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Questyle M15 Portable DAC/Amp Review

A Miniature Powerhouse of Stellar Sound

Christopher Coke Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

Questyle is a new brand to us here at MMORPG.com, so when the company reached out to us to see if we’d take a look at its new portable DAC/amp, we weren’t sure what to expect. We were in for a surprise. Despite its tiny size, the Questyle M15 is not only powerful enough to drive just about any headphones or headset you’d care to throw at it, it manages to make them sound even better. At $249, it doesn’t come cheap, but this pocketable little soundcard can plug into any PC or smartphone for an instant sound quality boost. 

Specifications

  • Current Price: $249 (Amazon
  • Material: CNC machined aluminum
  • Color: Black
  • DAC: ESS flagship ES9281AC
  • DAC Capability? 
    • PCM: PCM: 32kHz – 384kHz (16/24/32 Bit) 
    • DSD: DSD64 (1 Bit 2.8 MHz), DSD128 (1 Bit 5.6 MHz), DSD256 (1 Bit 11.2 MHz)
    • MQA Support: Yes
  • Output Interface: 
    • 3.5mm standard headphone jack  
    • 4.4mm balanced headphone jack 
  • Output Power: 
    • 3.5mm: RL = 300?, Po = 11.97mW, Vout (Max) = 1.895Vrms, THD+N=0.00045% 
    • 4.4mm: RL = 300?, Po = 22.60mW, Vout(Max) = 2.624Vrms, THD+N=0.00057%
  • Frequency Response: ±0.1dB (20Hz - 20kHz)
  • THD + N: 0.0003%
  • 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
  • Size (LxWxD): 2.4 x 1.1 x 0.5 inches 

Questyle M15 - What Is It?

The Questyle M15 is a portable DAC and headphone amplifier designed to connect to smartphones and PCs. At its core, it’s not unlike traditional dongle DACs: you connect it to your device and it takes over all of the audio processing duties. Look past that basic functionality and you have something really special here, complete with plenty of power and added features to make it worth seriously considering if you’re in the market to upgrade your listening experience. 

One of the biggest differentiating features — and there are several — is that it’s designed to connect to your PC and your smartphone. Its small size belies a surprising amount of power and outstanding audio processing. Make no mistake, there is enough power and capability here to completely outmatch whatever is built into your PC or smartphone. It’s an instant upgrade that, depending on your current headphones, offers you room to grow. 

Removing the audio processing from inside your device (whatever that might be at the moment), is almost always a good idea. Modern computers and smartphones boast about their audio processing capabilities, but they’re almost always an afterthought tacked on for marketing points. Even the best chipsets, like the ESS Sabre DAC built into my current Gigabyte motherboard (and many others), suffer from being placed on the same plane as the rest of your computer. Electrical noise raises the noise floor, hiding details and dynamic range that you may not even realize you’re missing until you try something better. 

Smartphones are worse. If your phone has a headphone jack at all, the chances are it’s not very good. For better or worse, smartphone manufacturers have put their focus on their Bluetooth audio. But if you want the best listening experience, wired headphones are still the way to go. 

That’s where the Questyle M15 comes in. Inside its tiny shell, it features a patented amplification system with four separate amp circuits. The design promises lots of power and low power draw, two things that seem contradictory but somehow manage to be true. Out of its single-ended output, it’s able to drive up to 1.9 volts RMS (VRMS). Its balanced output boosts that to 2.6 VRMS. That’s enough power for even demanding over-ear headphones. Those Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pros popular on Twitch? Your phone and computer can’t run them, but this can.

There’s also a selectable gain switch, allowing you to upgrade to higher power for more demanding headphones. The power delivery is clean without any audible noise at all to hide details and vanishingly small distortion (well outside of what a human can actually hear). Put another way, despite having lots of driving power, you’ll be able to hear every single detail of your music and games.

That amp circuitry is paired with a class leading ES9281AC DAC from ESS. This DAC supports traditional PCM audio up to 32-bit, 384kHz. It also supports DSD up to DSD256. It also features full support for lossless codecs like FLAC, ALAC, and MQA for Tidal’s highest resolution tracks. Frequency response clocks in at 20Hz - 20kHz, so it can deliver full dynamic range across all of the major file types and streaming platforms. 

Apart from being highly pocketable, the M15 also features a uniquely interesting design. It’s built with a durable aluminum chassis, but one side has been swapped with tempered glass to reveal the circuit board. There are indicator lights for data rate (green = standard audio quality, red = high audio quality, pink = MQA),  and gain level, adding even more visual interest. It’s genuinely cool, though will almost certainly get scratched given enough time in a pocket. 

