Questyle

I have seen mentions of Questyle products in the forum. I thought I would start a dedicated thread to share our experiences with Questyle products.

The Questyle CMA Fifteen was released one week ago but I don’t know if anyone here has yet listened to it.

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Questyle CMA Twelve
The Questyle CMA Twelve is a $1,500 combined DAC and headphone amplifier in one chassis that is at the top of the price range that I would normally purchase. So, being absolutely curious about what I might be missing, I joined the list for the Questyle CMA Twelve tour through Audio46. Audio46 kindly and most generously provided the demonstration Questyle CMA Twelve unit for a one week audition in my home. What I experienced using this DAC/headphone amplifier has unexpectedly turned out to be quite a shocking revelation to my ears resulting in a turn of events that has led me down a very unexpected path of enjoyment.

Questioning Value
For me, value is inseparable from gear evaluation. For decades I have lived as a devout disciple to the philosophy of the point of diminishing returns. Among my fellow disciples, are traditions of reassurance that too little improvement in sound quality is gained by spending over some predetermined amount of money. For me, this spending cap amount began decades ago at $150, then increased to $300, and then again to $800. Last year, my cap limit had raised all the way up to $1,200. The value of the Questyle CMA Twelve amplifier section is approximately this amount when one considers that it contains a DAC that might be valued somewhere in the neighborhood of $400. Consequently, I was dying to find out if this $1,500 DAC/amplifier would be a waste of time or worthy upgrade.

Amplifier Section
I decided that I would compare the amplifier section of the Questyle CMA Twelve to seventeen of my favorite and popular solid state amplifiers of my collection. I was particularly interested to see how the Questyle CMA Twelve would compare against my very favorite of the bunch, the Rebel Audio RebelAmp $500. The RebelAmp is a giant killer when paired with certain headphones of my collection. In some combinations able to outperform costlier amplifiers such as my ultra-dynamic Headamp Gilmore Lite Mk2 $800 and my ultra-detailed Ray Samuels Emmeline HR-2 $875.

For connection to the RebelAmp for the demo, WBC Mogami Amphenol interconnects from the DAC section of the Questyle CMA Twelve fed RCA input on the RebelAmp. A front panel switch on the Questyle CMA Twelve facilitated easily switchable A/B amplification comparisons. From the get go, the amplification section of the Questyle CMA Twelve demonstrated extreme competence with a variety of headphones. Having fallen in love with my RebelAmp over the past few months, I initially preferred its’ organic warmth over the sharp amp section of the Questyle CMA Twelve. The RebelAmp presented a sweeter, warmer, bloomy smooth intimate sound that I had grown to love and have become accustomed to hearing. Conversely, the amplification section of the Questyle CMA Twelve manufactured precision within a detail oriented presentation that was a sharp contrast to the organic round full sound of the RebelAmp. It became apparent that the Questyle CMA Twelve had very good technical qualities. This included evenly distributed and precise imaging across the sound stage in conjunction with a high degree of instrumental separation that might likely benefit studio production work. I however preferred the RebelAmp’s relaxed smooth blend of instruments that formed a comforting, intimate, and enveloping realistic ambiance that I could easily lose myself within the music. Unfortunately, my excitement over the prospect of uncovering further proof of the RebelAmp’s greatness was short lived. Instead, the amplifier section of this $1,500 high-end Questyle CMA Twelve crushed each one of my preconceived notions one by one. As listening commenced, and more time passed, my ear began to hear and appreciate so much more from the Questyle CMA Twelve than I could have anticipated.

