General Information


Evolution never stops. We as humans have never stopped questing, and neither should a true flagship device.

With an outstanding performance level, and all the ingredients for a new groundbreaking device, we present you our new Flagship DAC/Headphone Amp:
The CMA Fifteen

Commemorating the 15th anniversary of Questyle’s revolutionary Current Mode Amplification Technology.

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At its core, Current Mode Amplification uses current, instead of voltage, to amplify audio signals. It is a state-of-the-art technology in audio amplification, leading to tremendous performance differences when compared to traditional audio amplifiers. As the “engine” of the audio system, Current Mode Amplification features a fully discrete and topological structure, and can achieve ultra-high sound performance that reproduces music so faithfully, it feels like you are in the original recording room. Using Current Mode Amplification technology, listeners can attain a much better listening experience, even when using consumer-grade headphones and speaker systems.


Current Mode Amplification Meets Current mode DAC=Current Mode²​

After 3 years of pre-research with ESS, Questyle selected the flagship DAC ES9038PRO, a decoding chip with the most powerful performance of any DAC invented to date, and jointly launched CMA Fifteen with ESS, supporting 32bit/768K and DSD 512 master band formats.

To chase extreme performance, almost all high-end DAC chips from world-renowned manufacturers feature current-type output, which in most traditional amplifiers, is then coupled with an IV converter and classical amplifier architecture. But we at Questyle wondered: if the DAC’s output is already current-type, why don’t we also amplify that signal in current-mode? And that’s exactly what we did in the CMA Fifteen: we use the ES9038PRO current-mode DAC, and couple that to four Current Mode Amplifiers, which together operate in fully balanced mode to achieve “system-level lossless” purity.


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CMA Fifteen supports LDAC Bluetooth​

As a global member of Sony, we equipped the CMA Fifteen with LDAC Bluetooth. LDAC™ is a new audio technology from Sony that allows you to enjoy high quality wireless audio via Bluetooth. With 3x data transmission rates as compared to traditional Bluetooth, LDAC provides an enhanced wireless listening experience for all your music.

Bring Apple music lossless work to your high-end audio system​

The CMA Fifteen supports Apple Music Lossless. In addition to the classic USB Type-B input, the CMA Fifteen now also features a USB Type-C input to solve the wire conversion loss through cables. You can finally enjoy the new experience of high resolution lossless audio online, anytime, anywhere.
*USB Type-C input has priority. When USB Type-C and Type-B are connected at the same time, the system will process the Type-C audio source by default.


CMA Fifteen as a Preamp for your record player​

CMA Fifteen now comes with analog inputs on the back of the unit. Connect CMA Fifteen to your record player as a preamp, you can enjoy the best possible sound quality. If you ever get tired of your digital music, the CMA Fifteen can now also take you back to the golden age of records.


Technical Specifications​

Note: Audio specs are based on the test result from Audio Precision AP2722 in Questyle lab, not the theoretical values or the theoretical values of DAC chip.

AC Input: 100-120V / 220-230V (switchable)
Power Consuming: <30W
Size: 330*200*55mm (Jacks are not included.)

Digital Input:
USB x 2 (Including a high-priority USB Type-C interface and a USB Type-B interface.)
PCM: 44.1khz-768kHz/32bit
DSD: Native DSD 512; DOP DSD 256
MQA: Full / Core decoder
USB input supports UAC 2.0. It supports Win XP, Vista, Win7, Win8, Win10, Linux, MAC OS and other operating systems. It also can be connected to smartphones supporting OTG audio output.
Note: Windows system under Win10 will need to install the ASIO driver developed by Questyle. Win10 system supports DOP DSD 256 without installing the driver, and supports Native DSD 512 with the driver installed.
Optical Input x 1: PCM: 44.1kHz~192kHz/24bit
Coaxial Input x 1: PCM: 44.1kHz~192kHz/24bit
Bluetooth Input x 1: SBC, AAC, LDAC (At the highest level of 96kHz/24bit, 990kps/909kps)
Analog Input: RCA x 1, 2Vrms standard level

Headphone Amplifier Output Interface:
6.35mm standard headphone jack x1
4-PIN balanced headphone jack x1
4.4mm balanced headphone jack x1
Note: You can set High/Standard bias through the BIAS switch on the front panel of the headphone amplifier, and set Standard/Low gain through the four Gain switches on the bottom of the headphone amplifier.

