iPhone Lightning Headphones Reviewed
AudioQuest Dragonfly

Audioquest Dragonfly Series: Best Micro-DACs?

  1. Do you love high quality audio?
  2. Do you work a lot from a laptop?
  3. Do you hate big bulky amplifiers and DACs?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then the Dragonfly USB DAC might be just the thing for you.

The All-Time Champion Of Laptop Micro DACs

Lightning Cans is dedicated to the pursuit of a purer audio experience for people who use Apple devices.

While most of our attention is focused on actual headphone solutions, that is audiophile-quality headphones with built-in lightning cables, we are also avid Apple laptop users. Go ahead, call us “fanboys”, we’re used to it… sticks and stones may break our bones…

iPhone Meet Dragonfly, Dragonfly, Meet iPhone

If you work remote or spend a lot of time in coffee shops you may prefer to listen to your music directly from your laptop as opposed to using your smartphone.

Just a few of the benefits of listening to music from a laptop vs. smartphone include:

  • More audiophile grade music players
  • More control of your sound with various 3rd party equalizers
  • Larger battery for longer listening
  • More power for running larger headphones
  • Preserve your smartphone’s battery

So the benefits of running your audio directly from your laptop our numerous. The only legitimate problem is the audio quality is usually pretty garbage. That’s where the Dragonfly USB DACs come into the picture..

Originally launched in 2012, the Dragonflies help turn standard compressed audio into much cleaner, clearer, more naturally beautiful sound to be enjoyed via a quality set of cans.

No other DACs pack as much of a punch in such a small sturdy form factor as the Dragonfly Red and Black. Having won numerous awards, including “Computer Audio Component of the Year”, “Digital Product of the Year”, and “Computer Audiophile Product of the Year”, these little DACs have achieved legendary status.

Dragonfly Black vs. Dragonfly Red vs. FiiO i1 – What’s The Difference?

The dragonfly comes in two main model types, the Red version and the Black version.

FiiO i1 Portable DAC and Amplifier for Apple Lightning Port with Built-in Microphone and IOS Remote Controls for IPHONE/IPAD/IPOD
AudioQuest - DragonFly Red USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier
AudioQuest DragonFly Black v1.5 Plug-in USB DAC + Preamp + Headphone Amp
FiiO i1 Portable DAC and Amplifier for Apple Lightning Port with Built-in Microphone and IOS Remote Controls for IPHONE/IPAD/IPOD
AudioQuest - DragonFly Red USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier
AudioQuest DragonFly Black v1.5 Plug-in USB DAC + Preamp + Headphone Amp
$39.99
$199.00
$99.95
49 Reviews
219 Reviews
237 Reviews
FiiO i1 Portable DAC and Amplifier for Apple Lightning Port with Built-in Microphone and IOS Remote Controls for IPHONE/IPAD/IPOD
FiiO i1 Portable DAC and Amplifier for Apple Lightning Port with Built-in Microphone and IOS Remote Controls for IPHONE/IPAD/IPOD
$39.99
49 Reviews
AudioQuest - DragonFly Red USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier
AudioQuest - DragonFly Red USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier
$199.00
219 Reviews
AudioQuest DragonFly Black v1.5 Plug-in USB DAC + Preamp + Headphone Amp
AudioQuest DragonFly Black v1.5 Plug-in USB DAC + Preamp + Headphone Amp
$99.95
237 Reviews

The primary difference between the two is the Black version is designed for headphones that don’t require higher voltages to run, that is, headphones that run off 1.2 volts or less. The Dragonfly Black also allows for analog volume control only.

The Dragonfly Red on the other hand can run almost any headphone type, including the power hungry models popular with bass heads.

The Dragonfly Red will power headphones all the way up to 2.1 volts compared to the Black’s 1.2 volts. The Black version also has bit-perfect digital volume control as opposed to the Black’s analog volume control.

Otherwise they’re pretty much the same, each including:

  • USB stick-sized digital-to-analog-converter
  • Play all music vile types from MP3 to high-res
  • Compatible with both Apple and Windows, as well as iOS and Android devices
  • Drive headphones directly
  • Fixed output feeds preamp or AV receiver
  • Asynchronous transfer
  • 32-bit ESS 9010 DAC with minimum-phase filtering

All sounds pretty great huh? “But I just bought a new Macbook and it only has USB-C ports, what do I do?”

Well, Audioquest have you covered, no matter what platform you are using or what model..

AudioQuest & Apple Bundles

Both phone makers and laptop makers have recently all decided they don’t like ports. USB, headphone jacks, you name it: they’re getting rid of it.

All of the Audioquest Dragonfly DAC’s are engineered to plug directly into standard USB ports as they are still the most common port type found universally on laptops and desktop computers.

