Audioquest DragonFly Cobalt

£269.00 inc.VAT

(1 customer review)

What Hi-fi? Award Winner 2020
Best DAC £200-£300

DragonFly Cobalt, our new flagship DAC, takes what music lovers around the world have come to expect from the multi-award-winning DragonFly family—naturally beautiful, seductive sound—and strips away fuzz and fog that weren’t even noticeable until Cobalt removed them.

How is this possible? Like the critically acclaimed DragonFly Red, Cobalt has the robust 2.1-volt output to drive almost any headphone, uses a bit-perfect digital volume control for outstanding signal-to-noise ratio, enables seamless compatibility with Apple and Android devices, and is an exceptionally competent and affordable MQA Renderer.

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Audioquest DragonFly Cobalt

  • New, more advanced ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip with a minimum-phase slow roll-off filter for more natural sound.
  • Microchip’s superb PIC32MX274 microprocessor draws less current and increases processing speed by 33%.
  • Improved power-supply filtering that specifically increases immunity to WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular noise.
  • Includes a form-fitting DragonTail female USB-A to male USB-C Adaptor.
  • All DragonTails use AQ’s Carbon-level USB cable.

Audioquest, Gordon Ranklin: A Beautiful Partnership

Like all previous DragonFly models, the Audioquest Dragonfly Cobalt uses Gordon Rankin’s precedent-setting StreamLength® asynchronous-transfer USB code. Further, in Gordon’s monoClock® technology, a single ultra-low-jitter clock generated from the ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip runs the ESS chip functions as well as all microcontroller functions. This superior clock enables DragonFly Cobalt to provide greater resolution and clarity than DACs with multiple clocks.

Why The “Slow Roll…?”

Cobalt employs ESS’s new flagship ES9038Q2M DAC chip. While the chips used in DragonFlys Black and Red are unbeatable for the price, the minimum-phase slow roll-off filter in the 9038 results in naturally expressive sound that is always emotionally engaging and never fatiguing—a beautiful combination of warmth and detail that we find equally exciting and soothing.

Killing The Noise

In Cobalt, we’ve taken what we’ve learned from our recent research and development in noise dissipation to employ power-supply filtering specifically designed to dramatically reduce the increasingly prevalent noise from WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular signals. Successfully combating this noise is absolutely crucial to the preservation of the lowest-level musical details, particularly when it comes to high-res audio—and especially when applied to a portable-audio device such as DragonFly.

Bit-Perfect Volume Control And 2.1-Volt Output

Cobalt features the same ESS Sabre 9601 headphone amp and bit-perfect volume control that give DragonFly Red its unique combination of power and grip over the music. This solution ensures maximum fidelity, thrilling dynamic contrast, and excellent signal-to-noise ratio. The 2.1-volt output makes Cobalt and Red compatible with a wide range of headphones, including power-hungry, low-efficiency models.

Firmware Upgradeable

DragonFlys Black, Red, and Cobalt are firmware upgradeable via our free Desktop Device Manager. In today’s fast-paced digital world, longevity in a hi-fi component is increasingly rare—at any price. AudioQuest believes that today’s digital devices should evolve as technology itself evolves, thereby delivering musical pleasure for many years to come. Our Desktop Device Manager will also allow you to identify your DragonFly’s serial number and software version to ensure that the device is up to date.

Beautiful Sound In A Smaller Package…And Now With A Tail

All this goodness is packed into a sleek new case that measures just 2.26″ x 0.73″ x 0.47″ (57.5mm x 18.6mm x 11.9mm), making the latest DragonFly 10% smaller and even a bit more pocket-friendly. Finally, to easily accommodate the increasing number of electronic devices that feature USB-C ports, DragonFly Cobalt comes with AudioQuest’s USB-A to USB-C adaptor.

Specifications

  • Sample rates supported (LED indicator color code): 44.1kHz (Green), 48kHz (Blue), 88.2kHz (Amber), 96kHz (Magenta), MQA (Purple)
  • Volume Control: Analog Volume Control (Black); 64-position, 64-bit, bit-perfect (Red, Cobalt)
  • Output voltage: 1.2 (Black); 2.1 (Red, Cobalt)
  • Headphone Amp: Texas Instruments TPA6130 (Black); ESS Sabre 9601 (Red, Cobalt)
  • DAC Chip: 32-bit ESS 9010 with minimum-phase fast roll-off filter (Black); 32-bit ESS 9016 with minimum-phase fast roll-off filter (Red); ESS ES9038Q2M with minimum-phase slow roll-off filter for more natural sound (Cobalt)
  • Microcontroller: Microchip PIC32MX (Black, Red); Microchip PIC32MX274 reduces current draw and increases processing speed by 33% over DragonFlys Black and Red (Cobalt)
  • Dimensions: 12mm H x 19mm W x 62mm L (Black, Red); 12mm H x 19mm W by 57mm L (Cobalt)

Capabilities

  • Plays all music files: MP3 to MQA and High-Res
  • Compatible with Apple® and Windows® PCs
  • Compatible with iOS devices (requires Apple Camera Adapter/Connection Kit)
  • Compatible with Android devices (requires DragonTail or other USB Adaptor for Android Devices)
  • MQA Rendering
  • Drives headphones directly
  • Fixed output feeds preamp or AV receiver
  • Asynchronous transfer ensures digital timing integrity

1 review for Audioquest DragonFly Cobalt

  1. dale thorn

    Comparing the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt to the DragonFly Red, and feeding 44 khz WAV tracks from my iPad Pro 11-inch to the DragonFlys, I played the first 70 seconds of Steven Wilson’s Luminol (at the 44/24 data rate) playing the Cobalt first (3 times), then the Red second. Almost immediately my impression of the stereo image was that it’s less open and full with the Red. That alone didn’t seal the Cobalt deal though.

    I ended up playing the same 70 seconds 3 times with the Red, then repeated 3 with the Cobalt followed by 3 with the Red. I’ve always thought of the Red as a very smooth reproducer, particularly compared to the DragonFly Black. But this time the Cobalt edged (no pun intended) out the Red with a smoother yet detailed sound. Some users might not hear the differences, but if they are practiced at evaluating DACs, they should pick up on these differences pretty quickly.

    When I heard about the DragonFly Cobalt, I thought the $100 USD jump from the Red was a bit much, but the factors of sound quality and the inclusion of the DragonTail USB-C adapter did seal the Cobalt deal for me. I will try to incorporate listening with the AudioQuest JitterBug in the full review, but in the meantime I’d recommend the Cobalt here and now for certain users:

    1) Perfectionists. 2) Those with good enough hearing and experience to appreciate the differences. 3) Those who won’t hear the differences immediately, but who trust AudioQuest to put into the DAC what they say they put in. Don’t put any special trust in my review, since the music you play and many other factors could net out the differences. Do read as many reviews as possible, focusing on the best-respected reviewers of portable audio gear, especially DACs and amps.

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