Everything a Portable, Affordable USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier Should Be: AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt Sounds Fantastic, Decodes MQA, Offers Apple and Android Compatibility
So much for having to speak softly and carry a big (USB) stick: The latest entry in AudioQuest's see-and-hear-it-to-believe-it DragonFly family, the DragonFly Cobalt USB DAC/headphone amplifier, takes the line's award-winning performance to previously unforeseen heights all the while packing cutting-technology into an even smaller package. Measuring a minuscule 2.26 x 0.73 x 0.47 inches, DragonFly Cobalt achieves everything its sibling, DragonFly Red, does – drives any headphones via a 2.1-volt output, decodes MQA files, offers compatibility with Apple and Android devices, plays with a bit-perfect volume control – and adds a more advanced ESS ES9038Q2M DAC with a minimum-phase slow roll-off filter, an enhanced Microchip PIC32MX274 microprocessor, an elevated power-supply filter, and a form-fitting DragonTail USB-C-to-USB-A adapter. The upshot: Smooth, natural, beguiling sound along with increased processing speed, less Wi-Fi and Bluetooth fuzz, a lower noise floor, and stellar connectivity. Whether you listen at home or on the go, DragonFly Cobalt delivers price- and size-beguiling warmth, dynamics, body, tonality, and color from music.
Indeed, tunes on your computer, laptop, smartphone, tablet, powered speakers, or even stereo will benefit from richer presence, extra authority, and revealing realism with DragonFly Cobalt in your system. Designed for stunning flexibility and portability, and requiring even less power than DragonFly Red, this blue stick handles everything from 24-bit/96kHz high-resolution files to MQA. One of the secrets of its ability correlates to the implementation of GordonRankin's StreamLength asynchronous-transfer USB code and monoClock technology – whereby a single, ultra-low-jitter clock generated from the DAC chip runs both the ESS chip and micro-controller functions – that net greater resolution, clarity, and dimensionality than DACs with multiple clocks.
What's more, when you factor in DragonFly Cobalt's aptitude as a headphone amplifier, there's simply no other audiophile product that comes close for anywhere near the price. If you've never experienced what a DragonFly can accomplish, or if, like thousands upon thousands of listeners, you have but want even more of everything, we highly encourage you to audition DragonFly Cobalt risk-free at your home – and enjoy what's certain to be one of the blockbuster devices of the coming years. 100% Music Direct Guaranteed.
“In a way, this review is one of upholding the status quo. The Red is better than the Black, the Cobalt is better than the Red. However, in a way it’s also nothing of the sort; what the Cobalt does push ahead of the Red and the Black by a considerable margin. It doesn’t make the Red sound ‘broken’ because the Red (and the Black) are excellent performers in their own right, but if you can go from Red to Cobalt, do so.”
—Alan Sircom, Hi-Fi+
"The sound isn't like what I hear on a reference-level system that enables me to get lost in the music on a different level, but nonetheless I get lost in the music on this album through the Cobalt."
– The Computer Audiophile, Audiophile Style