Beautiful picture as always.
I’ve noted a few people who have great pictures on here. Not too sure if this should be a whole new thread, but what camera’s / gear are you guys using? looking at you @torq @andrew and @darthpool specifically. I think some of your pictures have been top notch as well. I’m sure others have posted pictures of high caliber recently, but these are the ones I remember off hand.
Thanks for the kind words!
I do think this warrants a dedicated topic, so I created one … “Taking Audio Gear Pictures - Cameras, Tricks & Techniques”.
I’ll post my response there, as well as quoting your post, so we can keep the main product threads about the products.
A post was merged into an existing topic: Taking Audio Gear Pictures - Cameras, Tricks & Techniques
Questyle QP2R - Stream-of-Conciousness Impressions/Review
I find myself, rather unexpectedly, in possession of a “Space Grey” Questyle QP2R courtesy of @andrew and @taronlissimore (that’s my unit in the picture at the top of this thread). Since I am amidst a rather copious backlog of reviews, I thought it might be interesting to cover this unit in a “stream of consciousness” fashion … with a full review to follow.
This means I will be adding to the commentary as I find things, good or bad, worth commenting on - or where I want to go into more detail on something. And you should definitely note that my thoughts about audio gear tend to evolve from first impressions through more extensive listening, so bear in mind that I may change/refine my opinions as the process continues!
Finally, feel free to ask questions … it’s easier to handle those while still in the midst of listening to/using something than it is after the final review is done and one’s focus is elsewhere.
It’s a neatly packaged little unit. A sliding outer box gives way to a fold-out inner tray. Inside that is the unit itself, with protectors overlaying the entire front of the unit, and a separate one on the scroll wheel – which you’ll need to remove before use. There are a couple of other little boxes, one has a USB-A to USB-C cable in it, another has a little cloth/bag, and the remainder are instructions. Nothing overdone, just neat, professional and protective.
The unit l looks nice and feels good in the hand. I was surprised to find that the navigation/scroll wheel is mechanical and actually rotates … rather than just being touch-sensitive. I also noticed there was something rattling when I moved the unit … more about which in a bit.
Features & Specs
The raison d’etre for this unit is to deliver a high-resolution capable portable player married with Questyle’s “current mode amplification”, something unique in the portable space as far as I’m aware (well, excepting the QP1R). Consequently the focus seems to be on sound quality rather than various me-too flashy features. And speaking of features … the main ones, along with their pertinent specs, as as follows:
- Questyle’s patented “Current Mode Amplification”
- Pure Class A operation with BIAS Control
- USB DAC support.
- 3.5mm (TRS) Single-Ended Output (38mW @ 32Ω, 9mW @ 300Ω)
- 2.5mm (TRRS) Balanced Output (70mW @ 32Ω, 38mW @ 300Ω)
- Mini-TOSLINK Digital Output (adapter included).
- AKM 4490 DAC
- 0.1Ω Output Impedance
- 64GB of internal storage
- 1 microSDXC card slot (up to 2TB, biggest shipping card is currently 512GB)
- Supports PCM up to 32 bit/384 kHz and native DSD up to DSD256 4x)
- USB-C connection for faster charging/data transfer
The unit itself is quite solid feeling, and the fit/finish of the casework and the glass panels on the front and back is excellent. No gaps or irregularities there at all. The “Space Grey” (lighter than Apple’s version) finish on this unit looks very smart, and feels nice to the touch … it’s not slippery at all and doesn’t show fingerprints.
The sockets and connections are all very solidly anchored within the unit - there’s no play there. They are slightly recessed and the surrounding cut-outs are large enough to accommodate the biggest connectors I use without issue.
One oddity with the build concerns the mechanical scroll-wheel, center button and the volume knob. Much like an original iPod, this wheel actually rotates, and has tactile feedback as it does so. Similarly, the central button is the tactile type. This is where the build is a bit less impressive – as these elements all have some play in their mounting and if you gently rock/shake the unit they rattle audibly. It’s not a big concern, but it does take away some from the otherwise excellent finish/feel of the unit.
Operation & Interface
The UI is navigated with the scroll wheel, central button and four touch-sensitive buttons with haptic feedback (feels like a vibration motor from a cellphone). The screen itself, which is smaller than it looks (it’s just the top 1/3rd of the front panel … I think it’s 2.4" on the diagonal), is not touch-sensitive. It’s not particularly bright, even on the brightest setting, and is relatively low-resolution compared to any modern smartphone.
