Questyle M15i — Mobile Headphone Amp & DAC

Nostoi

Headphoneus Supremus
Questyle M15I: Is the quest over?
Pros: - Excellent build
- Dynamic sounding
- Ample power
- Engaging presentation
- Technically refined
Cons: - Lack of volume might be an issue for some
Introduction

The Questyle M15 is often cited as one of the leading USB DAC/amp dongles available. I owned it myself for some time and was overall very impressed with the performance. With the M15I, Questyle have improved on the foundations of the M15 by adding Apple compatibility and tweaking the performance.

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I will the specs and techs linked here for those interested, but the salient details are that the M15I is employing a current output mode amplification, which is novel. In addition, the M15I uses an ESS ES9281AC chip, which, while not top of the line, is still very capable. 4.4mm and 3.5mm headphone jacks are provided for, with the balanced output providing more output.

Build and Design

The M15I is a handsome unit. It feels great in the hand, with a premium quality to the build and materials. The body has a glass case revealing the inner workings of the unit, not least the Japanese made Pentaconn 4.4mm socket which is always preferable to any generic alternative. Although sturdy, a leather case is available which adds protection without increasing bulk.

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Interestingly, the M15I like the M15 does not have a hardware volume control. Volume is controlled by software alone, and the only switches on the unit are for gain. Some may find this off-putting, but in practice I found that the absence of a volume control on the unit seems to generate a much blacker and cleaner presentation. In practice, controlling the volume with an app such as UAPP or Hiby’s music app works perfectly and I would not be perturbed by the absence of a hardware control; if anything, it’s a benefit.

Sound Impressions

The overall sound impression of the M15I is dynamic, fairly linear but with a slightly v-shaped tilt. Bass – especially sub-bass – has a slight tilt, which provides an energetic and quite muscular delivery. The mids are textured, but perfectly linear while the top end is airy but not strident. This is a “musical” presentation without being overly lush or warm. In general, I think listeners will likely find it engaging and quite atmospheric while also avoiding fatigue. With respect to technical aspects, the M15I delivers quite comfortably on all fronts. Imaging and layering are quite defined, with an impressive sense of precision for a dongle.

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The other point concerns dynamics. For a dongle, the presentation is remarkably authoritative with respects to dynamics. On Sennheiser’s HD800s, you get an impactful and surprisingly weighty presentation, which is no small thing for a dongle to achieve. There’s a lot to be said for the use of current mode amplification here. If you’re judging the M15I on stats alone, you’re missing out on what the current output amplification is capable of. To put this in context, using Roon as the software volume, I need only go to 20 out of 100 steps for the HD800s to shine – not only for them to have volume, but for them to perform exceptionally well. For other dynamic headphones such as Sennheiser’s newly released HD620s, the results are impressive; with the M15I rendering the HD620s a lively yet well balanced headphone.

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Comparisons

The only dongles I have to compare are Lotoo S2 and Ibasso’s DC-Elite.

Vs. Lotoo S2: S2 is warmer, more restrained, and less engaging. Its strengths are a clean background and the benefits of the LCD display. Overall, however, it is less dynamic and less engaging than the M15I. Some people may find Lotoo’s more relaxed tuning more appealing, but in a direct comparison, the M15I operates on a higher tier technically.

Vs. DC-Elite. While the M15I is an impressive dongle, the DC-Elite outperforms it on all levels. It is much wider sounding, with sharper resolution, punchier dynamics, and a presentation that basically transcends the dongle format. Thar said, the M15I offers fantastic value for money and is highly competitive in its price range.

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Conclusion

With the M15I, Questyle have improved on already outstanding dongle by rendering it even more capable and refined. As a go to dongle for everyday use, I can highly recommend it.
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malira
malira
This is a great dongle dac/ amp - very good for the price

SherryLion

New Head-Fier
Refinement At Its Finest In A Small Package! The Questyle M15i
Pros: 1. Sterile and clear-sounding response
2. Improved noise reduction, clarity and cohesion.
3. Personally one of the best form factor
Cons: 1. Wished they tweaked the design to make the glass more secure and safe

Review Of The Questyle M15i


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Introduction


This is my second time reviewing a Questyle product. Questyle is a Chinese firm that specializes in electro-acoustic equipment, particularly DACs and amplifiers. Recently, they have entered the IEM industry as well. I first learned about this firm when I heard about one of their Dongle Dacs, the M15, which I personally purchased and enjoyed since there was no other Dongle Dac that could exceed it at the time. They just announced another lineup that includes the CMA18P, M12i, and M15i, of which I recently reviewed the CMA18P but was hoping to get my hands on the other two as well. Fortunately, I was able to obtain the M15i; however, before proceeding, I'd like to clarify a few points.


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Disclaimer


*Since this unit tour was organised by the kind people at Questyle, I am grateful to them. And as I've said in all of my evaluations, the same is true for this one: all of the concepts I've expressed below are entirely my own, original ideas that haven't been influenced by anyone else. If interested, go to this link.
*I am not associated with the connection, and I receive no financial assistance from anyone.
*For the remainder of the review, I will refer to this device as “M15i”
*Finally, I will only evaluate the M15i based on its performance, even though I will explain how it feels and seems physically and aesthetically.


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Specification


The M15i's high-end ES9281AC DAC chipset supports native DSD256, 32-bit/768kHz PCM, and two separate SiP CMA amplifier modules. While the majority of the functions remain the same as the predecessor, one significant distinction is that the M15i employs TOREX precise power management technology. The M15i is a more user-friendly device that accepts Type-C and Lightning data transfers, as well as 3.5mm single-ended and 4.4mm balanced connectors. The device has a gain control on the side and a type-c connector on top. Four LEDs behind the glass display the gain level and send data. The M15i includes a Type-C to C OTG cable and a Type-C to USB-A converter. Regarding technical aspects, the data in the table is listed below for your convenience and comprehension.

