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QLS QA360 Portable HiFi Lossless Music Player

Rating:
4.5/5,
  • The QLS-HiFi QA360 Portable HiFi lossless music player is QLS-HiFi’s flagship digital music playback equipment that integrated digital music player, DAC and headphone amplifier altogether. QA360 is based on the QA660 & QA860 digital music player with dedicated improvement on the digital output circuit, along with the DAC and headphone amplifier module which we spent over 3 years on developing.

    It is an all-in-one portable SD card HiFi music player, with DSD support. It offers studio-master sound quality and uncompromising file playback capability, It has a high quality DAC and headphone amplifier integrated into its tiny body. The headphone output is able to drive most of the 8-300Ω headphones in the market.

    Website: http://qlshifi.com/en/wzcapi/qa360.htm

Recent Reviews

  1. twister6
    A Solid Professional DAP!!!
    Written by twister6
    Published Jul 9, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Transparent natural sound, solid build quality, great battery life, SD card support, lots of ports including optical, remote control support.
    Cons - DC charging connector, no USB DAC, no EQ, no artwork display, a little bulky

    Before I start my review I would like to Thank QLS for providing me with a review sample in exchange for my honest opinion.  http://www.qlshifi.com/en/wzcapi/qa360.htm
     
    Also despite my 4-star rating, as a professional DAP it deserves all 5 stars, but I had to take one off because it lacks a number of "consumer" DAP features.
     

     
    Some of you will be surprised that after a number of my previous reviews where I complained about DAPs with simplified GUIs and bulkier designs, now I’m going to praise a product with similar limitations that I found to be irrelevant in comparison when looking at overall sound and build quality that left a remarkable impression with me.  I don’t have to repeat myself going into details about today’s saturated DAP market, but I’m starting to notice one interesting trend.  Some companies direct their focus on consumer appeal where GUI, form factor, and fancy controls take a priority over sound quality.  On the other hand, you have companies that already build their reputation with full size HiFi systems and now trying to scale it down to a portable footprint.  QLS (Shen Zhen QLS Electronic Technology Co.) is a perfect example of such company where they took design experience from their full size QA660/860 HiFi digital audio systems and shrunk it down to QA360 portable HiFi lossless DAP.  Here is what I found after spending a few weeks testing this portable audio player.
     
    QA360 arrived in a typical premium packaging with an exterior minimalistic sleeve and a black sturdy gift-box underneath.  Inside you will find a dense foam cutout holding QA360 securely in place to prevent any damage during shipment.  Once you take it out, you can’t help but notice how solid it feels in your hand, as well as 260g of weight this DAP brings to the table.  But don't be fooled by its heft, it still has a manageable ergonomics with a slimmed down top edges and side grooves with recessed buttons.
     
    With QA360 out, you get access to a box with accessories that reveals a few interesting clues about this DAP.  First of all, you see a wall power charger (5V/2A) with a proprietary DC connector, so you know right away there is no typical micro-usb charging port.  In addition, QLS also includes USB cable with the same DC connector so you can charge it from your smartphone usb wall charger.  It’s not uncommon for some other DAPs to use proprietary charging connector, but in reality everybody switched to a common micro-usb port which supports 2A charging.  It’s not the end of the world, just inconvenience, though I'm glad you get two charging cables as a spare or when traveling.  Also, keep in mind this is a common DC connector which you can buy easily on eBay.
     
    In addition to cables, you also find an extra screen protector (one is already applied) along with a cleaning cloth.  A silicone skin case is included, more about it later, as well as a card reader.  You will be surprised, but the card reader is for SD card, not the usual micro-SD card – this reveals another important clue about QA360 supporting full size SD cards which you can get cheaper and with higher capacity in comparison to micro-SD.  As a matter of fact, QLS included a genuine Sandisk 16GB Ultra 40mb/s SD card, loaded with a lot of hi-res audio files.  There was also a comprehensive User Guide which I found to be very helpful.  One suggestion I do have for QLS is to include a pdf link to User Guide on their webpage - it will be useful for both current users and potential future buyers.
     
    Unboxing and accessories.
     
