AudioQuest’s Small $299 DragonFly Cobalt Offers Stunning Digital Audio Playback

For as long as I’ve reviewed high-performance audio equipment, I’ve repeatedly iterated that to bring young people into the hobby, audio manufacturers need to make excellent, affordable, and convenient products. If a product fails any one of those criteria, hundreds of potential audio enthusiasts are turned away and save for a few outliers, hi-fi continues to be a hobby for old, mostly white men.

Thankfully, cable, headphone, and accessory manufacturer AudioQuest seems to have the same viewpoint. Within the past few years, the California-based company introduced the DragonFly line of affordable USB DAC/headphone amp units, starting with the $99 DragonFly Black and going up to their new flagship DAC, the $299 DragonFly Cobalt. Even for the analog enthusiast, it’s still essential to have a USB DAC to listen to one’s digital files. Despite its small size, the Cobalt fulfills more than I thought possible from a $299 DAC/headphone amp.

Specs & Setup

The plug-and-play Cobalt utilizes an ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip, an ESS Sabre 9601 headphone amp, a Microchip PIC32MX274 microcontroller, and a 64-bit digital volume control as well as Gordon Rankin’s monoClock low-jitter clock technology, all within a USB stick-sized case. It handles PCM files up to 96kHz/24bit, decodes MQA, powers a wide variety of headphones (with an output voltage of 2.1V rms, has an output impedance of 0.65 ohms), and works with most Android and iOS devices. No additional drivers are necessary, but for future DragonFly software upgrades, AudioQuest has the free Desktop Device Manager app (currently, the Cobalt is up to date out of the box). On the device is a dragonfly-shaped LED showing different colors for various sample rates; green for 44.1kHz, blue for 48kHz, yellow for 88.2kHz, light sky blue for 96kHz, and purple for MQA. During my listening, I listened through Audio-Technica m50x’s and ran the DragonFly Cobalt using Audirvana (via a free trial) out of a 2012 MacBook Pro using the High Sierra 10.13.6 OS.


Upon installing the DragonFly, I played, in astonishment, Kid Cudi’s secret masterpiece Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven (Republic 44.1/24 MQA). “Fade 2 Red” had impressive top end air, “Man In The Night” rocked with the appropriate amount of detail, and “Adventures” presented a perfectly spacious soundscape. (And yes, I still think Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is an unjustly hated, truly essential masterpiece.) I then moved onto Kanye West’s landmark 2004 debut The College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella 44.1/16 files), which equally amazed me. I’ve listened to this album many times on many different systems but never have I heard it sound this good. I heard elements I’d never before heard; the isolated studio sound of Kanye’s voice nearly transported me to the 2003-04 recording sessions for The College Dropout. It’s rare for a product to be deserving of this overused cliche, but it seriously felt like I heard The College Dropout again for the first time. The Cobalt is the most accurate-sounding DAC/headphone amp I’ve heard thus far; many suffer detail loss from an overly warmed sound but the Cobalt is well-balanced.

Even lossy files sound great through the Cobalt. The biggest folder on my computer is, of course, the Kanye folder, filled with both official releases and various lossy leaks. Some of the leaks are shelved yet finished songs, while others are unfinished tracks with masterpiece potential. The finished 808s & Heartbreak-era leak “Never See Me Again” through the Cobalt sounds as full as a lossy file can get, with the song’s luscious strings surrounding the spotlit auto-crooned vocals. “All Eyes On Ye,” an unfinished song from the aborted TurboGrafx16 album, isn’t a great recording but all things considered, the 128kbps MP3 sounds surprisingly decent.

The AQ does other genres well too: Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way (Columbia/Legacy 176.4/24 files) presented tight bass, an extended and open top end, and smooth midrange yet still maintaining the album’s mysterious vibe. Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell! (Polydor 44.1/16 files), one of the decade’s most analog-sounding digital productions (as well as one of this year’s best albums), places Lana’s delicate vocal performances front and center while still revealing the sometimes minimal instrumentation’s intricacies. (Side note: any fan of the early 70’s Laurel Canyon sound will love parts of this record. In many ways, it’s the modern equivalent of Joni Mitchell’s Blue, with a couple of thrown in filler tracks.) The DragonFly Cobalt’s only shortcoming is that it isn’t quite as dynamic or explosive as other DACs I’ve used, but at least for my listening purposes, its other strengths mostly make up for this issue.

