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  • New AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt

    The official press embargo is over and we can release details of the new AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt. Mine arrives on Wednesday via FedEx. I can't wait to connect my cans and give it a workout. Until then, here is the official press release and accompanying information from AudioQuest.

     

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    DF-Cobalt_PR-2019_070519.pdf

     

    DragonFly Cobalt_ComparisonChart_white_6.20.19.pdf

     

     

    AudioQuest Introduces High-Performance Portable USB DAC: DragonFly Cobalt 

     

    In 2012, the original AudioQuest DragonFly thoroughly disrupted the DAC market. For so many casual enthusiasts who had never previously considered the possibility of improving their digital-audio experience, DragonFly was nothing short of a revelation. Meanwhile, even the most experienced audiophiles were compelled to reexamine long-held notions of what a DAC could and should be. Stereophile’s Art Dudley enthusiastically summarized, “DragonFly is fun: It’s a thumb in the eye of those tea-pinky tyrants who would tell the rest of us what is and is not high end. I can think of no more recommendable product in digital audio.” 

     

    In the early months of 2015, AudioQuest surpassed its previous achievements with DragonFlys Black and Red—two sensational models that offered improved performance-to-cost ratios with unprecedented sound quality, free firmware updates, and, of course, the biggest news of all, compatibility with Apple® and Android® smartphones. 

     

    And now comes DragonFly Cobalt ($299.95 US)—AudioQuest’s new flagship DAC. Cobalt takes what music lovers around the world have come to expect from the multi-award-winning DragonFly family—naturally beautiful, seductive sound—and strips away fuzz and fog that weren’t even noticeable until Cobalt removed them.

     

    How is this possible? Like the critically acclaimed DragonFly Red, Cobalt has the robust 2.1-volt output to drive almost any headphone, uses a bit-perfect digital volume control for outstanding signal-to-noise ratio, enables seamless compatibility with Apple and Android devices, and is an exceptionally competent and affordable MQA renderer.

     

    Cobalt’s precedent-setting performance is made possible by multiple significant upgrades:

     

    • New, more advanced ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip with a minimum-phase slow roll-off filter for more natural sound.
    • Microchip’s superb PIC32MX274 microprocessor draws less current and increases processing speed by 33%.
    • Improved power-supply filtering that specifically increases immunity to WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular noise.
    • Includes AudioQuest’s new DragonTail USB-A (female) to USB-C (male) adaptor to easily accommodate the increasing number of electronic devices that feature USB-C ports. 
    • Contoured enclosure measures just 2.26” x 0.73” x 0.47” (57.5mm x 18.6mm x 11.9mm), making the latest DragonFly 10% smaller than its predecessors.

     

    Like previous models, Cobalt uses Gordon Rankin’s precedent-setting StreamLength® asynchronous-transfer USB code. Further, in Gordon’s monoClock® technology, a single ultra-low-jitter clock generated from the ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip runs the ESS chip functions as well as all microcontroller functions. This superior clock enables DragonFly Cobalt to provide greater resolution and clarity than DACs with multiple clocks.

     

    With AudioQuest’s DragonFly USB DAC, music appreciation and exploration are limitless: Plug into an Apple or Windows® computer or connect to an iOS® or Android mobile device. Play YouTube or Vimeo videos. Go hunting on Bandcamp or SoundCloud. Explore playlists on Spotify or Pandora. Stream high-res audio from Tidal or Qobuz. No matter the choice of musical pleasure, DragonFly delivers beautiful sound to earbuds, headphones, desktop speakers, or complete audio systems, unraveling the emotional expression and nuance that makes music and movies so enjoyable. Now, more than ever before, naturally beautiful sound is right at your fingertips—however you want it, whenever you want it. 

     

    The first 10,000 units of DragonFly Cobalt will come packaged with vouchers for trial subscriptions to the outstanding Tidal and Qobuz music-streaming services. Cobalt customers can begin their musical journeys with two new AudioQuest playlists—On an AudioQuest and Making Connections—available on Tidal and Qobuz, respectively. 

