From Monsta By edmund
Questyle from Guangdong China is a boutique high end audio maker that has been producing great high performance gears that has been amassing amazing feedback from the users for their noble sound along with a well thought design that brought forward a few innovative technologies such as their own inhouse patented current mode amplification. Their products range from the midrange and all the way up to the high end such as the CMA Twelve DAC/ headphones amplifier. They are also known for producing one of the best digital audio player in the market with QP line m a few years back, they have decided to miniaturised their technology and produces their first dongle aptly named the M12 that has been one of my go-to dongle favoured for their size that just sounds sublime. Building on the success of the M12, Questyle has decided to push the sound performance to another level with their latest offering, the M15. They have kindly sent us a unit of the M15 for an honest take on the unit and we thank them for the opportunity given. How will they fare in this now saturated market of dongles? We shall find out won’t we?
Functions & Specifications
Before we start the review, here are the specifications of the Questyle M15;
- DAC and headphone amplifier
- DAC Chip : ES9281AC
- PCM：32kHz – 384kHz (16/24/32Bit)
- DSD：DSD64(1 Bit 2.8MHz) , DSD128(1 Bit 5.6MHz), DSD256(1 Bit 11.2MHz)
- MQA 8X
- Input : 1x USB-C
- Outputs : 1x Single-ended Jack 3.5mm
- 1x Balanced Jack 4.4mm
- Output : 3.5mm:RL=300Ω,Po=11.97mW, Vout(Max)=1.895Vrms, THD+N=0.00045% 4.4mm:RL=300Ω,Po=22.60mW, Vout(Max)=2.624Vrms, THD+N=0.00057
- Frequency Response: ±0.1dB(20Hz-20kHz) THD + N：0.0003%
- Body : CNC machined aluminium, black in colour
- Size：61.8[L] X 27.2[W] X 12[D](mm)
- Package : 1x USB-C to USB-C cable and 1x USB-C to USB-A cable
Retail Price & Where To Get
The Questyle M15 is exclusively available for RM1,094.28 on questyleshop.com
Packaging & Accessories
The M15 is packaged quite simple but they are quite elegantly packed as well. Similar to the package of the M12, there comes in a black slim box that houses the unit smartly. Inside we will have paperworks such as the manuals and the warranty paper. Under the unit we will have a high quality USB type C to C and a USB A to C cable that has a cotton sleeve on the cable. Overall, they are nicely packed along with all the essentials needed.
For the early adopters of the M15, Questyle has included a free leather casing for the M15 and make no mistake, they are indeed a very high quality one. Very generous of them to include this for free for the early birds, so be quick to snatch one for yourself.
Bold and unique are the words to describe the M15. They are solidly built with a window on 1 side showcasing the neat innovative internals for the geeks out there. I myself truly love this design as it is indeed one of a kind.
On the input at the bottom is a standard USB type C that is quite tight and it securely fits all cables that I have tried it on. On the output side on the top we have a 3.5mm and a very welcomed 4.4mm output that is lacking in the M12. All the plugs are very well implemented as they are tight and very secure.
Inside the body through the window is 2 LED lights where one indicates the gain where green for low and red for high gain, one is for the files played where green is for files below 48khz, red for lossless playback im PCM or DSD and purple for MQA files.
At the side of the unit we have a slider to adjust the gain that I prefer than the auto select gain on the M12
The M15 is equipped with a portable flagship DAC chipset from the legendary chip manufacturer Sabre, the ES9281AC and they are known for their high performance with a low noise floor. The M15 has full support for a full DSD playback up to 768k and they also have full support for MQA which works flawlessly after the firmware upgrade. There is no volume control here so volume adjustment is done via the source.
Inside is equipped with their own patented current mode amplification where they take the current from the DAC output and amplify them in the same current mode. They have embedded 4 SiP modules, twice more than the M12, resulting in a powerful output to drive demanding headphones. Questyle’s Current Mode Amplifiers are characterised by their small footprint, low voltage operation, and minimal power consumption. Current Mode amplification has a naturally low impedance, affording the M15 a bandwidth up to 1MHz, distortion as low as 0.0003%, and the ability to reproduce every detail hidden deep within any track.
They have no battery inside and they will draw lower from the source. With smartphones, battery draining is quite surprisingly quite low even on high gain settings. The reason? Questyle has implemented a Torex semiconductor for the power management resulting in lower battery draw and preventing overheating as well.