Pre-Amp Output Interface:
XLR x 1
RCA x 1
Note: The output level can be set by Standard/Studio switch and volume can be controlled by ADJ/FIX switch on the rear panel.

Pre-Amp Output Specs

Max Analog Output Amplitude:
RCA: 2V (Standard), Studio mode output up to14dBu
XLR: 4V (Standard), Studio mode output up to 20dBu

RCA: 0.0004%
XLR: 0.0003%

Frequency Response: ±0.2dB (DC-22kHz)@48kHz/24bit)

RCA: >116dB
XLR: >119dB

Headphone Amplifier Output Specs

Max Output Power:
6.35mm: 188mW @ 300Ω 1.5W @ 32Ω
4.4mm balanced / XLR 4-PIN balanced: 765mW @ 300Ω 2W @ 32Ω

<0.0003% @300Ω

Frequency Response: ±0.2dB (DC-22kHz)@44.1kHz/24bit

6.35mm: >117dB
4.4mm balanced / XLR 4-PIN balanced: >120dB



More information:

Latest reviews


1000+ Head-Fier
One of the best, but at what cost?
Pros: Great Sound
Nice Remote
Lots of inputs and outputs
Sturdy, good looks
Cons: Price
No USB B cable included - for why?
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Up for review today is the Questyle Current Mode Amplification (CMA) Fifteen (not 15.) This was sent to me by Todd at Todd The Vinyl Junkie, from This is a loaner only, designed to make me want to spend $2,799.00 on one of these. I mean…mission accomplished Todd, this is a compact and amazing-sounding DAC/amp all-in-one. The price is certainly a bit prohibitive, but if you can afford it, this is a really good-sounding DAC/amp.

Build Quality / Design / Specs (18/20):

The build quality is excellent and feels like multiple plates of aluminum put together into a DAC/amp box. It’s a bit large horizontally, but far smaller than my Cocktail Audio HA500H. It’s really well built, but picks up fingerprints like it’s going out of style (I know because the previous person who reviewed this left them everywhere (bleh.) The bias control switch appears to do nothing. Literally, nothing, so that’s odd. I can switch it on in the middle of playing music and nothing changes. The function switch changes the CMA 15 from a DAC/amp to just a DAC if you want to power it with some more different amp. This only seems necessary if you need nuclear power plant levels of power – it’s plenty powerful on its own.

The overall design is good if you like black monolithic boxes made from aluminum with orange glowy lights. Admittedly, I prefer the looks of the Headamp GS-X mini, etc. since you can pick a color other than black. The blue on those is fantastic and I wish more companies moved away from everything being black – it’s not an attractive product, just functional.

The CMA Fifteen comes with just about all of the specs you could possibly need from a DAC/amp (except a tube amp.) 32bit/768k output? Check. LDAC Bluetooth connection? Check. Apple Music Lossless? Check. Balanced 4.4mm and 4-pin XLR? Check. MQA? CHECK! DSD?! CHECK-aroonie. There are a ton of inputs and outputs as well. It will also preamp for you, hook up to your powered speakers, and it has ugly orange LEDs as well (and one cool blue one for MQA, which should be magenta.) Oh, and a TON of power – it has that too. I have it powering my JM Audio XTC-Os from the 4-pin balanced jack at 2/10 volume. There is no gain control, so you get what you get. Possibly even Susvara power levels here. It's only 2W at 32 ohms, but it feels MUCH more powerful than that. It feels more powerful than the Burson Conductor’s 6W of power, even if it’s not (on paper.)

