Stereophile's Products of 2012 Computer Audio Component of the Year
AudioQuest DragonFly USB D/A processor ($249; reviewed by Art Dudley, Vol.35 No.10 Review)
Incredibly cute and undeniably cool, the AudioQuest DragonFly received votes from more writers (10) than any other component in our entire competition: six first-place votes, two second-place votes, and two third-place votes, for a whopping total of 24the highest total in our entire competition, and nearly twice as many as our two "Computer Audio" runners-up, the superperforming Halide DAC HD and Weiss DAC202 D/A processors. In most any other year, the Halide or the Weiss would be the winner, but 2012 is the Year of the DragonFly.
From the time we glimpsed its raw circuit board at the January 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, to its official release in June at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach, and right through the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in October, the buzz surrounding this little bug only grew louder. Credit for that must go to AudioQuest's VP of development, the loquacious Steve Silberman. The guy is proud, and rightfully so: Engineered by booty-spankin' Gordon Rankin, the DragonFly crams 107 individual parts, plus five regulated power supplies, inside its thumb-sized body. It matches Rankin's Streamlength asynchronous USB protocol with a 24-bit ESS Sabre DAC and incorporates a Burr-Brown headphone amp with a 64-step analog volume control. But more than merely high-tech, the DragonFly is fanciful, too: One-millimeter microdot LEDs enable its dragonfly emblem to change color in accordance with the sampling rate of the file being played: green (44.1kHz), blue (48kHz), amber (88.2kHz), or purple (96kHz).
Art loved the DragonFly's sound as much as he loved its concept: "It's a thumb in the eye of those tea-pinky tyrants who would tell the rest of us what is and is not high end. I can think of no more recommendable product in digital audio."
Watch out, tyrants. The DragonFly's coming for you.
Runners-up (in alphabetical order)
Halide Design DAC HD USB D/A processor
Musical Fidelity M1CLiC media server
Musical Fidelity V-DAC II D/A processor ($379; reviewed by John Atkinson & Sam Tellig, Vol.35 No.8 Review)
Weiss DAC202 FireWire D/A processor ($6966; reviewed by Erick Lichte & John Atkinson, Vol.35 Nos. 1 & 2 Review)
XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro ($359.99; reviewed by Kal Rubinson, Vol.35 No.5 Review)