Questyle M15 Portable DAC/AMP Review: Robust Build, Solid Looks, Impressive Sound!!
Hello Friends, Today, I am going to share my review of the king of the dongles, the Questyle M15. Questyle Audio Engineering is a premium HiFi audio gear brand from China that specialize in designing Desktop and portable DAC/AMP solution. They cater to the premium consumer with their class-leading range of HiFi audio gears with famous models such as CMA Twelve, CMA Fifteen, QP2R, QPM, etc. Quite recently, Questyle entered the budget market with their range of Portable DAC/AMPs, mainly with the M12 and the M15. M12 is the budget model while the M15 is the flagship model that comes with ES9281AC premium Sabre DAC and Questyle’s patented CMA(Current Mode Amplification) SiP Modules with a total of four CMA Amp Engines. Well, I have spent the last few weeks with the M15 by my side(About 6-8 weeks), and now I feel I have spent enough time with the device to give my impressions on the same. Let’s begin with the unboxing part but a little disclaimer first.
A short Disclaimer:-
I received the M15 courtesy of Questyle, I just had to pay the custom duty that was charged in my country on the package. Be assured, all the impressions and opinions in this review are completely my own and are based on my own subjective understanding of the HiFi audio world. I would like to thank Questyle for giving me this opportunity!! If interested you can purchase it from HiFiGo store from the link below(Non-Affiliated).
Let’s Get Done With The Unboxing:-
M15 is a portable device and it comes in a compact box. It’s a plain black colored cardboard box that has a minimalistic design approach. You have the Questyle and M15 branding on the front and some basic information on the backside. The package opens in a sliding manner, where you pull out the internal box from the outer casing. Inside we have the M15 sitting firmly into a hard foam cutout layer. There’s a USB Type-C to Type-C connector cable and a Type-C to Standard USB Type-A connector cable right underneath our M15. Apart from this, we have a user guide booklet and a warranty card. That’s all about the main package. I also received a small box carrying the leather case of the M15. It is available to purchase separately.
>M15 portable DAC/AMP.
>USB Type-C to Type-C cable.
>USB Type-C to Type-A cable.
>Leather case(To be purchased separately).
Design & Build:-
During my journey as an audio enthusiast I have had a small share of experience with some portable DAC/AMPs from different brands like iBasso(DC03), HiBy(FC5), xDuoo(Link 2 Bal), Shanling(UA3), etc, IMO M15 trumps them all with its outstanding build and form factor. Please don’t get me wrong, none of the ones I mentioned above have a bad form factor or bad build quality, they all look super good in their own place, but the M15, it looks spectacular, literally a candy to the eye. The device has a metallic chassis with a glass front. The entire front panel is made up of durable glass through which the entire internal arrangement is beautifully visible. You can see each and every single chip inside easily. M15 has two small Leds near the USB connector, one that indicated Data input(this glows green for standard signal and red for Hi-Res lossless signal quality/MQA signals), and the second is the gain LED that glows in green for the low-gain and Red for the high-gain mode.
In the Images M15 looks huge compared to the other DAC/AMPs, It’s a little bit bigger than the other similar devices in the market but not huge or bulky by any means. M15 houses two headphone output ports, one single-ended 3.5mm and another balanced 4.4mm. It feels super good to hold as Queasily has treated it with a rich matte finish. There’s a switch on the side that allows for gain change, but no physical keys for volume adjustment. Overall, Super impressed with the build and design of the M15.
IEMs & HPs I have tested with M15:-
During my usage period over the past few weeks, I have given a good amount of IEMs to the M15. I tested it with IEMs from every range, be it the entry-level CCA CRA or the flagship 64audio Tia Fourth. Questlye’s patented CMA technology makes the compact M15, a powerful device. It was able to drive my ZMF Auteur to about 80% of its capabilities. M15 synergized well with almost everything that I had given it, here are some short notes on my favorite pairings.
Sennheiser IE600+Questyle M15:-
Absolute bliss, the M15 and IE600 synergize so well together. M15 brings the true capabilities of IE600 out with its transparent and smooth sound presentation. This is my primary go-to setup for regular music listening on my iPad(Apple Music), and watching some Netflix, and YouTube.
64audio U12T and Tia Fourth+Questyle M15:-
Out of all the sources that I have currently, be it the Shanling M7, be it the Shanling UA3, or be it the Astell&Kern Kann Max, M15 has the best tonal balance with the 64audio IEMs. Please don’t get me wrong, obviously, dynamics were produced better on the M7 and the Kann Max, but tonally speaking, M15 doesn’t lack behind by any means. It allows the U12T and Tia Fourte to breathe properly and produce a legendary experience with every single track.
LETSHUOER D13+Questyle M15:-
Regular companions for my casual music and Youtube sessions on my iPad. With the M15, D13 shows its true, powerful bass response and still maintains good clarity in the other regions as well. Pretty good combo for all-time use.
