About the Crutchfield SpeakerCompare™ Listening Kit Rental
Get the most out of Crutchfield's Virtual Audio™ technology
Get the most out of Crutchfield's Virtual Audio™ technology
The SpeakerCompare™ Listening Kit comes with everything you need to audition speakers virtually through your computer or compatible smartphone. Available on a rental basis, it includes a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones, an AudioQuest DragonFly® Black headphone amp/DAC (digital-to-analog converter), USB adapters for iOS® and Android™ devices, and a listening guide that walks you through SpeakerCompare's sample music clips.
The Listening Kit includes headphones, a DAC, and USB adapters for auditioning speakers virtually on your computer or mobile device.
Why we created SpeakerCompare
We know that buying speakers online without hearing them can be challenging. And these days, it's hard to find a speaker showroom in many areas — let alone being able to demo all the models that you're considering.
To help with this, we've created a way to audition speakers online virtually. SpeakerCompare is a whole new way to shop for speakers, and one that we hope will be a valuable addition to conventional resources like reviews, features, and specs.
A little more about the process
Our engineers have carefully researched home and car speakers so that we can accurately simulate them online. On the playback side, we've also carefully measured the audio characteristics of many popular kinds of headphones to ensure that you're getting an accurate demonstration of the differences between the speakers.
Why we created the Listening Kit
We want you to have the most accurate listening experience possible when you use SpeakerCompare, and the sound profile of your playback system matters. By using a set of headphones that we've researched — along with a high-quality headphone amplifier — you will get a realistic sense of the sonic differences between speaker models.
Which speakers can you compare?
Below are the models that are currently available to audition with SpeakerCompare. Our research is ongoing, and we will be continually adding to the list.
Available on a rental basis
Unlike most items you get from us, you don't actually buy this Listening Kit outright. It's available for a $25 rental fee, which lets you use it for up to 30 days to evaluate speakers. Once you're done, simply box it back up and ship it back to us with the included prepaid shipping label.
We include a $25 Crutchfield merchandise credit with your rental that you can use for anything on our site. You also get a track-by-track guide to the music selections available within our SpeakerCompare app, which gives you tips on what to listen for as you're comparing speakers. The Listening Kit's rental terms and conditions are available here.
We're here to help
If you have any questions about the Listening Kit or about SpeakerCompare, give one of our friendly advisors a call at 1-888-291-8923. Thanks for using SpeakerCompare, and happy listening!
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- Listening Kit for Crutchfield's SpeakerCompare online listening tool
- audition speakers virtually on your computer or mobile device
- Sennheiser HD 280 Pro over-the-ear headphones
- AudioQuest DragonFly® Black USB DAC/headphone amplifier
- AudioQuest DragonTail USB-C Adapter
- AudioQuest DragonTail Micro USB Adapter
- Apple® Lightning® to USB Camera Adapter
- music listening guide with track notes
- a $25 Crutchfield merchandise certificate
- prepaid return shipping label
- Kit is available on a 30-day rental program
- Internet Explorer browser is not currently supported
What's in the box:
- The Crutchfield SpeakerCompare Listening Kit contains the following items:
- Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones with an attached 9.8' coiled cord terminated with a gold-plated 3.5mm plug
- AudioQuest DragonFly Black USB DAC / Preamp / Headphone Amp with attached protection cap
- 6" AQ DragonTail USB-C to USB-A cable (with male USB-C connector on one end and a female Type A USB connector on other end)
- 5.25" AQ DragonTail Micro USB adapter cable (with male Micro-B USB connector on one end and a female Type A USB connector on other end)
- 4.75" Apple Lightning to USB Camera adapter (with male Lightning connector on one end and a female Type A USB connector on other end)
- HD 280 Pro Safety Guide
- DragonFly Instruction booklet
- Welcome document
- Tips for Returning document
- UPS ARS return label
- California Proposition 65 warning document
Crutchfield SpeakerCompare™ Listening Kit Rental reviews
This technology is simply amazing. I'm in the market for floor standing front speakers, and I was skeptical about how they could realistically reproduce variations between speakers, but it truly works. And surprisingly, many times I found that speakers in the lower price ranges sounded better to my ear than speakers from well-known brands that costs hundreds of dollars more per unit. The ability to virtually sample dozens of models within most of the brands they carry is well worth the $25 rental price because I know that once I make my final decision, I won't be second guessing if I got the speakers that sound best within my budget.
Pros: Ability to sample virtually every speaker that Crutchfield sells.
Cons: Not every speaker is available to sample virtually.