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    I know for some people a protection case is not a necessity, just like a lot of us carry their smartphones naked.  When it comes to QA360, I like how solid a cold metal frame feels in your hand, but at the same time you have to be realistic – it’s not the slimmest design and grip enhancement is very beneficial.  This silicone form fitted case with all proper cutouts does a great job without obstructing anything.  It leaves the whole front panel open, and provides adequate access to all the ports, including SD card.  Plus, I don’t have to worry about QA360 sliding off any slippery or glass surface.
     
    Silicone case.
     
    qls_qa360-08_zpsplicwxcw.jpg   qls_qa360-09_zps50pdtdwb.jpg
     
    qls_qa360-10_zpsfuijubuw.jpg   qls_qa360-11_zpsgd6nfvg7.jpg
     
    qls_qa360-12_zpswxjzlbaw.jpg   qls_qa360-13_zpsns4yofh9.jpg
     
     
    As I mentioned before, design of QA360 is solid, with a nice weight to it, and some noticeable bulk.  Without a doubt it’s classified as a portable player, but I can’t call it pocket friendly.  I do have to admit that I got a bit spoiled using latest X3ii/X5ii and AK120ii, so anything outside would be bulky.  But for people who like to carry their DAP stacked with a portable amp, this will not be any different in weight or thickness.  Don’t want you to be discouraged because it’s still manageable, and for a better reference I have comparison pictures to other DAPs further in my review.
     
    The casing of QA360 is a solid metal construction, no flex or bend, and black surface finish is scratch resistant, like the paint was baked into it.  Top half of the front is allocated for a large display, measuring 2.4" diagonally across its rectangular shape.  I'm not sure what type of display they used, but it has excellent contrast and visibility even under the sun.  There is no artwork display or fancy GUI, but it's large enough to make all the relevant info visible in clear fonts.  You do have a set of controls to change cursor color, main color, UI color, UI style, as well as brightness - so there is a level of customization, but nothing fancy.  This is one of those cases where "less is more" makes a perfect sense, and I was pleased with a large display size where everything was easy to see in one shot.
     
    Bottom half of the front panel is where you will find control buttons, 5 navigation buttons with 4 directional and center one for Enter/Play/Pause and 2 more buttons on the side for Menu and Back keys.  All 7 buttons have the same shape, metal, with a nice tactile response, perfect spacing and placement for finger control without even looking, and functionality labeling etched next to them instead of being printed on the buttons.  Also, the top front panel has 4 hex corner screws for easy access to disassemble the DAP.  I would NOT recommend this, unless if you know what you are doing!  QLS website has a detailed view of both sides of 2 printed wiring boards (pwb) used in the design where they cleverly partitioned power and filtering components on one side of the first board and DAC with other associated circuits on the other side of that board.  The 2nd pwb has display screen with button contacts on one side, and processor and associated circuits on the other side.  Considering clean layout of the components and clear routing of the connecting signals, I can see this was done by a professional team with a circuit design experience.
     
    Top of the QA360 has a single IR port where you plug in optional IR receiver to control this DAP with a remote control.  I will talk more about it later, but want to mention this add-on option worth every penny of $30 upgrade!!!  The right side has volume up/down buttons, recessed with a body so you don't hit it accidentally.  Then, you have a lock slider to prevent front panel buttons from being activated when screen is off.  After time out you can still control play/pause and skip, so being able to lock that when in your pocket is definitely a good idea.  Power button slider is below lock slider, and you also get a pinhole led indicator (red when charging, green when done).  Having a power and lock buttons as sliders prevents from accidental powering up or locking the controls, and also creates a physical override if OS is stuck.  Btw, turn on time was within a few seconds!  Finally, left side has SD card slot with an easy access to remove the card.
     
    Bottom of the DAP has all the ports, starting with 3.5mm Headphone (HO), 3.5mm shared Line Out (LO) and Optical port, Digital Coax port, and 5V DC power port – definitely a complete selection of ports, especially optical one which is typically found in high end DAPs.  Also, I know a lot of people prefer a separate LO and Coax ports for use with their external setups.  Furthermore, in a Menu setting you can disable Coax and Optical outputs to preserve the battery life, another very thoughtful design idea.  My only comment here is that I wish HO would be at the top instead of the bottom.  Since I'm typically listening to music when relaxing on the couch with DAP in upright position, when using QA360 I have to be careful with straight headphone connectors to make sure I don't bend the cable.  This is not an issue with angled headphone connectors, and actually VERY convenient when QA360 is in my pocket with HO connector facing up and easy access to front panel buttons located closer to headphone port side.
     