The Questyle CMA Twelve brain burn-in grew within my being. Meaning, my ears and brain began to hear characteristics that I had been initially unaware of. Since my brain had become accustomed to the magic of the RebelAmp and formed a bias towards many of it’s particularly formidable characteristics, brain burn-in was a prerequisite to making comparisons between headphone amplifiers. An appreciation for the heightened precision of the Questyle CMA Twelve manifested each time one of my biases for the RebelAmp melted away. I continued to listen to a variety of tracks switching A/B between the amplifiers. I could now distinctly detect multiple characteristics of the Questyle CMA Twelve that exceeded the RebelAmp’s. For one, the perceived image of instruments upon the soundstage was so precise that each time I returned to the amplification of the RebelAmp I could not help but feel that instrumental separation had manifested into a sort of defocused blur. Not blurred to a large enough degree to detracted from my enjoyment. However, enough unfocus that I began to find myself leaning towards a preference for the precision provided by the Questyle CMA Twelve. Enough to suggest that in a blind A/B test, that most would probably choose the Questyle CMA Twelve over the RebelAmp. So, the answer to my quest was a resolving “No.” My precious RebelAmp, that I prize above all other solid state amplifiers of my collection, could NOT outperform the Questyle CMA Twelve in terms of sound quality save for the ability to create a warmer intimate up-close presentation. What quantifiable ratings can I assign to the amplifier performance of the Questyle CMA Twelve? With my top performing planar headphones, the amplifier selection of the Questyle CMA Twelve is favorable with over ninety percent of my music. This would safely allow me to also place it at the best amplifier of the bunch. So, congratulations are in order. Questyle, I hereby award your CMA Twelve amplifier first place.

Just as I wrapped up this listening comparison with my favorite headphones, the UPS man knocked on my door and delivered a pair of HifiMan HE6se V2 $600. So, I threw the HE6se V2 on the rigs. I began the entire listening session over again, comparing all of the amplifiers to the Questyle CMA Twelve using my new favorites the HE6se. The Hifiman HE6se V2 blew me away and is likely to replace the Monolith M1570 as one of my two favorite headphones. But, that is another story for another day.

Some of you will likely ask me how certain amps in the comparison stacked up against the Questyle CMA Twelve. So I will provide a brief summary.

Amplifiers that came close or possibly sometimes excelled with Audeze LCD-X (2020), HifiMan Ananda, and HifiMan HE6se V2 headphones:

1st place - Questyle CMA Twelve
2nd place - Rebel Audio RebelAmp
3rd place - Schiit Jotunheim 2
4th place - Schiit Jotunheim 1 (Discontinued, readily available used)

Amplifiers that came close or possibly sometimes excelled with Monoprice Monolith M1570:

1st place - Questyle CMA Twelve
2nd place - Rebel Audio RebelAmp
3rd place - Ray Samuels Emmeline XP-7
4th place - Singxer SA-1

Notes On Runner Ups
Questyle CMA Twelve has turned out to be quite an excellent piece of gear and a spectacular value. It is worth noting that the Schiit Jotunheim also had the Multibit DAC card installed so I figured I may as well let you know that for those of you that want to save lots of money, that are looking for an alternative to the Questyle CMA Twelve that the Schiit Jotunheim 2 at $600 with the Multibit DAC card is a very good budget alternative that does not achieve the performance of the Questyle CMA Twelve, but does not disappoint at it’s price point. The only thing that bothers me is that the Schiit Jotunheim 2 does put out heat from the top from it’s vent holes compared to the Questyle CMA Twelve that is barely warm. One plus side of the Schiit Jotunheim 2 is that it does take up a smaller footprint.

I could not help but notice the similarities of the front jacks and switches of the Questyle CMA Twelve to my $540 Singxer SA-1 and I get the feeling that someone out there just might be wondering if they sound the same. Hooking them both up to an A/B switch, I was met with very similar qualities. Both provide very technical and detailed presentations. However, on A/B comparison, the Questyle CMA Twelve is superior. The Singxer SA-1 is sort of a baby Questyle CMA Twelve. If you already own the Singxer SA-1, you may not want to upgrade if you are already content. An upgrade to the Questyle CMA Twelve would gain you clarity and precision but similar characteristics are found in the Singxer SA-1 at perhaps sixty percent of the amplification performance at perhaps fifty percent of the price.

Will I Upgrade?
Previously, I would never have considered the Questyle CMA Twelve. I entered into this trial fully expecting to inform the headphone community not to purchase the Questyle CMA Twelve. Instead, I am now wondering if I should liquidate all of my headphone amplifiers and upgrade to the Questyle CMA Twelve. How very unexpected this all has turned out for me.

DAC Section
I am in the camp that believes that cheap budget DACs are good enough, again due to the point of diminishing returns, which is of a magnitude greater when considering DACs compared to amplifiers. So, even though I think many would be willing to spend the money for the improved sound of the Questyle CMA Twelve DAC section, I could easily stay content enough with a thinner sound of $100 DACs. The lessened quality sound is easily distinguishable to my ears yet it does not detract from my enjoyment of music when the A/B switch has been removed from the equation. The one exception being my $200 Schiit Multibit DAC card in my Schiit Jotunheim 2 all in one headphone/DAC amplifier. It only sounds better on some tracks on the rare occasion that I am in the mood for colored multibit sound. But this is not enough to make any real difference. Perhaps I might not appreciate a substantial improvement until I have upgraded to a very colorful DAC such as the very popular and highly acclaimed Schiit Bifrost 2.

