AudioQuest DragonFly USB D/A converter John Atkinson Comments
I compared the CEntrance DACPort LX ($299.95) with AudioQuest's new $250 DragonFly, reviewed elsewhere in this issue by Art Dudley. Levels were matched to within 0.1dB at 1kHz, and for the test track I used a mix I had done a couple of years back of a song called "New York Afterparty," from Heroes of the Open End, the band for which Stereophile's Ariel Bitran plays lead guitar. The backing features two electric guitars and synth, overlaying drums and bass. I had tried in the mix to recreate some of the phat low frequencies you hear from rock bands livethere is therefore a lot of low-frequency energyand I had used some repeat echo on Ariel's chiming guitar patterns to place the instrument in its own space.
The DACport LX offered a clean open window into the mix, with Mike Baglivi's midrange-dominant rhythm guitar well differentiated from the other instruments. The bass guitar and kick drum were reproduced with good weight but with still enough leading-edge definition that the sound didn't become too muddy. Changing to the DragonFly, the cymbals had a little more energy apparent, as did Ariel's lead guitar; Mike Baglivi's lead vocal, which with hindsight I had mixed a little too low, usefully moved a little closer to the listener. The low frequencies still had good weight, but the bass guitar and kick drum were not quite as well differentiated as with the DACport. However, it was a close-run thing overall. I don't think I could have identified which DAC was playing without reference to the other.John Atkinson