Audioquest Cobalt dac vs NDS - too close for comfort

Daisy chained my iPhone 8 , lightning usb camara adaptor, aq jitterbug, aq cobalt and aq 3.5/rca evergreen cables to 552. I wanted to hear Qobuz hi res through my 552/500dr and was astounded by the sound quality. A/B comparison vs nds was very, very close, just slightly in favour of the nds/tidal combo. Setting aside we’re comparing 2019 vs 2012 technology, the cost differential, a factor of 10, is staggering. My hearing’s fine, swmbo who can hear a beer can open at 50m also heard little difference, actually a slight preference for the aq setup. I bought the 500 series/nds second hand a year ago and been thrilled with the sound quality. Speakers are B&W 804d2 The system was set up by the dealer rep correctly, if not optimally. What am I missing?


I’m not trying to dispute your findings, but native Tidal is not the strongest feature of the first gen. streamers, so I suspect that will be skewing the odds in favour of the Dragonfly. Playing the same file from local storage might be a little different.


Just now trying your suggestion. Yes, more of a gap yet still reasonably close.

Interesting. I was previously considering the Audioquest Red for a second system but may just stretch for the Cobalt after reading the responses here. It will be for a speaker-based system instead of headphones though.

I’d suggest you go ahead but do get a quality cable as the cobalt taps out on the cheap ones, I.e. draws too much power.

Interesting thread. I just finished having a Nait 2 serviced and recapped and am looking for a streaming source to use with it together with my vintage ProAc Super Tablettes.

I wonder how the AQ Cobalt compares with a Chord Mojo fronting this new system?

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I compared the audioquest red vs mojo a few years back. The sound on the mojo slightly better. Think you’re ok either way sound wise.

I went with the audioquest red as at the time I did not want yet another toy to keep charged :wink:

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Whouah! Is my Nds is sounding so bad ?


Thanks. I presume the Audioquest Evergreen 3.5mm to RCA cable would be sufficient. Is the Audioquest Jitterbug necessary? Is there a degradation in sound quality if the Jitterbug is removed?

how does it sound without the jitterbug…?

AQ says that the jitterbug is not required with the Cobalt, it has the jitterbug circuitry included. I suppose using another one won’t hurt, and may or may not help.

No, your NDS is still an awesome :slight_smile: high end device. What’s surprising is that the AQ Cobalt when attached to an iPhone, Android, or a RaspberryPi sounds quite good when you plug it into an amp.

It’s the reason of my post a bit ironical , because it’s hard to believe for me that iPhone/ 300 euros dac can be on the level of an Nds/555dr, even if the Nds is streaming Tidal.
Sorry, I am skeptical. Nothing against you.

In my case if I were to try this with the Cobalt (or Mojo) for that matter, I would need a 3.5mm > DIN cable made up to connect these devices to my Nait2. The OP has a 552 (as do I) which has a set of RCA inputs while the Nait does not. Any suggestions for such a cable?

Refresh my memory as I once had a Mojo (now sold) - can it be left permanently plugged into the charger to supply power?


Flashback did mine. 3.5mm to DIN (1Z to Nait duties).


Hi James
Thank you for the photo. I completely forgot about using my 1Z as a source for my new Nait 2 system. I think this is partially because the 1Z does not have a true audio out but rather it takes the signal out from the unbalanced headphone jack.

Care to speculate how the 1Z would stack up against a Mojo or AudioQuest Cobalt mentioned above?

I have seen a few cables on Ebay and designacable online - I am in the States so a domestic supplier is preferred but not required (as I have previously purchased from Flashback). Most of these cables use Mogami or Sommer cable. I believe Flashback is using the original cable as Naim used back in the day on their source cables included in the tin? If so I wonder how the Flashback cable compares to these other versions with Mogami etc?

Finally a friend said he believed the Flashback owner was under the weather and deliveries have slowed down?


This exercise for me raises a few questions, among them

  • until the technology settles, is it imprudent to spend big $$$/£/€ on streamers,bridges,clocks and servers?

  • are top end preamps more forgiving of source? Seems counter-intuitive but might explain what’s happening here

  • room acoustics permitting, are we better off spending limited resources on better loudspeakers vs. racks, cables, isolation widgets etc.?

  • Is Naim losing ground vs competition on streaming? seems to be a migration of the high end enthusiasts on this site to competitive offerings.

The nd 555 was on my wish list but unsure that’s now the case.

@glevethan - hope you will report on your findings

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I preferred my Cobalt when I had it a Mojo which I found vaslty over rated and a tad boring in presentation.

I and 2 other forum friends have moved to the dCS Rossini. I am coming from a Linn Klimax DS/3 while my two friends (Dunc and MagicBus) are coming from ND555’s.
A quick study will reveal other forum members who have done the same including a few Bartok’s