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Is anyone using a Dragonfly USB Dac?

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  • Is anyone using a Dragonfly USB Dac?

    I like to use my iPhone to stream from Spotify. However, it sounds pretty crappy. I am thinking about get a portable dac. I also plug the phone in the car and with my job a couple of days a week I am on the road all day and I listed to music mostly.

    I am open to suggestions. I have read good things about the dragonfly but I am not sure if the improvement is real.

    Thoughts?

  • #2
    I have a friend who uses a Dragonfly on his Iphone 7. Huge gains in audio quality compared to his phone alone. He loves it.
    Click here for Jeff Bagby's Loudspeaker Design Software

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    • #3
      I always thought iPhone headphone outputs were supposed to be pretty decent.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Jeff B. View Post
        I have a friend who uses a Dragonfly on his Iphone 7. Huge gains in audio quality compared to his phone alone. He loves it.
        That was the feedback I was looking for. I am typically skeptical of the online hysteria that surrounds such things.

        Phil, it may. With my decent over the ear headphones they do not bother me. Having said that there is not enough resolution to distinguish between pretty low res recordings and say Tidal.
        If I use the headphone output to my receiver it sounds pretty bad. Very flat image, terrible LF resolution. Bad enough to not want to listen.

        In my car using USB to the head unit DAC it is pretty darn impressive. I cannot distinguish it from the CD player. If I use it bluetooth in the car it is back to pretty terrible.

        Really I could get a way with a less portable DAC but with a Dragonfly or similar I would use it for headphones too.

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        • #5
          Here is an interesting page on testing an iPhone 6S (below). I wonder if the 7 went backwards, that isn't typical for Apple.

          I also wonder if you're seeing the 1V maximum output as being an issue. Comparing two sources with different output levels but otherwise identical characteristics will really make something with a 2V output seem substantially better sounding than something with a 1V output level, IMHO.

          *****

          http://www.kenrockwell.com/apple/iph...io-quality.htm As expected, the analog audio output of the iPhone 6S Plus is extraordinarily good. It has only half the distortion of the already extraordinary iPhone 6 Plus.
          Apple has more smart people and more resources than any other audio company on the planet, so as we see when it comes to audio engineering, the iPhone easily outdoes many so-called "audiophile which often require more voltage than the 1V RMS maximum from iOS devices. In this case, you still don't need a DAC; the analog output from the iPhone's 3.5mm jack will probably be better than what you'd get fromo an expensive outboard DAC!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by philthien View Post
            Here is an interesting page on testing an iPhone 6S (below). I wonder if the 7 went backwards, that isn't typical for Apple.

            I also wonder if you're seeing the 1V maximum output as being an issue. Comparing two sources with different output levels but otherwise identical characteristics will really make something with a 2V output seem substantially better sounding than something with a 1V output level, IMHO.

            *****

            http://www.kenrockwell.com/apple/iph...io-quality.htm As expected, the analog audio output of the iPhone 6S Plus is extraordinarily good. It has only half the distortion of the already extraordinary iPhone 6 Plus.
            Apple has more smart people and more resources than any other audio company on the planet, so as we see when it comes to audio engineering, the iPhone easily outdoes many so-called "audiophile which often require more voltage than the 1V RMS maximum from iOS devices. In this case, you still don't need a DAC; the analog output from the iPhone's 3.5mm jack will probably be better than what you'd get fromo an expensive outboard DAC!
            WOW! That is super interesting. This is my current iPhone. Perhaps I need to rethink what the problem area is. I am going to load some CD quality music on my phone and play back to back with the same music with my CD player. That should be interesting.

            Perhaps it would make sense to use an active pre with the iPhone. That way I get a bit more voltage in.

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            • #7
              I use the Dragonfly Red with my iphone 6 and my laptop. I've used it with both speakers and headphones. When I use it purely as a DAC into a separate amplifier, it provides a noticeable, if subtle, improvement over the iPhone's output. The biggest gains are in the transients, separation of instruments, and lower noise floor. Again, the improvements are subtle. When I use the Dragonfly as a dac/amp to directly drive my high-impedance Sennheiser HD600s, the difference is night and day. The extra voltage really is necessary to adequately drive high impedance cans.

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              • #8

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                • #9
                  I don't know if Stereophile has ever measured headphone jacks, but they have measured the Red and Black Dragonfly products:

                  https://www.stereophile.com/content/...s-measurements

                  Honestly, I think the extra output of the Red (over the built-in headphone jack) warrants the price. We're not talking huge dollars and I highly doubt it would measure worse than the built-in jack.

                  In other words, even if the improvement boils down to more output + placebo effect, you're only out $200 and the extra output is nice to have.

                  Though I'll admit that my thinking on a lot of this sort of stuff is contrary to a great many others that may only want to listen to DACs soldered by virgins in the moonlight.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Wushuliu View Post
                    If you’re linking ken rockwell then why bother with this hobby at all. Just buy the cheapest speakers you can find and toast yourself for not drinking the kool aid.