Gears Used for Comparisons
Jerry Harvey Audio JH13V2 pro
Final Audio Heaven V
Blon A8 Prometheus
Blur daBass custom earbud
Tone and Presentation
The M15 has indeed been tuned very well, apart from their Sabre based sound, they sounded very neutral without the coldness or harshness of a typical Sabre chipset sound. They embody the crystal clear sound of a Sabre DAC along with a touch of thickness and lushness in their overall presentation. Pace on the M15 is slightly on the faster side of the spectrum, giving out an energetic vibe to them. They are very well balanced in all of the frequencies without any major emphasis, thus suitable for a plethora of gears to match them with. Power wise, they are indeed capable of driving full sized headphones with finesse which is shocking for the size of the M15.
The soundstage that the M15 brings to the table is well above average for a portable DAC/amplifier. Though not to the level of a full pledge desktop setup, they are able to give out a wide and deep soundstage that rivals competition with similar asking price and some costlier. Airiness on the M15 is great and they are able to give a medium sized headroom. On live performances, they truly shine as they are able to give an immersive experience to the listeners. They are also suitable for gaming and movies alike for a more accurate performance.
Separation and Timbre
Being true to a Sabre sound, separation on the M15 is great with all layers being present well without any congestion or fuzziness due to their amazing clarity. They are suitable even for fast, busy tracks such as metal genre and they handle them with ease without any veil present. Timbre on the other hand might sound a little average but they are not too thin sounding and they are accurate. I would like the timbre to have more intensity but that’s just my preference and me nitpicking. Overall great separation and accurate timbre.
This is where the M15 gets interesting, their driving power. They have a gain slider to match with high impedance, low sensitivity gear and they indeed can drive them without any problems. 300 ohms? 600ohm? Not a problem for this beast and they are able to drive my HD800s with ease and room to spare for the volume without any major dynamic restrictions. For sensitive in-ear, I do not experience any hissing and noise present which is a big plus for in-ear users out there. For a dongle, they are indeed one of the most powerful ones that I have tried so far.
The Bass (Low)
The basa produced is staying true to their neutrality nature and they are very well balanced across their spectrum with great clarity. Extension that the M15 present is quite good with great texture without any additive and they sounded rather pleasantly pure. They do add some extension to their bass giving an airier feel to their slam. Sub-bass does not increase in quantity but their quality is decent as they sounded clearer in their bass department. The M15 also gives the bass a little tightness in their presentation and they do make the bass sound a little more energetic with no alterations in their mass. In general, the bass that the M15 pushes out is clean, pure and clear making them a very well textured bass with zero bleed.
The midrange that the M15 brings to the table is one of my favourite criteria of this dongle. They are able to sound neutral but not boring with their slightly thick, lush midrange that possesses good coloration making music simply alluring. They are indeed packed with details and clarity making music very enjoyable. Resolution is eminently good and they are one the strong points in the midrange here. No typical dryness present here as typical to the Sabre based chipset and they are truly well tuned here. Vocals are indeed sweet and organic here without any added coloration. Overall, the midrange in my opinion is one of the main strengths of the M15 and they indeed perform very well for their size and price wise.
As usual the highs is one of the worrying prospects of a Sabre chipset as with an improper tuning, they will sound a little harsh and peaky but indeed not on this M15. They are able to convey a smooth high range without any shout or peak present while still maintaining their clarity. They are indeed a great high range with decent extension and air without any spike in the spectrum. Sparkle is average but without any excessive metallic sound. I would prefer a stronger highs but that’s just my preference as the highs of the M15 is a very natural response without any boost present. Treble here is organically produced and they sounded spot on without any extras great for a wide range of genres. Overall, Questyle has tuned the highs to be smooth while maintaining a great natural high response that is inoffensive and they perform very well suiting a wide range of gears.
VS FiiO KA3
The current best dongle by the industrious FiiO, the KA3. They are equipped with a slightly better ES9038Q2M chipset that sounded very detailed and powerful as well and supported by their own FiiO app control. They are quite similar in their output power wise but I do feel the M15 has a slightly higher output. Price wise, the M15 is more than double the asking price of the KA3 and they do not draw as much power from the source.
The High range on the KA3 has better quantity but the quality is much better on the M15 with them sounding way more smooth and refined. Details and clarity on the M15 is also better and they sounded more airy overall.
Midrange on the M15 is slightly thicker but still remains the same neutral clarity in the midrange. M15 on vocals sounded lusher and more emotional. Brightness on the mid on the KA3 is brighter by a small margin.
Bass on the M15 sounded more extended with a better slam in quantity. KA3 bass sounded a little too lean but they are better on the acoustic side. Sub-bass quality on the M15 is better on a small margin.
Soundstage on the M15 is clearly better by sounding deeper and wider overall. Headroom on the high gain with headphones is also better on the M15. Power drain on the KA3 is bigger and they do draw a lot more power than the M15.
