Some portable players, such as the Sony NW-ZX2, are basically smartphones without the phone part, and with the capability to support other functions, such as streaming from the Internet or serving as a USB DAC. But the QP1R is not a multi-function device. Its primary and principal function is to play back digital music files located in its internal memory or on removable microSD cards. Its feature set is very much like the Astell&Kern AK Jr ($499), except that the QP1R plays all formats natively without converting the DSD to PCM or PCM to DSD. The QP1R can also drive a wider range of headphones optimally due to its three gain-level options.
The Questyle QP1R has two slots for microSD cards, located on either side of the micro-USB connection on its base. Currently the QP1R supports high-speed cards up to 200GB, giving it a total capacity of 432GB. If you need more storage to carry your entire music library, all you need to do is purchase and populate additional microSD cards. When you connect the QP1R to a Mac, its microSD cards are recognized as individual drives, as is its internal memory of 32GB. Populating cards with music was easy—I merely dragged and dropped the files onto the microSD cards. Transfer time was the same as for other USB 2.0 storage devices.
I used the QP1R with a wide variety of headphones and in-ear monitors. Depending on the headphone’s impedance and sensitivity I employed all three of the different gain settings—low, medium, and high. The least efficient and power–hungry headphones on my shelf, the Beyerdynamic DT-990 600-ohm version, needed the high-gain setting and got to 40 on the 0-to-60 volume scale. At the opposite extreme, the very efficient and sensitive Westone ES-5 only needed a volume level of 23 in low-gain mode to play loudly. There was the faintest amount of hiss from the Westone ES-5s when the QP1R was in pause. The vast majority of my reference headphones were best served by the middle or medium-gain setting.
In addition to a single-ended mini-stereo-plug headphone output, the QP1R also has a second line-level analog output connector that doubles as a TosLink digital output. Although I doubt that many QP1R users will feel the desperate need to use the TosLink connection to feed an alternative DAC, it could come in handy to feed a second system or to transfer data without resorting to the analog output.
Ergonomics and Everyday Use
Customer units are supplied with a cable for charging and data transfer, a soft carrying bag, TosLink adapter, and an analog line-level cable. Since soft-cloth bags don't do much to protect stuff, I found that the iDream365 hard protective case ($9.68 on Amazon) was the perfect size to serve as a zippered travel case for the QP1R—there’s even room for some spare microSD cards.
The QP1R weighs 6.5 ounces, making it heavier than a smartphone, but not by much. Unlike some of the bulkier portable players, such as the Colorfly C-4, no amount of bicep crunches using the QP1R will pump you up. Despite its light weight, the aluminum chassis feels rock-solid. The attention to finish on the QP1R rivals any portable player I’ve seen regardless of price—every edge is precisely beveled, including the edges of the small wake/sleep button on the side of the chassis.
On the subject of buttons, the QP1R’s control layout is unique among portable players, except perhaps for the iPod Classic. Like the iPod, the QP1R uses a wheel with a central “enter” button. This wheel lets you scroll through menus and once you’ve gotten to the right selection, pushing the button activates your choice. In addition the QP1R has four touch-sensitive activation points that surround the wheel. They will take you to either the home page, last selection, or the next or previous song.
The QP1R does not have a touch-sensitive screen. I know that some people love touchscreens, but on portable devices they can be more trouble than they are worth—it gets tiresome to have to constantly lock and unlock your screen, and an unlocked touchscreen in your pocket is not a great idea unless you are a devotee of John Cage randomness.