QUESTYLE QP2R high-res por­ta­ble

Questyle’s lat­est premium por­ta­ble high-res player can also be used with a Home Hi-Fi Hub, dock­ing it for use with a home sys­tem.

Sound+Image - - Contents - Stephen Daw­son

A premium por­ta­ble, now avail­able with a new Hub to bring all that high-res mu­sic home.

Eigh­teen months ago we looked at the first por­ta­ble au­dio player from Questyle, a pres­tige Chi­nese au­dio­phile com­pany. We were very im­pressed with the sound of the QP1R, although it had a cou­ple of us­abil­ity is­sues. Now the QP2R has been re­leased, and not only have all those is­sues been ad­dressed, its per­for­mance has been en­hanced by sup­port for even more au­dio for­mats.

Equip­ment

To re­cap, this is an iPod Clas­sic-style mu­sic player. Un­like many of the com­peti­tors, there’s no An­droid in there (although the specs say its op­er­at­ing sys­tem is based on Linux), no Wi-Fi, no apps. It plays mu­sic — that’s its pur­pose.

Nor is there a touch screen. Its 60mm colour screen is for dis­play of art­work and in­for­ma­tion, and to show the var­i­ous menus. You nav­i­gate and con­trol play with a num­ber of soft and hard keys. On the front is an iPod Clas­sic-style click-wheel with an en­ter but­ton at its cen­tre. You put a fin­ger on this and ro­tate. As with the pre­vi­ous model, there are four touch-sen­si­tive con­trols ar­rayed around this: a con­text menu at top left, re­turn at top right, and track skip left and right at the bot­tom. Our com­plaint last time was that you had to wake the player up to use these keys, such as the track skip or play/pause. That usu­ally in­volved two dis­tinct presses of the key.

But in this model Questyle has added three phys­i­cal keys to the left edge: play/pause, skip for­wards, skip re­verse. These op­er­ate in­stantly at all times, ex­cept, of course, when the player is switched off en­tirely. A power key on the right edge wakes it back up again. It takes about 20 sec­onds to be ready to play.

While we’re on con­trols, let’s not for­get the hefty milled vol­ume knob on top. It ad­justs to turn the vol­ume up when ro­tated clock­wise if you’re look­ing down from the top — and if that seems wrong to you when view­ing from the front (be­cause you’re mov­ing the face of the knob to the left), no mat­ter — a set­ting al­lows you to re­verse its di­rec­tion. You can also switch off the soft skip keys, which I found use­ful be­cause I brushed them a lit­tle too fre­quently.

The player plays ev­ery­thing: MP3, WMA, OGG, APE, AAC for loss­ily com­pressed stuff; WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF and DSF for loss­less. DSF and DFF are Di­rect Stream Dig­i­tal, of course, and reg­u­lar DSD64, plus DSD128 and DSD256 are han­dled. Like­wise for the PCM-based for­mats, sam­ple rates up to 384kHz are sup­ported. The player uses an AKM AK4490 DAC, changed from the Cir­rus Logic one in the pre­vi­ous model. The head­phone am­pli­fier

is Questyle’s par­tic­u­lar forte, and if I may be per­mit­ted to re­peat a para­graph from our QP1R re­view, its DAC “feeds an am­pli­fier de­signed and built based on the univer­sity work of Questyle’s founder and CEO, Wang Feng­shuo. This is a pure Class-A cur­rent-mode am­pli­fier, of­fer­ing ex­tremely wide band­width and low tran­sient in­ter­mod­u­la­tion dis­tor­tion. An out­put im­ped­ance of just 0.15 ohms means that even with low im­ped­ance head­phones (mod­els down to eight ohms are sup­ported), vari­a­tions in their in­ter­nal im­ped­ance for dif­fer­ent fre­quen­cies will have no ef­fect on per­for­mance.”

There’s a lot more to it than that, mind you. For ex­am­ple, you have ac­cess to ad­just the bias set­ting for the Class-A cir­cuit.

All this is built into a chas­sis ma­chined from air­craft-grade al­loy. The re­view unit was fin­ished in a gen­tle gold colour, but a sil­ver grey op­tion is also avail­able. The dark front and back pan­els are made from Corn­ing Go­rilla Glass for strength. The click wheel matches the chas­sis.

Power is pro­vided by a 3100mAh Lithium Poly­mer bat­tery, rated at ten hours of op­er­a­tion.

There’s 64GB of stor­age built in, with a sin­gle mi­croSD card slots to add more. This is rated at cards of up to 200GB in size, which are now more read­ily avail­able (al­beit at prices around $150 for rep­utable brands from rep­utable re­tail­ers); I used a fast 128GB mi­croSD card. Load­ing nearly 4000 tracks, all FLAC or DSD, many of them high res­o­lu­tion, used up about 85% of the space avail­able across in­ter­nal mem­ory and the card I used. If you’re pre­pare to make do with one of the lesser for­mats, you’d be look­ing at a ca­pac­ity of tens of thou­sands of tracks. Or you can take a bun­dle of cards and swap them in and out for an ef­fec­tively un­lim­ited li­brary, but do note that they’ll have to be in­dexed on in­ser­tion (see be­low).