    Design details.
     
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    As I already mentioned, GUI interface is minimalistic, but due to a large screen with a clear layout of all the info - it works VERY well!  Screen is partitioned in small blocks with info describing playback mode, volume level, battery indicator (wish they would add % number for more accuracy), type of file and corresponding bit rate, scrolling song name, folder name, current position and a total song playback time, play/pause icon, track number within a folder with a total number of songs in that folder, and track number relative to a total number of indexed tracks on SD card.  With access to display config, I setup color scheme to my liking, but don't expect a high level of customization beyond that.  From this main screen, when you press and hold Play/Enter button you have an option of adding the track to your Favorite folder/list.  Pressing and holding Back button gives you an option to delete the track.
     
    Also, don't expect cover art display, one of the limitations.  Either if you consider this as advantage or disadvantage - just a matter of personal preference since in reality majority of our listening time is spent with screen-off to preserve battery life.  And speaking of that, mp3 and FLAC playtime was consistent at around 11hours of playback.  According to QLS, battery life will go down to 7-8 hours during the DSD playback which is expected.  This indicates that SW code was optimized depending on audio format you are playing.  As a matter of fact, QLS describes their OS build on the single threaded software framework where during playback CPU resources are allocated and optimized to a single task of reading and decoding of that particular song.  And you can be rest assured that most of the formats in 16bit/24bit and 44.1kHz to 192kHz, as well as 1bit DSD64 will be supported (MP3, WAV, AIFF, FLAC, APE, ALAC, CUE, DSD, etc.).
     
    Now, moving on to the Setting screen, it's activated (and de-activated) by pressing M-button.  In there you get a plethora of setting options to customize playback with Play Mode and Play Range, Pause or Resume track on start up, Gap between the tracks, the track name scrolling time delay (in the main screen display), Managing digital outputs (on/off for optical and coax), Filter select (fast/slow), Direct DSD playback, a series of Volume adjustment options to fix the setting or cap the max setting or to allow free adjustment, L/R balance, different color adjustment options for the main screen, screen off and shutdown options, key speed (very useful for fast forward when you hold L/R keys to adjust how fast it will go), and last but not least - language selection and system info.
     
    Back button brings up a file list with all of your stored songs, folders, sub-folders, and Favorite folder.  The playback is through folders, so it will continue once you reach the last song in the folder.  Since SD card came preloaded with a lot of hi-res files, some of them Chinese and other covers sang in English, I moved all of these directories to a separate folder.  When clicking Back button, every folder and sub-folder was displayed in one flat list with sub-folder prefix which really helps to sort songs/artists/albums if you sub-divide everything by alphabet through letter folders.
     
    GUI interface.
     
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    Before I get into sound analysis and comparison to other DAPs, I want to mention about Remote Control option which I found to be very useful in my opinion.  This is one of the things that sets QA360 apart from regular "consumer" DAP and puts it into category of professional portable audio players.  If I understand correctly, feature of the remote control and the remote control itself is carried over from their QA660 and QA860 HiFi system designs.  This remote is like no other I have seen before.  Yes, the main body of it is plastic and buttons are plastic, but the top of it is a thick aluminum plate - solid construction just like QA360 itself!
     
    Since remote was obviously designed to cover all the functionality of QLS bigger systems, not every button is implemented, but a lot of them still work, including the following.  OK/Play - to play/pause, Up/down (directional menu) and Skip next/prev - skips to next song, F+/F- - jump/skip between songs, Menu/Back - the same as on the DAP, << and >> buttons - fast forward and back through a track, F1 - adds to favorites, F0 - turns screen on/off, Light - dims and brightens the screen, Vol +/- - adjusts the volume, Mute - mutes the sound.
     
    I'm sure some of you might be wondering, why do you even need a remote control?!?  If you are planning to use it as DAP to carry in your pocket, there is obviously no need for it.  But in a situation where you want to use QA360 as a source to drive your desktop amp and have a connection with either your favorite pair of cans with 3m cable "leash" or maybe speakers - now you can control the playback from a distance without getting off your chair.  You can even control the volume if you connect HO instead of LO.
     
