About the AudioQuest DragonFly® Cobalt
Super-premium sound, everywhere
The AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt connects to your phone or computer and provides a serious sonic upgrade (flexible DragonTail USB-C adapter included).
Super-premium sound, everywhere
You might think awesome sound quality is hard to achieve on the go. If so, we'd like to present the handy AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt USB DAC/headphone amp. It's roughly the size of a thumb drive, and it plugs into your phone or computer to deliver premium, high-precision sound. AudioQuest's highly successful DragonFly models put the USB DAC category on the map, and the Cobalt looks to be the best one yet. It makes for an easy and very effective upgrade to your portable or desktop listening setup.
I received a sample of the Cobalt, and shared my listening impressions in the video above — including how it compares to the DragonFly Red and DragonFly Black v1.5. I actually own the latter, and often use it to audition the latest and greatest headphones. It slips right into my laptop bag, and its sound rivals that of some popular (non-portable) desktop DACs out there. And the Cobalt sounds even better — more spacious, with more realistic dynamics and better imaging.
AudioQuest's fastest, best-sounding DragonFly
AudioQuest loaded the Cobalt with a brand new high-performance USB microcontroller that increases processing speed by 33% (over the DragonFly Red and Black). Faster processing means less extra noise, and ultimately less distortion.
This chip also reduces power consumption. That's important if you're listening on the go, because the DragonFly draws its power from your connected mobile device or computer. So you can enjoy the upgraded sound without sucking your phone or laptop's battery dry.
A better internal DAC
AudioQuest also replaced the DAC found in previous DragonFly models with an improved 32-bit ESS Sabre ES9038Q2M processor. This high-performance DAC chip features slow minimum-phase filtering for AudioQuest's most nuanced, dynamic sound yet. And it is one reason why this compact DAC/amp can perform at the level of much larger components.
The DragonFly Cobalt also features the same headphone amp as the DragonFly Red, which I've found gives even hard-to-drive headphones plenty of volume and punch. (I've even driven some super-sized, power-hungry planar magnetic over-ears with that built-in amp.) And the 64-bit digital volume control offers super-precise sound level adjustment with no loss of detail.
Enjoy high-res USB audio
The DragonFly Cobalt is designed make everything you listen to sound better. So even the compressed audio you get from MP3s, Spotify®, Apple Music®, or YouTube videos will get a sonic boost. But if you have a high-resolution music collection, or stream lossless music from Qobuz or TIDAL, you can really hear what the Cobalt can do.
This DAC will decode high-resolution music files up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution, which is better than CD quality, and it also offers full MQA support. There's little to no fuss as you switch from one file type to the next or one music service to another. The dragonfly-shaped logo on the DAC's exterior even lights up and changes colour to verify the resolution of the incoming signal.
Some of my listening notes
I expand a little more on this in the video above, but I wanted to open up my notebook and share some of the thoughts and listening impressions that I jotted down about the Cobalt. As noted, I use the DragonFly Black quite regularly, so I'm very familiar with its sound. And I really dig the extra punch it adds when listening to headphones.
That said, I noticed a major improvement going from the Black to the Cobalt. I listened to both through the Shure SRH1540 closed-backs, a set of studio headphones with a flat frequency response and refreshingly un-flavored sound. So it worked well for judging the differences. I fired up the high-res streaming service Qobuz and jumped around to some of their new remasters.
James Taylor song, "Fire and Rain" in 24-bit/96kHz:
- Everything just seems more condensed through the DragonFly Black.
- When I switch over to the Cobalt, the soundstage really opens up. And it makes great use of that extra space...vocals more defined, and instruments better separated.
High-res version of the album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Song Book:
- The term "natural" is thrown around too much these days when it comes to sound, but that's what I'm hearing
- Spot-on imaging — all the instruments have room to breathe and are layered deeply into the mix.
- And her beautiful vocals rise above it all, in such a realistic way. Just a wonderful sense of place, like I'm at a jazz club and all the musicians spread out on the stage in front of me.
- So potent....Forced me out of the analytical head space, where I can just let the music and whole experience wash over me.
The DragonFly Cobalt connects to your iPhone via a Lightning-to-USB connector (sold separately).