     

     

    DragonFly Cobalt

    US RETAIL PRICE: $299.95

    SHIPPING TO DEALERS NOW

     

    What’s New

    • New ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip with minimum-phase slow roll-off filter for more natural sound
    • New Microchip PIC32MX274 microprocessor draws less current and increases processing speed by 33%
    • Improved power-supply filtering that specifically increases immunity to WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular noise
    • Includes form-fitting DragonTail USB-A (female) to USB-C (male) adaptor
    • Smaller, contoured enclosure

     

    What It Does

    • Dramatically improves sound from MP3s, YouTube, etc.
    • Delivers high-end performance from high-res and MQA & Masters files
    • Bit-perfect variable output drives powered headphones, powered speakers, or power amp
    • Fixed output feeds preamp or AV receiver

     

    Compatibility

    • Windows 7 and later
    • Apple macOS 10.6.8 and later
    • iOS 5 and later (requires Apple USB adaptor)
    • Android 5 and later (requires micro-USB DragonTail, USB-C DragonTail, or other Android USB adaptor)
    • Linux (AudioQuest does not provide technical support)

     

    Sample Rates/Playback Status (indicated by LED color)

    • Standby (Red)
    • 44.1kHz (Green)
    • 48kHz (Blue)
    • 88.2kHz (Amber)
    • 96kHz (Magenta)
    • MQA (Purple)


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    Everyone has had the same blurb today (sorry Chris) but I'd like to actually hear from someone who has heard it and compared it to the Red and other inexpensive DACs like iFi.

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    47 minutes ago, Jud said:

    I notice it and the Red feature a "bit-perfect digital volume control," which I guess is the same as the "bit-perfect variable output" mentioned above. Would be interested to learn more.

    It's meaningless. Digital volume control by necessity means bit are altered. Bit-perfect means bits are not altered. Can't have it both ways.

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    1 hour ago, firedog said:

    Everyone has had the same blurb today (sorry Chris) but I'd like to actually hear from someone who has heard it and compared it to the Red and other inexpensive DACs like iFi.

    No apologies needed. Nobody was supposed to get the Cobalt early. Those who did went around the system and will end up hurting AudioQuest in their effort to help themselves. 

     

    I'll report on it once it's here.

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    so how do I add the Tidal playlist to my Tidal account? It would be helpful to many if there was link to how to do so whenever you post a link like this.... similar to a recent article talking about using mono tracks to set up speakers... it drives me nuts when sites like this post just enough information to capture your interest but not not enough detail to follow up ....thx

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    5 minutes ago, bbosler said:

    so how do I add the Tidal playlist to my Tidal account?

    What do you mean add it to your Tidal account?

     

    You can favorite the playlist by clicking the heart. 

     

    Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 12.21.20 PM.png

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    You can also click the three dots and select add to my playlist then create a new one or add the tracks to an existing one, or click add to my collection.

     

    Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 12.22.54 PM.png

    Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 12.21.20 PM.png

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    2 hours ago, mansr said:

    It's meaningless. Digital volume control by necessity means bit are altered. Bit-perfect means bits are not altered. Can't have it both ways.

     

    Which is why I said I'd be interested to learn more. Since the AQ description doesn't say anything, how (without giving away IP) does the volume control actually operate?

     

    We (Chris) may not get a comprehensible answer, but it didn't cost anything to ask, so...

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    21 minutes ago, mansr said:

    The Dragonfly Red uses the built-in volume control in the ESS DAC. I assume it does a simple multiplication, since that's all a volume control needs to do.

     

    If you want to know for sure what the Cobalt does, send me one and I'll find out.

     

    I won't have one to send.  🙂  Since the descriptions are identical, I assume it works just like the Red.

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    Sorta dull don't you think.  Who didn't register an expectedly neutral trending towards unenthused reaction to this all cannons fired at once media barrage?  Blue Monday, AQ?

