AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt DAC Review & Comments

LAMitchell

Active Member
Thank you for the review, Ed, I have been looking forward to this for a while.
I noticed you mentioned the Campfire IEM's, I have been using Campfire Andromeda with the Cobalt, and the biggest problem I have found is the sensitivity of these headphones. The Cobalt is too loud, and there is little to play as far as volume adjustment. I still prefer my mojo for musicality, but the Cobalt has 10/10 for convenience.
 

THX1138UK

Well-known Member
I use a Audio Quest Dragonfly Black with a Fujitsu laptop connected to a Denon AVR X6200W in my home cinema. I use Foobar for FLAC playback and WASAPI to bypass Windows audio re-sampling. I find the Dragonfly Black does an excellent job. I've always been impressed with the quality and lack of noise in the signal.

Nice to see Audio Quest are still developing their DAC product line. It's a shame the Cobalt can't handle 192 kHz. Not for quality, but simply because quite a lot of commercial Hi-Res material is available up to that frequency, and it would avoid user confusion. Personally, I'm happy with 16 bit, 44.1 kHz from a quality perspective.

Regards,
James.
 

McCol

Well-known Member
Nice review.

I owned the Cobalt for a while not too long after release, had to return first unit as it had a loose headphone jack which appears to have been an issue with early models. Replacement model was far better but still had a little wiggle on the headphone jack.

Sound wise I found the Cobalt a little harsh at times, seem to struggle with passages of music with increased treble, some guitar laden music for example. I'd find that it was a little piercing to these ears. That may have just been a personal thing for me though.

For portability it can't be beaten, once connected you don't really know it's there. It also pairs really well if you use UAPP (usb audio player pro) on Android.

Be aware however that I had issues when trying to playback hi-res files direct through Android, the sample rate of Android is limited and as such I would get a clicking noise on tracks every few seconds. Had quite a lengthy email dialogue with Audioquest who confirmed it was a limitation of the Cobalt and Android, the only way to avoid this is by using UAPP which bypasses the native Android audio driver.
 

gigglebug

Active Member
I use a Audio Quest Dragonfly Black with a Fujitsu laptop connected to a Denon AVR X6200W in my home cinema. I use Foobar for FLAC playback and WASAPI to bypass Windows audio re-sampling. I find the Dragonfly Black does an excellent job. I've always been impressed with the quality and lack of noise in the signal.

Nice to see Audio Quest are still developing their DAC product line. It's a shame the Cobalt can't handle 192 kHz. Not for quality, but simply because quite a lot of commercial Hi-Res material is available up to that frequency, and it would avoid user confusion. Personally, I'm happy with 16 bit, 44.1 kHz from a quality perspective.

Regards,
James.
Could I ask you a question please? I have a Fiio DAC/amp and a decent set of headphones with which I use with a laptop to listen to music on through Amazon Music HD (via usb). I’ve only just bought them and have no prior experience of such things but will the laptop be effecting the audio output to the Fiio? I have adjusted something in the windows sound settings specifically for the Fiio so that the music on Amazon now shows as playing at the correct sample rates, it was initially locked at 16 bit and 44.1 kHz, but is there something else that I should be doing?
 

McCol

Well-known Member
Could I ask you a question please? I have a Fiio DAC/amp and a decent set of headphones with which I use with a laptop to listen to music on through Amazon Music HD (via usb). I’ve only just bought them and have no prior experience of such things but will the laptop be effecting the audio output to the Fiio? I have adjusted something in the windows sound settings specifically for the Fiio so that the music on Amazon now shows as playing at the correct sample rates, it was initially locked at 16 bit and 44.1 kHz, but is there something else that I should be doing?
That should be enough, sometimes you need a specific driver from Fiio's website to enable the Dac function on Windows, check the product page for your Fiio.
 

gigglebug

Active Member
That should be enough, sometimes you need a specific driver from Fiio's website to enable the Dac function on Windows, check the product page for your Fiio.
Thank you. I’m sure that I did download something along the lines of that when I first got it and installed everything onto laptop so I should be ok in that regards by the sounds of it.
 

THX1138UK

Well-known Member
Could I ask you a question please? I have a Fiio DAC/amp and a decent set of headphones with which I use with a laptop to listen to music on through Amazon Music HD (via usb). I’ve only just bought them and have no prior experience of such things but will the laptop be effecting the audio output to the Fiio? I have adjusted something in the windows sound settings specifically for the Fiio so that the music on Amazon now shows as playing at the correct sample rates, it was initially locked at 16 bit and 44.1 kHz, but is there something else that I should be doing?
By default, Windows re-samples all audio before outputting it via its inbuilt sound-system (this is called shared audio mode). This is because you may have multiple audio sources, which use different bit rates and sample frequencies that need to be combined before they can be output through the audio system. Windows uses 16 bit, 48 kHz audio by default (not 41.1 kHz used by the music industry). Everything is either up-sampled or down-sampled to fit (using dithering).

Note: Even if you configure Windows to the same bit rate and sample frequency of your music source - it will still re-sample, so that it can mix audio sources together before outputting then via the Windows sound-system (because it is still operating in shared audio mode even if you are only playing a single source).