However, for the rest of you that would like me to make a statement on how the Questyle CMA Twelve DAC performs against my mostly $100 DAC collection. Yes, the superiority of the Questyle CMA Twelve DAC is most clearly evident through an A/B comparison. Thinner $100 sound versus full bodied purer sound from the Questyle CMA Twelve. I think the majority of listeners would likely agree that the Questyle CMA Twelve is a superior DAC. It does propose quite a modest price for the upgrade over $100 DACs if one values the DAC section of the Questyle CMA Twelve somewhere around $400 of the Questyle CMA Twelve’s $1,500 msrp. In terms of value, the CMA Twelve is quite tempting. Plus, the DAC is already built into the unit for combined convenience if one is looking for a tidy setup. The DAC value is a conundrum of personal choice that one has to decide for themselves.

The Final Verdict
Clearly, I have been thrown a curveball. The Questyle CMA Twelve has caught me off guard with amazing performance along with tempting value. In quantifiable terms, I enjoy the Questyle CMA Twelve eighty percent of the time over the RebelAmp as a headphone amplifier. I enjoy the Questyle CMA Twelve nearly one-hundred percent of the time over my large collection of headphone amplifiers and $100 DACS. I can wholeheartedly recommend the Questyle CMA Twelve. It is a very good value. Particularly to those of you that are currently looking for an upgrade from entry level gear or someone looking to purchase their first headphone gear setup.

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Three month follow up:
The limiting factor for my listening with the Questyle CMA Twelve has been the internal DAC. Just as I have read from generic warning others about being stuck with the DAC when using all in one units, I have let myself fall victim. Once I upgraded to a Schiit Bifrost 2 DAC the RebelAmp started beating out the Questyle. Only the Focal Elegia and the ZMF Aeolus sound better on the Questyle from my headphones. I am pulling out my hair that I am not able to play the Bifrost 2 through the Questyle CMA Twelve’s capable amplifier section. So, I now know why Marcello was asking about my DAC usage three months ago. I was wrong to state in my writeup and to tell him that a DAC improvement would not change my opinion of an amp. The Schiit Bifrost 2 DAC upgrade was much more of an upgrade than I had anticipated and I can’t even enjoy it through the Questyle .
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In short, the RebelAmp has surpassed the Questyle CMA Twelve with most headphones due to the limited DAC and no way to input analog.

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Yeah, its a shame. I saw someone open it up and install some analogue inputs so they could, but looked like a lot of effort. I really like the CMA Twelve when I had it.

From that I moved to a SparkoS Aries Amp and Bifrost 2, then to the Qutest. That was a killer combo. Lot more clarity and punch/dynamics over anything else I’ve heard. From that I dumped it all and just use a Chord TT2 now, as the DAC, headphone amp, and preamp to a Schiit Aegir into some Harbeths. Can’t say I really miss anything, can’t be happy with that setup, can never be happy haha.

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Ain’t that the truth. We never stop looking. Do we?

Similar to your story, I keep finding more toys, that make me want more toys. I am just a lot further back along the journey than you. Those Chord DACs get me just by their looks without ever even hearing one. Especially that Chord DAVE.

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I appreciate this follow up. I think it’s rare to find people very stuck in the “law of diminishing returns” to actually venture out and admit that these amp and dac upgrades make a difference. It’s funny how a DAC has unlocked your rebel. Can you imagine what a better Dac can do? Can you imagine what a better amp can do for that HE6se you have? The law of diminishing returns are in full effect with headphones but I didn’t experience it as much with dac/amps.

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At the risk of pointing to a slow topic that I created years ago, you all need to learn how to be satisfied with a 95% solution. Of course for me that is a Bifrost2/Lyr3 stack and a Mjolnir modified STAX SRM-T1S for estats, a couple of years after my original post.

