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Dragonfly Red is the best of the three. But the Hifime Sabre 9018 DAC is notably better than the DF Red in sound quality and output power, at less than half the price. The only advantage the DF Red has vs the Hifime is asynchronous vs. adaptive USB. But that isn't a reason to choose the red over the Hifime unless you are having stability issues with the adaptive USB from your device. And, I don't believe the DF Red has a firmware issue with volume as someone mentioned. Rather, your source device & App need to be able to access the HARDWARE volume control on the DF Red. Otherwise, it will be stuck at half (or somewhere around there). On many smartphones, this is an issue. But on Android, if you get the USB Audio Player Pro app, which has hardware volume control and switchable bit-perfect output (bypassing the Android OS), and you go into the app's settings to configure the app volume control to control the hardware volume instead of software volume, this is no problem at all.
i have read on several sites that there is a firmware issue with the Dragonfly Red with only 70% volume coming through. Mayhap, this has been addressed. Can someone provide light on this purported issue and the reported mitigation? I have the Black and I am mightily happy with it. I use it with the USBAPP app and IEMs and the Hifiman Edition S.
I have voted for the Red and would jump if there is a drop in price.
I recently acquired an SMSL iDEA featured on this poll and I was very surprised to find out that it could drive my Fostex T50RP Mk3 without any issues. Unlike my previous portable DAC/AMP, the Fiio E7 which made the Fostex's sound seem thin with very little bass. The iDEA give a very neutral but powerful sound that is well controlled and surprisingly clean. I'd argue that it perhaps sounds cleaner than my desktop DAC/AMP. For anyone interested in this type of product, I heavily recommend you read some reviews of this product (archimago's is particularly detailed and well written IMO). Have a nice weekend!
May I suggest voters take a look at what some forums like
is giving? IMHO some products are over rated in this poll.
Added Cyrus soundKey.
I joined the KickStarter. Wanted something really portable. Impressive sound quality with plenty of gain.
Cheers for adding the Cyrus Soundkey. I got the DacMagic DacPort Slim but have hardly used it (read: tested it only). Fine on my laptop but I want something more suitable/portable for my android phone.
added Hifime Sabre 9018
I've added encore mDSD to the poll, former nuforce boys sure to know to bolt/ or rather solder things together. I personally own the HA2 (First ed), jitterbug and have access to chord mojo (a mate owns it and I know where he lives...), all sounds amazing but out of reach of many people (financially speaking).
chord mojo + my fostex ebonys = audio bliss
Can this mass drop please happen!!!
The Dragonfly choices are boss, but think about the coming of MQA! The Meridian Explorer2 is one of the only tickets in town. Even if MQA doesn't materialize, the sound is fantastic, Meridian really does have some special sauce in their DACs.
I'd say the DragonFly Red or Black is by far the best ones out of the bunch. They have some new neat USB chips that are highly efficient and they support mobile devices. I've tried these myself, and they sound terrific. They are small and genious to connect to a phone, or the computer.
I think it should be available with an adapter to either Android (micro-USB) or Apple devices (Lightning) too. As this is possibly the best DAC in regards to practicality. Connect it to a phone, or a PC and it'll work.
Please make it a drop! :D
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How does the DragonFly Black ($100) compare to the Fiio K1 ($40)? Is it worth the price increase?
Depends. For me it is, but I bought the Red (higher voltage, DAC integrated volume control, and bragging rights). Red has more power and a little better DAC, other than that they're the same. Black sounds good to, very close to Red. They're both software upgradable, which is why I like them. They also have good USB support and implementation. It's really efficient and has a brand new USB controller.
Compared to FiiO K1 you'll get a wider sound stage and more crispy sound. More punch and energy. It's impossible to explain how the difference is. :P You almost just gotta try and you'll know.
But as I said, it depends. How long are you gonna keep it? Will you buy a new DAC in 2 years? What headphones do you have? Using it with a phone requires an adapter, and I'd recommend AudioQuest's cable, not some China crap. But that costs a little too. Do you wanna invest in something that will last you a long time now, or buy several times?
I tend to buy the good stuff right away and be done with it. DragonFly is promised to get support and updates for years and I don't see USB standard being switched out in the near future.
You gotta remember that the higher up on the price ladder you go, the less improvement per dollar you get. Expensive stuff refines in the details. The budget/mid-end bracket will get you the most bang for the buck, always.
Personally, I'd put some more money in it and go for the Black. But that's me. How much is it worth to you and what equipment do you have and will buy in the future? If you're gonna buy high impedance headphones then the Black might not suffice, it has a lower output than Red.
There's a lot of questions that needs an answer to determine this.
I have added Geek Out 2A Infinity to the poll. I already own a Geek Out 720 which I really enjoy using.
AudioQuest Jitterbug is not a dac/amp, but an USB filter to use between your laptop and dac.
Supposedly the Monoprice USB DAC/AMP,
, is identical to these, Proof:
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Very important to note that it's not Black or Red, which have completely different chips. The 1.2 (discontinued) have much less efficient chips, does not support mobile devices and is not firmware upgradable. Also, Black and Red is supposted to have reworked audio with various improvements, also able to drive higher impedance headphones.
So I don't think we're doing anyone any favors by promoting an old/outdated product.
If they manage to make the price even more affordable, I'm jumping in. My vote is for the red.
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