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Article: Objective: AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt Review


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Excellent review. 

 

Makes me think this isn't better than many phone outputs, not much better than many onboard soundcards, and too expensive for the performance on offer. 

 

My favorite graph is the MQA sine wave.  :)

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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5 hours ago, audiobomber said:

My Da2 was a nice little DAC for as long as it lasted, which was just barely beyond the warranty period. I replaced it with an ExtremPro X1, which my laptop sometimes calls a Dragonfly Black 1.2. I don't know whether the X1 or Da2 sounds better  because I never had both together, but given the price difference, I would not recommend Sabaj.

https://www.amazon.com/XtremPro-X1-1-Performance-Headphone-Amplifier/dp/B07P6SYQG9

 

 

I love the price of the X1!

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Thanks for the terrific write up, a great companion piece to Chris's.  But let's not forget that the DragonFly costs less than rounding error or sales tax on a typical audiophile DAC--we need to keep that in mind for objective reviews.  The real question is does it give us a couple of hundred bucks benefit vs a Mac or iPhone

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With the Audioquest DACs out of the picture, one wonders where to turn for a DAC to attach to an iOS device to listen to Roon. I bought an SMSL Idea DAC for this purpose, and it sounds great, but I can seldom get it to work with Roon. It’s mostly silence or clicking. It works fine with all other apps, but Roon works in a different way. When I do get it to work Roon can send it audio up to 768Khz, but that is one time in a hundred.

 

Does anyone know of a DAC that will work with iOS and Roon for headphone listening?

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Great work here mansr, keep it coming!  ;)

On 8/30/2019 at 3:52 PM, esldude said:

My favorite graph is the MQA sine wave. 

Ya mean it's not supposed to be all squiggly like that?  LOL

 

"The gullibility of audiophiles is what astonishes me the most, even after all these years. How is it possible, how did it ever happen, that they trust fairy-tale purveyors and mystic gurus more than reliable sources of scientific information?"

Peter Aczel - The Audio Critic

no-mqa-sm.jpg

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On 9/1/2019 at 9:49 PM, SMG said:

With the Audioquest DACs out of the picture, one wonders where to turn for a DAC to attach to an iOS device to listen to Roon. I bought an SMSL Idea DAC for this purpose, and it sounds great, but I can seldom get it to work with Roon. It’s mostly silence or clicking. It works fine with all other apps, but Roon works in a different way. When I do get it to work Roon can send it audio up to 768Khz, but that is one time in a hundred.

 

Does anyone know of a DAC that will work with iOS and Roon for headphone listening?

Chord Mojo. But that is barely mobile device. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
18 hours ago, Graham Luke said:

....or you could ignore all these graphs and learned pronouncements and try one for yourself.

Loads of people have and they love them. 

I did that. Picked one up at RMAF last week. I only had the Black, so I don’t know how the Cobalt compares with the Red. But I couldn’t be happier with the Cobalt!

SonicTransporter i9 > EtherRegen (powered by Uptone JS-2) > opticalRendu (JS-2) > Ayre QX-5 DAC > Ayre KX-R Twenty Preamp > Ayre MX-R Twenty mono amps > YG Kipod Signature Passive speakers.

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  • 2 weeks later...
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On 8/31/2019 at 3:52 AM, esldude said:

Excellent review. 

 

Makes me think this isn't better than many phone outputs, not much better than many onboard soundcards, and too expensive for the performance on offer. 

 

My favorite graph is the MQA sine wave.  :)

Then, I think you would be mistaken. The Black is significantly better than my PC sound-card; indeed to describe the difference as 'night and day' would be understatement.

Further, placing a Red between my iPhone and my desktop headphone amp produces a considerable increase in resolution, transparency, soundstage and PRAT. 

These inexpensive products render exponential improvements to SQ.

 

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4 hours ago, Graham Luke said:

Then, I think you would be mistaken. The Black is significantly better than my PC sound-card; indeed to describe the difference as 'night and day' would be understatement.

Further, placing a Red between my iPhone and my desktop headphone amp produces a considerable increase in resolution, transparency, soundstage and PRAT. 

These inexpensive products render exponential improvements to SQ.

You seem to be commenting on the wrong article.

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  • 8 months later...

