Meridian Explorer 2 vs Dragonfly Red

For every music listener out there, headphones or earphones are necessities because they are the one we used when in a public places so then we can keep listening to those songs without having to disturb other people. For enthusiast, there is another tool we need to have such as Meridian Explorer 2 Vs Dragonfly Red which is amp and DAC for your favorite output. If you have an expensive pairs, they can help the sound quality but, see which model will suit you better below.

In this article, we are going to give you information about:

  • Why do you need a Headphone amp and DAC
  • What are Meridian Explorer 2 and Dragonfly Red
  • What  Meridian Explorer 2 and Dragonfly Red Look Like
  • What Meridian Explorer 2 and Dragonfly Red can offer to you
  • How are the Sound Quality of Meridian Explorer 2 and Dragonfly Red
  • Meridian Explorer 2 vs Dragonfly Red

Headphone Amp and DAC

Music is one of the most important things in our life because while it is may not affecting our daily activities directly, they are sure giving color to our boring routine and everything won’t be the same without music. In grocery stores, book stores, restaurants, shopping malls, even in our subway station, music is found everywhere but, many of us also bring our own portable player with compact speaker, or the more versatile earphones and headphones so we can listen to our favorite playlist anytime.

Due to our mobile society, everything seems to be moving fast and getting busier so it is not unusual to see people are using their headphones or earphones while commuting or while sitting on their desk and getting the job done. Every person has their own taste but between earphones and headphones, avid music listeners or enthusiast are more towards the latter since they in general are better in terms of producing the sound especially those high-end models that cost more than $150 per pairs.

While not all good headphones are expensive and vice versa, the majority of enthusiast models are expensive. If you have more fortune and are investing more for the system including headphones, you may also want to have another tool called headphone amp. Just as the name suggests, this tool is used to amplify headphones because our portable players mostly don’t have enough power to drive the headphones properly, resulting in a not optimum sound quality. Additionally, we also have external DAC.

Portable headphone amp or tube amp today are a combination of both and can be used with your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. DAC itself actually already present in your main player but, the reason why we also need them is because not all built in DAC are working as good as the one we get on external amp and DAC combo. While your headphone is already capable of making a great sound, adding them in between main player and the output will even enhance the quality.

For those who are still considering whether to get one or not, the recommendation is if you have high impedance headphone, then, an amp will be very necessary to drive the headphones properly. It is referring to the resistance of an electrical signal, measured in ohms and the higher this number is, the more resistant the headphone or speaker to give to an electrical signal. We do suggest if your headphone is above 50 ohms, having one is a good idea.

About Meridian Explorer 2

With the rising popularity of high-end headphones today and how audio equipment is becoming more affordable for more users to reach, headphone amp and DACs are also becoming more frequent being used by casual and enthusiast users. In the past however, they are not as well-known but our portable players are getting them a new place in our system as well and it makes the options are also increasing from new brands combined with new models that makes it overwhelming at first.

The best amp and DAC for your headphones should be the one that gets you the best result and one of them is Explorer 2 from Meridian. If you often shop for audio equipment, we are sure this name will ring a bell as well because they are one of the most well-known in terms of DAC and this certain version is promising much for their users thanks to the MQA or Master Quality Authenticated developed and announced by the manufacturer back then in CES 2015.

This technology is said to let the users to listen to their favorite songs just as how the musicians or artists hear in the studio and the artists themselves can attest to this because they have the digital print on the file to make it sure it comes from the studio master. Explorer 2 is the hardware you need to have when streaming this file but, today we may only have Qobuz and Tidal for the platform while more platforms like Spotify and Apple are not yet.

Meridian Explorer 2 Design

As you can see on the sample picture above, this amp and DAC is coming in a tube form which is slightly bigger than your average USB stick but instead of plugged directly to your laptop, this small stick is using cable so we can adjust the placement better. It has the USB port at one of the sides and the other side is for your headphones or stereo amplifier. What we adore from the design is the rubber strip on the bottom so it won’t roll as freely.

