General

QLS 361 Player Review - The Triumph of Radio Engineering Thought

Last year was rich in premieres of variousplayers, both top and not so, but QLS 361 stands out against the general background. Firstly, this is a real masterpiece of radio engineering thought, and secondly, it is an unequivocal contender for the title of "the best price-quality ratio for fans of neutral supply."


The first player of the company, wearing the QLS350 index II missed it, because it came out at the dawn of portable audio and pretty quickly came down from the sky. The following model with an index of 360 has already visited the review, and popular popularity has not bypassed it. The company updated it with the release of the LE version, but in general, since 2014, QLS has not seen major progress until around the middle of last year, the announcement of the next model, which received an index of 361, took place.

I do not know why the novelty was not named at least 370,she obviously deserved it, because everything was recycled in the player. The developers of Quloos (as the company sometimes prefers to call themselves) have come to a solid basis, deciding that nutrition is the basis of the basics. The filter circuit takes the lion's share of the device price: inside the player, several capacious supercapacitors are installed to stabilize the power supply to the various components of the player and additional filters that protect the components from interference. In the role of the DAC, the AK495SEQ (specially selected best specimens of the usual 4495) is used, overclocked in voltage, the fully balanced amplifier is made on 6 OPA1622 and at the same time has a variable configuration. In addition to the "normal" mode of operation, you can turn it on in overvoltage, overcurrent or double high modes, the name of which speaks for itself. Of course, this affects the battery, but it gave the player the opportunity to “rock” any headphones without any problems (well, except for a couple of very clinically tight models), but more on that below. Of course, the optimization is not over, the player is all subject to the idea of ​​obtaining the highest quality sound, starting with a special single-threaded firmware running on bare hardware and ending with high-quality master oscillators and a special analog volume control chip.

What is most surprising, the price tag in QLS exhibitedrelatively modest, they want about $ 800 for a player: the amount is quite large, but, taking into account the “tricked out”, it seems to me that the company's marketing specialists were still modest.

Specifications

  • DAC: AK495SEQ
  • OU: 6 × OPA1622 + OPA2107
  • Frequency range: 0 Hz - 20 kHz
  • Recommended load impedance: 8Ω - 600Ω
  • Signal to noise ratio: 112 dB
  • Dynamic range: 115 dB
  • Channel separation: 106 dB
  • Distortion Level: 0.0008%
  • Output Impedance: 0.18Ω for unbalanced output, 0.38Ω for balanced
  • Output power (@ 32Ω): up to 400 mW at unbalanced output
  • Output power (@ 300Ω): up to 100 mW on unbalanced output, up to 320 mW on balanced
  • Voltage swing: 5.26Vrms on unbalanced output, 10.4Vrms on balanced
  • Memory Card Support: MicroSD up to 256 GB
  • Outputs: 3.5 mm unbalanced headphone, 3.5 mm balanced, 3.5 mm linear, combined with coaxial
  • Entrance: USB-C for charging
  • Battery: 3800 mAh
  • Operating time on one charge: ~ 10 hours
  • Full charge time: 5 - 6 hours
  • Format support: WAV, AIFF, FLAC, APE, ALAC, TTA, WV, DIFF, DSF, SACD-ISO, MP3, AAC, DTS,
  • Dimensions: 115 mm × 65 mm × 16 mm
  • Weight: 185 gr.

Package and Delivery

The box itself is made in a minimalist way: black cardboard in a black dust jacket with foil-embossed - as they say, simply, but with taste. And now the accessory kit makes it clear that the company has tried to give customers as much as possible and to make the experience of communicating with the player as positive as possible.

In the box, in addition to the player itself, instructions and warranty cards, you will find:

  • USB-C charging cable
  • nice case of soft-touch leatherette
  • screen protector
  • microfiber cloth to care for the device
  • adapter for use with a headphone player with a 2.5 mm plug
  • since the player does not have its own memory, a 32 GB microSD card is included in the package. Not super capacity, but in order to immediately start listening to music - enough
  • USB card reader to compensate for the fact that the player does not work as a USB disk

I would call this package "turnkey".