Accessories (5/20):
Not great. The remote is really nice, but the only other thing it comes with is a power cable. That’s it. A remote and a power cable. What is with companies selling something for crazy money and not including any accessories? The $450 Topping DX5 (Here) comes with tons of accessories, heck, the Burson Conductor 3XP comes with more accessories than that at $1,400 retail. Yet the Cocktail Audio HA500H and the Questyle CMA Fifteen come with a remote and a power cable and nothing else. Oh, my bad, it does come with a Mini-CD. Yes, those things that are half the size of a regular CD, that no one has placed in their computer for the last 10 years (who still has a CD drive?) – way to stay in tune with technology Questyle (USB drives are really cheap now.) That’s it. But WAIT! Cable Rant.

CABLE RANT!!! Yes, a power cable is important to include with your product. Do you know what else is important to include? A cable to connect to your computer. No one uses USB B cables anymore, except in the audio world for some reason. Very few people just have one laying around because printers, the only thing that ever really used USB B cables, are all wireless now! So not including one is a cardinal sin in my opinion. Luckily, I had an extra one laying around from a printer I got YESTERDAY…which I use wirelessly. So, I didn’t have to pull the one off my HA500H, which also did not come with one. At least the Burson Conductor 3XP came with a USB C cable (a common connection type in the 2020s), though it was the shortest cable ever (1.5ft.) Do you know what came with a good-length cable intended for use with it? The $450 Topping DX5! Add a USB B cable – it’s not hard, and not expensive, and it won’t annoy your customer when they have to go buy one, especially a crappy one from Best Buy, or a $50 AudioQuest Pearl from Amazon (Here) and wait for it to arrive in a day or two. Cable Rant Complete.

Software / Setup / Ease of Use (20/20):
Best. Ever. I’m not kidding. Maybe it’s because I’ve installed so much other software before from all the DAC/amps I’ve used on this computer for reviews. But, I didn’t have to install anything, it even beats the HA500H’s easy installation and it kicks the crap out of the DX5 and Burson 3XP’s software installation. I literally just plugged the CMA 15 into my computer and selected it as the audio output on Tidal. BOOM! That was it – easiest ever. It also automatically knows when to MQA if you have it set to Exclusive Mode and Software Bypass (which you should do automatically if you have Tidal HiFi.) So yeah, max points here. I have nothing to add, weird – not a single complaint.

Performance / Sound (20/20):

Oh yes. It’s really good, and the only real reason to buy this DAC/amp other than the easy install. It sounds fantastic. Running through my test tracks playlist with my JM Audio XTC-Open blows my mind at how good it sounds. There is so much body and soundstage and everything just sounds fantastic. It even sounds a little better than my HA500H. Just…not much better. The CMA Fifteen feels a little bassier, and a little less “thin,” and that’s it. Realistically, all you have to do to change that is turn on the tube on the HA500H and they sound basically the same. Is it worth 2x the price for the CMA Fifteen? No. More on that in the next section, but the reality is that the CMA Fifteen sounds as good as the HA500H, and better than a lot of cheaper options, but probably not good enough that it’s worth the price.

Comparisons / Price (10/20):
Yes, the price. $2,800 is a stupid amount of money. You can get a REALLY nice set of headphones for that much. I’d recommend you do that and get a much cheaper DAC/amp. The Cocktail Audio has everything the CMA Fifteen has, with a tad less power, and no 4.4mm jack. But it’s been on sale for $1,400 for as long as I can remember (normally $2,400.) That’s quite literally 50% of the cost for basically the same performance, but with TUBE technology KYLE! If you want a 4.4mm jack, grab a Shanling M6 Ultra DAP with the money you save by not buying the CMA Fifteen, or an IBasso DX320 – whatever, you do you. Even the Burson Conductor 3XP and the Topping DX5 make a good argument for getting one of them. Yes, the Topping won’t sound as good or have the 4.4mm jack, but it’s 1/6th the price. For most people, it’ll get the job done. The 3XP has a TON more power if you need it, even though the setup is a PAIN and it doesn’t sound quite as good as either the HA500H or the CMA Fifteen. But really, as long as the 1.8W of power is good enough for you, just get the HA500H, it even has a screen. Yes, the HA500H is huge, and it may not fit your system, so there’s that. Also, it’s a relatively unknown company out of Korea, so there’s that. Also, the remote’s not great. But it’s HALF as much – simple math.

