Comparing the QP1R to every other player within a couple of hundred dollars of its $899 price would fill up at least several pages, so I will focus on the players with which I have had long-term personal experience. First up, the Astell&Kern AK Jr that I mentioned earlier in the review. The QP1R is more flexible in terms of headphones it can drive optimally and music it can play without conversion. And while the two players are similar in function (they are both music file players, not USB DACs), the QP1R has wider applicability for everyday use.
Moving up the price ladder, the $999 Calyx M has more versatility since it can also function as a USB DAC. The Calyx has shorter battery life—five to six hours versus the QP1R’s eight or nine hours. The Calyx is slightly quieter with sensitive in-ear monitors—even the Westone ES-5 was silent and hiss-free. At the other end of the headphone spectrum the Calyx didn’t have quite as much drive power as the QP1R with Beyerdynamic DT 990 600-ohms. Sonically I felt the midbass on the Calyx was a bit warmer and more prominent. Both players generated equally sized soundstages.
Comparing the $1199 Sony NW-ZX2 with the QP1R was a bit like apples and oranges feature-wise. The Sony’s open-architecture Android operating system lets you add apps just like you would with a smartphone as well as stream from Internet sources, including Tidal. As a stand-alone player the Sony doesn’t have the ability to drive as many demanding headphones as the QP1R, but on sensitive in-ears the Sony and Questyle generated equal amounts of low-level hiss when connected to the Westone ES-5s. With easy-to-drive headphones such as the Oppo PM-3 or Audeze EL-8 the two players sounded identical, but with harder to drive headphones such as the Audeze LCD-2 and Beyerdynamic DT990 600-ohm version I’ve mentioned, the QP1R proved to be a better option due its higher output and superior drive capabilities.
Currently a seventh-generation iPod Classic 160 will set you back slightly less than $400. And while on paper the iPod has the same functionality as the Questyle QP1R, it lacks the expandable storage, the ability to play higher-resolution PCM and DSD files, and the capacity to drive a wide variety of headphones. So, when your iPod Classic finally dies and ascends to the big Apple in the sky, I would enthusiastically recommend moving up to the Questyle QP1R instead of purchasing another iPod.
With its impeccable sound quality, flexible storage, and ability to drive a wide variety of headphones the Questyle QP1R ranks among the best portable players I’ve heard. The Questyle QP1R’s shortcomings are that it is only a portable player. It is not a portable USB DAC or USB-to-SPDIF converter. If you require more functionality, there are many other options, but if your primary requirement is for excellent sound in a robust and well-designed portable player, the Questyle QP1R should be at the top of your audition list.
SPECS & PRICING
Frequency response: 20Hz–20 kHz, +/-0.1dB
High-gain settings: Max output, 1.9V RMS
Middle-gain settings: Max output, 1V
Low-gain settings: Max output, 0.53V RMS
DAC: Cirrus Logic CS4398
Output: 3.5 mm headphone output, 3.5 mm line out & optical output
Sample rate: PCM: 44.1kHz-–192kHz (16-bit/24-bit), DSD64, and DSD128
Support: AAC, ALAC, APE, AIFF, ADPCM, DFF, DSF, FLAC, LPCM, MP3, OGG, WAV, WMA, WMA Lossless
Storage: Up to 288GB (32GB internal and two 200GB microSDXC card slots)
Battery: 3300mAh li-polymer, 8–10 hours
Operating system: Linux
Body: CNC aluminum case.
Display screen: 2.35" IPS (400x360) LCD screen Gorilla Glass front and back
Dimensions: 5" x 2 5/8" x 9/16"
Weight: Approximately 6.5 ounces
7848 West Sahara Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89117