Model3.5mm@300Ohms4.4mm@300Ohms
Output Power11.97mW22.6mW
Distortion0.0003%0.0003%
Vrms1.8952.624

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Design And Aesthetics


In terms of design and aesthetics, I believe it is identical to its predecessor, with the same frame, body, and dimensions. The body is composed of CNC anodized black aluminium alloy, and its dimensions are approximately 61.9mm X 27.9mm X 12mm. As previously said, there is a glass layer above the chipboard, which is within the aluminium block; while I am sceptical of the durability, having owned M15 before, I can tell that it is not a concern. Aside from the glass, the build seems solid, and from the looks of it, I still think it's quite useful and compact for what it can do.


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Usage


With my usage, I found it to be as pleasant as previously; the cable itself seems stable, and the use with my smartphone is quite pocketable. The nicest aspect is that I can also use it with my iPhone using a lightning OTG cable. The M15i has a bigger body than the DEW4X, DAWN Pro, and Allegro, but its form factor makes it more comfortable and secure than any other dongle I've tested. Regardless of my personal preference, the dongle is larger than the ones I described.


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Sound Impressions


IEMs


Thieaudio Prestige LTD

Prestige LTD is the very reason I am now able to find the truth in my musical dreams; I have never heard another IEM that ploughs your ears with faith in each note, no matter how those notes should sound and nurtures your senses with dynamics and presentation as if I were hearing reality. Previously, I owned the Monarch MKII, which established what one would expect, but once the prestige's magic began to flourish, I knew I could explore so much more with it, especially when it came to the air and presence of each nuance the notes were able to grasp over and tingled my senses. To summarise the prestige's response sounds as if the Monarch MKII were given steroids and enhanced the upper frequencies in all directions with better authoritative flow in the lower response. The response is neutral with sub-bass boost, similar to the Monarch MKII, with the exception that the notes are airier and more revealing than any other IEM before this era. However, the thinner notes and excessive clarity provide obnoxious features that expose bad mixing and recordings, which were highly obvious when heard on my V6 but smoothed out on my WM1A, indicating source dependence.


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When I listened to this coupling, the response seemed nicely spread out and forward in the mid-range, particularly the vocals. The presentation sounded less expansive, but the note expression was more textured and detailed, with a bright contrast that allowed for a far more resolved response, resulting in a more analytical approach to the mix. Whether I'm listening to Kool-Aid by Bring Me The Horizon or Miliyah's Kono Yumega Samerumade, there's a lot going on that sounds really revealing and vivid without being confusing or overlapping. Surprisingly, the entire presentation sounds entertaining and intriguing.

FlipEars Aurora

Aurora establishes itself in this market as one of the greatest musical and warm-sounding IEMs, providing a detailed but calming response that even my Prestige LTD cannot match. To be more specific, the Aurora has a warm-neutral sounding response that enables for a cohesive and effortless sound regardless of the music I choose. When it comes to the Prestige LTD, I believe the clarity, realism, and tonal correctness are the greatest. Aurora bends that will and produce a profound sense of natural sound that sounds precise and clear enough to provide harmony into the mix, which is better done on these IEMs. Because of the way the treble is adjusted, the response does not lean clinical or sterile in the upper harmonics. The midrange produces a spacious sound, and one will fall in love with the note’s depth, weight, and precision. The bass's impact hits you so hard that it leaves you in wonder due to its rapid striking and natural decay of the notes, which is backed by two subwoofers, resulting in a highly robust production of bass heaviness and presence without sacrificing clarity across the spectrum.

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When I listened to this pairing, I saw that the response, which was energetic, thrilling, and engaging, enhanced in terms of what Aurora does well. Satellite by Valentino Khan is a great example of this, with its shimmering treble, revealing mid-range, and firing subwoofers packed with strong and impactful thumps and punches all sounding more textured and detailed, with better control over attack and decay of the notes allowing more details to conspire and more room for them to sound full and rich. However, in tracks such as Kohana Lam's A Few Sentimental, the vocals are unexpectedly sweet and tranquil, with a more upfront approach that provides a deeper and richer experience.

Thor Mjolnir MKII

Mjolnir is a very bassy set that has a lot of sub-bass emphasis. The treble and upper mid-range are also very forward in the mix. The upper treble has great extension as well. The bass is very punchy and boomy while acting fast. Mjolnir is a great V-shape-sounding IEM with a different approach to explosive bass that has better technicalities, especially in this price range. The stage is great with a nice surrounding stage and depth where the separation of each element sounds distant enough to procure space to breathe and distinguish themselves. The attack and decay of the driver capability are really quick and perform great. The vocals may feel lean and sparkly, but the warmth or the fuller experience is something that these lack. The bass response does vary from source to source whether I listen to a warm source or a neutral one, the bass becomes either overwhelming authoritative or both.


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While listening to this pairing, the response sounds more transparent with better control over the revealing aspect of the treble region and upper mid-range. Usually, when I listen to clear and neutral sounding sources, the energy in the upper frequencies spikes a lot, causing me to respond to sound fatiguing and very intimate sounding, like for example Anytime and Anywhere by Millet had vocals forward and present in a very revealing manner which was very well balanced. With M15i, the response sounds well-resolved and expansive, while the note exposure improves, making the sound more mature and detailed. However, the bass seems as dominant as before, with improved control and punch in the low end, particularly while listening to Erotica by JAWNS, when the bass left deep and impacting with a powerful presence.