This is very simple, if you want the best DAC/amp, get the Chord Dave. It’s like $14,000. It’ll probably make you hear angels on your Susvara. If you have the money, do it. If you want the best under $5k, the CMA Fifteen might just be that, especially if you want to listen to 4.4mm IEMs for some reason on your desktop setup (don’t blow them out.) If you have a Utopia or a Susvara or an Expanse, and you really want to make sure your source is as good as it can get, the CMA Fifteen should be at the top of your list. Realistically though, for half the price, you can get 99% of the performance (and still no USB B cable) from the HA500H.

Wolfhawk’s Rating: 73/100
@Questyle Mad respect to you for your reply and the excellent products you make.
@Wolfhawk46 I/we do my/our best 😄 Honestly never led anyone wrong in the end
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I actually prefer this to the Dave.


100+ Head-Fier
Flawless Victory
Pros: 1. Realistic, uncolored, pristine sound
2. Excellent synergy with Planar IEMs and Headphones. Great synergy with DD iems/headphones as well
3. Solid build quality and intuitive controls
5. Impressive technical performance
Cons: 1. Weird gain switch location
2. Supplied power cord is too short

Questyle is one of those rare brands that is yet to release something that isn’t impeccable. They have a very small catalogue that offers only a handful of products but whenever they come up with something new, it's bound to be a guaranteed hit. I think this exemplary consistency correlates well with their very conservative product release practice where quality and polish takes utmost priority as opposed to flooding the market with subpar products every other week. I have tried and owned both their dongles (M12 and M15) and had long trial sessions with their previous flagship, CMA 12 Master. When I got the opportunity to try the new flagship, CMA 15, for a month, naturally my anticipation was sky high. I am happy to report that this new All in One unit from Questyle has far exceeded my expectations.

Design and Build quality:

CMA 15 is not a particularly humongous AIO which such devices often tend to be. It's roughly the size of a Blu Ray DVD player or twice the size of RME ADI 2, another compact DAC Amp unit. Feels substantial when held but the weight distribution is simply perfect therefore the unit is very easy to move around. Instead of a screen, inputs and file types/sample rate are indicated by individual LEDs. I very much appreciate the choice of using amber for indicator LEDs, as blue/green indicators can get irritating, especially at night. Volume knob implementation is very good and has a satisfyingly tactile resistance to it instead of being buttery smooth. This makes micro adjusting volume a cakewalk.


As for accessories, it's fairly basic and not extensive. You’ll receive a remote control, a power cord and a USB B data cable. I loved the remote control because of the nice tactile buttons and the extensive level of controls and functions it offers. CMA 15 also has a cool party trick. Whenever you adjust volume using the remote, the volume knob will rotate accordingly as well. I found this small detail very cool.

Specs and Input options:

Standard affair. Covers basically all viable input options including BT and USB type C. I won’t bother much with inputs/outputs as I prefer to avoid clutter and talk more about sound. I believe other reviews on head fi have covered it already . CMA 15 uses Questyle’s signature Current mode amplification which I am a big fan of. It's quite different from more ubiquitous voltage mode amplification therefore power specs can be somewhat misleading. Actual drivability is much higher than the numbers suggest. Contrary to CMA 12 Master which had an AKM chip, CMA 15 is sporting ESS flagship 9038 Pro. All the usual codecs are supported including MQA and DSD

Sound, synergy and drivability:

Like I mentioned previously, CMA 15 is using ESS instead of AKM which was present in the CMA 12 Master. However CMA 15 sounds fuller and more polite and linear in the treble region compared to its predecessor. I would describe the sound as hyper realistic and at the same time, dead neutral and precise. I found no sabre glare or supposed dryness that is generally attributed to ESS devices. Everything sounded smooth and linear throughout the frequency spectrum. Bass needs a special mention as well. The way Questyle devices do bass is truly one of a kind. It extends very very deep and has a visceral physicality to it.