0 of 0 found this helpful
I have to give this 5 stars for the ingenuity alone. While you are not listening to the actual speakers due to listening through a pair of headphones. You do get to listen and compare by brand, price, speaker construction, style, etc. you will be surprised at how radically different speakers of the same size, construction method and price will sound. Some are clear and bright while others are softer and some even muted. Compare by power or by volume. Listen close and let your ear hear the differences. What I thought I would like based upon brand or reputation I know of was not the speakers of choice for me after doing the speaker compare. If you don't have a stereo shop with a good sound room available this is a most useful tool. I highly recommend it. Besides with the certificate the net cost for buying a set of speakers is zero.
Pros: Compares speakers via volume or efficiency. Gives multiple musical genres for listening.
Cons: The only con is not actually hearing the speakers you are comparing in person. But I don't live close to Charlottesville, VA. So no real con to say.
0 of 0 found this helpful
Worked nicely. Great to be able to hear the differences before getting the speakers home. Really helps narrow things down.
Pros: Hear First and then buy making an informed decision. Easy rental process.
0 of 0 found this helpful
I really just ordered the kit to try out the Dragonfly DAC with my Sennheiser headphones and was very pleased with it. Will be buying one.
1 of 1 found this helpful
SpeakerCompare is an excellent idea. In fact as a technological feat it merits five stars. However, as a means of comparing speakers it needs to feature different music for me to make an effective judgment about which speakers I might consider for my home audio system. So, it is not quite a five in terms of getting me to a decision. While I listen to some of the musical genres you provide - some of which I listen to from time to time - the majority of my music is classical orchestral, opera, voice, world music, pops and Broadway. So until those options appear in some future version of SpeakerCompare, I will probably hold off on auditioning/selecting new equipment. However, as a result of using the kit for a couple of weeks, with the earphones you rented to me, I discovered, and bought from you, the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones. While these are definitely "old school" large, noise-canceling phones, they have incredible fidelity, great articulation of instruments, provide me with great privacy, and already have been a source of much pleasure. So, thank you Crutchfield, for your great products and wonderful service. I have spoken with a couple of your staff and also conducted a very informative chat with another. You have really nice people dealing with the public, a great company, and I will call on you again as my audio needs dictate. And don't forget, I want to hear from you once SpeakerCompare adds more music genres.
Pros: Excellent concept! Easy to use! Enjoyable and addictive, especially to speaker fanatics like me! Fabulous customer support and follow-up!
Cons: Not enough music genres to audition!
1 of 1 found this helpful
I enjoyed sampling the speakers, although I enjoyed the Fire Fly amp the most. It really enhanced the sound of my Beats Studio Wireless headphones.
0 of 0 found this helpful
Reviewing the many choices for a replacement speakershas been a struggle without having a listening room to compare. But the new "speaker compare" has allowed me to evaluate the differrences. Thank goodness for them, I would be still be frustraed trying to decide.
0 of 0 found this helpful
Not a substitute for listening in person, but I got an idea of overall characteristics of different speakers. The headphones are just OK; I like my Sony 7506 better. The real revelation was how awesome the Dragonfly DAC makes the headphones sound. I ordered one after sending the kit back.
0 of 0 found this helpful
It's a great concept! First time that I try the AudioQuest DragonFly Black DAC with my iPhone. The change in sound quality is impressive! There are no audiophile music tracks that are commonly use to test speakers. I was hoping to test Focal Chorus, Revel Performa and Kef R but they are not available. Innovative tool that requires improvements. Thanks Crutchfield for taking the initiative! Keep working on it.
Pros: You can hear differences between speakers that helps you to discard options.
Cons: Music track selection is very limited. Not all the speakers are available.
1 of 1 found this helpful
It's a fantastic idea, being able to try out speakers without having them in your home. In theory it's supposed to revolutionize the way you can try speakers. In my opinion, it just doesn't work out that way. Yes, you can hear subtle differences between speakers using the kit. But, it just isn't the same thing as listening in your home. The sonics are not the same and it's not much of a help in deciding which speakers to purchase. Nevertheless, thank you Crutchfield for trying.
