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Questyle M15 Dongle DAC / AMP – Window To Music 

Questyle M15 Dongle DAC / AMP – Window To Music 

Questyle M15 is a Dongle DAC / AMP priced at 250 USD, sporting an ES9281AC Sabre DAC Chip, with two headphone outputs, one 3.5mm SE and one 4.4mm Balanced, and with two gain levels. It will be compared with the best DAC AMPs around the price point, including iFi hip-dac2 (190 USD), xDuoo XD-05 Plus DAC / AMP (250 USD), and FiiO Q5s (350 USD). 

 

Introduction

Questyle is a novel company from China with a rich product offer, mostly high-end DACs and AMPs, with their products having lasted the test of time, and many of their high-end products, including CMA Fifteen being appreciated by music lovers from all over the world. The best part about Questyle is that you can find some of their products on Amazon, and they have some of the best overall warranty and public relations departments, plus you’re very unlikely to need warranty with their products, as they are one of the companies with the lowest rate of warranty issues from our little audio corner of the world. 

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Questyle. I’d like to thank Questyle for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with Questyle M15. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it. The purpose of this review is to help those interested in Questyle M15 find their next music companion. 

 

Packaging

First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:

M15 comes packaged pretty nicely, with a novel package that opens in a pretty clever way. I will most definitely show that on my video review when it will be published. Besies the M15 unit, we have all the paperwork, and two short cables included with M15, one ended in a type-C connector, and one ended in a type-A connector, for laptops and computers. Unfortunately, there is no case or pouch to carry the M15, and since it has a glass face, that might have come in handy. 

 

Product Link

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3xNgL8Q

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/3Ho0ZUT

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3MV8Nia

 

Build Quality/Aesthetics/Features

As I said in the package part of the review, the unit comes with no case, and it has a really beautiful glass face through which you can see the internal circuits. The back of the unit is made of metal, and the rest of the unit is all metal really, which makes for a really awesome aesthetic. M15 has two headphone jacks, one being a single ended 3.5mm, and the other one being a balanced 4.4mm jack. 

We have a patented CMA module inside, with four total amplification engines, and a full sized ESS ES9281AC Sabre DAC Chip powering the M15. The DAC chip offers wide compatibility for PCM, DSD and MQA decoding, along with good low noise and low distortion for M15. There’s a gain selector that actually comes in handy on M15, as it has a TON of driving power. 

One thing that I noticed it handles entirely differently from most DAC/AMPs is how it operates the on / off state. Basically, if you have it connected to a smartphone, it is dead, not seen by a smartphone. It only powers up when you connect a headphone / IEM to it, and once one of the 3.5 mm / 4.4mm ports are populated. This is most probably designed this way to save power, but it comes with one huge drawback, it starts at full volume on windows machines, which can be high enough to burn out lower quality IEMS / Headphones or your ears. Please be very careful to not press play the first moment M15 is connected to a windows machine, first adjust the volume. 

Of course, during usage, M15 has a reasonable power consumption, and I can barely notice its effect on my Black Shark 4 smartphone, although it does seem to consume more than ddHIFI TC44C and the likes. The output power is only given for high impedances by the company, at very high impedances of 300 OHMs, being 11.97mW over the 3.5mm SE connector, and 22.6mW over the 4.4mm Balanced connector, at 300 OHMs.

To put everything in perspective, the M15 is pretty much the strongest, most powerful portable DAC / AMP I reviewed to date, in terms of raw driving power. It is enough, with a smartphone, to bring headphones like Sendy Audio Peacock to their maximum potential. This is pretty incredible, and it should have no issues with the likes of Arya Stealth, Ananda, LCD-2C, and most hard to drive headphones, including those who have super high impedance.  

At a subjective level, the unit gets moderately warm during usage, but stays cooler than most competition, it is lightweight enough to be practical. I personally use a ddHIFI short OTG cable for it, but the default cables are pretty nice as well. The unit does not scratch easily, which is pretty cool. 

