USB DAC + Preamp + Headphone Amp
From MP3 to MQA and High-Res: Naturally Beautiful Sound at Your Fingertips—
Whenever and Wherever You Want It
DragonFlys Black and Red
DragonFly Black, the most affordable model of the award-winning DragonFly family, has been praised by Darko.Audio as “the quintessential everyman hi-fi product,” while its more sophisticated sibling, DragonFly Red, combines significantly improved performance with still exceptional value. The ESS 9010 DAC chip in Black and the higher-performance 9016 chip in Red employ minimum-phase filtering for naturally detailed sound.
While DragonFly Black uses a high-quality headphone amp and analog volume control, DragonFly Red includes a more advanced ESS headphone amp and a bit-perfect digital volume control that resides on the 9016 DAC chip itself—a sophisticated implementation that gives Red a unique combination of power and grip over the music. DragonFly Black outputs 1.2 volts—enough power to successfully drive all preamplifier input circuits and a wide range of today’s efficient headphones. With its higher 2.1-volt output, DragonFly Red is compatible with a wider range of headphones, including power-hungry, low-efficiency models.
DragonFly Cobalt, our new flagship DAC, takes what music lovers around the world have come to expect from the multi-award-winning DragonFly family—naturally beautiful, seductive sound—and strips away fuzz and fog that weren't even noticeable until Cobalt removed them.
How is this possible? Like the critically acclaimed DragonFly Red, Cobalt has the robust 2.1-volt output to drive almost any headphone, uses a bit-perfect digital volume control for outstanding signal-to-noise ratio, enables seamless compatibility with Apple and Android devices, and is an exceptionally competent and affordable MQA Renderer.
Review: AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt USB DAC Headphone Amplifier
Cobalt's precedent-setting performance is made possible by multiple significant upgrades:
- New, more advanced ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip with a minimum-phase slow roll-off filter for more natural sound.
- Microchip's superb PIC32MX274 microprocessor draws less current and increases processing speed by 33%.
- Improved power-supply filtering that specifically increases immunity to WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular noise.
- Includes a form-fitting DragonTail female USB-A to male USB-C Adaptor.
All DragonTails use AQ's Carbon-level USB cable.
AudioQuest, Gordon Rankin: A Beautiful Partnership
Like all previous DragonFly models, Cobalt uses Gordon Rankin's precedent-setting StreamLength® asynchronous-transfer USB code. Further, in Gordon's monoClock® technology, a single ultra-low-jitter clock generated from the ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip runs the ESS chip functions as well as all microcontroller functions. This superior clock enables DragonFly Cobalt to provide greater resolution and clarity than DACs with multiple clocks.
Why the "Slow Roll...?"
Cobalt employs ESS's new flagship ES9038Q2M DAC chip. While the chips used in DragonFlys Black and Red are unbeatable for the price, the minimum-phase slow roll-off filter in the 9038 results in naturally expressive sound that is always emotionally engaging and never fatiguing—a beautiful combination of warmth and detail that we find equally exciting and soothing.
Killing the Noise
In Cobalt, we've taken what we've learned from our recent research and development in noise dissipation to employ power-supply filtering specifically designed to dramatically reduce the increasingly prevalent noise from WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular signals. Successfully combating this noise is absolutely crucial to the preservation of the lowest-level musical details, particularly when it comes to high-res audio—and especially when applied to a portable-audio device such as DragonFly.
Bit-Perfect Volume Control and 2.1-Volt Output
Cobalt features the same ESS Sabre 9601 headphone amp and bit-perfect volume control that give DragonFly Red its unique combination of power and grip over the music. This solution ensures maximum fidelity, thrilling dynamic contrast, and excellent signal-to-noise ratio. The 2.1-volt output makes Cobalt and Red compatible with a wide range of headphones, including power-hungry, low-efficiency models.
DragonFlys Black, Red, and Cobalt are firmware upgradeable via our free Desktop Device Manager. In today's fast-paced digital world, longevity in a hi-fi component is increasingly rare—at any price. AudioQuest believes that today's digital devices should evolve as technology itself evolves, thereby delivering musical pleasure for many years to come. Our Desktop Device Manager will also allow you to identify your DragonFly's serial number and software version to ensure that the device is up to date. Click here to download the latest Device Manager available for your operating system.
Beautiful Sound in a Smaller Package...
and now with a Tail
All this goodness is packed into a sleek new case that measures just 2.26" x 0.73" x 0.47" (57.5mm x 18.6mm x 11.9mm), making the latest DragonFly 10% smaller and even a bit more pocket-friendly.
Finally, to easily accommodate the increasing number of electronic devices that feature USB-C ports, DragonFly Cobalt comes with AudioQuest's USB-A to USB-C adaptor.
