QES LABS PAD 2 MK2 by OlivierL
Hello ! This is my review of the QES LABS PAD II MK II LE !
First of all, please pardon my English, I am french and I will try my best.
I have always been interested by converters and I have been reading a lot of reviews about it for years thought it is only when I set up my own mixing rig that I started to search for something that will suit my taste and my workflow.
I came across few times by the name "Qes Labs" on forums about converters. Some people were swearing it was the best thing they heard and were comparing it favorably to Forssell, Arfi DACs, Horus, etc.
I was already familiar with High End converters such as the Forssell Mada and Lavrys. I started to look deeper at manufacturer websites and really when I went to the Qes Labs website ( which is very ugly btw haha) I found that it was a one man operation and the way he was talking about his gear, describing it, explaning his process was fascinating. I like the fact that it was very clear and he was explaining his philosophy. Also the pictures of the inside of the unit were marvelous.
I also heard some shootout that were very good. So, because I had a little money I decided to go with a PAD II with ALL the audio upgrades ( thick teflon pcb, silver wiring, big transformers, cardas connectors, etc.)
I thought I was a bit crazy to do that. But hey
Val is a very nice guy, very straightfoward and helpful.
For the LE version with my upgrades it took 3 MONTHS to build it ! I love it ! haha. Many times I ask Val when I would be able to have it and he told me that quality comes with price and a bit of patience. He was ordering very rare parts made to order ( so I guess if you go with a regular version the delay will be shorter). But I liked the idea of something special is being made for me.
When the unit arrived my heart was pounding. I mean I already bought a lot of gear but it is the first time I was very very excited like this. When you spend more than 4 k (if I recall) for something you have never seen it is something special.
The packaging was so careful and well made it was amazing !
The unit was very heavy and the feeling of it was crazy. No picture can do justice to this unit. In person it is so nice ! The top is very soft and the face plate is thick ( I choose a custom black color also).
When I turned the unit I saw the beautiful Cardas connectors ( first time I saw something like this). Also Val has signed the back of the unit which was very cool.
To be honest, it is the first time I have an emotion like this buying a piece of gear. It felt like buying a piece of art or a Stradivarius or something. Yes it is technological but there is so much care, passion, intelligence behind it that it is very emotional.
The only quirks was that a number on the facepllate was a bit more grey than white but otherwise it was per-fec-t.
The sound ?
So I connected the PAD instead of my Orion 32HD at the end of my chain which consist of an SPL NEOS (all wired with vovox cables), a Tegeler Cream and a Overstayer MAS.
To be short it is AMAZING. Very very very transparent.
Very wide, deep. I mean, it sound like what you put trhought it.
In Classic filter mode it sounds a bit more compact (to me) in a nice way. When the Low Group Delay put you in front of a theater with a very convex and wide image, the Classic mode is a bit less immersive and makes an "object" or a sphere of the music between the speakers. I think I might use this one time on three when mixing.
So the PAD is the best piece of gear I have ever seen in build quality. I have heard converters like Forssell, Lavry, Pacifica, Nagra, Universal Audio, etc. And this one is on the top.
Cosmos Studios Paris