Qudelix 5K Review and Comparison to ES100, FiiO BTR-5

I’m listening to my 2019 Andromeda with it right now. I’m in the low power mode on the single ended output, streaming with LDAC, and I don’t notice any hiss.

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For sensitive IEMs, the 5K is one of the few DACs that I’ve used that don’t hiss with the Andromedas.

Edit: looks like @pwjazz got there before me :wink:

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FYI - I just saw the recent 5K update has a new crossfeed feature.

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Okay yeah, the new crossfeed feature works! I think I like it better than the typical BS2B crossfeed, though it’s maybe not as good as 112dB Redline Monitor, but this works everywhere and not just on my desktop! I pretty much listen with my VK4 90% of the time, and one of its few weaknesses is that vocal’s aren’t always as intimate as I’d like them. Listening to artists like Adele and Joss Stone, dialing the crossfeed to around 12% brings the vocals forward just enough to solve that.

The 5K is proving to be the best 100 bucks I’ve spent in audio. It turns out to have just enough juice for my new Aeon RT Closed in balanced mode, is quiet enough for all my IEMs including the Andromeda, and it can easily handle my HD58X and my home-built headphones too.

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It’s amazing how much this little unit brings to the party.

Being able to eq on the go, having enough power for lots of headphones and adding wireless to headphones we already have can be game changing.

They seem to be really wanting to improve and add features.

I feel the same way, hard to think of $100 that brought more to the table.

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I would second the praise for the Lotoo Paw S1. I have tried many of the dongle-DACs, and this one definitely shines. I use it with a lightning to USB-C cable form my iPhone 12. A number of preset EQ settings is a plus. The combination convenience and reasonable sound has made me pass on getting a DAP.

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Got my Qudelix 5K today to compare it to my iFi hip-dac. I intend to use the Qudelix 5K mainly with USB, an Apple Camera Connector and an iPhone 12, just like I do with so all of my early comparisons are wired, not Bluetooth. It’s the only fair way to compare both.

– First, you can’t beat the size of the Qudelix. This thing is tiny. It’s not as small as the TempoTec Sonata HD Pro I recently sold, but it’s much smaller than my hip-dac.

– Solid construction. Buttons are solid. Decent cables. Can’t match the metal housing, metal buttons and brass volume dial of the hip-dac, though.

– I HATE the button layout on the Qudelix. Unintuitive as hell. Crap design. Tough to increase and decrease volume from the unit. I end up using the app more than anything. I know people say you get used to it, but a proper design wouldn’t require acclimation time. The simple buttons and brass volume knob on the hip-dac are MILES more intuitive and tactile.

– Is there some way to turn off the flashing lights on the buttons from within the app? God, I hope so. The thing looks like a cross between an ambulance and a volunteer fire vehicle when you use it. Annoying as hell.

– The Qudelix app is excellent. A tinkerer’s delight. So many options and measurements. The built-in parametric EQ is such a magical feature, making it easy to apply EQ measurements from Oratory or Crinacle.

– The Qudelix has less power than I expected. It has about the same output as the TempoTec Sonata HD Pro in low and high gain. I need to run my iPhone 12 at full volume and my HiFiMan HE-400se International at about 80 percent volume on the Qudelix to get sufficient volume. I have my Sennheiser HD 560s at about 70 percent on the Qudelix. I can run the HE-400se at 50 percent and the HD 560s at 40 percent on the hip-dac. The hip-dac clearly has more juice, which is good for the future if I get more power-hungry cans.

– Now for the big one: Sound. First I must divulge that I’m very treble-sensitive. I have pretty severe tinnitus, so I notice grainy and hot treble almost instantly. I’m far from a basshead, but I prefer a slightly warm sound signature with a bit of rolled-off treble because of my tinnitus. The treble of the Qudelix is just too piercing and hot for me without EQ. It’s just too fatiguing for my ears. With Oratory’s EQ for my HD 560s, it’s better, but it almost feels somewhat veiled and flat. The hip-dac definitely is warmer and a bit rolled off in the highs, but that’s perfect for me. There’s just a richness to the hip-dac sound that I prefer, too. It’s not bloated, as I don’t use the bass boost on it. But it’s more rich, more musical. The hip-dac pulls me more into my music. I think the imaging and soundstage on both units is very similar; I give a slight edge in detail to the Qudelix.

