It’s been a long time since my last review on electronics, and this time around, it’s the first shopping haul I’ve got from a series of audiophile purchases.
More on that on another post, but for now, here’s my thoughts about one of my purchases, the Qudelix 5K.
tl;dr - this is a 9/10. Love the lightweight, kickass Bluetooth and audio capabilities in this.
Ever had wired audio that you wanted wireless? If so, then this does exactly that, on top of making sure that you can use your audio gear to the fullest. Need an equalizer? Check. Want to use the best audio codecs? Yep. Need to power headphones or just IEMs? Yeah, of course you can use them all with this. And the best part is that the audio quality you’ll get is the same as plugging it in. It’s wonderful.
I would recommend this to anyone who has a set of wired earpieces or IEMs. Or any audio hobbyist that wants to bring their gear around.
To the everyday user, this is great because…#
It lets you turn any wired audio gear into wireless. And it does this very well while it’s at it.
I say very well, because it even does good audio protection controls and multi-point support, and you can choose to toggle the MIC or go with higher kHz output.
Oh and I love the addition of selecting audio priority in the app. It gives me choices whether I want my MacBook to take priority, or my phone when a call or notifications show up on it. It’s also smart enough to pause when priority gets shifted away (ex: MacBook Pro gets a notification, Android pauses until it gives the audio focus back to the Android.). This is a feature I especially loved in my Bose QC35 but it’s better because I can choose what priority I want.
It has a built-in mic so it also gives you that too if your current gear doesn’t.
It clips very nicely, and it’s on a sturdy plastic shell. It’s not metal, but this works just fine. I still wouldn’t want to drop it though.
The app is wonderfully made, you can control things as long as it’s connected somehow to your Android / iPhone, even if it’s not the one playing your music.
- NOTE: Having the app on iOS goes well only for an iPhone. Using it on an iPad? Expect an enlarged iPhone screen instead of an optimized tablet experience. It kinda sucks because the iPad Pro fits well with its USB-C port. (The audio experience is just as good as any other device though, so at least you don’t have to fiddle with that.)
To the audio hobbyist, this is great because…#
It supports all the codecs that you want in music – Sony LDAC, Qualcomm AptX HD, AAC.
The equalizer gives you the precision and presets + custom presets that you need, and it’s saved in the unit itself. The parametric EQ is great since some presets (e.g., oratory1990) use these and it’s perfect.
You get both 2.5mm and 3.5mm audio jacks in a very small package.
Everything isn’t sunshine and rainbows though. There are some negatives, but they’re annoyances at best, and aren’t critical issues.
Using multi-point Bluetooth while listening to powerful codecs can sometimes give your audio a hiccup. It’s a crackling sound sometimes.
Audio can fluctuate at times when dealing with Bluetooth. I’ve seen the unit freeze and restart on its own when connected to my Android phone and Macbook Pro and it kept doing this when I played music on my MacBook Pro. I had to restart Bluetooth on the MBP to fix this, but I’ll still list it here because this is the only occasion I’ve experienced this (and I’ve used plenty of Bluetooth audio devices before on this MBP).
It gets really confusing to use the buttons when you’re not looking for it (by feel with the notch or looking at the red/blue LEDs). I wish the buttons were just on one side.
- There’s some button customizations that you can enable and it helps for a symmetric feel of the buttons, so thankfully there’s that.
The little details are great too…#
I enjoyed the sturdy and stiff USB-C and audio ports. For a small unit like this, you’d end up dangling the entire thing with your USB-C wire or audio wires and it’s an important thing to have, and it’s nice that it did. I hope it stays like this for its entire lifetime, because some devices have their plugs wear out (looking at you, MacBook Pro) while some thankfully don’t (my OnePlus phone still rocks its USB-C port and still firmly connects to wires)
The metal clip that comes with its body is nice. I can clip it nicely to my shirt and it could pose itself as a lapel microphone if you wanted to. My cables tend to be heavy though but this works perfectly for IEMs.
The flat, plastic body is great for adhesives in case you’d want to stick it somewhere. I use Blu Tack on occasion to stick it to my desk, for example. They could’ve used that space for buttons, and I’m glad they didn’t.
It’s tiny, cute and portable! What is there to dislike? It’s great!
In this section, I want to wear the audiophile hat and dive deeply on what I enjoy about these.
The Test Scenario#
Please note that I’ve reviewed this using the following configurations:
- Qudelix 5K with Audio-Technica ATH-M50x .
- Qudelix 5K with [BLON BL-03]
- Flat equalizer
- Acoustic equalizer
- Electronic equalizer
- Oratory1990 custom equalizer preset
- Qudelix 5K with [Sennheiser HD 660S]
And some non-configurations / assumptions about what I don’t have.
I do not have a full DAC/AMP stack. My only other unit is another portable DAC/AMP, the FiiO Q1.
I do not use lossless audio. Not that I’m questioning its quality, but because I listen to streaming audio all the time.
I used Android, iOS and MacOS in these tests. No Windows.
All observations were done with music alone. No tests done on video games or phone calls.
This DAC/AMP taught me to love and appreciate the equalizer.
For many years already, I’ve always underestimated the EQ. I always thought it was unnecessary. It’s a hassle to use, and I hate having to fiddle about what genre my music were and what EQ preset worked best.
And then I’ve learned about the impact of an EQ with great headphones like the HD 660s. You can live without them, sure, but it vastly improved sound quality if you had a really good preset that went with any music. Or at least a preset that played nicely to your musical tastes.
I learned about things like the [Oratory 1990 List] of EQ presets, and I tried plugging them in and I was like, wow! These legitimately sound objectively better than whatever comes in default.
So yeah, I’m never going to underestimate the equalizer in the future. Or at least when you have a good DAC/AMP like this one, I have to spend time with the EQ settings.