It's generally difficult to describe uncolored DAC Amps for me as there is seemingly no special sauce setting them apart from the rest. In my opinion, what sets CMA 15 apart other than its realism and bass response is its spectacular, holographic imaging and how it churns out the best out of headphones, especially planars. I hooked my budget pair of Shuoer S12 planar IEMs to it just for the lols and I was struggling to believe what I was hearing. I have never experienced any IEM scaling so exponentially in my audio journey. It was as if I was listening to a 700/800 USD pair of IEMs, not a 129 USD one. I had somewhat similar experiences with two Hifiman Planars, Edition XS and Ananda Stealth as well.

Pairing with DD headphones was also exceptionally good, especially on high bias. I don’t know what tweaks this mode does internally but It made my HD 650 sing with authority. However, DD headphones don’t scale as much as planars do on CMA 15. I would still recommend OTLs like Feliks Euforia AE or similar if you have the same budget and exclusively run DD headphones like ZMF Atrium or Focal Utopia.


Pairing with IEMs is well, complicated. All BA and hybrids sound slightly off for some reason. However planars and single DD IEMs perform incredibly well like their over ear counterpart. As I’ve mentioned before, Shuoer S12 was simply breathtaking on CMA 15. Sony IER M9? not so much.

Soundstage was fairly adequate for the price. Width is decent, depth is more impressive in comparison. Detail retrieval is as good as it should be for the price. Drivability is fantastic. CMA 15 can power every headphone under the sun including oddballs like Abyss AB1266 Phi TC, HE6SE and Susvara (except electrostatics of course)

Special note; BT sound:

CMA 15 has the LDAC BT option and it's honestly the best BT implementation I’ve heard of in an All in one unit. It does lack some body and detail compared to physical connectivity options but gets very close to the real thing nonetheless, which is still quite impressive.


Matrix Element X :
Element X has a lackluster amp section and is mainly viable as a DAC. It’s a massively different approach from CMA 15 being very sterile and even sandpapery at times. Therefore it only pairs well with warm Amps/Tubes or warm, dark headphones. CMA 15 is the better all rounder IMO

iFi iCAN pro: iCAN pro is a warm, colored amp and is a great complement to CMA 15. I won’t rank one over another if amplifier performance is considered. They are equally awesome just in different ways.

Feliks Euforia AE: Being an OTL, high impedance DD headphones will perform considerably better on the Euforia. However it is not suitable for planars and all BA iems due to very high output impedance and low current.

M15: What's a dongle doing here? Yes, the Questyle M15 is really that good. M15 and CMA15 are eerily similar and M15 actually has an advantage over CMA15. It doesn’t have any issue with All BA/Hybrid sets. However it’s a budget device after all compared to the 10x expensive CMA15 there not as refined especially in the upper treble. CMA 15 has massively superior detail retrieval and precision as well. M15 still remains damn impressive considering how close it gets to its older sibling.



CMA 15 is almost perfect, almost because it does have some negatives (Hard to reach, odd positioned gain switches for example). But if overall sound quality and synergy with a broad spectrum of headphones/iems is considered, There is hardly any sonic flaw to be found, especially considering the price.

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Thanks for the review.


Headphoneus Supremus
Questyle CMA Fifteen: a decent two in one solution
Pros: neat DAC/amp combo in one chassis
- solid build quality
- solid technical performance for the price
- rounded but dynamic sound
- analogue input
- very neutral (for some it is a pro)
Cons: very neutral (for some it is a con)
- can be a bit dry and uninspiring
- shape of soundstage occasionally is a bit odd
- not the most musical/emotional listen
- lacks some fluidity and coherence versus higher-end gear

Questyle has kindly approached me to review their flagship DAC/amp, the CMA Fifteen. I happily agreed as being a headphone listener this is a unit that drew my attention anyway. I am not affiliated with Questyle to any degree.