The other USB DAC/headphone amp I have is the original crowdfunded Zorloo ZuperDAC, which I believe retailed for $70-80 upon release. It uses an ESS 9018K2M DAC chip and an ES9601 headphone amp, and while a bit warmed over, still sounds better than a computer’s internal DAC. I compared the Cobalt and the ZuperDAC using Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin’ Bout You” (from channel ORANGE, Def Jam 44.1/16 files), first listening through the former. The DragonFly sounded alive, as if I was within the music, while the ZuperDAC sounded flat and lifeless as if I was a distracted observer from the outside. The ZuperDAC is useful and decent for the price, but it simply pales in comparison to the DragonFly Cobalt.


Don’t be at all deceived by the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt’s small size. A steal at $299, its smooth bass, plentiful top end air, and stunning detail make for a very enjoyable, if not the most dynamic listening experience. In addition, its convenience could attract a younger generation of yet to be audiophiles while simultaneously pleasantly surprising the older, experienced audiophile. To anyone looking for high quality, convenient, and affordable listening, I strongly recommend the DragonFly Cobalt for its shockingly great price-to-performance-to-portability ratios.


Michael Fremer's picture
I mindlessly put my name on this. Malachi wrote it, of course. Just fickst. it.
MalachiLui's picture

you egomaniac trying to take credit for my work! lol

GAAudioLVR's picture

Mr. Fremer, I'm sure you too have a rather large folder of Kanye albums on your laptop. LOL

Malachi, great review. I haven't heard the Cobalt but the Red and Black are both great DACs, especially for the money and their portability. However, I feel that they tend to lack some of the punch and speed of some comparably-priced desktop DACs. If nothing else, they tend to do a better job of driving better-quality headphones than a phone or laptop output. Thanks for the review.

Michael Fremer's picture
I have a few actually, sent by Malachi. Have to find time to listen! I'll put them on my A&K player and listen while flying....
MalachiLui's picture

Focus on “Yeezus,” “The Life Of Pablo,” and “808s & Heartbreak” first...

Anton D's picture

I don't want to give anything away...check out this article about Phil Manzanera and Kanye and try to tell me we aren't all connected!


MalachiLui's picture

it's aged better than all the other Watch The Throne songs save for "Otis." and it has that grand intro sampled from "K Scope." and it has Kanye, JAY-Z, and Frank Ocean all on the same song.

Anton D's picture

Kanye did a great job with that riff!

Michael Fremer's picture
What article?
Anton D's picture
Jim Tavegia's picture

Quote: " If a product fails any one of those criteria, hundreds of potential audio enthusiasts are turned away and save for a few outliers, hi-fi continues to be a hobby for old, mostly white men."

The issue is what matters to young people? It is not about old, white men buy, who have decided that they will use more of their income on better audio. I see everyday what "young people" think is important...$250 kicks and ( you can fill in the blanks yourself).

I don't find the Outlaw receiver or any of the NAD integrated amps crazy priced any more than the PS Audio Sprout. Do any of your friends own any of this or any Elac or JBL speakers that are "affordable".

There are a number of places to find affordable audio including with B-Stock items from excellent manufacturers at great prices. Do young people go there?

I wonder how many have any of the affordable usb I/O devices from Steinberg, M-Audio, Focusrite and others? For $150 you can get 24192 Playback and high res audio into your computer. Surely within most budgets...if quality matters.

It is all a matter of priority. I got it when I was 16 and bought what I could afford when audio was mostly LPs, R2R, and FM; then cassettes for PB and recording. I was ahead of many "old white folks" back then. Most of my friends were not, but sure loved my gear.

I remember in 1963 when I paid $49.50 for my Wilson A-2000 baseball glove and everyone thought I had lost my mind spending that kind of money...a month's worth of paper route and grass cutting money. I have never regretted buying the best when I could and that A-2000 was it. I still have it by the way hanging on my wall with 6 wood bats, one an original Hank Aaron with the old Louisville Slugger logo. We also tend to hang onto things of quality,

MalachiLui's picture

yes, all of us kids like to buy expensive sneakers sometimes. however, many audio manufacturers don’t market their “affordable” products to younger people very well, and when they do, it’s usually a giant inconvenient product. the Cobalt is likely to break that barrier because it’s visually appealing, convenient, and AQ is marketing it REALLY well.

