Extraordinary sound signature
You listen to what is there, no coloration
Tweaks make in-hand use better
Detail retrieval amongst the best
Cons: Nothing if you want pure sound
Questyle QPM ($1995): Who needs touchscreen? Not this beauty.
Another hearty thank you goes out to Todd from TTVJ for the superb loaner tour. Repeating what has been said before, he is a boon and a true benefit to the audiophile community for providing his wares. The finest gear I have reviewed so far have come from his shop, including the Meze Empyrean and Apex Pinnacle II. The Questyle QPM follows the footprints of those stellar wares, up the Rocky’s towards Yellowstone, and this makes me very happy.
My time is a loaner of one week. At the end, the unit will be sent to the next lucky recipient. And I must give props to the gent in front of me. The QPM came is such superb cleanliness that I thought the unit was brand new. I thank Todd for including me yet again, and this is approaching a full dozen tours in which I have participated. I appreciate his support of my feeble efforts and applaud his willingness to share the wares.
QPM Philosophy (grammaticism corrected):
The quest has no limits. QPM, the flagship portable lossless player of Questyle, goes beyond itself once again. The more complicated the world is, the more concise we are. We hope you can enjoy high-quality music in an easy way anytime and anywhere.
Inheriting Questyle’s distinctive design styling, the QPM is visually impressive for its tucked twist, curved surfaces and smooth lines, as well as a more comfortable grip. Different from the last two generations of Questyle players, 3D glass is used for the first time on the front and the rear panel of the QPM. By overcoming various challenges of processing, different materials are combined together perfectly, which makes the QPM a work of art.
Questyle produces some of the purest items I have had the pleasure of hearing. When one thinks of “crystalline” for example, the image of purity comes into play. That much would be true. But to go beyond that, there are degrees of purity if you look hard enough. Think of the cold crisp morning after a snowstorm, nary a cloud in the sky with no breeze. None, nothing, period. One could rightfully think that wherever the scene of mind (or person) is, that it would be the same. And that would be a falsity of feeling, both mind and body. To experience that crystalline in the prairie states yields a day of 10-20F, with a certain degree of “wetness.” Still extraordinarily beautiful, but vastly different from a -10 to -15F crystalline day in northern Wisconsin. On those kinds of days, that newly fresh powder is of such consistency that even as it falls off of branches and bushes from birds foraging, there…is…no…sound, and the scene is perfect. Pictures can capture the scene, but never do it justice. You must experience it to fully feel that chill inside the marrow of your bones. Shaking from that cold as your coffee ices over, you shiver but cherish that sound, that sensation, that inner core feeling of crystalline.
And here is how Questyle approaches their sound. They do not mess with giving the sound reproduction a “flavor” or style. They produce such cleanliness that some may think of antiseptic in response. But in fact, the opposite is the result. It is of such quality that you completely understand from whence Questyle comes as you course through not only that serene, perfect crystalline northern Wisconsin morn, but do so from inside the gray matter of the Questyle engineers in such a manner that your coffee warms and all is good and right in the world.
To say that I appreciate how Questyle approaches sound would be a massive understatement, and an insult to the QP2R that resides in my abode.
On the website. Suffice to say this is a complete unit, with many functions (OK, format came across wrong…)
In the Box:
Scroll wheel protectors
Questyle QP2R ($1299/999)
Cayin N6ii ($1100)
Shanling M6 Pro ($700)
Dethonray DTR1 ($549)
Empire Ears Legend X (w/ Eletech Socrates cable)
DDHiFi Janus (w/ optional Air cable)
Twenty one pilots
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Whatever else popped up…
Following what is the typical Questyle DAP packaging, there is an all-white sleeve with the name on the front. The back has information about some of the inner parts of the QPM such as bias control, and fully balanced. Some specifications and dimensions along with connectivity are also listed. Nothing much, but when you step into this price range, you probably already know the specs and features.
A magnetized cover pulls open allowing you to take out the all-black paperboard box. Opening like a book, the left side holds smaller paperboard “envelopes,” which contain the felt carrying sleeve, the scroll wheel protectors, and instruction manuals. A quick start guide is also included. The right side has hard foam, cut out to hold the QPM. That’s it. I never fault a company for a lack of packaging demarcations nor over the top information. To each their own, but the Questyle simplicity just fits.