The pre­vi­ous model had two out­puts: a 3.5mm head­phone socket and a 3.5mm line out­put, which also fea­tured op­ti­cal dig­i­tal au­dio. The lat­ter has been dropped and re­placed with a 2.5mm socket for balanced head­phones. The op­ti­cal out­put is now in the head­phone socket. An op­ti­cal 3.5mm-to-Toslink adap­tor is in­cluded with the player. As with the last model, both sock­ets are in­dented into the chas­sis. We com­plained that one of the cutouts was too small to ac­com­mo­date our ca­bles. That’s changed, with both cutouts now 12.9mm in di­am­e­ter, which ought to be big enough for all but the strangest ca­bles.

Charg­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions are via a USB Type-C socket, an­other wel­come im­prove­ment over the Mi­cro-B USB of the pre­vi­ous model (the rev­ersible ca­ble is far eas­ier to in­sert). You get a ca­ble with the player (one was not in­cluded with the re­view unit, but I have my own), along with a cloth pouch, a quick start guide (the man­ual can be down­loaded from Questyle’s web site), the afore­men­tioned op­ti­cal ca­ble adap­tor, plus sil­i­con discs to place on the click wheel (Questyle calls it a ‘steer­ing wheel’) and the OK but­ton for eas­ier op­er­a­tion. Those last two weren’t in­cluded with the re­view unit so I haven’t as­sessed them.

Fi­nally, as an op­tional ex­tra there’s a HB2 Hub, which is like a power stand for the Questyle QP2R with out­puts suit­able for con­nec­tion to a hi-fi sys­tem, and with a phyis­cal rempte con­trol as well. See the box above for more de­tails.

Per­for­mance

When I re­ceived the re­view unit, the firmware was at 1.0.2. The Questyle web­site had an up­date to 1.0.3. As usual, I want to have the most up to date ver­sion in­stalled for the pur­poses of re­view. I’d just note that the up­date file was com­pressed in .rar for­mat rather than the much more com­mon .zip for­mat. Zip has been na­tively sup­ported by Win­dows for 20 years, and by MacOS for 15 yewars, whereas for .rar many will need to find and in­stall some un­pack­ing soft­ware. I al­ready had some on my com­puter, be­cause that’s the kind of per­son I am, but many won’t.

I note that on Questyle’s web­site the pre­vi­ous QP1R’s most re­cent firmware up­date is 1.0.9 (I re­viewed it at 1.0.4). So it seems that Questyle keeps is­su­ing reg­u­lar im­prove­ments, for which it is to be ap­plauded.

Copy­ing across mu­sic to the in­ter­nal mem­ory pro­ceeded, ac­cord­ing to the Win­dows 10 copy di­a­logue, at about 8MB/s, or USB 2.0 speeds. To copy around 734 tracks amount­ing to 41GB to the player’s in­ter­nal mem­ory took an hour and 25 min­utes. There’s noth­ing you can do about that speed (the USB 3.0 port I use on my com­puter will copy data at well over ten times that speed to mem­ory cards that are fast enough), though if you use a fast mi­croSD card and reader, you could load up your card ex­ter­nally to get through it much more quickly.

Once loaded, the li­brary will need to be up­dated through the set­tings menu. There is an au­to­matic set­ting, but it rein­dexes ev­ery­thing af­ter any time the unit has been plugged into a com­puter — it doesn’t just search for new tracks. It’s fairly fast but I pre­ferred to leave it on man­ual so I could con­trol when it hap­pened. Speed: for the 3859 tracks of mixed FLAC stan­dard and high res­o­lu­tion and DSD (note I use a fast mi­croSD card, too) it took two min­utes and ten sec­onds.

I spent many, many hours lis­ten­ing. Or, rather, en­joy­ing mu­sic, us­ing the Questyle QP2R as the source de­vice. The sound was glo­ri­ous through the sev­eral dif­fer­ent sets of head­phones I used (all un­bal­anced, and with im­ped­ances from 16 to 150 ohms). Even my old Sennheiser

HD 535 head­phones, were eas­ily driven to un­lis­ten­ably high lev­els by the QP2R. There was never once the slight­est hint of clip­ping, or even of a forced sound.