MalachiLui's picture

no, none of my friends own the affordable ELAC speakers (which btw, are the speakers in my setup) but that's because they're INCONVENIENT af. not only do you need the speakers, but you need speaker stands (which can cost a decent amount) AND a POWER AMPLIFIER ($$$) to power them. setting up ALL of that, for like $600-700, is A LOT OF MONEY and INCONVENIENT for people. how many people my age are gonna sit down in front of a giant setup every night just to listen to music from their phones??? like, 3 PEOPLE, me being 1/3 of that crowd!

but with the Cobalt however, you can connect it to your phone and enter a new level of audio bliss. for $300, on the go, and in your pocket. and it looks good, especially with that nice LED staring at me as I type this.

so do you think it's easier and cheaper for someone my age to spend $700 on speakers, stands, and a power amp (plus cables, which are at least another $30), or get the DragonFly Cobalt to hook up to a pair of headphones that they likely ALREADY HAVE for $300????

Ortofan's picture

... sit down in front of a giant setup every night just to listen to music from vinyl records?

Curious that you consider $600-700 to be a lot of money.
I bought my first audio system (consisting of a receiver, speakers, turntable and cartridge) when in my early teens. The cost, back then, was about $750 - equivalent to about $4,000 today, when adjusted for inflation.

Would you, or any of your contemporaries, be willing to spend a similar sum on a giant and inconvenient audio system that can only be listened to when you're sitting down in front of it?

stretch35's picture

love when you chime in

jamesgarvin's picture

Quote: " If a product fails any one of those criteria, hundreds of potential audio enthusiasts are turned away and save for a few outliers, hi-fi continues to be a hobby for old, mostly white men."

Jim, I get what you are saying, but the first problem is marketing. I (and you may as well) remember when we were teens you could find semi-high end audio in department stores while walking with dad looking for the hardware department. Marketing through presence.

Today, the High End industry completely lacks any marketing strategy outside of marketing to the believers. The cost of high end products is irrelevant if young consumers don't know you exist.

High End dealers and manufacturers advertise in audiophile publications. Dealers host events, largely publicized in the same publications, or via email to their existing customers. The industry sponsors multiple audio shows all over this great land of ours, advertising in, you guessed it, audiophile publications.

And when they do, what do they proudly display? Systems only a very small portion of the population can afford to own. So, here is a thought for the industry. Start marketing outside the ranks of the converted. Record stores are popping up all over the place, with young people spending $20.00 to $30.00 a pop for new vinyl. Dealers - start dropping off business cards to those record stores. Make friends with the owners. Advertise monthly events at the record stores inviting those customers to your store. Maybe even stay open later than 6:00 p.m. Invite them to bring their records.

If you smile, and treat them as more than second class citizens, they may show up. When they do, hide the megabuck gear. Show them the inexpensive system, which you've hopefully spent as much time perfecting as the megabuck system.

Manufacturers - donate inexpensive equipment to these record stores. Maybe I'm crazy, but if I'm a manufacturer I'd rather a hundred people a day waltzing through a record store hear my equipment versus ten people a day in a high end audio store.

Stereophile/TAS - maybe actually distribute your magazines to stores music lover's actually frequent, in addition to the magazine racks, where they fight for space with a hundred other titles, at the dwindling number of book stores.

So, sure, cost is important. Once potential consumers know there is even such a thing as a high end audio industry.

Jim Tavegia's picture

and young people and old fall into it. Mega buck IPhones and an IWatch are not cheap, but bought by many, including the young. For the price of both of those one could have a very nice stereo system I would think.
The cell phone industry has done the best marketing job ever and number two is way down the list. And all of the cost of that marketing is why the products are priced where they are. The constant appearance of those adds costs a great deal and is passed along to the buyers.

As for the cost and lack of marketing by "HIgh End Audio?", what ever that means, I would think that if one was a music lover one would "search out" and go listen to some great gear at a retail store. It takes effort to do that and a desire to hear music in a much better way.

The fact that people stopped going to stores is why many of them closed their doors as the go listen then buy on-line for a price did many of them in. Even manufacturers are selling only on-line for reasons they know. At a dealer there is competition for space and customers can choose what they like best, which may in-part be why some manufacturers mow choose to sell direct...lack of in-store sales? Who knows.

It would be great if more Cobalts were sold than Nike sold expensive shoes, but we know that is not going to happen. The Pride Of Ownership comes into play. Those sole of the shoes that light-up when the kids walk...maybe that is what needs to happen in audio.

When I was 16 I was not treated badly and not treated as a second class citizen. Maybe it was because there was no internet and we bought from those stores, including the record stores where we tried "45's" before we bought on bad record players in phone booths with headphones.

My first Marantz receiver and set of AR speakers came from there, and the sound of that would still be considered excellent by today's standards, especially vinyl. I even bothered to put up an FM only antenna on our roof.