Background and a little Questyle history:

Questyle was founded in 2012 in China. It is a company that takes quality control and quality in general very seriously and the innovation of their engineers was acknowledged by many international awards including CES. Their design philosophy is based around amplifying current instead of voltage; the opposite of what most amplifiers do. I will touch on this technology a little later. Their first amplifier was the CMA800i which was an immense success. They started at the higher end of the market, the technology then trickled down to more affordable consumer pieces like the CMA600i, CMA400i and with further developments they released the CMA12 and last year the CMA15.

I used to own the CMA600i which I quite enjoyed back then, its weak point was the DAC section which in my opinion held back the overall performance. With an external DAC like Chord Qutest I had achieved great results until eventually moved on to better amplifiers. I remember the CMA600i being quite a smooth listen.


What is current amplification then?

I am very far from understanding it fully and I am not an engineer at all, but I will try to sum up what I read about it here and there.
Voltage is the electrical force that drives the current between two points. Current is the rate of flow of the electric charge. Apparently it is easier and more cost effective to amplify the voltage of an electric signal, that is why most amplifiers are designed this way. The disadvantage of amplifying voltage is that the original, very weak signal gets slightly distorted during the amplification process. Think of it like projecting a picture to the wall on an old overhead projector: the picture gets a lot bigger, but also a little distorted.
On the other hand if the current rate gets amplified/increased, the original, weak signal remains undistorted, just the flow rate gets boosted which also leads to a stronger and louder result. This can't be done on speakers as the technology has physical limitations, but current amplification can be powerful enough to drive the small and efficient headphone drivers/transducers. Current amplification effectively is an alternative signal management which aims to preserve a cleaner signal and reproduce a more accurate sound in headphones.

In my opinion all higher end gear including amps, DACs and headphones have one main purpose and that is to sound as realistic and lifelike as possible. In my experience there are three main ways to achieve a more lifelike sound in your system. The most obvious is to buy higher end headphones, as they tend to sound a lot more lifelike with more natural texture. The second and third ways are R2R DACs and tube amps. It is not an accident that most long term, hard core audiophiles end up with one or both of them. The fourth, additional way of achieving a more natural sound could well be current amplification to a smaller extent. To me current amplification definitely has some more lifelike qualities compared to many regular voltage amplifiers. Not quite like a tube amp or R2R DAC, but a step towards a more realistic sound. Of course, there are gains and drawbacks of most R2R DACs and tube amps too, unless you go super high-end.



In the CMA15 there is an ESS chip which is known to be very technical but quite sharp sounding. I do not believe in 'chip sound' and you shouldn't either. The DAC's sound is all about implementing that chip in the audio circuit. Implementation can change the prejudged character of a DAC chip as it does in the CMA15. The CMA15 certainly has some treble energy, but the sound is still smooth and not bright/sharp or edgy at all. (Another example is the iFi Pro iDSD with Burr-Brown chips. Those chips are known for a warm and less technical sound and the Pro iDSD is a very detailed and technical DAC.)

Design, build quality:

The unit is surprisingly heavy for its size, but that is mostly due to the thick high grade aluminium casing which prevents all sorts of signal interferation. Build quality is up to a high standard, I particularly like the satisfying click of the switches on the front. Beauty is subjective, but I personally like the compact studio/industrial look of this Questyle flagship.



I tried several DAC and amp combinations in the last few months which are still vivid in my mind, but do not have them anymore for direct comparison. Just to mention a few: Burson Soloist 3XP, Bryston BHA-1, iFi Pro iCan Signature, Chord Qutest, RME ADI-2, Soekris 2541. I combined all of these with each other back and forth.
What I have right now is the Chord TT2. I know, when it comes to new prices or even at secondhand prices the TT2 cost twice as much as the CMA15 but still I think this can be an interesting comparison although perhaps not quite fair. (I also have an older generation iFi Pro iCan at hand.)

General impressions:

Part of the reason I was interested in the CMA15 is to potentially replace my TT2 and use the extra cash elsewhere. The raving reviews of the Questyle and reading about another Head-Fier who swapped his TT2 for the CMA15 made me interested.

