Questyle M12

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


💚PROS

  • 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

💔CONS

  • 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  • Too much focus on technical prowess and surgical precision – mildly dry sounding on some songs (no longer applicable after FW updates)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

VERDICT

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.

⭐⭐⭐⭐½ ($140.00)

Best Pairing: Flexible practically with anything.

Back to #donglemadness

18 Comments

  1. Steven Montgomery says:

    Which dongle do you think has the best, widest and most immersive soundstage?
    Thanks!

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      There’s three most prominent on this subject. xDuoo Link2 BAL, CEntrance DACport HD and THX Onyx

      Like

      1. daulay says:

        in terms of technical, resolution, imaging, soundstage and micro detail, which one better questyle or link2 bal??

        Like

      2. Andy.EF says:

        Between Link2 BAL and Questyle M12, they are pretty much equals. The difference being sound signature of which it purely depends on personal preferences

        Like

  2. Steven Montgomery says:

    “Between Link2 BAL and Questyle M12, they are pretty much equals. The difference being sound signature of which it purely depends on personal preferences”.

    Would you please compare the sound signatures between the Link2 BAL and M12 and M15?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Link2 BAL is closer to DACport HD type of approach which means it is highly neutral. In fact all the top performers are all equally neutral and equally competent technically. Perhaps the most evident for Link2 BAL is that the absolute power is on par to DACport and E44 compared to M15 2.6 Vrms. M15 is something you want if you are very focused on technical aspect of sound. Again, any one of the top dogs are equally amazing, with DACport HD remains the overall best of the best

      Like

  3. Matus says:

    Hello Andy 🙂 u have mentioned that the questyle M12 sounded better (to the full potential) on the xiaomi 9T (usb 2.0) compare to the lg v35 (usb 3.1) and the best on the galaxy s20 (usb 3.2), if it is biased to the usb C generation how it is possible that the usb 2.0 on the xiaomi 9T sounded better than the usb 3.1 on the lg v35 ??? Is it maybe more due to the bigger battery, so it doesnt depend on the usb C generation but maybe on the battery capacity (or both)? Am I wrong?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      LG V series actually runs on older USB PD 2.0 despite labeled as USB 3.1. I checked already and I have both LGV35 and V50. V50 is better as V35 seems not as powerful with wattage vs Mi 9T

      Like

      1. Matus says:

        Thanks 🙂 so I would say the best I can do is to find some middle ground between the genrations of usb C and a battery capacity, meaning the phone with the biggest batteries right know goes only up to usb C 3.1 …

        Like

      2. Andy.EF says:

        The later models Xiaomi all seems to be great

        Like

  4. Jeane Doe says:

    Dear Andy, thanks for all your detailed review of each dongle here..

    I have a Q

    Have you ever tried Shanling UA3 or HiBy FC4? How does it compared to M12? Which one is the best?

    Currently im using MSR7SE and E1000C as my daily drivers.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      No. I stopped buying dongles already. But M12 is not an easy device to outclass. Having tried UA1, UA1 Pro, UA2 and UA5, all of them are still below M12 in my rankings

      Like

      1. Jeane Doe says:

        How it’s compared to HiBy FC5?

        And now, in Indonesia, considering not so much price different between M12 and Link2 BAL, i think im going to buy the latter (if you think it’s clearly better than M12)

        Like

      2. Andy.EF says:

        Between FC5 and M12. They are very close. With M12 a bit more organic and FC5 has a bit more power and slightly wider soundstage

        Like

  5. odyotmanda says:

    Who more neutral and good technical between Colorfly cda m1 and questyle m12?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Both are actually equally neutral and technical. However M12 is more organic sounding and M1 is flatter

      Like

  6. Brock says:

    Off topic, but what are the Venture Electronics earphone in the third photo?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Thats the old VE Duke, highly modified

      Like

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