AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt review | What Hi-Fi?

Once upon a time, the only instance by which we’d have paid this kind of money for a USB stick used to be if we were being blackmailed. But then alongside got here the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt.

The Cobalt enters the marketplace at a new top class worth point for the corporate’s range of transportable digital-to-analogue converters, but backs up its asking worth with the clearest, tidiest and maximum dynamic presentation we’ve heard from a unit this small.


The Cobalt is the primary DragonFly to unfold its wings since 2015, when AudioQuest presented its Black and Red fashions and with them Android and iOS smartphone compatibility. In phrases of elementary functionality, we’re happy to report little has modified since then.

These are products whose good looks is born in their simplicity, and whose plug-in-and-play option to cleaning up the sound out of your computer, or (with the integrated dongle) a smartphone or pill, is much of the allure. But that isn’t to say AudioQuest has merely repackaged its inexpensive DACs in a special coloured, rather smoother edged new chassis.


There are parts shared with the previous What Hi-Fi? Award-winning DragonFly Red, including the 2.1v headphone output, bit-perfect digital volume keep watch over and MQA renderer, however there have also been a variety of significant upgrades.

It begins with a brand new, more complicated ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip, with which AudioQuest promises not only a clearer but more herbal sound, while the PIC32MX274 microprocessor attracts much less present and increases processing velocity by 33 consistent with cent. Improved energy supply filtering, in the meantime, is said to extend immunity to wireless, Bluetooth and mobile noise.

There are a couple of sensible improvements too, specifically the ten in step with cent smaller enclosure and incorporated DragonTail USB-A (female) to USB-C (male) adaptor to be used with the rising collection of electronics with connectivity for the latter.

Our only reservation is with the standard of the DragonTail adaptor. It struggles to stay attached to any of the telephones we try it with, a mix of unfastened becoming and the weight of the Cobalt dragging it out every time we move.


The most really extensive upgrade, regardless that, is best obvious whilst you plug the DragonFly Cobalt in; it’s in the performance.

Once attached for your laptop or smartphone, and decided on as way of audio output, the DAC’s LED will shine one in all six colours to indicate sampling charge: crimson for standby, inexperienced for 44.1kHz, blue for 48kHz, yellow for 88.2 kHz, gentle blue for 96kHz or crimson when interpreting MQA.

The Cobalt does wonders in cleaning up our laptop’s performance, regardless of what kind of record we feed it or whether it’s streaming from YouTube, Spotify, Tidal or playing from our personal hi-res library.

AudioQuest claims its new DAC ‘strips away fuzz and fog that weren’t even noticeable until removed’, and we’d need to agree. It is such an incredibly precise rendering that we nearly really feel duty certain to play our best possible answer recordings thru it.

AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt tech specs

Resolution Up to 24-bit/96kHz

Output 2.1v

MQA rendering Yes

DragonTail Adapter Yes, included

Dimensions (hwd) 1.2 x 1.9 x 5.7cm

Lines are indelibly drawn round the perimeters of each and every tool, with granular element on be offering to counterpoint the cleanliness and military precision. The Cobalt isn’t necessarily all for sprucing your music, handiest the lens in which it can be noticed: bedroom recordings can still sound intimately lo-fi, purposefully screeching treble remains uncensored and grisly riffs nonetheless drag their knuckles alongside the ground.

You could spend your time analysing the song for those who like, the Cobalt makes that simple with its wide-open soundstage and bold readability, however AudioQuest has not misplaced itself completely in the detail, providing still a keen sense of rhythm and expressive dynamic vary. 

In both senses there's measurable growth. Timing is very much stepped forward, with beats locking in like puzzle items, such a lot in order that it might probably on occasion depart the DragonFly Red feeling a tad lazy. The Cobalt’s laborious work may be heard because it belts out grand dynamic shifts sooner than donning its studying glasses to contour the ones extra diminutive quivers.

The best reason some other people might be dispose of is that the DragonFly Cobalt is a serious performer. It improves on almost each and every facet of its older sibling’s Award-winning presentation, however with that added perception and adulthood comes a slight loss of the fluidity that made the Red sound so human.

That doesn’t counteract any of the sonic improvements you’re getting for your top class outlay, however some may favour the Red’s more comfy temperament.


Our most effective real grievance is not anything to do with the sound, simplest the standard of the DragonTail adaptor. However, the sonic go back is such that those wishing to make use of the Cobalt with their USB-C smartphone should still get one and fork out for a brand new adaptor as an alternative.

If you loved the DragonFly Red up to we did, and you’re taking a look to make your next step up without compromising on dimension or shape, the Cobalt represents something of a no-brainer.



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Read our AudioQuest DragonFly Red review

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