AudioQuest’s new Dragonfly Cobalt – Worth the upgrade?

AudioQuest introduced their first portable headphone DAC and amplifier seven years ago in 2012. The Dragonfly Black allowed music lovers to bring their music anywhere, with a high-resolution DAC and powerful headphone amp. Shortly after, the Black was joined by the Dragonfly Red. Boasting a higher output for more demanding headphones, as well as a more sophisticated and capable DAC chip.

As of July 2019, the Dragonfly line-up has expanded. Introducing the Dragonfly Cobalt, AudioQuest’s newest and arguably best portable DAC and headphone amp to date.

The Cobalt promises superior performance thanks to a wide range of improvements. Such as a new ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip, delivering a more expressive, detailed sound. As well as a PIC32MX274 microcontroller, which draws less current than the Dragonfly Red, while increasing the processing speed by a third. The new Dragonfly also features improved power supply filtering, reminiscent of AudioQuest’s dedicated JitterBug USB Noise Filter, which reduces unwanted noise inherent in Wifi, Bluetooth and Cellular devices.

The new Dragonfly is capable of powering even the most demanding of headphones, thanks to its 2.1-volt output. It is also capable of MQA rendering, which worked perfectly with Tidal Masters on my phone. The DAC is capable of handling high-res audio up to 24 bit 96kHz, and while the ESS DAC chip is capable of a much higher sample rate (As high as 384kHz), the Cobalts sample rate is limited to 96kHz due to the Microchips USB receiver. Allowing for a wide range of compatibility, without the need to install any driver software to your device, whether you are using Windows, Mac OSX, iOS, Android or Linux. AudioQuest would have to sacrifice compatibility and ease of use to increase the Cobalts maximum sample rate and realistically, how much music do you listen to with a sample rate higher than 96kHz?

I listened to all three Dragonfly’s, the Black, Red and Cobalt, using a variety of headphones. Pictured, are the AudioQuest Nighthawk headphones. I also listened to the Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signatures and the Quad ERA-1’s.

The Cobalt is 10% smaller than its predecessor and perfectly matches the included Dragontail USB C adapter. Making an already small DAC, even more portable.

Is it worth the upgrade?

If you just read the Cobalt’s specs you may think it’s just a Dragonfly Red with a newer DAC chip, however, the whole product has been completely redesigned and is a real improvement on its predecessors. Improving in overall volume output, clarity and detail. The Cobalt can be considered a grown-up, more refined Dragonfly Red.

One of the highest compliments we can give the Cobalt is that it can stand up to the more costly and incredibly well-reviewed Chord Electronics Mojo, and while the Mojo excels thanks to its high sample rate compatibility and fantastic detail, the Cobalt can sound more musical and easy to listen to in some cases. When it comes to portability, the Cobalt is much smaller than Chords portable DAC and also doesn’t require charging, unlike the Mojo. This may be an unfair comparison, as both DAC’s are priced differently and are aimed at different audiences, but it is interesting nevertheless.

The Cobalt is an upgrade well worth considering whether you are already a Dragonfly owner or not. I would definitely suggest heading to your nearest Hifi shop and trying one out. You won’t be disappointed.

Products Mentioned

AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt – USB DAC & Headphone Amp

AudioQuest Dragonfly Red – USB DAC & Headphone Amp

AudioQuest Dragonfly Black – USB DAC & Headphone Amp

Chord Electronics Mojo – USB DAC & Headphone Amp

AudioQuest Nighthawk – Headphones

Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature – Headphones

Quad ERA-1 – Headphones

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Creek Audio 100CD USB Driver Software

Creek Evolution 100CD & 100P
Creek Evolution 100CD & 100P

Connecting to the Creek Evolution 100CD via a PC requires additional (ASIO) driver software to be installed and potentially a USB2 driver if the PC you are using hasn’t already got one. A Mac computer running OSX won’t need any additional drivers.

Drivers for Windows-based computers can be downloaded via the links below:]

Evolution 100CD USB Driver

Evolution 100CD SaviAudio Driver

If you require help installing this software, an installation guide can be found via the following link:

Creek USB Driver Installation Guide

Creek Evolution 100CD
Creek Evolution 100CD

Who is Creek Audio?

Creek Audio is a British based and family-run hifi component manufacturer, boasting over three decades worth of history and professional experience. Creek Audio began in the back bedroom of the family’s home, and now reaches all corners of the globe thanks to their well-built distribution network. Creek Audio retain a common design philosophy with every product, and claim that the company was founded entirely on the same three principles; Sound Quality, Build Quality and Honest Pricing. These elements are found within every model of their current catalogue, as well as past models, giving Creek Audio a revered and well-respected name within the hi-fi industry.

