Audioquest Firebird and Dragon Comparison and Thoughts

I figure it is time to start my first post and this one is to review both cables and their differences. I know there are people interested in getting Firebird but wonder if it is worthwhile to jump to the top-level Dragon. I am here to post the first impression I got from Dragon 48 HDMI as a Firebird 48 HDMI owner.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive my AQ Dragon 48 HDMI today; a couple of days sooner than expected which rarely happens. I am currently using a AQ Firebird48 HDMI as a I2S connector between PST and DS for the past 6 months. Previous I have a AQ Coffee. In comparison, Firebird is better in clarity and details, and a clean and punchy bass (with well-defined layers). Now I have the Dragon 48 I cannot wait to see what further improvement I can get from it. On paper these two are the same in structure and material mostly, but there is still a significant price difference. Why?

The Firebird 48 took more than a month to break in, so I don’t expect the Dragon will show its true strength for some time. Therefore, it is normal that I didn’t get the “wow” factor from Dragon as I did from Firebird. No surprise there because Firebird is an excellent cable, and it has the same sonic signature as Dragon. Living with Firebird for 6 months, it keeps sounding better for the first few months.

But I am already thinking Dragon will be better in time. Although right out of box Dragon’s treble is edgy, mid is a bit inconsistent, and the bass is muddy (This is all compares to Firebird of course), I was taken back by how quiet with even cleaner sound the Dragon showed. I had to turn down the volume a notch because it seems lauder than with Firebird. The music notes have more energy in them, and the presentation is more live-like. I had only a couple of hours listening, and Dragon already starts sounding better and better.

Before Dragon I didn’t think I will need anything more. It is only in comparison that I could tell Dragon will eventually be better. But will it be worth the $900 higher price for .75 meter? For some, yes. But if you do not have a hi-resolution system, you will be incredibly happy with Firebird, I think.

I will report again in a few weeks.

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Thanks for sharing with us your initial impression of these two cables. Yes, these cables do require quite a length of time to settle in. I predict the Dragon will eventually be much better than the Firebird. On paper really doesn’t tell you what actually they put into these cables. I’m pretty sure your money is not gonna be wasted with the new cable.

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I have watched all th you tube videos I could from Garth Powell the AQ designer. He said more than once. Although all their cables share similar design and assembly methods. Do not underestimate how much better the Dragon sounds compared to the next one down the line. He stated he wished they sounded closer but they don’t. Therefore it was enough to pony up the money one time. Whether WireWorld or Iconoclast or Inakustik the top of the line always ended up sounding best to me. Now strictly video HDMI those type cables and picture clean up with a power regenerator. Audio cables not my experience yet. You still need to spend premium to get best sound in any manufacture’s line if your equipment amp , preamps and speakers are resolving and capable.

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So far it is heading into that direction. Dragon is still improving, and I had it on for only 4 hours…

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A post was merged into an existing topic: Audioquest Dragon Thread

The Dragon 48 HDMI has been running between PST and DS in my system for two weeks. A week ago, I briefly put the Firebird 48 back and realized Dragon was not quite ready to a fair evaluation yet. Since then, I have been using a USB stick for additional burn-in at nights; it has now had at least 150 hours on it. The Dragon by now has sounded smoother; the high and mid become ultra clean with tons of details, and the bass has tightened to sound punchy with layers. The soundstage has improved too; now the instruments have better separation and depth than a week ago.

So, last night I switched back to Firebird 48 and let it settle in for an hour. With AQ HDMI I found it needs at least 30 minutes to start sounding good (nothing to do with burn in, it is like warming up). I spent a couple hours with each and then switched back to confirm. There are two points to make before talking about their differences:

• They have the same sonic signatures. The biggest strength of the new generation their HDMI top cables are in the resolutions and richness across all music frequencies. Especially in the high they just sounded ultra clean with more details than any other cable I have heard; yet they don’t exhibit any brightness that typically associated with ultra clean high. The soundstage is true and accurate; and both sounded relaxed yet dynamic. But there is a difference between the two that makes the Dragon a bit better. These two AQ top dogs do a great job in filtering out noises and provides real quiet background that should benefit any system.