Apple Lightning to USB Adapter Bundle

Apple Bundle for AudioQuest DragonFly Red USB DAC, Preamp, Headphone Amp and Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter
9 Reviews
Apple Bundle for AudioQuest DragonFly Red USB DAC, Preamp, Headphone Amp and Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter
  • At AudioQuest, we recommend iPhone users use the Apple Lightning-to-USB 3 Camera adaptor. A very small percentage of iPhone users have experienced a "clicking" when using the Apple Lightning to USB 2.0 Camera Adapter - this adapter has a single input port. Upon investigating/dialogue with Apple, we at AudioQuest discovered that this problem is resolved when using the Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter. This adapter has two input ports on one end and a Lightning connector on the other end.
  • To connect the DragonFly Red to any Apple iOS device, We [AudioQuest] highly recommend Apple's Lightning-to-USB 3 Camera Adaptor. This device sounds better and is more reliable in this application than Apple's slightly less expensive Lightning-to-USB 2.0 Camera Adaptor, while it also adds the ability to charge your iOS device during playback.
  • "For greater overall performance, the DragonFly Red also incorporate improved 32-bit ESS Sabre DAC chips - the higher-performance 9016 is in the DragonFly Red - employing minimum-phase filtering for naturally detailed, more authentic sound. DragonFly Red includes the latest ESS headphone amp and a bit-perfect digital volume control that resides on the 9016 DAC chip itself-a sophisticated implementation that ensures maximum fidelity, dynamic contrast, and signal-to-noise ratio."
  • DragonFly Red is a USB DAC + Preamp + Headphone Amp. Small, affordable, easy to use, and remarkably effective, it plugs into your USB port to bypass the computer's compromised audio circuitry and deliver cleaner, clearer, more naturally beautiful sound to headphones, powered speakers, and complete audio systems. Now, any computer, tablet, or smartphone can be used as a true high-fidelity music player, allowing music lovers to enjoy beautiful sound wherever they go, whenever they please.
  • With its higher 2.1-volt output, DragonFly Red will be compatible with a wider range of headphones, including power-hungry, low-efficiency models. Whether you're listening to Spotify, YouTube, Tidal, ripped CDs, or state-of-the-art high-resolution files, DragonFly will deliver a more emotionally compelling and enjoyable experience. Most importantly, DragonFly is designed to honor the music you already own and love.

This bundle comes with both the legendary Dragonfly Red/Black and an Apple MFi-approved lightning-to-USB adapter so you can use your DAC to augment your music directly from your new iPhone or other lightning-port iOS device.

Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter Bundle

Apple & AudioQuest Preferred Bundle: DragonFly Red (USB Preamp, Headphone Amp & DAC) and Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter (CCK 3.0)
16 Reviews
Apple & AudioQuest Preferred Bundle: DragonFly Red (USB Preamp, Headphone Amp & DAC) and Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter (CCK 3.0)
  • At AudioQuest, we recommend iPhone users use the Apple Lightning-to-USB 3 Camera adaptor. A very small percentage of iPhone users have experienced a "clicking" when using the Apple Lightning to USB 2.0 Camera Adapter - this adapter has a single input port. Upon investigating/dialogue with Apple, we at AudioQuest discovered that this problem is resolved when using the Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter. This adapter has two input ports on one end and a Lightning connector on the other end.
  • To connect the DragonFly Red to any Apple iOS device, We [AudioQuest] highly recommend Apple's Lightning-to-USB 3 Camera Adaptor. This device sounds better and is more reliable in this application than Apple's slightly less expensive Lightning-to-USB 2.0 Camera Adaptor, while it also adds the ability to charge your iOS device during playback.
  • For greater overall performance, the DragonFly Red also incorporate improved 32-bit ESS Sabre DAC chips - the higher-performance 9016 is in the DragonFly Red - employing minimum-phase filtering for naturally detailed, more authentic sound. DragonFly Red includes the latest ESS headphone amp and a bit-perfect digital volume control that resides on the 9016 DAC chip itself-a sophisticated implementation that ensures maximum fidelity, dynamic contrast, and signal-to-noise ratio.
  • DragonFly Red is a USB DAC + Preamp + Headphone Amp. Small, affordable, easy to use, and remarkably effective, it plugs into your USB port to bypass the computer's compromised audio circuitry and deliver cleaner, clearer, more naturally beautiful sound to headphones, powered speakers, and complete audio systems. Now, any computer, tablet, or smartphone can be used as a true high-fidelity music player, allowing music lovers to enjoy beautiful sound wherever they go, whenever they please.
  • With its higher 2.1-volt output, DragonFly Red will be compatible with a wider range of headphones, including power-hungry, low-efficiency models. Whether you're listening to Spotify, YouTube, Tidal, ripped CDs, or state-of-the-art high-resolution files, DragonFly will deliver a more emotionally compelling and enjoyable experience. Most importantly, DragonFly is designed to honor the music you already own and love.

This bundle is similar to the above except that it is bundled with the more versatile lightning to USB 3 camera adapter. With this adapter you can listen to your audio and charge your Apple device at the same time.

Lightning Cans Summary

AudioQuest has clearly dominated the laptop mini-DAC market here with their well-engineered little USB adapters.

For purely mobile use, that is if you only need a DAC for your iPhone, then we might be more inclined to get the FiiO i1 simply because it was engineered specifically for mobile phones and is much more budget friendly.

However for laptop use, there’s not doubt that AudioQuest is the winner.

Ultimately, these little Dragonfly DACs are probably some of the most travel-friendly, compact, and POTENT audiophile accessories on the market.

With their smart form factor combined with solid reputation amongst audio lovers they truly are some of the best bang-for-buck investments a mobile music lover can make.

 

Last update on 2018-09-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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