Products mentioned

Creek Audio Evolution 100CD

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Chord Electronics Mojo & Poly – Portable Hi-Fi?

Chord Electronics is widely renowned for making the best DAC’s on the market and their pocket-sized Mojo is no exception.

Chord Electronics Mojo & Poly
Chord Electronics Mojo & Poly

Using technology from Chords Hugo Series and their flagship Dave reference converter, the Mojo features a custom made FPGA DAC, DSD capability and support for sample rates up to a whopping 768kHz. All squeezed into an aluminium chassis no bigger than your wallet.

Chord Electronics Hugo 2 Headphone Amplifier and DAC
Chord Electronics Hugo 2 Headphone Amplifier and DAC

The Mojo also features a headphone amp, powerful enough to drive any pair of headphones. I listened to a range of headphones from the Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature’s, Quad ERA 1’s and the Sennheiser HD660S’s, all of which were driven effortlessly by the Mojo.

Chord Electronics Mojo & Poly with Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature Headphones
Chord Electronics Mojo & Poly with Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature Headphones

On the one side of the Mojo you will find two 3.5mm headphone jack outputs. With the other side featuring a micro USB input and a 3.5mm digital COAX input (both capable of handling 768kHz/32-bit audio). Alongside an optical TOSLINK 96kHz/24-bit Capable Input and the Micro USB charging port.

Chord Electronics Mojo & Poly
Chord Electronics Mojo & Poly

If you don’t want to keep all your music files on your phone or if you’re looking to connect to the Mojo without wires, the Chord Poly has you covered.

Chord Electronics Mojo & Poly
Chord Electronics Mojo & Poly

With a Micro SD card slot to hold all the music you could ever want, along with WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, the Poly is the perfect companion for Chord’s pocket-sized DAC.

Chord Electronics Mojo & Poly
Chord Electronics Mojo & Poly

After connecting to the Poly via Bluetooth, I could control playback of the music stored locally on the SD card using my phone. The feature I was most excited for however, was Poly’s integration with Tidal. Which has recently been enabled via the Poly 2.0 software update. Along with an improved WiFi & Bluetooth connection and support for Roon, Qobuz and Internet Radio.

This update has completely transformed the Poly, from an SD card and Bluetooth player to a very capable streamer, to rival any other on the market. Pairing with the Mojo, makes this an unbeatable combination, for your train journey, walk in the park or sit-down listening session at home.

Chord Electronics Mojo & Poly with Sennheiser HD660S Headphones
Chord Electronics Mojo & Poly with Sennheiser HD660S Headphones

As expected from any Chord Electronics product, the Mojo and Poly sound fantastic. With high-res Tidal support, a beautifully detailed, clean and musical DAC and a headphone amp capable of powering any pair of headphones. The Mojo and Poly seem almost unbeatable.

Product Links

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A Look at Rotels New A11 & CD11

With the release of their new A11 and CD11, Rotel has created high-performance hifi on a budget.

Rotel A11 & CD11 with Bowers & Wilkins 606's
Rotel A11 & CD11 with Bowers & Wilkins 606’s

The A11 and CD11 add to Rotels well established 14 series, offering high-performance sound and build at a more affordable price.

Having 30 years experience in making CD players, Rotel has crammed the CD11 with technology found in their higher end machines. Featuring a Texas Instruments 24-bit 96kHz DAC for the CD11’s Analogue RCA Outputs, Rotels balanced design and a high-end power supply to reduce any unwanted noise. All paired with Rotels high-end CD transport mechanism to provide musical, detailed playback of your favourite CD’s.

Rotel A11 & CD11
Rotel A11 & CD11

With specs and performance rivalled by products twice the price, the A11 and CD11 are leaving us impressed. The A11 features a 50-Watt class AB stereo power amplifier, a moving magnet phono stage and a Texas Instruments DAC for its Bluetooth aptX input.

Rotel A11 & CD11 with Bowers & Wilkins 606's
Rotel A11 & CD11 with Bowers & Wilkins 606’s

I set the CD11 and A11 up with the Bowers & Wilkins 606’s. Which I think is the perfect sub £1500 setup for any Living Room, Office or Bedroom. So much so, that the A11 has now become our go-to amplifier for anyone wanting a great sound on a budget.

“Rotel has long been a recognised leader in the affordable, high-performance audio space. These 2 new models continue our mission of offering performance well beyond the modest price point by leveraging our Balanced Design Concept throughout the entire engineering, testing and manufacturing processes, all contained in our own dedicated 10,000 square meter (100,000 square foot) factory.”

Peter Kao, Managing Director of Rotel
Rotel A11 & CD11 with Bowers & Wilkins 606's
Rotel A11 & CD11 with Bowers & Wilkins 606’s

Speaker cables and interconnects are very often overlooked, with many people opting for the cheapest cables they can find. I think that using the right cables can make a huge difference in any system. But you don’t have to spend hundreds to get the best cable for the job; you need to find a cable suitable for the rest of the system.

