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DragonFly Black & DragonFly Red
AudioQuest is truly pleased to introduce two dramatic
steps forward-two new DragonFlys with unprecedented
audio quality and even higher performance-to-cost ratios-and,
drum roll, they work with Apple and Android™ phones!
Yes, that last point is a biggie. From the day that the original
DragonFly came out, we got requests for a DragonFly-quality
DAC to use with smartphones. Finally, thanks to newly
available parts, power draw is now well within what any
phone will authorize.
We've been busy for years making this new generation of
DragonFlys possible. AudioQuest worked alongside Microchip
Technology to develop a new high-performance, full-speed
USB microcontroller (a DAC's input processor) that delivers
improved signal-to-noise ratio and significantly lower power
consumption. Drawing 77% less current than the DragonFly
v1.2's microcontroller, the new Microchip MX microcontroller
enables true compatibility with Apple and Android smartphones
and tablets. For use with Apple iOS devices, Apple's
Lightning-to-USB Camera Adaptor is required; for use with
Android devices, a Made for Android (OTG) adaptor, such as
our DragonTail USB Adaptor For Android Devices, is required.
We hesitate to brag about specific electronic parts in the
DragonFlys because the implementation of those parts is
as crucial as their quality. Please don't make the mistake of
thinking that DACs with the same microcontroller or primary
processor all sound alike! Depending on the circuit design,
control of noise, power supply regulation, quality of the many
passive parts, etc., a supposedly "lesser" DAC chip can easily
outperform a "better" DAC chip in a different DAC.
Also, as with cameras and their previous race to have more
pixels than the other guy, playing the numbers game can
distract and deceive. While the DAC chips in both the Black
and Red DragonFlys have great capability, we have chosen
to limit DragonFly Red and Black processing to 24-bit/96kHz.
This makes using the DragonFlys as simple as it's always been,
fully compatible with PCs, etc., without having to download
and install new drivers. Though maybe more importantly,
faster processing can mean more noise, so while playing
24/192 files with some of the best component DACs does offer
sonic advantages, many DACs actually sound better when
the computer down-samples a 24/192 file to 24/96 before
sending the data to the DAC. Our point is that AudioQuest
plays a music-quality game first and foremost. DragonFlys
are designed to be the-best-they-can-be Emotional Transportation
for your music, whether Spotify, YouTube videos, Tidal,
ripped CDs, or state-of-the-art Hi-Res files.
Back to bragging about our internals: 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.
Those of you who remember how we bragged about the
DragonFly v1.0 and v1.2 having an analog volume control
might now be going "huh?" Good question! It's a matter of
capabilities. The earlier DragonFlys and the Black feature
an analog volume control because that's a better-sounding
approach than most digital volume controls, which cut off
bits in order to reduce the volume. However, when a digital
volume control, as in the new DragonFly Red, doesn't
compromise the signal, doesn't reduce finesse and subtlety
and low-level detail, then a bit-perfect digital volume control
is superior. Once more, it's not about a particular part or
sample rate or buzz word-it's about honoring the quality of
the resulting sound above all else.
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. For reference, DragonFly 1.0 and 1.2 featured
The difference in maximum output between DF Black and DF
Red is essentially irrelevant with our NightHawk headphones,
as they can be easily driven by either model, but Red's
higher output is an important advantage with some of the
more inefficient headphones on the market. However, the
difference in sound quality between the two new models
is always meaningful, and is important whether feeding
headphones or the Aux input of an audio system. At the same
volume, Red has much more "torque," "grip," and "muscle"
than Black. Red simply sounds cleaner and clearer overall,
enabling a larger soundstage with each instrument or voice
more nearly in its own space.
And, more good news: The new DragonFlys are software
upgradeable through complimentary Windows and OS X
desktop applications. As new developments arise in music
player applications, streaming protocols, or other associated
software, DragonFly users will be able to incorporate those
updates into their existing devices.
DragonFly Black for only $99, with better sound than any
previous DragonFly for less money than any previous
DragonFly, and DragonFly Red with much better sound at
only $199-and both compatible with phones-how much
good news can you stand?!