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That is a wonderful take. Thank you for pointing out the other side of the coin. It sure would save me lots of money to be content. I surely cannot complain about the performance increases I have gained over the past two years currently with ZMF Aeolus and HifiMan HE6SE V2. With the Bifrost 2 DAC and the RSA HR-2 and RebelAmp I could see me ending with those. But, with headphones I do have my curiosity still poking at me egging me to at least try the Audeze LCD-XC for some closed cans. I am going to give this more thought. Thanks pennstac.

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Questyle CMA Fifteen

The Questyle CMA Fifteen has been loaned to me directly by Questyle as part of a European tour of the unit organised on Head-Fi. The only request was that I leave an honest review on Head-Fi, after having the chance to try the unit for 2 weeks.

They have not made any further requests but I will leave the link to the official Questyle page for the product, as it is the least I can do.

The official page is located here: Questyle CMA 15 - Questyle CMA Fifteen - Desktop DAC/Amplifier HiFi

Intro…

This is my first experience with a Questyle product but I have heard very good things about their products in the past. They focus mainly on DAC/Amp combo units, both desktop and mobile, with products ranging from just over 100€, in the case of their cheapest portable solution, up to the top of the line, which happens to be the CMA15 I have today, that comes in at around 2300€ (at the time of creating this review).

Now, 2300€ can in no way be considered cheap, at least in my books, but it is true that there are many other options out there that cost a lot more, so what exactly are Questyle giving us in exchange for this amount?

Well, I will get into details as we move on, but straight of the bat they are using an ESS ES9038PRO DAC chip, along with an amplification circuit that can pump out up to 2W @32 Ohms (in balanced mode), along with a huge range of connection possibilities, both for inputs and outputs. So, let’s take a look step by step.

Presentation…

As this is part of a tour, the packaging has not arrived in the best of conditions, however, the unit is well protected inside two boxes and even though it has travelled thousands of kilometres already, the packaging is still holding up, therefore, I have no doubt that the packaging is more than enough for new units being shipped directly to the purchaser.

Inside the box we receive the CMA15 itself (inside a cloth bag to protect it even more), a remote control, a user manual, a cd with the USB drivers (which I haven’t needed on Windows 10) and an IEC lead.

There is nothing really exciting about the contents (other than the unit of course) and it actually reminds me of the way the majority of pro audio equipment is packed, basic but enough. Maybe they could have included a USB cable in order for it to be usable straight from the box but, to be honest, anyone purchasing a product of this price will already know what cables they are going to need since they will have researched the product before buying. Well, at least I hope they will have researched a >2k product before buying, if they can afford to purchase a >2k DAC/Amp without any research, then they shouldn’t have any issue spending a bit more on cables :wink:

Build and aesthetics…

Let me say that the build quality of the CMA15 is excellent, it is well assembled, made of metal, and seems like it will be able to withstand anything you want to put it through.

As far as aesthetics, this isn’t going to be for everyone. The “pro audio gear” reference I made in regards to packaging also applies to the aesthetics. The looks (and build) are very much a “no frills, just works” approach. It does remind me of many pro audio units that I have used and installed in the past, units that are not meant to look like a centre of attention, they are just meant to sit in their allocated space and do their job.

The whole case is of black metal, with visible hex screws on the top of the unit and a machined faceplate on the front, sporting multiple LEDs and toggle switches. There is also a lot of text on the front, including some oversized (in my opinion) logos, which add to the industrial look.

Personally, I am someone who has a 22U rack in my living room and have been surrounded by pro (industrial looking) equipment for many many years, and while I do appreciate good looking equipment, I have absolutely no complaints about the looks and build of the CMA15. It is right at home located between patch panels and processors.

Functionality…

There is a lot of functionality included in the CMA15 but once more it takes on the pro/industrial theme. Things are simple to use and to access, there are no menus, screens, or any other hidden settings (except for the gain switches that are on the bottom, which I guess could be considered hidden), it just keeps up the “no frills” way of getting it done.

Starting on the front, from left to right, we have:

On/Off toggle switch - Pretty self explanatory and it has an LED above it to show status.

14x indicator LEDs - Yes, 14! There is an indicator LED for each state, the only one that changes colour is the MQA light, which changes depending on if it is a Studio Master or not. If you are wondering why there are 14 LEDs, it is easier if you just take a look at the photo above rather than me listing them all.

Source button - This push button allows you to cycle through the inputs, which are USB/Optical/SPDIF/Analog & Bluetooth (each of these is indicated by its own LED (part of the 14 mentioned above).