    With remote control.
     
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    Sound analysis.
     
    Now we get to the main attraction of the review - the sound!  I typically look for neutral sound signature in DAP, letting headphones to shape/color the sound.  With QA360 this neutral smooth signature with a little bit of brighter airy characteristics was taken to another level of a pleasantly transparent natural dynamic sound.  It's like QA360 was breathing a new life into a sound, effortlessly flowing through the headphones.  What I found especially interesting, QA360 uses CS4398 DAC which I have heard in a number of my other DAPs, and still it sounds different due to QAs unique amplifier section implementation.
     
    Soundstage was spacious and airy, though I did find it to have more depth than width.  The sound felt more out in space (due to depth) and very lightweight and organic, with a dark background without any hint of hissing.  In particularly, bass was very well controlled and came out with a nice rumble (relative to headphones I used for listening), good extension down to sub-bass, though it wasn't as aggressive.  Mids were smooth, natural, transparent, airy, and melodic.  Treble also had a great extension, not harsh or grainy (the same about upper mids).  I know I already mentioned "natural" many times, but that's how it felt, no matter if I was playing tracks with acoustic or electronic instruments, or if I was listening to male or female vocals.
     
    qls_qa360-27_zpsrel8gnkr.jpg
     
     
    Here is how it sounds with specific headphones at corresponding volume matched sound level (150 based on max volume setting).
     
    R70x (120/150) - drives these 470 ohm cans with authority, natural, transparent airy spacious sound. Nice bass rumble, smooth organic sound.
     
    EL-8C (109/150) - drives these planar magnetic cans without a problem, very spacious round sound (expands in width and depth, though limited by width of 360), soft polite bass (doesn't extend too deep), clean detailed mids (slightly forward, bright, fast, a touch of metallic sheen in upper mids), and a nice crisp treble.
     
    MSR7 (93/150) - fast and snappy (great example of PRaT), a little bright (upper mids/treble), very nice bass rumble with a snappy tight mid-bass punch.  Spacious sound.
     
    B3P1 (105/150) - great pair up that brings up the best in Havi with their amazing soundstage, low end extension, neutral detailed mids, extended crisp treble.
     
    UE600 (73/150) - probably the best pair-up I heard with these IEMs so far, zero hiss (always use these for my hiss test due to their high sensitivity), crunchy low end rumble, tight mid-bass punch, smooth detailed mids, extended crisp treble, excellent soundstage expansion.
     
    W60 (77/150) - warm lush smooth sound, deep sub-bass, nice mid-bass punch, lower mids a bit warmer and thicker in comparison, upper mids smooth and clear, smooth treble.  Spacious soundstage.
     
    Pro 50 (77/150) - warm punchy smooth sound, deep sub-bass, strong mid-bass punch, brighter upper mids, great treble extension, and spacious soundstage.
     
    Putting QA360 against other DAPs was another interesting test.  First of all, from the pictures you can see how it looks in a contrast.  If you are looking for the slimmest and the most pocket friendly DAP, QA360 might not satisfy this requirement.  But if you're used to a portable amp strapped to a back of your DAP, QA360 will be a great alternative.  To be honest, you don't even need an amp with this DAP.  I tried it with FiiO E12A and Cayin C5 and found: w/E12A - very transparent sound characteristic, but some of the airiness is toned down, and width slightly reduced, with w/C5 - carbon copy transparent sound, even the same airy characteristics, only slight improvement in sound width.  Thus you can definitely live without external amp to drive headphones directly, from your most sensitive IEMs, to your high impedance cans or even some planar magnetic headphones.
     
    Next to some other DAPs in my review collection, here is what I found:
     
    qa360 vs n6 - N6 sounds a little more aggressive, faster, with sharper edges, while qa360 sounds smoother, more natural, organic, and laidback.  N6 has more depth/width in soundstage.
     
    qa360 vs x5ii - X5ii sounds more aggressive, faster, with sharper edges.  360 has a better controlled bass, sound is smoother, more natural.  Makes X5ii sounds a bit "digital" in comparison.  Soundstage is actually similar.
     
    qa360 vs lp5 - LP5 has a very similar level of smoothness and some airiness, but adds another level of detail retrieval, soundstage has slightly better width/depth.
     
    qa360 vs ak120ii - 120ii is a little more aggressive, has the same level of warmth, similar level of details, soundstage is a little wider but depth is the same.
     