Chord Clearway with the Bowers & Wilkins 606's
Chord Clearway with the Bowers & Wilkins 606’s

Our go-to speaker cable for systems such as this would be Clearway by the Chord Company. I found it was the perfect match to get the most out of the Rotel A11 and Bowers 606’s, without spending a fortune.

Chord Clearway RCA with the Rotel A11 & CD11
Chord Clearway RCA with the Rotel A11 & CD11

I also used the matching Chord Clearway RCA interconnect to connect the CD11 to the A11. I thought this made a huge audible improvement over the RCA interconnect that Rotel includes with the CD11. An upgrade which is definitely worth considering.

Rotel A11 & CD11 with Bowers & Wilkins 606's
Rotel A11 & CD11 with Bowers & Wilkins 606’s

What do I think about the A11 and CD11?

Having spent the day listening to the A11 and CD11, I can safely say that this combination is very impressive, rivalled by systems which are considerably more expensive.

I listened to a variety of music through Rotels new system, ranging from Muse, The 2nd Law, to Fleetwood Mac, Rumours and Lorde, Pure Heroine. The A11 had more than enough power to drive the 606’s, while maintaining great detail and clarity.

I would highly recommend the A11 to anyone looking for a sub £500 integrated amplifier, only audibly bettered by significantly more expensive machines.

The CD11 is a welcomed addition to the A11, if you are looking at reviving your CD collection or starting a new one. As you would expect, they are a perfect match for each other.

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Setting Up Your Bowers & Wilkins Formation Products (Duo)

Bowers & Wilkins have changed the game when it comes to Wireless Audio, this is their newest range called “Formation” and trust me when I say, it’s truly something else. I shall give you a brief overview before we dig into the setting up of the Duo.  The Formation Range consists of five different products; Formation Duo, Wedge, Bar, Bass and Audio.

Formation Duo – The first Wireless Speaker System that will provide the listener wired fidelity experience. The Duo features the incredible Continuum Cone Technology found on their 800 Series.

Formation Wedge – Fill any room in your home with the spectacular high-resolution 96/24 bit stereo sound. Bowers has given the Wedge a unique 120-degree casing, a full range of stereo components and obviously adding their new Formation Wireless Technology

Formation Bar – Experience an outstanding yet truly immersive audio and video experience with this remarkable soundbar featuring 9 optimised drive units and a dedicated centre channel to make you constantly feel like you’re smack-bang in the middle of all the action

Formation Audio – Stream music in 96/24 bit high-resolution sound to your passive system or to your passive system or turn most passive components into part of a Formation multi-room audio system.

Formation Bass – Add a new dimension of a breath-taking sounding bass to your music and movies with Bowers’ opposed dual driver technology and Dynamic EQ. Like all other Formation Products, you can pair them all up to achieve the ultimate audio immersion.

Combine all these together to experience the highest-quality, wireless home setup. Not only do these sound incredible, but they also look the part too, effortlessly blending in with any sort of environment in your house. Right, let us get started on how to set up your Formation products.

Let’s get started:

Firstly you will need to head on over to your app store and download ‘Bowers Home’ (Download them here – Apple / Android) Once downloaded you will be greeted with this screen. It’s technically searching for devices that are currently set up, but as you will have none, nothing will appear.

After a few seconds, you will have this screen, as it couldn’t find any Formation products, the option to ‘Add Formation product’ will appear at the bottom, select that option to get this set up started.

Once pressed, you will have to make sure that your Formation products are plugged into the mains before entering the next step. This will automatically pick up the box you have plugged in.

For our instance, we had the Duo’s and the Bass set up, so it picked up both but for this tutorial, I will be selecting the Duo, note it will say ‘Two speakers found’ your left and right speaker. Select ‘Formation Duo’ to advanced to the next step.

Once advanced, you will be asked to ‘Name your Space’ You can either choose from the default selections Bowers & Wilkins provide or you can create your own custom space; for our case, I went with the custom space to make it easier for the stores benefit.

When selecting custom space, you have the freedom to name it to what you desire. For example, you can name it ‘Speaker’ or ‘Room 1’

For our set up, I named it ‘Formation Duo’ as we have multiple Formation products set up around the shop and it is a bit more convenient when it comes to demonstrating.

When positioning the speakers, take note of which one you want to be left and right as they aren’t labelled. What we did was stick L and R on a sticky note and put it on the plug just so we know which is which when it comes to moving the speakers around.

Press the little Formation logo on the Duo to get this one set up as the left speaker, one pressed your screen will advance to the next step.