Since I already have the QP2R, my expectations were high. I was not disappointed. Superb of build, without a scratch or mismatch to be had the QPM was nie on perfect. The only “flaw” I could find was the rattling of the scroll wheel. This is an upgrade from the QP2R, which sticks a bit to me. Easily rotating, you scroll to various functions, without issue. The black on black on black is impeccable with no visible flaws save the screen protector on the back. Something I can easily forgive.
The rounded corners make the QPM easier to grip and hold, without being slippery versus the QP2R. A nice feature when you realize you are holding $2000 worth of DAP. I would strenuously recommend a case, and the Miter folding case I have for the QP2R works. It does cost close to $50 but is easily worth it to me for its impeccable craftsmanship and fit. This is a fabulous case. Get one.
Black is usually a fingerprint magnet, and this is close to that. But, the gloss of the black pretty much hides those stinky prints, giving the QPM a look of Darth Vader-like foreboding. I really like the look, and this alone could be enough to prevent me from putting the unit into a case. Understated beauty would be apt in description here. The top is graced by the volume protective “structure” as well as 4.4bal and 3.5se jacks. It seems more and more are going the 4.4 route, which is not bad. An easy switch between the QP2R’s 2.5bal and QPM.
I expected nothing less than perfection from the Questyle, and that is what I hold in-hand.
Running the familiar and straightforward Linux OS, the QPM does not have a touchscreen. And that is all right by me, as all of the impetus is thus put forth to the overall sound capability. And it is good. But more on that later.
Using the scroll wheel, which is better than the one on my QP2R, is easy and allows you to manipulate through the options easily. Each option (playing, category, playlists, browse files, and settings) has multiple features within, again making for easy maneuvering. A long press on the “rewind” arrow in the top right of the scroll wheel area, takes you back to the previous screen and from the menu, the long press takes you back to the currently playing song.
Search is accomplished via either of the greater than/lesser than signs below the scroll wheel. Hold on down and you quickly scroll through the menu you are currently on such as “track.” Still not the quickest, but a limitation of a non-touchscreen player. To change gain settings, you do have to enter the settings submenu, so be prepared to live with the gain setting of choice. No matter as you know the sound is superb.
Something I appreciate, which carries over is the structural support surrounding the volume wheel. Large and easy to access, the support gives the QPM a look of strength and support. Side buttons are easy to access and highlighted with a svelte silver “ring” for easy recognition. All three are the same size, but we should all know by now which button is which. The power button is also highlighted, and easy to use. The bottom has the recessed card slot (a pita to use…), and the USB-C slot in the middle, which doubles as connectivity when used as a DAC. Speaking of that, there is a good chance that the DAC inside the QPM might very well be the best DAC you own, so why not hook it into your system? Especially knowing the price…using the excellent AK4490 chip certainly helps.
Functionally the QPM works with a straightforward manner, and the learning curve is easy to garner. Again, simplicity first and foremost. No surprises, and all worked well.
The first thing I notice is that to me this would be classic Questyle sound. Crisp, clean and clear. With details the likes of which you might find when looking through a soap bubble you have just blown on a fine spring day. Everything just fits. For me it is harder to discern the finer points of the typical bass/mid/treble in a DAP, but an overall signature can be discerned by yours truly. For instance, the “typical” Shanling sound to me is on the warmer, richer side; while early FiiO was on the brighter side. The Questyle lies on the more neutral side, but do not let that fool you. Hook up something such as the Legend X, replete with Socrates cable and you can get some rocking awesomeness going.
Alex Fox on Nuevo Aires sounds simply sumptuous on the pair just mentioned. In fact, that combination has provided me with close to the best sound I have heard through the QPM. That is how fine the Questyle is, and how it is presented. My goodness, the sound. So, in that regard, the QPM is easy. It sounds honest, open, airy and detailed clarity of the sort only heard in rarified air. Call it character without imprinting a certain flavor on the sound.
I found myself bouncing between various headphones quickly to discern if what I heard was indeed that character of which I speak. Moving to the excellent Janus with the Air cable, Vintage Trouble’s song Soul Serenity provides a good representation of the note provided by the QPM. Layering is excellent, with clear (but not separating the sound to distinct layers) demarcations of note, which showcases the individual tones without separating them from the whole. Call it highlighted individuality within the realm of a cohesive core grouping.