    In general, these are all great DAPs which I enjoy a lot, but I felt like none of them offer the same level of natural smooth transparency and airiness as QA360 does.
     
    Comparison to LP5, N6, X5ii, AK120ii.
     
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    Conclusion.
     
    If I could summarize this DAP in one sentence, it would be:  This DAP is about professional use rather than consumer eye-candy design.   QA360 is all about playback quality and straight forward controls, rather than a slick design, fancy GUI, and unique hardware controls.  It does miss some critical features such as USB DAC functionality, EQ control, artwork display, and there is no micro-USB charging port.  But despite these negatives, it makes up in a solid industrial quality build and design, a lot of connection ports including optical one, support of SD card which is more cost/capacity efficient, and a unique IR remote control option.  Of course, sound quality is excellent as well, and I felt addicted to it, spending a lot of time doing extended listening when I was planning just to do a short sound check.  I personally think this DAP is not for everybody; definitely not for those who are looking to get a compact lightweight DAP for a basic everyday listening.  I can see it more in use with a desktop setup where you would like an option of integrating it as an audio source with a remote control, and at the same time being able to disconnect all your cables, connect headphones directly, and take it with you on a journey!
      hqssui, mgunin, vlenbo and 2 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. noxa
      Thanks for taking the time, I really enjoyed this review, gave me a really good sense of what to expect. Don't suppose you've since heard the Hidizs AP100 or the Lotoo Paw 5000? Love a mini comparison to those.
      noxa, Dec 26, 2015
    3. noxa
      noxa, Dec 26, 2015
    4. griff2
      Have to say I'm having a bit of a love/hate relationship with this DAP; I'm using it as a digital source and whilst it sounds good, to me it doesn't communicate the music, ie I can't feel the music: in other words it's a wee bit too analytic.  I'm feeding the QA360 to a Chord Mojo and from that to a Ray Samuels RS-71A to Sennheiser HD-25 1-ii.  Feeding the same DAC/amp combo from a Pioneer BD with exactly the same files the music is just there.
       
      Very recently, I've been using the fabulously recorded Linn records "We've Got A World That Swings" to pit the QA360 against the Pioneer BD  (and indeed brought a Naim DAC V1 with the QA360 or Pioneer as source into the equation).  With the Pioneer as source I always like what I'm hearing, the music is always communicated.  With the QA360 as source there's slightly more detail to be heard, but I just don't feel the music.
       
      I've been playing around with the different firmware versions and even cabling to try to get the QA360 to communicate the music as the Pioneer does; so far I've been unsuccessful.
      griff2, May 30, 2016
  2. YoYo JoKeR
    QLS QA360: A Hidden Gem
    Written by YoYo JoKeR
    Published Dec 24, 2014
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sound Quality, Build Quality, Value.
    Cons - USB support is absent.


     
    I am penning down my opinion about the QLS QA360 Digital Audio Player. I will try to keep this review simple as possible and I hope it would be easy to read, and will help fellow enthusiasts to know more about the QA360.
     
    Me: I am a 21 year old Engineering student living in a small town in India. I would like to call myself a music enthusiast, rather than an audiophile. I was inspired by music since childhood, and as the time passed, the passion of music grew in me, and that subsequently led me to join Head-Fi. Eventually, I found the pleasure of listening to music mainly by the HD600 and recently, by the seductive LCD2 headphones, and realized the true components of recorded music. I usually like to listen to Indian Classical Music along with Bollywood songs. My main listening genres include classical, vocal, instrumental, jazz and sometimes pop.
     

     
    Intro:  QLS-HiFi, is just another Chinese DAP manufacturer hidden from the world’s eyes, QLS is however a renown brand inside China. Their flagship DAP is the QA360, released in April 2014, after 3 years of its development. QA360 is a Mid-Fi DAP, with DSD capability.
     
    Specifications of QA360 as per QLS:
     
    •    PGA2311 for Advanced digital volume control.
    •    Three Low jitter TCXO for PCM & DSD.
     