There was not the scrutiny of pressing quality or of phono stages like today. If we like the sound we bought it. I would doubt that most under 30 do not read Stereophile or TAS, both affordable, and one might learn a great deal.

I would rather make the effort and not pay for the "marketing", but if that is what the young want, they have it now. You have to love those who buy their $50 blue jeans already torn up.

jamesgarvin's picture

that young music listeners don't have a clue about high end audio, much as I don't have a clue about all the electronic gizmos kids today take for granted. My kids are incredulous that I am completely unaware of the electronic marvels they consider to be indispensable. The reason being, of course, is that those are marketed to the kids, not me. And as in my day, the only reason I knew about Atari, Coleco, etc., was because those companies marketed to me. My parents were just as clueless. So, I don't think it is a matter of them not seeking it out because they don't really care about better sound. Industries market for a reason. Its called good business.

If that young person's impression is that high end audio requires thousands and thousands of dollars to enjoy, why would they investigate in the first place? I don't walk into a Ferrari dealer because I know what I'll find. I'm not interested in just looking at cars. Marketing can be good or bad.

My point was publicizing lower priced components such as the subject of this review is part of the equation. But its not enough. The other part is letting people know you are there. I'd respectfully suggest that the marketing strategy your post seems to imply, if they think its important they will do the leg work and find us, is a losing strategy, if the goal is to bring more consumers into the industry. As you point out, Apple and its ilk aggressively market to people by actively telling and showing them what they can offer. They don't wait for people to come to them. Younger people by and large don't do the legwork. Times have changed. They are used to companies coming to them. Given this change in demographics, I'm unclear why the "let them come to us" strategy seems so prevalent in an industry which is seemingly getting older and older by the year.

The high end audio industry will never be Apple, but it can certainly more narrowly target itself to consumers who would seem to be open to hearing about better sound. The marketing has less to do with cost than effort and creativity, two areas in which the high end strikes me as being woefully deficient.

warpig's picture

Just take a look at Beats for a good marketed product. I would say Bose also.

MalachiLui's picture

sure, Stereophile the magazine itself is affordable, but with the cost of the equipment reviewed there, nobody's going to want to buy hifi equipment because the reviewers are old white men (some of which are very good at writing, while others lack personality tbh) reviewing $30k amps (and some "cheaper" things like $1000 DACs). sure, I learned a bit from reading Stereophile, but that's because I was already interested in hifi. most aren't and shoving expensive products in their face is only hurting.

Anton D's picture

I first took a fancy to Mrs. Bouvier because her raspy voice reminded me of my old Victrola. Oh, it was a fine machine with a vulcanized rubber listening tube which you crammed in your ear. The tube would go in easier with some sort of lubricant like linseed oil or doctor...

Not many people know this, but I owned the first radio in Springfield. Not much on the air then, just Edison reciting the alphabet over and over. "A" he'd say; then "B." "C" would usually follow...


Are we all done walking uphill in the snow to school, both ways, yet?

Malachi likely never wasted a nickel on pomade.

infohou's picture

Malachi, You don't need to be insulting just because Fremer does it. Jim was a part of this website long before you came along and his knowledge and opinion should be welcome.


Lazer's picture

I think all of your suggestions are incredibly insightful. Maybe you should solicit a job at a TT company that sells other affordable gear and do exactly as you propose.

Glotz's picture

You pissed off old white people! Do you KNOW the wrath of an old man??

Have you ever been a deli and the matzah ball soup isn't hot??

What is WRONG with you, son?!?

LMAO... OH my gosh that is GREAT click-bait!

Jim Tavegia's picture

If so you can listen to the "M" and buy into it, but not me. I will stop reading and not be prone to "click bait".

Glotz's picture

And he is still very much finding his writing voice.

I don't think we should filter that!

I assume you didn't like Corey Greenberg in the 90's, but his voice was fresh and his perspective serious. Robert Harley really taught him a lot in a short amount of time... and he as a writer, found Truth in tube gear and making stuff go "BRAAAAAAANNNNNNGG"!

I did follow the good and the bad of CG's rule-breaking with the products he reviewed and the manufacturers' he insulted, whether in spite of, or for his own learning of this art/hobby. He was asking much the same, larger question as ML is in this review. Both asked 'Why is high-performance audio suffering in the larger market?'

While "M" is not near as 'reckless' as Corey, he is an excellent, young writer with a ton of promise! Please, call him on one's perceived baloney sandwiches, but Let's Not Stifle The Boy! (I see why TonyKaz uses caps this

I have learned to appreciate all of the sharp insights you have brought to this and Stereophile, in spite of the way each of us differs in delivery. Mistakes were made in understanding one another in the past.

