Stereophile's Products of 2012 Budget Component of the Year

Budget Component of the Year

AudioQuest DragonFly

Last night at Other Music, Daniel asked me about the AudioQuest DragonFly. He explained that he and the other record-store clerks had noticed it on the cover of Stereophile, and though they weren't quite sure what it did, they were all intrigued by its looks. This was interesting: It's not every day that a product on the cover of Stereophile captures the imaginations of a bunch of young musicians and DJs.

"Basically," I told him, "the DragonFly is a digital-to-analog converter. You plug it into your PC and it delivers your music with pure, high-quality sound."

"Oh. Why didn't your writer say that?"

"Oh, um, for audiophiles, the big deal about the DragonFly is that it's one of the few truly high-end audio components designed to appeal to normal people—people outside the hi-fi hobby. It's packed with technology, it's made in the US, and it costs only $250."

"Oh. Why didn't your writer say that?"

It makes good sense that the most affordable individual winner of our competition would also be our Budget Component of the Year. While seven contenders received at least one first-place vote, the DragonFly received five first-place votes and a total of 22 votes to easily separate itself from the crowd.

Art Dudley enjoyed the DragonFly's superb texture and rich tonal color, but he was most impressed by its extraordinary value: "The fact is, the $250 AudioQuest DragonFly sounds at least as good as my $900 [Wavelength Proton] reference converter."

I remember AudioQuest's Steve Silberman, at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, going on and on about the DragonFly: "This is an industry disruptor. We can tell people to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on their stereos, and they're not going to care. They don't give a shit. People just want to know how to make their iTunes sound good. We have to meet them on their own terms, hit them where they live."

A moment ago, I was interrupted by Stereophile's editorial assistant, Ariel Bitran. "Dude, the DragonFly is awesome!"

He was streaming music from Spotify, just like 15 million other people in the world, and using the DragonFly to drive his $80 Klipsch 54i in-ear 'phones.

"Is it?"

"It's making a huge improvement in these things," he said, pointing to his little white Klipsches.

It seems AudioQuest has hit its target. From the record shop to the cubicle, normal people are buzzing about the DragonFly. AD sees this as an opportunity: "With a bit of luck, we'll have those people smearing Peter W. Belt Cream Electret on the frames of their glasses in no time."

Watch out, normal people. The DragonFly's coming for you, too.

Runners-up (in alphabetical order)
Arcam rDAC D/A processor ($479; reviewed by John Marks, Vol.34 No.12 Review)
Clearaudio Concept turntable ($1400 without phono cartridge; reviewed by Erick Lichte, Vol.35 No.8 Review)
DALI Zensor 1 loudspeaker ($475/pair; reviewed by Robert J. Reina, Vol.35 No.7 Review)
Epos Epic 2 loudspeaker ($799/pair; reviewed by Sam Tellig & Robert J. Reina, Vol.34 Nos. 11 & 12 Review)
Halide Design DAC HD D/A processor
Peachtree Audio DAC•iT D/A processor ($449; reviewed by Jon Iverson, Vol.35 No.4 Review)
PSB Imagine Mini loudspeaker ($760/pair; reviewed by John Atkinson, Vol.35 No.8 Review)
Rega Research RP3 turntable

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