Some dedicated audiophile applications such as Foobar, allow you to by-pass the default Windows sound-system handling, and output a bit-for-bit audio stream at the native sampling frequency from sources such as FLAC files (this is called exclusive audio mode - because only one application at a time can control audio).

WASAPI (Windows Audio Session API) permits developers to interact exclusively with audio in it's native format. An alternative to WASAPI is ASIO (Audio Stream Input/Output) protocol. They both seek to do the same thing - which is to bypass Windows shared audio mode. I had great success with WASAPI in Foobar, so never bothered investing any time playing with ASIO

I don't have any experience of Amazon Music HD. But a quick 'Google' search reveals that it does *not* natively support WASAPI or ASIO. On the Steve Hoffman Music Forums there is a discussion about using JRiver to achieve this, but it's a red-herring.

If you want to use exclusive audio mode to achieve the best (native) sound quality, Tidal may be a better streaming option, as it supports WASAPI natively.

If you have a collection of FLAC files you want to play, Foobar is great, but getting Foobar and WASAPI setup with a USB based DAC can be quite challenging, so I would only attempt this if you are a fairly technically advanced PC user.

Regards,
James.
 

gigglebug

Active Member
By default, Windows re-samples all audio before outputting it via its inbuilt sound-system (this is called shared audio mode). This is because you may have multiple audio sources, which use different bit rates and sample frequencies that need to be combined before they can be output through the audio system. Windows uses 16 bit, 48 kHz audio by default (not 41.1 kHz used by the music industry). Everything is either up-sampled or down-sampled to fit (using dithering).

Note: Even if you configure Windows to the same bit rate and sample frequency of your music source - it will still re-sample, so that it can mix audio sources together before outputting then via the Windows sound-system (because it is still operating in shared audio mode even if you are only playing a single source).

Some dedicated audiophile applications such as Foobar, allow you to by-pass the default Windows sound-system handling, and output a bit-for-bit audio stream at the native sampling frequency from sources such as FLAC files (this is called exclusive audio mode - because only one application at a time can control audio).

WASAPI (Windows Audio Session API) permits developers to interact exclusively with audio in it's native format. An alternative to WASAPI is ASIO (Audio Stream Input/Output) protocol. They both seek to do the same thing - which is to bypass Windows shared audio mode. I had great success with WASAPI in Foobar, so never bothered investing any time playing with ASIO

I don't have any experience of Amazon Music HD. But a quick 'Google' search reveals that it does *not* natively support WASAPI or ASIO. On the Steve Hoffman Music Forums there is a discussion about using JRiver to achieve this, but it's a red-herring.

If you want to use exclusive audio mode to achieve the best (native) sound quality, Tidal may be a better streaming option, as it supports WASAPI natively.

If you have a collection of FLAC files you want to play, Foobar is great, but getting Foobar and WASAPI setup with a USB based DAC can be quite challenging, so I would only attempt this if you are a fairly technically advanced PC user.

Regards,
James.
Thank you so much for taking the time to offer a detailed reply. The part of your post that I have highlighted instantly rules me out 😁. The set up I’ve bought is a basic response to being in isolation and the fact I completely coincidentally noticed that I could trial Amazon Music HD free for three months and the offer was about to run out. I’m happy enough with what I have to be fair but if there were a simple way of improving it I’d be silly not to. Thanks again, I’ll leave the thread for chat about the product in the review now.
 

drykloke

Active Member
Nice review.

I owned the Cobalt for a while not too long after release, had to return first unit as it had a loose headphone jack which appears to have been an issue with early models. Replacement model was far better but still had a little wiggle on the headphone jack.

Sound wise I found the Cobalt a little harsh at times, seem to struggle with passages of music with increased treble, some guitar laden music for example. I'd find that it was a little piercing to these ears. That may have just been a personal thing for me though.

Be aware however that I had issues when trying to playback hi-res files direct through Android, the sample rate of Android is limited and as such I would get a clicking noise on tracks every few seconds.
I bought McCol's Cobalt through AVForums, and have been very happy with sound quality. No clicking noises with Tidal Hi-Res through my Android phone and tablet, thankfully.
I can understand why some people prefer the Red, but I currently live with both and I find the Red a bit too Hi-Fi ish in pushing the sound towards the listener. The Cobalt has a more relaxed and natural presentation to me.
 

McCol

Well-known Member
I bought McCol's Cobalt through AVForums, and have been very happy with sound quality. No clicking noises with Tidal Hi-Res through my Android phone and tablet, thankfully.
I can understand why some people prefer the Red, but I currently live with both and I find the Red a bit too Hi-Fi ish in pushing the sound towards the listener. The Cobalt has a more relaxed and natural presentation to me.
That's good to hear that the clicking noises are no longer present. Has there been a firmware update?

I've never heard the black or red so couldn't compare to those two. I did find it wasn't too far from the Mojo in terms of sound quality.
 

