Audioquest DragonFly

Tested at £215

Awards 2012 Product of the Year - DACs. We still love this little device, but newer rivals have pushed it off top spot


I originally commented on this DAC when I received it 6 months ago.

I have recently connected the DAC via a quality Chord 3.5mm to RCA from a Mac Mini to the analogue input of a Cyrus 8 series amp.

The results were actually better than connecting the Mac into the USB of the QX onboard DAC.

The sound is bright and exciting but can get tedious and tiring after prolonged listening, much like the Optimal Spectrum filter on the ESS DAC. So my guess is this is how it is set up from the factory.

I've used the DAC to also connect  my Mac to my Lehman Rhinelander / Grado 325i. The results did actually renew my interest in headphone listening.

But the same issues has arisen where the USB stick won't sit firmly in the USB slot, losing signal quality when easily disturbed. The vibration from my speakers was actually sufficient enough to disturb the DAC within the USB slot of my MAC. Audioquest have now created an extension lead called a Dragontail to fix this. You'll have to pay for it.

Recently acquired one as I listen to a lot of my music via my laptop. Thanks to Andrew Everard for suggesting the extension USB cable form a Three dongle. I had one from last year and forgot what it was-works perfectly with the Dragonfly. And the Dragonfly drives my SR325i headphones perfectly. Awesome product-worth every penny.

I was a bit worried that the Dragonfly wouldn't be able to handle my Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 250 Ohm headphones, but I needn't have worried as they drive them fine with plenty of overhead.

The sound itself is very good indeed, I've got no complaints on that front. The only soundcard I've owned which was a match for it was the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude (but unfortunately that card is plagued by a Windows 7 driver issue).

Playing Frazey Ford's Lost together (from her album Obidiah), her voice is clear and natural, which is not the case on lesser systems (where her words have a tendency to merge). To my ear it performed better in this regard than the DAC in the Cyrus 8 XPd, which I auditioned no too long ago.

The only issue for me is that under Windows XP (might affect other OSs too) sometimes playback does not start immediately and when it does it fades in the sound. This means that you often only seem to get half of the email notification noise (for example). It might be caused by sample rate changes or lack of hardware buffering, not really sure, but it is a bit annoying and it pretty much rules it out from a gamers perspective.

Can this USB DAC to completely replaceme computer onboard sound or sound card? The most important I've concerned is windows games support, can it output DirectX based games audio such as FarCry 3, Diablo 3 and Battlefield 3..?

I read lots of great reviews so I had some expectations. Tonight I heard high quality Spotify through my newly arrived Dragonfly. It's been a long time since I've had such a wow moment. An absolutely amazing improvement in dynamic range, separation and frequency range through a decent amp and speakers. My opinion of 320kbs streamed audio has been transformed.

I haven't tried other DACs to compare the Dragonfly as value for money, but I'm easily convinced this is an outstanding value-for-money upgrade for people connecting streaming audio to quality equipment.




I received the Dragonfly in the post 24 hours after registering my PMC twenty.22 speakers (this DAC came free upon registration of the speakers).

After plugging the DAC into a MacBook, then through a single RCA to twin RCA to the Tape 1 of an Audiolab 8200A, I thought I was good to go.

Nothing. I know the Audio MIDI settings are fine.

As I twiddle with the USB I get some broken sound and quickly realise that the USB casing of the DAC doesn't sit flush with the edge of the Mac. After 10 seconds of careful "twiddling", the DAC sits still and the sound is through safely.

It's obvious that the DAC will be easily disturbed on any notebook / laptop used on a knee etc.

The sound is OK and I-Tunes is reproduced in clear detail on both 320 kbps podcast and ALAC tracks.

I have a ESS Sabre DAC within the Audiolab 8200CD player. It sounds much the same. I suppose the USB power consumption is less than the CD player / DAC.

I've also plugged in my Klipsch X10i earphones. Bass was a little strong and may require some set up on the equaliser to avoid fatigue. Each time I adjust the laptop placing on my desk the DAC cuts out and has to be "re-twiddled" to sit still again.

I'm not going to see what happens with my headphone amp and Grados. Too cumbersome a set-up, I think.

I'm now working out if I can wrap an elastic band around the 3mm of space between the DAC USB casing and the edge of the Mac.

Playing with the DragonFly recently, I too found it a bit prone to 'jiggles' when used with a MacBook Pro, especially when used on the knee or the arm of the sofa. The solution was a short USB extension lead I had kicking about – think it came with a USB 3G modem dongle – : male end into laptop, DragonFly into t'other end. Something like this one on Amazon would do the trick, I think.

Are you able plug in a 3.5 jack lead with 2 RCA outs?

No reason why not as far as I can tell.

far be it from me to suggest editorial content ... but, for most of us the chances of hearing the Dragonfly, HRT Streamers, Arcam rPAC, Musical Fidelity V-DAC etc. at all, never mind alongside, are about nil, how about a group test WHF?  

Nice idea. I'll pass it on to the test team.

is that possible to connect the device into Android smartphone with the USB adpater? I'm using Samsung Galaxy Note, please advice me. Thank you!

Intriguing question. We have a Samsung Galaxy Note, we have a DragonFly and we have a USB adapter. We're trying it out now and will let you know if it works.

Well although the DragonFly lights up when we connect it to the Samsung, we can't get any sound from it, so we emailed DragonFly and they say that they're unlikely to work together.

stock android ics jellybean etc doesnt have usb dac support as standard, i beleive the 'pointee' and 'trinty' kernel have support for some usb dac's i know pointee kernel supports a few devices including the fiio E17 theres a few people around with their nexus 7 hooked up to a usb dac.

What would be really useful given the high price and lack of features of this device would be some more meaningful comparisons. You can buy USB sound card equivalents at less than 10% of the cost of this one and many of them have THX/Dolby decoding and anything up to 7.1 surround sound.  Alternatively, favourite for a long time has been the DFX audio enhancer. This too is a big step up from the inbuilt sound cards you find in laptops and PCs, is once again a small fraction of the cost of this device and plays through hifi amps and many combinations of speaker setups.

I would be very happy to believe that if you are just using top quality headphones this device is tangibly superior but has anyone tried?



Dragonfly just got a storming review in the US "Stereophile" too, described as a "game changer", is the Arcam RPAC asynchronous? If not current opinion would seem to suggest this should sound better.

Nice device, but surely the Arcam rPAC does all this, just as well and for £65 less?. Not as tiny or as covenient but the Dragonfly is very expensive (as you say)

What a great device.

However, when such a device has universal file support, e.g. DSD types, then I will purchase, and only because it has a headphone amp.

I'm sure the DF is excellent, but what I would really like to know is why I am being denied access to the Tech Specs page for this item? Innocent

Synsei, the tech specs are all there and I've logged out and can still see them. Might be worth clearing your cache and trying again, it could have been a temporary server glitch.

Synsei wrote:
what I would really like to know is why I am being denied access to the Tech Specs page for this item?

Seems to be a CMS glitch: we're looking into it.

I am currently using Shure SE535 and very happy with the SQ of DF but now looking for OTH headphone and wondering if AKG 550 will give even better SQ then 451 or will I be stretching the performance of DF too far.


I have realised that not all headphone goes well with DF for e.g my Grado SR80 doesn't sound as good as SE535 but offcourse I am comparing IEM vs OTH Laughing


If WHF can share their experience of testing different headphones then that would be great. Thanks

How excellent is this?  Really interesting.


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