Function switch - This allows us to select Headphone Amp or DAC mode. By setting it to the HP AMP, the unit works as both a DAC and a headphone amp, while selecting DAC mode deactivates the headphone outputs. We get another 2 LEDs above this switch to indicate state.

Bias Control - I must say that I have no idea what this switch does. The switch allows selection of High or Standard. I played around with them and while I sometimes felt it made a difference, other times I could tell absolutely no difference. Another 2 LEDs show the state of this switch.

4.4mm Balanced output - This is pretty explanatory also I believe, here is where your headphones with a balanced 4.4 connection get plugged in.

6.35mm Unbalanced output - Same as above but for the unbalanced output.

XLR4 Balanced output - Another balanced output, using a 4 pin XLR in this case.

Volume wheel - A nice large and smooth volume control.

Moving around to the back of the unit, once more from left to right, we get:

USB Inputs - The unit has both a USB-B and a USB-C input, although both of these are linked together, so only use one or the other.

Optical input - For optical cables.

S/PDIF Input - For coaxial cables.

Analog input - An unbalanced input on two RCA’s.

Preamp Output mode switch - This allows you to toggle between “Studio” and “Standard”, the difference being the maximum output level (14dBu for Standard and 20dBu for Studio).

Preamp/Fixed mode switch - This allows you to select if you want the volume control of the CMA15 to control the output level from the analog outs or if you want them at a fixed level.

XLR Outputs - Balanced analog outputs

RCA Outputs - Unbalanced analog outputs

Bluetooth pairing button - To enter pairing mode

Bluetooth antenna - This is actually a square box and does not have anything sticking up above the top of the unit (a good thing in my opinion). I can’t say how much this affects reception, if at all, as I only tried bluetooth briefly while the unit was sitting on my desk.

Voltage switch - Set to 220v or 110v depending on your location.

IEC input - The power input for the unit.

Finally, on the bottom of the unit, we have the gain switches for the headphone amplification output. For some reason there are 4 switches that all need to be set in order for the gain to change, these are labelled as L+ L- R+ and R-. I am guessing that it is due the way the amplifier is implemented but I really haven’t done much investigation on the subject. I just found it strange that they wouldn’t opt for a single switch that activates a relay that can change all four of them at once, but I am far from an expert, so I’m sure they have their reasons.

That is it for the unit itself, however, we still have the remote control that is included with the unit.

The remote is actually a universal remote that works with other Questyle products, so there are quite a few functions on the remote that don’t actually do anything on the CMA15. The basics are there, like input select and volume up/down, but that is about it. To be honest, my headphone related equipment is nearly always within arms reach anyway, so I don’t use a remote very often, and when I do, input select and volume is enough functionality for me anyway.

As far as how all of this works, well, there isn’t really much to explain. You connect the cables you want, the headphones you want, you turn it on, select the input, and away you go. The most complicated thing is probably connecting to bluetooth for the first time as you would need to press the pairing button on the back, but even that is too simple to need an explanation.

My use case…

Usually when testing a DAC, Amp or combo, I will use it on my desk at work for a few days and then move it to my desk at home where I have the possibility of patching it into the rest of my system.

In the case of the CMA15, I also used it on my desk at work for a week or so and then I moved it home but, instead of just sitting it on my home desk, I actually installed it inside the rack to get a feel for what it would be like to have this as my only headphone amp and DAC in my system. Well, not quite only DAC, as I still need other units for my various speaker set ups etc. but certainly as my main DAC, the one that is used for all of my local listening.

My only complaint with the unit as far as an all-in-one for desktop use would be the fact that you need to lift up the unit to access the gain switches. As someone who uses different products each week, due to reviewing items, I switch between IEMs and headphones quite a lot, and also between items that have very different sensibilities. This means that I need to switch the gain depending on what I am testing but this is more of an inconvenience than anything else.

The CMA15 has more than enough power for anything that I have thrown at it this week (admittedly I don’t have any headphones that are extremely difficult to drive, such as a Susvara or HE-6), and it also works well for controlling the speakers that I have set up in my office, using the balanced output to drive a QSC amplifier (that powers my ceiling speakers and subwoofers) and the unbalanced output to feed a JDS Labs Atom (an amplifier that I always use as a reference point).

