Audioquest Dragonfly Red

I quickly discovered when I first strayed into the world of DACs that the Audioquest Dragonfly Red was highly regarded as a small, portable DAC. They’re not a cheap thing, but I thought that it might be nice for once to have something that’s highly regarded in its class, and was able to acquire one when I was in New Zealand in 2017.

The Dragonfly is about the same size as the FiiO K1 (about 50 x 15 x 7mm), but plugs directly into the laptop rather than through a cable, although it is possible to get a short extension cable (and almost certainly any extension cable will do). The device can also be connected to an iPod Touch (but won’t work with a Nano) through a suitable adaptor (although Audioquest recommend the camera adaptor, but the ordinary USB-to-lightning adapter is fine).

Comparisons (1). Dragonfly vs. FiiO K1. Undoubtedly the Dragonfly wins this one. The sound is sharper, clearer and richer than the K1’s. The difference between them is audible with the Aurora speakers, although the K1 is a decent piece of kit in its own right.

Comparisons (2). Dragonfly vs. HA2-SE. Trickier, but I think the latter has a bit of an edge in terms of sound quality. With respect to functionality, the Oppo is obviously the winner because it’s designed to be used with a whole range of devices.

Comparisons (3). Dragonfly vs. E17K+K5. The latter has an edge, seeming to produce better quality, “broader” sound unless I’m much mistaken, but the difference isn’t by several orders of magnitude.

More recently (Dec. 2017; yeah, only the other end of the year from when I bought it), the Dragonfly has been malfunctioning. I don’t know whether this is because the unit is faulty or whether there’s some other reason (e.g. the 5755 shutting itself down when it’s overheated). The red light on the DAC might be steady, but the device is not recognised, or more often the light flashes incessantly, which indicates that nothing is getting through.

The solution was to stick the Dragonfly in the freezer for about twenty minutes or so. The device then worked for another week before it started malfunctioning again. Putting it in the freezer only worked briefly, and leaving it on the table restored it for about ten minutes or so before it cut out. My best guess is that it cuts out when it gets a bit warm.

The device was working well until yesterday when the 5755 overheated unexpectedly, which seems to have damaged the Dragonfly beyond repair. The freezer trick worked briefly with the laptop and with the iPod Touch, but “briefly” is the operative word. I realised that I ought to have connected the Dragonfly via an extension cable because I believe the damage my have come more from the heat generated by the 5755 than from it abruptly shutting down.

Do I buy a replacement? The answer was that I was unable to. The shop where I’d bought the Dragonfly in the first place no longer stocks Audioquest gear.

As much as I might like a replacement, I don’t really need another DAC of this sort. The E17K may be out of date in the FiiO lineup, but is perfectly all right (I doubt whether I’d notice any improvement with the pricey Q5), and the HA2-SE is excellent. Both the E17K and the HA2-SE offer a wider range of options than the Dragonfly could, which is, after all, really just for phones and iPods. The FiiO K1 will do with the 5755 so long as the latter is functional, and I’m reluctant to attach anything nice to the 5755 because of the mess it made of the Dragonfly.

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Life and whatever in the imperium sericum.

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