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Questyle CMA400i DAC / Headphone Amplifier Review

"The Questyle CM400i proves that neutrality really works when it comes to an all in one desktop device. One that works well with sensitive IEM's all the way up to full size planar magnetic headphones."

CMA400i

Questyle CMA400i DAC/Headphone Amplifier Review

The Questyle CM400i proves that neutrality really works when it comes to an all in one desktop device. One that works well with sensitive IEM's all the way up to full size planar magnetic headphones.

Pros:

  • Neutrality
  • Detail
  • Power

    Cons:

  • May sound clinical to some
  • No analogue inputs

    Aesthetics and Build Quality:

    The CMA400i is a sleek, matte black DAC/Amp which looks very professional and understated. There are orange LED's on the front along with the outputs and volume knob; the inputs are on the back. It looks superb, but if you want to change the looks up a little you can buy an optional clear top cover to show off the internals. You can also get an optional desk stand that stands the CMA400i upright to save space.

    The CMA400i has a solid CNC machined aluminium shell and feels extremly well built. All the connectors are solid, the buttons precise and the volume control is super smooth. Questyle have made a superbly built unit here, with no flaws in the finish whatsoever.

    Features:

    The CMA400i is a DAC/Amp, and does not have any analogue inputs, for that you will need the CMA600i which offers a pair of RCA analogue inputs.

    The CMA400i has 2 coaxial inputs, 1 optical input and a USB input, so it can be used with a wide range of devices. On the back you have outputs that can be used as line-outputs to an external amplifier or pre-amp output to powered speakers. You get a pair of balanced XLR outputs and a pair of RCA outputs, along with a spdif digital output (USB to spdif converter use).

    On the front you have the 4-pin balanced XLR output, a standard 6.3mm singled ended output and a 2.5mm balanced output. This covers the most common single ended and balanced connectors. You have the volume knob and also 2 buttons, one to switch between inputs and one to switch between Amp mode (for headphone and pre-amp use), or DAC mode (DAC mode switches the outputs on the back to line-outputs).

    On the bottom you have gain switches, for standard or low gain, this means it can be used with a wide variety of headphones and IEM's (standard is roghly 2.47x and low is roughly 1.1x)

    CMA400i

Sound:

The CMA400i as a pure DAC is superb, it is one of the more detailed and neutral DACs out there not adding any sweetness to the sound. The separation is one of its strong points, and its ability to show up fine detail is also excellent. The DAC won't smooth over imperfections in recordings, it is very revealing and presents the recording to you as it should be.

Going on to the amp section this is also a more neutral and revealing amplifier, one that could be used in a reference system. The CMA400i could sound cold and clinical to those that are used to smoother sounding amps, however it is not. It is revealing and will show up flaws in the recording, and it will let you hear the real sound of your headphones of choice.

The sound is tight, controlled and detailed, there is no added warmth so careful system matching is a must. The CMA400i is powerful enough for most full size headphones, yet also has a low gain option which can be used in conjuction with sensitive IEM's and it has a 2.5mm balanced output. The resolution and detail of the sound is superb for the price, you will hear details you have not heard before.

CMA400i

Conclusion:

For an all in one unit the CMA400i is remarkably clean, crisp and detailed. It has excellent control and balance throughout the frequency range and is a great reference setup for testing headphones. It also makes a great desktop setup for most headphones, especially those that lean towards a smoother, warmer sound. Pairing the CMA400i with the Audeze LCD-2 for example really shows what they are capable of with a fun and punchy but not bloated sound. However pairing with the Sennheiser HD800 is perhaps a little too clinical for some tastes.

About Shaun Gostelow

Shaun is co-founder of hifiheadphones.co.uk and spends most of his time dealing with the business side of running the store, but still loves listening to music with headphones just the same as ever.
Follow Shaun on Google+
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