Audioquest has created a frenzy over their Dragonfly soundcard series for computer or mobile devices. This is because the small, portable size of the Dragonly Red and Dragonfly Black as well as the affordable price. But what’s the difference between the Audioquest Dragonfly Red and Dragonfly Black? And is the Dragonfly Red a lot better than the Dragonfly Black at twice the price? Lets compare them and find out.
Audioquest Dragonfly Red vs Dragonfly Black – DAC / Amp Comparison Review
IN THE BOX
Both the Dragonfly Red and the Dragonfly Black are packed with all you need to get going on a desktop computer. If you plan to use it with a smartphone (Android or Apple iOS) you’ll need an additional OTG cable to connect your phone’s digital output device to the USB on the Dragonfly. These cables are easy to find and depending on your mobile device manufacturer you can expect to pay about $10 to $30. AudioQuest also offers a special cable called the DragonTail which activiates USB host mode on most Android devices.
Each USB sound card is the size of a standard USB storage device and come with a carrying pouch and instructions. It’s a simple package but you don’t need much to get good sound from your computer or mobile device quickly.
The main differences between the Dragonfly Red and Dragonfly Black are in the features. Below is a chart outlining the similarities and differences in both models. You’ll see that the digital audio resolution is the same but the output power in the Dragonfly Red is much greater. The Dragonfly Red also uses a digital volume control that resides in the DAC. This makes the output signal much cleaner giving it a great advantage in sound. You’ll also notice the DAC Chips used in both Audioquest DAC / Amplifier models are different. As you mgiht expect the ESS 9016 32-Bit Chip is a better chip and results in better performance.
|DRAGONFLY BLACK||DRAGONFLY RED|
|Digital Audio Resolution||24-bit / 96kHz||24-bit / 96kHz|
|Output||1.2 Volts||2.1 Volts|
|Microcontroller||PIC32MX Microchip||PIC32MX Microchip|
|DAC Chip||ESS 9010 32-Bit||ESS 9016 32-Bit|
|Volume Control||Analog||Digital: 64-Bit (Bit-Perfect)|
|Desktop / PC Compatability||Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10 – Apple OSX||Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10 – Apple OSX|
|Mobile Compatability||Apple iOS 5 + / Android 4.1 +||Apple iOS 5 + / Android 4.1 +|
|Software Upgradable||Yes via AudioQuest Desktop Manager||Yes via AudioQuest Desktop Manager|
|USB Protocol||Asynchronous USB Streamlength||Asynchronous USB Streamlength|
|Dimensions||12mm x 19mm x 62mm||12mm x 19mm x 62mm|
EASE OF USE
The AudioQuest Dragonfly series DAC / Amplifiers are one of the easiest to use. For PC and Apple desktop computers you simply plug the Dragonfly into a USB port. In many situations the Dragonfly Black and Dragonfly Red are plug and play. But you will find that instructions are provided if it doesn’t work right away. The instructions are simple and easy to follow. You’ll be up and running in minutes.When using a mobile device the Dragonfly is even easier. Everything is “plug and play” when using the AudioQuest Dragonfly Black or Red with the compatible iOS or Android operating systems. You will however need the proper cables. For Apple iOS the Lightning to USB (camera cable) is needed and for Android smartphones you’ll need a micro USB to USB female. This enables the digital signal to travel from your smartphone to the DAC in digital form without adding any noise. Both models also have a standard 1/8″ (3.5mm) output jack for your headphones.
HOW DOES IT CHANGE THE SOUND?
Listening to the Audioquest Dragonfly Black and Dragonfly Red side by side I found that they both have incredible sound for their size. The signal is clean due to the high quality DAC chip and the volume is increased significantly. The full frequency spectrum is boosted making music come alive in unexpected ways.The Dragonfly Red however was a little bit cleaner and has much more power due to the better DAC chip and increased amplification voltage of 2.1 volts. The Dragonfly Black is definitely a fierce DAC / Amp though for half the price. The audio output was incredibly clean and the sound pressure levels were strong even at 1.2 volts.
Both the AudioQuest Dragonfly Black and Dragonfly Red are amazing digital audio converters and amplifiers. If you’re shopping for a small yet high quality DAC and amplifier, the Dragonfly Black will pump some serious sound cleanly and efficiently for under $100. But if you want a little more juice and a pristine amplified sound the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red is an amazing portable DAC / Amp priced at just under $200. Either way, the AudioQuest Dragonfly series DAC / Amp combo would be a great addition to your portable audio arsenal. Get your AudioQuest Dragonfly for the cheapest price at Audio46 or on Amazon