Questyle NHB15 review: wired earbuds for the high-res audiophile

Not your average wired earbuds

Questyle NHB15 in packaging
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The Questyle NHB15 conveys audio with a degree of clarity that’s hard to beat, though the sound with these wired earbuds is not as neutral as expected. They are very well-built and feature an integrated high-quality DAC, but are also pricey and don’t offer much in terms of features compared to other earbud options.

Pros

  • +

    Clear, distortion-free audio

  • +

    Premium build quality

  • +

    Built-in DAC

Cons

  • -

    Expensive

  • -

    Not as neutral sounding as expected

  • -

    Light on features

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Questyle NHB15 wired earbuds: Two-minute review

Questyle NHB15 on table with laptop

The NHB15's USB-C connector allows for hookup to a computer or phone (Image credit: Future)

The Questyle NHB15 is phenomenal in a very specific way. It’s essentially a pair of wired IEMs (in-ear monitors) with a built-in DAC, which means you’re going to skip out on the kind of features we usually expect in the best earbuds while prioritizing crystal-clear lossless audio.

If you’re looking at these earbuds, things like active noise cancellation and an ambient mode are probably not top priorities, otherwise, you would probably be reading up on the Sony WF-1000XM5 by now. That’s not what the Questyle NHB15 is competing with. Instead, these are for people who value performance over convenience or extraneous features.

If you’re in this camp, the high price tag is probably more of a concern, especially with the explosion of IEMs that offer quality audio at a lower cost. Of course, the Questyle NHB15 has that integrated DAC, which is going to add to the price. However, if the cost doesn’t bother you, you’ll enjoy using these for listening to music and for other media.

Looking closely at the Questyle NHB15, it’s clear that it’s incredibly well-made. The earbuds themselves have a chrome-like covering that oozes elegance. And, the cable with its wrap-around design – they’re made to go over and behind the ears – is not only high-quality but can be detached from the actual earbuds.

The Questyle NHB15 is made specifically for sources with a USB-C connection. However, Questyle does include a cable to use with analog sources.

The most important part here is the DAC, which sits right in the middle of where it transitions from one to two cables, and is most likely the reason why the Questyle NHB15 is expensive. The DAC can handle up to 24-bit/192kHz high-res audio, and it will let you know if you’re listening to audio that detailed. If you’re listening at 48kHz or below (44.1kHz is CD quality, and where Spotify tops out), one red indicator light on the DAC will illuminate. If you’re listening to a higher-quality file or stream, then two will light up.

Questyle includes five different-size ear tips as well as a leather storage pouch with the NHB15.

Questyle NHB15 in package with accessories

Premium accessories include a leather storage pouch and five eartip options (Image credit: Future)

Now, it’s clear that this is a premium product that delivers quality from the source to the ears. But, will you find it to be an improvement over wireless earbuds? The answer: It depends.

Some of the best earbuds out there sound great, cost less, and come with the kind of features that you won’t find in the Questyle NHB15. Also, if you only listen to music through Spotify, which doesn’t offer higher resolution files like Apple Music, Tidal, Qobuz, or Deezer do, you probably won’t benefit much from the Questyle NHB15.

But, if you’re looking to up your audio game, you might enjoy the NHB15 more than a pair of Apple AirPods Pro 2. Now, these aren’t exactly neutral sounding as there is a low mid-bump in the frequency range. This boost is particularly noticeable with vocals and mid-range instruments as they seemed to have more body than they otherwise should when I listened to Kacey Musgrave’s Deeper Well, Childish Gambino’s 3005, or V.A.N. by Bad Omens and Poppy.

Beyond that, the bass is full and the highs are clear and detailed. The soundstage is also wide with good imaging, meaning I could easily place all the elements on that soundstage whether I was listening to music, watching a movie, or playing a game.

Also, since it can handle such a high bit-depth and bitrate, issues with distortion are non-existent. Essentially, the Questyle NHB15 will let you hear everything that your audio source can provide (though with a little bit of a low-mid bump).

Questyle NHB15 on table close-up of DAC

Red indicator lights on the DAC will tell you if you're listening to standard or high-resolution audio (Image credit: Future)

Questyle NHB15 wired earbuds: Price and release date

  • Price: $399 (about £315 / AU$610)
  • Released January 2024

The Questyle NHB15’s biggest downside might be its price. Considering that there has been a proliferation of wired earbuds known as IEMs offering very good performance, with many of them coming in at a cheaper price point, the NHB15’s price of $399 (about £315 / AU$610) can be hard to stomach.

