AudioQuest DragonFly Red and Black: A Review

After reviewing the Oppo HA-2SE I got a number of reader requests to review the very portable AudioQuest DragonFly DAC/headphone amps. AudioQuest is systematically conquering the USB and phone DAC market with the neatly packaged and marketed DragonFly Black ($99) and Red ($199) models — for the headphone-jack-impaired iPhone 7 owner (or any iPhone/Android owner for that matter) these are enticing options for getting better sound and avoiding the sketchy (from sound quality POV) Bluetooth approach. Are these wonderfully streamlined products worth it? The simplicity is appealing, without a doubt, and the lack of bulk should make these a slam dunk. Continue reading

FiiO’s $69 Q1 – worth it for headphone listening on iPhone 7 / 7 Plus?

The FiiO Q1 — can this miniature flask-shaped DAC amplifier match the $299 Oppo HA-2SE as a listening system for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus? I am not joking when I say “flask” — as a daily commuter, I felt conspicuous taking the Q1 out on the subway, self-consciously figuring people expected me to open it and take a swig of my Mad Dog 20/20, when in fact I normally drink my MD from my healthy BPA-free “water” bottle.

Anyway, the little FiiO Q1’s “cap” is actually its Continue reading

Oppo’s Excellent Audio for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

Oppo’s thoughtful new HA-2SE DAC/headphone amplifier brings lush and percussive sound to your iPhone 7 (or 6 / 6s). Their earlier HA-2 was great and the new version is even better. I recently spent time auditioning and using the $299 HA-2SE and was impressed by its intelligent design and packaging, and its bulletproof operation. I thought the sound was a valuable improvement over what is available directly from an iPhone, either the Lightning-to-headphone adaptor in the case of the iPhone 7 (see the first of this series), or via Bluetooth.

Oppo built its reputation a dozen years ago by launching Continue reading

Will ARCAM Make a MusicBOOST for the iPhone 7?

In this second blog of a series I’ll describe a great iPhone 6 / 6s accessory product from Cambridge, England based ARCAM, called the MusicBOOST. I am hopeful they will make an iPhone 7 version soon, because it solves a number of problems. Most importantly, it endows the iPhone with a regular headphone jack — one that can sound better than the iPhone’s own.

As I mentioned recently, I’ve been thinking about the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus now WITHOUT a headphone jack, and I wondered, can I get BETTER sonic results than using the Lightning-to-headphone-jack adaptor Apple is including with the iPhone 7? ARCAM could have the answer in Continue reading

iPhone 7 with NO Headphone Jack?

iPhone 7 lacks a headphone jack – what’s a person to do? With Apple deleting the trusty 3.5mm “mini plug” headphone jack, how are we supposed to plug in favorite headphones to listen to music, movies, games, etc.? In a series of blogs I’ll describe how to move on, and get the best audio experience.

Don’t worry, the solution is in the box! Here’s my comparison of an “old” iPhone’s headphone jack and the new Lightning to headphone jack adapter Apple is including with iPhone 7 / 7 Plus. So, do these work the same? Continue reading

The Best Sonos for your TV? A Pair of Play:1 Speakers

The answer is not the Playbar, which has serious sound issues as I’ve outlined in a recent post. The Play:1 has a far more natural sound, as long as you don’t use Trueplay, Sonos’ automatic room equalization system. My proposal is a kluge set-up, I’ll warn you. As with some other articles I’ve written, my goal is to show the path to the best sound, to show that the technology is there. Perhaps this will have a small influence on future product decisions. Here’s part 3 of my series on the Playbar… Continue reading

Sonos Playbar: How to Make it Sound Better

Without a doubt the Sonos Playbar sounds better with added surround speakers (and subwoofer) that it does solo. But the Playbar is still hobbled by a design limitation it shares with most other soundbars. Unless you are the rare person who uses your HDTV to receive off-air digital television with a real antenna receiving signals from through the air, you are most likely feeding dumbed-down 2-channel audio from all your sources to your shiny new Playbar.  Continue reading