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AudioQuest DragonFly® Black v1.5

Plug-in USB DAC/headphone amplifier, compatible with Apple® and Android™ mobile devices

37 Reviews

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Item # 703DGNFLYB

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Overview

Our take on the AudioQuest DragonFly® Black v1.5

From the get go, all of us here at Crutchfield were instant fans of the AudioQuest DragonFly USB DAC, and the way it improved the sound of our computer music. But a lot of us wished it could work with our smartphones and tablets, too. Well, we got our wish. The DragonFly Black now delivers that same clear, dynamic sound with Apple or Android mobile devices. The design gurus at AudioQuest not only gave the Black a far more energy-efficient design — ideal for portable use — but they even managed to enhance its performance.

DragonFly Black plugged into a smartphone

The DragonFly Black's low power consumption makes it a perfect companion for your smartphone or tablet.

Upgrade your music on the go

From the get go, all of us here at Crutchfield were instant fans of the AudioQuest DragonFly USB DAC, and the way it improved the sound of our computer music. But a lot of us wished it could work with our smartphones and tablets, too. Well, we got our wish. The DragonFly Black now delivers that same clear, dynamic sound with Apple or Android mobile devices. The design gurus at AudioQuest not only gave the Black a far more energy-efficient design — ideal for portable use — but they even managed to enhance its performance.

Low power consumption and better sound

The first thing that AudioQuest did was to give the Black a new high-performance USB microcontroller with greatly reduced power consumption (77% less, to be exact) for true compatibility with mobile devices. The new chip also provides an improved signal-to-noise ratio for quieter operation and cleaner sound. Plus, it enables future software upgrades through AudioQuest's free desktop application. 

AudioQuest also replaced the DragonFly's original DAC chip with an improved 32-bit ESS Sabre 9010 processor. This high-performance DAC features minimum-phase filtering for exceptionally detailed, dynamic, and natural sound.

Enjoy high-res USB audio

Along with all the sonic benefits the DragonFly provides for your compressed and CD-quality music files, it also decodes high-resolution data streams with up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution, so you can enjoy better-than-CD audio quality. If you download high-res music files from HDtracks and other audiophile sources, this DAC will ensure they sound terrific. The dragonfly-shaped logo on the DAC's exterior even lights up and changes color to verify the resolution of the incoming signal.

Connections and controls

The Dragonfly Black delivers enough power to easily drive earbuds and efficient portable headphones, as well as the preamp inputs of a receiver or powered speakers. And although it's operated digitally from your computer screen or mobile device's interface, the DragonFly's precise, 64-step analog volume control avoids any reduction in resolution or sound quality that can plague many digital volume controls.

Plug your headphones directly into the DragonFly's stereo mini audio output jack for high-energy private listening. You can also use an optional stereo mini-to-mini cable or mini-to-RCA adapter to feed a line-level signal to a pair of powered speakers, power amplifier, or receiver for more robust, room-filling sound. 

Traveling with your laptop and DragonFly?

If you plan on taking your laptop and DragonFly with you (it is highly portable, after all), you'll want to play it safe. AudioQuest's flexible DragonTail USB extender provides strain relief that can protect your computer's USB port if someone bumps into your laptop on a plane or in the coffee shop. The DragonTail also helps take some of the strain off that port when you're plugging in headphones with a heavy cable.

Product Highlights:

  • compatible with Windows® and Mac® computers
  • compatible with iPhone® and iPad®
  • compatible with some Android™ devices
  • 32-bit ESS Sabre™ 9010 digital-to-analog conversion chip with minimum phase filter for detailed, dynamic, and natural sounding music
  • offers rendering for MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) audio files with firmware update
  • high-efficiency microcontroller for extremely low power draw
  • powered by USB connection — no need for external power supply
  • asynchronous USB data transfer using Wavelength Audio, ltd.'s Streamlength® protocol for reduced timing jitter and better sound
  • 3.5mm stereo minijack provides:
    • headphone output (minimum recommended headphone impedance 12 ohms and higher)
    • variable line-level output for driving powered speakers or power amp
    • fixed line-level output for connecting to a preamp or receiver
  • 64-position analog volume control (digitally controlled using your computer or mobile device)
  • supported sample rates: PCM up to 96kHz native resolution
    • sample rates above 96kHz will play but are down-converted by your computer or mobile device's playback software
  • incoming sample rate LED indicator for 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, and 96kHz sampling rates
  • input bit depth: 16 bits, 24 bits
  • output voltage: 1.2 Vrms
  • durable metal construction with rubberized coating
  • no cables included
  • supported operating systems:
    • Windows® 7, 8.1, and 10
    • Apple OS X® (version 10.6.8 or later)
    • Apple iOS® (5 and newer)
    • Android™ Lollipop OS (and some devices running KitKat OS)
  • 3/4"W x 1/2"H x 2-3/8"D
  • warranty: 1 year
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee

What's in the Box:

  • USB DAC/Preamp/Headphone Amp (protection cap installed)
  • Storage pouch
  • Instruction Booklet
  • Warranty Registration Card
  • HDtracks brochure
  • "roon" brochure

Featured Video

This little thing works fantastic. I plugged my new dragonfly into my laptop there was an immediate and radical improvement in the sound.

Richard, Cloverdale, CA

Reviews

AudioQuest DragonFly® Black v1.5 Reviews

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(37 Reviews)

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Features

USB DAC + Preamp + Headphone Amp: The AudioQuest DragonFly Black is a sleek, flash-drive sized USB DAC+Preamp+Headphone Amp that delivers far superior sound by bypassing the poor quality sound card that is built into your Apple iOS and Android smartphone/tablet or Windows and Mac laptop/desktop computer; turning your device into a true high-fidelity music source. Its 3.5mm port is designed specifically to connect to an external audio system such as headphones, powered desktop speakers, or your HiFi audio system.

  • Apple Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iOS 9.2+ devices that have Lightning connector (not compatible with 30-pin Apple devices). The preferred method for connecting an Apple iOS device is using Apple's Lightning to USB 3 camera adapter (472LTUSBC3, sold separately). Your Apple iOS device's battery will even charge while connected.
  • Android Compatibility: Compatible with most Android devices running Jelly Bean 4.1 or newer using the DragonTail USB adapter (703DTAILAN, sold separately). If the DragonFly Black seems to have too little output, then download the the USB Audio Player Prop app which includes its own USB audio driver. This application is compatible with various audio formats and will manage music on both the Android's internal memory and inserted microSD card. Additionally, with your Android phone connected to a WiFi network, this app can find and connect to DLNA servers/libraries, plus support playback of Tidal (UAPP does not offer support for any other 3rd-party applications).
  • Windows Compatibility:  Compatible with Windows PC (XP/7/8.1/10). No additional drivers are required for DragonFly Red to operate with Windows PC.
  • Mac Compatibility: Compatible with Mac computers (OS X 10.6.8-up). No additional drivers are required for DragonFly Red to operate with Mac OS X.

High-Performance Microcontroller: AudioQuest and DragonFly designer Gordon Rankin worked alongside Microchip Technology to develop a new high-performance, full-speed USB microcontroller solution that delivers improved signal-to-noise ratio and significantly lower power consumption. Drawing 77% less current than the previous microcontroller, the new Microchip PIC32MX microcontroller enables true compatibility with Apple iPod/iPhone/iPad and Android smartphones/tablets. In addition, the Microchip's ultra-low-noise power supply minimizes the sound-degrading effect of high-frequency interference on the critical audio signal.

32-Bit ESS Sabre 9010 DAC: At the heart of DragonFly Black is a 32-bit ESS Sabre 9010 DAC that uses a sophisticated minimum-phase digital filter to provide more naturally detailed and dynamic music. This high-performance DAC is typically found in today's higher-end CD and Blu-ray players. DragonFly Black can accept audio and music files ranging from MP3s (128/256/320kbps) and CD-standard 16-bit/44kHz to native 24-bit/96kHz high-resolution, regardless of music file format. DragonFly Black will accept almost any audio you want to play on your computer and make it sound dramatically better, whether your listening pleasure is iTunes or streaming music services such as Pandora, Spotify, Amazon, or Tidal.

Streamlength Asynchronous USB: Timing errors such as "jitter" have long been the plague of digital audio playback; never more so than in recent years as computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones have been pressed into service as audio source components. Rather than sharing crucial audio "data clocking" functions with your source device, DragonFly Black uses a very sophisticated Streamlength Asynchronous USB audio data transfer protocol which takes command over the timing of the audio data transfer, dramatically reducing digital timing errors. As a result, you get low jitter, low resource load, minimal packet errors, world-class audio playback, and reliable connectivity between the USB DAC+Preamp+Headphone Amp and your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer.

