QLS QA350 Player

The QLS QA350 Player is really something. It’s ridiculously cheap, it’s ridiculously big, yet it’s ridiculously good sounding. I really couldn’t believe my eyes when I received the player. If you think that the HM-801 is big, the QLS is even bigger. Well, as some people say, “I couldn’t care how it looks as long as it sounds good”. If the HM-801 comes in a nice glossy finishing that exudes a high-end aura, the QLS looks like a mere DIY project. The QLS, at $200 also can’t compete with the sound of the HM-801, but for $200, it kicks the butt of everything else near that price range.

The QLS QA350.

 

The QLS is pretty serious in designing the QA350. For starters, they only take WAV files through the means of SD Cards. It is equipped with a Wolfson WM8740, a D/A chip that no longer needs an introduction. The front panel reveals that the QA350 is a jack of all trades: a 1/8″ leadphone out, a 1/8″ line out & optical digital out combo jack, and a coaxial digital out. That’s pretty much everything you can think of in terms of connection interfaces.

Front panel (top to bottom): Coaxial digital out, 1/8″ analog and digital toslink out (combo jack), volume knob, headphone out, and an external remote connection.

 

On the back side, you’ll find two different ports for power. A 3-pin square connector for charging the internal batteries, and a wallwart connector for operating the QA345 from AC power. There is also an SD card slot for the music library, a power toggle and a hold toggle switch. Though it may not be the prettiest looking player around, the QA350 is certainly one of the most full featured player I’ve come across. Oh, let’s not forget that the QA350 comes with a remote control. Now that’s pretty kickass.

Back panel (top to bottom): Battery charging connector, DC power connector, Power on/off, and Button hold switch.

 

The QA350 package. Notice the separate DC power supply (black color) from the battery charging unit (blue color), also the included remote controller.

 

Despite the big size, the QLS player is not as heavy as it may look. The use of a lithium ion battery attributes to this. The charger turns out to be surprisingly small too, much smaller and lighter than the one found on the Hifiman HM-801, which is notoriously heavy for traveling purposes.

QA350 next to an Ipod.

 

Thickness compared to an Ipod Classic 120GB.


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  • Joey

    Interesting…. but WAV only might be a barrier for current iPod users, since most of their library consists of mp3 or lossless :S About the size, I think it's still smaller than the combination of an iPhone + Voyager or E7.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Actually, no. I think the QA350 is still bigger than an Iphone & Voyager (Graham Slee) combination.

  • Earfonia

    If it has a USB or FireWire port, it would be interesting to position it as a DAC + Amp combo, with media player as an added feature considering the primitive display and limited file format supported :)

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      They probably didn't think of that. :) I thought the QA350 already has everything covered with the headphone out, line out, toslink and coaxial out. Turns out that you can never have too many interfaces. :D

  • Project86

    I have one of these and agree with your findings. Here's my review:

    http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/496326/review

    I'm not sure if that will show up as a link or what. Anyway, I've also been surprised at how good it sounds, and how easily I've adjusted to using WAV files.

    My charger stopped working the other day. I thought it was my fault but turns out it is the charging unit. QLS responded very quickly to my inquiry, and are shipping me a new one free of charge. Very good service!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hey dude, great review! It's much more in-depth than the one I wrote. :D

      Thanks for the information, it's nice to know that QLS can offer that kind of a service.

      • Project86

        Thanks. QLS told me that mine was the first report of a bad charges, so hopefully nobody else has to use that excellent service of theirs.

        By the way, I also reviewed the Audinst HUD-mx1 around the same time as you, and was equally impressed with it. I guess we have similar taste.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Yea, I noticed that you have reviewed the Audinst and the Matrix M-Stage. :D

          I'm writing a review on the Audiotrak ImAmp at the moment. It's a kickass little amplifier from Korea that sells for $137 at ebay. http://bit.ly/bVcMLT

          I thought you may want to check it out as well.

          Cheers.

  • buz

    Sounds very interesting, but I agree, adding MP3 and an USB port to act as DAC Amp would make this so much more useful…

  • Thijs

    How would it compare to an Nationite S:Flo2 (or Teclast T51) in terms of sound quality? It uses the same WM8740 chip. I doubt there is much difference. The S:Flo2 16GB is $ 175, this one is 32GB for $200.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I don't have the Teclast T51 with me anymore, but a friend of mine whom I trust (and owns both) says the QA350 is clearly better than the T51. The T51 actually looks better on paper, as it comes with dual WM8740s.

  • Mampus

    Nice review, Mike! :D

    .wav transport ROCKS! :D

  • Anaxilus

    Can you possibly borrow your friends Sflo2/T51 and do a quick comparison in future? I basically use my Sflo2 for simple playback as the best SQ DAP below the 801 out there. If this thing really is better I would love to know. Thx. Nice review btw!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      According to a friend who owns the QA350, the HM-801, and the T51. The ranking is as follow: (worst) T51, QA350, HM-801 (best).

      I'll try to compare the T51 and the QA350 when I have the time, but for now that's the best info I can give you.

      Cheers.

  • Randius

    though it may not best the HM-801 in SQ but how about against the RWA iMod?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I still put my money on the QA350. It's just ridiculously big and unpractical compared to an Ipod, hence I still stick with my Classic and Nano. :)

      • Randius

        Which other DAP will you consider getting since you did mention about the iPod Classic's deficiencies in the DAP comparison.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          The choices are limited for now.. HM-801 remains to be my #1 recommendation. I also have the HM-602 coming for a review, we'll see how that performs.

