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AudioQuest DragonFly® Red v1.0

Plug-in USB DAC/headphone amplifier, compatible with Apple® and Android™ mobile devices

41 Reviews | 6 questions - 20 answers

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Overview

Our take on the AudioQuest DragonFly® Red v1.0

AudioQuest'sDragonFly DACs have always plugged right into your computer's USB port to deliver an instant audio upgrade. Now with the DragonFly Red, you can also get that same clear, dynamic sound with your Apple or Android mobile devices. The design gurus at AudioQuest not only gave the Red a far more energy-efficient design — ideal for portable use — but they even managed to enhance its performance.

DragonFly Red plugged into a laptop

The tiny DragonFly Red makes an easy, plug-and-play upgrade for your computer-based music listening.

A highly portable upgrade for your music

AudioQuest'sDragonFly DACs have always plugged right into your computer's USB port to deliver an instant audio upgrade. Now with the DragonFly Red, you can also get that same clear, dynamic sound with your Apple or Android mobile devices. The design gurus at AudioQuest not only gave the Red a far more energy-efficient design — ideal for portable use — but they even managed to enhance its performance.

Audioquest Dragonfly red with smartphone

The DragonFly Red's low power consumption makes it a perfect companion for your smartphone or tablet.

Low power consumption

The first thing that AudioQuest did was to give the Red a new high-performance USB microcontroller with greatly reduced power consumption (77% less, to be exact) for true compatibility with mobile devices. The new chip also provides an improved signal-to-noise ratio for quieter operation and cleaner sound. Plus, it enables future software upgrades through AudioQuest's free desktop application.

Improved sound quality

AudioQuest also replaced the DragonFly's original DAC chip with an improved 32-bit ESS Sabre 9016 processor. This high-performance DAC features minimum-phase filtering for exceptionally detailed, dynamic, and natural sound. The 9016 also comes with the latest ESS headphone amplifier and bit-perfect digital volume control on-board. This powerful headphone amp gives even hard-to-drive headphones plenty of volume and punch. The 64-bit digital volume control offers super-precise sound level adjustment with no loss of detail.

Enjoy high-res USB audio

Along with all the sonic benefits the DragonFly provides for your compressed and CD-quality music files, it also decodes high-resolution data streams with up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution, so you can enjoy better-than-CD audio quality. If you download high-res music files from HDtracks and other audiophile sources, this DAC will ensure they sound terrific. The dragonfly-shaped logo on the DAC's exterior even lights up and changes color to verify the resolution of the incoming signal.

Connections and controls

Plug your headphones directly into the DragonFly's stereo 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 for more robust, room-filling sound. And although it's operated from your computer screen or mobile device's interface, the DragonFly's bit-perfect digital volume control avoids any reduction in resolution or sound quality that can plague other digital volume controls. These refinements add up to music with a natural solidity and clarity that sounds dramatically better than what you would hear from your computer or smartphone on their own.

Traveling with your laptop and DragonFly?

If you plan on taking your laptop and DragonFly with you (it is highly portable, after all), you'll want to play it safe. AudioQuest's flexible DragonTail USB extender provides strain relief that can protect your computer's USB port if someone bumps into your laptop on a plane or in the coffee shop. The DragonTail also helps take some of the strain off that port when you're plugging in headphones with a heavy cable.

Product Highlights:

  • compatible with Windows® and Mac® computers
  • compatible with iPhone® and iPad®
  • compatible with some Android™ devices
  • 32-bit ESS Sabre™ 9016 digital-to-analog conversion chip with minimum phase filter for detailed, dynamic, and natural-sounding music
  • high-efficiency microcontroller for extremely low power draw
  • high-performance ESS 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 with firmware update
  • 3.5mm stereo minijack provides:
    • headphone output (minimum recommended headphone impedance 12 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 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 red hardshell finish
  • no cables included
  • supported operating systems:
    • Windows® 7, 8.1, and 10
    • Apple OS X® (version 10.6.8 or later)
    • Apple iOS® (5 and newer)
    • Android™ Lollipop OS (and some devices running KitKat OS)
  • 3/4"W x 1/2"H x 2-3/8"D
  • warranty: 1 year
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee

What's in the Box:

  • USB DAC/Preamp/Headphone Amp (protection cap installed)
  • Storage pouch
  • Instruction Booklet
  • Warranty Registration Card
  • HDtracks brochure
  • "roon" brochure

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Reviews

AudioQuest DragonFly® Red v1.0 Reviews

Average Customer Review(s):

(41 Reviews)
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Product Research

Features

USB DAC + Preamp + Headphone Amp: The AudioQuest DragonFly Red 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; turning your device into a true high-fidelity music source. 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.

