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The iBasso DX170 digital audio player (top) and Questyle M15 DAC/amplifier (bottom) offer audiophiles two compelling options for high-fidelity music on the go. (APS-C on FF @56mm)

Audiophile Showdown: Questyle M15 vs iBasso DX170

or Questyle M15 vs iBasso DX170: DAC & DAP Showdown for the Ultimate Audio Experience.


In the pursuit of the ultimate mobile audio experience, audiophiles often face a dilemma: choosing between a Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) and a Digital Audio Player (DAP). Let’s delve into a comparison of two notable contenders: the Questyle M15 and the iBasso DX170, exploring their impact on sound quality and their compatibility with Apple Music.

My journey through the high-fidelity sound landscape led me to compare two notable contenders: the Questyle M15 and the iBasso DX170. This comparison is not just about the devices but also about enhancing the listening experience for my best In-Ear Monitors (IEMs), transitioning from the FiiO KA3 to the Questyle M15, and eventually exploring the iBasso DX170 for its autonomous battery lifetime. Following I will outline the details of these devices, their impact on sound quality and their potential to meet the needs of audiophiles.

My main goal is to use all the devices mentioned here for listening to IEMs, for my over-ear headphones I usually find myself using dedicated DAC / AMP desktop combos. 

For me, it is important to have a balanced 4.4 mm connector on all the devices described here, as I have this type of connector on all my IEMs and headphones.

Join me for the ultimate audiophile showdown between the Questyle M15 and the iBasso DX170 as we explore the ultimate audio experience in a DAC & DAP showdown. While we’re doing this comparison, you should know that the iBasso DX180 is about to be launched and will continue to turn the audio world to a new level with its improved processing power and new features.

Transparency Statement

As always, all products discussed in this comparison, including the Questyle M15, iBasso DX170, and associated accessories, have been personally purchased with my own funds. This content is not sponsored, and I do not utilize any affiliate links. My reviews and opinions are solely based on my genuine experiences and preferences as an independent consumer in the audio enthusiast community.

The Myth of Android Forced Resampling

As often reported online, it is not possible to bypass stock resampling on Android, even with a DAC. I have to say that this is not correct, at least not on my OnePlus 9 with Android 13 and Android 14. The connected DACs always switch the LED light when a high-resolution file is played. This is the case for both DACs the FiiO KA3 and the Questyle M15.

Questyle M15: Elevating Sound with Precision

The Questyle M15 became my DAC of choice, offering a significant upgrade in sound quality over the FiiO KA3. The M15 stands out for its ability to bring out the nuances and details in music, especially when paired with high-end IEMs. Its wide soundstage and precise audio reproduction make it a perfect companion for my custom Juzear 51T IEMs during commutes. However, when I switch to my pre-development high-end Juzear IEMs (Juzear V8), the Questyle M15’s superiority becomes even more pronounced, delivering an unparalleled listening experience that captures every detail in the music. 

One challenge with the M15 is the fine adjustment with the stock Android volume control from my phone. This can be a minor inconvenience. Nevertheless, its performance is remarkable, especially when driving a headphone such as the HiFiMAN HE1000 V2 Stealth with a low sensitivity of 93dB at a low impedance of 32 OHMs even at low gain. In regards to maximum volume control, the FiiO KA3 with its app has a big advantage over the M15 here, as the maximum volume can be set within the FiiO app. This means that the standard Android volume levels can be adjusted indirectly. If this function were also available for the M15, it would be even better 🙂

Shielding Limitation with Questyle M15

Despite its commendable features, the Questyle M15 struggles with shielding against mobile network signals, particularly evident in areas with weaker infrastructure such as within Berlin’s metro line.

Mobile Signal Interference

Continuous searching for a signal by your mobile device can lead to audible interference through the M15 and connected in-ear monitors (IEMs), significantly compromising the listening experience.

Berlin’s Network Limitations

In locations like Berlin with less robust network coverage, the M15 is more susceptible to picking up mobile signal interferences during daily use.

Solution: Airplane Mode

A workaround to this issue involves switching your mobile device to “airplane”-mode when using the M15. However, this disconnects you from cellular networks, which may not be convenient in all situations.

No Issue at Home and with FiiO KA3

The shielding issue is not problematic when using the M15 within a stable Wi-Fi network at home. In contrast, the FiiO KA3 DAC/amp seems less affected by mobile signal interferences. This is offering a cleaner listening experience even in areas with unreliable coverage.

Overall Impression

While the Questyle M15 displays shortcomings in shielding against mobile signals, the FiiO KA3 appears to handle this interference more effectively, making it a preferable option for environments with inconsistent network infrastructure.