Meridian Explorer 2 Features

As for the features, we actually don’t get anything on the physical unit such as buttons and knobs but there are 3 LED displays on top to notify you about the activity. The first one is lights up white when playing 44/48kHz files and blue or green when detecting MQA files. The second LED is lights up when playing 88/96kHz files but the third LED is lights when neither 176 or 192kHz is being played. For non-Win 10 PC users, we also have to install the driver first before using Explorer 2.

Meridian Explorer 2 Performance

In terms of sound quality, your Meridian Explorer 2 is working good to improve your audio quality and definitely succeeding the Explorer with those clean and balanced sound but not harsh and feels as refined as ever. As for the MQA files which unfortunately not available in all streaming sources or covering all of your favorite artist’s album, they do feel enhanced. It is hard to describe the result but most of them are on definition such as vocals, instruments, and percussion that become much more distinct.

About Dragonfly Red

With the market of music enthusiast growing each year and our nature to always want the best quality of everything, MQA files are also slowly but surely becoming more available and to accommodate this new technology, we are also getting more capable headphone amp and DACs out there not only from Meridian. For an option, we can also choose Dragonfly Red from AudioQuest which is very popular for its quality and even more with being an award winning amp. Completing the collection, besides Red, there are also Black and Cobalt.

This amp and DAC is a very good option for anyone who wants to improve their sound quality but not ready to get a top models like Chord Mojo yet. However, if you are not aiming at MQA files, there are also other nice similar amp/DAC combo in the market from Apogee, see our previous Apogee Groove Vs Dragonfly Red.

Dragonfly Red Design

As the name suggests, Dragonfly Red is indeed coming in a shiny, bright red fashion with a dragonfly logo charmingly printed on the top. It is similar to our flash drive or a more traditional portable USB modem since it is also using a direct USB connection, eliminating the need to use cable. It is also very compact and simple since there is nothing on the body for controlling the unit so it means all of the navigating or controls are done from your main players e.g. laptop. 

Dragonfly Red Features

When we are saying this amp and DAC is not having anything on the unit, it is true because we don’t have any control on board and the connectivity is only through USB then a 3.5mm jack on the other side. If you are using the black version, this model is somehow still very similar because it is retaining the sample rate of 96kHz and a bit depth of 24-bit despite the different price. The new flagship cobalt version is also still the same and it is even more expensive than this red amp.

Dragonfly Red Performance

While it is very similar to the black version, your Red amp is definitely sounding better so those price gap is worth for audio quality. When plugging them to your main player and headphones, the first thing prominently felt is its lower end because songs are heavier thanks to the bass extension and it is even visible on every note. Your songs are also becoming more three-dimensional with more texture but the detail is not missing as well and combining all of them, we are getting a more natural and expressive sound.


Now, let’s compare Meridian Explorer 2 with Dragonfly Red. As it has been mentioned above, both of them are capable of playing MQA files thanks to the new software upgrade of Dragonfly Red. From the specification alone, Explorer 2 is offering a higher sample rate at 192kHz but the sound quality is equally nice and will definitely enhance your experience. Dragonfly however, is more into the analytical sound so the tracks are very clear while the Explorer are more into subtle, and less tiring type of sound.

Meridian Explorer 2 vs Dragonfly Red

- Extended-range 0-100dB volume control that allows for finer adjustments
- Increased DSP power
- Trademark apodizing filter
- Combination USB DAC, preamplifier, and headphone amplifier with exceptional 24-bit/192kHz resolution
- 32-Bit SABRE DAC
- 2.1v Output Drives Almost Any Headphones
- Works With Apple and Android devices when paired with a simple adapter
- Plays everything from MP3s to 24-bit/96kHz high-resolution files


Since they can play MQA, we can go with either of them depend on which seems more beneficial for you but, we do recommend people to consider the sound result as it is quite different and if you are using a smartphone, many people will suggest to get Dragonfly Red since it can draw less power for a more portable player.

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