asifur

100+ Head-Fier
Questyle M12: King of $150 price bracket
Pros: + Superb build quality with machined aluminum
+ Smaller size ensures portability
+ Smart Impedance works just great
+ Good amount of power is enough to drive most IEMs
+ Reference grade tuning
+ Good resolution and staging performances
Cons: - missing balanced output of 4.4mm
- no lightning port adapter out of the box
Questyle M12: King of $150 price bracket

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Summary & Objective:

The @Questyle M12 is the first ever dongle release by Questyle promising outstanding performance as always. It comes with great build quality and some nifty features like Smart Impedance detection and Current Amplification which makes it a great contender for the price bracket.


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Introduction:

The Questyle M12 comes with great machined aluminum build and promises outstanding sound performance for the price bracket. It is the first ever dongle release by Questyle and have some very nifty new features built-into it.
The Questyle M12 is priced at $139.



Disclaimer:

This unit was sent by @Questyle for the purpose of an honest review.
Everything mentioned in this review are purely my own based on my experiences with the Dongle DAC/AMP.


Design, Build & Features:

I wouldn't want to make this a very long review by describing each feature but for people who want to know here are some extracts from the Questyle website.
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Specifications:

The Questyle M12 comes with $139 price tag and the specifications are as below:

https://www.questyle.com/language/en/m12-en/

Material: CNC machined aluminum
Color: Black / Silver
Size: 51[L] X 16.5[W] X 8.1[D] (mm)
Operating System Required:
Android phone and pad: Android 5.0 and above
PC: Win10 1803 and above
Apple cellphone: iOS (You need to buy an OTG cable for Lightning to Type-C.)
Apple computer: Mac OS
DAC Capability of M12:
PCM: 32kHz – 384kHz (16/24/32Bit)
DSD: DSD64(1Bit 2.8MHz) , DSD128(1Bit 5.6MHz), DSD256(1Bit 11.2MHz)

Output Power:
Built-in smart detection circuit will automatically self-adjust the output power to fit different
impedance of headphones.
RL=16Ω,Po=46.11mW;
RL=32Ω,Po=26.71mW;
RL=300Ω,Po=12.26mW;
When the detected impedance is less than 70Ω, M12 will self-adjust to low gain output.
When it is more than 70Ω, M12 will self-adjust to high gain output.
When it is more than 600Ω, M12 will automatically switch to 2Vrms line out.
Frequency Response: ±0.1dB(20Hz-20kHz)
THD+N: 0.0003%
DAC: ESS flagship USB DAC chip ES9281AC
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NOW LET'S TALK ABOUT THE SOUND....
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Items Used for this Review:
IEMs:
@Vision Ears EXT, @DUNU-Topsound ZEN PRO, @CampfireAudio Dorado 2020, Holocene, Honeydew, @UniqueMelody MEST MKII, @IkkoAudio OH2, Tinhifi T3 plus, P2 Plus
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Source : iPad Pro, iPhone 13 Pro max
Streaming Source: QOBUZ

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Tracks Used:
The tracks I have used can be found from the below playlist that I have used and generally use for most reviews...


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QUESTYLE M12 Sound Impressions in Short:

The BASS:


The Bass sounds just great. has enough details and is able to produce enough attack in the mid base region as well. In tracks like : "Anna R. Chie (Remastered) - Konstantin Wecker" and "Dreams (2001 Remaster) – Fleetwood Mac" you can feel the the deep attack of the different instruments with just enough details. The thumps and slams are very enjoyable.

The MIDS:

The Midrange really just excels in terms of every single element. It is able to produce an good creamy smooth and textured midrange that is soothing to the ears while having enough details in it. The vocals are natural and both male and female vocals come with good amount of details. Instruments sounded natural. In tracks like: "Anchor - Trace Bundy" and "Ruby Tuesday - Franco Battiato" while you will love the overall midrange specially transients of the guitars, violins etc... instruments and the vocals.

The TREBLE:

Though some people may complain the ESS DAC chip being a bit bright signature specially in the Treble region - this implementation is just great and seemed quite the reference grade. Hence, the treble just sounded nice and full and without any unwanted peaky-ness.

STAGING & RESOLUTION:

The staging and resolution is just great and just the amount the track requires. Nothing artificial here. Tracks like: “ She Don't Know – Melody Gardot” or “Bohemian Rhapsody (live aid) – Queen” sound good & enjoyable. Resolution is amongst the best in the price bracket and better than few others above it's price bracket also.

Impedance & Amplification:

The smart impedance features seemed to work correctly in all cases that I've tested and the dongle was able to power all IEMs with the rare exception of the Tinhifi P2 plus which requires desktop grade amplification and power.