That said, IEMs typically use an analog connection and don’t come with a built-in DAC with the capability of handling up to 24-bit/192kHz audio. To do that, you would have to invest in a portable DAC that can handle a similar or higher resolution such as the iFi hip-dac 3 ($199 / £199 / AU$349), though that would be a bulkier portable option than the NHB15.

There is an argument to be made that, at least for non-audiophiles, high resolution is not that important so keep that in mind when comparing the Questyle NHB15 to the competition. Also, keep in mind that you can purchase a standalone mobile headphone amp/DAC from Questyle called the Questyle M15i for $299 (about £238 / AU$459).

Questyle NHB15 on table in box

The complete Questyle NHB15 package (Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the Questyle NHB15 wired earbuds?

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Questyle NHB15 wired earbuds
AttributesNotesRating
FeaturesVery limited feature set, but does provide an integrated DAC3 / 5
PerformanceThe sound quality is great, though I expected a slightly more neutral frequency range for such expensive wired earbuds4 / 5
DesignEvery element is high-quality and well-built from the earbuds and tips to the included DAC4.5 / 5
Value DACs are expensive so a pair of headphones with one built-in is going to be pricey. Still, the NHB15 comes with a high asking price3.5 / 5

Buy it if...

You want crystal-clear audio
The Questyle NHB15 provides distortion-free audio quality with the ability to reproduce very high-resolution audio sources.

You don’t like your phone’s audio conversion
Most phones and computers don’t do as good of a job converting digital information into audio as a standalone DAC. Thankfully, the Questyle NHB15 comes with a high-quality DAC.

You care about premium quality
Everything about these headphones is premium, so if you’re comfortable with the form factor and the price, know that you’re getting quality.

Don't buy it if...

You’re strapped for cash
Let’s be real – a near-$400 price tag is painful to most people these days. If you’re limited on funds, check out the multitude of cheaper but well-reviewed IEMs.

You need the features of TWS earbuds
While it’s beside the point with a product like the Questyle NHB15, you’re not going to get active cancellation, ambient mode, or any of the other features that TWS earbuds offer.

Questyle NHB15 wired earbuds review: Also consider

Image

Sennheiser IE 300
At just under $300, the Sennheiser IE 300 is a more affordable wired earbuds option, though you will have to add your own DAC for high-res audio support. In our review, we found the IE 300 to be “a terrific entry into the hi-fi world.”

Read our full <a href="https://www.techradar.com/reviews/sennheiser-ie-300" data-link-merchant="techradar.com"">Sennheiser IE 300 review 

Image

iFi hip dac 3
If you want a standalone DAC to plug various earbuds, IEMs, and headphones into, the iFi hip dac 3 is the one to beat. It's a bulkier option than the Questyle, but it can handle even higher audio sample rates and also supports DSD.

Read our full<a href="https://www.techradar.com/audio/hi-fi/ifi-hip-dac-3-review" data-link-merchant="techradar.com""> iFi hip dac 3 review 

Image

Sony WF-1000XM5
Great sound quality and battery life pair nicely with a comfortable and secure fit. While the ANC isn’t necessarily better than its predecessor, the Sony WF-1000XM5 are still fantastic wireless earbuds. 

Read our full <a href="https://www.techradar.com/reviews/sony-wf-1000xm5" data-link-merchant="techradar.com"">Sony WF-1000XM5 review 

Questyle NHB15 earbud on table

(Image credit: Future)

How I tested the Questyle NHB15

  • I used the Questyle NHB15 for a couple of weeks
  • Tested with music, movies, and games

I used the Questyle NHB15 regularly for a couple of weeks. I listened to a lot of music of all sorts of genres. I also watched some movies and played games just to see how the Questyle NHB15 translated across mediums. On top of that, I listened in both standard and high-resolution audio formats.

After spending time with the Questyle NHB15, I found these headphones to be of very high quality but with appeal only for those who lean in a more audiophile direction. 

I’ve tested a lot of tech gear over the years from laptops to keyboards and speakers, and so have been able to use my expertise towards giving an honest and fair opinion, not to mention a critical eye, to any product I test.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed February 2024

James Holland
Freelance writer

James Holland loves audio gear! So much so that he covers all the ins and outs, good and bad for TechRadar and T3. Where does that so-called expertise come from? Not only is he a lifelong music-lover but he also works in the music industry and is a musician. When not testing headphones or listening to music, he loves to travel, rage at the latest PC games, and eat off-the-beaten-path but not too off-the-beaten-path food.