Push the headphone envelope and the CMA800R just keeps telling you what those headphones are capable of and what the DAC is capable of, too. Not in a revealing way (although if you use a DAC or a set of headphones that is lacking in some manner, the Questyle CMA800R will expose that limitation – it just isn’t so edgy that it sounds like its parading the limitations of other devices), but in a way that highlights everything about the up and downstream components.
The CMA800R is a phenomenally dynamic amplifier, too. In a way, it sounds ‘free’ in the way some of the best single-ended triode amps can sound with efficient loudspeakers, but without the lush midrange and lack of high-frequency extension. It’s extraordinarily detailed and transparent, too, and there’s one last feather in its cap: the other part of the name – that ‘800’ part comes from the fact the amplifier was designed as a result of Wang listening to the Sennheiser HD800 and thinking it was a great headphone in search of an amplifier. If you own a pair of HD800, this is your amplifier. Stop looking – this is it! And if you don’t own a pair of HD800, but something in the same vein, this is probably your amplifier too! In fact, the only limitation to the CMA800R is that some of the more difficult headphone loads would need more amplifier lifting power to drive them. Like, maybe, a second CMA800R…
I think the CMA800R is the headphone amp that grows with you. Good headphones require a great amplifier, and that’s where the Questyle CMA800R comes in. It’s so good, you might start to look at the matching CAS192D DAC, possibly even driven by the Questyle DAP. At which point the weak spot is your good pair of headphones, and you change the cabling for balanced operation. Rather than have to give up your great headphone amp, you just add another CMA800R. A few months later when you are done with using two volume controls, you’ll buy a CMA800P preamp. To someone who hasn’t experienced the CMA800R that sounds like hyperbole, but to someone who has, it’s the next steps in their headphone enjoyment plan.
It’s not in a reviewer’s interests to stop looking for the next big thing, but I can’t help feeling that when it comes to headphone amps, the Questyle CMA800R is all I’ll ever need. And if I need more, there’s always the second CMA800R! Very highly recommended.
Type: balanced and single-ended headphone amplifier
Input: One pair XLR stereo, one pair RCA stereo, and single XLR mono balanced
Output: Dual 6.35mm stereo headphone jacks, three‑pin XLR mono balanced output, one pair RCA stereo pre-amp output
Frequency Response: DC–200kHz (+0, –0.3 dB); DC‑650kHz(+0, -3 dB)
Max Output Power: 180mW (7.5Vrms) @300Ω (stereo), 710mW (15Vrms) @300Ω (mono)
THD+N: 0.00038%@1kHz, 300Ω (stereo). 0.00026%@1kHz, 300Ω (mono)
SNR: 114 dB (stereo), 118dB (mono)
Dimensions (W×D×H): 33×33×5.5cm
Manufactured by: Questyle
Distributed in the UK by: SCV Distribution
Tel: +44(0)3301 222500