Hybrid-PLL Clock System: The DragonFly Black employs a unique clock system called a Hybrid-PLL. While not discrete, the Hybrid-PLL performs equal to, or better than, many discrete clock systems.

Compatible Sampling Frequencies: DragonFly Black will play music or audio data at 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, or 96kHz. However, for the best sonic results your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer should be configured so that it sends music and audio data to DragonFly Black that matches the "native rate" of the music. For example, since all CDs and music files purchased from iTunes are at a 44.1kHz sample rate, for many people 44.1kHz will be the best sample rate since this is the "native rate" of most digital music. Choosing a higher sample rate will convert your native music and audio data using mathematical approximations that can potentially decrease the sound quality. Conversely, if you have purchased high-resolution music files (96kHz), such as those available from HDtracks.com, configuring your computer for 44.1kHz (or any other lower sample rate) will cause the computer to down-sample your music to a lower resolution. When possible, always configure the computer to output the native sample rate of the music you are listening to.

Note: If you have purchased a file that has a higher sample rate than 96kHz you need to configure your smartphone/tablet or computer/laptop to send DragonFly Black audio data at a resolution no greater than 96kHz, and for the best performance the sample rate you choose should be exactly half the sample rate of the file you're playing. For example; if you purchased a 24-bit/176.4kHz file, 88.2kHz should be selected, whereas if you purchased a 24/192kHz file, 96kHz should be selected. Directly divisible sample rates prevent the computer from doing sonically degrading, complex math in its conversions and allows DragonFly Black to sound its best.

MQA Firmware Update: The latest firmware update (1.06) will provide the DragonFly Black with the capability of rendering Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) files. This means that now the DragonFly Black lets you experience your favorite albums and songs in the highest audio resolutions available. As an MQA-rendering DAC, the DragonFly Black must be used with an MQA-approved playback application, such as Tidal or Audirvana (with more to come), in order to unlock the full resolution of an MQA file.

Note: When rendering MQA files, the DragonFly Black will display a purple light. (Sampling rates of 96kHz will continue to display in magenta.) While the DragonFly Black will not specify the native resolution of the associated MQA file, you can rest assured that the MQA file was derived from the highest source resolution available.

64-Step Analog Volume Control: The AudioQuest DragonFly Black is equipped with a 64-step analog volume control. With DragonFly Black connected to a PC or mobile device, adjusting the host's system volume control will, through proxy, control the DragonFly Black's onboard volume. This ensures maximum resolution and the highest sound quality, regardless of volume setting

Direct Coupled Analog Circuits: DragonFly Black's analog circuits are direct-coupled from the ESS converter chip's output, avoiding the need for any extraneous, sonically degrading components in the signal path.

Stereo Minijack Output (1.2-Volt): DragonFly Black is fitted with a stereo female minijack (3.5mm) output and will output 1.2-volts, which is enough power to successfully drive most preamplifier input circuits and a wide range of today's medium-to-moderately efficient headphones. The DragonFly Black's 3.5mm output can be used as a Headphone Jack, a Variable Out, or a Fixed Output.

  • Headphone Out: DragonFly Black is versatile enough to drive virtually any headphone on the market today. DragonFly Black can drive any headphone from 12-ohm impedance on up. DragonFly Black has enough output to drive even the lowest efficiency headphones.
  • Variable Out: DragonFly Black can be used in "variable" output mode with computer-controlled analog volume control when connected directly to powered speakers or a power amplifier.
  • Fixed Out: Connecting to a traditional preamplifier or AV receiver, DragonFly Black can be set to a "fixed" output mode by turning the volume to maximum, allowing it to behave like a CD or Blu-ray player.

LED Indicator: A smart LED indicator behind the DragonFly Black icon shows the resolution of the incoming signal - 44.1kHz (green), 48kHz (blue), 88.2kHz (amber), and 96kHz (magenta). Red indicates standby mode.

Firmware Software Upgrades: The DragonFly Black is firmware/software upgradeable through a complimentary Windows PC or Mac OS X desktop application. As new developments arise in music player applications, streaming protocols, or other associated software; DragonFly Black users will be able to incorporate those updates to their existing devices.

Our Product Research Team

At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team. They verify what’s in the box, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

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Looking for more? Check out the next model in this lineup.

AudioQuest Dragonfly Red

Get even higher performance

The AudioQuest DragonFly® Red v1.0 offers these features:

a 32-bit ESS Sabre 9016 digital-to-analog conversion chip

a more powerful headphone amplifier for hard-to-drive headphones

a bit-perfect digital volume control

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