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Say qat? So who are these Chinese? I'd noted their show display at Munich HighEnd over many years. I'd simply not paid particular attention. That changed last year when London-based Vital Gbezo, formerly with Korea's Emillé Audio Labs, introduced himself as QAT's global marketing manager. Having enjoyed Vital's professionalism during his Emillé tenure—which directly led to his departure—I stopped for a closer look despite my personal ambivalence towards costly music servers. One, Vital has a fine nose for quality audio. Two, his solid business conduct and connections had now secured this Beijing firm proper representation in the West. Having observed Melody's related troubles whilst knowing their owner's sincerity from a personal visit to his Guangzhou factory, I appreciated the vital importance of this oft overlooked ingredient.

Even so nearly a year passed until Gbezo contacted me with an actual review loaner. He'd worked behind the scenes since to address certain details to his satisfaction. East meets West. As part of his MO I knew he'd inspected QAT's facilities. What could he share about the company and its principals that had him sign on as the brand's new ambassador? "QAT was founded in early 2006. The original founders were the current president Mr. Zhang Zhiqian and technical director Mr. Ouyang. Mr. Zhang is responsible for the capital investment, product positioning and corporate management, Mr. Ouyang was in charge of circuit design. He had accumulated 30 years of experience in audio design and gained a certain prestige in mainland China. During its early stage, QAT’s products covered from CD players and decoders to amplifiers, speakers and cables. Although a rich product line, lack of focus made it difficult to achieve standout performance and distinction versus already established hifi brands. With a deeper understanding of the market Mr. Zhang today no longer focuses on traditional audio design per se but hopes to merge the latest technologies with very contemporary hifi. More importantly he demands much higher quality. Due to diverging interests in business philosophy and product development, Mr. Ouyang left QAT in early 2008.


"Since then QAT has resolutely changed its R&D focus on music servers and power amplifiers. QAT has also dedicated itself to achieving the highest standards for each facet of their manufacturing cycle: design, production, merchandising, sales and services. They especially increased investment in circuit design and cosmetics. QAT now employs a group of excellent engineers and technicians for signal processing and electronic circuits. This includes not only seasoned experts with more than 20-year+ experience each but younger folks with up-to-date specialized skills. In addition QAT enjoys a longstanding relationship with famous university and research institutes to cooperate on technical challenges."

"We managed to successfully coordinate valuable resources and integrate them with the high-end audio industry. Our team is not only a collection of Red Dot Award winning designers but also a multicultural conglomerate of addicted IT geeks and famous audio engineers from many regions of China. We have set an unprecedented high standard for our whole industry. In addition we deliberately created an external supervisory panel by inviting the most prestigious audio experts, media leaders, audiophiles, record producers and sound engineers for their feedback. Every one of our products has undergone most critical and careful listening. Therefore we view our products as 'representing the sound of the original'.


"The development of such an enterprise is heavily reliant on specific technical support and outreach. In this area QAT has published several important articles in the main Chinese magazines. These were "The opportunities and challenges for Chinese digital players" and ”The division of digital audio at this stage”. They were well reviewed. In the realization of the company's dream, QAT also pays great attention to popularising musical culture. This has become a very important part of our work. Since its formation QAT has organized hundreds of free music appreciation lectures during which a group of music lovers fulfills a social responsibility. Music is alive. The music players should be too. Our staff's enthusiasm is devoted to creating high-end audio products filled with noble qualities for more perfect enjoyment and excitement.


"As president of Kunhap Medical Equipment Ltd. and QAT Audio Technology Ltd., Mr. Zhiqian Zhang graduated from Zhejiang University in 1984 where he majored in bi-medical engineering. Past graduation he was mainly engaged in R&D and sales of medical equipment. In 1995 he established KunHap Medical Equipment Ltd. Since then KunHap has developed strong ties with GE and Siemens in the medical equipment sector. In 2006 Mr. Zhang founded QAT Audio Technology Ltd. He is not only a successful businessman but has interests across a wide range of areas and a special love of music and audio products. He is a true audiophile too. His love of electronic products as well as hand-crafting dates back to assembling and installing transistor radios in middle school.

Semi-finished product storage

"Over time and for leisure he became dissatisfied with commercial audio equipment to endeavor creating his own brand. 2006 is of great import to Mr. Zhang. It's when he realized his dream to launch an audio company which combines R&D, production, sales and service. This became QAT. His knowledge in electronics, human auditory physiology and company management has greatly benefited the company. Mr. Zhang is scrupulous and serious. He has set a very high if perhaps overly demanding standard for sound and quality. Meanwhile he also acquired market savvy as demonstrated by his fluid transition from traditional audio products to digital players. Early in 2008 he observed changes and future developmental trends in the audio market which had him commit to launching R&D on digital players. After two years of hard work QAT launched the MS1 as the world’s first music server with a 7-inch wireless remote pad at the Munich show. At the 2011 HighEnd a year later, the classic MS5 launched. This made QAT into China’s preeminent manufacturer of music servers and a leader in the sector.

Parts warehouse

"As general manager of QAT, Mr. Hongfu Mei graduated from China's Conservatory of Music and became a teacher. He composed much music for movies, television series and other TV programs. Later he went to the Netherlands to study electronic and computer music. After returning to China he taught lessons at the Shenzhen University and Shenzhen Art institutions. His chance encounter with Mr. Zhang led to his joining QAT. Mr. Mei is a strict and serious person with high efficiency of execution. He and Mr. Zhang complement each other as a successful businessman who loves music and audio is matched by a musician who is proficient in music knowledge and related skills. The two have generated a tremendous amount of energy to build up this company step by step.

Certifications & awards

"In his spare time Mr. Mei returns to his music career to very effectively combine audio with music. In September 2011 he was invited into the most prestigious Chinese concert hall—the National Centre for the Performing Art—to give a lecture on crossover music. The full set of music server, Crystal Series amps and speakers used during this lecture was from QAT."

The setup. How would this $6.000 music server compare to my $2.800 27" iMac*1 and $3.000 April Music Eximus DP1 converter? Priced alike, the iMac system had the obvious advantage on analog volume, buffer capacity, screen size, wireless keyboard/mouse integration plus ability to conveniently purchase online music (Qobuz is a regular for CD or Studio Master quality files). I also run PureMusic 1.85 in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM to spin down the drive and play from an 8GB buffer. The QAT server had the obvious advantage of being just one box. It also omits that huge screen as not essential for pure listening. For navigating through a growing collection meanwhile (mine exceeds 13.000 full-resolution or higher tracks), QAT's 10/14-covers-per-view display was obviously outdone by Apple's mode of 100 covers at a time.

1 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 16GB 1.333MHz RAM, 2TB hard disc, 256GB SSD drive, ADM Radeon HD 6970M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory

I'd have to see how easy certain interface functions would be like playlist creation with QAT's proprietary GUI; rips of select tracks rather than complete CDs; manual input of meta data and such. On raw functionality it's near-to impossible for any small audio firm to beat the corporate computer giants at their own game. But that's not an audiophile music server's primary concern. It's about better sound. To learn just how badly a computer environment bollixes up sonics as that argument always goes—this would be my very first dedicated music server encounter—I'd run QAT's coaxial digital output into my customary Eximus converter. This would compare identical files streaming from either iMac or MS5 into the same DAC. If the iMac really was a sub-optimal server, it'd have to show up here loud and clear. To determine at what level QAT's built-in converter might perform, I had a variety of such devices to compare against the MS5's analog outputs. As it turned out, Meitner's new MA-1 proved sufficient.