Layout and navigation is simple, consistent and no-frills. You can browse your library in the usual ways (artist, album, genre, track and special section for DSD) and you can also just browse the folders of the internal storage or memory card hierarchically. Playlists and gapless playback are both supported. A “playing” option takes you to the summary of the current track that is playing, complete with album art. File details are accessible here as well.
There are many configurable options on this unit. Everything from the expected gain choices (high, medium, low), the unique BIAS setting (high and low), how sensitive the touch controls are, graphic EQ (with two custom presets) and so on. Right on down to things like the direction you turn the volume control for ups and down can be set here - which is good because by default it worked in the opposite direction to my expectations!
My first instinct was to pair the QP2R up with my Empire Ears Zeus XR (Adel), and fire up “Vegas” by “The Crystal Method”. I have no idea what subconscious drives prompted this, but it was rewarded with one of the most explosively dynamic renditions of this album that I’ve heard. About half-a-dozen replays of “Trip Like I Do”, at progressively higher volumes, I came to my senses and started to explore the unit and some other music … but not before indulging in the sub-bass growl and rumble of “Cherry Twist” and “High Roller”.
The Zeus XR (Adel) are not known for excessive, or even emphasized bass, so the level of bass texture, articulation, combined was right where I’m used to with these IEMS the raw bass energy, rumble and slam here was unexpected. Quite fun too.
The other thing that was immediately apparent with the Zeus XR (Adel), and with other sensitive/low-impedance IEMs is that the QP2R exhibits quite a bit of hiss (noticeably more than, say, a FiiO X5iii). This is not apparent with ER4-XR or any of the full-sized cans I quickly tried it with. This beyond the usual “can’t hear it once the music starts” sort of thing; play Deep Forest’s “Radio Belize” (Comparsa) and despite the 20 second intro not being particularly quiet (it’s not faded in etc.) it’s not until the main swell of the music that the hiss becomes inaudible. The level of hiss does not change with gain, bias or volume setting.
Using an iFi iEMatch inline with the IEMs completely silences the hiss, and doesn’t seem to muck up anything else in this case (sometimes I find using iEMatch sucks the life out of the sound, but it didn’t do that here).
Note that any further comments I make on sound using IEMs should be assumed to include an iEMatch. The only IEMs I have other than the ER4-XR exhibit too much hiss without it (not the case with, say, the Sony WM1A or WM1Z).
More on Sound …
Exploring a bit more, my initial thoughts are that, hiss-excepted (or defeated), the overall sound is very good … typical AKM4490 in terms of overall signature (a hint of warmth and a little bass-bloom), but with very fast and dynamic amplification, articulate and detailed bass, a nice airy top-end, an even and detailed midrange … and unusually authoritative drive for something which is not particularly high powered. It’s fine with IEMs, but not such a good match with full-size cans (HD660S are fine, in balanced mode, but HD650 struggle, for example). Very low OI, so possibly not a good match for Andromeda. You can change the bias level to keep the thing in class A mode even with more difficult loads (at the cost of battery life) … more about this, and details on the sound as I listen further …
Indexing speed on a full 256GB microSDXC card, on all-lossless 16/44.1 FLAC files was about 1,000 tracks per minute. Battery life seems about as advertised at 10 hours or so.
More, especially on sound, as I spend more time with the unit …
Wow class A amplifier in such a small package sounds like a great little unit. Shame that it doesn’t provide enough power to larger cans. Is this with high gain enabled? I can drive the 650’s just fine with my Fiio XIII.
Very nice review as always though. That gold on their website looks PRIMO!
Have you tried using it as a DAC for the PC standalone or with their HB unit?
Just a fair warning, the gold in person is actually moreso rose gold than actual gold like the picture suggests. Still looks nice but its not quite the color the stock photos show off.
I did try it with the HD 800S and while it could certainly get it loud enough, it felt like it was missimg something. I am not a huge fan of the HD 800 S though so I want to try it with some power hungry headphones I enjoy. We have some of Audeze’s LCD series swinging back through the office soon so I would be able to give a better impression with those.
I do like rose gold, but the picture makes it look like a brick of bullion!
It very much depends on the headphones.
