AMPING POWER: 9/10
USER INTERFACE: 7/10
BATTERY LIFE: 7/10
SOUND VALUE: 8/10
Shanling is a chinese audio company with more than 20 years of experience in DAC-AMPS and DAP creation.
I've never try any of their products and today I will review my first one, the entry level Shanling M0pro.
Priced 130$, the M0pro is an ultra portable DAP using dual ES9219C DAC. It can play up to 32 bit / 384 kHz & DSD128, have bidirectional bluetooth and it have a dual single ended-balanced output promising high amping power.
Let see in this review what this DAP truely worth.
Firstly this is an ultra portable DAP, which mean it's ultra small too. In fact, it's tinniest DAP i've ever owned and strangely it's more powerfull than my way bigger Questyle QP2R, which is certainly insane!But that mean the screen is very small too, so for people with big thumbs like me it might not be the ideal, but I will explain how to bypass the dependancy to touch screen further in this review.
So the size is less than 5cmx5cm, it's 5 times smaller than my hand and fit anywhere, even on a beach or nudist camp you will find a way to hide this DAP somewhere on you. It's that minuscule.
And well built too since it feel sturdy, i'm not that worry to drop it on the floor. It weight 36.8g, so it's ultra light.
Then, at bottom of the DAP we have the micro SD slot that have a plastic cover to avoid dust entering it, it work well and unlike some other DAP it's not too hard to push the card inside even with short nail. You have the USB-C port which can be used for 3 things: charging, using DAC mode or Docking mode so you can plug dongle, which isn't really suggested since it will drown battery quite fast.
All in all, the construction is great, but the design could include an extra multi purpose button so we can have touch screen less control that is less minimalist.
This DAP might be small but it's fully packed with feature and setting option. The control is quite intuitive even if the active touch screen is extremely small at 3cmx2.8cm. Yes, as big as an apple watch.
I decide to show you the UI in a video here (it include extra impressions about construction and design):
The battery life is stated 14.5 hours single ended but I don't think it translate the reality, in single ended I get up to 6-8H max at half volume while with balanced output its between 4 to 6h, which is quite underwhelming. This kind of cancel the ultra portable potential since you need to charge it quite often. But charging time is low, less than 1h, which is a plus.
Nonetheless, I always complaint about battery life of DAP, and this one don't have wifi or Android to justify this low battery life. Let say the use of a 650mah battery sure have it's limitation.
Even at single ended, the M0pro is decently powerfull and will most likely drive 90% of IEM without issue, for headphones it will be another story but anything under 32ohm should be OK. The output spec is 90mW.
But the real marvel begin when we use balanced output, which deliver 230mW. This would be plenty for any IEM and Headphones under 200ohm. Sure, the voltage output is limited to 2.75V so you don't have the dynamic heft of a 4vrms DAP or dongle.
The amping quality is OK, but not the cleanest and background noise floor seem a bit high so it will affect sens of crispness, air and transparency. As well, i'm not sure if the output impedance is stated for high or low gain, but for single ended it's 0.4ohm which is OK for sensitive IEM, but the balanced output impedance is stated 0.8ohm and at high gain it can create distortion or hiss with sensitive IEM like the Audiosense T800.
I've heard alot of dongle and DAP using dual ES9219 DACs, to name a few: Hidizs AP80 PRO X, Hidizs XO, Tempotec HD V and Serenade X. Straight out of the bath I can confirm the M0pro offer the most natural tonality, with a lush well rounded balance and warm but not plain dark macro resolution.
To my ear it doesn't sound neutral, nor cold or clinical. It's not a reference sound, nor very high fidelity rendering but a smooth W shape balance where low and mid range are center of the show and treble is softed in edge and thick in rendering.
If your into lean neutral tonality with treble boost, this isn't for you and I would redirect you to either Hidizs AP80 PRO X or Tempotec Serenade X.
The bass here is chunky, warm and hefty, with a vibrant but not very long rumble sustain, it's the sens of weight, tactility and impact that is boosted we can say and transition to mid range isn't edgy nor the cleanest in separation. Unlike lot of DAP that try to boost clarity by taming the bass dynamic, M0pro deliver beefy punch. When I pair it with the Simgot EA500, the kick goes warmer and chunkier, it add slam weight and widen the impact presence, yet the extension densify too. In fact, i do perceive extra lower mids boost too, as if the goal is to add fundamental harmonic fullness and euphonic to color the sound and make it feel fuller and more natural.