Pairing:
The best pairing experiences I have found are with slightly warmer or reference grade IEMs. Unlike some other ESS DAC implementations, this doesn't have the tendency to increase peaky-ness when paired with bright IEMs
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Comparisons:

Though I have compared all 4 of the dongles I had in my possession - @iFi audio Go Blue, Qyestyle M12, Luxury precision W2 and the Cayin RU6 dongles, it wouldn't be fair to compare Questyle M12 with dongles twice it's price. Hence, comparison had been done mainly with the iFI Audio Go Blu which comes at slightly higher price range of $199. Since the Go Blu has BT features also which is not present in M12 - the below comparison is based on wired connection only.BT performance not taken into account here.

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Questyle M12 vs iFi Audio Go Blu:

Build quality:
Both dongles are of extraordinary build quality and have lush premium looks.

Features & Amplification: While BT features of the Go Blu not taken into account - the smart impedance is a great nifty feature of the M12.the volume dial is a great feature of the Go Blu. both dongles have good amount of power and amplification

Sound performance: This is where the M12 was found significantly better. The midrange on the Go Blue sounded quite thin and was missing enough texture. the treble also was found a bit on the brighter side on the Go Blu. The M12 was surprisingly quieter than the Go Blu also.

Resolution & Staging: both dongles have equally good staging performance but the Go Blu lacked slightly in terms of resolution to my ears.

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Conclusion :

The superb performance of the @Questyle M12 makes it an easy recommendation to anyone who is looking for a dongle in the $150-200 price range. There are many dongles below the $150 price ranges including Shanling UA2, etc.. and some at slightly higher range like the Go Blu - but the M12 outperforms them all and can easily be considered the King of $150 range dongles.
Hyde00
Hyde00
@asifur I have RU6 on the way to me, while waiting I was thinking if I should pick up M12 for comparison. Since I only use single ended so having only 3.5 mm jack for me is perfectly fine.

Though based on your comment about price, is it safe to assume I should just keep waiting for my RU6 to arrive?

Or is M12 different enough to be still worth picking up?

My preference is forward female vocal, sparkly guitar/piano/violin and rumbling bass. And generally prefer a bit aggressive sound rather than soft sound. My genre is acoustic / rock / pop, thanks!
asifur
asifur
@Hyde00 I'd prefer the RU6 over M12 any day... just love the analogue and very enjoyable tonality with powerful output. Best if you use balanced plug though.
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Hyde00
Hyde00
lol gotcha, I'll keep waiting for my RU6 then......... been 3 weeks.... so slow sighhhh (bought from member)......... ok I'll be patient. I'll pick up a balanced wire once it arrives. Thanks!!! :D
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BonGoBiLai

New Head-Fier
Small size, Big sound
Pros: 1. Stellar balance across the range
2. Doesn't sound digital or processed unlike many of its competitors. Natural and analogue ish sound reproduction
3. Extremely precise. Class leading imaging and detail retrieval. Excellent Separation and layering.
4. Clean, neutral and clinical but not at the expense of musicality
5. Loads of body/meat in the sound. Really difficult to find flaws in midrange, bass and treble
6. Exemplary sibilance control. no shrillness or harshness or glassy edge around the sound
7. POWERFUL. Can run power hungry cans like HD 650 with ease. Auto gain works perfectly but has drawbacks in specific cases that I'll
highlight in the Cons section
8. Excellent heat management. Doesn't get hot at all only slightly warm
9. Zero noise. I have seen reports of issues with usb 2.0 and smartphones but havn't faced no such issue myself
10. SMOL
Cons: 1. Soundstage can feel a little cramped once you come back from relatively wide sounding sources but nothing deal breaking and barely
noticeable after a while
2. Auto gain system doesn't work properly with low impedance low sensitivity iems (Final and Sony ier series iems to be precise). for
example iems that have 16 ohms impedance but below 100 db sensitivity. All ba and hybrids sound amazing and iems without the
mentioned issue as well. A force gain switch could have solved this niche problem.
3. Lacks wow factor. Won't make you go crazy and head over heels at first listen. Slow charmer
4. Battery hog. I have not faced any compatibility issues myself and it has been perfect from day one but in your system may turn out
otherwise especially in old hardware
5. Provided cables are very stiff. I am using a super flexible short paracord cable instead
Umm, I've probably written the full review in the pros and cons sections :cold_sweat: But TLDR- Good option under 200 usd range. This is Questyle's cheapest offering and don't expect it to topple their top tier stuff but Questyle's natural charm is still present here. Highly recommended if you are looking for something very very small yet powerful. I am thoroughly enjoying mine :gs1000smile:

