Questyle NHB12 review: a gift for music
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Questyle NHB12 review: a gift for music

Jun 19, 2023

True wireless stereos (TWS) have become mainstream in the consumer market, while wired options have been left in niche segments. Nonetheless, wireless technology continues to grapple with challenges arising from physical limitations such as bandwidth, latency, and anti-interference capabilities.

Despite these challenges, the pursuit of higher quality music remains unwavering. Major music streaming platforms are stepping up, promoting their lossless audio sources as a subscription benefit to elevate the listening experience.

Apple Music, though a key player, has struggled to keep up with the trend. This primary cause is the underwhelming performance of AAC (Advanced Audio Coding), the dated Bluetooth protocol Apple uses for its AirPods lineup. This setback places Apple in a less favorable position compared to competing options such as Sony’s LDAC and Qualcomm’s aptX HD.

However, several tech manufacturers are seeking solutions to this predicament through wired alternatives. They are developing products tailored for smartphones equipped with USB-C or lightning ports, integrating internal audio chips to decode and transmit signals.

We’ve recently put to the test a product from the Chinese audio tech firm, Questyle. This particular offering holds the distinction of being certified as “Made for iPhone”. The company touts its innovation as the “world’s first Apple-certified true lossless earphone.” Overall, the experience is brilliant, with only a few minor points of contention.

Here’s what I gathered from my experience with the Hi-Fi earphones over the past few days:

The Questyle NHB12 boasts a luxurious aesthetic. Its speaker body and lightning port are constructed from metallic materials with a gleaming silver hue. Large L and R letters are emblazoned on the sides, aiding users in the correct orientation.

Its headphone cord effectively wards off tangles thanks to separated wires and a thin, supple construction. The cable gives off a captivating silvery glint from its translucent interior. Initially, it may feel a bit tacky to the touch, but this sensation typically dissipates within a week.

The connection between the headphones and cable is a two-pin form, aligning with one of the commonly recognized standards. This allows for multiple alternative choices when seeking a unique sound, better connectivity options such as wireless support, or balance via a 4.4mm jack.

The product package includes two sets of cables. The cable attached to the headphones comes with an integrated decoding module that looks like the microphone and control panel of EarPods. The module mirrors the headphone’s design accents, featuring a metallic and reflective body adorned with the brand logo and Hi-Res verification mark.

On the flip side, a clear window exposes the visible chips and PCB. A red light indicates when the device is operational.

Sound quality can fluctuate depending on the chosen cables and connected devices. But in its default configuration, the earphone delivers exceptional audio. This should be the sought-after setting, as the maker fine-tunes the default audio output to harmoniously pair with the headphones.

An audio test showcasing its treble performance yielded highly satisfying results. Female vocals and instrumental sounds, particularly violins and wind instruments, projected a crystal-clear tone. The piano segments were likewise impressive, exhibiting supreme range in Chopin’s Ballade No.1 and The Butterfly Lovers Piano Concerto. The deep tones of the ballade created a dramatic mood, while the vibrant notes of the concerto brought a feeling of jubilance.

Both the baritone and bass quality deserve high praise, with the bass sections imparting a potent, immersive atmosphere.

In the third chapter of Vivaldi’s “Summer,” the headphone delivered a shiver-inducing, climactic moment while showcasing speedy response to dynamic sound shifts. This was confirmed during testing with Dvorak’s Symphony No.9’s final movement.

In my testing session involving symphonic and epic music, the headphones demonstrated clear imaging, successfully distinguishing instrument direction and location. However, the soundstage felt slightly crowded, and the sound seemed close to your ears. Testing with an epic piece from the popular Halo video game series produced similar experiences. Nevertheless, given that it’s an earphone rather than an open-back headphone, I found its performance commendable.

Upon testing with another 3.5mm jack cable, I connected my Mac, Xbox controller, and Sony Walkman. The outcomes were somewhat diverse. When connected directly to my Mac, the audio quality wasn’t as impressive as when using the iPhone through its Lightning port. Surprisingly, my older Walkman managed to deliver slightly superior results. In my personal listening experience, the bass felt stronger and the finer details appeared clearer while using the Walkman.

Using the headphones for Xbox gaming was also enjoyable, with stunning background music and sound effects.

Weighing 11.4g without the cable, the headphones are relatively heavier than the AirPods Pro 2 without the charging case. The weight increases to 25.4g with the cable. The over-ear method is employed to alleviate pressure and avoid the stethoscope effect.

The Questyle NHB12 earphones come with five pairs of earphone tips in varying sizes. Notably, the earplugs’ exhibit a curvature that smoothly transitions to the edges. This design feature is intended to enhance friction, minimizing the chances of the earbuds slipping off while being worn.

However, the prolonged wearing experience might be less comfortable due to the larger size of the earbud body. After using the earphones for more than an hour, I noticed slight discomfort and swelling in my ears. It’s worth noting that individual experiences may vary depending on the unique shape of one’s ears.

Another issue lies in accessibility. Despite the potential inconvenience of changing the cable, discerning the right side of both the cable and earbuds can be a bit perplexing. The lettering is low-contrast and lacks readability. Unlike some other designs, there are no prominent visual cues that facilitate easy identification of each side without careful inspection. For instance, Sony’s earbuds incorporate a protrusion on the left side and distinctive colors for each earbud.

Determining the correct orientation of the two-pin connector can also be a bit cumbersome, and inserting it requires careful precision to prevent harm to the devices or oneself. In contrast, the widely-used MMCX connector, which doesn’t need to be installed in a specific direction, facilitates easier plugging in and unplugging.

A small inconvenience we came across pertains to the size of the included protection pouch. It’s too petite to comfortably accommodate two cables, increasing the risk of the metal surfaces and sharp connector tips coming into contact and causing scratches. Given this situation, I opted to use my personal Sony pouch instead.

In conclusion, it’s evident that the Questyle NHB12 offers a compelling choice for iPhone users seeking exceptional sound quality. This product outperformed the AirPods Pro 2 in various aspects. While it may lack some advanced features like active noise cancellation, spatial audio, or an integrated microphone, it decidedly targets music enthusiasts for an authentic experience.

However, there are a handful of noticeable shortcomings worth mentioning, including the need to improve accessibility and connectivity. Currently, the device doesn’t support a USB-C adapter, which is suitable for Android phones and the upcoming iPhone 15 series. If you’re not planning to upgrade your iPhone soon, this device is a worthwhile investment. Conversely, if you’re an Android user or are eagerly anticipating the new iPhone set to launch this fall, it might be worth waiting. The company has informed us that they are developing a new USB-C model.

The Lightning version of Questyle NHB12 is now available on Amazon and Kickstarter, with a retail price of $349.