Sound stage as a result is not necessarily defined by the dimensions of usual report, but of how the instruments and vocals are presented within that “cube.” With better height than width, and a good solid depth, we get the impression of a vast heighted space, that is not really too narrow as one might think based upon listening. That clarity of sound can “trick” your senses into hearing good space. And that space is filled with detail-oriented sound to boot, so it is all good. Coming with two user changeable Eq settings, you can tailor both, which can build in up to a 6dB gain or lowering of the frequencies. I preferred the clean lines of no Eq, but many do tailor the sound to their tastes.
Questyle QPM ($1995) v Questyle QP2R ($1299/999):
Purchasing a QP2R from Todd after a tour review, I was struck with how clean the sound was within the QP2R. I do note that I must turn the volume up to twice the number present on the QPM with the QP2R. this is not volume matched but brings all into near-sync in my mind. Bass is a bit punchier in the QPM, giving a really nice visceral sound to it that the QP2R cannot quite match. I do keep the QP2R around as my reference DAP though, so that makes sense. Paired with the Dunu SA-6 and 2.5bal, Alex Fox sounds sublime with good reach on both ends, and you can definitely hear the family resemblance.
As for which is better? Well, the updated QPM brings itself into the latest options, and provides such a good sound. I do get a sense of better air between the notes, which provides a sensory feel of openness and provides the platform for that superb detail retrieval. Better indeed.
Questyle QPM ($1995) v Cayin N6ii ($1100):
Purchasing the N6ii after a tour, I also ordered the E01 motherboard (a day before the E02 came out…). Having the A01 board, which I really liked, once I plugged the E01 in, K have not gone back. Never mind that it is only 3.5se. I don’t care. The sound is fabulous, and I relish the purity that comes forth. Running either pure Class-A or Class-AB you can change instantly the sound to tailor your needs. On Nuevo Aires, running Class-AB, there is deep, rich bass and a staccato of vibrancy present. Mids are most definitely pushed more forward than the QPM. Almost too much going from one to the other, but a turning down of the volume allows me to enjoy the sound. I can feel the bass to a much higher degree and the difference becomes quite clear, so to speak.
That said, the QPM gives the user a more detailed response, with better control of that mid sound. Going back to back, the N6ii can seem a bit shouty and demanding, with that push down low. The QPM presents and lets you decide. Running strictly Class-A on the Cayin does bring the picture closer to the QPM, but that AB sound is so good, that I do mostly leave the choice there.
Different critters after the same hearts, and both can be thought of as really quite fine units for the merits they present.
Questyle QPM ($1995) v Shanling M6 Pro ($700):
I openly admit that I am a Shanling fanboy. From the original M5, which I still own, to the M3s, M2x, M0, M5s, and now the M6P; I have truly appreciated all of them. There may be better options at all of the levels (debatable, haha), but that Shanling sound fits my tastes the best. On the warmer, richer side of life, I was hooked from the M5 on and while I did send the M5s off to @Wiljen, I purchased the M6P to take its place. I would love to try out an M8, but really feel no need since the M6P has come along. Garnering more listening than the others combined in my house says all that it needs to.
I do run the dual DAC most of the time but vary between high and turbo for the gain. This is where it gets really tough. If you love the sound so much, why would you move on to another? To me, it feels kind of like cheating on your lover. And that is ain’t good. So here, we have to discern the difference that make the QPM so good with the sound. The Shanling simply cannot match the detailed response of the Questyle, even on dual DAC. And to me, it really is not meant to. My take is that the M6P is meant to have soul, to get into your marrow and live, breathing succulent sustenance into your body the whole while playing. And to me it does. As good as the clarity is from the QPM, I am driven back to the Shanling for it gives me what I want. Passion, pure listening passion. Call it me being an over the top fan, but to those of you who have ever owned a Miata, MGB or Spitfire know exactly of what I speak. There are much better cars, but damn, they cannot put that grin on your face like the trio mentioned. That is the Shanling. The QPM is the Rolls of the crowd, which is a darn fine car to drive in itself. So you decide.
Questyle QPM ($1995) v Dethonray DTR1 ($549):
Continuing the car analogy, the DTR1 would be the stripped SCCA Autocross Miata. Nothing extra needed nor wanted. You want purer performance? That’s it. Similar to the QPM here, but on a more “primitive” level, I included the DTR1 in this comparison because it is so darn good. Simple to use, powerful, and with a designer who is constantly trying to improve the unit by pushing software updates out, this is akin to squeezing that last 1/16oz of performance out of the Miata by changing tire pressure at quarter-psi increments. It does make a difference.