When moving it to my home set up, with it installed in the rack, things are a little more complicated. Here the gain switches are even more difficult to access, as it is impossible to change them without removing the unit from my rack (which is not the most enjoyable of tasks), but I don’t need to change them as much at home due to having multiple setups that I can use depending on the headphones or IEMs (although, if this were to be my only DAC/Amp unit, it would be more of an issue).

My biggest issue with using this as my only unit at home is the lack of a balanced input. While I am happy to feed the CMA15 with a digital input for music listening, when I am actually working with music or playing bass etc., my main output is via balanced XLRs. This means that I need to either run something like an RDL converter to turn these into an unbalanced RCA signal, or come up with some other form of “making do” with the CMA15.

Obviously this is not something that will affect the vast majority of users looking at this unit, as they will be using this for music enjoyment and not music production, but it is something that affects me personally and would stop me from saying this is a perfect studio option.

Other than that, I have no complaints as far as functionality, the unit does everything I need and want, keeping up with the “no frills” way of doing it.

Sound…

As I have said in the past, I really don’t like trying to explain the sound of amplifiers and DACs, as I am never sure what I am actually hearing and what I just think I am hearing, but at the end of the day, as long as my brain enjoys what I am hearing (true or not), that is the only thing that is important for me.

I have tried the majority of headphones that I currently have available, along with a selection of IEMs.

In general, my impression is that the CMA15 is just as clean and detailed as anyone could ask for. There is no specific “sound” to the output, at least to my ears, although I could see some people referring to it as too analytical, if those people are looking for “warmth” or “smoothness” in their systems.

Personally I am a fan of clean chains, even though I do enjoy things with a bit of smoothness to them for music enjoyment, and I have no doubt that the CMA15 allows you to hear 100% what the headphones are doing, without adding anything into the chain.

As far as IEMs, with the gain set to low, I have had absolutely no issues with any of the ones I have used with the CMA15, however, I will say that it is a little too powerful for my preferred listening levels. All of them sounded like they should and as long as the unit was kept in low gain, with the volume at a low level (around 10-15% on the dial), I don’t think that I could ask for a cleaner test tool for IEMs and I experienced no channel imbalance at these levels.

As far as headphones, the first ones I plugged into the CMA15 were the Arya Stealth. With these, I did find that I found the highest frequencies to be a little bright on some songs. Now, this could just be due to the fact that I mainly use the Arya v3 with the Asgard3, which does make them smooth out a little. This was certainly not terrible, it was just a hint of brightness that maybe stood out more because of it being my first experience with the unit, as I have not experienced it on many tracks since, nor with other planar headphones.

The next day, I gave the CMA15 a whirl with the HD6XX and I have to say that this is the best I have heard from the HD6XX in the years that I have owned them. I have said before (and discussed it back in my review of the HD6XX) that they are a set of headphones that I have a love/hate relationship with, loving them one day and hating them the next, even with the same source, but in the case of the CMA15, I tried them on various days and was happy with them each time. This is quite an accomplishment with me for the HD6XX :slight_smile:

Keeping up with a headphone a day (while using the CMA at work), the next up was the Hifiman Edition XS. I actually expected these to have the same hint of brightness that the Arya Stealth exhibited but it didn’t turn out that way. I found the sound to be nicely balanced, exhibiting the strengths of the XS without pushing them over the limit (something that I do find happens on occasions with the 789).

Over the following days, I tried multiple other headphones, such as the Ananda, HE400se, HE1000se, Arya v2 and the DT1990 Pro. None of them seemed to have anything strange going on when paired with the CMA15, they were just clean and sounded like they should. In the case of the Arya v2, I found that they paired very well with the balanced output of the CMA15 and it is one of the best pairings I have heard with them also.

When moving the unit to home, I did try a few more models but I mainly used the unit as a DAC to feed speakers and other headphone amps. It again did a very good job, without any issues, nothing standing out, just a clean and detailed signal, nothing to complain about at all in this regard.

Conclusion…

My impression of the CMA15 is that it is much closer to a professional piece of audio equipment than something aimed at the home audiophile. That doesn’t mean that it won’t make hifi lovers very happy with what it offers, but it doesn’t seem to be aimed at those that want fancy looking amps with particular sound signatures.

I feel that it could be easily used as a reference unit for any studio and only the lack of a balanced input stops me from saying that it is perfect for that task. If the studio is willing to feed it with a digital input, then it would fit this use case no problem, but if the main output is from a mixing console or interface via XLR, then this is the only limit to the functionality.

