Compendium updated February 18th, 2021.
The AudioQuest Dragonfly Red is a portable DAC/amp that's conveniently packaged in a USB drive. Boasting impressive sound quality and a super-convenient form factor, it's become the answer to portable hi-fi for many audiophiles.
We’ve compiled reviews from across the web for your reference. What you’ll find here are the TLDR versions of the full reviews (which you can access with the provided links). We’ll continue updating this compendium as reviews come in.
From The Wirecutter's review of the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red USB Dac/Amp, first published on January 1st, 2021:
“The USB-powered AudioQuest DragonFly Red can comfortably power difficult-to-drive headphones—and sounds great too. Discerning listeners may notice a slightly more three-dimensional soundstage and a touch more precision in the bass notes compared with a computer’s built-in headphone jack. It also doesn’t add any coloration, so instruments sound true to their recorded tones. About the size of a small thumb drive, the DragonFly Red is very portable and, unlike larger battery-powered amps, is easy to leave connected to a computer. It’s compatible with Windows and macOS, although you may need an adapter to link its Type-A USB connector to a newer laptop. However, because it lacks a battery and draws a decent amount of power, we think it’s a poor choice for use with handheld portable devices.”
From Audio Science Reviews' review of the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red USB Dac/Amp, first published on January 1st, 2019:
“The Dragonfly Red would have done much better had it not been in the presence of DACPort HD. It costs more, has less features and has outdated format support. So I can't really recommend it even though I understand its popularity.”
From Darko Audio's review of the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red USB Dac/Amp, first published on March 21st, 2018:
“The irony here shouldn’t go unnoticed. Despite Chord’s ‘Power to the People’ posturing of their most affordable WTA DAC to date, it is AudioQuest who have created the unit(s) with the greatest potential for mainstream crossover. Dongles that will undoubtedly disrupt the portable audio player space too. These critters are for the hardware you have, not the hardware you have to buy.
“DragonFly Red and Black are the finest examples of everyman hifi ever to grace these pages. Their value quotients explode the dial.”
From WhatHiFi's review of the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red USB Dac/Amp, first published on October 8th, 2018:
“The qualities that made the previous version of the DragonFly so great remain just as compelling now.
“It’s a supremely compact and convenient device that can be taken anywhere for an immediate musical boost, and having the logo light up in different colours to tell you the file format running through it, still seems an elegant and instant method of delivering mind-easing information.
“If you’re unconcerned by that slightly flaky finish (and who buys a USB stick-styled DAC for its aesthetic properties?), you can consider the DragonFly Red a pretty perfect computer music upgrade.”
From The Absolute Sound's review of the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red USB Dac/Amp, first published on February 24th, 2017:
“With the DragonFly Black and Red, there’s simply no excuse for listening to the compromised DACs and output amplifier built into computers. At $99, the Black brings much of what high-end audio is about to just about any quality-conscious listener. The Red is significantly better sounding, and worth the price difference. Adding AudioQuest’s $49 JitterBug is a no-brainer for either, allowing the Black and the Red to reach their full sonic potential. And these new models work with Apple and Android phones, bringing high-end sound to a much wider audience.”
From Sound Stage Solo's review of the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red USB Dac/Amp, first published on October 15th, 2016:
“AudioQuest’s new Red and Black DragonFly DACs represent solid advances in sound quality over the original DragonFly, and provide the further benefit of compatibility with iOS and Android devices. At $199, the Red is a great value. But if you’re strapped for cash, or don’t expect to experiment with exotic headphones any time soon, you’ll be well served by the $99 Black -- with most music, it sounded about as good as the Red. Whichever you choose, AudioQuest’s new DACs make a strong statement for affordable, portable high-end performance.”
From Sound and Vision's review of the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red USB Dac/Amp, first published on December 15th, 2016:
“Among AudioQuest’s latest round of compact USB amplifier/DACs for headphones, the Red has more fine-grained premium sound, while the Black is a superb under-$100 hi-res entry point.”
From Headfonia's review of the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red USB Dac/Amp, first published on July 28th, 2016:
“The red one is the best sounding DragonFly up to date even though some listeners might prefer the more neutral less bodied and faster sound signature of the Black. Once you’ve listened to either of these versions you don’t want to go back to your original V1 or V1.2, they’re just that much better. Each DragonFly is dead silent with all of the headphones I tried them with and I didn’t need the JitterBug to get that result.”
From Audiophile Style's review of the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red USB Dac/Amp, first published on August 3rd, 2016:
“AudioQuest continues the dynasty of its category defining DragonFly with the new DragonFly Black and DragonFly Red. Both devices could fit perfectly in a home-audio system or as the centerpiece of any traveler's laptop-based system. However for me, the DragonFly Black and DragonFly Red are critical pieces of my mobile iOS playback setup. Whenever I'm in the car or on a plane, I have the DragonFly Red or Black connected to my iPhone 6 Plus. The days of using a separate digital audio player are circling the drain because of the new AudioQuest DragonFly Red and DragonFly Black. It simply doesn't make sense to carry an extra player with limited storage and connectivity, when one has access to all the music ever made and excellent sound quality, by using an iPhone and AQ DragonFly.”
From Audio Advice's review of the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red USB Dac/Amp, first published on April 23rd, 2020:
“The AudioQuest DragonFly Red is a special portable or home USB DAC for only $199.95. If you have a DragonFly Black or the original DragonFly, you might want to consider finding a friend who can use a good portable DAC and upgrade to Red. You’ll be impressed with the improvements you get from it, especially if your headphones or system are of decent quality. Don’t get us wrong though, DragonFly Black is a great product for the money, but as we said, once you hear the difference, it’s hard to go back.
Compared to the extra level of details and the holographic imaging you get, we think $199.95 is a small investment that substantially improves the sound of your music. For a USB DAC loaded with this extra level of dynamic details that make portable or home setups come alive, the DragonFly Red is spectacular — and unbelievably so at this price point.”
From World of Turntables' review of the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red USB Dac/Amp, first published on July 23rd, 2019:
“Although it’s not cheap, the DragonFly Red gives a great impression and is a clear upgrade for every headphone that does not already have a good external DAC/amplifier.”
- Excellent acoustic performance
- Great stock of power
- Extremely compact design
- Simple firmware upgrade
Editor’s note: Emphases ours.