The sound of the CMA15 positively surprised me in some ways and slightly disappointed in others. Due to the delta/sigma ESS DAC I was expecting a brighter, edgier sound and a more two dimensional soundstage. I was surprised to hear that the soundstage has a lot more depth to it than I was expecting. More depth than on other delta/sigma DACs like the excellent RME ADI-2 for example. The width however is not actually that great on the CMA15 to my ears. Yes, sometimes you can hear sounds from far left or far right, but generally it feels like there are two big walls on my sides that somehow prevent the stage from expanding horizontally: I sense some unevenness in the CMA15's soundstage width.

This is a very neutral sounding DAC/amp it is not leaning to any direction, like most other equipment do. It is not a little bit warm, it is not a little bit bright: it is pretty much dead neutral. That can be a good thing in many users' books, but if someone is after a little extra flavour, might have to look elsewhere.



I think the CMA15 offers a technical performance level akin to the competitors in its price range. The asking price is between £2200-£2500 depending on where you order it from. For this money you can put together many different and exciting DAC and amp combinations, for example using the pieces I mentioned above. Most of those DAC and amp combinations will cost you around two grand. While I think the CMA15 certainly competes with them, it doesn't really stand out. To me the RME ADI-2 with the Burson Soloist 3XP (Super Charger & power amp mode) or the Chord Qutest with a secondhand Bryston BHA-1 can still sound more spacious, more dynamic, more refined and perhaps a little more exciting. Of course every combination has drawbacks too.
The biggest advantage of the CMA15 here is a neat all in one aluminium case as opposed to a relatively awkward stack.

Back to the CMA15's sound, further initial impressions apart from the shape of the soundstage and the neutrality are dynamism, and macro dynamics. These are both excellent on the flagship Questyle. I really enjoy that tangible bass impact and weight. It is not as crazy as it is on the Bryston BHA-1 or the iCan Pro Signature, but slightly more impactful than the Hugo TT2 on its own. If I could change one thing on the TT2 that would be just a little more bass impact.

The CMA15 sounds as detailed and resolution is as good as the price suggests.


As I briefly touched on it already, bass is neutral but weighty and impactful with good slam and definition. Extension is as good as it gets. Notes are clean and well separated. Despite the dynamism the edges are not too sharp, they are slightly rounded. I think this is a characteristic of the current amplification as it pretty much describes the whole frequency range. While I really like a healthy and kicking bass, sometimes I was wishing for just a hint of warmth or extra smoothness.


Mids are clear and well defined again with plenty of detail. They sound smooth(ish), but they are not as lifelike as they can be. The singer's position is great, mids are not recessed and not too forward either. Both in a spatial and in a frequency range kind of sense mids are in line and in balance with the rest of the sound. If I had to criticise mids on the CMA15 I would say they are a little too 'studiolike' to my taste. They sound like a great studio recording as opposed to a live performance or even live recording. Vocals are not as engaging as they can be.


Treble is clean and clear with good air. While it is still in balance with the rest of the sound, there is certainly a strong treble presence. It adds to the perception of space and details, and I wouldn't say it is overly bright or sharp despite using the ESS chip. Yet, to me this treble openness combined with the dynamic presence both in treble and bass led to slightly more fatiguing long term listening sessions. It is fun and enjoyable in the first two hours, but then if I switch to my TT2, my ears sigh a smaller relief.


Few more thoughts on sound and comparing to Hugo TT2:

Let's sum up: to me the CMA15 sounds like a neutral, dynamic studio equipment with good detail retrieval and resolution for the price. Current mode smoothes off the edges, but to me the sound is not quite fluid and effortless enough for long listening sessions.