Sound-wise the DTR1 is spectacular, especially when you consider the price is roughly ¼ of the QPM. To fit this amount of performance into a compact frame, which has thankfully increased in build quality is something to behold. This is the Miata, which shows at the track, and after once look the others realize it may look janky but know that performance is first and foremost top notch. I would tame that a bit and say that the clarity is a bit behind the QPM, while bass reach is a bit better across the board. But as I stated that is so hard for me to discern. Using the same songs and same SA-6 across the sources, it is pretty much a wash. With a more compact sound a bit than the QPM, there is not the height in the DTR1, and there can be a bit of “seemed” congestion. But that is really not the case, it is only perceived, and to me is really all of that mind-numbingly good sound permeating every cranny of gray matter and our brain becomes jumbled and confused as a result.
I make no bones about it here. The Empire Ears Legend X/Eletech Socrates is far and above my favorite poison in which to listen on the QPM. Oh…my…goodness, such devilry I have on hand, passioned beyond my ability or worthiness in which to listen. Jesse Cook on Paloma or Byzantium Underground is sublime and makes me sweat. I could very happily “settle” for this trio for a good long time. They are perfect together to me.
The Dunu SA-6 makes for a fine comparison as well. I thoroughly enjoyed the Dunu and the bassy sound emanating from its inner core. While not the top like the LX, the Dunu acclaims itself so well here that you are satiated with the sound.
Finishing with the Audeze LCD-3, using an LQi 2.5bal cable, the QPM can play nicely with the big cans. Finishing the sound off with the familiar Audeze bass, the QPM drives the LCD-3 quite well. The sound permeating my ears as expected would be marvelous. Hooked with a Wywires Red 2.5bal/DDHiFi 2.5-4.4 adapter, the sound is complete across the spectrum, with nary a miss. Detailed and infiltrating clarity is wrought from the LCD-3 to my ears. Excellent width of soundstage adds to the pleasure, and Alex Fox’s excellent guitar works its way slightly above central inside my head. This is a fabulous combination as well, and one worthy of a listen with the QPM.
*Rant: Much has been said lately about “needing sufficient power to drive a headphone properly.” While I agree, and there is the need for power to drive headphones that can need it, a common theme coming out now is that you need XYZ amp to drive ABC headphone and flush out the sound of certain frequencies. Or you need that amp to properly drive headphone. Again, I agree somewhat, but to tailor an amp so that it can minimize discrepancies in the sound characteristics of a headphone/IEM is simply silly. No amp can make a mediocre sounding headphone sound great just like a fancy set of wheels and tires on a Yugo look great, but it’s still a Yugo for goodness sake! So, listen to what you have, and be happy. Another amp will not make you happy, unless you are in the market for one. The only one that will be happy is your vendor as you peel away the greens from your bank account.
I will openly admit that the price put down from the off. $2000 for a DAP, without touchscreen seemed high, very high. But as I made the motions throughout the week, I tested the QPM across many different headphones, IEM’s and against many sources. Much music came through the unit as well. I grew to appreciate its simplicity and singular focus on providing the very best sound it could; with nothing left but that. And it works. Like the race-driven stripped Miata mentioned above or that vintage MGB or Spitfire, which were meant to be driven the QPM is meant to listen across your collection of headphones. And it works (there’s that phrase again).
While having a touchscreen is wonderful, as you can then surf the web, play YouTube videos, games, email etc; I would argue that is what your Smartphone is for. And if you notice on most Android DAP’s of the time, you can shut off all extraneous background “workings” to completely focus the unit, its chips, amp and DAC on the primary call…music. Here, the QPM blatantly states, forget that; I already did that. Play your game AND listen at the top of the sound. I might even consider this a summit-fi DAP not only for its price, but for the extraordinary sound, which emanates from within. And after all, that really is the point; to listen. I finish my time bouncing between the LX/Socrates combo and the LCD-3/Wywires combo and it is good.
I again thank Todd from @TTVJ for another extraordinary tour unit. The QPM takes what the QP2R has and raises it without question to amongst the best DAP’s out there.