The only thing I’m left wishing for with this device is onboard volume controls. Without, you’re still left pulling your phone out of your pocket or clicking the speaker by your taskbar. Overall, though, this is a very well-made and designed unit!

Questyle M15 - Listening and Daily Use Impressions

What matters most with a device like this is how it sounds and how easy it is to live with. Let’s start with the latter first. I’ve spent the last two weeks with the Questyle and have actually moved it up the review pipeline because I’ve enjoyed it so much. 

The magic of the M15 is really its combination of power and size. It’s small enough to slide into a pocket and take on the go with rarely a second thought. When there is a second thought, it’s almost entirely based around that cool but concerning glass side panel. I’ve inadvertently put my keys and coins in the same pocket before quickly realizing and changing pockets. There’s no damage yet, but I’m just waiting to see a scratch on its face. 

What it really provides is peace of mind that I can connect nearly any headphone to it and know that I’m going to hear it at its full potential. The deeper you go into the world of headphones, “headroom” and “scaling with power” become important considerations, the M15 is a powerful and high-resolution solution to drive virtually any IEM and most over-ear headphones with volume to spare. 

This is also important for gaming and using the M15 with a computer. Available power and the DAC chip responsible for processing sound directly translates to audio performance, even with a gaming headset. If you’ve been connecting your headset directly to your PC, you’ll be in for a noticeable jump in volume and the details you’re able to hear in games. Those added details can add up to an advantage in skill-based shooters where hearing your enemy before seeing them makes the difference between scoring a kill or waiting out a respawn timer. 

The listening experience is one of the best I’ve ever had with a dongle. There’s something happening here, a combination of somethings, that makes music and games sound great. First off, the dongle is dead quiet, so you can hear much more detail. Small things, like the decay of cymbals or lingering notes strummed on the guitar, background details, atmospherics, these all come through cleanly. The Questyle gets out of the way in this regard and lifts the veil so you can hear every bit of your music or game. 

The detailed presentation of the M15 extends across the frequency spectrum. I tested it with an array of headphones, but my favorite was the Yanyin x HBB Mahina. The earphone has wonderful extension from deep rumbling sub-bass and airy, glistening highs. It’s also very detailed in its own right and doesn’t hide much. It’s an excellent fit for music and is even a solid choice for PC gaming (review coming soon), and the M15 matches its extension and doesn’t blunt or overly accentuate any feature. 

The most surprising test was with the Truthear x Crinacle Zero, a headphone that costs 1/5th the price of the Questyle. But talk about synergy! That earphone came to life in a way it simply would not with any other dongle I own, including the iFi Go Bar, which is the M15’s biggest competitor in this space. The bass became richer, the mids and treble popped with excitement and life, the soundstage widened. It was truly impressive. 

When it comes to sound quality and daily living, the M15 is an absolute pleasure.

Final Thoughts

At $249, the Questyle M15 will unfortunately be out of reach for many listeners. With that in mind, it’s always worth putting this type of device in perspective. As a simple dongle DAC, it’s a tall order. But, its design lends itself well toward completely replacing your PC audio as well, without taking up extra space on your desk or inside your case. It’s a portable upgrade for wherever you may go and is an audible upgrade for all types of content. If you have a pair of headphones you’re happy with, upgrading your DAC/amp/soundcard is the logical next step. 

So, should you buy the Questyle M15? If you fall into the camp above, where you have headphones you’re happy with but crave more, yes. If you’re looking for excellent sound quality in and out of your house, yes. But, if you’re on a budget or need added features like Bluetooth connectivity, it’s best to look elsewhere. 

Across my testing, the M15 is probably the dongle DAC I’ve enjoyed most, and it’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed with their listening after they’ve given it a try. If you’ve gotten this far and haven’t shied away from the price, this is a portable DAC/amp hybrid well worth considering.

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Some articles may contain affiliate links and purchases made through this will result in a small commission for the site. Commissions are not directed to the author or related to compensation in any way. 

9.0Amazing
Pros
  • Easily pocketable
  • Outstanding sound quality with excellent detail
  • Plenty of power
  • Unique, eye-catching, and informative design
  • Plug and play compatibility with PC
Cons
  • Very expensive
  • Glass panel is likely to get scratched
  • No built-in volume controls


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight