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View Full Version : The Audioquest Dragonfly DAC Review and Thoughts




Irishman
Apr 28, 2013, 09:43 AM
So, those of us who know the AQ brand name mostly know them for very expensive HDMI, component, and speaker cables. These are the guys who offer $43,000 speaker cables, after all. (See the 25ft K2 here http://www.hideflifestyle.com/audioquest-k2-speaker-cable-25ft.html ) They have a reputation among audiophiles as well-made, but eyepoppingly-overpriced interconnects!

That made it all the more surprising to see them deliver the Dragonfly DAC. It is a value-priced DAC in a world where DACs can easily run into the high 4 figures themselves! The Dragonfly DAC retails for $249.99, and you can order it from Bestbuy.com and Magnolia Home Theater stores inside some Best Buys, as well as most local AQ resellers.

When I first heard about the Dragonfly, I figured it had to be junk, predicated just on the low price. Then, I read this review on Stereophile.com http://www.stereophile.com/content/audioquest-dragonfly-usb-da-converter .

I was intrigued, and started scouring the web for more reviews. I found quite a few positive ones on youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1rZuMjQTaU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SWwe2X5kfA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3x4ZvMaBey4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-QNWI3XcHo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkwEBidl2g4

I'm planning on picking up one myself sometime within the next month, so I'll be sure to let you know. The problem (yes, it's a great first world problem, having to pick quality headphones) is I'll need to be choosing some headphones too. I'm leaning quite heavily to the B&W P5s. If anyone has any reasons I shouldn't consider the P5s, let me know.



Gofre
Apr 28, 2013, 11:20 AM
If anyone has any reasons I shouldn't consider the P5s, let me know.

Quite simply, they're "meh" for the price they cost. They aren't bad headphones per sť, but they're trying to occupy the same territory of what appear to be "the big four" on-ear headphones, the Sennheiser HD25 and Sennheiser Momentum, V Moda M80 and Beyerdynamic DT1350. All four of these headphones sound much better than the P5s, especially the Beyers and Senns (which will also respond much better to amping), making them much better pairings with a high quality app/DAC. Then there are over-ear models to consider, which have better price:performance ratios still, and the choice between open or closed back cans after that!

Where will you be using this setup and what sort of music do you listen to? What would be your budget for headphones? If you could answer those I'd be happy to provide a few suggestions [=

And for any UK buyers after a Dragonfly or simply their first high end audio system, Richer Sounds currently have a combo offer consisting of the Dragonfly and AKG K550 headphones for £300 (http://www.richersounds.com/product/headphones/audioquest/pah011165/pah011165), a great price for an all-in-one system.

Irishman
Apr 28, 2013, 01:45 PM
Quite simply, they're "meh" for the price they cost. They aren't bad headphones per sť, but they're trying to occupy the same territory of what appear to be "the big four" on-ear headphones, the Sennheiser HD25 and Sennheiser Momentum, V Moda M80 and Beyerdynamic DT1350. All four of these headphones sound much better than the P5s, especially the Beyers and Senns (which will also respond much better to amping), making them much better pairings with a high quality app/DAC. Then there are over-ear models to consider, which have better price:performance ratios still, and the choice between open or closed back cans after that!

Where will you be using this setup and what sort of music do you listen to? What would be your budget for headphones? If you could answer those I'd be happy to provide a few suggestions [=

And for any UK buyers after a Dragonfly or simply their first high end audio system, Richer Sounds currently have a combo offer consisting of the Dragonfly and AKG K550 headphones for £300 (http://www.richersounds.com/product/headphones/audioquest/pah011165/pah011165), a great price for an all-in-one system.

Do the cans you suggest connect to regular 3.5mm plugs? Or USB? Obviously, with the Dragonfly, I cannot use USB models. Also, I will be using them on my iPod, as well. ETA: Nevermind, I researched them and learned the answer. I would ask this: why do you consider these to be the "big four"? Who else thinks so?

I'll go check out headfi while waiting for your reply.

Also, I listen to a wide range of music and spoken word (Alot of podcasts) - rock, classical, blues, jazz, R&B. Anything except country and rap. LOL I don't like Beats. Too much bass, too prone to damage. Nothing that pinches the head or ears as you wear them.