When it comes to multi thousand dollar audio equipment, let it be headphones, amplifiers or DACs, it is common knowledge that performance will improve to smaller and smaller degrees as you throw in another grand and another grand. A $4000 headphone will not sound twice as good as a $2000 pair. But it is almost certain, they will sound better: more spacious, more lifelike, more coherent with better timbre and texture in most cases. Budget, hearing abilities, needs, wishes and taste all play a big role whether someone wants to buy a $4000 headphone or stay happy with a $2000 pair. Improvements might be incremental to some, but enormous to another. It is a subjective hobby on many levels.

To me the Hugo TT2 sounds not simply smooth, but significantly more fluid and coherent. Music effortlessly flows with the TT2. Compared to the CMA15 the level of micro details and micro dynamics are a clear step up, Chord's desktop DAC/amp sounds more lifelike, the space is a lot bigger in all directions, instrument separation in this bigger space is more effortless and cleaner as well.
The CMA15 in comparison can get a little congested at very busy passages whereas the TT2 handles these with ease. The information of the surroundings, feeling the venue from tiny spatial cues is clearly present on the TT2; to a much lesser extent on the CMA15. Drum hits are notoriously difficult to reproduce in a lifelike manner. A drum hit is a short but intense and complex signal. Many amplifiers get the leading edge right, giving the impression of a dynamic sound. Not too many amplifiers excel at reproducing drum hit decay, body and reverbs. Upper mids and lower treble is much more open and airy on the TT2 which leads to a more natural sound perception.
When comparing the CMA15 to similarly priced DAC and amp combinations, these differences of course will be less obvious if apparent at all.


Occasionally the Questyle can also come across as a little dry. While the TT2 is not as organic and lifelike as a good R2R DAC, Rob Watt's FPGA design with the increased taps puts chord DACs somewhere between regular delta/sigma and R2R when it comes to lifelikeness and three dimensionality.
I still think the CMA15 is a great two in one unit, and I am aware that comparing it to the TT2 is unfair. Yet based on my research, the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Head-Fi led me to think the battle will be a little tighter.

In my opinion, you should have something to love in every audio equipment you own, even in the most neutral sounding ones. Most, neutrally categorized equipment lean just a little bit towards warmth or brightness. Some excel at presenting accurate texture, some are very coherent, others are supremely smooth. Some are very lifelike or open and airy sounding. Some are extra dynamic and slam hard. Depending on your taste, you love your chosen 'neutral' gear for a reason. I find that on the CMA15 there is not actually too much to criticise from an objective perspective. It is a neutral, dynamic studio sound, a neat 'two in one' solution. My issue is, there is not much about the CMA15's sound to get particularly excited about either, let alone evoking emotions. Still, if you come from some more affordable Schiit stacks, basic THX, SMSL or Topping combos, there is a good chance the CMA15 will wow you.



I do not like to share less glowing reviews, but I have to stay honest to my ears. I still think the CMA15 is a very decent and good DAC/amp, but I also think that with separate DAC and amp combinations you can find a more pleasing and more enjoyable sound when it comes to the £2200-£2500 price range. Secondhand market is a different story, with some luck you can find a used CMA15 around £1400-£1500. For that money it certainly beats pretty much every other alternatives; but it is not a Hugo TT2 killer. At least not for me.

Bonus experiment:

After I finished the review I decided to try the CMA15's amp section only, using the Hugo TT2 as a DAC. This is a rather unlikely usage scenario, but based on my experience with the CMA600i/Qutest combo from a few years back, I wanted to hear what a higher end DAC brings out of the CMA15's amp section. Analogue input was missing from the last few Questyle DAC/amps since the CMA600i; it is back on the new flagship. For comparison purposes I used my old generation iFi Pro iCan strictly in single ended input mode to make the comparison more fair (balanced input is superior on the iCan).
As expected, the TT2 as DAC only to the CMA15 elevates and refines the sound of this unit. The Chord DAC enhances spaciousness and creates a more accurate 3D stage. The sound also gets smoother and more refined. The Questyle amp's character is preserved, it still sounds very neutral and a little dry especially compared to the iFi Pro iCan. The Questyle offers a little more space but I find the iFi more fun to listen to due to the extra weight, body, dynamics and slight warm colouration in its sound.


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