I can only think that ML will be a exponentially better writer in the years to come!

Michael Fremer's picture
But remember: Corey Greenberg's career was short and he burned out young. All self-inflicted. I don't want that to happen to Mr. Lui.
Glotz's picture

He has the best mentor anyone could ask for.

Objectivity, speaking what you hear and just pure excitement for music!

Thank YOU as well, Mikey!!!

Wavelength's picture


Thanks for the nice comments! Glad you liked it.


Drummer's picture

Mal, I think you're a bright kid. it's nice to see evidence of younger people enjoying hi fi but it doesn't affect me one way or another. There are things for adults that are beyond kid's understanding. Not all kids of course. I see that gaming offers stories and challenges that are tremendously attractive - Red Dead Redmetion 2 and Cuphead for ex, and these kinds of experiences are more interactive that listening, no matter how much fun listening is. Kanye's infantile rage and narcissism isn't for me, ever. But not because of my age or ethnicity.You'd say I am old white man, not an insult if one doesn't give the comment cred. I just find it lacking in anything worthy of my time. Think of it this way. Most hi fi gear that's refined is way above the skill set (of listening) and availability (ie cost) of kids. Luckily hi fi designers also know this and don't waste their time marketing to children. See what I mean? I hope so. Anyway, keep writing and best regards.

Anton D's picture

Were you being Frazier, or Niles?

Drummer's picture

I don't get the tv reference (don't own one) but....I'd say more Bob Dylan than Air Supply.

Anton D's picture

I don’t own an AM radio, but happy you have Air Supply to reference as something better than a TV!

Gilbert O Sullivan sang that song about you!

MalachiLui's picture

uhhhhhhhhhhhh, wrong. he's a genius who just wants to make great (if impractical) things to change the world. he compares himself to Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Nike, Google, etc because he wants to change the world on the level of those people/companies. and he will, because I'm voting Kanye for POTUS in 2024.

Drummer's picture

I respect your optimism and desire for change for the better. I like Greta. Hope Mr West doesn't disappoint you.His creative expressions hold nothing for me. You needn't take that personally. I still suggest avoiding "old white men" argument, which for so many rasons devalues whatever follows as a position. Like "young white kids" an easy shallow indictment. These neither neither you nor I, I hope.

Anton D's picture

They also don't market Depends, Metamucil, Geritol, Cologuard, Sensodyne, Preparation H, boner pills, or Roombas to kids.

Same goes for hearing aids!

Pop on 'Life of Pablo,' sit back, enjoy your 22 KHz treble reception at sensible volume, and laugh at us old guys bickering about how YOU can't appreciate high end audio.

High End audio, Corvettes, and trophy spouses are wasted on the old.

Google 'Rudy Vallee fur coat' and tell me Kanye wouldn't wear that. We are all the same, but sometimes in our rush to criticize youth, we forget.

MalachiLui's picture

I don’t think Kanye would wear that fur coat tho Rick Ross would. otherwise I completely agree with your post!

Lazer's picture

Is the Kanye West you support in 2024 the same Kanye West that supports our current racist narcissistic totally corrupt President that promised to “drain the swamp?” What country will Kanye blaickmail to support his re-election?

MalachiLui's picture

how many times do I have to keep saying this? KANYE DOES NOT I REPEAT, DOES NOT support Trump's POLICIES. KANYE just likes the way Trump SPEAKS and PROMOTES himself. not the policies and corruption. ok?

Anton D's picture

Malachi likes Kanye, ergo, Malachi is a Trumpie.

Malachi, now you are just catching the rap haters and giving them a vent hole to shout into.

How many other equipment reviews can you recall where so many haters had to hop on board to hate the music the reviewer mentioned?

Try to re-imagine one of MF's topics if you had posted it:

"Is Michael Weiss's AAA Joe Ferla engineered and Mixed Kickstarter Project Worthy of Your Support?"


"How can you like that rat bastard Michael Weiss, I hate that stuff."

"Kids these days, listening to that Kickstarter crap, and the shoes you wear!"

"Twenty five dollars? Back in my day, we could buy Iron Butterfly for 3 dollars. You young people listening to that long haired music, I may quit coming here."

"Kickstarer is only about marketing, there's lots of crap on Kickstarter, therefore you are crap."

On behalf of the old white guys, I apologize. There is some weird hip hop hate that triggers these guys.

