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Properly configuring the DragonFly Red DAC

Tigrowski

Active member
May 7, 2020
2
2
25
I just bought myself a Dragonfly Red DAC for my Audioquest Nighthawk headphones and am struggling a bit to config this setup properly. I disabled all system enhancements in the sound config as per Audioquest's instructions and set the sample rate to 96kHz as I most often listen to Master tracks on Tidal. Yet, despite doing all this, I feel like I must be missing something cause the sound is only marginally better than it was when plugged straight into the motherboard and comparable (or even worse to my ear) than when plugged straight into my Macbook Air. I'm really surprised by this cause I expected something great and so far it's.. well.. debatable. I've tried both the USB 2.0 and 3.0 port but with little difference. So I have a few questions to make sure I'm not missing something:

1. The purple (MQA) colour only appears when Tidal is in exclusive mode. Is there really no way to have it work with MQA without this? I use my headphones for like 8 hours a day and it is just unacceptable to me to have to close the Tidal app before listening to a 1-minute clip on YouTube or something, only to then fire up Tidal again...
2. I saw the instructions recommend to turn the force volume option but this just results in the headphones blasting something like 50 on the system scale (+100 on the Tidal knob because this maxes it by default) at me on every song which is way too loud. If I crank it down, it'll blast something around 50 at me on the next song anyway. Am I losing quality by disabling the volume force?
3. Should I enable passthrough MQA in Tidal's settings for the DFR? I saw online posts claiming you should do that as DFR handles it through its hardware but in my case, this just resulted in the light going from purple (MQA) to magenta (96kHz) immediately.
4. Should I install/configure something more in Windows settings or is the quality I'm getting now how it's going to stay?

Thanks a lot in advance for help and clarification!
 

Gray

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2015
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....I expected something great and so far it's.. well.. debatable.
I reckon that sentence of yours describes the experience of many when it comes to DACs in general.
Hopefully a Dragonfly owner will come along to say for sure, but I doubt there's anything wrong with your configuration.
Based on its price and reviews, you've got good reason to have expected more.
I've tried DACs of lower and considerably higher prices than yours, certainly never got better sound than I expected. Also, the differences between them have been surprisingly subtle - whereas reviews would often have you believe differences are night and day.
Sorry it's not want you want to hear but, in terms of 'bang for buck,' DACs ain't top of the list.
 

Tigrowski

Active member
May 7, 2020
2
2
25
Thank you for the reply! Well, that's a bummer :( What you're saying is exactly what I was expecting - there are so many ridiculously positive reviews of the DFR (and they're so hard to get now that I had to have been listed in a special queue in one of the few stores that still sell them where I live for almost three weeks to even be entitled to buy one, lol) that I expected to have my head blown away, especially since I heard what a difference it made to even plug the headphones into my Macbook vs PC. Expected a similar leap in quality, this time from Macbook direct in to PC + DFR but at best I'd say they're comparable... :/
 

doifeellucky

Well-known member
Feb 3, 2016
13
2
4,525
I reckon that sentence of yours describes the experience of many when it comes to DACs in general.
Hopefully a Dragonfly owner will come along to say for sure, but I doubt there's anything wrong with your configuration.
Based on its price and reviews, you've got good reason to have expected more.
I've tried DACs of lower and considerably higher prices than yours, certainly never got better sound than I expected. Also, the differences between them have been surprisingly subtle - whereas reviews would often have you believe differences are night and day.
Sorry it's not want you want to hear but, in terms of 'bang for buck,' DACs ain't top of the list.
Thanks for this honest opinion. I've been on the fence about getting one, and based on some reviews, you'd think it's the equivalent of going from a C90 tape on a Walkman to CD, in terms of the improvement. I'll have to wait till lockdown ends so I can try one for myself.
 
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Hawkmoon

Well-known member
Feb 19, 2020
94
36
70
OK I promised to report back so hear goes. I have similar issues to the OP in terms of the Tidal app and volume issues. However, my experience in terms of SQ is quite different, but not I have only used it with a Win 10 laptop so far and not with any IOS devices yet. On my gaming laptop it makes a noticeable impact on SQ - it provides a wider soundstage, tighter bass and a definite increase in definition/clarity, with crisper highs and just generally an increase in detail. That's my subjective experience so far using Tidal and the DFR on my Win 10 laptop. Not expecting as big a jump in SQ with my IOS devices but let's see.
 

Gray

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2015
904
526
5,770
OK I promised to report back so hear goes. I have similar issues to the OP in terms of the Tidal app and volume issues. However, my experience in terms of SQ is quite different, but not I have only used it with a Win 10 laptop so far and not with any IOS devices yet. On my gaming laptop it makes a noticeable impact on SQ - it provides a wider soundstage, tighter bass and a definite increase in definition/clarity, with crisper highs and just generally an increase in detail. That's my subjective experience so far using Tidal and the DFR on my Win 10 laptop. Not expecting as big a jump in SQ with my IOS devices but let's see.
A happy customer. Good for you Hawk.
 
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pinkpanther

Active member
Jun 26, 2020
2
1
25
Hi, everybody, my first post. Interestingly, I've had questions about my DFR which I bought about 3 weeks ago. I use it with a MacBook Pro, mostly for streaming Spotify and Netflix. It's not my main music resource, actually I use it to get the most out of film soundtracks. I found setting it up relatively easy. And for the first 3 weeks the logo light shone red on standby and magenta pink when I was listening. Two days ago the light suddenly went green, even though I was listening to exactly the same source material. And it stays permanently green, even on standby. I've had email conversations with Audioquest and Richer Sounds (where I bought it) and have learned a lot about hi res sample rates but still have no explanation as to why the lights suddenly changed colour. Any thoughts?
 

Gray

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2015
904
526
5,770
Hi, everybody, my first post. Interestingly, I've had questions about my DFR which I bought about 3 weeks ago. I use it with a MacBook Pro, mostly for streaming Spotify and Netflix. It's not my main music resource, actually I use it to get the most out of film soundtracks. I found setting it up relatively easy. And for the first 3 weeks the logo light shone red on standby and magenta pink when I was listening. Two days ago the light suddenly went green, even though I was listening to exactly the same source material. And it stays permanently green, even on standby. I've had email conversations with Audioquest and Richer Sounds (where I bought it) and have learned a lot about hi res sample rates but still have no explanation as to why the lights suddenly changed colour. Any thoughts?
Seems nobody did have any thoughts on your issue.
(Doubt anyone could have helped you more than Audioquest themselves though).
Hopefully you're OK by now.
 

pinkpanther

Active member
Jun 26, 2020
2
1
25
Seems nobody did have any thoughts on your issue.
(Doubt anyone could have helped you more than Audioquest themselves though).
Hopefully you're OK by now.
Thanks for asking. The colour of the lights remains a mystery but the DFR seems to be working OK.
 
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