I was excited as soon as I saw Questyle on the exhibitor list because I knew it would be great to finally meet the guys there in person, having message them online since back in 2013 when I reviewed the CMA800R. Since then they haven’t stopped going for it, releasing new models, most notable were the two new DAPs the first revealed back at CES.

Me and Josh with Alden Zhao of Questyle Audio

The QP1 and QP1R were indeed at the show and actually getting the European launch, but I first want to talk about another product that they were showing off for the first time, but seemed to slip a little under that radar with all the buzz circling the portable devices. I am talking about their new pre-amp, the CMA800P. Like its sibling, the CMA800R, it also utilises current mode technology and basically allows you to get that awesome sounding tech into systems that obviously make no use of a headphone out. Of course your first thoughts would be to use it in a traditional HiFi system, feeding a power amp and that of course is an option (although not one they are really driving for), but the reason for the CMA800Ps existence is a little more surprising. You see Stax’s standard energiser (SRM 727 II) for their flagship earspeaker the SR-009 apparently has a pretty lack lustre pre-amp section so, Stax themselves commissioned Questyle to design a better pre for use with their reference system. I do want to mention that when using this set up, the 727 has a switch so that its volume control is obsolete and it works simply as a power amp with the Questyle unit controlling volume. It was being demoed with their CAS192D DAC, which implements their “True DSD” function that uses their own algorithm for DSD and not the standard DoP that industry has pretty much turned too. Now overall there is not much to say about the sound other that freaking epic, it was the best sound to come out of a headphone at the show, I have no regret saying that and its not like there weren’t a few other high end headphones systems to demo. In fact, just a 20m walk away was Stax’s own listening room and without Questyle’s CMA800P, the 009 did seem to lack an obvious something. Now there are some other options for the 009 such as Cavalli’s Liquid Lightning and the HeadAmp BHSE, both of which were not at the show but I have heard before and found exceptional (well I prefer the BHSE with the SR-007 but we are getting off topic) but I have no doubt that with the CMA800P, Stax’s own system would go toe to toe with them.

A rare picture of me listening at the show as I am usually taking the pictures, I think Alden took this and that is Gary guiding us through the CMA800Ps awesomeness, all cables are from Audioquest.

Don’t worry if you came here just to read about their new digital audio players, I am still going to talk about them. They have released two models, the QP1 and the reference version of it. Both look the same and have very similar features but the QP1R is just made with some better, more expensive components, has two hours better battery life and comes with 16gb more memory at 32gb. There are a few stand out features of these DAPs.

  • Current Mode Output – This is something they are one of only a few companies to use, with Bakoon being another. That being said they have a completely different way of going about it than Bakoon to a point the technologies aren’t really similar, although I am in no position to say if one is better, they are just different but what I can say, is from my experience with Questyle, I love their method. More so I am excited for it in a portable player because I think amp sections are generally lacking and this may combat that.
  • Dual Micro SD Card Slots – You may have noticed they are lacking internal memory, with the reference version having only 32gb. However they have opted to do what Astell & Kern used to do (I said moving to one slot was a big mistake on their part) and it means you can stick a 128gb micro SD card in each of the slot for a total of 288gb in the R version.
  • Assembled by Foxconn – For those who don’t know they also put together the original iPods so you get a very nostalgic feel when you use the scroll wheel.
  • Nice Specs – This can handle every file format, up to double rate DSD and 24/192 thanks to a Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC chip. It also has a very low output impedance at just 0.19 ohms. You also get a true line out although no digital out.

I have gathered I blabbered way to much now and will leave you with some quick sound impressions (QP1R). I only had time to test with my Heir 10.A CIEMs and I found the sound to be quite thick, with some well layered bass. The treble did seem a little calm and easy and if I am honest I didn’t think the pairing was spot on but could see how it would work with some other earphones. For Josh that was the case and he came away with a much more positive impression, saying “I found the sound versatile and luscious, it seemed like a really easy listen due to a slight softness and relaxed nature to the sound”. For reference he was using his Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors.

The QP1R is avaliable in two finishes.

For the rest of their exhibit they had a brand new CMA800R Golden that apparently has better components as well as the gold finish but was not available to try and they also had the pair of CMA800Rs used as mono blocks which I will wait to talk about another day as I will have my second CMA800R on the way shortly.

Yes that is one amp per channel and yes I will be reviewing it shortly!

It was great meeting Alden, Gary, Bruce and Jason at long last and have a picture of Bruce showing off the internals of the QP1R to finish!

Sonny Trigg