We’ve been looking at more DAC adapters here at MajorHiFi, from Periodic Audio’s Rhodium to Astell & Kern’s PEE51. One of my preferred amplifier brands is Questlye, which we’ve recently taken a look at reviewing their flagship system, the CMA Twelve. Now Questyle has released a more consumer-friendly model product, a USB-C DAC adapter. Going by the M12, this DAC adapter sets out to bring more competition to a newer market. I’ve enjoyed virtually everything Questyle has released thus far, so is there anything to this $140 DAC adapter?
What You Get
You can run the M12 in two ways, with USB type C to A, and C to C. Questyle Supplies the cables necessary to achieve this connection. It’s a small box with not many other accessories given.
Craftsmanship is strong within Questlyes products, and the M12 is no different. This sleek black rectangle is made from CNC aluminum and it feels like it too. It’s a durable device that has some surprising weight to it, taking on the aesthetic of high-end. Each cable it comes with also has a nicely weaved fabric material that provides some adequate shielding to the USB-C connectors.
There are a few different components that make the M12 a unique system. Inside of the M12 is an ESS flagship DAC chip that has decoding capability up to PCM 384kHz/32bit and DSD256. An LED light on the device indicates whether you’re listening through PCM, DSD, or MQA. The M12 will render MQA, indicated by a magenta LED.
The amp part of the M12 has a considerable amount of power. My first time using it I barely needed to boost the volume to a midpoint. I was able to obtain a comfortable level of gain very quickly and easily. Because of the tech inside the M12, is amble to amplify even the most power-hungry headphones, such as the 300 Ohm Sennheiser HD 800s. I’ve never heard of a type C DAC adapter hold this much power. Depending on certain impedances, the M12 will automatically self-adjust its gain output, which makes for an extremely versatile device.
Once I started using the M12 for the first time, a few characteristics immediately jumped out at me. First, there’s the expansive soundstage, which extends in both width and depth. I found while using most IEMs that the imaging appeared a little more spread out than usual, making more use of an outward space rather than a solid middle ground. The Campfire Audio Honeydew was able to expand a bit more outward while still maintaining its sense of fullness. However, the warmth was a bit more reduced in the way for a more analytical response.
Listening to the Kinera Skuld I found much less difference in the way of width, but more separation and articulated layering. As far as the timbre goes, much of the lows in the Honeydew appeared a lot cleaner and presented a much more pristine sense of clarity. The sound signature was able to keep its energy and low-frequency heavy tonality while featuring a slightly more coherent response. In direct contrast, the Skuld maintained its flatter timbre in the lows with a slightly more accurate sense of placement in the mix. They don’t receive much more boost, but there are some crisper details made apparent, such as the smoothness of some textures.
These are comparatively darker IEMs that are being used with the M12, but the Skuld was able to show a lot more treble presence than on the Honeydew. The M12 does a better job showcasing tonal balance in the highs without taking away its light sparkle and coloration. With the Honeydew, the highs remained mostly reduced but showed a bit more clarity than they originally had.
I’m very impressed with this DAC dongle. Leave it to Questyle to make one of the most well-built, and articulate devices in its market. It sets out to be a reference DAC and sticks with it. It’s also incredibly powerful, making it more versatile in the long run. The sound signature might not add much in the way of coloration or boost, but if you’re in the need of an affordable DAC adapter with a focus on accuracy, look no further.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Accurate sound signature, Excellent build quality, Powerful amplifier, Price
Cons: Limited coloration
The Questyle M12 is available at Audio46.