                    I agree. While I occasionally read Rockwell for fun, it should all be taken with a grain of salt. He is highly opinionated and he confuses facts with his preferences. Add to that he clearly has a high opinion of himself. Anyway, google photo.net or some photo forum and do a search. He's to photography what Bose is to speakers. Well, it's probably not that bad. Some of his lens reviews aren't half bad. But he just assumes he knows everything about his reader and confuses his personal preferences with what the reader should do/buy. And it's occasionally somewhat demeaning...

                    Anyway, the dragonfly and it's principle designer, Gordon Rankins are quite well thought of. Whether or not you hear an improvement is always hard to say, but it's a respected product. Which is more than I can say about Ken Rockwell...
                    audioheuristics isn't around right now...

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by markk View Post


                      I agree. While I occasionally read Rockwell for fun, it should all be taken with a grain of salt. He is highly opinionated and he confuses facts with his preferences. Add to that he clearly has a high opinion of himself. Anyway, google photo.net or some photo forum and do a search. He's to photography what Bose is to speakers. Well, it's probably not that bad. Some of his lens reviews aren't half bad. But he just assumes he knows everything about his reader and confuses his personal preferences with what the reader should do/buy. And it's occasionally somewhat demeaning...

                      Anyway, the dragonfly and it's principle designer, Gordon Rankins are quite well thought of. Whether or not you hear an improvement is always hard to say, but it's a respected product. Which is more than I can say about Ken Rockwell...
                      Rockwell (a BSEE) didn't say anything about the Dragonfly other than in the context of a generalization about external DAC units being unnecessary if the standard is the modern iPhone headphone jack.

                      Here is another source for measurements, this time for an iPhone 6:

                      https://www.anandtech.com/show/8554/...ne-6-review/11

                      They're solid performers.

                      At $100 to $200, a product like the Dragonfly should be able to deliver more than a placebo effect. I consider the higher output levels to be worthwhile. But I wouldn't recommend the product to someone that didn't require that additional oomph without pointing-out that their iPhone jack is probably pretty good to start with.

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                      • #12
                        If you want something of higher quality than a Dragonfly Red DAC, you can use a Resonnessence Concero HD DAC (or similar that gets its full power via 5V USB plug, but that's the one I use), with some-what portability. You just need to be able to get the digital audio signal out of your phone through an SPDIF connector. The Concero HD can be powered up via the USB-B "input" by simply giving it the 5V power/ground from a 5VDC power adapter like a high power phone charger, at which point it "sees" no audio signal through the USB itself, and waits for you to give it the audio signal via the SPDIF input.




                        OR, when you want to leave practically nothing on the table, lug one of these around everywhere you go. Twin ES9038Pro Sabre DAC's, each chip with all it's 8-channels paralleled, dual-mono architecture, for up to 140dB dynamic range, and noise floor of -122 dB (about 0.0001% THD+N, I think)



                        :D

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by philthien View Post

                          Rockwell (a BSEE) didn't say anything about the Dragonfly other than in the context of a generalization about external DAC units being unnecessary if the standard is the modern iPhone headphone jack.

                          Here is another source for measurements, this time for an iPhone 6:

                          https://www.anandtech.com/show/8554/...ne-6-review/11

                          They're solid performers.

                          At $100 to $200, a product like the Dragonfly should be able to deliver more than a placebo effect. I consider the higher output levels to be worthwhile. But I wouldn't recommend the product to someone that didn't require that additional oomph without pointing-out that their iPhone jack is probably pretty good to start with.


                          I did not mean to suggest KR commented specifically on the Dragonfly. He painted a much broader brush against all "audiophiles." And he implied that the engineers at Apple know what's best for you. And then said, basically, you're a fool for buying anything more expensive. So yea, he's a bit over opinionated. Sure he has a degree in engineering. So do I. So what?

                          Anyway, if you like KR, that's fine. But I do think everything he says is very colored by his personal bias and he makes no effort at all to suppress it.
                          audioheuristics isn't around right now...

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                          • #14
                            Ken Rockwell - you mean the king of maxing out the Vibrance setting on a camera? If his ears are as insensitive as his vision, I'll not bother reading any thoughts he might have on the topic of high fidelity.
                            Co-conspirator in the development of the "CR Gnarly Fidelity Reduction Unit" - Registered Trademark, Patent Pending.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by markk View Post
                              I did not mean to suggest KR commented specifically on the Dragonfly. He painted a much broader brush against all "audiophiles." And he implied that the engineers at Apple know what's best for you. And then said, basically, you're a fool for buying anything more expensive. So yea, he's a bit over opinionated. Sure he has a degree in engineering. So do I. So what?

                              Anyway, if you like KR, that's fine. But I do think everything he says is very colored by his personal bias and he makes no effort at all to suppress it.
                              Very few people seem to be able to reliably demonstrate an ability to blindly identify differences or indicate preferences for these sorts of devices.

                              In the final analysis, he might be right, you might be a fool for buying something more expensive.

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