Design and management

The appearance of the player is quite simple, but that's allEqually a huge step forward compared with its predecessor. The main advantage, of course, is reduced size and weight, the player is now completely pocket. The shape of the aluminum case has become simpler, the parallelogram with a bevel on the right side looks much more modern than the chic 360 chamfers. The player is available in two versions: black and golden "champagne", both look stylish and discreet. The build quality of the player is good, no squeaks, backlashes and, especially, dangling buttons.

On the left side of the player is a card slotMicrosd. On the right - the volume buttons, a menu button and two switches, one responsible for locking the player, the second for turning it on. On the bottom side placed 3 outputs, all 3.5 mm: normal, balanced and linear, combined with coaxial. There is also a USB-C connector for charging and a small LED to indicate the status of this process. It takes about 4 hours to fully charge the player, while it can work 10 to 11 hours in “normal mode” with an unbalanced output, increased power modes and “balance” will significantly reduce the operating time.

On the front is a four-positiona navigation button with an inscribed play button (it also serves to select in the menu) and a screen. The latter is good, but, given that the player’s firmware is completely devoid of graphics, its “level” remains undisclosed.

Overall, the player's ergonomics leaves a pleasantimpression, it is simple, but it is conveniently controlled. The only, perhaps, minus is the use of three identical connectors on the bottom, so I advise you to get “plugs” to immediately close those that you are not going to use.

Firmware

The player software itself, as in the previous version,made very simple and minimalist. According to the developers, the player has no operating system, and the firmware runs on bare metal, while exclusively in single-threaded mode. The creators of the device believe that this allowed them to minimize any possible effect on the sound, reducing jitter. An additional bonus in this case is the speed of work: the player turns on in just a couple of seconds and is ready to immediately please the owner with music.

The downside is expected absenceall the modern "chips" that can please other gadgets. I'm not even talking about things like streaming or Bluetooth support, but in 361 there are no more basic functions like a media library or USB DAC mode. However, you quickly get used to the restrictions, after all, the main thing is to listen to music, and with this the player is fine.

In the absence of a media library, all navigationIt is carried out exclusively in folders, that is, as you laid out the music, so it will be shown. Choose a file, it immediately starts playing. The screen with information about the track is quite detailed, it shows the format, resolution, time, number of tracks in the current folder ... In general, everything except the album covers. To switch tracks, use the up and down arrows, rewind - long presses. The "right" and "left" buttons allow you to go back to the file browser. From the “organizational” possibilities, only favorites are available (hint - to add or remove, you must hold down the play button for 2 seconds).

The settings menu opens with a separate button andcontains many items, mainly related to the sound: the choice of digital filter, gain, amplifier operation mode and so on. The care of the developers is noticeable in everything, for example, when switching the gain, the player automatically changes the volume level so that you do not hear the change in volume. There is also an additional setting of the “feed character” allowing you to choose a softer or more “aggressive” option. Taking into account the availability of the upsampling function in DSD, the number of possibilities for tuning the sound in the player significantly exceeds the "standards". From non-sound settings, you can note the interface settings (the color scheme changes), the speed of the buttons, the order of playback and the memorization of the current track / position when turned off.

Despite the minimalism, player control is veryconvenient: it is logical, everything works predictably, any manipulations can be carried out in just seconds. The player is not bad, though not perfect, it understands non-Latin alphabet and is pleased with the playback function without pauses.

For experiment lovers, developersThey offer two “lightweight” firmware versions that do not support any format other than WAV, but offer a different sound. All the firmware can be kept on the memory card by flashing the player “on the go”, but after a couple of experiments I decided to stay on the “regular” version. The sound of “purist” firmware is really different, but the convenience of using FLAC files from my collection without conversion turned out to be more important for me.

Sound

To listen to the device usedThe following headphones: iBasso IT04, Meze Empyrean, Audio Zenith PMx2, Noble Kaiser Encore, Campfire Audio Andromeda and Solaris, Unique Melody Mason V3, HUM Pristine and others.