The Rest of the DragonFly Fleet:
DragonFlys Black and Red
While the original DragonFly created a new category of portable DAC, its USB power draw made it compatible with computers only. Black and Red answered the call of music lovers everywhere for DragonFlys that could be used with Apple iOS mobile devices and Android smartphones and tablets. These DACs proved for once and for all that convenience and performance need no longer be mutually exclusive.
All current-production DragonFly models incorporate 32-bit ESS Sabre DAC chips.
The DAC chips we’ve selected are remarkably powerful and sophisticated, yet we’ve intentionally limited DragonFly’s processing capabilities to 24-bit/96kHz resolution. This makes using DragonFly as simple as it’s always been: All models are fully compatible with PCs without having to download and install new drivers. Most importantly, DragonFly is designed to honor the music you already own and love. Whether you’re listening to Spotify, YouTube, Tidal, Qobuz, ripped CDs, or state-of-the-art high-resolution files, DragonFly will deliver a more emotionally compelling and enjoyable experience.
Stream Tidal Masters Everywhere
DragonFlys Black, Red, and Cobalt support Tidal Masters (MQA) playback from iPhones and Android smartphones. MQA's technology folds high-resolution files into smaller files that can be streamed on the go. As MQA Renderers, DragonFlys Black, Red, and Cobalt complete the unfolding process, allowing music lovers to enjoy a wider selection of high-res music. Click here to learn more about how MQA works.
Stream QOBUZ’s Vast Catalog Of Outstanding HI-Res Music
DragonFlys Black, Red, and Cobalt support Qobuz high-res playback from iPhones, Android smartphones, and MacOS and Windows computers. Qobuz streams and downloads music in bit-perfect FLAC, the most widely used format for mastering and archiving, at resolutions of up to 24-bit/192kHz. With DragonFlys Black, Red, and Cobalt, listeners can enjoy more than 40 million tracks in lossless 16-bit CD resolution and over 2 million hi-res files. Click here to learn more about how Qobuz works.
Naturally Beautiful Sound is Right at Your Fingertips
Whatever music turns you on, wherever you are, an AudioQuest DragonFly USB DAC delivers inspiring, dynamic, and beautiful sound to earbuds, headphones, powered speakers, or complete audio systems.
With a DragonFly, music appreciation and exploration are limitless: Plug into an Apple or Windows® computer or connect to an iOS® or Android mobile device. Play YouTube or Vimeo videos. Go hunting on Bandcamp or SoundCloud. Explore playlists on Spotify or Pandora. Stream high-res audio from Tidal or Qobuz. No matter the choice of musical pleasure, DragonFly delivers beautiful sound, unraveling the emotional expression and nuance that makes music and movies so enjoyable.
Now, more than ever before, naturally beautiful sound is right at your fingertips—however you want it, whenever you want it.
- Plays all music files: MP3 to MQA and High-Res
- Compatible with Apple® and Windows® PCs
- Compatible with iOS devices (requires Apple Camera Adapter/Connection Kit)
- Compatible with Android devices (requires DragonTail or other USB Adaptor for Android Devices)
- MQA Rendering
- Drives headphones directly
- Fixed output feeds preamp or AV receiver
- Asynchronous transfer ensures digital timing integrity
- DragonFly Black and Red - Status/Sample rates supported (LED indicator color code): Standby (Red), 44.1kHz (Green), 48kHz (Blue), 88.2kHz (Amber), 96kHz (Magenta), MQA (Purple)
- DragonFly Cobalt - Status/Sample rates supported (LED indicator color code): Standby (Red), 44.1kHz (Green), 48kHz (Blue), 88.2kHz (Yellow), 96kHz (Light Blue), MQA (Purple)
- Volume Control: Analog Volume Control (Black); 64-position, 64-bit, bit-perfect (Red, Cobalt)
- Output voltage: 1.2 (Black); 2.1 (Red, Cobalt)
- Headphone Amp: Texas Instruments TPA6130 (Black); ESS Sabre 9601 (Red, Cobalt)
- DAC Chip: 32-bit ESS 9010 with minimum-phase fast roll-off filter (Black); 32-bit ESS 9016 with minimum-phase fast roll-off filter (Red); ESS ES9038Q2M with minimum-phase slow roll-off filter for more natural sound (Cobalt)
- Microcontroller: Microchip PIC32MX (Black, Red); Microchip PIC32MX274 reduces current draw and increases processing speed by 33% over DragonFlys Black and Red (Cobalt)
- Dimensions: 12mm H x 19mm W x 62mm L (Black, Red); 12mm H x 19mm W by 57mm L (Cobalt)
Note: In our tests, Apple's Lightning-to-USB 3 Camera Adapter (with charging port) sounds better and is more reliable than Apple's less expensive Lightning-to-USB Camera Adapter, while also providing the ability to charge during playback. Your mileage may vary. Some users prefer the size of the smaller adapter, while others prefer the performance of the larger adapter. We encourage experimentation.