With HD660S it’s fine using the balanced output, and in high gain and on high bias it does a very nice job. With the TH-X00 you don’t even need the balanced output and it’s more than loud enough while remaining well controlled. The Focal’s are all fine. With the HD650 as the volume goes up, things get progressively more unsettled - starting with the bass and then eventually making the upper mid range and treble regions a bit coarse.
The music and your listening level are also a factor.
With quieter pieces you may have to turn the volume all the way up and still not be able to get it loud enough on the HD650, something that can be further exacerbated with DSD content (there’s a setting to boost DSD gain which you will need here).
High-gain and hi-bias.
I’ve not tried the XIII so all I can say there is that it will have a bit less power, but is able to use more of it due to having double the voltage swing - which matters with higher impedance cans like the HD650.
The HD650 out of the X5iii I had was okay but certainly not as good as they can sound; bear in mind I’m used to listening with gear that has a massive abundance of power, typically with impedance matching capability, so what I think of in terms of what the HD650 can do/how it scales might be skewed a bit.
Thanks! Just getting started though … will post more as I use it more …
Not yet, but I’ll give it a spin as a USB DAC today. I don’t have the hub unit.
More on Hiss:
Before I touch on anything else, I wanted to come back to the hiss the QP2R exhibits. It might be down to the unique current-mode amplification in use, as I am finding that it is a lot more variable between different IEMs than most DAPs are.
Zeus XR (Adel) (21Ω/119dB @ 1mw) - the hiss is obnoxious from the single-ended output and unusable from the balanced output. I consider an iEMatch as absolutely required for this pairing; and with one inline then the hiss is completely removed.
Etymotic ER4-XR (45Ω/98dB @ 0.1v) - yields no hiss at all from the single-ended output, and only barely there if you really listen for it on the balanced output (not audible at all if music is playing, no matter how quietly).
CA Andromeda (12.8Ω/112.8dB @ 1mw) - hiss is definitely audible, but it is not at the problematic levels that occur with the Zeus. It’s notably more present on the balanced connection. Probably not bad enough for most people to bother with using an iEMatch - though personally I would both to completely eliminate it, and to even out the bottom end (typical of Andromeda with very low OI sources).
And then I thought it’d be interesting to round up a few less expensive, and popular, IEMs to add to the list, so Amazon Prime Same-Day it was:
I’ve only tried one of them so far … and will limit my comments here to audible hiss …
- KZ ZS6 (15Ω/105dB @ 1mw) - hiss is at a very low level single-ended - you have to listen for it. Again a bit more audible in balanced mode, but still at a very low level. But not in evidence at all once the music starts - even super-quiet passages.
So the short version, so far, is that the Zeus XR seems unusually afflicted here (they are hiss-prone in general). Which may be down to it’s driver configuration, unique crossover, or just an unusual interaction with the current-mode output of the QP2R.
Otherwise the presence of hiss is highly affected by the IEMs in use, and units that I would have expected to exhibit much more prominent noise levels are not doing so. Which is a good thing.
It’s actually fairly light when you compare it to other high-end DAPs. Especially the Sony NW-WM1Z which is an actual brick of copper that they hollow out. That’s not to say the QP2R is light but its not going to cause your pants to fall down like some DAPs haha.
So if there is hiss in IEMs and not enough power for hungry headphones, how does it fair with mid tier offerings like M50x’s or Hifiman HE’s? Nice to hear the Etymotics had no hiss.
Curious to see how this compares to your WM1Z, I’m considering this as an upgrade to my WM1A if I can find one at a good price.(Hopefully the Utopia trade in with free QP2R event will help this search)
Let’s be clear … all DAPs exhibit hiss with IEMs. How much, and with which, and even how audible it is (as everyone has different low-level hearing thresholds), varies a lot.
Excepting pairing the QP2R with the Zeus XR, the levels of hiss with various IEMs seems about typical for a DAP in this range. A bit less with, say, the Andromeda or SE846, than an X5iii, X7ii or a DX200, and a bit more than a Sony WM1Z/WM1A, ZX300, the A&K3XX series or a Chord Mojo.
Again, it depends on how hungry and how they are hungry. In this case higher impedance cans present more of a challenge than low-impedance-but-inefficient ones.
Excellent with the AT-M50x, though I would personally apply a little EQ with these and the QP2R to done down the bass a little. I normally only listen to the M50x via SonarWorks.
