AudioQuest Dragonfly Black

If there is a better bargain in audio today than the AudioQuest Dragonfly Black, I’m not aware of it.  For $100, you get an audiophile-quality dac (with MQA) that can hold it own against DACs costing ten times as much.  I first tried it after an unfortunate accident destroyed my Chord 2Qute DAC (my Pangea power supply overheated and almost burned down my apartment building).  I was not in a position to buy a replacement (or pay the absurd repair price), so I picked up the Dragonfly on Amazon (as well as an Audioquest Evergreen 3.5mm to RCA interconnect) to hold me over until I could afford an upgrade in a month or two.  I ended up sticking with the Dragonfly for six months.

When I swapped out the 2Qute for the Dragonfly, I was expecting a substantial degradation in sound quality.  But the Dragonfly sounded great straight out of the box and continued to improve in the following weeks.  Sure, the Dragonfly’s soundstage was not quite as stable and its backgrounds not quite as black, but the Dragonfly’s performance far surpassed that of the Musical Fidelity V90 DAC, which I had on hand and retails for three times the price.  The Dragonfly also displayed incredible musicality and flow, particularly with MQA tracks, bringing an energy and life to the music that I did not expect from a DAC in this price range.   By comparison, the V90 sounded clinical and bright.

I am not going to wade into the passionate (and sometimes angry) debate about the merits of MQA, but I will observe that the Tidal “Masters” MQA files that I listened to through the Dragonfly sounded great through both my primary system (Monitor Silver 8 Speakers and Naim XS 2 amp) and my secondary system (at the time, Nakamichi SR-2A and KEF Q100s).   I did most of my listening through the primary system since that is where the 2Qute had been, and the Dragonfly excelled with every genre of music.

I was particularly impressed with the Dragonfly’s reproduction of mid and high frequencies.  Human voices had an appealing three-dimensional quality, while acoustic guitars and snare drums sounded realistic without being overly bright.  The Dragonfly’s biggest shortcoming as compared to more expensive dacs was its reproduction of low frequencies.  Bass was not as tight or defined through the Dragonfly, although the bass performance with MQA files was significantly better.  In the opening of Miles Davis’s So What, the bass line lacked the detail or stability of the 2Qute and I was forced to turn the volume up substantially to hear it clearly.  But this is a relatively minor flaw that was not noticeable in most recordings.  Beck’s Sea Change, for example, sounded incredible from start to finish through the Dragonfly and did not suffer from a lack of bass.

Even after moving the Dragonfly out of my primary system, I’ve been amazed by its performance on an almost daily basis.  Paired with the KEFs and playing Tidal from a desktop computer, it produces a rich and inviting sound that sounds less “digital” than many other DACs I’ve sampled.  That being said, it is not overly warm and does not round over the edges of music.  Bad recordings sound bad through the Dragonfly and excellent recordings sound excellent.  The Dragonfly delivers a level of musical flow, realism, and soundstage stability that belies its modest price.  I can’t think of a better way to spend $100.

Dragonfly Black:  Perhaps the best deal in audio today!


AudioQuest DragonFly DAC USB Digital Audio Converter – Black

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