7Hz Aurora

Trust me when I say that Aurora is a literal detail monster, as every aspect of the presentation oozes out details and clarity with a versatile tuning that allows the intricacies and nuances to shower over the mix, bringing excellent clarity and transparency to the presentation. Though I notice that the existence of such notes results in sharp characteristics, I have never experienced a metallic nature. The crispness and air in the treble area, as well as the lively tone of the midrange, combined with a large stage that allows notes to breathe and sound full, result in remarkable detail retrieval. The nicest thing of the entire response is that the definition and tonal balance are nicely established, resulting in a lean yet coherent-sounding presentation. If I look at the graph, it appears frightening with peaks and dips over the treble area, however, such a presentation produces a vibrant and enticing response that isn't overly bright while also including crisp and sparkling aspect of the notes. On the other side, the midrange sounds broader and clearer without adding hotness or peakiness to the mix, while the bass may become a touch too controlled but still present enough to make the response feel full-bodied.


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When listening to this pairing, the response sounds calm, allowing for an expressive and open-sounding response with better control over the revealing nature of the notes, allowing the notes to sound as natural as possible with a presentation spread out far and wide, where the upper mid-range pours everything while remaining airy and spacious. Listening to tracks like Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know and Love Will Come Through, the vocals sounded incredibly real and detailed while yet being open and light without disrupting the tonal balance. In the end, what may have sounded analytical and impartial came off as well balanced and resolved. The bass felt a touch light but more textured.

Rose Technics QT-X

QT-X offers a mid-centric and neutral tone, with a focus on the sub-bass and an overall clean sound. When I first started listening to them, I noticed that whichever source I used changed the quality of the sound without affecting the tuning, which made me understand how versatile they are in terms of technical aspects. The sound is characterized by its cleanliness and transparency, with a particular emphasis in the midrange that gives the vocals and instruments a spacious and well-defined presence. While the graph may indicate that the treble lacks energy and the bass is lean, the tuning of this IEM actually allows the treble to sound expansive and smooth without being dark, and the bass to provide good depth and presence. However, there is a slight lack of warmth and note weight in the mid-bass region that is noticeable throughout the sound signature. Finally, I feel the response has been properly calibrated to sound neutral and accurate, particularly in the midrange, rather than offensive or bright.


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While listening to this pair, the response felt slightly less weighted, with a more open-sounding presentation. Despite the fact that the response sounded light and lean, the notes' presentation did not add any metallic or harsh characteristics of the notes that are typical of a tuning like the QT-X. The treble sounded more prolonged and smooth than previously, but the mid-range seemed less front or in your face, with better-positioned singers and instruments sounding expansive and spread out. However, the response sounded confined in the left and right channels while spreading more in the front and rear. Tracks like Kenka by Kujira Yumemi sounded crisp and clear, without sounding hot or sibilant, thanks to voices scaling very high and chimes presented in your face. The bass seemed more powerful and genuine since the kick drums or bass guitar notes decayed organically after hitting.

Tracks


Millet - Anytime Anywhere
Anri - I can’t stop the loneliness
Kohana Lam - A Few Sentimental
Kohana Lam - Loving Me, Loving You
Uru - Kimino Shiawasewo
Uru - Kamihitoe
Kujira Yumemi - Kenka
Majiko - Kokoronashi
Anly - Sukinishinayo
Kohama Lam - A Few Sentimental
Kohana Lam - Loving Me, Loving You
Miliyah - Kono Yumega Samerumade
Rokudenashi - The Flame Of Love
Yu-Peng Chen - A New Day with Hope
Yu-Peng Chen - Another Hopeful Tomorrow
Yu-Peng Chen - For Riddles, for Wonders
Valentino Khan - Satellite
Kai Wachi - Happier By Now
Jawns - Erotica
ISOxo - how2fly
Kai Wachi - Happier By Now
Weeknd - Popular
YUNGBLUD - When We Die(Can We Still Get High)
Bring to Horizon - Kool-Aid
Middle Kids - Bend
FLETCHER - Leads Me On
Loathe - Aggressive Evolution
The Weeknd - Save Your Tears
Sigrid - Burning Bridges
AURORA - Black Water Lilies
AURORA - Runaway
X Ambassadors - Renegades
Lupe Fiasco - Words I Never Said
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - Can’t Hold Us
Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know
Jay-Z - Run This Town
Lady Gaga - Poker Face
Lady Gaga - Just Dance
Ladytron - Ghost
Travis - Love Will Come Through
LINKIN PARK - Somewhere I Belong
DJ Shadow - Six Days (Remix)
Hoobastank - The Reason
Ricky Martin - I Don’t Care
Tool - 7empest
Tool - Vicarious
A Flock Of Seagulls - Space Age Love Song
Zack Hemsey - Vengeance
Elton John - I’m Still Standing
The Moody Blues - Nights In White Satin
Micheal Sembello - Maniac
Guns N’ Roses - Sweet Child O’ Mine
A.R. Rahman - Kun Faya Kun

Conclusion


To conclude this evaluation, I can happily state that the M15i has the same sound but has been enhanced to the point where the noise, clarity, and, most importantly, cohesion sound make it highly appealing to people seeking the finest clear and transparent sounding dongle available. After listening to the M15i, I felt the same sense of astonishment and exhilaration that I had when I first heard the M15. Congratulations to Questlye for incorporating such a tweak into this generation of the M15. So all in all. I heartily recommend the Questlye M15i, especially at this price range, however I'd want to advise existing M15 customers to test it out before going through the process.

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vikinguy
vikinguy
Is it a bit warmer/less aggressive?

Zerstorer_GOhren

500+ Head-Fier
QUESTYLE M15i: A Progression From Its Antecedent
Pros: ● Still retains the overall construction from its preceding model.
● Solid aluminium alloy on its chassis while maintaining a good weight and compactness.
● A tempered glass panel is quite appealing to some audio enthusiasts who are either technical or simply love its glass panel as it showcases some of the inner workings of its circuitry and components.
● Detachable type-C cable connector.
● Manual toggle switches
● Two audio interfaces, 3.5mm and 4.4mm balanced.
● It has substantial software support and is compatible with all devices in either mobile or desktop.
● An improvement of audio support encoding on both PCM and DSD formats from its upgraded ESS DAC.
● A slight enhancement of power output delivery.
● Neutral sound and still has an impressive technical sounding.
Cons: ● Still doesn't have volume key buttons.
● Not for audio enthusiasts who are seeking a more analogue-ish type of tonality.
● Absence of built-in battery.
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It's been a long time since I've reviewed a product from QUESTYLE as I'm quite eager to try on their latest offerings. QUESTYLE is considered as a respected boutique audio brand as their products are known to be well-made with excellent craftsmanship and it uses some finest materials and high quality components. This company is also quite innovative as they have some proprietary patents that will be their primary edge on audio technology that makes them even more credible in the eyes and ears of audio enthusiasts and audio professionals alike that truly elevated their status as one of the most excellent and revolutionary audio companies out there.

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QUESTYLE M15 along with QP2R became one of my tools for conducting my assessment of audio products, and I owed my accomplishments and goals as an amateur portable audio reviewer. And now, QUESTYLE finally released a device that will be an improvement over the previous model.

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Entering QUESTYLE M15i, the latest flagship headphone DAC/Amp dongle and successor of the highly-regarded M15. Like its predecessor, they share the same form factor, build profile and similar technology but QUESTYLE some features will cater more to modern audio needs as the audio technology keeps progressing.

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On its overall build, it has a rectangular solid CNC-milled aluminium alloy with a total dimension of 16.8mm x 27.2mm x 12mm which is quite identical to its predecessor. Just like its precursor, it has a clear tempered glass provided by Kunlun which is known to be a provider of high quality tempered glasses on the screens of Huawei phones as we can see the inner workings of its circuitry with components like LED, transistors, capacitors, ICs and amplifier chips. In the side panel there is a manual gain switch to adjust either in standard gain mode or high gain mode. At its opposite ends, there we can find the USB type-C port and on the other part, two output jacks on its audio interface, 4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm single ended.

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About its proprietary technology, The CMA (Current Mode Amplifier) is quite a wonder as I can attest with its technical performance. Once again, I will explain some details of this audio technology wonder, this is a SiP (System in Package) module with four working audio amplification engines that will function and deliver an excellent clarity, well-detailed, accurate reproduction and better power output for richer details and more vivid sound quality. It performs a similar performance peak of a Class A amplifier in which its core amplification is in the current mode of its circuitry due to the performance of it transistors, capacitors and with its discrete structure for better bandwidth and ultra-low distortion with total removal of those Transient Intermodulation Distortion (TIMD) a.k.a negative signal feedback. You can check out the more technical description about this CMA technology here

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Along with its patented SiP amplifier, it was accompanied with another patented technology that is also co-developed with TOREX Semiconductor, a precision power management technology IC that handles the overall power management efficiently and also for better thermal management inside without possibility of interruption or overheating.

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Like its predecessor, the QUESTYLE still implemented an ESS DAC, the flagship-grade ES9281AC on the M15i but it was upgraded with more power output, less distortion performance and better audio encoding. ES9281AC is more of a complete package of an audio IC as it also has its highly regarded SABRE9602 headphone amplifier that known its capability to deliver a good rating of Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) and remarkable Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) for consistent performance at low power consumption. The encoding capabilities of the previous generation ES9281AC can process up to PCM 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256, and now with its updated model, it is greatly improved as it can handle up to PCM 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512.

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M15i headphone amplifier dongle is quite easy to use as it is simply a plug-and-play device as we can connect it to other devices with USB type-C port like smartphones, tables and PCs. With MFi certification that this device was awarded upon, it can be fully-utilised its way in the Apple ecosystem while it is still able to maximise its compatibility in all hardware devices and software.

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As for software compatibility, here is some information about its operation system requirements and the applications that will work on QUESTYLE M15i.

OPERATING SYSTEMREQUIRED VERSIONSUPPORTING APPS
ANDROIDAt least 5.0UAPP(USB Audio Player Pro), HiBy Music, Onkyo HF, Neutron App
iPAD/iOSAt least iOS 8.4 (For Apple Music), need OTG cable for lightning to type on older iPhonesApple Music
WINDOWSAt least WINDOWS 10 1083Any music apps that supports USB audio access mode
MAC OSIt reported still works with OS X YosemiteApple Music and other music apps that support USB audio access mode.
LINUX OSAll distros (at least it works well with LinuxMint)Any Linux music apps that support USB audio access mode.
HARMONY OSAny music apps that supports USB audio access mode

The power output that this device have could deliver a strong amplification that it could even drive some of the most power-hungry cans out there and I assumed that all IEMs and earbuds are easy peasy on this one, so planar and ceramic drivers that are well-known to be stubborn to amplify on this regard will be driven properly. It delivers such a full-range response with a relative amount of dynamics and resolution on it.

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As for power output rating, here is the following information.

AUDIO OUTPUTRL LOADPOVOLTAGE DIVISION
3.5mm single ended300Ω11.97mW1.895Vrms
4.4mm balanced300Ω22.8mW2.624Vrms

The QUESTYLE M15i doesn't have an independent hardware key volume buttons and built-in battery like its predecessor as it still relies on its host device for software volume control and a main source of its power output.

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As for product packaging, it still has the same packaging box with the first generation, all contents are placed in an organised manner and here are the following contents:
  • QUESTYLE M15i USB headphone amplifier
  • Short nylon-braided type-C to type-C cable
  • Type-c to type-A adaptor
  • Paperwork like warranty card and instruction manual
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Bonus:
  • Brown leather sleeve for M15i
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On its tonal performance, it appears that like its previous generation, it still retains that balanced-neutral sound that gives a crisp, detailed and highly technical albeit there are some very marginal differences in terms of power output and texturing.

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The following IEMs that were used for testing this device:
  • HIBY Crystal 6 Mk.II
  • LETSHUOER CADENZA 12
  • LETSHUOER EJ07M
  • LETSHUOER EJ09
  • LETSHUOER EJ07
  • AFUL PERFORMER 8
  • AFUL MAGICONE
  • BQEYZ WINTER
  • BQEYZ CLOUD
  • KINERA IDUN GOLDEN
  • TINHIFI T2 Mk.II
  • TANGZU XUAN NV


LOWS/BASS:

This device could still deliver a well-balanced bass response just like the previous M15 with excellent articulation, precise, clean albeit it is a tad more tighter and incisive. It will give that deep and reverberating feedback on its sub-bass presence from some sub bass-focused instruments octobasses, low octave double basses, low tone bass guitars, synthesisers and drum machines.

Mid bass can give a proportional texture on its note weight to some instruments and vocals even on some neutrally-tuned sets that I've tested. Bass guitars and double bass will have a rasping, resonant and sombre sound while bass kick drums will also have that resonant, thudding and rumbling sound on every kick as it executes well with some fast double bass drumming. And then, bass trumpets, they sound full and add some intensity with its dark timbre, and male vocals like bass and bass-baritones will have a more rumble on its depth and volume with their vibratos.


MIDRANGE:

It appears that it retains some of its predecessor's tonal characteristics as it has unquestionably one of the best midrange presentations on a headphone amplifier that this device could deliver. It furnishes a neutral, clean, clear and detailed sound on both vocals and instruments with some added sufficient warmth to give a more balanced sound.

Both male and female vocals have a sufficient note density on each vocal type with distinctive tonal characteristics.

Baritones - smooth, rich and velvety,
Tenors - dazzling, brassy and tad bright.
Countertenors - tender and coppery sound.
Contraltos - rich, strong and smoky.
Mezzo-sopranos - musky, graceful and emotive.
Sopranos - silky, gleaming and crystalline, it can project a more spacious and better range of lyric and coloratura soprano vocals.


On instruments, they sound all natural to my ears as it is able to project some of its tonal qualities and timbre as they don't sound too coloured as it retains its accurate yet neutral tuning.

Strings:

Guitars
- balanced to crisp and ceiling sounding on both acoustic and electric guitars.
Violins - vibrant, lively and eloquent sounding
Cellos - lustrous, sensuous and silky sounding.


Woodwinds:

Concert flutes - poetic, ethereal and rich sound.
Piccolos - clear, bright and whistling sound.
Clarinets - rich, mellow and brilliant sounding.
Saxophones - reedy, mild and sonorous.


Brasses:

Trumpets - metallic, full and vivid.
Trombones - tense, solid and rounded sound.
Tubas - hearty, ponderous and resonant.
Horns - mellow, resounding and velvety.


Percussions:

Snare drums - sharp, precise and hard hitting sound.
Tom-toms - it delivers a reverberating sound with ample warmth.
Tenor/Field drums - hard and sonorous sound
Kettledrums - it adds a more deep, resonant and rumbling sound.


Pianos - sort of well-balanced sound as it has some warmth with a hint of bright tone.



HIGHS/TREBLE:

It appears that the treble quality of the M15i is quite well-balanced and silvery smooth with a right amount of shimmer just to add some clarity on some vocals and more definition on attack of instruments.

The brilliance part of the treble region where this set is able to deliver a substantial amount of harmonics as it will give more air and considerably more sparkling on its overall sound if I used it on a set with either reference-neutral or neutral-ish-bright on their sound profile. Cymbals and hi-hats sounds are depicted realistically as it has a bright and sizzle sound on the cymbals while a short buzzing sound on hi-hats to give that distinctive chicky sound. Glockenspiels have those bell-like and silvery sounds while celestas have golden, sweet and lustrous sounds on them.


OVERALL TECHNICALITIES:

No doubt that this device is a truly a very technical one as it can be used as professional used on tracking and some basic mixing and also for analytical use for audiophile listening sessions. This device will project a fairly spacious sound field with impressive well-defined layering of frequency and dynamic tones from each part of instruments with excellent separation in clean pitch black sonic canvas.

This device is exceptionally detailed and incredibly resolving in terms of resolution capability as it has a solid macro-dynamics with reasonable compression while it has a very sharp micro-detail retrieval as it can show some nuances and subtleties on an audio playback like notation attacks, vocal ends and that “roomy” effects.


PEER COMPARISONS:

QUESTYLE M15 FIRST GEN.

  • It actually shares an exact form factor from features up to the build quality with its successor. The difference between them that this one doesn't have Apple certification (It wasn't that important to me at all to be honest) , a tad less power output compare to the current incarnation and the capability of the ESS DAC chip where this device can only encode up to 32 bit/384kHz and DSD256.
  • While its share similar tonal profile which is a balanced-neutral sound but compared its successor, this one has a punchy bass response with more transparent and less warmth on its midrange and a tad emphasis on the treble in which the latter has a more tighter bass response, a bit more textured midrange and a slight attenuation on some parts of treble region while maintaining an airy extension and a tad more sparkle.
  • As for technical performance, both M15 and M15i have almost identical performance in which the first generation has a noticeable sharper micro-detail definition.

AUDIOQUEST DRAGONFLY COBALT
  • The premier headphone DAC/Amp dongle from Audioquest as it is still able to compete with other newer USB DAC/Amp dongles in the audio market in the premium range segment. Unlike the M15i, it has built-in volume button keys and also in a smaller form factor but its main connector is a USB type-A one as it was design to be used on laptops and PC and you need an adaptor to connect it with smartphones or other mobile devices which make this device a bit of a hassle to use.
  • In terms of tonality, the Cobalt has a balanced-warmish tuning which is somewhat the closest thing on analogue-ish tuning which is a bit coloured sounding compared to M15i's analytical approach on crisp and detailed sound. That makes the Cobalt more aligned with a more musical and a bit fun tuning one as it has more punchy bass response, a warm midrange presentation and smooth but less airy treble sounding.
  • As for its technical performance, AUDIOQUEST seems to put a limit on its built-in ESS DAC encoding capabilities of this device as it only can process up to 24-bit/96kHz but it also has power management IC from Microchip Technology Incorporated which also handle thermal control and power efficiency. While the COBALT appears to project a tad wider sound field but on other technical aspects, M15i is better.

LOTOO PAW S2
  • Aside from PAW S1, I did test the PAW S2 last 2022 (Thanks Ted a.k.a Superchonk for the opportunity as he lend me his unit, Check out his youtube channel HERE) and it appears that it still retains some of the features of its predecessor, like an small LCD display for sampling indicator and other infos, a volume key button and even software EQ presets in which M15i doesn't have those features. It still uses a reliable AKM DAC but its decoding on audio format performs less compared to the improved ESS DAC of the M15i.
  • It seems that it has warmish-neutral sound profile that will be more appealing to analogue-ish type of tuning which has warmth and smoothness which is quite a contrast compared to the M15i which is leaning towards more analytical and way more technical sounding in which it is more align with balanced-neutral and reference-neutral type of sonic profile. It has more punchy bass, more textured mids and smooth but less airy treble (the stock tuning).
  • On technical aspects, the encoding performance of AKM DAC on PAW S2 in terms of audio format support seems to be dated on paper as it can only decode up to 32bit/384kHz on PCM and DSD128 on DSD format. For sure that it can project a fairly spacious sound field and almost holographic stereo imaging but on other aspects like layering, separation and resolution capabilities, it is less crisper, less clinical and less resolving if it was compared to M15i.

To put a conclusion on this review, it seems that QUESTYLE capitalised the success of the M15 as this device still inherits those aspects that makes this device has its own merits in terms of improvement. While it still retains the construction profile of the original, The M15i has some noticeable improvements like an upgrade on encoding of audio support formats and a tad more power output.

But the big question that will be raised among audio enthusiasts,”how does it compare to the previous M15 and should we still purchase it considering that we still have the M15 first generation?”. Well, If you already have the M15 first generation, you can simply skip it but if you are looking for more power output, improve audio format encoding support and a MFi-certified device that will support all Apple devices, on the other hand, if you want to purchase your first QUESTYLE product which is quite highly capable for audio portable usage or simply want to add as part of your audio gadget collection, I will fully suggest that you should try this one out and enjoy its tonal performance.


QUESTYLE M15i is now available at QUESTYLE OFFICIAL STORE. If you are interested to check out more information regarding this product, simply click the unaffiliated link below.

★★QUESTYLE M15i - OFFICIAL STORE★★
Also you can check my previous review on QUESTYLE M15 in the link below that I've provided.

■ QUESTYLE M15


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Tracks Tested: ( * = 16-bit FLAC, ** = 24-bit FLAC, *'* = MQA, '*' = DSD, *'= .WAV)


Alison Krauss -When You Say Nothing At All *
Jade Wiedlin - Blue Kiss**
Led Zeppelin - When The Levee Breaks **
Mountain - Mississippi Queen *
Queen - Killer Queen **
Guns N' Roses - Patience *'*
Eric Clapton - Tears in Heaven '*'
Sergio Mendes- Never Gonna Let You Go '*'
Pearl Jam - Daughter **
Roselia - Hidamari Rhodonite *
Assassin - Fight (To Stop The Tyranny)*
Celtic Frost- Visual Aggression *
New Order - Blue Monday *
The Corrs- What Can I do (unplugged version) *
Jimi Hendrix Experience - Voodoo Child *
The Madness- Buggy Trousers *
Metallica - Motorbreath **
Mariah Carey- Always Be My Baby *
Destiny's Child - Say My Name *
Malice Mizer- Au Revoir *
Mozart - Lacrimosa *
New York Philharmonic Orchestra - Dvorak- Symphony 9 " From the New World." *
Eva Cassidy - Fields of Gold (Sting cover)*
Michael Jackson - Give In To Me *
Exciter - Violence and Force *
Diana Krall - Stop This World **
Debbie Gibson - Foolish Beat *'*
The Sisters of Mercy – Lucretia My Reflection**
Suzanne Vega – Luka **
Lauren Christy – Steep *
Ottoman Mehter - Hucum Marsi *
Diana Damrau - Mozart: Die Zauberflöte*
Type O Negative - Black No.1 *
Felix Ayo - Vivaldi: Presto **
Three Tenors - Nessum Dorma *
Mercyful Fate - Witches' Dance *

P.S.

I am not affiliated to QUESTYLE nor receive monetary incentives and financial gains as they provide me a review unit for an exchange of factual and sincere feedback from yours truly.

Once again, I would like to send my gratitude to Mr. Zach Bielak providing this review unit. I truly appreciate his generosity and trust towards me and other reviewers.


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Zerstorer_GOhren
Zerstorer_GOhren
@JML I'm not yet finish on posting my review, would you mind?

Check this out on the MQA thing. It still has the unfolding capability, thanks.
Evshrug
Evshrug
Would you rather have a version like this, or something with a Bluetooth receiver?
Zerstorer_GOhren
Zerstorer_GOhren

betula

Headphoneus Supremus
Questyle M15i: great sound that fits in your palm
Pros: - fantastic sound in a tiny chassis
- big improvement to any phone or laptop audio
- good value
- ease of use
- Apple compatibility
- able to drive (most) full sized headphones to satisfactory levels
Cons: - for this price nothing really
Disclaimer

Questyle has kindly sent me their new, updated M15i in exchange for sharing my honest thoughts. Those who follow my reviews know, that they can only read my truthful findings, regardless of whether I can keep the product or have to send it back.

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Intro & reviewer's background

I used to own the Questyle CMA600i and briefly the CMA 15. As an all-in-one solution I think Questyle units are great. Current amplification really has a unique touch to the sound and synergies especially well with planar headphones.
I use full-sized headphones and desktop gear; for a few years I have not really followed the portable market. I have no need for pricey portable gear as I do not commute to work and also throughout the years, I was fortunate enough to build up a fairly good home system with TOTL headphones. For those few flights a year I can manage with TWS earbuds for convenience as even a $1K portable solution would sonically be a compromise compared to my home system; ultimately it does not really matter whether I listen to a $200 TWS or $1000 DAP the compromises are audible. For this reason, I picked wireless comfort on my flights.
My last proper portable setup was the first gen. Chord Mojo and I cannot even remember what IEMs I used. The reason I am sharing this is to ask for excuse as in this particular review I won't be able to do many comparisons to similar devices like the Cayin RU7. I would still like to believe that my thoughts and experience could be useful to those who come from a higher-end home system trying to find an affordable portable solution.

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Current amplification explained in a nutshell

There are two ways to amplify an electric signal: you can either amplify voltage which is the electrical force that drives the current between two points, or you can amplify the current which is the rate of flow of the electric charge. It is easier and cheaper to amplify voltage, that is why most amplifiers are built that way. The disadvantage of voltage amplification is more distortion. Current amplification on the other hand has physical limitations, it can only be done on more efficient headphone amplifiers and not on speaker amps. Amplifying current leads to a cleaner and less distorted signal, which is always beneficial. To my ears Questyle amps have a hint more realism versus similarly priced voltage amplifiers, which I believe is a result of this technology.

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What is the M15i, what has been improved versus the M15 and my expectations

The M15i is a tiny, portable dongle DAC/amp based on Questyle's current amplification. The biggest update over the popular and original M15 is that the M15i now is fully MFi certified which means full and official Apple compatibility. The M15i also doubled on decoding performance; now supporting PCM 768kHz/32Bit and DSD512 as opposed to PCM 384kHz and DSD256 of the older model. Total harmonic distortion has also improved, from the already brilliant 0.00057% to 0.0003% for those number warriors.
I have not had a chance to test the M15i against the M15, but some claim a small sonic improvement while others say they sound identical. If you already had the M15 and do not own Apple devices, I probably would not rush to buy the M15i.

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Build quality, usage scenarios

Build quality is excellent, as it is on all Questyle products I have tested so far. I really like the glass top, seeing the neat internals certainly contributes to the experience. The unit itself is surprisingly small, not much bigger than a USB stick. Carrying this little dongle DAC around is a lot easier than using any DAP or something like a Chord Mojo. I tried the M15i on my phone and with my laptop; it worked flawlessly in both cases as a plug & play device, no setup was necessary. I have to admit, coming from higher-end desktop systems my expectations were low. This tiny little device surprised me big time, not only sounding like an 'acceptable compromise' on the go, but driving my full-sized headphones to quite enjoyable levels.
I am still not a fan of using a dongle with my phone, as I find cables annoying and got used to the freedom and convenience of wireless earbuds on my flights. Where the big advantage of such a device lies for me is portable laptop use. You can just put the M15i in your pocket and take it with you to your favourite Café: work on your laptop and listen to good audio. It can also be a perfect little sound enhancer on your holidays in a hotel room, watching movies. The sonic improvements it brings to any laptop is huge.

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Sound

Coming from multi thousand-dollar desktop systems my expectations were low regarding sound quality, yet the M15i surprised me with its full and natural sound and with the fact that it was able to drive my ZMF Caldera to good, quite enjoyable levels. For this I had to use high gain on balanced out and reach around 70% volume. In every case I found the 4.4 mm balanced out superior sounding to the 3.5mm single out.

Sound technicalities are good, exceeding my expectations for the $250 asking price. The sound is quick enough, natural enough, timbre and texture are surprisingly good and spatial qualities are also fine for a device in this category. My main point is that even coming from higher-end setups, the M15i did not leave me with the notion that some sonic qualities are painfully poor or missing. I did not only find the sound acceptable, but good: I was not only listening, but found myself enjoying what I heard.

Speed, soundstage, imaging is pretty much what you would expect with sub $500 devices, but I have never experienced such good sound in such a tiny chassis. I tried some Dragonfly dongles some time ago and have to say, the M15i is definitely a class above with its big, bold and more natural sound. It does not reach Chord Mojo 2's technical levels, but for the price it does not have to. Tonality is slightly warm, but in a natural way.

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If I had to pick the most impressive part of the frequency range, I would say it is the bass. Bass is full, punchy, entertaining with good impact, but it is not overdone or overblown to bothering levels. There is a slight mid-bass emphasis, but it just tastefully enhances fun. When you are out and about it is actually handy to have a slightly stronger bass that balances out background noise.
Mids are nice and detailed enough, for this asking price I cannot complain much. As you spend bigger and bigger money, vocals can get sweeter and more lifelike, but mids are surprisingly natural for a little portable USB device thanks to the current amplification.
Treble is similarly fine, not bothering at all. It is more natural than what I thought it will be, highs are never piercing, never hot or overdone. Again, with much pricier devices you will get more space, more details more naturalness, but at this price it is a more than decent offer.

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Finishing thoughts

I wish I had more dongle DACs around to give you a fuller picture of the competition, but I would consider the Cayin RU7 to be the closest alternative. Cayin also makes very nice stuff, so I hope one day I can check out their USB dongle as well and will be able to update this little write-up. For now, I can only say, even coming from much more expensive desktop setups the M15i did not disappoint. Sound quality, size, ease of use all contribute to the package which I found quite impressive for $250. Note, that you might have to pay import taxes on this depending on the country you live in.
While I personally find mobile phone usage a bit cumbersome, the M15i could well be your convenient laptop sound enhancer when you are out and about. I am planning to use it with my laptop when I am traveling. The sonic qualities Questyle was able to squeeze into such a tiny device is impressive. We truly live in a world of technical development. Well done Questyle, and thank you!
Syan25
Syan25
Great review. It's this or the ifi Kensei for me....still unsure...

Sonic Sleuth

100+ Head-Fier
Questyle M15i: Redefining Portable Audio Excellence
Pros: Exceptional sound quality: The M15i delivers a liquid, transparent, and high-resolution audio experience that surpasses traditional dongles.
Wide compatibility: With its ability to drive headphones ranging from 32 to 300 ohms, the M15i caters to a wide range of audiophiles' needs.
Compact design: Its small size and sleek aluminum construction make it perfect for on-the-go listening.
Versatile connectivity: The M15i offers both balanced and single-ended outputs, providing flexibility for different headphones and IEMs.
Competitive price: Considering its performance and features, the M15i offers excellent value for money compared to other portable audio devices.
Cons: Tonality : The tonality and slightly analytical sound may not be for everyone.

No wireless option: Unlike some competing dongles, the M15i is strictly wired, which may be a drawback for users who prefer wireless convenience.

No lightning cable included when they’re marketing this as MFi certified.
Preface:

I would like to thank @gadgetgod and Questyle for sending this unit as part of the review tour.

Also, I’m not a seasoned reviewer or a seasoned audiophile, so whatever I say are purely my observations and your results may vary.

I’m not the one to usually focus on specifications and numbers. I focus more on how happy I am with the equipment’s sound and that’s it.

Introduction:

Both versions of the M15 sound almost exactly the same. This makes sense because the M15i is meant to replace the previous model completely. It avoids having two very different versions of the M15 in circulation.

Specifications:

The M15i boasts impressive specifications that set it apart from conventional dongles. With a dynamic range of 130 dB and a THD+N of 0.0003%, it delivers unparalleled clarity and precision. Its output power can drive headphones ranging from 32 to 300 Ohms.

Frequency Response
±0.1dB (20Hz-20kHz) | ±2dB (20Hz-80kHz)
THD+N
0.0003 %
DAC
ESS flagship USB DAC chip ES9281AC

OUTPUT POWER
  • 3.5mm:RL=300Ω | Po=11.97mW
    Vout (Max)=1.895Vrms
  • 4.4mm:RL=300Ω | Po=22.6mW
    Vout (Max)=2.624Vrms

Physical Unit:

Crafted from CNC-machined aluminum, the unit exudes durability however the front glass is prone to scratches without the case. Its sleek profile and understated aesthetic makes it really cool to look at.

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The transparent cover at the top provides a glimpse into the inner workings of the device, showcasing its high-quality components.

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Despite its diminutive size, the M15i is packed with features. From the clicky and satisfying gain switch to the dual headphone jack outputs (single-ended TRS 3.5 and balanced 4.4 TRRS), every aspect of the unit is designed for convenience and versatility.

I hate having independent volume control. What I like the most in M15i is that I can control volume from my source than set the volume at the source and then use the dongle to change the volume.

The unit's USB-C port, located on the rear, allows for easy connectivity with a variety of devices, while the included fabric-jacketed Type C to Type C cable ensure reliable performance and durability.

It’s interesting to note that Questyle doesn’t include the lightning to type c cable when they’re marketing this as MFi certified dongle.

Overall, the Questyle M15i is not just a portable audio device—it's a work of art that combines form and function in perfect harmony.

Sound:

The sound quality of the M15i is nothing short of extraordinary. It offers a liquid, transparent, and high-resolution audio experience that transcends the limitations of traditional dongles. From the wide soundstage to the well-layered instrumentation, every aspect of the sound is meticulously crafted to provide an immersive listening experience.

Tonality and Timbre:

The tonality of the M15i strikes a perfect balance between warmth and neutrality, ensuring that every note is reproduced with utmost accuracy. Its timbre is rich and textured, capturing the nuances of instruments and vocals with remarkable fidelity. Whether you're listening to guitars, cellos, or vocals, the M15i excels in delivering lifelike sound reproduction.

Bass:

The bass performance of the M15i is nothing short of impressive. It offers a linear and impactful bass response, with quick and nimble transients that bring out the texture and detail in every note. From sub-bass rumble to mid-bass punch, the M15i delivers a satisfying low-end experience that complements a wide range of musical genres.

Vocals:

Vocals shine on the M15i, thanks to its smooth and full-bodied presentation. The vocals are positioned front and center within the soundstage, with a sense of depth and realism that makes them come alive. Whether you're listening to male or female vocals, the M15i ensures that every word is conveyed with emotion and clarity.

Treble:

The treble region of the M15i is detailed and nuanced, without ever veering into harshness or fatigue. It strikes a delicate balance between resolution and smoothness, ensuring that even the most intricate details in the music are preserved. Whether you're listening to classical or metal tracks, the M15's treble performance is sure to impress.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Questyle M15i is a game-changer in the world of audio dongles. With its exceptional sound quality, versatile connectivity options, and compact design, it sets a new standard for portable audio devices. Whether you're a casual listener or a seasoned audiophile, the M15i delivers a listening experience that is nothing short of extraordinary. With its unbeatable price-to-performance ratio, it's a must-have for anyone who values high-fidelity music on the go.
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Sonic Sleuth
Sonic Sleuth
Hey @dgjl, thanks for reading the review. I agree the intro may have implied M15i is entirely new, but it's essentially just an MFi certified version of the M15. I've removed it temporarily for clarification.

To clarify, while there aren't significant real-world differences between M15i and M15, the M15i now boasts MFi certification. Despite my personal sound preferences, I find the M15i excels in SQ and technicalities. It caters to those who value technical details without sacrificing the 'fun' factor in music listening.

Top dongles like DC Elite, RU7, and FC6 remain relevant, offering unique sound. I've compared M15i with DC Elite and RU7 but have limited exposure to FC6. Thanks for the feedback!
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Syan25
Syan25
I'd love to know comparisons between the M15i with the ifi Kensei.
vikinguy
vikinguy
So it sounds pretty
Much identical? It’s not any warmer?
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