 

Sound Quality

In terms of sonics, Questyle M15 is a pretty neutral sounding DAC / AMP which will come through as being fairly bright at times, especially if you come from a warmer sounding DAC / AMP such as ddHIFI TC44C. The signature of M15 is crystal clear, wide, holographic, sparkly, detailed and neutral. It has an outstanding dynamic and detail, along with a very quiet background when it comes to noise and distortion with headphones. The output impedance is on the higher side of things, and some background hissing can be heard with ultra-sensitive IEMS such as Campfire Dorado 2020, Campfire Atlas, IMR Dark Matter, or Unique Melody MEXT. This should not be audible while music is playing, but because the output impedance is on the higher side, there’s some phase offset which can cause the sound to be brighter, have less bass and be somewhat thinner than on other DAC/AMPs, especially with super sensitive IEMs. I mainly recommend using Questyle M15 with headphones, such as HIFIMAN Edition XS, HIFIMAN HE-R9, Sendy Audio Apollo, and Crosszone CZ-8A, which it can fully drive.

For a little kick, I tried driving Audeze LCD-5 from M15, and while the sound was not quite as loud as I would’ve liked it to be, using the Inferno 4.4mm balanced cable from Eletech, I can say that it was really clean, clear and has excellent detail / resolution. Even the dynamics are super nice, and Audeze LCD-MX4 were much less of a trouble, actually drivable from M15, so it is a DAC / AMP mainly made for headphones rather than IEMs, and in my book replaces the other high driving power DAC/AMPs like Centrance DAC portHD

The bass of Questyle M15 is neutral, very fast and revealing. It has good nuance and presents music in a fast fashion, but if you’re looking for the ultimate substance / volume in the bass, you may want to reach to your favorite EQ and dial some in. The advantage of M15 is that it has such a huge headroom that you’re not likely to run out of volume headroom, so you can safely dial in up to 10 dB of bass, as long as you’re dialing the pre with 10dB lower to avoid distortions. Even with Sendy Audio Peacock, I am unable to go higher than 50 % of the total volume on Windows, although on Android, I’m usually spending my listening sessions at about 100% on the same Peacock

The midrange of M15 is where the magic happens, as it has a really dynamic, punchy, still very neutral and open sound. The stage in particular is super wide and holographic, more so than most portable DAC/AMPs have, and it has a really good instrument separation too. Female voices are rendered usually somewhat sweet, while pianos are rendered euphonic and emotional, slightly on the sad side of things. The midrange has no smoothing and is honest to the source, which is great for detail, sharpness and resolution, but M15 will reveal a bad recording / harshness in the recording / mixing mistakes easily. 

The treble of M15 is surprisingly good too, being strong, well extended, and airy. The treble of M15 is one of the most open, most airy I’ve seen in a dongle, and if you’re running sharper / brighter IEMs, you may want to consider some EQ, to tone down the upper midrange, as while M15 is not particularly bright, it is true neutral, which can sound quite open and edgy if you’re used to a smooth and rolled off source. All in all, M15 is great for rock, metal EDM, electronic and music where top end cymbals and energy is welcome in the mix. 

 

Comparisons

Questyle M15 vs FiiO Q5s (250 USD vs 350 USD) – Q5s has been the standard for portable DAC/AMPs for a really long time, and for good reason, it is an ideal little DAC/AMP, with a modular design, good battery life, and it is convenient to use, but M15 is considerably smaller, and has better driving power over the balanced connector, for driving headphones. Q5s has slightly less hissing for very sensitive IEMs, but M15 is better for most headphones, having a higher maximum volume and lower distortion at high volumes. The tuning is generally more open, more holographic, more neutral and cleaner on M15, while it is thicker, darker, more rolled off and smoother on Q5s. M15 has better dynamics, but lower bass quantity and volume. 

Questyle M15 vs xDuoo XD-05 Plus (250 USD vs 250 USD) – The body is much larger on XD-05 Plus, which has a more industrial design, and which gets considerably warmer during usage. Despite all of this, the maximum driving power is better on M15, which keeps better control and lower distortion at maximum volume, and which also keeps better overall soundstage width and a more holographic presentation. The presentation is more rolled off on XD-05 Plus, which is darker, smoother and thicker. It also has ways to boost bass, which makes it better for bassheads, while M15 is clearer, more neutral, cleaner. Both have a higher output impedance, and neither is exactly ideal for IEMS, but M15 is slightly better there, having a slightly lower hissing with sensitive IEMs. 

