Audioquest Dragonfly DAC v1.2 Review – USB DAC / Amplifier

About the Audioquest Dragonfly v1.2

Audioquest Dragonfly DAC available in 3 colors

When Audioquest released the original Dragonfly DAC, it was too huge fanfare and praise after offering far improved audio than most standard laptops and computers come with when pre-built.  Since then, there has been a huge increase in the number of competitors offering USB DAC’s (Digital Analogue Converter).  The way it goes amongst the audiophile community, the Dragonfly 1.0 was beginning to look a bit dated due to this new gear hitting the market. With that in mind, Audioquest has taken to refining the already excellent Dragonfly v1 and tweaking it just enough that it is still a top-of-the-line in the small USB DAC category.

*Long Term Update – I have been using the Audioquest Dragonfly V1.2 for over a year now and continue to be impressed every time I go out with it.  I have been using the Audioquest Dragonfly V1.2 with android for the most part and out of the USB port of my Macbook Pro Retina.  It works flawlessly for me on my current phone (the Motorola Nexus 6) and saves me carrying my awesome but far bulkier Aurender Flow around.  I have updated the rest of this article accordingly to reflect my long-term feelings on this portable USB DAC /Amp solution.

 

THE REVIEW

Audioquest Dragonfly v1.2 – Packaging (8/10)

Packaging of the Dragonfly is excellent, cool design and graphics in a nicely textured cardboard box and sleeve combo rally make it stand out.  The is some good information also for those that might be buying off the shelf.  Inside, the DAC and pouch are both very well protected and presented.  They are encased in a semi-rigid foam and fitted very snuggly. Absolutely no worries about this thing coming loose during transport.

Audioquest Dragonfly v1.2 – Accessories – (7/10)

Not too many accessories are included, but that is more down to the product’s simple function. There is no real requirement for additional parts, so it is not really an issue.  Bonus points are awarded for the inclusion of a small dragonfly branded leather pouch, which should keep your device in tip-top shape when thrown in a bag or a pocket.

Audioquest Dragonfly v1.2 – Style and Build Quality – (8/10)

The Dragonfly is a straightforward design.  Disconnected from the computer, it would easily be mistaken for just an ordinary USB stick with a dragonfly logo on it.  Plug it in, however, and the thing glows and flashes all different colors.  It looks awesome, especially when we had it hooked up with our Alienware laptop and its multicolored keyboard.  The finish is nothing short of excellent. As soon as you pick it up, the high-level build quality shines through, and it feels sturdy and robust to hold.  Finally, we should mention that this, for a DAC of such impressive sound quality, is positively minuscule.  A well-thought-out design indeed.

Audioquest Dragonfly v1.2 – Sound Quality (8.5/10)

The main component that gives the Dragonfly its sound is the SABRE DAC which lurks inside its rather modest shell.  Make no mistake; the Sabre is a beast and a fan favorite amongst audio enthusiasts.  It is incredibly easy for us; you simply plug it into one of your Mac/PC’s free USB ports, and away you go.  Volume attenuation is controlled completely through your computer’s usual volume control, so there is no messing around with bundled proprietary software.

Once we were up and running, we were rewarded with some excellent sound.  The Dragonfly is undeniably clear and clean but manages to retain a sense of intimacy when other products come across as somewhat cold or dark.  When you put it up against the headphone out of our MacBook air, pro and our Thinkpad x240, it was night and day.  The dragonfly doesn’t just make the sound better; it does so exponentially.

Detail levels are extremely high and most likely more than you would ever need when using headphones on the go.  We had it hooked up with our Minerva Mi-Artist Pro for over 2 weeks, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable presentation.  A lot to do with the sound you get out of the Dragonfly will have to do with the headphones or earphones you choose to use it with, but users can expect the following.

– Masses of detail – Fairly balanced with may just a slight touch of warmth – Smooth and grand presentation – Performs well in all frequency but has some of the most detailed and lively highs we have heard

With that all in mind, it would be hard to recommend other DAC’s at any price above.  We can’t see much of an improvement in sound quality that would be detectable to most user’s ears. What the dragonfly does it does with aplomb, and as long as you are ok with being limited to a bit-rate of 96/24, then this is one of the best DACs on the market.

As an additional point, we would like to add that many users have found great success in combining the dragonfly with android mobile devices. This manages to bypass the oft-poor sound quality of most mobile devices.

 

Audioquest Dragonfly v1.2 Review – The final word

With a low price, great build, and finish, and excellent sound, Audioquest still has a winner on their hands with the dragonfly.  It’s a combination of them doing so many things right that makes us love this little guy.  While some users may find the lack of bit-rate support limiting and may also wish to look at units with a built-in amp section, users who want an easy to use and extremely portable device may just have found their perfect match.

 

Audiophile Onhttp://www.audiophileon.com
Audiophile On is a website dedicated to high-end audio products. With over 15 years as a reviewer, all articles are hand-written by one person to allow the comparison of products. Headphones, earphones, speakers, amplifiers, or DAC's we cover here.

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