  • Adamus

    How does QLS QA350 compare to Sony NWZ-X series?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Functionality, menu, and ergonomics wise, the Sony is leaps and bounds better. But talking audio quality, the QLS is just in another league.

  • GoldFish

    Talking about sound signature, how similar are between QA350 and Hifiman 801 ? Take Sony as example, from low end E3xx to high end X1060, they all have so-called Sony house sound; X1060 sounds better, of course. Shall we say, QA350 "can be" poor man's Hifiman ? I already have QA350, also pre-order Hifiman 602; I am actually thinking, maybe I should wait a bit long, get 801 instead. If you don't feel comfortable answering me in public, can kindly send me an email? Thank you.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      @Goldfish: I never have the chance to compare the HM-801 to the QA350 directly, but the HM-801 has a weightier sound, and the QA350 is lighter. Vocal performance would be better on the HM-801, and instruments would also have better body and weight on the HM-801. This is talking purely from memory though. While the HM-801 is ultimately the better sound (as a few friends who owns both have confirmed), the QA350's great sound signature definitely makes it a poor man's Hifiman. It'll be interesting to see how the HM-602 compares to the HM-801 and the QA350, but I haven't received my HM-602 yet.

  • Mao

    Hi Mike, this is quite big as same as some Hi-MD players, did you experience in Hi-MD players sound. I just wonder which one is worth for SQ ?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Mao, I never used the Hi-MD players. I still have the old regular MD format though. It’ll be interesting to pitch it against the newer players. But if we’re judging from the development of digital conversion units, it wouldn’t surprise me if the newer players are superior as the DAC chips today are quite superior than what they have back on the days of Minidiscs.

  • Pingback: QLS QA350 Player: Nồi Đồng Cối Đá | nemsaudio.com

  • file624

    How does this QLS QA350 compare to S:Flo2. That unit sounds good, but very unreliable (I've had two die on me…and the sheer volume of posts on Head-Fi.org on the the untrustworthiness of Teclast/MP4Nation.net products makes me worry about all stuff coming out of Hong Kong. What are your thoughts?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      The S:flo2 is good, but the QLS is better. This have been confirmed with people who owns both units.

      • file624

        Thx, Mike!

        It's hard to believe that WAV vs. FLAC is the reason QLS is better. In theory (all else held equal), they should sound similar. But, of course, all isn't equal. S:Flo2/Teclast has two WM8470 DACs while QLS has one, so plus to Teclast. OTOH, they both have different output opamps (I never use HO, so only LO matters to me). So is the QLS's AD opamps better to Teclast's OPA ?? And then we're back to WAV vs. FLAC.

        Is QLS planning on putting out a unit that provides FLAC (maybe MP3), also?

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          I have no ties with QLS and so I don't know if they'll release a FLAC or MP3 compatible player. Yes I also know about the dual WM8740 DAC on the S:Flo2 (I did a review on it with a bunch of other players), but somehow the QLS is still better in the DAC performance. This may be caused by different factors, and not only the opamps. Better DAC design, better power supply design, etc.

          • file624

            Okay, thx. I may go for the QLS-350.

            The thing that eveyone needs to remember about the Teclast / Mp4Nation (Nationite) units is that they are EXTREMELY UNRELIABLE. I had two units fail on me… and they have both been in Honk Kong for "in-warranty" repair for 4 months. The company is a joke. There are some threads/posts on Head-Fi that also corroborate my experience. Maybe that company QC will eventually tun around. A shame … when it does works, it sounds decent, and the price isn't bad. But the reliability and company reputation … sheesh. Forget it, folks!

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              Whoa, that's a pretty nasty experience with the S:Flo2.

              So, just curious, why the QLS QA350? I mean, the HM-602 is far more sensible to me, especially in the size department.

              • file624

                I don't like non-oversampled (NOS) sound — never have, never will! Correct me if I'm wrong but I think the 602 uses low (budget)Philips TDA1543. I my own DIY projects, I overwhelmingly prefer digital filtering (oversampling).

                You can sorta polish the NOS turd by placing a superb output (I/V) section after (e.g., that's what diyparadise.com did for their Monica/Mojo DAC). But, frankly … that's cheating.

                Also, the 602 has the yukky-sounding OPA2604 — same as that S:Flo2. These are cheap opamps. OPA2132 is better if you want that Burr-Brown sound. AD opamps sound better, especially AD825.

                • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

                  Interesting how you come to these conclusion just from reading the DAC chips and the opamps. Well, everyone is entitled to his opinion. I'd still choose the HM-602's sound quality even without looking at the size advantage.

                  • file624

                    Huh?

                    My "conclusions" (your word) are based on my projects, testing various DACs, opamps and topologies. I realize that DIY is not popular in the commercial-equipment-testing arena. So be it. I own or have heard have some of the better commercial stuff — and I'll take empirically-tested DIY gear any day.

  • file624

    …oh and the 602 lacks I2S output and is WAY more $$ than the QLS 350.

  • Nicol

    Thanks for the great review of this very special DAP.

    • Anonymous

      You’re welcome, Nicol.

  • http://twitter.com/SoundEskimoo Eskimoo

    Hi.

    For quality, Will this one will be better than Hifiman HM601 & 602 as a player and as a DAP?

    For capacity section Is there any HDD mod to QLS so it can store many FLAC/WAV albums on single compartment like ipod Classic 160GB (who plays WAV only).
    SD card very irritating.

    thanks