In the submission of the player, the developers tried to achievemaximum neutrality. Perhaps it would be foolish to spend so much effort to make the player with a painted sound. At the same time, the competent amplification scheme provided the QLS361 with excellent control of all frequencies, which gives the sound of the player the necessary bit of naturalness.

As I wrote above, of all the firmware II chose “normal”, the difference between balanced and normal output (except for power) is small and consists of a slightly wider imaginary scene in the case of balance, therefore the sound is described further for the standard firmware and the usual 3.5 mm output.

The bass is perfectly controlled, providing excellenttexture detail and transfer. The depth of the bass is also close to the reference, I think that here a correctly implemented amplifier lets you know. Of course, if there are dense woofers in the track, the player will play them exactly as it should, surprising the listener with power, rolling and control, but if they are not in the recording, nothing will be added from “myself”. The player does not accentuate the bass either quantitatively or with the help of added weight, this is not a model for those who are looking for options with dark, oily or any other colored feed. A little add massiveness will help turn on the Slow filter and overvoltage mode, but do not expect a big bass boost.

The midrange is served neutral, but with a goodintegrity, to avoid "rolling" in the dry monitor. Despite the excellent resolution, the player does not forget about the necessary weight, which allows it to cope without problems not only with microcontrasts, but also with the macro component. Unlike other neutral players, 361 does not accentuate the flaws of the record, just playing them exactly as it is. The player does not emphasize emotions, so the recordings in which there are not enough of them will sound fresh, but this is exactly what you expect from a monitor source. The imaginary scene is not a record one, but noticeably larger than the average, the separation of plans is close to the possible ideal, the same goes for the size and positioning of the tools.

HF is also, of course, good. QLS361 is not a model for HF phobov (well, suddenly someone else did not guess), because it will not mask and smooth the upper part of the range, but thanks to the remarkable "technical talents", the player will provide naturalness, length, layering (aha) and attacks with fading, almost reaching the “level” of top devices. For the happy listener, this in turn will give the timbre richness of complex instruments, saturation with overtones and what is called “air”. The flip side of this is that the player is critical to the high-frequency recording in the track, and this is the part that is often neglected in modern recordings and you risk to hear it fully. However, this "problem" is characteristic of most high-level devices.

I will not compare comparisons this timeworthlessness. If you like monitor feed, 361 is probably the best player of its kind, bypassing even more expensive A & K SE100 in quality. It’s not a lot of sense to compare the player with less neutral sources, since the choice here will be determined first of all by the difference in supply.

Compatibility

Perhaps the strongest side of the player isversatility and the ability to easily swing anything. For sensitive IEM there is a normal mode, characterized by a reduced noise level. For low sensitive ohms - high current mode. For high resistance models with normal sensitivity - increased voltage. For tight one-piece mode, “double all” mode and increased gain. In general, there is little that can shake the hero of our current review, even the capacitive load, on which the majority of sources succumb, can do it.

Stylistically, the player is totally universal, buttake into account that high-quality recordings are desirable for him and, of course, one must be prepared for an unvarnished sound. On the meticulousness scale, I would rate it about 8 points out of 10.

By tradition, several tracks as examples

Iron Maiden - Wasting Love It is unlikely that this track needs at least somesubmissions. Perhaps the best vocalist in the history of metal (subjective assessment) and one of his best works (subjective assessment). QLS361 plays the track powerfully, dynamically, and with an incredible effect of realism, but what else is needed?

Jimi Hendrix - Hey Joe Despite not the best recording quality (a,maybe thanks to him), this track is a good test for the player, since transferring the characteristic sound of that time is not such a simple task. But the player from Quloos copes with it without the slightest problem.

Nina Simone - Feeling Good How many famous performers would not givehis tribute to this song, the variant from Nina Simon is unlikely to ever be surpassed. Good headphones combined with the hero of this review will clearly make it clear why I am so sure of that.

findings

It would not be an exaggeration to say thatThe 361 device turned out to be unique, starting with a neutral and technical supply and ending with an incredible versatility in terms of load. In combination with a fast, albeit minimalistic, firmware and a price tag that is adequate for this level, this makes the player one of the best options for those who like a non-embellished and technical presentation without a bias to excessive dryness.

Buy QLS361

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