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Questyle NHB15 Review: Wired IEMs for a Generation Without Headphone Jacks

Christopher Coke Posted:
Hardware Reviews 0

Questyle is a brand we’ve visited before here at MMO with one of our favorite portable DACs/amps (soundcards) ever, the Questyle M15. It just released its latest set of in-ear monitors, the NHB15. Complete with a built-in hi-res DAC and amplifier, these earphones come ready to connect directly to your smartphone or laptop thanks to its modular USB Type-C cable. At $349 MSRP (and $299 as of this writing from Bloom Audio), these earphones don’t come cheap, but they’ll surprise you with how good they sound.


Questyle NHB15 - First Impressions and Key Features 

The Questyle NHB15 aren’t exactly the first pair of earphones that Questyle have produced but they are a follow-up of sorts. Late last year, the company unveiled the NHB12, a lossless pair of earphones catering to Apple users. The NHB15 are a USB-C version of those same earphones, finally making it available to listeners outside of Apple’s ecosystem.

These aren’t your average earphones, even when compared to others that use a USB Type-C connection. While it shares the built in digital-to-analog converter (DAC), it offers a higher resolution and much more complicated amplification system in pursuit of higher-resolution audio. Given Questyle’s history in the DAC and amp segment of the audiophile market, this type of product makes a lot of sense. 

In-line within the cable is a high performance DAC and amplifier that is able to compete with larger full-size desktop units in resolution and distortion. It’s able to reproduce audio well beyond the 48kHz required for “high-res” standards and instead tops out at 192kHz. That sample rate is limited to 16-bit but it also supports 24-bit at 48kHz. For all intents and purposes, that’s lossless audio, allowing you to hear your music, games, and movies at full resolution and detail. 

The DAC itself follows the same revealing design as the M15 with a transparent side to give you a peek at the internals. It’s a neat aesthetic but also serves a purpose. Two indicator lights tell you at a glance the resolution you’re listening to. 44.1kHz or below is shown with a single red light. High-res, 48kHz or higher, is shown with two red lights. 

Along with this higher caliber of resolution, Questyle also quotes extremely low levels of distortion. 0.0002%, in fact, which is at a level where you would need to be a machine to measure it. In truth, DACs have been able to produce audio with vanishingly low levels of distortion for years, such that it’s more viable to worry about the drivers in a pair of earphones distorting before an amp/DAC setup, but it’s nice to know that that, for the cost, the NHB15’s system measures so well.

These earphones also have enough power to drive the actual earphones exceptionally well. There’s plenty of headroom and, as far as earphones go, they’re not the easiest to drive with 38 ohms of impedance. 

That driving power is important because it’s entirely possible to use this cable with any standard pair of 2-pin IEMs and achieve the same lossless playback. Questyle, I’m confident, would not certify all of the promises within the marketing using its own earphones, but as a consumer, this lends the package a lot more value. I happened to try it with a range of other earphones, from budget QKZ pairs to $1,000+ sets from Thieaudio and there was nothing it didn’t power with headroom to spare. 

And just like that, there’s no more reason to carry a separate dongle or player in your pocket anymore, and you’re free to enjoy the improved sound quality of a wired connection.

With all of that in mind, I also really appreciate that Questyle includes a second standard 3.5mm cable in the box. If you’re buying an expensive pair of IEMs in the first place, it’s likely that you already have source gear that you’re fond of, and these earphones are also still capable of interfacing with it. In a real way, that makes this package much more of a bundle than a standalone product and helps bring its value at $349 into perspective.

Questyle NHB15 - The Earphones Themselves and Sound Impressions

So much of this review has been dedicated to the cable, so let’s get onto what you’re really wondering about: the earphones themselves and how they sound. 

In the package — which is presented quite nicely with a multilayer unfolding box — you’ll receive the NHB15 earphones, a leatherette carrying case, five pairs of silicone tips ranging from extra small to extra large, and both cables. Every piece gives an impression of quality, with some room for improvement, of course, and that begins with the earphones.

Each earpiece is made of a two-part metal shell and is finished with a mirror-like gleam. The faceplates have a focal point with angles and contours coming off of this center to catch the light. It reminds me a bit of the MOONDROP Kato, though less angular and comfortable to wear. There are no angles at all on the inner portion that touches your ear. 

The earphones use a single, customized dynamic driver to create their sonics. This single driver arrangement allows each earpiece to be quite small. I was able to fit them into my ear quite easily using the included tips, but note that the nozzles have a lip that makes them a bit wide. I had to use an extra small tip in my left ear when I typically use a small or even medium. Once they’re in place, however, they stay put very well and didn’t cause any fatigue or discomfort. 

The cables that connect to each earphone are fine. The driving capability of the DAC cable is very good, as is its sound quality. The cables themselves are pretty thin, however, and, though pretty with their silver plating, have a tendency to coil and get tangled. At this price, I would love to see them expanded into a multi-core braid to give the set better parity with the competition. 

Sonically, they’re winners. I think a lot of people will find them to deliver an enjoyable sound signature. Though there’s a lot of audiophile targeting with the marketing and high-res talk, they actually offer a very mainstream friendly sound signature. There’s lots of bass and plenty of impact to kick drums and explosions but they also retain a good amount of high end sparkle and residual detail. 

This balance allows it to be a very versatile pair of earphones. I have a wide ranging library of music I enjoy and everything from Eminem (hip-hop) to Eydis Evensen (neo-classical) sounded great on these. 

Bass has a thick body and hefty sense of impact. There's a tactility here that bass fans will surely enjoy but it doesn't go overboard. The mids, while slightly warmed, don’t become muddy. The highs are smoothed but retain a shine that makes cymbals sound realistic. 

These are detail powerhouses but they’re no slouch. I was able to pick out the usual textural cues in distorted guitars that I’m so familiar with. Smaller touches, like the classic fingers on fretboards, are present but I didn’t find there to be a heightened sense of clarity like something like the Moondrop Blessing 3 provides for around the same price. Since it’s only using a single driver, you trade some of that crystalline quality for a smooth cohesiveness to its sound.

I was also impressed at its soundstage. It’s wider than I expected with more depth than width, which is a pleasant surprise. 

For gaming, they’re pretty good! I like that you can just plug them into a laptop and go, knowing you’re getting full-fidelity sound. Compared to most gaming headsets, you’re certainly going to make out more detail and experience a higher quality sound, but a great open back will still provide a more spaciousness  sound overall. I would recommend Dolby Atmos for the best gaming experience with these, but the bass-rich yet adequately detailed signature makes these a solid bet for gaming as well as music. 

Overall Impressions and Final Thoughts

Overall, the Questyle NHB15 are an expensive but impressive pair of IEMs. They’re made to “just work” in a way that most of the audiophilic competition isn’t. You don’t need extra hardware to experience the best sound, and you’re also not left settling for compression just to have a USB jack attached to your IEMs. They aren’t the absolute best in any single domain but instead opt for a middle-ground, balancing performance with ease of use, and have durability that’s main for the rigors of daily use. When also factoring in that its USB DAC cable can be used with any pair of 2-pin IEMs, you have a solid value offering for a particular type of listener.

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

8.0 Great
  • Very good clarity
  • Well balanced sound that doesn’t lean too heavily in one direction
  • Two included cables to connect with smartphones and other source gear
  • Understated but still quite pretty and durable design
  • USB-C cable can be used with different IEMs
  • Rather expensive


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