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BonGoBiLai
BonGoBiLai
also some user have faced issue with usb 2.0, have you tried with with usb 3.0?
A
Abir
I'm torn between M12 and Sony NW A55...
If I only consider technicalities... which one should I get ?
Iem : Campfire honeydew , Final A4000
Source : Mostly use Tidal from a usb 2.0 phone.
BonGoBiLai
BonGoBiLai
NW A55 sounds more organic (Sony magic) but M12 is much superior technically. Also more powerful.
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fuzzychaos

100+ Head-Fier
Well built good sounding portable DAC
Pros: Well-controlled bass
Can drive even fairly difficult earphones
Good Soundstage width
Metal, good build quality
Cons: Drains battery quite a bit
Odd clicking noise while using Apple iPad as a source
Dark case makes text on case hard to read
Would be nice if the indicator told more than whether it is MQA or High Rez (like gave bitrate)
Source

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with USB Audio Player Pro (Bitperfect Mode)

Apple iPad with Apple Music and Qobuz

FIIO BTR5

Apple USB-C to 3.5 mm cable



Earphones

Kinera Nana v2

Moondrop Kanas Pro

Etymotic er2xr





Material



Norah Jones - "Seven Years"

Polyphia - "G.O.A.T."

Royal Blood - "Typhoons"

Alice in Chains - "Down in a Hole" (unplugged version)

Charles Mingus - "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"

Dire Straits - "Money for Nothing"

Morrissey - "Suedehead"

St. Vincent - "Pay Your Way in Pain"

Johnny Cash - "Hurt"

A Perfect Circle - "Weak and Powerless"

Donald Fagen "I.G.Y."

Fleetwood Mac - "Dreams"

Performance



I do not currently have the means to measure audio equipment, so I will have to convey the Questyle M12 in anecdotal terms only. Overall, the Questyle M12 is an able performer that offers decent performance with even difficult to drive earphones. With Android equipment, the unit performed flawlessly and was easy to use with USB Audio Player Pro. The only issue I had was using the unit with my Apple iPad (Air third gen, latest iOS). When using the M12 on the iPad, there was a clicking sound that would oddly move around the soundstage no matter what app I used. This did not occur when using the Fiio BTR5 (wired or wireless). Other than that issue, the M12 sounded great with every genre of music as a DAC/Amp should.



vs FFiio BTR5



The Fiio BTR5 is a portable DAC/Amp that costs around $110 and includes Bluetooth. The physical size of the BTR5 is slightly thicker and longer than the M12, but still quite small. It does include a belt clip case for convenience.



Both the BTR5 and M12 were able to drive any earphone that I threw at them, though the BTR5's volume is controlled on the unit and got much louder than the M12 fully driven. Sound on both were exceptional offering good bass performance, and a non-grainy treble, two areas of which I am particularly upset if lacking. Bass control on the M12 was a little tighter. Soundstage on both was good on all earphones, but really stood out on the Moondrop Kanas Pro as they both seemed to extend the width significantly over the USB-C dongle. The imaging was a little better on the M12, but not excessively so.



The advantages on the BTR5 are with the Bluetooth capability and the addition of a 2.5mm balanced jack. While testing the BTR5 against the M12, I did not use the balanced connection or Bluetooth, however.



Overall, against the Fiio, I would give the edge on sound and build to the M12 but features to the BTR5.



vs Apple USB-C Dongle



The Apple USB-C dongle is a capable performer considering its low cost but has issues with output. I use the dongle occasionally when I listen to background music as it is simple to just plug and play. The M12 has better resolution, better staging and imaging, and a lot more power.



Overall, against the Apple USB-C to 3.5mm adapter, I would give the edge to the Apple adapter for cost ($9), convenience, and portability (it is so tiny), The M12 is better in all other aspects.
littlenezt
littlenezt
hey, want to ask, is your M12 experience some clicking when plugging in the device to PC or phone? also when playing or pause next track with UAPP android app.
i just bought this device and experiencing this clicking noise only on the right channel, using latest FW 8587

OspreyAndy

500+ Head-Fier
Questyle M12
Pros: - Pristine clean and cleat timbre
- Sparkly yet not overly done
- Scalable driving power
Cons: - May not always perform great with MQA, may exhibit artifacts
- Picky on power supply from host. The amplification module on this unit is power demanding

Questyle M12​

November 2021 Update: Questyle released a new update for M12. Link here: LINK
With this new update, what was already a great sounding unit now exhibited even better sonic qualities. There’s marked improvements with the top end sparkle and extensions with smooth decays (as tested with FOSTEX T40RP MK3). The overall presentation remained organic and richly textured with amazing technicalities. With this new development, M12 has now jumped over to 5 Star performers in my book. Probably the most well balanced tuned of all ESS Sabre dongles that I have ever listened to

Questyle M12.jpg

DAC Chip: ESS Sabre ES9281AC (Single, Current Mode Amplification)
PCM 24bit - 384khz MQA, SNR: -120dB, Power: Adaptive 2 Vrms up to 600Ω, USB Type-C Female Socket, 3.5mm SE (Microphone: No), 51×16.5×8.1mm, Metal Chassis


Listening Equipment: Etymotic ER4SR, HZSOUND Heart Mirror, VE Monk GO, TIN HiFi P1, Moondrop Aria. Source: USB 3.2 Samsung S20 (Tidal)

LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING

💚PROS​

  • Stellar neutral and natural timbre with exceptional coherence level
  • Very tight and controlled dynamics, never overbearing, effortless and airy.
  • Reference grade Treble, Mids and Bass extensions, richly textured
  • Reference grade Macro and Micro details, beautiful nuances
  • Surgical technical prowess, exceedingly technical and resolving.
  • Wonderfully crisp percussions, guitars, synth, piano, and cello
  • Mildly intimate Mids, succulent Male and Female vocals
  • Excellent Sub-Bass presence and textures, with great extensions
  • Mind blowing speed and transients handling.
  • Razor edged layer separation and spatial positioning, great imaging.
  • Exemplary sibilance resistance despite being sparkly bright.
  • Particularly useful indicators for source quality
  • Very slimline build and lightweight
  • Great heat management
  • PHENOMENAL performance for instrumental, EBM and modern music
  • Drives Tin HiFi P1 Magnetic Planar at 70/100 Volume
💔 CONS
  • Commendable soundstage but should be slightly wider at this level.
  • Too much focus on technical prowess and surgical precision – mildly dry sounding on some songs
  • Prone to picking up RF interferences from mobile phone signals.
  • Does not react too well with some older model USB 2.0 devices (2018 and older). This dongle require strong current from the USB host. Android older than 2019 models may exhibit crackling or distortion - that is a sign of weak power feed. Best with USB 3.0 and above.

VERDICT​

Questyle M12. Arguably one the best among the ones tested so far with outright technical prowess and timbre coherence, outclassed Audirect BEAM 2SE and HiBy FC3 on this segment by a step or two. Can be overly pristine when paired with an already ultra-resolving IEMs like the Etymotic ER4SR, but it does not dry the timbre to cause for concerns. For transparency, M12 sets the bar really high for others to follow. However, the somewhat milder velvety smoothness as observed in other TOTL dongles prevented this unit from scoring higher – but by no mean a deal breaker as some may hugely appreciate the stellar coherence especially when paired with an already technically competent and musical IEMs/Headphones. I love this unit the more I listened to it. It is very tidy and disciplined.

A re-run test has been conducted on this M12 due to the fact that my older LG V35 was not providing ample enough power supply for the demanding ES9281AC DAC. I ran the impressions test for the 3rd time on a Xiaomi M9t which audibly allowed the M12 to perform to the fullest potential. Overall the refinement are observed of which the timbre exhibited meatier dynamics and polished edged decays. Performs the best on my Samsung S20 which has stronger USB 3.2 - the better your phone is, the better this M12 preforms.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ($140.00)
Best Pairing: Flexible pairing with almost anything
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M
MattISO
Great review as always.

I've been looking for a reasonably priced, clean, transparent, low noise/distortion, near-neutral sounding, dongle DAC to pair with an external headphone amplifier and planar IEM. I've narrowed down my options to this DAC (Questyle M12) and the Helm Bolt. Considering my use case, which one would you recommend?

I also recall you stating in your Helm Bolt Review that using it with the Shure KSE1500 and KSA1200 Electrostatic Energizer Amp helped to mitigate its (Helm Bolt's) native deficiencies, one of which I'm assuming is its narrow soundstage. Would you say the same could be achieved using an external amp with the Questyle M12.

Thanks in advance. :)
OspreyAndy
OspreyAndy
@MattISO Thanks. Absolutely Questyle M12. The Helm BOLT is not a bad device but you will find the narrow and compressed soundstage something less than enjoyable. Anyways, M12 is a much better performer in every aspect compared to BOLT. Also, M12 serves as a DAC/Preamp much better then ALL of the dongles I have tested so far, perhaps I prefer it more over the dedicated LO of Lotto PAW S2
M
MattISO
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