  • Apple Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iOS 9.2+ devices that have Lightning connector (not compatible with 30-pin Apple devices). The preferred method for connecting an Apple iOS device is using Apple's Lightning to USB 3 camera adapter (472LTUSBC3, sold separately). Your Apple iOS device's battery will even charge while connected.
  • Android Compatibility: Compatible with most Android devices running Jelly Bean 4.1 or newer using the DragonTail USB adapter (703DTAILAN, sold separately). If the DragonFly Red seems to have too little output, then 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 WiFi 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:  Compatible with Windows PC (XP/7/8.1/10). No additional drivers are required for DragonFly Red to operate with Windows PC.
  • Mac Compatibility: Compatible with Mac computers (OS X 10.6.8-up). No additional drivers are required for DragonFly Red to operate 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 9016 DAC: At the heart of DragonFly Red is a 32-bit ESS Sabre 9016 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 Red 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 Red 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 Red 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 USB DAC+Preamp+Headphone Amp and your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer.

Hybrid-PLL Clock System: The DragonFly Red 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 Red 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 Red 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 Red 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 Red to sound its best.

MQA Firmware Update: The latest firmware update (1.06) will provide the DragonFly Red with the capability of rendering Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) files. This means that now the DragonFly Red lets you experience your favorite albums and songs in the highest audio resolutions available. As an MQA-rendering DAC, the DragonFly Red 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 Red will display a purple light. (Sampling rates of 96kHz will continue to display in magenta.) While the DragonFly Red 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.

Digital Bit-Perfect Volume Control: AudioQuest's DragonFly Red is equipped with a 64-step, 64-bit, bit-perfect digital volume control. With DragonFly Red connected to a PC or mobile device, adjusting the host's system volume control will, through proxy, control the DragonFly Red's onboard volume. This ensures maximum resolution and the highest sound quality, regardless of volume setting.

Direct Coupled Analog Circuits: DragonFly Red'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 (2.1-Volt): DragonFly Red is fitted with a stereo female minijack (3.5mm) output and will output 2.1-volts, which is enough power to successfully drive most preamplifier input circuits and a wide range of today's headphones. The DragonFly Red's 3.5mm output can be used as a Headphone Jack, a Variable Out, or a Fixed Output.

  • Headphone Out: DragonFly Red is versatile enough to drive virtually any headphone on the market today. DragonFly Red can drive any headphone from 12-ohm impedance on up. DragonFly Red has enough output to drive even the lowest efficiency headphones.
  • Variable Out: DragonFly Red 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 Red 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 Red 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 Red 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 Red users will be able to incorporate those updates to their existing devices.

Our Product Research Team

At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team. They verify what’s in the box, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

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Q & A

Customer Q&A

Crutchfield asked  
Why did you buy this?