• Listening to Firebird48, I realized Dragon48 still needs more time to burn in. Dragon’s treble sounded a bit harsh and thin, and the bass is still closed-in and sounded “lighter” in comparison. But it is only a matter of time before Dragon catching up. I know that because I had the same experience when I compared Firebird to Coffee. At two weeks I would have used the same description for Firebird in comparison to Coffee. It was not until 6 weeks later that Firebird was sounding better in all areas.

But is Dragon 48 a lot better? It is not an easy evaluation at two-week point. How do you evaluate a better cable that approaches 95% of its potential to a cable that is almost as good with the “same” sound? After some long listening Dragon does sound better now already. With Firebird 48, the music becomes a bit congested and a bit less clean (which I would never describe Firebird on its own and only in comparison that I could tell). The Dragon is remarkable in filtering out more noises and provides an even darker background. I could hear more details at lower volume too. Also, Dragon sounded more relaxed and SLOWER than Firebird! It is like Dragon shows you more music information, and make sure you hear it too. Another difference is in soundstage presentation. The Firebird is more forward in center, so the soundstage is flatter. Dragon gives a better instrumental separation and a more holographic image. Dragon in a few weeks will continue to improve in these areas and overcomes the last bits of issues I mentioned earlier. So, for some I am sure Dragon is “a lot better”. But I don’t feel the urge to sell my Firebird to get another Dragon; because if I just want to enjoy music, Firebird gives me great satisfaction too.

On paper they only differ in ground reference (100% silver vs 10%). So, it is surprising the Dragon is an easy winner here. There must be something AQ is hiding in Dragon design. It is like a signature dish from the top chef, there is a secret technique that the chef is not telling. Don’t get me wrong, Firebird 48 is a great cable, and it will serve any system well. But Dragon48 has simply set a new benchmark in HDMI cable design that should keep AQ as a leader among great names for some time.

I hope I don’t sound like a salesman. I paid plenty for both cables and I simply want to get the best available out there.

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Thanks for the review. I’m sure companies do put something special in their top cable to rule overall to make their sale. I have always experience the top of the line piece is generally better than their products lower in line no matter what it is. It usually has the same company signature though. You’re right about break in, the Dragon will eventually lose all it’s harshness and thinness over time.

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Hi @dchang05
AQ cables normally take a while to settle in a system. In my own experience, a month is barely enough. However, personal taste could get so acclimatised to an old product or sound signature, it becomes hard to appreciate another. So, one way to overcome that is to cease A/B comparisons and focus on the music. Moreover some tweaks require speaker re-alignment and cables are no exception. Nice review, thanks. Enjoy the journey!

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I agree, all of the AQ cables that I have owned took a long time to reach their peaks. I am sure the Dragon48 will take a few more weeks. By then I should receive my other Dragon HC power cord that is in back order. The journey continues.

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Oh what fun!! Can hardly wait for your review of this new power cord. AQ has knocked it out of the park in their latest offerings!

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The Dragon analog interconnects can be ordered now also! I assume the Firebird and Thunderbird interconnects can be ordered also.

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Happy Birthday @paul172
Many returns of the day in good health and happiness.
Cheers :milk_glass:

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Thank you Serhan

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Your impressions of the Dragon and FireBird HDMI cables were quite helpful. Thanks for taking the time to give such a detailed review. Looking forward to hearing about your experience with the Dragon HC power cable.

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:+1:The Dragon HC evaluation should be a short one since more people are interested in Firebird48 vs. Dragon48. The Dragon HC will be comparing to a Zavfino OCC Silver Dart which is quite a step down from Dragon in terms of cost. I like it a lot better than AQ Thunder by the way.

I am looking forward to hearing it since there are many good reviews already (hopefully this year), I will post my thoughts in the Dragon thread. It should be a short one unless Zavfino is close.

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Happy B-day!

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Great review! You need a second career as a HiFi reviewer.

I concur. Even at 300 hours the Dragon HDMI and the power cords keeps getting better each week beyond that. I imagine gap between the two HDMIs would sound even larger without your P15 absorber tweak.

I will vote for your absorber tweak as the tweak of the year; no, make that the tweak of the decade!

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My 0.75m Dragon 48 72v DBS HDMI cable is almost here and at 30% OFF Retail.
Please don’t ask my source as I would have to _ _ _ _ you after I disclose that info :slight_smile:

It is possible that we are getting them from the same source. It may not be the greatest secret out there, I think.