Compatible with Apple and Windows PCs, as well as iOS and Android mobile devices (requires Apple Camera Adapter or Made for Android/OTG adaptor)
– Drives headphones directly
– Fixed output feeds preamp or AV receiver
– Asynchronous transfer ensures digital timing integrity
– High output (2.1 volts) drives almost all headphones, including power-hungry models
– 32-bit ESS 9016 DAC with minimum-phase filter
– Bit-perfect digital volume control
– Firmware upgradeable
The Sound Quality and Experience
For the purposes of this review I tested the Dragonfly Red using my iPad, Samsung Galaxy S7 and Macbook. Headphone used were Oppo PM-3, Dunu Titan 5, Sony XBA-1, Sennheiser HD598se and Audio Technica M50x.
All three source components had no issues functioning with the Dragonfly Red. To use with the iPad I needed to use the Apple Camera adapter and with the Samsung Galaxy S7 an OTG adapter. Samsung include an OTG adapter in the box which is handy.
Also worth noting on the S7, to get the best experience you must use an app called USB Audio Player Pro. If you listen to the S7 using other music services/apps they don’t connect to the digital direct drive volume so at max levels the volume may not be high enough. With UAPP the volume is immense.
When using portable devices or your smartphone, the Dragonfly Red does drain the battery of your device faster than normal. This is to be expected as its needs power from somewhere. However, unlike other portable DAC/Headphone amps that have an built in battery, it never goes flat or needs recharging.
I listened to a number of different genres – dance, classical, jazz, rock and blues. I found the Dragonfly Red provided oodles more power and control than using the source components own headphone jack. Also the layering and delicacy of the music was lovely at times. This was more noticeable with classical and jazz genres. The soundstage improved too with the DAC. Overall the music was clearer, more defined, better layered and provided a decent lift in quality.
A remarkable piece of kit from Audioquest. Top notch sound quality bundled in such a small package. Recommended.
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