For headphones or speakers
Plug your headphones directly into the DragonFly's stereo 3.5mm 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.
Compatible with most phones and computers
The DragonFly Cobalt can plug directly into the USB port on a computer, but there are several ways to connect to other devices. AudioQuest includes a DragonTail USB-C adapter that will connect to the USB-C port on a newer computer, phone, or tablet.
For Apple devices, AudioQuest recommends using the Lightning-to-USB 3 Camera Adapter. We also offer a DragonTail micro USB adapter and a DragonTail USB extender separately. All of these flexible adapters offer a little slack, so it doesn't put much strain on your device's port.
- Featured in our articles: Best headphone amps for 2023 and Best DACs for 2023
- compatible with Windows® and Mac® computers
- compatible with iPhone® and iPad®
- requires Lightning-to-USB adapter (not included); Apple's Lightning-to-USB Camera Adapter recommended for best results
- compatible with some Android devices
- DragonTail USB-C adapter included
- may require a DragonTail Micro USB Adapter to connect to some Android devices
- 32-bit ESS Sabre ES9038Q2M digital-to-analog conversion chip with minimum-phase filter for nuanced, dynamic sound
- high-efficiency microcontroller for extremely low power draw and increased processing speed
- processing speed increased by 33% over DragonFly Red
- high-performance ESS Sabre 9601 headphone amplifier
- 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
- offers rendering for MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) audio files
- 3.5mm stereo minijack provides:
- headphone output (minimum recommended headphone impedance 16 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-step, bit-perfect digital volume control (operated via 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 color-coded LED indicator for 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, and 96kHz sampling rates
- input bit depth: 16 bits, 24 bits
- output voltage: 2.1 Vrms
- durable metal construction with blue hardshell finish
- storage pouch
- supported operating systems:
- Windows® 7-10
- Apple OS X® (version 10.6.8 or later)
- Apple iOS® (5 and newer)
- Android 4.1 and later
- 3/4"W x 1/2"H x 2-1/4"D
- warranty: 1 year
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee
- MFR # DRAGONFLYCOBG
What's in the box:
AudioQuest DragonFly® Cobalt owner's manual
- USB DAC / PreAmp / Headphone Amp (Cobalt Blue)
- Protective cap (installed)
- 6" "Dragon Tail" cable (USB-C male on one end and Type A USB female on other end)
- Stitched leatherette storage pouch
- Flight Manual (Instructions)
AudioQuest DragonFly® Cobalt reviews
This review was collected as part of a promotion
More details on the AudioQuest DragonFly® Cobalt
Features & specs
|Built-in Rechargable Battery||No|
|Built-in Headphone Amplifier|
|Output Impedance (Unbalanced)||10k ohms|
|Output Impedance (Balanced)||N/A|
|Bit Depth (USB)||24|
|Max Sampling Rate (USB)||96 kHz|
|Bit Depth (S/PDIF)||0|
|Max Sampling Rate S/PDIF||N/A|
|S/N Ratio (Unbalanced, in dB)||0|
|S/N Ratio (Balanced, in dB)||0|
|THD (Unbalanced)||Not given|
|THD (Balanced)||Not given|
|Supported File Types|
|PCM||Up to 96kHz|
|Stereo RCA Analog||None|
|Stereo 3.5mm Analog||None|
|Stereo XLR Analog||None|
|Other Headphone Outs||None|
|Line Level & Digital Outs|
|RCA Line Out||None|
|3.5mm Line Out||1|
|XLR Line Out||None|
|Optical Digital Out||None|
|Coaxial Digital Out||None|
|Parts Warranty||1 Year|
|Labor Warranty||1 Year|
Overview: The AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt is the new flagship model in the DragonFly series of compact USB DACs. The DragonFly is the size of a typical USB flash drive, and has an advanced digital-to-analog chip, and a high quality headphone amplifier. Its USB Type A input simply plugs into your desktop or laptop computer (Windows or Mac), or, with an adapter, into your Apple or Android smartphone or tablet. On the other end is a 3.5mm minijack output for your headphones, powered speakers, or your home's stereo system. The DragonFly Cobalt bypasses the inferior quality sound card in your device to deliver beautiful, clean audio to your ears. The package includes a 6" DragonTail, a female USB-A to male USB-C adapter, and a stitched leatherette storage pouch.
