AudioQuest DragonFly Red vs. Oppo HA-2SE – comparative testing of external USB DAC, 2017

USB DAC is an external sound card that serves only for listening to music, in 90% of cases such DACs do not have analog inputs. But the USB DAC almost certainly has a powerful dedicated headphone amplifier, which allows you to connect almost all common headphone models, except exotics. USB DAC, as a rule, provides much better sound than integrated sound or mass sound cards, and often supports high-resolution formats and DSD playback without conversion. Recently USB DAC have replaced sound cards among music lovers. Updates in this area are ongoing and are of great interest.



Our readers asked the questions in the forum: how are the products from comparative testing of external USB DACs for mobile devices correlated (Creative Sound Blaster E5, Oppo HA-2, Denon DA-10, Tento Porta DAC 1866, FiiO F18 Kunlun, Venture Craft Go DAP BXD) And miniature external USB DACs (Schiit Fulla, Cambridge Audio Dacmagic XS, AudioQuest DragonFly Red, FiiO Alpen 2 E17K, M-Audio Micro DAC 24/192)? Usually we answer that these are devices of different form factors (speakers vs. headphones, bicycle vs. car). However, today we will know the exact answer to this question, since we will confront the winners of both tests. By now, a new version of the Oppo HA-2 with the prefix SE (Second Edition) has already ripened, where the DAC and headphone amplifier have been updated – now it’s an ES9028-Q2M with an integrated amplifier, followed by an additional transistor buffer for low-resistance load. The more interesting will be testing!

DragonFly Red vs. Oppo HA-2SE

AudioQuest DragonFly Red & Oppo HA-2SE – price. Where is the best place to buy?

The recommended retail price in the US for the AudioQuest DragonFly Red is $ 199,00 and for the Oppo HA-2SE is $ 299,00. At this cost, you can order it on Amazon. Plus Shipping, so the total cost of Oppo UDP-203 when ordering on Amazon will be about $ 220,00 or $ 320,00 for Oppo HA-2SE. I would not recommend ordering anywhere else except on Amazon. Since you are less likely to find cheaper, and if you do not take into account the fact that Amazon is probably the most reliable online store, it still very often provides free shipping.


Specifications

Oppo HA-2SE AudioQuest DragonFly Red
Controller XMOS U6 Microchip PIC32MX
DAC ESS ES9028-Q2M ESS ES9016
Supported PCM Formats 32 bit 384 kHz 24 bit 96 kHz
Supported DSD formats DSD256 (11 MHz) none
Recommended load impedance 16 to 300 ohms 12 to 300 ohms
ASIO support is none
Presence of built-in battery is none
Dimensions 68 × 137 × 12 mm 12 × 19 × 62 mm
Weight 175 g 30 g
Warranty 2 years 1 year
Price $ 300 $ 200




AudioQuest DragonFly Red at first glance does not look very serious, but this is a very good product. It is based on a good and very expensive DAC ES9016, and the digital controller PIC32MX consumes little, which makes the device compatible even with mobile phones. Oppo HA-2SE will not give in to support any mobile devices, and moreover, it has a battery inside that allows to give out more powerful sound of the amplifier and even recharge the mobile device in case of urgent need. With the desktop computer, the Oppo’s DAC is friendly no less cool, even better than AudioQuest – what are the only stand-alone ASIO drivers supporting Native DSD up to 11 MHz! Inside Oppo HA-2SE is based on the XMOS chip with its own firmware, with several switchable modes of operation.

Oppo HA-2SE

Oppo HA-2SE


Appearance Oppo HA-2SE has not changed compared to the first version. The case is completely metal, has a non-removable stylish leather cover.

Oppo HA-2SE

On the left side there are gain switches (low and high position) and bass equalization. The button located in the same place has two functions: charging indication and switching on / off the power bank mode (external battery for mobile devices). The kit includes a special branded charging VOOC Rapid Charger.

Oppo HA-2SE

On the lower side there is a mode switch: mode A serves for connecting Apple devices, mode B for connecting Android devices, mode C for analog connection via minijack. It should be noted that the kit includes a whole set of cables: USB-Micro-USB for data exchange with PC and charging, USB-Lightning for Apple devices, short Micro-USB-Micro-USB cable for Android devices, and minijack minijack. There are two silicone rubber bands for attaching the device to the smartphone.

Oppo HA-2SE

Interestingly, the Oppo HA-2SE has a linear output, and judging by the measurements, it makes sense. Again, you can output a signal to the power amplifier. The analog volume control is well inscribed in the design, thanks to the incisions, volume control does not cause problems.

