Mojo’s Pick of the Week – Dragonfly Black DAC

DragonflyThe Dragonfly by Audioquest is a pro quality Digital Audio Converter and headphone amplifier for converting your digital music to analog for a much richer, truer listening experience. It plugs into your USB port (adapter available), and comes in two flavors, Black and Red, at price points of $99 and $199 US respectively. There are some differences outlined here, but essentially the Red is the higher end version (and a bit out of my price range). The Black is still well worth it.

Essentially, this plug & play DAC takes over for the built-in audio output of your computer, which is not necessarily optimized for sound. I’ve been mixing in the box for many years, and I was just listening to a long interview with Andrew Scheps talking about how much he loves mixing in the box for all the reasons I do. At the very end, he said “but don’t use your built-in audio out, it’s built as an afterthought and not optimized for high end audio”. Which believe it or not, has never occurred to me. I did notice sound was richer when listening through my Presonus AudioBox out instead of my Mac but because I don’t always have the AudoBox with me, that just wasn’t a practical option.

Enter the Dragonfly.

Note: when I first plugged it in, it was LOUD. I mean, throw your headphones off loud. So set the Dragonfly’s output volume before listening through it. Once I set the volume (easily done in the menu bar or the sound Preference Pane), I opened the Audio-Midi Setup App* and tried it at all sample rates before setting it at a conservative 24/48K.

Sample rate Dragonfly

Very cool feature: the Dragonfly LED changes color to indicate what sample rate it is processing. This is true even if it’s set to one setting and your DAW is set to another, it will switch to reflect the current output. Easy way to tell at a glance what your session is set to.

One thing I did notice: it’s better for mixing than tracking; I had noticeable latency when tracking through the Presonus and listening through the Dragonfly. Too many converters, I’m thinking.

To be honest, I’m still getting used to hearing music through it, the range and depth is expanded in every dimension. But it’s definitely a game changer for me. I feel like I can feel the air from kick drums now!

*Something I discovered in the process of setting it up that was very cool and somehow NO ONE HAD TOLD ME before is that you can set your built-in audio out from the default 24-bit/44.1K to up to 32-point/96K. I don’t mean the Dragonfly, I mean your actual MacBookPro audio out. I can definitely hear a difference between 44.1K and 96K even streaming an MP3, so if you do nothing else, do that. This is set for your default audio out using the Audio-Midi Setup application under Utilities.

 

 

 

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Mojo’s Pick of the Week – USB Cassette Player

USB CassetteI’m pretty excited about this random eBay purchase! Honestly I just wanted a portable cassette player so I could listen to tapes of my old band to pinch ideas from. Having the option to record via USB right into the DAW was just a bonus, especially for $15 new!

Officially it’s called the “Super USB Cassette Capture” and it’s got that made in China cheapness about the plastic. But it does feel solid mechanically and definitely does exactly what it says it does: play cassettes and offer a USB computer interface to record from cassette into a Digital Audio Workstation.

Included in the package: cassette player, mini USB cable, cheap earbuds, instruction manual in reasonable English, and a 3″ minidisc containing Audacity, the free Open Source DAW. The instruction manual also gives the web addresses for downloading both Audacity and Lame (which it recommends to use for making MP3s). If you already have Garageband or any DAW at all, you don’t need any additional software. 

Not included: 9v adapter, batteries.

Controls: play, stop, eject, fast forward, rewind, volume, dir (direction) and auto-reverse on/off.

Outputs: 1/8 phono (headphone) and what I understand is a USB 2.0 Mini B connector.

The manual says it will run on USB power. Otherwise, 2 AA batteries are required.

I was able to record very easily into Logic by connecting the USB cable, selecting input device “USB PnP Audio Device”, arming an empty track and hitting record, then playing the cassette. The only variable was the cassette player volume, which determines the input level, but the recording was clean.

USB Cassette Logic Setting

USB Cassette Player

Very happy with this purchase so far, definitely worth $15!

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Mojo’s Pick of the Week – Oontz Bluetooth Speaker

oontzI love this thing. It’s not the biggest, or the loudest, or the coolest to look at, but this water-resistant little guy is one of my favorite pieces of audio gear. The sound is clear and full, and the battery life is great. I’ve had it since the summer when I bought it for myself as a birthday present, and since then it’s been to the beach, on road trips, in the darkroom, in the backyard. It’s small & light enough to toss in a backpack, and being IPX5 certified water resistant means I don’t worry about getting it wet at the beach or when it’s in the kitchen while I’m washing dishes or whatever.

The Oontz Angle boasts 10 watts of peak power and gets about 5-7 hours of playtime on a charge. It charges with a USB cable like a phone, and in fact is a handsfree phone receiver (though I haven’t used it that way). Did I mention it sounds good? Like really good? I picked it over other, louder and bigger ones because the sound is great, and size is perfect – it fits in a cupholder and frankly to me is the perfect size for a portable speaker. It may not be loud enough to power a busy pool party but for most purposes it’s great. Well worth the less than $30 I spent on it. If you’re in the market for a Bluetooth speaker, check it out the Oontz Angle.

Mfr: Cambridge Soundworks
Website: https://theoontz.com 
Price: $27US

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