Following my initial review of the Focal Utopia headphones last month, I was sent the Questyle CMA800R headphone amplifier with which to improve the experience as it became apparent there was so much more to hear. This was notwithstanding the fact I was using the T+A DAC 8 as headphone amplification which in any case was doing a pretty fine job (as was the Naim NAC-N 272).
In fact I was sent two Questyle CMA800Rs, to use as monoblocks for the headphones!! With the capability of balanced output to both ears, full balanced input to each amplifier (from the still excellent T+A DAC8), the prospect was mouthwatering.
In fact the real questions that were emerging were twofold. Firstly, since I still had the Focal Elears in my possession and the Questyle CMA800R provided balanced and unbalanced output, should you go for the Elears with just one (!) Questyle CMA800R and keep the change (approximately a six hundred pounds) or would you go for the Utopias only. Secondly, are the Focal Utopias with the Questyle CMA800R my personal audio nirvana?
Just to be clear, I have the Questyle CMA800R silver, there is a higher end gold version that is even more pricey. The Gold series bears ceramic PCBs that are designed to deliver ultra-low signal loss and extremely stable transmission, this provides stability for longer listening. The Questyle CMA800R silver retails near £1,899, the gold version near £2,899
Questyle CMA800R – Current Mode Amplification
What is Current Mode Amplification?
Current Mode amplification delivers a more analogue outcome, from what I have read, this is the explanation from Questyle.
“In current mode amplification, the signal is amplified by modulating current instead of voltage. This is widely applied in the high-speed communication industry and the video processing industry, but it is Questyle Audio’s patented technology that is applied to headphone amplifiers”.
So Questyle chose Current Mode to reduce distortion and increase bandwidth.
To achieve this Questyle Audio abandoned the traditional voltage mode format and developed “Current Mode” amplification.
When the component is working in “Current Mode”, the amplifier Slew Rate (SR) achieves a linear increase as input signal amplitude increases, in direct proportion to the input signal amplitude. When receiving a high amplitude signal, a “Current Mode” amplifier’s SR is much faster than traditional voltage mode devices, totally eliminating TIMD and ensuring a high amplitude signal, with an extremely wide linear bandwidth and an almost distortion free realistic playback.
It is working for me, I can say that.
Review Set Up
I am using a laptop with JRiver HiRes playback software, Atlas digital cable into the the aforementioned T+A DAC8, with 2 channel balanced output to two Questyle CMA800R silver monoblocks. SCV Distribution provided me with an Atlas Zeno cable with two channel balanced output into the bayonet fitting of the Focal Utopias.
Audio Utopia (Nirvana)?
Utopia: a dreamland, Elysium, nirvana, bliss, paradise, an awakening, etc…
What is clear to me, above all else, is the T+A DAC8 is an exceptional piece of equipment. Secondly, the Focal Utopia headphones are out of this world. Finally, I have absolutely no complaint about the Questyle monoblocks. If being an audiophile is a journey to audio utopia, or nirvana, or heaven, or whatever you would like to call it, I was pretty close last December when I was able to line up the Focal Sopra No.2s with a Naim NAP250DR and the Naim NAC-N 272, pre-amplifier. Any combination of the Focal Utopias with the DAC8 and the Questyle electronics gets you to the same place.
There is absolutely no need for me to dig out a thesaurus and talk about sound stages, dynamics or PRaT. I have little doubt I am listening to my audio utopia. In my case, whether I put on ‘Amnesiac’, ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ or ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, it is all pure bliss.