I have the DragonFly black and it is amazing ... [ Mark  Aug 12, 2018 ]
For the money I don't think there is a better D to A. [ A  Jul 25, 2018 ]
Interested in getting better sounding music from computer, iPhone , and iPad. [ William  Jul 23, 2018 ]
Positive reviews and Rocky's advice. [ victor  Jul 21, 2018 ]
Upgrade from the original dragon fly [ KERRY L  Jul 19, 2018 ]
Dee was very helpful in narrowing downy my selection of a DAC amplifier to use on my laptop and iPhone. [ richard  Jul 04, 2018 ]
Great advice and information from Levi. [ S  May 29, 2018 ]
A good, reasonably priced USB/headphone DAC w/MQA [ Todd  May 15, 2018 ]
This item is recommend for higher end audio headphone usage to boost or expand the quality of sound. I want to find out if it is capable of offering a discernible difference. [ A  May 06, 2018 ]
amazon reviews, blog suggestions [ benjamin  Apr 16, 2018 ]
Just got Black v1.5 from you guys and liked it. Wanted something to drive my power-hungry cans, and Harley was a great help to make a decision! Thanks! [ Muhannad  Mar 20, 2018 ]
I want to improve my listening experience [ Jane  Feb 13, 2018 ]
I was looking for better Sound for my high end headphones and something with a bit more power to drive them when using them with my iPhone. This device covered both of those items. [ Travis  Dec 17, 2017 ]
Recommendation by Crutchfield Rep, reviews and information I read online and the information on both the Crutchfield site and the Audioquest site. [ DAVID  Dec 14, 2017 ]
Brook from Crutchfield recommended this item to connect my iPhone to my amp for better sound quality. She was very helpful!! Thanks Brook! [ Angela  Nov 25, 2017 ]
The good reviews it received, price and size. [ ThomasZ  Nov 24, 2017 ]
Great reviews online, praising commentors, and portability. [ Caleb  Nov 19, 2017 ]
I need a DAC that will decode the MQA codec so I can listen to Tidal's lossless streaming. [ A  Nov 03, 2017 ]
For better sound with my iPhone. [ Alexander  Jul 10, 2017 ]
reputation and I have the original version [ Bill  Mar 07, 2017 ]
Loved the V1.2, the many pro reviews of the reds improvement in sound quality justify the upgrade. [ Gregory  Mar 07, 2017 ]
I excited to hear my music with a 32 bit DAC. [ Brian  Feb 10, 2017 ]
I have the black one already which by the ways sounds Amazing. Great addition to my my audio collection. [ Alejandro  Feb 04, 2017 ]
best portable audio DAC; works almost always with the iphone/ipad with the usb camera kit. [ Chiu  Jan 10, 2017 ]
Quality build and sound reproduction [ DAVID  Nov 01, 2016 ]
Love this toy! really DOES deliver [ fenwood music  Sep 16, 2016 ]
I listen to music a lot at my desk at work. I plug my phone into a small desktop stereo. Awful sounding electronic interference routinely is audible through the speakers. I'm hoping that getting the DAC out of the phone will eliminate the problem. I read a good review in Stereophile magazine, which I love reading, but i actually listen to mostly low res internet sources. Maybe I'll check out some better streaming sites if the Dragonfly works well. [ Michael  Aug 20, 2016 ]
To get better sound from Mac book air. [ KEN A  Aug 15, 2016 ]
Looking forward to hooking this up to my MacBookPro and my AudioEngine 5+ speakers! [ Lamar  Jul 26, 2016 ]
Owned the DragonFly Black and loved it. Looking forward to the even better sound of the Red version and using it with my iPhone. [ GEORGE  Jul 22, 2016 ]
After reading multiple reviews on many sites and different forums, I believe that for the money plus the ease of portability, this product is going to be the best bang for your buck with most headphones. Plus the 60 day return policy is great! [ Bradley  Jul 13, 2016 ]
I bought the original Dragonfly about a year ago and LOVED it. I just got back from a 3 month job in Australia. While there I loaned my Dragonfly to an Australian coworker who loved it so much I left it with him. So I need a new one and want to try the Red. [ Gary  Jun 21, 2016 ]
I needed a simple and small DAC for my new Senn HD700s [ Mateusz  Jun 10, 2016 ]
Low power draw makes it compatible for iphone use with external kit [ Wilson  May 19, 2016 ]

