Audioquest Dragonfly Red – Review

When I’ve seen the first Dragonfly originally released in 2012, I was like “What is it with this little USB drive?” I was really skeptical it can sound good, only to be astonished afterwards in my listening sessions with it.

Meanwhile, Audioquest wanted to release 2 versions of the initial Dragonfly that are even more portable than the first. Well, how could it be more portable? Is it even smaller? No, but the new versions can be used with Android and Apple devices now.

The new versions are the Audioquest Dragonfly Black and Dragonfly Red.

With the courtesy of HighEndAudio, I have managed to get a loaner unit of Dragonfly Red.

General Presentation

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Yes, it managed to catch my eyes. It’s shiny, well finished and has very sturdy build quality. Dragonfly Red is more advanced than the Black version, with better DAC/AMP sections and also a bit perfect volume controller included in the DAC chip itself.

Dragonfly Red also has an output of 2.1V compared to 1.2V on the Black, so it is a better pair with more power hungry headphones.

You can read more about the differences between the models right here.

I didn’t find any specs, so I will go directly to the listening tests.

Listening Impressions & Tests

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The tests were performed with Meze Classics 99, AKG K55o MK2,  Ultimate Sound US3D, FiiO Ex1,   Aune B1, Chord Mojo, Audioquest Nighthawk.

Pink Martini – In stiller nacht

The voices with this little fellow were just hypnotizing. I stopped from everything I was doing and just stood there and listened. They are delicate but also have good presence with excellent texture and detail.

Dawn and Hawkes – Love you forever

From the very first second the guitar plucks blew me away because of the staggering energy they presented on each note. The attack, the impact on each note is contagiously energetic. The details were also quite “ear catching” showing subtle sounds in the scene and guitar string micro details. The voices were also equally impressive.

Queen – The prophet’s song

The guitar sounds and the other instrument of the song, the subtle ones were very pure and sparkly capturing your attention from the very first seconds of the song.

When Freddie does that impressive chorus performance with only his voice from every directions, the little red dragonfly managed to pull it’s weight quite nicely.

Actually what am I talking about, it manages to pull a lot more than its weight. The voice was smooth, natural, holographical and presented really nice extension and dynamic range.

Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall – Part 2

The song starts in force, Dragonfly Red showing from the start really good impact on the drums, well textured electric guitars and awesomely textured voices. When the electric guitar solo started, I was really really impressed. It was really nicely placed into space, showing good holography and layering, but also superb textures and detail on the guitar.

2Cellos – Smooth Criminal

When the drums start gradually at the beginning of the song, I think that Dragonfly really nailed it in its reproduction, making it sound very impactful like it was meant to, like a heart pumping faster and faster, giving the beat to the song, taking the pulse.

And when the cellos start you get bombarded with details from the chords, the impact with them, the whole instrument and the whole scene through the reflection/echo of the sound.  When the cello raise up in frequency, I was astonished with the treble as it was extremely well extended and detailed without being harsh.

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Hanuman

This little guy has amazing energy to offer. I find that in general AKG K550 MK2 for example has a softer attack and with Dragonfly I felt an improvement here.

This song has amazing energy and the Dragonfly Red was more than able to reproduce it. The attack on each guitar pluck or guitar body struck is just amazing. Also the strings are fast and detailed.

Gheorghe Zamfir – J.S. Bach – Concerto for Violin

The details on this little guy are quite amazing. Zamfir’s pan flute was very well textured, detailed and extended as were the other instruments from the scene. The violin in particular sounded also very extended, clean and natural for that matter.

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Summary

Bass

The bass is quite nice on this little fellow. What I love about it is the punch and speed it shows. it also goes deep, but the punch and speed are ear catching.

Midrange

The midrange is quite detailed and also shows good textures and natural timbre.

Treble

The treble is just wonderful on Dragonfly with excellent extension, detail and sparkle. Also, I never heard it to be harsh.

Voices

The voices on Red were hypnotising on many occasions. What I absolutely loved about them was the vibrating textures it managed to give them, bringing them to life.

Transients & Pace/Energy

The transients are one of the very strong points of Dragonfly Red. The attack explodes with energy and the decay is fast and controlled. This also translates into clear leading edges, good timing and also excellent pace and energy.

This little guy will get you off your chair with it’s contagious energy. Coffee? Forget about it. Insert some Red into your audiophile veins.

Details

The details on this little guy are quite impressive. There were many occasions when it showed subtle micro details from the scene.  While it is very impressive on the bass section as well, regarding the control and detail level, I think that the details on the midrange and treble are quite special.

Soundstage

The soundstage isn’t the biggest I’ve heard and it could a little more depth and width, but overall I found it to be of good quality. Actually I managed to solve this “issue” by adding Aune B1 as amplifier, making the sound wider, deeper and more holographical.

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Conclusions

What can I say? This is another product that takes you by surprise, especially because of its size. It’s like a usb drive. It’s incredibly small for a DAC/AMP but the sound quality it is capable of is really impressive!

The portability factor goes through the roof with this little guy and I don’t think it’s a compromise, or a backup solution when portability is the number one priority. No, the Dragonfly Red just sounds awesome. Actually I doubt you can find something at that price to beat it at even bigger sizes.

If you are in Bucharest and you want to test it for yourselves, you can do that at HighEndAudio’s showroom.

Pros

  • Punchy, speedy bass with good energy and detail
  • Detailed and well textured midrange
  • Wonderful, smooth, well extended and sparkly treble
  • Excellent vibrating voices
  • Very good details
  • Excellent transients and energy
  • Good soundstage overall especially if paired with another amp

Cons

  • Hard to find at this price and the performance it offers