I can’t comment on the HiFiMan models as I don’t own any.
It pairs fabulously with the Focal Utopia, Clear, Elear (needs EQ) and the Elex. The QP2R’s extremely dynamic delivery and detail retrieval, combined with some modest extra warmth down low, fit really well and drive authority is also very solid. Fairly easy to see (hear) why these lines are being paired up.
TH-X00, TH900 Mk2, ZMF Eikon are all, also, excellent with no notable issues that aren’t simply a function of the signature/performance of the headphone itself.
More details/specific on each as I get more listening time.
I’ll get to proper comparisons against that probably sometime tomorrow.
I just got the headphones.com email on that. Took me a moment to realize it, but if I’m reading it correctly you get BOTH the $1,000 Utopia trade-in AND the QP2R for $3,000 (instead of $5,299). That’s barely more than a used Utopia goes for on it’s own.
QP2R and Focal Clear:
While getting my Focal Clear review posted, I spent the afternoon listening to the QP2R with, appropriately enough, the Clear. And that is a genuinely excellent pairing. The superlative dynamics of both yield a terrifically energetic performance, tonality is a fantastic match, and even on medium gain, there’s more than enough power to drive the Clear with authority.
USB DAC Functionality (macOS) - UPDATE!
I finally managed to get the USB DAC functionality to work.
Despite having already tried different cables (including the one that Questyle ship in the box), it turned out the problem WAS a cable issue.
Diagnosing this was made more difficult by the fact that the other cables worked fine for charging and data transfer - just not for use in USB DAC mode. Re-testing this shows the same behavior still. The cables that are now working are nothing exotic (one Amazon Basics, one Anker).
No actual configuration was required, and the unit correctly reported it’s capabilities to Audirvana+ and Roon, as well as to Core Audio.
The unit charges at the same time is playing, which means you can run it at your desk/off your laptop, and when it comes time to disconnect you’ll have more power available than when you started. There does not seem to be a way to make it not charge while playing.
Playback in USB-DAC mode is audibly indistinguishable to when playing form internal memory or from a microSD card. Which is to say the sound remains excellent!
One recommendation … don’t have your ear phones in when you connect it to your PC/Mac, as when it switches to USB-DAC mode it often makes some bizarre squealing noises. This only happens as you plug it in and the unit is otherwise perfectly behaved once it has initialized.
I tested using both macOS 10.13.6 (High Sierra) and 10.14 (Mojave) and it worked perfectly with both.
Starting playback is met with some clicking (through the heapdhones/IEMs). This does not persist into the music actually starting. This is the case with both PCM and DSD content, regardless of bit-rate.
I’ll leave my original comments in the spoiler below.
I also got a chance to try using the QP2R as a USB DAC. I run exclusively on macOS for “production” purposes at home (a Windows laptop gathers dust in a closet for when I need it for updating firmware on devices that don’t officially support Macs and/or the very rare tool that is Windows only), so this was with macOS 10.13.6 (High Sierra). This did not go well. While the QP2R was instantly recognized by macOS when I set it’s USB mode to “DAC”, and it advertised it’s claimed capabilities accurately, I was resolutely unable to get any music out of it. Even with basic 16/44.1 PCM tracks, while the QP2R’s display showed the right bit depth and bit-rate, what came out of the headphones was start-stop garbled nonsense. No combination of settings either in system audio configuration, the Audio-Midi Utility, or my various players (include the raw OS sound stream) would work properly. I tried three different Macs, two different cables, and every setting I could think of. Units were rebooted/reset between attempts. Firmware on the QP2R is at 1.0.4 (the latest build). A support ticket and some research is now in order. A quick search finds no reported issues here. I will try the same thing with a Windows 10 (latest non-insider build) tomorrow.
Charging seems to take about four hours regardless of what sort of charger I connect to the QP2R. Be it a regular USB port, a native USB 3 or USB C port, an 18w charger, or various chargers from 29 to 60 watts that support USB PD (Power Delivery).
Paired the QP2R up with the KZ ZS10 today … and that’s an excellent pairing. Much better than the ZS6. Tone is more even, just a bit more bass presence, and the ZS10 are not plagued with a sometimes piercing and sibilant top-end.
Very enjoyable right out of the box and the ZS10 respond well to the excellent dynamics of the QP2R.
No progress on getting the QP2R to work as a USB DAC with macOS.