     

    Struggling to see need for this to exist.  Any example usecase where being reimagined as a USB C device with USB A adapter wouldn't have justified some (marginal) reason for complicating the product line instead of moving it upwards.  Maybe if their competition now thinks they can resell their current designs for another product cycle. The pace of product development will come to a grinding halt so everyone prospers. 

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    Could you also look into its use case in a living room rig due to its high WAF. A comparison with will known Dacs like the Yggy, Benchmark 3, Mytek B+ etc. would be great as I'm looking to upgrade from my Chifi SMSL M8A DAC. Also is capability with Tidal Masters would be appreciated. 

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    Hmmm, I don't see any value in this.

     

    I have an MHA50 and I can connect it directly with 1 cable to either my iPhone or MacBook Pro, no adapters needed. Battery power if I want to listen on the go, etc...

     

    And it sounds great. 

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    3 hours ago, digitaldufferme said:

    Could you also look into its use case in a living room rig due to its high WAF. A comparison with will known Dacs like the Yggy, Benchmark 3, Mytek B+ etc. would be great as I'm looking to upgrade from my Chifi SMSL M8A DAC. Also is capability with Tidal Masters would be appreciated. 

     

    Not sure if this was partially directed at my post directly above.

     

    You, and your wife, can safely use this for anything you like without negativity directed at you. 

     

    $300 portable DAC/headphone amps do exist in a different comparison bracket from the models you mentioned.  I'd wager the majority percentage here would be shocked if it matched the performance of a Yggy for instance.  

     

    Feel free to start a thread for the purpose of garnering ideas to approach 'she who must be obeyed' with.

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    I had the Black and the Red, my wife and I alternated until she decided the Black was better for her. 

     

    We both had nothing but trouble with them.  With JRiver and Windows 10 there was nothing but interruptions, dropouts, clicking and buzzing or just no sound.  

     

    I fooled around with them off and on for a year or so and finally gave up.  I gave away the Red to a friend, I think the Black is hanging around somewhere.  

     

    And, you know, I'm not sure that I even need one anymore.  I noticed that whatever DAC chip is being used in my Dell laptop at work or at home seems to be essentially equivalent to the sound quality from the DragonFly. 

     

    Of course, that still leaves a big market for people with portable devices etc. but after all the struggling that the Red and Black put me through I've had it with those gizmos. 

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    I have a more question about usability. What exactly happens when we are listening to music with the dragonfly cobalt and we have a incoming call and we want to listen to it. Does the DAC (1) silence the music automatically (2) pass trough our sound, if the headphones have mics...

     

    Thanks anyone!

     

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    1 minute ago, MikeJazz said:

    I have a more question about usability. What exactly happens when we are listening to music with the dragonfly cobalt and we have a incoming call and we want to listen to it. Does the DAC (1) silence the music automatically (2) pass trough our sound,

    That's up to the phone and playback app.

     

    1 minute ago, MikeJazz said:

    if the headphones have mics...

    The Dragonfly is a DAC only. It can't do anything with a microphone.

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    9 minutes ago, stuck limo said:

    Someone reported the insane volume level issue present on Dragonfly Black (and supposedly Red) is still present on Cobalt when using Windows 10.

    When using it with Qobuz on my Mac and a pair of Etymotic earphones I have to set the volume as low as possible. 

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    On 7/11/2019 at 4:18 PM, The Computer Audiophile said:

    When using it with Qobuz on my Mac and a pair of Etymotic earphones I have to set the volume as low as possible. 

     

    I had the same experience. However, the situation is somewhat different with a phone -- I only had to turn down the volume a bit vis-a-vis the Red.

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    On 7/11/2019 at 4:08 PM, stuck limo said:

    Someone reported the insane volume level issue present on Dragonfly Black (and supposedly Red) is still present on Cobalt when using Windows 10.

     

    I believe the volume issue related only to Android phones -- Android was limiting the output. This has been corrected (at least for my phone) with updates.  There was never a problem with Windows 10, AFAIK.

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    A word of caution: after plugging it in, the first volume change makes it jump to max regardless of what was requested. Over headphones, that could get unpleasant. Clearly a firmware bug.

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