Very early days. I need to do more testing. I can see why so many people like the Qudelix. I think it blows away the Sonata HD Pro despite being twice the price because of the balanced and unbalanced connections, better build quality, Bluetooth and the great app. It’s a killer portable USB and Bluetooth DAC-amp for a lot of people.

But the hip-dac sounds better for me right now. It’s like the difference between Nike and Adidas. Both make damn good athletic shoes. But Nikes just fit some people’s feet better than Adidas, yet some people’s feet feel like they were made for Adidas. That’s how the hip-dac sounds for me right now – it’s made for me and my cans.

Again, early days. I still need to test the Qudelix with my Meze 99 Classics and Moondrop Starfield.

Maybe my ears will adjust to the hotter treble of the Qudelix. Maybe not. More impressions if my opinion or sonic analysis changes.

Holler with any questions! Thanks.

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OK, more testing complete. My ears are adjusting to the sound of the Qudelix 5K. It’s growing on me.

Plus I’m surprised how good the Bluetooth sounds on this, even with AAC through an iPhone. My old ears can’t tell a huge difference from wired. Yeah, the quality isn’t as good as wired. But it’s not a massive step backward.

Add this plus to all of the mega cool features in the app, such as DAC filters, and the decision between the Qudelix and the hip-dac is getting harder and harder by the song.

Nice problem to have!

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Nice writeup @pk500. It’s not on my radar but it does seem to get praise and has a decent feature set.

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I am not treble sensitive but burr brown dacs in ifi seem to make a smoother sound.

This here, is the single build/design flaw. However, any better buttons or knobs would require far more internal space. You do get used to it. But I still hit stuff when “grabbing it”. Gotta think of your fingers like toothpicks any time you touch it.

Yep! But when do they flash under normal use?

Even on balanced? It has about half of the hip dac I think. If you were pushing the hip dac, this isn’t gonna do it. You must be using the 2.5mm plug.

I honestly can’t tell with most music. In fact, if you touch the upper blue button while wired (play pause), it can switch to BT with a blip in the music. The physical controls only work in BT mode. (Also, I think BT initially defaults the dac to normal mode)

On harder to drive stuff, use balanced cables, max the qudelix in performance and high gain and volume and use the iphone to control volume.

This will reduce battery life significantly. But it drives lots of stuff. The cool thing about the qudelix is this doesn’t hurt the sound (it did on the btr5).

One more thing: wired, even with charging off, can cause that “device is drawing too much energy” message when you push to max volumes. Since I use it BT primarily, I don’t see this.

Qudelix 5K = ESS Sabre 9218 chip
iFi Hip DAC = Burr-Brown DSD1793

The ESS Sabre family are sometimes considered the brightest mainstream DACs, while Burr-Brown the warmest. AKM falls somewhere in the middle, as they aim to present details with limited smoothing.

I can’t hear much difference between wired and wireless with compressed sources (e.g., Youtube), but can often hear Bluetooth’s limitations with uncompressed music.

The app has settings for the lights. You can vary behavior and brightness, and turn them off.

There are various settings for power level and volume mode. The docs are not great so you probably have to read it carefully and experiment to get the settings you want. Also, the balanced out (smaller connector) has more power than the standard 3.5mm out.

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Is amazon ultra hd flac tracks enough to tell for you?

When I do hear a difference, it comes across in deeper dynamics, which, of course, could be created by even small mismatches in volume. The qudelix makes that really easy to account for. Since then, I simply can’t tell.

For what it’s worth, I generally can’t tell with apple music either for most music.

Either way, I have to do intense a/b comparisons to hear it. If I just put on one or the other, I would never know.

Amazon HD or Qobuz is fine. Tidal is iffy because of their default filtering.

Wireless and compressed sounds shakier and grainier, with a seeming absolute limit on potential nuances. Over time (15 mins+) I often detect compressed sources because they lead to fatigue and tinnitus. With a particularly bad source this can happen within 5 or 10 seconds.

