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AudioQuest DragonFly COBALT USB DAC / Preamp / Headphone Amplifier
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.
COBALT'S PRECEDENT-SETTING PERFORMANCE IS MADE POSSIBLE BY MULTIPLE SIGNIFICANT UPGRADES:
- 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 RANKIN: A BEAUTIFUL PARTNERSHIP
Like all previous DragonFly models, 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.
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. Click here to download the latest Device Manager available for your operating system.
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.
THE DRAGONFLY FLEET: DRAGONFLYS BLACK, RED, AND COBALT
While the original DragonFly created a new category of portable DAC, its USB power draw made it compatible with computers only. Black and Red answered the call of music lovers everywhere for DragonFlys that could be used with Apple iOS mobile devices and Android smartphones and tablets. These DACs proved for once and for all that convenience and performance need no longer be mutually exclusive.
All current-production DragonFly models incorporate 32-bit ESS Sabre DAC chips.
The DAC chips we've selected are remarkably powerful and sophisticated, yet we've intentionally limited DragonFly's processing capabilities to 24-bit/96kHz resolution. This makes using DragonFly as simple as it's always been: All models are fully compatible with PCs without having to download and install new drivers. Most importantly, DragonFly is designed to honor the music you already own and love. Whether you're listening to Spotify, YouTube, Tidal, Qobuz, ripped CDs, or state-of-the-art high-resolution files, DragonFly will deliver a more emotionally compelling and enjoyable experience.
The ESS 9010 DAC chip in Black and the higher-performance 9016 chip in Red employ minimum-phase filtering for naturally detailed sound. While DragonFly Black uses the same high-quality headphone amp and analog volume control found in DragonFly v1.2, DragonFly Red includes the latest ESS headphone amp and a bit-perfect digital volume control that resides on the 9016 DAC chip itself—a sophisticated implementation that ensures maximum fidelity, dynamic contrast, and signal-to-noise ratio. DragonFly Black outputs 1.2 volts—enough power to successfully drive all preamplifier input circuits and a wide range of today's efficient headphones. Meanwhile, with its higher 2.1-volt output, DragonFly Red is compatible with a wider range of headphones, including power-hungry, low-efficiency models.
STREAM TIDAL MASTERS EVERYWHERE
DragonFlys Black, Red, and Cobalt support Tidal Masters (MQA) playback from iPhones and Android smartphones. MQA's technology folds high-resolution files into smaller files that can be streamed on the go. As MQA Renderers, DragonFlys Black, Red, and Cobalt complete the unfolding process, allowing music lovers to enjoy a wider selection of high-res music. Click here to learn more about how MQA works.
Now, more than ever before, naturally beautiful sound is right at your fingertips—however you want it, whenever you want it.
NATURALLY BEAUTIFUL SOUND IS RIGHT AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
Whatever music turns you on, wherever you are, an AudioQuest DragonFly USB DAC delivers inspiring, dynamic, and beautiful sound to earbuds, headphones, powered speakers, or complete audio systems.
With a DragonFly, music appreciation and exploration are limitless: Plug into an Apple or Windows® computer or connect to an iOS® or Android mobile device. Play YouTube or Vimeo videos. Go hunting on Bandcamp or SoundCloud. Explore playlists on Spotify or Pandora. Stream high-res audio from Tidal or Qobuz. No matter the choice of musical pleasure, DragonFly delivers beautiful sound, unraveling the emotional expression and nuance that makes music and movies so enjoyable.
- 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
Not A Good Price/Performance Option
I do not recommend this product to anyone. If you are looking for a USB stick solution, consider the Dragonfly Red or Black, the SMSL iDEA or Sabaj DA2/ DA3 instead. While I find the recent revelation that the power draw on the Cobalt is greater than the Red in both idle and active states, it still doesn't perform well for low impedance or high sensitive IEMs. It does solve the hissing issue that the Red is alleged to have, as I have had no hissing, but volume control, particularly in managing it to be low enough for long listening is poor and requires fine control for mobile listening. Expect for the ability to power more demanding headphones, the Cobalt provides little benefit over the Apple headphone dongles (either lightning or USB-C connectors). In testing, were it not for the fact that I was switching the connectors myself, I do not think I could have identified which attachment I was using between an Apple dongle or the Cobalt between an iPhone 8 and Galaxy Note 9. Its ability to be used via PC is a definitive strength, though there is an adapter which allows use of the Apple USB-C dongle via USB-A. I found this to replicate the results of the iPhone and Note 9 experience. Perhaps Audioquest will release a firmware update that corrects the current draw issue - it's supposed to draw less than the Red, not more! - and changes some other settings that enable the Cobalt to outperform a $9 dongle in more than simple power.output. Until such time, time, I'd rather recommend one look elsewhere for their mobile audio solutions. I intended to use the Cobalt as a ubiquitous solution between mobile and PC use. Unfortunately, the mobile use is inferior to other, significantly cheaper options from a quality/power cost perspective, and should only be co sided by those who need more volume than what a dongle can provide. Note: the housing and logic board are not connected, so the unit may have some slight give ir otherwise cause the interior board to appear to move. This is not a concern. The USB-A connector and the headphone jack were both solidly stable, and the Cobalt did not transfer any microphonics unless I deliberately held the Cobalt to my ear and shook it. And I could only hear it with open back IEMs (iSine10).