    •    SDHC/SDXC Supports up to 128GB with FAT32.
    •    Firmware upgradeable
     
    •    Menu: English and Chinese Simplified/Traditional.
    •    High power Class A headphone amplifier.
    •    PGA2311 150-Steps high-performance Digital-Controlled Analogue Volume Control
    •    4-layers PCB for all circuit boards.
    •    Audio Support:
    - 16bit/24bit, 44.1-192Khz, DSD 1bit 64FS.
    - Audio format supported:
      - WAV :  16/24bit, 44.1~192 kHz. 
      - AIFF  :  16/24bit, 44.1~192 kHz. 
      - FLAC :  16/24bit, 44.1 kHz~48 kHz, compression level 0~8.
      - APE   :  16 bit, 44.1 kHz, compression level fast and normal.
      - ALAC :  16 bit, 44.1 kHz
      - MP3   :  16bit, 44.1/48 kHz, 96k bps~320k bps, CBR/VBR/ABR encoding.
      - CUE   :  ANSI / UNICODE / UTF-8 Encoding. 
      - DSD   :  DSD64 1bit, Stereo---DIFF、DSF、SACD ISO.
    - Digital output: PCM / Dolby Digital output/ DTS Digital output / DSD (DoP V1.0).

    •    Digital output: Coaxial (3.5mm), Optical (Round Port).
     
    •    Analogue output: 3.5mm Line Out.
    - Analogue Line out: 2V (RMS), frequency response 0Hz-20KHz, SNR 116dB, Distortion 0.0006%
    - Headphone out: 490mW/16Ω;   245mW/32Ω;   55mW/300Ω;  Frequency response: 0Hz-20Khz; Output impedance: 0.075 ohms
    •    DAC Chip: CS4398. LVP: AD8620.

    •    Battery Type: 3.7V 3120mAH Li-Po battery.
    •    Battery life: 10 to 11 hours for PCM, or 7-8 hours for DSD.
    •    Dimensions: 117x72x27mm 

     
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    Packaging and Accessories: The QA360 arrives packed inside a plain matt black cardboard box, on brand name has been mentioned upon, cardboard box is quite sturdy and strong, and can withstand the long journey during shipping times. 
     
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    List of accessories in the box, which include the following: 
     
    Charger: 5 volts/2 amperes universal charger for charging the QA360. This charger is the fastest mode of charging the QA360.
     
    USB charging cable: Sufficiently long, can be used for charging the QA360 from computer or any other 5V source. 
     
    SD Card: A full size Sandisk SD card (16GB 30MB/S) 
     
    SD Card reader: A full size SD card reader for data transfer using the SD card.
     
    Screen guard: A spare screen guard for applying on QA360's screen. Also includes a cloth for cleaning the screen.
     
    User Manual: Contains all information about operating the QA360. English and Chinese languages included.
     
    Warranty card: Contains warranty information.
     
    Silicon case: This translucent case is supplied to protect the QA360 from falls or scratches, and also gives a firm holding grip and anti-skid feature to the QA360.
     
    Packaging is nicely done, with accessories provided being sufficient in quantity and made up of great quality. Almost all of included accessories are manufactured/endorsed by QLS themselves, ensuring a handsome quality control.
     

     
    Design and Build: The QA360 has an excellent build quality. Its built like a tank (reminding me the build of M-Stage’s) the main body and even all buttons is made up of metal, most probably containing aluminium. QA360 has a rectangular shape with curved edges, though it is a bit thicker. The QA360 Is fairly heavy in weight owing to its heavy build, but still it can be comfortably operated using one hand itself. QLS Audio provides an 3 year warranty on the QA360, which is quite impressive, considering most of the others DAP’s have only 1 or 2 years warranty at most. This again reassures us about the QLS’s faith in their products. Ergonomics and comfort factor is fairly good in QA360, because QA360 has a great build quality, it feels a bit heavy and might be a little difficult to operate for enthusiasts with smaller hands.
     
     

    On the Top side, the QA360 has a socket for antenna extension. Surprising as it may seem, QA360 is capable of remote controlling. The remote is available as optional.
     
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    On the left side, An full size SD card slot is present. The card slot operates smoothly without any hitches. Insertion and removal of card is fairly easy, with just an simple push.
     