This is what you will be directed to once you’ve pressed the Formation logo on the Duo, what happens now is that it will search for your Wifi, it may take a couple of seconds to pick up your own Wifi Router.

Once your Wifi appears, selected it and it will prompt you to enter your password.

Once entered your password correctly, the Duo will now connect to your Wifi, please note this may take a few moments as its the first time the Duo is being set up.

Once synced, you will have to pair the right speaker up, so also press the Formation Logo on the Right Duo to start up the sync progress once again.

You will be redirected back to the same sync page as you were when setting up the left Duo, but this time you won’t be asked to connect to your Wifi as it’s already paired up to the left Duo.

Once this process has finished, you are then set up on the Duo’s, giving you access to Spotify Connect, Roon, Airplay and Bluetooth.

Boom, that’s it, you’re ready to go. There’s a lot of competition in the market for wireless audio, for the likes of Sonos, HEOS, Ruark and Naim. I feel that they all have their own unique differences and obviously, people have a different taste when it comes to sound. For Bowers and Wilkins, I feel like the technology used to put together this Formation Range is on the next level, not only with the technology but with the sound quality as well. A direct competitor for this will be the KEF LS50 Wireless which is also an exceptionally brilliant speaker, but who has the edge? That’s all down to a personal standpoint but we personally love them both.

The easy part about setting up any Formation product is that it is dead simple to do, once you have set one up, setting up the others is pretty much identical to setting up the Duos. From personal experience, I found it very easy to navigate through the steps to get all of the foundation range set up. I will be writing a new blog post soon on my initial thoughts and opinions on the entire Formation range. I hope this helps!

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Staff Wanted: Full-Time Sales Assistant

hifigearwww.hifigear.co.uk
FULL-TIME POSITION – SALES ASSISTANT

Sales assistant required for busy retail, CI and e-commerce based hi-fi & home cinema business with retail store in the heart of Hereford. Joining a team of four, you will be keen to learn about and assist with sales of luxury, high-value audio products. High motivation and a proactive attitude are a must, with a desire to fully support our customers at all stages of the sales process. Computer skills will be required and a full, clean driving license would be of benefit. A passion for music will be a distinct advantage. Previous sales experience is not necessarily required, but a keen attitude to learn is essential.

Key activities include:-
• In-store demonstration of hi-fi equipment to customers
• Creating customer sales invoices via PC
• Communicating with both suppliers and customers via telephone, e-mail and face to face
• Quoting for custom installation projects
• Social media marketing of the business
• Occasional deliveries to customers
The position is full time, with 22 days holiday per year. Hours of work are 9am until 5pm with 1 hour lunch break, five days per week, which can include Saturdays. Full on the job training will be given.

To apply for this position, please email your CV together with a covering letter to phil@hifigear.co.uk stating what you believe you could bring to this role.Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Hifi Gear: Henley Audio HQ Visit

Ryan and I were recently invited to Henley Audio in Oxford for a tour around the facility as well as some informative training on some of the brands we deal with in the store. Towards the end of the day, we also had the opportunity to rebuild an Essential III from Project from putting the platter and belt on to re-fitting the cartridge and aligning it. I will be going into more detail on this build later on in this post.

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Bowers & Wilkins PX Vs Sennheiser PXC-550

The two headphones I will be comparing are the Bowers & Wilkins PX and the Sennheiser PXC-550I will be talking about the Sound Quality, Noise Cancellation, Comfort, Physical Appearance, App Control and any features which I think are worth mentioning. 

The PX’s are currently priced at £329 and the PXC-550’s are £249. There has recently been a price reposition on the Sennheisers’ from £329 to £299 – which makes them a great competitive price against the PX’s! 

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Hifi Gear on YouTube

At Hifi Gear we have recently relaunched into the world of YouTube.

We have seen a number of newly released products from several of the brands we supply via our Hereford store and our online store. As these new products have been arriving for demo stock in store, we have taken the opportunity to record the unboxing of these products as a few of our customers had made enquiries about this type of content in the past.

We have seen a number of subscribers to the channel already and the videos are gaining quite a number of views which has helped push us to record more content for the channel. You can check out products such as the new Naim Uniti series, the Uniti Star and Uniti Nova proving popular, as has the Rega RP8 turntable. We have been filming the unboxing of anything from turntables to Ruark radios, headphone amplifiers and DACS such as the Chord Electronics 2Qute.

You can check out our new YouTube channel here:
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Free KEF M400 Headphones When You Buy KEF Speakers

KEF Sound on the Move

m400-finishes-logo

Our gift to you – FREE KEF M400 hi-fi headphones worth £130 when you choose KEF *

Want to get your hands on your very own brand-new KEF M400 hi-fi headphones worth £130?

Simply mention the offer to our team when making your KEF purchase and these seriously stylish headphones will be yours!

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