AudioQuest DragonFly Red

AudioQuest DragonFly Red

A non-typical MIPS-processor PIC32MX with low power consumption is used. The manufacturer promises a true bit-to-bit transfer to the DAC and processing of the volume control in the OS by means of the DAC itself, and also promises to release the AudioQuest Desktop Manager software, which at the time of testing is not available for download. ASIO is not present, DSD is not present.



AudioQuest DragonFly Red

AudioQuest DragonFly Red is compatible with iOS and Android, but with insufficient current it gives a much quieter signal than with the smartphone’s headphone output. The current mode of operation is indicated by the highlight color: red – Standby, green – 44 kHz, blue – 48 kHz, yellow – 88 kHz, lilac – 96 kHz.

AudioQuest DragonFly Red

Sound Comparison: Oppo HA-2SE vs AudioQuest DragonFly Red

We understand the importance of comparison and approach the examination responsibly. Anyone can check the results on their own – and, we are sure, will come to the same conclusions.

In comparison with the integrated sound of the laptop, the sound of the tested USB DACs on the head is higher. And the better the playable headphones or speakers, the better the difference is heard, the more new details appear in the sound. That is, the sense in buying a good USB DAC dramatically increases for owners of high-quality equipment.

The sound of AudioQuest DragonFly Red and Oppo HA-2SE is very similar in character. However, on good equipment Oppo breaks forward along a number of parameters – the detail and openness of the sound. AudioQuest, however, can be praised for a pleasant sound – for 90% of mass equipment of this quality will be quite enough. That is, for any computer speakers, for mass models of headphones, it is hardly worth chasing something more expensive than the AudioQuest DragonFly Red, as there is a great chance not to hear the difference – they are drowned in their own high distortions of these speakers or headphones. However, if the price tag of headphones is 10-20 thousand rubles, and the columns – over 50 thousand rubles, it makes sense to look for a suitable source of sound. It is normal to have a balanced sound path, without distortion.

AudioQuest DragonFly Red

Oppo preserves the signature handwriting of all devices on the ESS Saber 32: very high detail, wide stereopanorama, no distortion is heard at all. At the same time, the HA-2SE model does not have excessive synthetics and loss of attack – on the contrary, the sound is quite lively and assertive. This living character is “added” in moderation – not to such an extent that the color of timbres or some kind of exotic interpretation of music is heard, as in the esoteric Hi-End. In general, we can say that in the HA-2SE is improved exactly what first of all caused us criticism in the review of AudioQuest DragonFly Red: excessive softness and refinement. Perhaps this is due to the transistor buffer at the output. And perhaps, the overall high culture of device design and successful redesign is affecting.

What prevents the mobile DAC from being used as a desktop device? No matter how trite it sounds, but the lack of good ready-made cables hinders. We already wrote that quality cords with a minijack connector can not be found, so during testing we specially cared about this problem and used a cord of the highest quality with gold-plated Neutrik connectors and a professional Canare cable (made in Japan). Many readers tried to laugh at this. We just give a screenshot of the measurements, which demonstrates the growth of channel penetration when connecting a finished Chinese cable – thick, with gold-plated connectors. Nothing changed, except the change of wires:

AudioQuest DragonFly Red

Testing in RMAA

As in the previous parts, we used a special complex to study the behavior of the headphone amplifiers on a low-resistance load. Tests of the headphone output without load show just the perfect picture, and under the load distortions grow many times. And we will show this by illustrating an increase in distortion of up to 5% at the lowest-resistance load with only 1 V RMSvoltage.

However, at low-ohmic load, even at 1 V RMS, the amperage is very high, which leads to operation in the non-standard mode. There is an overload of the tract, which is not observed in real operation. In real life with typical headphones of 16 ohms and 32 ohms, 0.36 V RMSis enough: on 32-ohm headphones of average sensitivity it’s already loud, and on 16-ohm high-sensitivity headphones you can not listen at all.



In the past testing, we performed all measurements at 0.36V RMS, assuming that most headphones are sensitive enough and do not require high current. However, with the growth of the price bracket, different models can meet, including less sensitive ones. What is the reason for this? Previously, the problem was the power amplifier for headphones, especially in portable and mobile devices. But now the manufacturer of headphones is less limited in power, and if there is an opportunity to improve the sound quality, reducing the sensitivity, then in expensive models of headphones, developers are willing to go.