The aesthetics are also very “pro” looking, with a bit of an industrial touch, something that I have absolutely no issue with, although I am not overly fond of the large logos in the centre of the unit, but again, if treating this as a pro audio piece of equipment, the aesthetics are irrelevant. In the case of those who like to have their equipment on show in their living rooms, then this is not going to rival some of the artistic designs out there.

Power is ample for anything I currently have available, as is sound quality. There is no lack of detail and other than the brief experience of excessive brightness with the Arya v3, I have no complaints at all.

So that just leaves the question of price. 2300€ is a lot of money for a headphone set up, even though it is far from the most expensive options out there, but it is not a crazy price if we compare it to professional solutions that are out there, which is really where I feel the CMA15 competes. You can easily drop over 1k on a DAC with similar technology, plus another 1k on a similar quality amp, so it is not really overpriced in the grand scheme of things (well, everything is overpriced, but you get my point). Would I personally spend this much on an all in one unit, probably not, but that is because I am constantly swapping things in and out. If I were looking for an all in one solution, to replace all of my stuff, then I would consider it a little more.

As a closing note, a big thank you to Questyle, I am very grateful for them allowing me to test out this unit and I have enjoyed using it. I will certainly be paying more attention to their products moving forwards.

As always, this review can be found in Spanish both on my blog (here) and on YouTube (here)

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Questlye M15 - The Allrounder

Pros: Natural Sounding
Excellent Upscale grading
Driving Power is huge
True MQA decoding
Compact Size/Light Weight
Fabolus looking
Gain Switch
Bang for buck

Cons: Glass Panel, Can be broken if not carefull
Absent of Volume Button
High Pitch on some songs
Treble

Dongle has now become a must have auxiliary product for anyone which helps a lot to get better output from even a phone. Sometimes it may not be possible to buy or carry an external big size amp/dac or dap when you are travelling
Dongle has made that easy. From the beginning of the release the m15 has attracted so many people that i also wished to check it out

Previously I have used dongles but those were not as pricey as this one. So I was a little bit worried about whether it would be able to give me performances according to its price . The price was about 250$. But later I got relaxed after experiencing the Questyle M15
There was another dongle m12 from the same company at half of it’s (M15) price which was also a good dongle as far as I am oncerned.Yeah I cannot afford all the dongles but i always keeps updates from local friends and colleagues.

Specification:

OPERATING SYSTEM REQUIRED
Android phone and pad: Android 5.0 and above
PC: Win10 1803 and above
Apple cellphone: iOS (You need to buy an OTG cable for Lightning to Type-C.)
Apple computer: mac OS

DAC CAPABILITY
PCM: PCM: 32kHz – 384kHz (16/24/32Bit)
DSD: DSD64(1 Bit 2.8MHz) , DSD128(1 Bit 5.6MHz), DSD256(1 Bit 11.2MHz)

When playing audio, the data status indicator will illuminate one of the following colors:

Green: indicates the audio sample rate is 48kHz or less.
Red: indicates hi-res lossless playback.(Hi-res lossless refers to PCM 88.2kHz~384 kHz, or DSD64~DSD256.)
Magenta: indicates the M15 is performing the final unfold of an MQA Core stream.

OUTPUT INTERFACE
3.5mm standard headphone jack x1
4.4mm balanced headphone jack x1

OUTPUT POWER
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 &THD
Frequency Response: ±0.1dB(20Hz-20kHz)
THD + N:0.0003%
DAC:ESS flagship USB DAC chip ES9281AC

Features:
DAC Capability
Low power consumption, no overheating
Long battery life, longer playback
Unparalleled ease of use
Plug-and-play, no drivers needed
Your HiFi, anytime, anywhere
Metal housing, transparent cover
Minimalist on the outside, stunning on the inside

The M15 contains two of Questyle’s patented CMA (Current Mode Amplification) SiP modules, for a total of four CMA amp engines. This quadruple drive amplification circuitry gives an outstandingly strong output that can drive almost any headphone. Questyle’s Current Mode Amplifiers are characterized 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.

