Video: AudioQuest DragonFly DAC Blind Test
David Brown is a member of Crutchfield's Home A/V writing team. He studied writing and politics at Ithaca College in upstate New York, where he grew up. He spent 12 years in Washington, D.C., where he earned a Masters degree in journalism and wrote an award-winning humor column. David relocated to Charlottesville, VA, in 2012. He enjoys listening to music, playing the guitar and piano, and hiking with his wife and children.
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AudioQuest's DragonFly DAC is so tiny you'll want to take it with you everywhere to enjoy superior sound quality from your computer. About the size of a typical USB flash drive, the DragonFly simply plugs into any open USB port on your PC or Mac®, installing itself automatically in just seconds. From there it takes over the audio processing function of your computer's sound card, replacing it with an audiophile-grade 24-bit ESS Sabre™ conversion chip — the kind often found in better CD and Blu-ray players — and turning your computer into a true high-fidelity music source.
We invited a couple audio experts from the building to listen to some music in our Lab — what we didn't tell them is that they'd be comparing the sound coming from the computer to sound processed by the DragonFly.
David: Hi. We're down here in the Crutchfield Labs today. We're gonna have a couple of our advisors come down and do some headphone listening with the DragonFly Digital-to-Analog Converter. What we're gonna do is, we're going to tell them they're going to be listening to music that's from different sources, but actually the only difference is going to be the DragonFly.
We have ripped CDs to lossless files, 44.1 files, so basically the same audio fidelity as a regular CD out of the computer, but one directly out of the headphone jack of the laptop and one coming through the Dragonfly and we'll see if they can pick out the differences that the Dragonfly makes in terms of sound quality. We're gonna have them listen to things like bass definition, vocal imaging, and instrument separation.
J.R.: Can you switch back to A, like right now? Now switch back to B. The bass and the vocals, which I thought sounded great when it started, definitely got better when we switched to B. When you go to B I can find the bass. I can hear it. I don't have to work to listen for it. And the vocals also seemed to open up a little bit. They were a little clamped down, a little, sort of, you know, held back on A, but wide open and spacious on B. I liked the vocals and the bass better on B on that one. Wow, and there was clearly a difference in both songs. It was easier for me to pick it out on that second song. But I was expecting, you know, I've seen DACs, I took home a DAC recently that was this big and I could clearly hear a difference on my home system, but to think that you could make that kind of difference with something this small is pretty impressive.
Hunter: The first one was obviously louder, but it didn't seem like it was as wide. It seemed like it was a little more compressed. The instruments were closer together, and I thought the vocal was over-modulated in a couple places. It kind of sounded a little distorted on the top end. The clarity of the string instruments was really clean on the first part of it. The second part — first you immediately notice a dropout in volume but I mean as far as the definition the closer I listened I thought that was better. I thought it was a wider sound stage. I thought it sounded better that way. The kind of harshness in the vocal was kind of gone.
David: That's why I thought it was interesting you were still able to, you know, despite the volume differences to pick out those differences.
Hunter: Oh yeah. It was obvious. If I can pick it out, it's pretty obvious. Yeah, that's pretty impressive. That was cool.
David: So as you can see, our advisors were able to easily pick out the difference that the DragonFly DAC made with their digital audio files and the headphones that they had been auditioning. What's really impressive about the DragonFly is that it's so small yet it can really make a big difference in the sound quality you get from your digital audio files. Pop it into a USB port on your computer and you're gonna get really good sounds out of your headphones, and it's gonna make your digital audio files sound really good. If you have any questions about DACs or headphones feel free to give one of our Crutchfield advisors a call.