Lazer's picture

Malachai said he would support Kanye for President in 2024. It has nothing to do with music. In fact I even purchased a copy of IGOR the Terrible because of Malachai. I admit though that it’s a departure from my usual musical genres.

MalachiLui's picture

focus on the melodies and chord progressions on IGOR... Tyler is a melodic genius and that’s a good way to enter his music...

Lazer's picture

I recalled seeing Kanye wearing a MAGA hat, but before I posted my comment, I googled “does Kanye West support”? It was clear from that effortless research that he is a Trump supporter. Maybe if I delve deeper into the matter I will find the nuance you suggest. I love your work on this site btw. Keep the opinions coming.

MalachiLui's picture

have you seen the Kanye x Charlemagne interview from 2018?

warpig's picture

If he was he would get my vote over any of the democraps running on the 2020 ticket. As always the left turns it into a political issue.

audiof001's picture

Back in circa 1974 when I was in college and getting into jazz, I was cruising the racks at Books, Strings & Things in Blacksburg, Va. when a young guy handed me two albums saying "Buy these two albums, they will change your life." I did, and Terje Rypdal's "What Comes After" and Michael Mantler's "Jazz Composers Orchestra" did just that. I always loved striking up conversations with fellow music travelers in record shops but today, unless they are older men like myself, I just get the cold shoulder from anyone under 25, the very people I'd love to pass along some tips to. It's not the old men that are the problem - we are literally saving our beloved hobby, praying that young will grab hold and love the ride like we have. It's a more complicated world these days, and harder for young folks to shut off the distractions. You're a rare breed, Malachi, and a damn good writer. While I don't share your interest in some genres, your passion for this hobby give us old farts hope. Oh, and do check out those two records.

Zardoz's picture

WOW, I think about how we had the best record shop in this part of the state, if not the whole state. What a bummer when they closed. I spent many hours there looking through the records and books from about 1968 on. Nice to see someone else is still at it at our age.
Good listening,

Anton D's picture

Your post really caused a snowflake blizzard, what with you triggering people about shoes, cell phones, and that hippity hoppity music you fool kids play.

The old white guys forgot to opine low beltlines, tattoos, swear words, poor enunciation, and new fangled slang terms. I guess old white guys these days have lost a step compared to the old white guys back in my day.

MalachiLui's picture

very well put! and we don't get enough snow in Portland so happy to create a blizzard, even if it's only online!

kronning's picture

... that explains it all. I keed, I keed.

Tom L's picture

...that there are TONS of really good, cheap used audio equipment out there for the picking, as long as you don't care about the latest surround etc.

rexlibris's picture

Hey, I resemble that remark! When I was young I was perpetually broke. Loved music and had to beg for a cheap turntable and cassette player from my parents. I knew nothing about better stuff, but I knew it existed and wished for it. Now, I have marginally more spending power and can afford good middle of the road stuff. You can't really blame them for marketing to the people that can actually afford to buy the stuff, although, having said that, I'm constantly amazed at how much spending money young people seem to have now.

kacomess's picture

I own the DragonFly Red (it operated without difficulty on iOS 12, even with an Audioquest Jitterbug in-line). It seems that, perhaps in order to enhance battery run-time, Apple's new OS (13-13.1.3) reduces power to the Thunderbolt connector such that the DragonFly won't run unless the phone is also connected to wall power. I've read that the Cobalt version of the DragonFly uses less power, but if it can't be used in portable mode from iOS 13, that's a major disincentive for me, anyway.

Ortofan's picture

... better off by instead buying the DragonFly Red and saving $100.

MalachiLui's picture

Measurements aren’t everything. There have been repeated instances throughout the years of people liking equipment that doesn’t measure well. Your ears do a better job of telling you what you like than numbers do!

analogdw's picture

With the rudeness. You can make your point without the shouting and insults. Did you not get a good night’s sleep last night or something? Would you talk like this to these people in person?

Bigmule1972's picture

I commend his involvement and passion in this hobby. However, I think he needs a “time out” because the adults talking now...

I interpret his contributions too much of a “clone” of Fremer, which isn’t necessarily a bad direction, maybe he is being edited and/or groomed for click bait.

Kanye is a overrated, useless, talentless, puppet that has been riding the coattails of Taylor Swift and other current events .... he has a great marketing team behind him though....

MalachiLui's picture

ok, the "clone of Fremer" thing I can kinda see, bc he has taught me a lot of ways to edit my work better and write more professionally. this review actually only needed a few words changed here and there.

but "Kanye is an overrated, useless, talentless, puppet that has been riding the coattails of Taylor Swift and other current events"??????