A Look at the New Questyle M15i

While the Questyle M15 and iBasso DX170 are both excellent portable audio solutions, Questyle has recently unveiled the M15i, a second-generation update to the M15. The M15i promises several enhancements:

  • Improved compatibility with iOS, Android, HarmonyOS, Windows, and macOS devices
  • Retains support for high-res formats up to PCM 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512
  • Optimized power efficiency to prevent draining connected devices
  • Ultra-low noise floor of -130dB and distortion of 0.0003%

Like the M15, the M15i features the flagship ESS ES9281AC DAC chip and Questyle’s proprietary Current Mode Amplification technology with four amp engines. It also maintains the 3.5mm and 4.4mm headphone outputs with adjustable gain.

Even with the introduction of new offerings like the Questyle M15i, this blog post maintains its central focus: an impartial analysis contrasting the capabilities of a dedicated digital audio player against those of a portable DAC/amplifier solution, empowering you to make well-informed decisions in their pursuit of exceptional audio quality on the go.

iBasso DX170: A Companion for the Long Haul

The iBasso DX170, on the other hand, shines as a DAP that balances sound quality with battery life. Opting for the DX170 meant not worrying about my phone’s battery life during extended listening sessions. The DX170 delivers a very nice sound in combination with the custom Juzear 51T, making it ideal for commuters. Its laid-back sound signature, coupled with the ability to customize the audio experience through filter settings, offers me a great listening experience. 

I predominantly use either the D2 or D4 filter on my device. The D4 filter offers enhanced resolution and detail retrieval in comparison to the D2 filter, presenting a more forward sound with a lighter upper-end extension. Furthermore, on the DX170, the D4 filter enhances sound clarity, dynamics, and resolution more effectively than other available filters.

In addition, the DX170 is also compatible with a little more demanding headphones, even at low gain settings. Its smooth operation with Apple Music, allowing for high-resolution playback beyond Android’s internal sampling limits, makes it a versatile choice for audiophiles.

I recommend installing the Google Play Store and removing the APKPure to save battery. In addition, if you are using Apple Music, I highly recommend switching off animations etc. within the App, to not get additional load on the processor. Further, you should disable the automatic update function within the Play Store for the Apple Music App, to not get always the latest update (s. below).

The operational performance is decent, not excellent. The primary focus of the DX170 is music listening, which it excels at. While my 3-year-old OnePlus 9 with its Qualcomm 888 processor is significantly faster and smoother, it also consumes more battery resources on its own.

iBasso DX170 and Apple Music Compatibility

For Apple Music users, it’s crucial to be aware of an important consideration when using the iBasso DX170 digital audio player.

Rooted Device

The iBasso DX170 is a rooted device, a common feature among high-end portable audio players. This rooted device is required to bypass the Android resampling restrictions.

Compatibility Issues

However, this rooted status can lead to compatibility issues, particularly with certain apps like the latest version of Apple Music (version 4.7.0), which may not function properly on the DX170.

Workaround Required

To continue using Apple Music, I had to uninstall the latest version, install the alternative app store again, and download an older compatible version (4.6.0) of the Apple Music app. Though a bit of a hassle, I was able to get access to my Apple Music library. This is now fixed with the latest DX170 firmware (1.06.490). 

Potential Future Issues

As Apple updates its Music app, there may be further compatibility challenges with the rooted iBasso DX170. Users reliant on Apple Music should be prepared to repeat the process of finding and installing older compatible versions of the app.

Overall Impression

While the iBasso DX170 is an excellent high-resolution audio player, its rooted nature can introduce complications with certain music streaming services like Apple Music. This consideration is important for those incorporating this player into their audio setup.

New Firmware and Upcoming DX180

A recent firmware update for the DX170 (version 1.06.490) has been released to ensure compatibility with Apple Music version 4.7. 

Additionally, iBasso is launching a new DX180 by the end of May 2024, featuring a much better processor. This new release might be worth waiting for or checking first reviews if you’re considering a new purchase. While the DX170 is a bit slow, it still works with animations disabled in Apple Music, as well as for Wi-Fi streaming. Priority remains on music playback, ensuring no jitters, though the apps are a little slow but manageable. 

Key Improvements of the DX180 over the DX170 (I will update upon release)

The DX180 seems to be a significant upgrade over the DX170 in terms of processing power, RAM, wireless connectivity options, and battery capacity. 

According to my search, the most important improvements are as follows:

  • DX180 (vs DX170)
  • Android 13 (Android 11)
  • Snapdragon 665 processor (vs Snapdragon 425 in DX170)
  • Increased RAM 4GB (vs 2GB)
  • Exchangeble 3,200mAh battery (Not Exchangeble 3,200mAh battery)
  • CS43131 x 4 (CS43131 x 2)
  • DSD512x & PCM 32bit/768kHz (DSD256x & PCM 32bit/384kHz)
  • 690mW + 690mW@32Ohm on 4.4mm (?)
  • 281mW +281mW@32Ohm on 3.5mm (?)
  • Playtime balanced out on low gain 15.5h (vs 11h) based on specifications of iBasso
  • 206g (vs 165g)

This list will be updated as soon as further details are available.

