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Audioquest DragonFly vs. Muse X5


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I have two DACs lying in front of me. A Muse MX 5 for around 10 bucks and a Audioquest Dragonfly v1.2 I ordered for comparison for 150 bucks from Amazon.

Both are controlled via USB and work as desired on my MacBook Pro and my Lenovo Notebook. They both offer great sound with every headphone I own (Audio Technica M50-X, a few Beyerdynamics), but now it's time to choose between the two devices.

The Muse, on one hand, has an extremely competitive price tag, while the Audioquest Dragonfly is often considered to be up to with DACs as expensive as 400 to even 1000 Euros or Dollars.

While the Audioquest features an "ESS Sabre" DAC with own headphone amp, the Muse seem to have a pretty standard Texas Instruments DAC chip which also seems to be used for volume control.

The build quality of the Dragonfly seems to be OK, it feels massive and has a "premium attitude". It feels a lot like my AudioTechnica headphones - plastic, but heavy and solid. The Muse, on the other hand, is made out of painted metal (I think it's Aluminium) with sharp edges. Inside the Muse there's a simple circuit board with soldered connectors without a cable relief. Slack joints, here we come. blink.gif

But now, which one sounds best?

 

 

So I downloaded some samples of testing music.

I used HD-Tracks samples whenever possible, which I played via Audirvana Plus, which managed the Bit-depth and Samplerate settings on my DACs. Converter was the iZotope 64-Bit SRC, upsampling was disabled, volume control was done inside the DAC and every SystemOptimizer setting was used.

 

 

Buena Vista Social Club - Chan Chan

I began with this beautiful classic track playing with FLAC 24/96kHz from my AudioTechnicas.

On the Dragonfly as well as the Muse it sounded beautiful, very differenced and with good room and detail. I could localize most of the instruments and, to be honest, not tell which DAC is which, soundwise. If I'd be creative, I'd say that the Audioquest would show a little more detail and definition when it comes to higher volumes, but that's very subtle and maybe just my imagination.

 

 

Metallica - Sad but True

Taking into consideration that I, if I'm not listening to Jazz, Blues or Classic, am enjoying Metal in all of its flavors, I had to put a Metal track on my list.

Listening to this track I could also tell almost no difference. The Audioquest sounded a bit softer though.

 

 

Ludovico Einaudi - Andare

Listening to a 16/44.1 kHz Exact Audio Copy from the Original Album "Diveniere".

This track seems to be a real headphone killer - beginning from 2:30, on both DAC and using the AudioTechnica something seems to "clip" and I could hear some hefty clinkering going on with both. Using a pair Beyerdynamits T51 I could hardly notice this. Apart from that I could not really hear a difference between both devices.

 

 

Kollegah & Farid Bang - Jung, Brutal, Gutaussehend 2013 (instrumental)

This is an awful track, but actually the first one on which I could actually clearly hear the difference between both of the DACs. The Audioquest was subjectively a lot softer, the harsh, distorted (and most likely computer generated mad.gif ) guitar was not as crisp as on the Muse.

 

 

(...)

 

 

More tracks following as I proceed with my testing!

 

 

So here I am. I spent 160 bucks on DAC equipment and don't really know what to do. The DragonFly seems to be great value to many many people - but the Muse seems to be on par when it comes to sound quality.

 

 

Does someone on the board have experience with these DACs? What should I look out for when comparing and testing DACs? Do you have notable alternatives for me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

210 GPa

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For me, the heart of comparison is to use music that's important for me. I'm much more critical of the reproduction when it's one of my favorites.

 

And of course, different listeners are moved by different aspects of the music. I remember handing my headphones to a friend and bragging about the nuance and texture I was getting with my system. He listened for a minute and then said, "But there's no slam!"

 

So my recommendation is to use music that you love, and make your choice based on how much the music moves you. If both options equally create that wonderful illusion of humans performing their art.... well, then get the cheaper!

 

YMMV.

2013 MacBook Pro Retina -> {Pure Music | Audirvana} -> {Dragonfly Red v.1} -> AKG K-702 or Sennheiser HD650 headphones.

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