WTF is this?????? "overrated," if Graduation is the only Kanye album you've ever heard. "useless," dude has made albums whose narratives will be deconstructed in language arts classes in 20 years. we're also enjoying his genius IN THE PRESENT. "talentless," dude made one of the MOST INFLUENTIAL ALBUMS OF ALL TIME (808s & Heartbreak) as well as 6 OTHER MASTERPIECES. music WOULD NOT BE THE SAME had 808s & Heartbreak not existed. Kanye's unfinished and unreleased songs are better than many artists' best songs. so no, Kanye is not "talentless."

then there's this: "[he's a] puppet that has been riding the coattails of Taylor Swift and other current events." First of all, the VMAs incident was 10 YEARS AGO, and that probably did just as much if not more lasting damage to Kanye West than Taylor Swift. TS always plays the victim to the point where nobody believes her anymore. and yes, the VMAs incident hurt her, but she really has no reason to be angry at Kanye (a perfectly happy family man who's just investing his energy into art and helping the world with his resources) these days. nobody talks about how depressed Kanye was after the VMAs incident. he was drunk that night, and the next day, he was the most hated man in America. even the president hated him. he slipped into a deep depression and considered quitting music (some say he even considered suicide) and permanently moving to fashion. thankfully he didn't, and he came back with the all-time masterpiece of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. and the opening song "Dark Fantasy" has the line "the plan was to drink it til the pain over/but what's worse, the pain or the hangover?" the pain being the pressures of fame (and his mother's 2007 and a breakup with his fiancee shortly after) that he was trying to drink away at the VMAs, and the hangover being the day after the VMAs when he was hated by EVERYBODY. the way that Kanye writes lines that we can just gloss over on the surface but have magnificent depth when closely examined is what makes him such a genius.

so before you post another comment, listen to "Yeezus," "The Life Of Pablo," "808s & Heartbreak," "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," and "The College Dropout" then try to convince yourself that Kanye is "an overrated, useless, talentless puppet that's been riding the coattails of Taylor Swift."

the only people who truly hate Kanye are the ones who've never listened to him.

Soundhound1's picture

...getting your editor to teach you some capitalization? Jeez...this thing reads like a frickn’ ransom note.

MalachiLui's picture

i can’t laugh at you [because you didn’t even make a good joke]

Pretzel Logic's picture

C’mon u dolt, it was a great dig...”ransom note”. Ha!

MalachiLui's picture

but if it was a joke, then it’d be great! and if this reads like a ransom note, Soundhound1 must have a really difficult time navigating the interwebs.

Pretzel Logic's picture


Anton D's picture

I've been through the album twice, so still early. Initial impressions:

1) Many of the songs don't seem fully fleshed out. There's lots of good music, but the stops and starts strike me more as partial songs, not full sonic concepts. I hate to say it, but it has a "noodling around feel" that makes me wish he'd spent a little more time on the product.

2) For a great lyricist, his 'new' Jesus fixation was delivered more like a blunt object than a nuanced take. It feels more like he's trying to be the Tom Cruise of Christianity than anything else.

3) "Every Hour" seems more like a prelude to a Prince song than something that stands on its own.

4) "Selah" that some sort of slang for stale? The rhymes are forced, and work at the level of some guy who watched Veggie Tales and then caught some AM radio religion on the way to the studio.

5) "Follow God" really kicked the quality up a's sounding like a keeper. His lyrical line and vocal drive are very compelling and he actually seems to hit on a moment of honesty. This song saved the day once I got to it.

6) The chicken sammich song is better than people are understanding it. It's hidden point is better than the actual song, but it has a nicely calmed down vibe as he works his new faith into the mix.


The sound is not as compressed sounding as he has gone for in the recent past, gotta like that.

I give it thumbs up, I will keep playing it.

Playing it a third time now, it's growing on me.

MalachiLui's picture

full review of album and film soon, but “Follow God” is by far the best track on the album, the film OBLITERATES the album, and the LP is by far Kanye’s worst. it doesn’t even sound finished, the recording and mixing suck, and he’s trying to shoehorn his (genuine) religious beliefs into EVERY LYRIC when it doesn’t work. still a listenable record tho.

Ortofan's picture

... before you will like the sound quality from a given piece of equipment?

Are we to presume that your sound quality preference is for 'pleasant' rather than 'accurate'?

And, just to reinforce a previous reply - try not to SHOUT!

theboogeydown's picture

where some folks think that they are smarter than others and continue to express that is not an enjoyable forum.