If you are happy, we are all happy. You have your own ears and it’s your choice.

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I am just trying to understand what people hear differently. I am not treble sensitive at all and don’t have any form of tinnitus as far as I know.

I am having my hearing checked next month for the first time in at least a decade to see where I stand.

I love that BT doesn’t bother me as the convenience is insane. What does bother me is hearing hiss or noise due to the amping. On nearly every other BT device I could hear that with my Dunu Zen. Not the qudelix 5k. The fiio q5s-tc tried to kill me with it’s BT noise. (that’s the reason I don’t own one).

So, I am happy with qudelix. Very happy. To the point that I limit my headphone choices to what work on it.

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I find myself using balanced out for my more power hungry cans.

It’s awful, and I’m only barely used to it.

If you haven’t already, try playing with the filter settings. It could totally be placebo, but I like the Apodizing fast roll-off type 1.

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Thanks for all of the feedback. A few updates after reading your comments.

– Guess I need to get some balanced cables to get more power from the Qudelix. I’m running unbalanced all the time.

– The lights do turn off on the buttons after a bit. I didn’t notice that when I first started testing.

– I have dug into the app and know about the various power settings. I’m running high-gain (2 volts) on Performance mode. I’m pushing this thing as hard as it can with unbalanced cables, and it’s just about enough with the HE-400se. Those are low-impedance cans, but they also have very low sensitivity. On the other ear, the Qudelix has no problem driving my Meze 99 Classics whatsover. I expected that, as a phone drives the 99 Classics as smoothly as Lewis Hamilton.

– I’ve never seen the “drawing too much energy” warning when using the Qudelix with unbalanced output on my iPhone 12. That’s good. Are you seeing that warning only when running balanced because of its greater power demands?

The Qudelix is a mighty impressive little unit. It’s my first Bluetooth DAC/amp. If there’s a better one on the market, it must be all that and a bag of chips.

I’m just not sure yet if the crisp, bright sound of the DAC works for my old ears. More testing to come!

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nods This will give you the power jump you were expecting. At least more than tempotec or apple dongle.

Almost certainly. I can’t run it wired with the volume pushed to max balanced. The drop ether cx can take that. As long as I run with the internal volume down a bit (there is probably a number I could figure out for Volts), it doesn’t do it.

Having tried an insane number of them, I am confident in saying it is not a well known one if there is a better one. Now, keep in mind, sound quality is not my top priority. Overall ability to function is. And nothing I have used comes close.

Now, if you are willing to be wired and lose BT, that comment changes. Your hip dac rises straight to the top. As does a number of other ifi products in my opinion. But, all of this functionality in one easy package? no, this is the king of the hill there.

Balanced may fix this as well. When a headphone like a planar is not powered well, it can get whiny. Maybe you haven’t heard he400se at it’s best yet? Let’s hope!

hart audio cables. Go!

Quick update in my testing of the Qudelix 5K compared to my iFi hip-dac for sound only, not features.

I just don’t think the bright, slightly thin sound of the Sabre DAC in the Qudelix is for me. I’m far from a basshead, but I do like a richer, slightly warmer sound than what the Qudelix is providing me. The Burr-Brown DAC chip in my hip-dac just seems to be a perfect sonic match for my daily drivers, the HiFiMan HE-400se International.

The Qudelix is such a cool device. I would recommend it in a SECOND to anyone looking for a Bluetooth DAC/amp and who likes a brighter sound signature. The bright Sabre DAC in the Qudelix does balance the bassy, warm sound of my Meze 99 Classics better than the warmer Burr-Brown DAC in the hip-dac.

But since I’m probably selling my 99 Classics and sticking with the HE-400se as my daily drivers, the hip-dac sounds like a better match to my cans and ears.

A bit more testing to come today and this weekend …

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I liked the burr brown in the ifi idsd micro signature better as well. In fact, that is the best sounding amp I have heard period. The dx300 with the cirrus logic chips was similar.

The qudelix convenience simply won for me. If the wires don’t bother you, the hip dac must be amazing! It also has much more power over balanced. Which the he400se can probably take advantage.

Get balanced! Hart audio cables are awesome!

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