Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1, Metrum Hex, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi La Scala MkII, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20
Preamplifiers: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, COS Engineering D1, Clones Audio AP1
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8, FirstWatt S1, F6; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Gato Audio DIA-250; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; April Music Stello S100 MkII, Vinnie Rossi Lio, AURALiC Merak [on loan], Clones Audio 55pm [on loan]
Loudspeakers: EnigmAcoustics M1, Albedo Audio Aptica, soundkaos Wave 40, Sounddeco Sigma 2; Boenicke Audio W5se, Zu Audio Submission; German Physiks HRS-120, Eversound Essence, Gallo Strada II w. TR-3D subwoofer
Headphones: Forza Audio Works recabled Audeze LCD-2/LCD-XC, Sennheiser HD800, MrSpeakers™ Alpha Prime; ALO-Audio recabled Beyerdynamic T1/T5p; HifiMan HE1000; Aëdle VK1; Focal Spirit One; EnigmAcoustics Dharma D1000
Headphone amps: Bakoon AMP-12R, Eximus DP1, Stello HA100MkII, Questyle CMA800R (x2), Vinnie Rossi Lio, Burson Audio Soloist
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt double-header USB; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Arkana Research XLR/RCA and speaker cables [on loan]
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Krion amp shelf
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: Irregularly shaped 9.5 x 10m open floor plan with additional 2nd-floor loft; wood-paneled sloping ceiling; parquet flooring; lots of non-parallel surfaces (pictorial tour here)
Review component retail: €899

With the demise of Apple's 160GB iPod Classic—the original no phone, no camera, no email, no browser, no app hog music player—an era ended. Now it's the Big C of not cancer but consolidation which rules Cupertino's portable devices. Those are judged by how many multi-tasking balls they manage to juggle with ever smaller hardware. This left an obvious gap for dedicated players which do music and naught else. Curiously, no Western company has tried to fill the gap. It's as though Apple's decision signaled that they'd thoroughly exhausted a market segment to leave behind nothing which a late-coming competitor might still plow and harvest. Porta DAC/headfi decks are legion even in the West. Legitimate iPod replacements are not. For those one looks East and to the likes of Astell&Kern/iRiver, Calyx, Cayin, Cowon, FiiO, HifiMan, Lotoo, Onkyo, Opera/Consonance, Pioneer, Shanling, Sony and Teac. Now add Questyle to this incomplete list. Our Sino firm one-up this game by using Apple's infamous manufacturing city of Foxconn to craft their player. Shazam. The page which Questyle haven't yet read from Apple's playbook? Don't use impersonal alphanumeric names. Hence theirs go by QP1; and QP1R for the premium version. Cough. Of course pronounced, it approximates Cupid One. Does that deliver love's sweetly stinging arrow?

Questyle 'out elegance' even decks from very big corporate contributors like Sony and Onkyo; plus costlier players from HifiMan and Lotoo.

Front room gals, back room guys. It's how many companies are structured. The sales & marketing teams sit upfront where they interact with the public. Here gift of gab, charm and likable personalities are the biggest assets. Meanwhile engineering remains hidden in the back. That division shields the human aspect from the hardcore geeks and dweebs who often lack in people skills what they're blessed with thrice over in brains and patentable inventiveness. And so too it is with portable players. Their public face or front room is the GUI aka graphic user interface. It's how humans interact with and use the device. The hidden face is all the sound-proofing stuff. It's what standard audio engineers are good at. Hence it's what they love to talk about. Enter distortion figures, current delivery, discrete parts, output impedance and the lot. Yet none of it matters should their GUI be geeky and sub par. Here small boutique firms are hard-pressed to compete. Apple's engineering departments number thousands. Their iTunes remains the de facto standard for millions. That Astell&Kern have done so well is directly down to their Samsung connection. Just so, their first-gen GUI had issues which subsequent firmware upgrades had to sort. If ASUS or HP ever breach this sector, they'd not only have the requisite resources on code writing and operating systems. They'd also own costly injection moulding, efficient mass production and global retail infrastructure. They'd not only author sleek decks oozing with industrial design, flawless fit'n'finish and intuitive GUI. They'd get to expose them to the iPhone-toting Galaxy-texting multitudes in the very same shops and malls. Slam dunk. (The fiercest heat on raw sex arguably comes from decks like Astell&Kern's $1'699 AK120MkII at left where 2x128GB capacity is half non-swappable flash memory; and the Calyx M whose functionality is let down by its silly volume slider.)

When you're Questyle, you really have none of it. Damn funk. Or so you'd think. That's exactly why turning to Foxconn was such a strategically brilliant move. It leverages Apple's own infrastructure to gild the QP1R's physical execution. On optics and fit'n'finish, it competes eye to eye against Big Corporate chic. iWantz! That sonics would (have to) squash a Classic iPod goes without saying. That part actually isn't so hard to do given how many years the Classic hung out in unchanged suspension. The real question is, can Questyle's GUI keep pace and peace with iTunes; or does it feel clunky by contrast? If the latter, it squashes desire regardless of great sound, current-mode circuitry that's exotic even by audiophile standards, premium F95 Nichicon tantalum caps, NDK clocks with -150dB phase noise, German Würth power inductors, Japanese Alps encoders and the clearly slick form factor. One audio task the Questyle isn't down with yet? Docking. Astell&Kern have already caught on to the fact that some users bounce between the tube, exercise bike, park bench, car, desk top and living-room rig all in one day. Their type wants a dock with hifi socketry and charge function. It remains connected to their stationary system; and parks the player upright to read its display. They so don't want an RCA cable dangling with its 3.5mm end on the floor when not connected. They don't want their player laying flat. Not that Apple ever authored a dock. When you're king, you command hordes of accessory vendors to serve your audience's every whim and fancy. Questyle enjoy no such 'open-source' community. They need to mint all their own accessories. On behalf of stationary listeners with cars like yours truly, I herewith petition them: make your own dock. Draw level with A&K, HifiMan and Opera/Consonance also on that count. In our flat for example, there are iPod docks in the bedroom, in my wife's paint studio, on my desktop and in an upstairs room that doubles as Ivette's writing space and our Pilates Reformer area. Why own multiple sources when one or at the most two service all of these systems; when CD players are so very dead; and when my middle name really is Sir DockaLot? Pretty please.