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    On the right side, A sliding lock button is present, whose function is to lock down all the keys once lock button is activated. A sliding power button is also present. I actually prefer sliding power button over an conventional push button, that is because one can flip on/off in just a second, when compared to 3-5 seconds on push type power buttons. Both of these sliding buttons have very fine and sturdy operation. Feels confident and slick to slide one. Two volume buttons are present, Volume controlling is very fine, it has 150 volume control, and works very well with IEM’s and headphones. One can achieve even minute attenuations in volumes without any issues. Volume switching is smooth and very gradual, which is a big plus especially sensitive IEM’s.
     
     
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    On The front side, Four buttons (Up/down Left/Right) are present, along with select, menu and back keys. The navigation buttons are used to navigate songs, or forward/backward operations depending upon the situation. A select key is present in the middle of navigation keys, and is used to select or play/pause the songs. The back key, as usual takes the user to the previous menu. Buttons are well laid and are very convenient and nice. Buttons feel very smooth, fine and very accurate. 
     
    Display screen is good enough, though screen clarity or screen resolution is not impressive, but still it does the job just fine. (This is common in almost of all DAP’s)
     
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    On the bottom side, Output and charging sockets are located. From left to right, Headphone output, coaxial output and optical output respectively. It is convenient that optical and coaxial outputs are also included in the QA360, But I could only utilize headphone output in this review, (since I dont have access to any optical/coaxial devices) To far right, a charging port is present, to which charging jack has to be connected to charge the QA360. All the jacks are well built and implemented, and have a good feel to them.
     
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    Battery life: Battery life is fairly good. As for me, the battery lasts for about 6-7 hours, which is quite good.The battery capacity of QA360 is of 3120mAH. Even though it is a good capacity battery, Playback time is pretty decent at 6-7 hours. The battery has to be charged by a 5V 2A adapter, and is included in the package. Charging time using this adapter is around 3 hours. QA360 always plays it 'cool' and never gets warm, not even during charging.
     

     
    User Interface: The current firmware version is V1.3, and is upgradeable as new versions are released by QLS. Startup and shut down happens within just 2 seconds, which makes QA360 quite fast in operation. The actual firmware is very fast, responsive and zippy when it comes to browsing. No hanging or slowing down whatsoever. I sometimes wish there should be improvement in font and screen display brightness/resolution, because as of now the fonts are quite small for viewing, and are pixelized. I feel a much more advanced brightness and resolution settings can be provided by QLS, in their next firmware update.
     
     
    Menu key opens up the settings and other options. This DAP is DSD capable, along with one can change many advanced settings like themes, layouts, key speed, DSD settings, playing settings and sound filters. The sound filter options are slow/fast, by selecting slow, the sonic output was a little laidback, and natural. By selecting fast filter, I felt the sound was somewhat shallower by a margin and more artificial. The QA 360 by default comes with loads of high-res FLAC, WAV DSD music files stored in its 16GB card. Though most of them are in Chinese, many are instrumental and English vocals. This is again a nice initiative by QLS. The battery indicator accurately calculates the actual amount of battery power remaining, and has stable readings. 
     
     
    Overall, the firmware is simple, yet has all essential features, is super fast to flip around, is customizable and is quite reliable and stable. I feel the interface of QA360 allows users to personalize the DAP as desired.
     

     
    Sound: As for the most important part, The QA360 is overall Transparent, Neutral and Detailed sounding with excellent but accurate sound stage, imaging and detail retrieval. Dynamics are superB, giving a circular spacious sound. Soundstage is spacious, but in a natural and realistic way. I am able to differentiate between FLAC and 320kbps MP3 for the same song with the QA360. Considering the QA360’s neutral sound quality, it can match up with any genre and any headphone without sounding bad in particular. QA360’s neutrality is not at all harsh/piercing or irritating like some other DAP’s. Instead, the QA360 manages to produce a slight natural flavour.
     
     
    The transparency on QA360 is really appreciable. QA360 is very resolving, transparent, yet natural sounding to human ears. I was really stunned for the first time I listened to the QA360. The QA360 also has Tonality as its plus along with transparency. Its tonality is slightly ‘organic and pleasing’ This tonality trait can make ‘thin’ and ‘cold’ sounding headphones to sing along. The tonality of QA360 is such that, it does not make compromise in transparency, neutrality or dynamics. Listening to hi-res vocals and instrumentals on QA360 is a pure bliss.
     
