Top quality DACs and music – we tried Dragonfly Cobalt

We declare it immediately: this is an article dedicated to audio purists, to true music lovers and, wanting to expand, to those who want to listen to music at the highest quality. Let’s start from what is now a reality: there are few left to listen to music with headphone headphones (the ones, therefore, that wrap the head) and not with headphones, and more and more listeners are choosing wireless products, that now companies churn out all the time. But the miniaturization of headphones and, above all, the fact that they are wireless is making the human ear accustomed to listening to music at a lower quality than what today’s technology offers. To explain it is the marketing and communication director of Audiogamma Giancarlo Valletta, a great connoisseur of the world of music and audio, to whom we asked for advice on how to listen to music better.

Music at the highest quality

But what is the difference between “normal” listening with Bluetooth headphones, in the car, with computer speakers and “high level” listening? “It’s a question of artistic expression – Valletta begins during our chat – because the better you hear the song, the more you appreciate the nuances that the musician or singer has recorded. It is – he adds – a difference ‘of breath’, because you can hear all the nuances of the music, from silence onwards. The famous conductor Barenboim wrote in a book that the most important element of music is silence ”. And what you can appreciate the most in an ever higher resolution file is precisely the difference between silence and those very small nuances that otherwise you would not be able to appreciate, because the more a file is compressed, the more inside it is carried out by an algorithm a cut between silence and the first audible note. So how do we listen to music more and more purely?

What is a DAC and what is it for

To solve this problem we are met by a device called DAC. There are all kinds, large and small. We tried Audioquest’s Dragonfly Cobalt. DACs are nothing more than devices that are inserted between the device that produces the music (computer, mobile phone) and the device that allows you to listen to it (such as headphones) and are able to convert digital music into a signal suitable for “Drive” any type of audio device, be it a headset, an amplifier or a pair of powered speakers. It is therefore a very useful tool for those who want to listen to digital music well and at the highest quality. A DAC, however, is not enough: to this, in fact, a wired headset must be coupled, possibly with a bow. “The Bluetooth headset – explains Giancarlo Valletta – is extremely convenient because it gives us the possibility of having wireless connectivity; Unfortunately, however, the passage through Bluetooth excludes audio at very high resolution and the maximum quality achieved is that of the CD. If we want to take full advantage of the platforms that currently offer music in the highest quality such as Qobuz or Tidal, to name a couple, we must necessarily use a wired connection with an exclusively analog headset “. Therefore, if, on the contrary, we use very high quality music without DAC and without a wired headset, the signal that will reach our ear will in any case be a reconverted and degraded signal. In our test we used the Philips Fidelio X3 headphones.

Dragonfly Cobalt

Audioquest’s Dragonfly Cobalt, distributed in Italy by Audiogamma, is the non plus ultra of portable DACs (it is as big as a USB stick): it is able, in fact, to convert a wide range of audio formats coming from a computer or smartphone and , at the same time, it features a high-quality headphone amplifier. The device can be connected to a smartphone, computer or tablet on one side and headphones or even stereo systems on the other. Among other features, on the power supply circuit there is a filter that improves the shielding from disturbances coming from Wi-Fi networks, Bluetooth and cellular networks. It is certainly an object for music lovers: its price is not low, the list costs 299 euros. For those who want to get closer to the world of high quality audio, however, there are also the Dragonfly Black and Red models. The first costs around 90 euros and those who try it will still feel a very significant difference; the second costs around 160 euros and offers a greater and more sophisticated volume control.

Pros and cons


  • It allows you to listen to music at the highest possible quality
  • Ultra portable


  • Price a bit high (but there are also the Black and Red models that cost less)