Glotz's picture

Again, he's entitled to being 13... He still makes good arguments and great reviews.

Let him work out the funk, man?

Phil D's picture

The "white guy" thing rubs the wrong way - it's heavy handed and what's the point? You sound like a kid, but not in a good way. I enjoy your writing keep it up!

Ivan Lietaert's picture

M. Lui uses at least his own definition of affordable. Michael F. simply copy pastes anything the marketing boys say.... Just check the latest news on the new Chord phono pre-amp. Chord calls it affordable and Michael copy-pastes it, just like that. It costs 1,500 American dollars.
You know, I like Michael and analog planet a lot, but people must realise he is an 'influencer' and nothing more, generating his income by spreading the news about new releases
without being too critical. Nothing more...

Anton D's picture

I hope none of my posts were partisan/political, I do not feel that poor crazy Kanye should be in charge of anything bigger than approving shoes designs. Would anybody here trust him with watching their kid for a day?

Kanye has that classic combination of being a creative high achiever while simultaneously falling prey to the Dunning Kruger effect.

The guy is a bipolar narcissist with a musical gift.

I am gonna go listen to his new release. My pre-listen expectation is that I will be witnessing something similar to Bob Dylan's self-absorbed Christian phase....hopefully shorter.

warpig's picture

Its so convenient of you to pass judgement on other people. Tell me when you look into the mirror what do you see?

Anton D's picture

Which judgemental person said this: "If he was he would get my vote over any of the democraps running on the 2020 ticket. As always the left turns it into a political issue."

"Democraps?" "The left?"

So, who's passing judgement on other people?

Well, all of us, so spare me the phony opportunistic (but especially, phony) sanctimony.

Rashers's picture

That the Cobalt does not decode DSD or 24/192 - I am utterly ambivalent about MQA and Qobuz Streams to 24/192. The sound may be better than the original Dragonfly, but it is no more flexible. I looked at this but bought a Fido M9 digital music player and 512 GB of micro SD memory for around this price point: it plays everything, sounds great and supports most of the streaming services, NAS playback and Roon.

Rashers's picture

The Fiio M9 (annoying iPad). My point was that a 96hz sampling Rae seems stingy - particularly as the Chord Mojo - similar price - decodes everything, but is a bit more bulky.

mauidj's picture

to analog planet?
The article is about a DAC and the follow up comments are about the author, Kayne West, Trump and "white men". Sorry, but in my mind "the kid" has bought little to this site other than an over enthusiasm for words, any and all words! I guess this old white man is outa here. Really sad to be saying that as I loved reading most of Michael's insights and news. But recently I see more copies of press releases while the kid has verbal diarrhea. And I do not like the "old white man" thing along with any other stereotypical title. Cheap journalism and a sign of our hostile and hateful world.
Now I'll let you get back to your petty arguing and name calling.

stevedollar's picture

Who knew a simple dac review would stir up so many snowflakes? I just got my Cobalt and am really astonished how good it is. I matched it to a new pair of Campfire Audio Solaris earbuds, streaming or playing Qbz downloads on my Android phone, and it's hard to believe that the phone is now a high-end delivery system. My desk headphones -- Mr. Speakers Aeon Closed -- also match well. (I don't miss much off the Bel Canto C7R i have plugged into my Mac Mini). Super smooth, detailed and involving. A real treat. I've never been much of a "portable" listener, but this little parcel of technology feels like a game-changer.

Calvin_and_Hobbes's picture

I'm interested in hearing others' impression of the sound quality of the Dragonfly Cobalt vs the Dragonfly Red. I've heard both using Qobuz on an iPhone as the streaming source and listening through Audeze LCD-X headphones. In the same session, I listened to the Chord Mojo as well. I did not use the Audioquest Jitterbug with either the Cobalt or the Red. The Cobalt sound quality was slightly more clear and better resolved than that of the Red, but both had a strong familial resemblance as to their sound quality and general level of musicality. The Chord Mojo to my ears was the clear step up in sound quality as it produced music that sounded more three dimensional with more presence around voices/instruments. The smaller, more portable form factor of the Dragonfly DACs and their being powered by USB rather having to recharge the Mojo's battery. Given reports that I've read about the 3.5 mm audio jack feeling loose in the Cobalt, I've decided to stick with the Red but with a Jitterbug added to reduce electrical noise. I'm guessing that the Dragonfly Red with the Jitterbug probably sounds pretty close to the Cobalt (that has a jitter filter built in) even if I'm listening critically.