Oppo HA-2SE

Oppo HA-2SE 64 Oppo HA-2SE 64 Oppo HA-2SE 32 Oppo HA- 2SE 300 Oppo HA-2SE – Oppo HA-2SE line out
Uneven frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB -0.60, -0.78 -0.56, -0.74 -0.56, -0.74 -0.56, -0.74 -0.56, -0.74 +0.01, -0.03
Noise level, dB (A) -109.4 -109.4 -109.4 -109.5 -109, 5 -113.3
Dynamic range, dB (A) 109.4 109.4 109.4 109.5 109.4 113.2
Harmonic distortion,% 0.0021 0.0013 0.0010 0.0007 0.0005 0.0005
Intermodulation distortions + noise,% 0.026 0.0227 0.0227 0.026 0.026 0.0035
Interconnection of channels, dB -59.2 -64.9 -70.8 -83.0 -102, 7 -97.6

Frequency response:

AudioQuest DragonFly Red

Noise level:

AudioQuest DragonFly Red

Distortion:

AudioQuest DragonFly Red

All measurements were in batch mode, without changing the connection and the position of the wires. The sound card for the measurements was in another computer. Own noise in the pause when recording>118 dBA. Harmonic distortion <0.0002%. The reference device has unbalanced inputs and outputs and a discrete headphone amplifier. Developed in Russia, in 2016, for their own needs. By the way, this is a real answer to the question: is the technical quality of sound achievable in the computer in principle? Basically yes. For reasonable money? Yes. Do you need high parameters? For measurements – yes, they are needed. To listen to music – no, not needed! For quality sound fight is worth. High figures should be an automatic side effect of a properly designed device, the result of knowledge and experience in designing and manufacturing equipment. High numbers as an end in itself – are inadmissible in any case! Otherwise, it will inevitably result in an integrated sound. The limit of integrated sound is to sound the speakers of the laptop.

AudioQuest DragonFly Red

Test Dragonfly 32 Dragonfly 32 Dragonfly 32 Dragonfly < / Td>
Uneven frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB +0.04, -0.29 +0.04, -0.29 +0.04, -0.29 +0.04, -0.29 +0.04, -0.29
Noise level, dB (A) -112.7 -112.7 -112.6 -112.5 -112, 7
Dynamic range, dB (A) 112.8 112.7 112.6 112.8 112.7
Harmonic distortion,% 5,677 0.025 0.014 0.0048 0.0028
Intermodulation distortions + noise,% 6,587 0.026 0.015 0.0051 0.0030
Interconnection of channels, dB -58.5 -64.1 -69.9 -82.4 -105, 1



Frequency response:

AudioQuest DragonFly Red

Noise level:

AudioQuest DragonFly Red

Distortion:

AudioQuest DragonFly Red

Testing device

Test 16 32 64 300
Uneven frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB +0.00, -0.02 +0.01, -0.04 +0.01, -0.03 +0.01, -0.03 +0.00, -0.02
Noise level, dB (A) -108.1 -107.7 -107.9 -107.8 -108.0
Harmonic distortion,% 0.0002 0.0005 0.0003 0.0002 0.0002

It should be taken into account that the sine of maximum amplitude loads the path much more heavily than 90% of the signal level in music, while in short peaks the human ear does not fix the waveform, which, incidentally, is used by the creators of studio limiters and maximizers. That is, distortions at lower volume levels are significantly less than in our test. Nevertheless, this time we raised the bar and got excellent high signal / noise results.

Where to look at the charts and what are the problems of low-quality headphone amplifiers? On the frequency response curve, one should look at the subsidence at low frequencies. On the noise graph, you can see the quality of the filtering power. On the distortion graph, you must monitor hard overload and the absence of such problems with a digital signal, like explicit jitter or recalculation of the sampling frequency.

The measurements without load on the graphs are indicated by the “dash” sign, otherwise the resistor value is indicated. We chose the most indicative values: 16 ohms, 32 ohms, 64 ohms, 300 ohms. By the way, the device in the passport is shown just such a load.



To obtain clean spectra and rupture of earth loops, all DACs were in turn connected to a laptop on Windows 7 x64, which runs on battery power. The sound was reproduced via DirectSound for all devices. Differences in the figures from ASIO was not.

It must be admitted that the absolute figures, apart from the frequency response test, depend quite strongly on the amplification level and amplitude of the test signal, so that the comparison can be done only with measurements in identical conditions. We used a test signal of 24 bits 44 kHz to see the device’s own noise, as far as possible.

Conclusion of using AudioQuest DragonFly Red and Oppo HA-2SE

In the testing of the winners of previous tests of AudioQuest DragonFly Red and Oppo HA-2SE, the Oppo product won with a notable advantage.It not only looks stylish and has many popular functions, but, most importantly, it sounds great. Oppo HA-2SE will be an excellent choice for owners of high-quality headphones, if you need a mobile USB DAC for a laptop or smartphone. And this is in view of the fact that AudioQuest DragonFly Red is a fairly strong rival, the leader in its class of miniature DACs.

Oppo engineers did an excellent job and in the updated DAC HA-2SE developed the success of the previous model. We are looking forward to new products from the team of development engineers Oppo Digital.

Video Reviews

Video review AudioQuest DragonFly Red




Video review of the winner of the test – Oppo HA-2SE



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