Compatible Questyle Portable USB DAC M12: Full Reviews

DAC

DAC is an abbreviation of Digital Analog Converter, a device that converts digital signals into analogue signals. There is also an analogue digital converter (ADC) as an opposite concept.

What is DAC?

Let’s clarify what a DAC is. 

DACs have different uses depending on the field in which they are used, but the DACs mentioned in this article are used in the field of sound equipment and play a role in converting digitized music data stored in computers, smartphones, tablets, or transmitted through streaming into analogue music that can be heard on analogue sound equipment such as speakers, earphones, and headphones.

Currently, most smartphones do not support a 3.5mm wired earphone port, but smartphones with that port have a built-in DAC. The earphone port on PCs such as laptops and desktops also has a DAC behind it.

There are many cases where smartphones and tablets only support completely wireless, so there are many devices without wired earphone ports.

In this case, you need to use Bluetooth-enabled wireless earphones or headphones or connect wired earphones or headphones using a USB-C type or Lightning type earphone, or a conversion jack to listen.

The DAC is included in the port connection part of the earphone in USB-C, Lightning format, or in the conversion jack.

And among the conversion jacks, there are so-called tail DACs, and there are products equipped with circuits to give better sound rather than simple conversion jacks.

Mobile DACs you can have

DAC

Those called mobile DACs or portable DACs usually refer to DACs that can be easily carried around.

The DACs pictured above are commonly referred to as portable DACs or just tail DACs.

Well, a tail DAC often refers to a portable DAC with a USB-C cable or Lightning cable attached, but let’s just use the same here.

First of all, from the top, they are Quest Style M12, Advanced (ADV) Accessport Lite, and Hiby FC3. In addition to those, there is an if hip-dac and AIYIMA ESS9018K2M as a stationary DAC rather than a mobile DAC.

Among the DACs mentioned above, ESS9018K2M is clearly written as a portable DAC, but it is just a portable DAC because of its size, not a portable DAC.

how to use it?

If you want to use the mobile DACs you have to live up to the name of mobile, portable.

So let’s take a look at how to use them one by one:

Hiby FC3

Hiby FC3

It is a product that is more compatible with the ESS quad DAC installed in LG’s famous V50, and it is a device that produces a sound of similar resolution, and it is a good product for the price.

Features include Hi-Res support and MQA decoding.

FC3 is a detachable type that does not have a cable attached to the input side. In other words, if you use a USB-C to USB-C cable or a USB-C to Lightning cable, you can use it on your smartphone or tablet, and if you use a USB-C to USB-A cable, you can use it on your PC.

And on the output side, there is a 3.5mm unbalanced port, so you can connect earphones or headphones, or connect it to an amplifier.

For reference, as you can see from the picture above since the iPad is a model that supports the iPad Air 2 Go Lightning port, use a powered Lightning hub to connect to the input of FC3 with a USB-A to USB-C cable and output. I connected a headphone amp to it.

The headphone amp used here is the Douk Audio-U3 Mini Pure Class A headphone amp, also bought from Ali. Despite its small size, it delivers decent sound quality because it is a Class A amp, not Class D.

FYI, prior to FC3, the ADV mentioned here below plugged in the Accessport Lite and it worked just fine. 

 ADV. Accessport Lite

ADV. Accessport Lite

The Accessport Lite, previously used for my music listening set at the office, gave its place to the FC3 and turned it into a DAC for listening to music at home.

Accessport Lite, as mentioned earlier, is a tail DAC with a USB-C cable attached. And this guy is not the one I bought.

The headphones in the photo above are Sennheiser’s HD350 wired headphones, which are good cost-effective headphones. 

In that state, I listen to Tidal with UAPP (USB Audio Player Pro) on my sub-smartphone, the Galaxy S10e, which supports USB-C, or listen with Tidal on the iPad mini 6.

Questyle M12

Questyle M12

The Questyl M12 is probably the Top 2 product among the DACs introduced here in terms of price. The purpose of the M12 is a mobile DAC that makes it possible to thoroughly enjoy music outside.

Unlike the Accessport Lite, which is used only at home, or the FC3, which is used almost as a stationary type in the office, the M12 is a DAC that is taken out and used while on the go, in public transportation or when going to a cafe.

