AudioQuest Bugs Out With New Dragonfly Black, Dragonfly Red, and Beetle DACs

Kicking off CES early, AudioQuest held a press conference Wednesday morning to present their three new portable DAC/Headphone amps to the public for the first time. Designer Gordon Rankin and AudioQuest's Steve Silberman were on hand to explain the new products and run a brief demo.

First up is the Dragonfly Black at $99, which is the new updated version of the Dragonfly. The big change is that in addition to a lower price, instead of just working with high-powered computer USB connections, the Dragonfly can now work with phones and tablets. Both iOS and Android are supported. One of the ways they made this happen was with more efficient chips inside and lowering the output voltage a tad to 1.2 volts.

Next comes the new Dragonfly Red at $199, described as a hot-rodded Dragonfly. It has a higher output voltage and has been better optimized for driving headphones.

Finally, a completely new product will be released called the Beetle, also at $199. In addition to the USB input, the Beetle will sport an optical input as well as Bluetooth. Different Beetles can have unique names on your Bluetooth network, so multiple devices can be driven in a single location such as "bedroom beetle", "kitchen beetle" etc.

Though the Beetle does not include the popular aptX codec that many audio Bluetooth devices use, a quick demo on Wilson Audio speakers proved that the sound quality was impressive for such a device.

Common to all three products is up to 24/96 PCM support and also a new desktop app that will allow users to update their bugs as new firmware becomes available, hopefully extending the usable life of these products. Availability is slated for the early second quarter this year.

Anon2's picture

Thanks for covering the new version of the Dragonfly. I am surely not the only audio enthusiast who, due to long hours in the office, gets most of his musical interaction through headphones at work. Indeed, I am listening to music through headphones at work more than I get to use my home hifi system.

The size, price, and favorable comments towards these product make me want to take the plunge and to become a Dragonfly owner.

Has anyone reading this article used a Dragonfly at work? I'd be interested in hearing any testimonials. Perusals of just about any website selling this product demonstrate a strong preponderance of positive testimonials.

Thanks again for more Dragonfly coverage.

dalethorn's picture

I had the original DragonFly, then upgraded last year to the DragonFly version 1.2. As long as your headphone has no unusual power demands (such as the Beyer T1), you get a crystal clear sound from top to bottom. It's impressive, even into the deep bass.

mavoss's picture

I have the Dragonfly 1.2. I use it almost exclusively at work. It works very well. I am able to use it on computers where I have complete administrative access as well as those where I have none, so it is truly plug and play.

I use it to listen primarily to Etymotic HF5, AudioTechnica ATH-M50 and Grado SR-60e headphones. It drives all of these without problem. The sound is clear and clean as dalethorn has indicated. Depending on your computer, it can be a significant improvement in sound quality. One of my computers actually made a buzzing sound whenever I scrolled through a page. The Dragonfly completely isolates you from that.

I also have a Butte headphone amplifier (a very nice DIY project amp from Pete Millet). Feeding the Butte with the Dragonfly is a noticeable improvement. I believe this to be the case with many USB-powered DAC/headphone amps. A co-worker has a Meridian Explorer 2 and he reports similar results. The Butte is powered by a 12V DC wall wart. I think having the extra juice makes a difference and not just in bass response.

I'd encourage you to look into the Apogee Groove which has been favorably reviewed in Stereophile. The reviewer preferred it over the Dragonfly and the Meridian Explorer 2. But for the price, I think the Dragonfly is hard to beat.

Arthur.'s picture

The Red's clear mids change the balance of things compared to the 1.2, that had a nice "punch" in the bass. It has the "wow" factor - but not the "oomph" factor. I hope that the next software update will fix that, as it isn't accurate compared to the masters.