by Dan Browdy
Questyle Audio was in attendance with their unique Current Mode Amplification gear. Questyle owns the patent for this technology that, on paper, is far superior to traditional voltage-mode amplification. In practice, these amplifiers are powerful, linear and clean. They’re also built extremely well with a classy look and an obvious attention to detail. Even the inside of these units are beautiful and Questyle was not shy about showing them off.
I spent some time listening to their flagship CMA800R headphone amplifier. This small amplifier has a huge sound. They also have a rather unique option: you can run two of them together for true dual-mono balanced amplification. When run with their CAS192D DAC, the sound was effortless and clean. Questyle provided just about every flagship headphone you can imagine and they all sounded fantastic off this stack. At $2,000 per unit for a total of $6,000, this was not a cheap stack. But there wasn’t much I heard at RMAF that compared.
For those who are looking for that clean, effortless sound but aren’t ready to sell their car to afford it, there’s the $2,500 CMA800i. This is an all-in-one unit with a current mode amplifier and DAC in a single unit. As you might expect, the performance isn’t all that far off from the big stack.
Their newest toy, the QP1R High-Res DAP, is a little wonder. The sound coming out of this $900 DAP has to be heard to be believed. It has enough juice to drive most any full-size headphone; it even sounds good with the notoriously picky HD800! It has a clean, quick interface, two microSD slots and it’s built as well as all the rest of their equipment.
Questyle teamed up with ENIGMAcoustics at RMAF to show off some great two-channel stuff upstairs, as well as the new Dharma D1000 hybrid electrostatic-dynamic headphone. The Dharma has been shown a few times this year in pre-production form, but this was the first time the public got to hear the production unit and it was worth the wait. Many of the minor niggles I had with it previously have been addressed and the final unit sounds excellent and fits well.
For those unfamiliar, the Dharma combines an electrostatic tweeter with a dynamic driver for the lows and mids. The electrostatic tweeter uses a tech that allows it to be driven off a conventional amplifier, unlike most other electrostatic headphones. Using a dynamic driver for the bass and mids addresses another potential complaint with electrostatic headphones, which is the perceived lack of bass. What you end up with is a headphone that gives you all of the strengths of an electrostat with none of the drawbacks. And all of this costs only $1,200. Driven off the big Questyle dual-mono stack, this headphone sounded fantastic; this may have been my favorite overall system I heard at the show.
And as a small teaser, Questyle will soon be announcing two new products: the QP1 DAP and CMA600i all-in-one amp and DAC. These will allow more budget-minded folks to get a taste of the wonderful current mode amplification. Stay tuned for more on these new units soon!