     
     
    Output power at headphone jack is fairly good and is sufficient to drive any and all IEM’s and also to drive most of the headphones, to loud listening levels, I always listen to volumes below 60 on IEM’s and below 110 on headphones. Noise floor of the QA360 is audibly dead silent. I could not detect any audible disturbance in any form from the QA360.  EMI pickup is completely nil, along with no pop sounds on startup or shutdown, which is really appreciable. Pairing LCD2’s with QA360, the result was more than pleasant; the combo sounded pleasing and had sufficiently loud volume levels.(considering LCD2’s are power hungry) But I have always felt that sonic character of headphones improve with an dedicated amplifier. But even then, it’s a great praise for QA360 in driving the LCD2’s.
     

    Comparing the QA360 with FiiO X5, I feel the QA360 definitely outperforms the X5 in terms of sound quality as well as build quality. X5 is slightly warmer and feels a bit congested sounding (comparatively), whereas QA360 is very transparent and neutral, with relaxed and natural soundstage. (Of course, we have to remember that QA360 costs about 200$ more than the X5) However, X5 wins is portability factor and output power. The X5 has reasonably more powerful output at headphone jack than the QA360. Also the X5 is way slimmer and lighter than QA360, along with support for USB connectivity. X5 also has a more ‘user friendly’ firmware than the QA360.
     
     

     
     
    Conclusion:  Though QLS is a relatively newer-known brand in the audiophile world, The QA360 without doubt is an amazing DAP. I never expected such a good sounding DAP from them. It offers a excellent transparency, along with neutral sound quality with a touch of naturalness. The sound quality is phenomenal (considering its competitors) and Build quality is supreme, which is not found on many other DAP’s. 
     
     
    The Pros: 
     
    1) Transparency: Transparency of QA360 is worth mentioning. The transparency, resolving power of QA360 is simply phenomenal (in its category)
     
    2) Tonality: I feel QA360 has a slightly organic and pleasing organic tonality, but it does not sacrifice dynamics, neutrality or transparency. Maybe this is the reason why I can listen to QA360 for hours together without any fatigue.
     
    3) Sound quality: Sound quality of QA360 is accurate, mostly uncoloured and neutral. Detail retrieval is very good. Soundstage and dynamics are just amazing. This is definitely an advantage. I always have felt that a source (base of the sound chain) should be neutral and transparent. 
     
    4) Build Quality: Build quality of QA360 is top notch and hence I assume it will also be durable for a long time to come.
     
    5) Value: The overall performance of QA360 is excellent, especially considering its price, and also the fact that there are limited DAP’s available in around 500$ range. I can say, QA360 has a Mid-Fi price tag, but its sonic offering is nearly at Summit-Fi level.
     
    The Cons: 
     
    1) USB connectivity is absent: The QA360 does not have USB port, so one has to manually remove the SD card, connect to PC and then transfer the files. This can be irritating for frequent data transferor’s like me, and also, since USB port is absent, the charging port is via an seperate DC 2 pole connector, this makes us to carry the special charging cable to wherever we travel. Definitely a cumbersome drawback for travellers. But I think this drawback can be taken as blessing in disguise, as QA360 will be free from any technical issues from internal memory/corrupt software or hanging issues, Thus achieving more reliability.
     
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    2) Portability: Though this is not really a drawback, the QA360 is comparatively thick and heavy, probably due to its nice build. Enthusiasts with smaller hand size may find QA360 to be heavy, or difficult to operate with one hand. But it should be manageable. As for me, I would anyday trade thickness and weight in exchange for a better build quality. 
     
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      hqssui, audionewbi and Lonelyers like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. RochRx7
      Would be a better review if you took some pics navigating through the UI.. looks like a gameboy... :)
      RochRx7, May 19, 2015
    3. deharrison
      Does this play FLAC above 48 kHz? Is that a typo in the specs?
      deharrison, Jul 1, 2015
    4. noxa
      Why no comparison to the Hidizs AP 100 in the pic? I'd really like a little comparison between them
      noxa, Dec 26, 2015

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