6 questions already asked

Hi Brandon, I'm not an audio expert, but I use the DragonFly red all the time and I'm very happy with it. As far as I know, it won't upscale the bit rate. The DragonFly's advantage is in the conversion to analog signal. If you connect your earphones/speaker to your phone/tablet via cable (that is, not via Bluetooth), the analog signal will be much better than the one generated by the phone/tablet's built-in DAC. If you have an Android device, consider using an app like USB Audio Player for the best results. It supports some of the streaming services. [ Yonatan  May 10, 2018 ]
To get a more technical explanation Google it. Suffice it to say this small device will make the music sound better...much better. I don't use it for streaming but it makes CD quality music better. If you want a really great music experience, try high definition music with the Dragonfly. All CD quality music (16 bits/44.1 Hz) is up sampled to 24 bits/96 Hz. You will feel like you are sitting on the stage with the performers. [ GEORGE  May 10, 2018 ]
Don't know what files it can play or not not that knowledgable about it but can tell you it makes the music going to my ath m50 x headphones sound superb with just my 6 plus and Spotify premium totally enjoy it [ ANTHONY  Dec 27, 2017 ]
I have used the Dragonfly Red connected to my iPhone X to play ALAC files. Manual says that the Dragonfly Red will play ALAC and FLAC files without a problem. The manual says that if have higher resolution files (i.e., Dragonfly Red sampling ceiling of 96kHz) then you may need to adjust sample rate settings in "Audio MIDI Setup" (assuming you are using a PC). Android devices are more complicated [ Jeffrey  Dec 27, 2017 ]
You can download files from HD Tracks. It's a great site with tons of HD music in several formats. [ John  Dec 27, 2017 ]
The dragonfly will play FLAC files, but iTunes won't. Jriver will play FLAC files that you download to their media center. [ Michael  Dec 27, 2017 ]
dragonfly is just a DAC and it only processes digital to analog signals/sound. The software player (like HF Onkyo or iPhone/pod music player) converts and plays different music file formats (mp3, aac, flac, alac, etc). If the music player can play the song file through the speaker of the device, it can play it through the dragonfly. ITunes library does not support flac so you have to convert it (with a converter program) to alac. HF onkyo player can play flac (and mp3, aac, dsd) files directly. So to answer your question simply, the dragonfly will play everything if you have the music player on your device that can play the file format you want to play. [ James  Dec 27, 2017 ]
Any inclusion of Bluetooth will degrade the audio, as BT is a lossy codec. It would be increasingly apparent if you were also using streaming services such as Spotify. Percussion, especially, loses definition and becomes ragged and hissy at the edges. [ Anthony  Dec 03, 2017 ]
Using the Dragonfly through the aux port will provide a much more musical sound no question. Bluetooth audio is convenient but lacks in dynamics for audio, it sounds dead and lifeless. [ ARNOLD  Dec 03, 2017 ]
Use the Aux cable if your car has an aux port. [ JOSEPH  Dec 03, 2017 ]
DragonFly will work with Android devices if the device supports audio over USB. To determine whether your device supports audio over USB, consult the user manual or visit the manufacturer's website. You can also do a google search on isochronous USB audio for android devices. [ James  Dec 27, 2017 ]
I've been using it with my iPhone. Haven't tried it with a Samsung phone. [ ROY A  Dec 04, 2017 ]
I don't know about a Samsung S5 but it does work with the iPhone. You just need to buy the camera USB chord. I would imagine it's the same for Samsung. [ Robert Brennan  Dec 03, 2017 ]
I don't know. I use this with an iPhone 6 and am completely satisfied with the sound quality. [ Howard  Dec 03, 2017 ]
Using iTunes, not a lot faster. Now if using a high end player with the dragon fly it eats the battery pretty quick. [ Bradley  Oct 11, 2016 ]
Sorry I can't be of any help in this area. Even tho I have a iPhone my primary use ismy dragon fly is for my mac. However I plan on Purchasing the HA 2se for use with my iPhone. [ KEITH  Oct 05, 2016 ]
I can't say since I don't use it on the iPhone, I've been using it on the iMac. [ Clayton  Oct 03, 2016 ]
This does drain the iPhone faster than using only headphones. I think there would be enough battery for a cross-country airplane flight, but probably not enough battery for a ten hour flight from the US to Europe. But there is a good work around. Apple sells an adapter that plugs into the Lighting port on one end and has a Lightning and USB on the other end. This way you can listen using the DragonFly and keep the battery charged with the Lightning cord too. The adapter is $39 versus $29 for the regular adapter. I still love the DF Red! [ GEORGE  Oct 03, 2016 ]
I recently learned it will work with mobile phones and have not yet gotten a camera adapter to I can try that. [ ROY A  Oct 03, 2016 ]
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