ChrisA
Apr 28, 2013, 03:42 PM
The word is "audiofool" It means people who spend money just so they can have bragging rights to having the most expensive stuff.

The is another word "audio pro". This is the guy who makes his living by producing the music the first group listens to.

If you want the best deal on gear shop the same stores the second group shops in. But if the goal is bragging rights, you won't find $1,000 cables and stand alone DACs

OK if you want to play digital music from a Mac into headphones the best deal I've found is one of these. The built-in headphone amp is good and of course the D/A converter is good. It will do 96K 24-bit
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/FireStuMobile/
This is a firewire unit but they make USB also. If you are just listening you might never need the inputs but maybe some day you want to record from vinyl.

Gofre
Apr 29, 2013, 12:28 AM
Do the cans you suggest connect to regular 3.5mm plugs?

Yep.

Or USB?

Headphones cannot accept sound straight from USB, there needs to be components inbetween to turn that digital information into an analogue signal.

Obviously, with the Dragonfly, I cannot use USB models. Also, I will be using them on my iPod, as well. ETA: Nevermind, I researched them and learned the answer. I would ask this: why do you consider these to be the "big four"? Who else thinks so?

I listed them as such because they're consistently the most popular models among audiophiles and professionals, if you were to create a thread on Head Fi asking for suggestions I would put money on these being the four that you would get recommended to you the most. The HD25 in particular have been the eponymous DJ headphone line for the better part of two decades, the DT1350 and Amperior (Sennheiser's "next gen" HD25) are technically slightly better but are about 50% more expensive. There's another very popular pair from Audio Technica, the ES10s, but these are even more expensive still.

Also, I listen to a wide range of music and spoken word (Alot of podcasts) - rock, classical, blues, jazz, R&B. Anything except country and rap. LOL I don't like Beats. Too much bass, too prone to damage. Nothing that pinches the head or ears as you wear them.

If you have a preference of on-ears, the four I've mentioned could all be a good fit for you, but for different reasons. All are versatile and play well with a wide variety of music. The Sennheisers pairs are arguably the most dynamic listen, with a more powerful kick in the bass region (not exaggerated bass, just a bit more physical) and some extra sparkle in the treble. The Beyers are the most accurate of the four, if you're looking for the truest reproduction of the music. The V Modas are the least accurate, but still accurate enough to be considered a reference headphone by some listeners, but have a more consumer-friendly warm sound and a laid back high end.

ChrisA
Apr 29, 2013, 09:24 PM
Yep.



Headphones cannot accept sound straight from USB, there needs to be components inbetween to turn that digital information into an analogue signal.

....

Yes but some tie those components are built right into the cable.

The first question about headphones is if you need sound isolation. (not active noise cancelation, that is different) What I mean is do the cans needs to be solid or can they be vented. Open headphone leak sound in both directions and not good for noisy environments or for recording but for a given soundquality they cost 1/2 as much as closed headphones. Reason is that the closed ones have to deal with compressing the air on the backs of the diaphragms. The open headphones don't have to.

You wil see the open type being used by recording engineers and people who listen at home when it is quiet. I think they have the best sound and are more natural but you can't use them in many cases. I have the AKG K240. These are likely the most common type found on studios over the last 20+ years.

For home use you might need the closed kind but prices are higher. Starts at just over $200.

I alway say you can't have just one pair. Buy the K250 for $99 and it will be about as good as headphones get but with the limitation that they leak sound big time in both directions. Then buy a expensive closed type.

For outdoors I use cheap in-ear sony phones. For music practice (elect guitar and keyboard) I use cheap AKG77. They are not great but I can hear what note I'm playing and they only cost $50. and they contain the sound so I don't annoy everyone. You will likey end up with 4 or 5 headphones. Each for some different purpose

Irishman
Apr 30, 2013, 06:57 AM
A practical, non-sound-quality related reason I will probably go with closed is my understanding of open headphones. Won't they allow sounds I'm listening to be heard by anyone nearby? Some of the podcasts I listen to have NSFW language (thank you Chris Hardwick and Kevin Smith!), and I'd hate for my 9 year-olds to be able to lean in close to daddy's head and hear that! LOL