Questyle M15 vs iFi hip-dac2 (250 USD vs 190 USD) – The shape and ergonomics are in favor of M15, which is considerably smaller and more portable, although hip-dac2 has its own battery and won’t drain any from the smartphone / laptop it is connected to. The overall sonics are pretty different, with the M15 being more neutral, colder and wider in presentation, having more driving power at maximum, with lower distortion at maximum volume. The hissing is also higher on M15, which makes hip-dac2 better for IEMs while M15 is better for headphones, despite their physical size being the other way around. By contrast, hip-dac2 sounds warmer, smoother, but also more intimate, and has a lower maximum volume, struggling more to keep control at extremely high volumes, or with headphones that are very hard to drive. 

 

Value and Conclusion

You could say that M15 is pricey, being one of the more pricey DAC/AMPs out there, but it still has pretty excellent value. Basically, nothing else managed quite as effectively to remove the need for a high-end DAP for me, on-the-go. The driving power alone means that you can effectively replace a larger device like Q5s, and still have access to more driving power, and more control, lower distortion than Q5s offers. M15 has the advantage of being newer, and it isn’t perfect, but has a pretty good value at this moment, and nothing else doesn’t offer quite the same package both power and quality wise. 

At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a high quality DAC/AMP with a good amount of driving power, but a neutral and clean presentation, with a wide and holographic soundstage, Questyle M15 might be exactly the DAC/AMP you’re looking for. 

 

Product Link

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3xNgL8Q

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/3Ho0ZUT

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3MV8Nia



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Full Playlist used for this review

We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature.  PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality are all revealed by those songs. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music!

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_cjBXGmwSHSdGcwuc_bKbBDGHL4QvYBu

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9 Comments

  1. Ben Cherian

    Questyle M15 vs Xduoo XD-05 Plus ? Both at same price here.
    Opinion needed purely based on sound quality and output. For Hifiman Edition XS 😁.
    PS- I like a bit warm sound due to sensitive to treble sibilance.

    Source will be Android phone and iPad Air M1.

    Edit – man i read the review especially the comparison part. Am confused 🥴🥴. Really confused. Size of both is not an issue if Xduoo xd-05 Plus has an advantage. You know i might want to keep edition XS and dac amp for the next 2-3 years atleast

    1. George Dobrescu

      If you want to keep both for a longer period of time, I’d still probably consider XD-05 Plus, a bit more driving power, and it sounds warmer, and smoother with less treble emphasis, so it will be less fatiguing and warmer than M15. M15 will be a bit more detailed, more dynamic, but if you’re sensitive to stronger treble, XD-05 Plus would make more sense.

      1. Ben Cherian

        Thank you. Just one more thing.
        Can we get one metre long type C to type C cable so that I can place Xduoo xd-05 Plus on table and iPad in hand sometimes during usage.
        Am asking because all i saw audio type c cable are very short

        1. George Dobrescu

          Sure, there are lots of good options for a type-c to type-c cable. I’d try to check something from ddHIFI, they usually make USB cables that are good, altough I don’t know for sure what to recommend. I usually grab no-brand cables from Aliexpress when in need of a quick fix

  2. […] Output. Given the price which is higher than most dongle DAC AMPs, Lotoo PAW S2 will be compared to Qurstyle M15 (250 USD), Hiby FC5 (159 USD), Shanling M3X(279 USD), and Khadas Tone 2 PRO (250 […]

  3. Anonymous

    Ordered one, can’t wait for it to arrive!

  4. Robert G

    Super nice review! Ordered one, eager to hear the sonic!

  5. Frank

    How is M15 compare to Palab M1-mini.

    1. George Dobrescu

      M1 Mini has more driving power, better resolution and it has a thicker sound, with more volume and impact. But M1 Mini is more than twice the price

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George Dobrescu

George Dobrescu

Hello, and welcome to Audiophile-Heaven! I am George, the Creator of Audiophile-Heaven, and I love music! I will be sharing insights and comparisons of audio products with you. I invite you to join me in the exciting journey of discovering joy through music!!

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