AudioQuest DragonFly Red USB DAC
32-Bit ESS Sabre 9016 Digital-To-Analogue Conversion Chip
Detailed, Dynamic, And Natural Sounding Music
Compatible With Apple And Most Android Devices
Stereo Mini-jack Provides Direct Headphone Connection.
The latest Audioquest DragonFly Red v1.0 is perfect for uses where a larger DAC is unsuitable. It will deliver great sound from your computer, laptop or portable device. Recently, the design team at AudioQuest not only gave the Red a far more energy-efficient design — ideal for portable use — but they even managed to enhance its performance.
The Original AudioQuest DragonFly DAC
We think it's good for you as a potential buyer to know the history of these products, so here we go! Launched in 2012, press and public alike have enthusiastically embraced AudioQuest’s multi-award-winning DragonFly USB digital-to-analogue converter/preamp/headphone amp as the rare audio product that bridges the gap between die-hard audiophiles and mainstream music lovers. DragonFly plugs into a computer’s USB port to bypass the computer’s compromised audio circuitry and deliver cleaner, clearer, more naturally beautiful sound to headphones, powered speakers, and complete audio systems.
Small, affordable, easy to use, and remarkably effective, DragonFly was named Stereophile’s 2012 “Computer Audio Component of the Year” and 2012 “Budget Component of the Year;” Tone Audio’s 2012 “Digital Product of the Year;” Computer Audiophile’s 2012 “Computer Audiophile Product of the Year;” AudioStream’s “Greatest Bits;” and What Hi-Fi?’s 2014 “Product of the Year.”
The Next Generation: 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.
Convenience and performance are no longer mutually exclusive. With DragonFly Black and Red, any computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone can be used as a true high-fidelity music player, allowing music lovers to enjoy beautiful sound wherever they go, whenever they please.
AudioQuest and DragonFly designer Gordon Rankin worked alongside Microchip Technology to develop this 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.
Further, we simply cannot overstate the significance of Gordon Rankin’s contributions to AudioQuest. The new DragonFly models embody many of Gordon’s most innovative, creative, and elegant digital-audio solutions to date.
Improved 32-Bit Digital Performance: For greater overall performance, 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 analogue volume control found in DragonFly v1.2, DragonFly Red v1.0 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 will output 1.2 volts—enough power to successfully drive all preamplifier input circuits and a wide range of today’s efficient headphones. Meanwhile, with its higher 2.1-volt output, DragonFly Red v1.0 will be compatible with a wider range of headphones, including power-hungry, low-efficiency models.
While the DAC chips AudioQuest selected are remarkably powerful and sophisticated, they’ve intentionally limited DragonFly Black and DragonFly Red’s processing capabilities to 24-bit/96kHz resolution. This makes using the DragonFlys as simple as it’s always been: they’re fully compatible with PCs without having to download and install new drivers.
Most importantly, DragonFly is designed to honour the music you already own and love. Whether you’re listening to Spotify, YouTube, Tidal, ripped CDs, or state-of-the-art high-resolution files, DragonFly will deliver a more emotionally compelling and enjoyable experience.
In addition, the new DragonFlys will be software upgradeable through a complimentary Windows or OS X desktop application. As new developments arise in music player applications, streaming protocols, or other associated software, DragonFly users will be able to incorporate those updates to their existing devices.
A Closer Look
Physical: Red Automotive Finish With Gold Lettering, Protective End-Cap, Leatherette Travel Pouch
Native Resolution: Up to 24-bit / 96kHz
High Output: 2.1 volts. Direct-Coupled, High output — With a combination of power, beauty, and finesse, DragonFly Red delivers greater overall impact, momentum, and grip than either DragonFly 1.2 or DragonFly Black, while also surpassing their excellent senses of touch, texture, and nuance. In addition, Red's high (2.1v) output means that it can easily drive the widest range of headphones. When used as a line-level device (volume set to 100%), Red's 2.1 volts provide enough power to drive all preamplifier, integrated amplifier, or receiver inputs.
Microcontroller: Microchip PIC32MX. The Microchip PIC32MX (USB 2.0 compliant) is a full-speed isochronous USB audio solution. Compared to other controllers, the Microchip microcontroller offers extremely low power consumption (77% lower than the TAS1020b and 95% lower than the most efficient XMOS solution), 32-bit architecture, and the option for software upgradibility (via a desktop application provided by AudioQuest). In addition, the Microchip's ultra-low-noise power supply minimises the sound-degrading effect of high-frequency interference on the critical audio signal.
DAC Chip: ESS 9016 32-Bit. Like the ESS 9010, the 32-bit ESS 9016 uses a sophisticated minimum-phase digital filter to provide more naturally detailed and dynamic music, but surpasses the 9010 in overall performance.
Volume Control: Digital: 64-Bit Bit-Perfect Volume Control. DragonFly Red employs a 64-bit, bit-perfect digital volume control that resides inside the DAC chip itself—an elegant and sophisticated implementation that ensures maximum fidelity, dynamic contrast, and signal-to-noise ratio. With DragonFly Red connected to a PC or mobile device, adjusting the host’s system volume control will, through proxy, control the DragonFly Red’s onboard volume.
Desktop/PC Compatibility: Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10; Apple OS X; Linux (no support provided)
Mobile Campatibility: Yes: Apple iOS (5 and newer); Android 4.1 and newer. For Android devices, see owner's manual.
Software Upgradable: Yes (from desktop application): Please download AudioQuest's Desktop Manager Application and register your product.
USB Protocol: Asynchronous USB Streamlength®. Streamlength™ asynchronous USB code ensures low jitter, low resource load, minimal packet errors, world-class audio playback, and reliable connectivity between the DAC and any computing device compliant with USB Host Mode (as set forth by the USB Organization). Streamlength requires no additional drivers, making DragonFly Black virtually plug-and-play for Apple, Windows, iOS, and Android users.
AudioQuest has been the largest cable supplier to the high-end specialist market for several decades and is sold in over sixty countries. Founder Bill Lowe is especially pleased that this success has been possible despite his insistence that the foundation of the company, and the foundation of AudioQuest marketing, must be the performance of the product and when he visited Audio Trends a couple of years back we were convinced of this by his genuine sincerity. In the audio world, many professionals have learned that it is not always convenient to listen to the products they sell … they might learn something they don’t want to know! Bill has always understood the challenge of basing the existence of AudioQuest on the performance of the product. However, to Bill, this is the only reasonable way to do business and the only acceptable way to combine his passion for music (and all things high performance), with his need to make a living.
In our experience none of the Dragonfly DACs sound at their best straight out of the box. They normally need a minimum of 20 hours use to start revealing their potential and up to 200 hours before they sound their best.
Main Features & Specifications
- Product Description: DragonFly Red v1.0 Portable USB DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter)
- Plays All Music Files: MP3 to high-res
- Compatibility: Apple and Windows PCs, as well as iOS and Android mobile devices (requires Apple Camera Adapter or Made for Android/OTG adaptor)
- Variable Output: 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
- Chip: 32-bit ESS 9016 DAC with minimum-phase filter
- Volume Control: Bit-perfect digital volume control
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 19 x 12 x 62mm
- Manufacturer's Warranty: 1 Year
Note: Features & Specifications Subject To Change Without Notice. E&OE.