DAC Chip: ESS Sabre ES9281AC (Single, Current Mode Amplification)
PCM 24bit – 384khz MQA, SNR: -120dB, Power: Adaptive 2 Vrms up to 600Ω, USB Type-C Female Socket, 3.5mm SE (Microphone: YES), 51×16.5×8.1mm, Metal Chassis
LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING
- Neutral and natural timbre with exceptional coherence level
- Superbly controlled Dynamics, unoffensive , effortless and airy.
- Reference grade Treble, Mids and Bass extensions, richly textured
- Reference grade Macro and Micro details, beautiful nuances
- Surgical technical prowess, exceedingly technical and resolving.
- Wonderfully crisp percussions, guitars, synth, piano, and cello
- Mildly intimate Mids, succulent Male and Female vocals
- Excellent Sub-Bass presence and textures, with great extensions
- Mind blowing speed and transients handling.
- Razor edged layer separation and spatial positioning, great imaging.
- Exemplary sibilance resistance despite being sparkly bright.
- Particularly useful indicators for source quality
- Very slimline build and lightweight
- Great heat management
- PHENOMENAL performance for instrumental, EBM and modern music
- Amazing driving power in High Gain mode, effortless
- Commendable soundstage but should be slightly wider at this level.
- Too much focus on technical prowess and surgical precision – mildly dry sounding on some songs (no longer applicable after FW updates)
- Prone to picking up RF interferences from mobile phone signals.
- Does not react too well with some older model USB 2.0 devices (2018 and older). This dongle require strong current from the USB host. Android older than 2019 models may exhibit crackling or distortion – that is a sign of weak power feed. Best with USB 3.0 and above.
January 18 2022 Update:
The arrival of Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm prompted me to provide an update on this M12. I do need to crank the volume up to 90/100 region to enjoy that super hard to drive DT880 600 Ohm, but what’s important the sound is wholesome and proper, scoring an admirable 80% fidelity level versus the experience when driven with iFi ZEN Stack (100%). Except for the limited headroom as compared with the full fledged desktop DAC/Amp, overall performance is just spot on with dynamics handling and stability. No hint of stress or distortions despite cranked almost to the max. Thus cementing M12 status among the top dogs of #donglemadness
November 2021 Update:
Questyle released a new update for M12. Link here: LINK
With this new update, what was already a great sounding unit now exhibited even better sonic qualities. There’s marked improvements with the top end sparkle and extensions with smooth decays (as tested with FOSTEX T40RP MK3). The overall presentation remained organic and richly textured with amazing technicalities. With this new development, M12 has now jumped over to 5 Star performers in my book. Probably the most well balanced tuned of all ESS Sabre dongles that I have ever listened to
Questyle M12. Arguably one the best among the ones tested so far with outright technical prowess and timbre coherence, outclassed Audirect BEAM 2SE and HiBy FC3 on this segment by a step or two. Can be overly pristine when paired with an already ultra-resolving IEMs like the Etymotic ER4SR, but it does not dry the timbre to cause for concerns. For transparency, M12 sets the bar really high for others to follow. However, the somewhat milder velvety smoothness as observed in other TOTL dongles prevented this unit from scoring higher – but by no mean a deal breaker as some may hugely appreciate the stellar coherence especially when paired with an already technically competent and musical IEMs/Headphones. I love this unit the more I listened to it. It is very tidy and disciplined.
A re-run test has been conducted on this M12 due to the fact that my older LG V35 was not providing ample enough power supply for the demanding ES9281AC DAC. I ran the impressions test for the 3rd time on a Xiaomi M9t which audibly allowed the M12 to perform to the fullest potential. Overall the refinement are observed of which the timbre exhibited meatier dynamics and polished edged decays. Performs the best on my Samsung S20 which has stronger USB 3.2 – the better your phone is, the better this M12 preforms.
Best Pairing: Flexible practically with anything.
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