Apart from these above-mentioned IEMs, I have also used M15 with BQEYZ Topaz, LETSHUOER S12, Campfire Audio Solaris OG, Softears RSV, Sennheiser HD560S, ZMF Auteur, and a few more sets. No complaints with any combinations, heck M15 turned out to be a perfect match for most of the IEMs & HPs I have tested it with.
How do I expect my sources to sound? IMO they should synergize well with my IEMs(that the M15 does), they should have a transparent, clean sound that brings the true performance of my IEMs/HPs out. Well, to my pleasure, this is how the Questyle M15 actually sounds. This little baby here has got a transparent sound signature with low distortion and clean, noise-free background in the output signal. Even with sensitive sets like the U12t, Solaris, and LETSHUOER D13, the M15 maintains its clean presentation. I don’t find M15 to boost any of the frequencies unnecessarily or take the life out of any frequency region, rather it retrieves most details and dynamics from my music.
Tonally speaking, Questyle M15 gives a smooth, rich tone to its output. Dynamics like note-definition, staging, layering, and imaging, are reproduced beautifully with the M15. Let’s discuss a little about different frequency segments separately.
M15 presents a clean and precise lower end. It doesn’t over-exaggerate the bass response for any given set. For sets such as Letshuoer S12 and Sennheiser IE600 which have a powerful bass response, I find them to have a controlled presentation in the bass region with the M15. With the IE600, the bass response is very well-refined, mid-bass slams are nicely textured, and the sub-bass rumble is deep and thunderous. M15 allows items to go deep in the lower end and deliver quality extensions.
M15 greets the listeners with a lovely midrange. It’s spacious, airy, and has a clean texture. Vocals sound phenomenal, both the male and female vocals convey emotion with their well-textured clean presentation. M15 maintains a good balance between lower mids and upper-mids. You won’t notice vocals getting shouty even at louder volumes on vocal-focused tracks or instruments losing details in any given genre.
Questyle maintains its sweet response in the high-registers too. I don’t notice any of my IEMs going harsh or fatiguing even at loud volumes. There’s no noticeable sibilance or harshness with the m15 as a source, in fact, high notes of vocals and instruments are produced beautifully with good resolution and clarity. For any portable DAC/AMP, I would say Questyle M15 does a great job with its crisp resolution and sweet tone throughout the frequency band.
Of all the Portable DAC/AMPs that I have tried to date, the Questyle M15 seems to have the best dynamics so far. I won’t mind saying that it beats some mid-fi DAPs easily when it purely comes to dynamics like soundstage, imaging, layering, and separation. While I agree this also depends on how capable the IEMs are, M15 brings life to almost every single set that I have given to it.
A Few Things That Can Be Improved:-
Basically, sound wise the Questyle M15 fits perfectly for my requirements. It has a dynamic, lively sound and usually synergizes well with almost everything I have given this beautiful DAC/AMP. But there are a few things that could be improved with the M15.
Firstly, there are no physical volume control buttons. Basically, there’s no volume control through the DAC, one always has to adjust the volume through the connected source. While it is not a big deal, three to four times I forgot to adjust the volume on my source, and it was set at full for the USB output. So basically, my ears had a stroke for a short while lol.
Secondly, M15 introduces some noise when we use it with smartphones/tablets with cellular network streaming. I personally don’t use Cellular streaming as I am mostly near a WiFi connection, but some people faced this and we had a discussion on the Head-Fi forum for the same. There’s no such issue when using Wi-Fi, but with streaming on a cellular network, there’s Noise interference.
Apart from these two points, I can’t think of any other issue with the M15.
Short Comparison Again xDuoo Link2 Bal:-
Link2 Bal is a highly-capable DAC/AMP from xDuoo. It delivers a punchy sound performance that brings life to most of my transducers. It is very much comparable to the Questyle M15 in its presentation but I would say M15 takes the things up a notch when it comes to dynamics. M15 shows better staging with a tad bit better airiness on the stage. It feels more spacious to my ears. Bass feels tighter and more controlled on the M15, Link2 Bal isn’t very far, it’s just M15 has a better presentation in comparison. Midrange shows more air and clarity on the M15 and treble has a smoother response. Please don’t get any bad ideas for the Link2 Bal. It’s a pretty amazing DAC/AMP too, but the M15 is just a step ahead in every possible way.
I am more of a Portable Player guy, but often I have given time to portable DAC/AMPs. Nothing so far had me hooked on them for my day-to-day usage. The Questyle with its impressive performance gets a special place in my heart. I absolutely adore the impressive sound performance of the M15, it sounds phenomenal throughout the frequency band. Not to mention, the transparent glass front panel adds 100 points to its great design and looks!! Well, that’s about the Questyle M15 from my end, I would like to thank Questyle for this opportunity!!