AudioQuest has doubled-down on their commitment to real-world high-end — and the two new, soon-to-ship, DragonFly DACs are their latest salvo.
First up is Red (pictured above). Red, which will ship “soon” at $199 a pop, will feature a 2v output, a 32bit ESS 9016 DAC chip, and an on-chip all-digital volume control. While still “limited” to 96kHz sampling, the new Red also features Microchip’s all new PIC32MX micro-controller chipset, and that’s the real news.
As most of you probably know, XMOS has been one of the chipsets of choice for USB-based DACs, and the reason that some of the very best-sounding USB DACs are the very best-sounding is due in large part to the effectiveness of XMOS.
The biggest challenge to XMOS, however, is the power consumption. It simply draws too much power to be used effectively (or at all) with low-power devices like an iPhone. The new MX controller chips change all that, pulling only a tiny fraction of what the XMOS-based transceivers did.
Which means, yes, the new DragonFly can be used with an iDevice (with that Lightning to USB cable, or the Camera Connection Kit) — see below, where the AudioQuest team was running the new DragonFly Black right off an Android tablet.
While I’m about it, lets talk Black — Black is going to be $99, and yes, it too is shipping very soon. Main differences from its much fancier-cladded sibling? The 1.2v output — still very adequate for most portable headphones. It is, however, also running a 32bit ESS chip, though this one is the ESS9010; the volume control here is pure analog, a carry-over from the outgoing version. Most importantly, the Black also carries the MX transceiver.
The Beetle, which I got to hear about last year at Munich and saw “in the shell” at RMAF, was here wired up to a Sony PS4 gaming console. Expected at $199, the mini media hub is also “coming soon”, and will feature full Bluetooth 4.0 support, with A2DP and AVRCP, and also have that optical input, too, in addition to the headphone output.
Last note: NightHawk headphones were used throughout the display. And they’re still among the lightest cans I can think of. With that non-fatiguing signature, these are all-day players. They just need a boom mic for the Beetle, and I think gamers would go bananas for these things.