Unboxing:
Unboxing Experience was quite interesting for me. Come in a premium small black box . It was wise of questyle to use a small and light weighted box because in my country tax is sometimes implemented on the size of the box.
I got an extra type C to Ios cable & Black Leather Case (worth of 25$). But the original package does not have the ios cable. Apple product users need
to buy that cable separately at 20$
Usually the following items comes in the box

1 x Questyle M15 Ultra Portable USB DAC/Amplifier
1 x USB Type-C to USB Type-C Low Profile Cable
1 x USB Type-A to USB Type-C Low Profile Cable
1 x Print Material (Instruction Manual & Guarantee Card)

Appearance:
Small , handy , Compact size . Very light weighted. One of the side of M15 was covered with a glass faceplate which tends to see the inside beautiful structure of the M15
It also represents the transparency of the questyle that truely used inside the dongle. There are 2 ports on the dongle.
One is 3.5mm Single Ended (with CTIA support for headphones featuring phone calls) and the other one is 4.4mm balanced TRRS port. One the corner of the m15 there is a button to adjust the gain with high and low.
I was disappointed that there is no volume rocker button. I mean it is not mandatory but it helps sometimes. One the bottom of the m15 there is type c port to bypass the sound

Sound Impressions:
I have Actually used the high gain mode all the time when using the m15 with iems.its seems High gain always gave better output with great resolution to me. When using in high gain mode I have to set the volume to 50% . Its could be easily understand that the output has great amping capacity as well

The device I used was Samsung galaxy note 8 and my laptop. As mentioned on the specification I do not need any driver to install to use M15
The provided type c cable was good but I tried other type c cables as well. Those work perfectly without any issue. I liked the dd hifi tc05 instead of the stock cable. But I must say the build quality and material of the ios cable (Which needs to buy separately at 20$) was much better than the stock type c cable

When i first plugged the m15 in my mobile and played a song from spotify I was feeling what is this, is that the small chilli with extreme hot. The details , the energy , the transparency , the separation (although provided by the IEM,but I got better using the m15 that couldn’t be found with others dongles) was too much good
I am an iem guy so all of my testing unit was iem.

Questyle m15 is a kind of neutral sounding dongle, Sound is natural and crystal clear, Good clarity.
It was providing a non-colorized sound. very detailed and wide
While using it with IEMs in my room i didn’t get any background noise with 50% Sound. It was like I was sitting in a quiet place.
It has really surprised me because I have never found my iems can detach me from the sound of the world. M15 got me recognized to my iems with their new identities.Because usually i didn’t get this kind of good result
My Iems were Little dot cu red, Rose technics QT9 M2ks/QT 7 pro 2 , Tralucent 1+X plus 10th year Edition, tri audio meteor, Kinera skuld, Anew x1, Shanling
m15 was also providing me a holographic realization while listening to music and giving me synchronous rhythm.
There was not any hissing or noise while using it.

The way it was delivering sound from low to high without any compression was really superb
Bass was good as well.Punchy, Not boomy.Sound does not fatigue. For me, excess bass could cause a headache. so bass was in good amount from the m15
I have tried to play some only vocal songs to better understand the vocal.Both male and female were great on the m15. The residue voices while finishing a line and about to start the next line was easily audible.
For songs with music the Voices were forwarded then the other instruments and I could easily separate where the instruments were playing.There were remarkable spaces between the instruments with good texture.
The way m15 upscale the whole music to upper grade without any issue was not only good but excellent. Airy vibes were present there as well
But sometimes I was facing some issues with treble. It was providing high pitch on some songs which really hurt my ear.
The soundage reproduction was accurate and had good depth.

I have sometimes used the m15 for about 3/4 hour at a stretch. The battery drain of my Samsung galaxy note 8 was minimal. The heat generated on m15 was very much low. I have used the leather cover with it. But i have checked the dongle temperature by removing the cover also. Does not produce any excess heat
It got heated slightly

Conclusion:
I would like to rate it 5/5 after examining it for a long period of time.As I keep news about the local audio market in my country I get to learn that people are going crazy behind it. This has become their first choice if the budget is not a problem to them.
Spending 250$ for it is worthy but i would like to get a better type c to type c cable at this price point. Also Iphone users have to pay an extra amount of money for the ios cable. That could be provided free like some other brands.
I am hoping that the M15 will be my daily driver from now on . Because the output it is providing according to size is really praiseable.
For many people it was a problem for them not having a volume rocker button but i didn’t miss the volume button that much. Yes it was needed for me to increase the sound sometimes but i could increase from the phone

Highly Recommended. The Questyle M15 can be bought directly from Questyle or from local dealers. Questyle has many dealers around the world.

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