Serious headphone enthusiasts are by nature an inquisitive lot and so it happens that at industry gatherings such as the CanJam event held each year at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest we do a lot of behind the scenes comparing of notes.
“What do you consider to be the best sounding DAP (digital audio player) you’ve heard thus far?” asked a trusted colleague from the Head-Fi world.
“I’ll tell you my favourite DAP if you’ll tell me yours,” I replied. “Deal?”
My colleague nodded his ascent and at the count of three we both said, more or less in unison, “the Questyle QP1R.” A big smile broke over my colleague’s face as he offered me a traditional fist-bump to celebrate our shared appreciation for a fine product. Now, however, Questyle Audio has released an identically sized but dramatically revamped new player called the QP2R (£1,299 or $1,299 US), which promises even higher performance.
For those unfamiliar with Questyle Audio, the firm is a specialty high-end audio electronics manufacturer based in China and that is led by the gifted engineer Wang Fengshuo (or ‘Jason Wang’ in anglicised form). Wang is perhaps best known for his work in developing practical, very high performance current mode amplifiers. While some designers have used current mode amplification for individual low-level stages embedded within more traditional circuit designs, Wang Fengshuo has taken the concept much further to create products where current mode amplifiers can actually drive real-world earphone and headphone loads.
Is current mode amplification a big deal? Much as with pure Class A amplifiers, there is a certain sonic je nais sais quoi that adheres to current mode amplifiers enabling them to sound at once masterful and muscular beyond all proportion to their claimed power output. What is more, current mode amps seem largely unfazed by ‘tricky’ loads that can give lesser amps and DAPs fits.
The QP2R improves on the original QP1R in several key respects. First, it provides an all-discrete, fully balanced, pure Class A current mode amplifier and therefore offers both single-ended and balanced headphone outputs. Very high quality parts are used throughout, such as F95 tantalum and low-loss Panasonic thin-film audio capacitors. Like its predecessor, the QP2R provides user selectable low, medium, and high master gain settings while also providing a pure Class A bias control that let users choose standard or high bias settings, depending on the loads being driven. One further detail touch is a user programmable ‘DSD Gain compensation’ control that lets users apply a pre-determined amount of gain boost for DSD tracks, many of which are mastered at lower levels than their PCM counterparts. Unlike the QP1R, the new QP2R will be available with a soon-to-be-released, optional desktop docking station and associated remote control—items that together allow the QP2R to serve as compact, standalone front end for purposes of driving power amplifiers or active loudspeakers.