Digital-to-Analog Converter: The DragonFly Cobalt has a new, more advanced 32-bit ESS Sabre 9038 DAC chip (ES9038Q2M). Natively, the DragonFly Cobalt is capable of decoding 24-bit/96kHz data. Files with higher sample rates will need to be resampled to a compatible resolution. The DAC has a minimum-phase slow roll-off filter which delivers a natural, warm sound with great detail. DragonFly Cobalt is designed to play any file type, no matter the resolution, from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. This includes CD audio, MP3 and AAC compressed music files, CDs ripped as Apple Lossless or FLAC files, plus streaming audio from free or premium services such as Tidal, Qobuz, or Spotify.
Note: DragonFly is an MQA renderer only, and must be used with the appropriate software to unfold the MQA files.
Headphone Amplifier: Like the DragonFly Red, the DragonFly Cobalt uses the ESS Sabre 9601 headphone amplifier with a high-level output of 2.1V @ 10k ohms or higher. It will drive a wide range of headphones, including inefficient, power-hungry models. Its 64-bit, bit-perfect digital volume control provides excellent signal-to-noise ratio, a wide dynamic range, and high fidelity. When DragonFly Cobalt is connected to your computer or mobile device, the source unit's volume control will perfectly adjust the DragonFly's volume.
Microcontroller: DragonFly Cobalt uses an efficient Microchip PIC32MX274 USB microcontroller that draws less current, and increases processing speed by 33%. Wavelength Audio's monoClock technology, with a single ultra-low-jitter clock to run the headphone amplifier and all of the microcontroller functions. StreamLength (also from Wavelength Audio) asynchronous USB code improves the delivery of the audio samples to the DAC chip to give you reliable connectivity between the DAC and the host device for uncompromised audio playback.
Noise Filtering: The DragonFly Cobalt utilizes improved power-supply filtering to eliminate the effects of noise from cellular, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi signals in the air.
Compatibility: The AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt is compatible with a wide range of devices, from desktops and laptops, to smartphone, tablets, and digital music players:
- Apple iOS: DragonFly Cobalt is compatible with Lightning Connector-equipped Apple iOS devices. (It is not compatible with 30-pin Apple devices). In order to connect the DragonFly to your iOS device is to use Apple's Lightning to USB 3 camera adapter (sold separately). You should use the included DragonTail USB-C to USB-A adapter, if connecting the DragonFly Cobalt to the latest iPad Pro.
- Android: It is compatible with most Android devices running Jelly Bean OS (4.1 or newer). To connect the Android device, you'll need to use the included DragonTail (with USB-C) or the optional DragonTail with microUSB (sold separately). If the DragonFly Cobalt seems to have too little output, you will need to purchase and download the USB Audio Player PRO app (currently $7.99 US), 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 cards. Additionally, with your Android phone connected to a WiFi network, this app can find and connect to DLNA servers/libraries. USB Audio Player Pro Version 5 supports audio from Google Music, Tidal (including Tidal Masters), Qobuz, and Shoutcast, and includes an MQA Core Decoder.
- Windows: DragonFly Cobalt is compatible with Windows PC (Windows 7 through 10). No additional drivers are required for DragonFly Cobalt to operate with Windows PC.
- Apple OS X: It is compatible with Mac computers (OS X 10.6.8 or later). No additional drivers are required to operate with Mac OS X. To connect to Macbook or Macbook Pro, which are equipped with USB-C ports, you should use the enclosed DragonTail Adapter (with USB-C).
LED Indicator: The LED indicator behind the DragonFly icon shows the resolution of the incoming signal - 44.1kHz (green), 48kHz (blue), 88.2kHz (yellow), 96kHz (light blue), and MQA (purple). Red indicates standby mode.
Software Upgradable: The DragonFly Cobalt is upgradeable through a free Desktop Device Manager application. As new developments arise in music player applications, streaming protocols, or other associated software, you can upgrade your DragonFly Cobalt to incorporate those updates to your device.
13 questions already asked
I hooked this up to a pair of Sennheiser 599SEs. Wow what a difference! It definitely enhances the sound It would be nice if it were a little cheaper, but I still think it's worth it.
David from Naperville, IL