The DX180 shares the DAC matrix technology with the DX260, using in the DX180 four CS43131 DAC chips. On the other hand, the DX170 utilizes a dual setup of the CS43131, renowned for its high-resolution audio support, which has contributed to the DX170’s popularity. Furthermore, both models feature an aluminium unibody design and a comparable 5-inch 1080p screen. In terms of pricing, it appears that the DX180 is positioned within the same price range as the DX170, judging by the current prices on Taobao. The shipment date within Mainland China is May 22, 2024.

The Verdict: A Personal Preference

Choosing between the Questyle M15 and the iBasso DX170 depends on personal preferences and specific needs:

  • Questyle M15: Superior sound quality and detail retrieval, ideal for high-end IEMs.
  • iBasso DX170: Balanced sound quality and battery life, perfect for extended listening sessions.

I don’t have a clear preference between them; each serves a specific purpose for my audio needs. Since I got the iBasso DX170, I’ve been using my Questyle M15 less, probably because I’m less reliant on my phone’s battery. Additionally, when commuting, I don’t have my best IEMs with me, so the DX170 is perfectly capable. Even my best IEMs sound very good with the iBasso DX170, only in the A-B comparison and in quiet environments I can hear the advantage of slightly more detail retrieval and more dynamics of the Questyle M15.

Recently, I have been using the Questyle M15 more often on my laptop and less often on my Android phone. This is mainly due to the drain of battery and due to the more precise volume adjustment from my laptop’s sound settings. 

In conclusion, while both the Questyle M15 and the iBasso DX170 boast unique strengths, the impending release of the iBasso DX180 adds a compelling dimension to the decision-making process. With its promise of enhanced capabilities and performance, the DX180 may sway the preferences of discerning audiophiles. Stay tuned for the latest updates and reviews to make an informed choice in the ever-evolving realm of high-fidelity audio.

As I continue to explore the depths of audio fidelity with these devices, I’m curious to learn about your preferences. Which device do you lean towards for your audio adventures? Share your thoughts and experiences with me on Instagram

To get a taste of the tracks I use to test and enjoy these devices, check out my Apple Music playlist: Heavy Test and More for Headphones and IEMs

If you are interested in my IEM and audio reviews you can find them here.  

Share your thoughts to let us embark on this auditory journey together, exploring the vast landscape of high-fidelity sound and discovering the devices that bring out the best in our music.

Technical Details Comparison: iBasso DX170 vs Questyle M15

iBasso DX170

  •     Supported Audio Formats: MQA 8x, APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF, DXD
  •     PCM: 32bit / 384kHz
  •     Native DSD: Up to DSD256 (11.2 MHz / 1-Bit)
  •     USB DAC Support: Up to 32bit/384kHz PCM, and DSD DoP up to 128x
  • Output Levels:
    •         4.4mm Balanced Phone Out: 6.4Vrms, SNR 130dB
    •         3.5mm Single-ended Phone Out: 3.2Vrms, SNR 125dB
    •         3.5mm Single-ended Line Out: 3.2Vrms, SNR 125dB
  •     OS: Android 11
  •     DAC: Dual CS43131
  •     Output Ports: 3.5mm PO/LO/CO | 4.4mm Balanced PO | USB Type-C
  •     Screen: Sharp 5.0inch 1080*1920P with on-cell capacitive touch panel
  •     Sample Rate: PCM: 8kHz-384kHz (8/16/24/32bits), Native DSD: DSD64/128/256
  •     SoC: RK3566
  •     RAM: 2G, ROM: 32G Micro SD: Supports SDHC & SDXC up to 2TB
  •     WiFi: 802.11 b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5GHz), Bluetooth: V5.0
  •     Quick Charge: QC3.0, PD2.0, MTK PE Plus quick charge supporting various voltages
  •     Audio Formats Supported: Various high-quality formats including MQA, FLAC, WAV, MP3
  •     Size: 124.5mm70mm15mm (4.9inch2.76inch0.59inch)
  •     Weight: 165g (5.82oz)
  •     Play Time: Up to 11 hours

Questyle M15

  •     Output Power balanced: 22.6mW@300ohm
  •     DAC: ESS Technology ES9281AC
  •     AMP: x2 CMA SiP Modules (four CMA amps in total)
  •     Power Gain L/H – 4.4mm: RL=300Ω,Po=22.60mW,Vout(Max)=2.624Vrms,THD+N=0.00057%
  •     Decoding: PCM: 32kHz – 384kHz / DSD: DSD256
  •     Headphone Out: 4.4mm BAL / 3.5mm UNBAL
  •     Build: CNC Aluminum, Glass Front Cover

Frederic Konkel

My name is Frederic B. Konkel and to capture landscapes and cityscapes is a big passion of mine. I'm currently back in Berlin, Germany. I love to explore new places and I'm using my cameras to document these moments. On F.B.K. Photography I showcase a few impressions of my captured moments from around the world.