Abacus

Banned
ASIO (Introduced around 1995 by Steinberg) and WASAPI (Introduced by Microsoft from around Windows 7 (Although it was still pretty naff then and didn’t come of age until Windows 10) came about to get rid of latency using DAWs and Virtual Instruments and is built into the hardware driver to get best results. (If your hardware does not support either then you can try ASIO4all which can give reasonable results)

It is up to the software manufacture whether they use them or not. (MAC and Linux systems have their own versions, although ASIO is sometimes still used)

Studios use either 16/48 for the final output or 24/96 for the mastering process (24/96 is used for mastering to allow more processing to be achieved without introducing problems) with only CDs using 16/44.1.

Bill
 

gavinbullstag

Active Member
I've got a dragonfly black that I use with my Audiolab 8000a and Castle Severn IIs with the source being a laptop and Spotify free and MP3 files on the laptop.

It sounds amazing.

When I've sorted a few things out I'll be interested in testing on Spotify premium and maybe some flac files.

One of the best investments in audio I've made.
 

Sammyez

Well-known Member
The Cobalt sounds great with MQA music (Tidal Hifi) through my Grado GR10 headphones and also via Audirvana on my laptop feeding the Cobalt to my Meridian processor and main audio set up. MQA tracks sound excellent. Cobalt is an impressive bit of kit. Having spoken to the product manager at Audioquest he suggested upgrading to their Big Sur cable to get the best out of this set up!
 

Abacus

Banned
If you want some leads go to a proper music store that deals with professionals, never buy anything from a Hi-Fi cable manufacture as they put a fancy name on a simple product, add some gobbledegook and charge a fortune. (As they know there are a lot Hi-Fi nuts out there that do not have the slightest electrical or musical knowledge to know that their claims are bogus)

Bill
 

Sammyez

Well-known Member
I accept there is a degree of ‘snake oil’ in the audio visual world especially with regards to digital. In this instance I’ve used Audioquest cables for over 20 years and have always found them to be well made and sound great. As such, I be will taking up their recommendation given they’ve produced the Cobalt.
 

drykloke

Active Member
Here's a review with some actual measurements and direct comparisons with DF red and black that is rather less flattering: MEASUREMENTS: AudioQuest Dragonflies Reviewed! Dragonfly Cobalt, Red, and v1.2.
it’s nice to see a proper review with actual measurements to back it up rather than the AVForum’s usual 8/10 (or occasional 9/10).

HB
It's nice to see proper professional reviewers with actual measurements where there were no such unflattering problems with the Cobalt.
Hi-Fi News Cobalt Review
Stereophile Cobalt Review
Admittedly, the Stereophile analysis did comment on some measured clipping with very low impedance headphones but this was not audible to the reviewer.
 

psikey

Distinguished Member
Had the Red & then the Cobalt and though it does sound marginally better its not worth the large extra cost IMO over the Red unless you need a really silent noise floor with sensitive IEM's.

Used with Noble K10, Shure SE846 and some Sen HD660S headphones with Tidal Hi-Def or my own HD FLAC/DSD files (I'm IEM's user mostly).

I would have kept the Cobalt but after buying a Fiio BTR5 in wired DAC mode which I got for only £75 (price gone up since) there was no justification to keep the Cobalt other than native MQA support*.

The BTR5 is hands down the best DAC I've owned (balanced) especially for the price and I actually bought it as an LDAC BT adapter mostly and superb for that too. Excluding much more expensive DAC's such as Mojo & Hugo2 that I had but I'd actually pick the BTR5 over Mojo as a whole package & Hugo2 overkill for IEM's.

I even returned a Sony ZX507 due to how good the BTR5 was and EU volume limits with the ZX507.

*With my Samsung S10/BTR5 with UAPP app you get MQA support anyway with Tidal and own files
 
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Jokerr

Well-known Member

Steven

Senior Moderator
A superb DAC and excellent with Tidal Masters via iPadPro. Killer combination. Sounds even better then my previous £1,500 SONY TAZH1ES - HEADPHONES DAC.AMP.
Was this a side by side comparison.

With what headphones

Better in what way? Staging and imaging, tone, extension, detail, sub bass, mid bass, lower mid range, high mid range or treble

I am not in any way disputing your opinion but I am keen to understand and have a point of reference here
 

Jokerr

Well-known Member
Was this a side by side comparison.

With what headphones

Better in what way? Staging and imaging, tone, extension, detail, sub bass, mid bass, lower mid range, high mid range or treble

I am not in any way disputing your opinion but I am keen to understand and have a point of reference here
It was a side by side comparison. I found the TA to be disappointing via USB from iPadPro.
I believe a key reason COBALT was better is due to TIDAL MASTERS in which it performs better. sound stage wider, better sub base, less harshness in 3-6khz range, and overall more euphoric experience. Details the same.
headphones i used : Sony MDR-Z1R £1,650 [+ £405 ATLAS CABLE] & FOCAL CLEAR = £1,299.
 

Jokerr

Well-known Member
I didn’t try it, but expect the TA to sound incredibly dynamic using its Sony proprietary connection to a Sony Walkman. As other owners have confirmed.
 

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