That’s why most of them connect to wired earphones to listen, but connect to the Galaxy S10e or iPad mini 6 and listen to music through Tidal (via UAPP on the Galaxy S10e).

Like the FC3, the M12 has a detachable cable on the input side and supports a 3.5mm unbalanced port on the output side as well. Usability is similar to FC3.

Hi-Res support and MQA decoding support are also the same. Perhaps the chipset used inside is different. FC3 used ESS9281pro, but M1 uses ESS9281AC. It is the same ESS9281 series.

However, FC3 uses a general amplification method, while M12 uses a different method called the current amplification method.

And M12 measures the impedance of the earphone or headphones connected to the output port, and provides an output of 1Vrms when a low-impedance device is connected and 2Vrms when a high-impedance device is connected.

Therefore, it has the advantage that earphones or headphones that require high output can ring without difficulty.

As you can see from the picture above, you can see that one more connection jack is used in the middle instead of directly connecting earphones to the output, and the resistance jack serves to raise the impedance.

Since most earphones have an impedance as low as 32 ohms when connected to M12, the output volume is heard at 1 Vrms. Of course, this gives you pretty decent sound quality.

However, if you connect the resistance jack and raise the impedance like this, even though it is an earphone, it is output at 2Vrms and the volume is larger, so you can hear a much better feeling or accurate (?) sound quality.

If you go to work or work while listening to it connected like that, the commute to work or the way home from work itself becomes a great music room.

The M12 is the most high-performance DAC among the small-sized DACs I own, shown in the photo above. And it is well used as the core of a portable music listening set.

The earphones connected and listened to are Kiera’s BD005Pro earphones, which are good value-for-money kernel-type in-ear earphones.

ifi hip-DAC

ifi hip-DAC

The DAC to be mentioned this time is a guy called Hip-Dac from ifi, which is not in the aforementioned mobile DAC.

It has a different size and volume from the FC3, Accessport Lite, and M12 mentioned above. However, it is clear that it is a mobile DAC that runs on batteries.

Among the DACs introduced in this article, in terms of performance, it is the best product among the products I have along with the M12. Of course, since it was purchased much earlier than the above DACs, it is not the latest product.

As you can see from its size, the hip-DAC is more of a product aimed at headphones rather than earphones. That is, the default output itself is large. It is said to be able to ring almost any headphone. Sennheiser’s HD600, which is difficult to ring, also rings well.

In addition, there are several features that are not found in previous DACs. First of all, it supports a 4.4mm balanced port along with a 3.5mm unbalanced port, so you can use a 4.4mm balanced cable.

The advantage of using a balanced cable is that you can hear it with less noise at a higher output than an unbalanced cable.

In addition, there is an XBase function, so it supplements (?) the base more. If you use earphones or headphones with weak bass, you can fill in the lack of bass and enjoy much more dynamic music.

And there is also a function to increase the output, which raises the volume nearly twice. Previously, the M12 measures the impedance of the connected equipment and automatically changes the output, but the hip-dac can simply increase the output.

However, since it is a function that simply raises the volume, noise also increases, so you need to be careful when using earphones.

I talked about the music listening set used at home earlier, but originally this hip-dac was the core DAC of the music listening set used at home. I listened to this by connecting Sennheiser’s HD560s with a 4.4mm balanced cable.

The music player used the Galaxy S10e and was connected to Tidal through UAPP. It was truly the best music-listening set.

The hip-DAC is used at home as before. However, it is used by being bitten by the Mac mini M1, which is a desktop PC used at home. Headphones are also used by connecting a balanced cable to the HD560s as before.

To be honest, it’s just that the player has changed from a smartphone to a Mac mini M1. Instead, the use is used more than before. It’s because I use it every time I use a PC at home.

Of course, the 3.5mm wired earphone port of the Mac mini M1 provides also decent sound quality. However, it definitely gives a feeling that it is different when you connect to a relatively hip-DAC to watch YouTube videos or listen to music with Tidal or YouTube Music.

In addition, a speaker amplifier is connected to the wired earphone port of the Mac mini M1 to listen through the speaker. However, since I use it at home in the evening, I listen more often through the HD560s headphones connected to the hip-dac rather than through the speakers.

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