VS Questyle M12
The Questyle M12 has also a Sabre chipset and they are a similar ES9281AC. Inside they have a patented amplification method that they named Current Mode Amplification but the M15 boasts a total of 4 CMA chipset that is double the total of the M12.. They only have a single 3.5mm output versus the extra 4.4mm balanced in the M15 but they do have MQA support and a gain selection (auto-select on the M12) that works very well. Driving power on the M15 has the edge and they are stronger due to their balanced mode CMA chipset.. Price wise, the M12 is priced half the asking price for the M15 but the M12 is more than half the size of the M12.
Bass on the M15 has more body and depth to it and they sounded more extended. Sub-bass on the M15 sounded a little deeper as well with a more controlled slam. Clarity and details in the bass is better on the M15.
Midrange on the M15 sounded more intimate and had a more lisher feel to it. The midrange on the M15 also sounded a little thicker and more detailed. Midrange on the M15 a meatier and more emotional overall.
Highs on both if this unit are rather similar but the quality of the high range on the M15 is more pronounced. They sounded airier and smoother than the M12. M15 high range sounded more energetic and more enjoyable.
Soundstage on the M15 sounded slightly wider and taller.
JH Audio JH13V2 pro
Jerry Harvey Audio has been a legend in the portable audio scene with innovations made to mukti BA drivers and the JH13V2 pro has been around for a while boasting 8 balanced armature with a warm, dark, coherently executed sound. Bass is adjustable to their quantity to your liking via the stock cable. Bass sounded clearer on the M15 while retaining a dynamic slam to them. Sub-bass mostly remained the same but it does have some deeper extension to them. Midrange sounded clearer as well with micro details more eminently produced. Vocals sounded a little more intimate and organic. High range sounded a little more bright and they sparkled better on the JH13V2 pro. Soundstage has increased in size by sounding deeper and wider overall. Overall, they indeed do boost the sound quality of these legendary in-ears considerably and they are more satisfying to listen to.
A hungry beast of an earbud from Toneking and they are rated at 600 ohms in an earbud form. To showcase the power present on the M15, even a low gai. Is sufficient to power these earbuds which is just amazing. Bass on the TO600 sounded more present and they hit deeper with sub-bass extended very well. Midrange sounded thicker with better resolution overall. The mids also sounded more intimate and lush. High range has a better sparkle and decay making them shinrs pretty well. High range also sounded airier and they are way better than a simple dongle setup. Soundstage mostly remained the same but the are indeed more holographic making music sounded more life-like. Overall, the M15 really does their job very well for high impedance gears and the TO600 has benefited from the M15 by a good margin.
The flagship open back headphones from Sennheiser Germany that has been touted as one of the best headphones around for a good while now. They cost almost 10 times the M15 and can they power the HD800s sufficiently? Yes they can indeed. With high gain turned on, I am able to drive the HD800s with good ease which is great for the size of this product. Bass sounded clearer and extends quite deep but sub-bass remains mostly the same in amount. Midrange sounded a little more forward with great details pushed out. Vocals sounded quite intimate and lush to listen to almost to the point of a desktop setup. Highs are smoother and more evident making the HD800s slightly brighter than usual. Soundstage on the HD800s sounded great and they are indeed very wide and enjoyable just like a pair of near field monitors. Overall, the M15 capabilities to drive high end headphones is really justified and they did a great job to be honest.
Who Is It For?
The M15 is truly a powerhouse of a miniature dongle that is packed with great innovative design that performs like a champion. For those who are in a portable setup, the M15 is truly one of the best dongles you can find in the market in my opinion. With their great neutral sound along with hefty driving powers, they are one of my go-to set ups for portable listening. Power drawings are kept to the minimum and they do not draw as much power like the FiiO KA3. Soundwise, they are more suited for a pure performance unlike the analog sound for the like of the Cayin CU6. For performance, they are truly a great product.
Questyle has indeed produced probably the best dongle size DAC/amplifier that has certainly made me fall in love with their sound quality. With this well executed product, they are able to do it all with great control and finesse, driving sensitive in-ears and all the way up to a full sized headphones. Soundwise to me are perfect and they set the bar for a top of the line sound in a small package. Though they might sound a little clinical at times but they are truly well tuned without sounding too cold and emotionless. Price wise, they are slightly expensive, but they are justified for a no frills portable product that is packed with innovative design. They are a true upgrade from the M12 and they trump them in all aspects while retaining the same amazing well made Sabre based sound. Questyle has truly hit the ball out of the park with this M15. Two thumbs up!
I would rate this product a solid 5 stars and an Audiomonsta recommended product seal.
Driving Power : 9 out of 10
Build and design : 9 out of 10
Separation and timbre : 9 out of 10
Soundstage : 9 out of 10
Bass : 8 out of 10
Midrange : 10 out of 10
Highs : 10 out of 10
Value : 10 out of 10