Max­i­mum out­put level is one thing, gain is an­other. One record­ing I use for this is an early Te­larc re­lease, the Ozawa/Sil­ver­stein/ Bos­ton Sym­phony ren­di­tion of Vi­valdi’s ‘The Four Sea­sons’, recorded dig­i­tally in 1981 on a 50kHz, 16-bit Sound­stream tape recorder. For what­ever rea­son, this was cap­tured at a very low level. The Al­le­gro of Spring — one of the louder sec­tions — peaks at -9.77dBFS, and av­er­ages at less than -32dB. It’s quiet. I guess they wanted to make sure there was plenty of head­room.

It was touch and go, but even with this record­ing and the old Sennheiser* head­phones, sat­is­fy­ing lev­els were de­liv­ered. With modern head­phones — such as the Oppo PM3 head­phones with which I did most of my lis­ten­ing — thun­der­ous lev­els are avail­able even from this track.

Bass con­trol was first class. De­tail and res­o­lu­tion? First class. Noise? None at all, other that what might be on the record­ing. Dy­nam­ics were de­liv­ered with a life­like feel. There was no cat­e­gory of mu­sic that was short-changed by the player.

There’s a gap­less play set­ting, and this kind of worked with my test FLAC tracks, al­beit still with a slight au­di­ble catch right at the bound­ary be­tween tracks, rather than the smoother meld­ing the best im­ple­men­ta­tions can man­age.

My mea­sure­ments re­vealed that the de­vice pro­duced am­ple power for all rea­son­able, and some quite un­rea­son­able, head­phones and ear­phones. At the high­est gain set­ting the out­put de­liv­ered 1.8 volts RMS into a line-level load (47,000 ohms) us­ing a sine wave test sig­nal that peaks at 0dB FS. Into a high im­ped­ance head­phone load (a fake one, a purely re­sis­tive 295 ohms) it still de­liv­ered 1.8 volts RMS, for an out­put of 11 mil­li­watts. That’s a cou­ple more than the 9mW Questyle claims, and is suf­fi­cient to de­liver 10.4dB more out­put than the sen­si­tiv­ity rat­ing of the high im­ped­ance head­phones in use (as­sum­ing they use the dB for 1mW mea­sure). In prac­tice, it was am­ple.

Into a low im­ped­ance — 15.9 ohms — the out­put is lim­ited by clip­ping, rather than gain. On the vol­ume scale from 0 to 60, it went into clip­ping at 53. The graphic (above right) shows 1002Hz at vol­ume set­ting 52 (un­clipped), 53 and 54. It’s an in­el­e­gant look, but I can’t see any­one ever ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it. That’s be­cause with the vol­ume set­ting of 62, the out­put into 15.9 ohms was a bit over 31mW, which means that 16 ohm head­phones will de­liver some 15dB more out­put than their rated sen­si­tiv­ity.

With 24-bit, 96kHz test sig­nals the player de­liv­ered a gen­tle roll-off start­ing just above 10kHz to be down by 0.5dB at 20kHz, 1.25dB at 30kHz and 2.75dB at 40kHz. A-weighted noise was an im­pres­sive -107.1dB. THD was 0.0010% and IMD 0.0021%. Cross-talk was at -105dB. All those fig­ures push de­vi­a­tions from per­fec­tion far be­low the level of hu­man per­cep­tion. With 192kHz sam­pling, the per­for­mance was es­sen­tially iden­ti­cal in every way, in­clud­ing the roll-off at the high end, ex­cept that the out­put con­tin­ued be­yond the Fs/2 for 96kHz. It was at -5dB at 50kHz, at -8.5dB at 60kHz and nearly -13dB at 70kHz. It’s all very gen­tle (left graphs above).

Into a high im­ped­ance load, with 16 bit 44.1kHz test sig­nals the unit man­aged -97.4dB A-weighted noise, and 0.0011% THD and 0.0041% IM dis­tor­tion. The re­sponse was down by 0.3dB at 20,000 hertz and took a sharp down­turn al­most im­me­di­ately above that. Into 15.9 ohms, the noise level was still bet­ter than -95dB and the fre­quency re­sponse un­al­tered. Com­bined with a cal­cu­lated out­put im­ped­ance of around 0.3 ohms, this unit’s per­for­mance should not be af­fected by the head­phones in use.

Con­clu­sion

The Questyle QP2R isn’t cheap, and some An­droid-based play­ers we’re re­viewed of­fer more flex­i­bil­ity of use. But if it’s su­perb mu­si­cal per­for­mance in a stylish pack­age you’re af­ter, the QP2R is most cer­tainly worth check­ing out, es­pe­cially with the ad­di­tional util­ity con­ferred by that op­tional Hub for the home.

Questyle QP2R high-res por­ta­ble player

LEFT: QP2R out­put fre­quency re­sponse for CD qual­ity and high-res sig­nals (see main text for de­tails). RIGHT: Signs of clip­ping at high lev­els into a low im­ped­ance (15.9 ohms).

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