I know very little about any technical stuff but perhaps it is of interest that I had a Cobalt (but sent it back as it just didn't look new - greasy etc) but will get another because it made a huge difference with either my iPod touch or iPod shuffle and the Audio-Technica M50 headphones. Here the difference is very obvious and very pleasing. Perhaps not perfect, but much much better sound than without.

Where I couldn't hear any difference whatsoever despite repeating my tests many times (lots of different music) was, using the same headphones, with either the MacBook Pro (2019 16") or the iMac (2013 27").

for the smaller devices I think 'tis a wonderful thing!

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1 minute ago, Hypnoswan said:

I know very little about any technical stuff but perhaps it is of interest that I had a Cobalt (but sent it back as it just didn't look new - greasy etc) but will get another because it made a huge difference with either my iPod touch or iPod shuffle and the Audio-Technica M50 headphones. Here the difference is very obvious and very pleasing. Perhaps not perfect, but much much better sound than without.

Where I couldn't hear any difference whatsoever despite repeating my tests many times (lots of different music) was, using the same headphones, with either the MacBook Pro (2019 16") or the iMac (2013 27").

for the smaller devices I think 'tis a wonderful thing!

How do you connect the iPod Shuffle to the DragonFly?

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing Polestar | Quick Community Reviews and Ratings

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi,

I have read the reviews by both Mansr and also Archimago which are indeed thorough and accurate.

As an owner of a Dragonfly Cobalt (never tried the red or black) and having read on about four different

Forums some deeply critical comments about both the pricing and performance of (in particular) the Cobalt

I notice there is one question that never seems to get asked at all and was hoping someone could maybe

provide an answer. The Dragonfly range of USB Dac's all have the ability to receive firmware/software updates,

so is it possible that some of the problems with the Cobalt be solved with a software update ? I understand that

to give a software update to the Cobalt then Audioquest have to acknowledge that there is a problem. Something

they don't appear to want to accept.

On a personal level, I don't want to go head to head with the experts but seeing Archimago's negative posts on most

of the Forums about the Cobalt does seem a little over the top. $269 is not a huge amount of money in audio terms

and buyers do have a cooling off period o return the goods. I have also noticed a fair few positive reviews from

owners.

Chris

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I have both the DF Red and Cobalt and I've been spending a lot of time comparing them after reading this article, Audio Science Review, and Archimago's article. I'm using Campfire Audio Andromeda headphones and can drive them plenty loud with both. On my iPhone I listen at four of those little bars from zero. I think that the Cobalt sounds a bit more euphoric compared to the Red to me. I'm wondering if that is related to the frequency response curve that shows a slightly downward slope and how that affects what I'm hearing. 

 

I've listened to tracks back to back on each DAC and also spent a day with each one exclusively. For me with these headphones I find the Cobalt to be a bit more indulgent and easier to listen to. I find the Red to be a bit more coherent or perhaps accurate? I doubt I could pick either out of a blind test but I do seem to prefer the Cobalt long term. Could be subjective bias on my part or a preference for the Cobalt's frequency response curve. 

 

Connecting these to my stereo is pretty disappointing compared to my Chord Qutest or my HifiBerry DAC 2 HD. Connecting to my MacBook Pro, the Cobalt has a low level whine that isn't audible when music plays and that isn't present on my iPhone and the Red has some low level hiss. I prefer both the Red and the Cobalt to the built-in DAC but that's not my typical use case. I pretty much only use these USB DACs with my iPhone streaming Tidal or Qobuz.

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Hi Doug2761,

Thank you for your very informative and detailed review of the two Dragonfly Dac's. The fact that you own both the Red and the Cobalt and enjoy both shows that you clearly do not have 'an axe to grind' with Audioquest. Posts on several of the Forums are quite damning of the Cobalt (admittedly accompanied with test results). Although I purchased my Cobalt secondhand I was able to register it on the Audioquest website. I received an email within a day thanking me for my purchase, inviting me to contact them should I encounter any problems or have any queries and also even if I just wanted to say hi !! I thought that was a really nice touch.

As an owner of Dynaudio Special 40's (Dac duties covered by a Chord 2Qute) I don't think the price I paid for my used Cobalt is that high, especially considering there are a lot of owners who seem to be very happy with their purchase.

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