2 of 3 found this helpful
This is a very exciting technology and I hope it can continue to be improved. My had some difficulty detecting differences using the included Sennheiser headphones. I own a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Professional Studio Monitor headphones and I could easily begin to hear differences. The Sennheiser may be more musical but the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x lent itself for an analytical analysis of the sound. As is this technology is no substitute for live auditioning of speakers as you are not going to hear what the each speaker sounds like but rather you can hear some differences in their overall presentation or balance of the sound e.g., harsh, smooth, bassy, etc. My recommendation would be for Crutchfield to offer an option for the ATH-M40x or other headphones with a good flat response as an option for this kit. I also would love to see Crutchfield continue research and development into this technology as much as possible. The idea of using one speaker to listen to how a different speaker sounds will obviously have limitations but the better the mathematical model of each speaker's response frequency and sound as well as a precise model of the headphones being used can only help advance the effectiveness of this effort. I gave it four stars instead of five primarily because I think different headphones would be better and I would like to see them include the AudioQuest JitterBug in the kit as well.
Pros: Fun and interesting new way to listen for differences. It was good to try an external DAC for the first time.
Cons: I prefer ATH-M40x headphones for this purpose. Include the AudioQuest JitterBug in the kit
1 of 2 found this helpful
More details on the Crutchfield SpeakerCompare™ Listening Kit Rental
Kit Contents: The Crutchfield SpeakerCompare Listening Kit includes the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones and the AudioQuest DragonFly Black digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier. Three USB adapters (USB-C, Micro-B USB, Apple Lightning) are also included for Android and iOS devices to connect them to your source device.
Design: The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones features a closed design that attenuates ambient noise up to 32 dB. These lightweight headphones adjust to the shape of your head for a comfortable fit, and to seal out unwanted room noise. The soft, elliptical circum-aural ear cushions, and padded, adjustable headband provide maximum comfort, even during long listening periods. The ear cups swivel and the headphones fold for easy storage.
Single-Sided Cord: The coiled cable attaches to the left ear cup, to keep the cable out of your way. The cable features a gold-plated 3.5mm straight plug.
- Frequency Response: 8 Hz - 25 kHz
- Power Handling Capacity: 500 mW
- Impedance: 64Ω
- Sensitivity: 113 dB
- THD: < 0.1%
- Coiled Cable Length: Min: 39" Max: 9.8'
- Connector: Gold-plated 3.5mm plug
- Ear Cup Dimensions: Width 3.365" Height 4.282"
- Weight: 10.05 ounces
- Warranty: 2 Years
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. 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. DragonFly Black carries a 1-year warranty.
- Apple Compatibility: It is compatible with Apple iOS 9.2+ devices with a Lightning connector. (It is not compatible with 30-pin devices). The preferred method for connecting an Apple iOS device is using Apple's Lightning to USB camera adapter (included in the Listening Kit). Your Apple iOS device's battery will be charged while it's connected.
- Android Compatibility: It is compatible with most Android devices running Jelly Bean 4.1 or newer using the DragonTail USB adapter (included in the Listening Kit). If the DragonFly Black seems to have too little output, you should 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 Wi-Fi 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: DragonFly Black is compatible with Windows PC (XP/7/8.1/10). No additional drivers are required to operate with a Windows PC.
- Mac Compatibility: Compatible with Mac computers (OS X 10.6.8-up). No additional drivers are required 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 DragonFly Black 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.
DragonTail USB Adapters: The DragonTail USB-C and Micro USB adapters included in the Listening Kit activate the USB Host Mode for many Android devices, allowing the devices to transmit USB digital audio to an outboard digital-to-analog converter (DAC). Using the DragonTail adapters to connect to the AudioQuest DragonFly DAC will provide greatly improved audio performance. The DragonTail adapters are covered by a 5-year warranty.
High Quality Construction: The DragonTail USB-C and Micro USB adapters for Android devices offer high-quality construction:
- Solid 5% silver conductors eliminate inter-strand distortion.
- Hard-cell foam insulation maximizes geometry stability.
- Carbon-based noise-dissipation system minimizes RF interference.
- All conductors controlled for RF noise directionality.
- Length: USB-C adapter: 6", Micro USB adapter: 5.25"
USB Connectors: The DragonTail USB-C adapter has a male USB Type-C connector for connecting to newer Android USB-C devices. The DragonTail Micro USB adapter can be used with those Android devices equipped with a Micro USB port. Both adapters feature a female Type A USB connector for connecting a standard Type A USB cable.
Apple Lightning/USB Camera Adapter: The Apple Lightning-to-USB Camera Adapter (MD821AM/A), included in the Listening Kit, features a male Lightning connector on one end, and a female USB Type A port on the other end. This allows you to connect the AQ DragonFly Black directly to your Apple device. The Lightning-to-USB Camera adapter is 4.75" in length, and carries a 1-year warranty.
Q Crutchfield asked: Why did you buy this?