So the mid range isn't recessed or thin at all, nor just about presence grain boost due to extra energy tweak in upper mids. Nope, the M0pro will in fact tend to smoothen vocal edge and foward it's lower harmony fullness by thickening the timbre density. Both EA500 and Final A8000 can be agressive in upper mids and the M0pro make this part of spectrum more creamy and even in term of musicality. This isn't the kinda DAP that will extract every micro details of the texture, but it will magnify fullness of tone. The mids are fowards in a thick way, not in a crisp airy or open way, nor in a very transparent way. Violin sound particularly good with this DAP, and vocalist are near you, not recessed like with the Tempotec V6, you are into center stage here, not distant from it looking at it in a clinical or analytical way. Another interesting aspect of sound is that Mopro tend to add a sens of note weight to instrument like piano, but the impact decay will be hard to follow due to average clarity.
This tonality lushness and thickness has a trade off when it come to treble, while not plain dark, it's quite average in micro details, doesn't offer extra snap and sparkle to your IEMs nor add air to spatiality. In fact, it stole air between instrument and tend to tame natural decay extension and percussions brilliance. The snare is edgy enough but percussion can get lost in the mix, being less focus than mids and bass, vocal will be a bit to opaque for proper highs perception. So, the M0pro is certainly not for treble head or audiophile seeking high resolution. Their not alot to say about the highs, it's softed in attack lead and definition edge, euphonic but not grainy in texture and laid back, non fatiguing nor agressive.
So as said the resolution is average, especially when we try to perceive micro details. I don't know if its amping part or some digital damping filter that are used but at they end it's really the mid range that attract our attention here. But again, it doesn't mean it's bad, just that it's better to pair the M0pro with crisp or bright IEM that are already capable of delivering high amount of details. The Final A8000 is a perfect example and richness of timbre is excellent in fact, with a DAP that have too boosted presence resolution might be higher but musicality lower too.
The attack speed, sustain-release and timing is OK but don't expect super clean edge and crazy percussions timing and decay layering. Yet, IEM choice will inflict on the result (duh). It seem the M0pro will favor mid range before treble, so in term of layering speed it go euphonic and blurry a bit. You have more sustain than release.
Now, the spatiality cue isn't plain bad but with all this power I would have expected more open sound. It seem it's taller than wider, and what it lack is deepness. The channel separation isn't very good with the M0pro, so as a listner you feel mixed up in sound layers.
The the sens of dynamic isn't bad, it's not vivid or very energic but have good sens of note weight in mid range.
Don't expect high fidelity finess with the M0pro, it's a laid back and musical sounding DAP that hook you with it's tone and timbre fullness and density, this mean it's versatile but will not make your IEM or headphones scale up in resolution or imaging.
(based on balanced output-low gain, IEM used 64audio U4S)
VS MOONDROP DAWN 4.4 (dual CS43131 DAC-SNR:132db-power output:230mw-4Vrms)
While the Dawn 4.4 is a dongle, I find it interesting to compare it sound performance wise. Out of the bath, it's clearly superior in all technical department from dynamic, resolution, note definition and timing, spatial size and openess.
What I find interesting is that while the power output is similar in mW (both being about 230mw@32ohm) it isn't in Volt where the Dawn offer 4vrms while the M0pro top at 2.75vrms.
This mean sens of loudness is greater with the Dawn 4.4, which puzzle me at first until i see voltage output specs of M0pro.
So, sound wise the Dawn is cleaner, more open, crisper and more detailed. Transparency is superior as well as background noise floor, which seem notably noisier with the M0pro, adding a sens of euphony to macro resolution and stoling the clear silence that we get with Dawn. M0pro is warmer and darker, with more blurry definition edge, more euphonic and smooth timbre and a bit chunkier mid bass.
Imaging is from another league with the Dawn, bass is better separate and rounded but not as thick an warm. Timbre is richer in texture but a bit thinner, so vocal aren't as smooth as the M0pro. Treble is really the part were Dawn show it's superiority, it extend further, offer more snap and brilliance and add sens of proper energic edge to attack.
SNR is notably higher with the Dawn, and this indeed translate in sharper sens of dynamic, i feel crosstalk is better to and that perhaps output impedance is lower than 0.8ohm. THD+N too is superior, about 3 times better with th Dawn.
And the price is 70$. Which is half the price of the M0pro (bal adapter included)
But it's a dongle, yet, I will get longer battery life with my phone than with M0pro.
All in all, sound value is notably better with the Moondrop Dawn 4.4, from another league I would say.
VS HIDIZS AP80 PRO X (dual ES9219C-SNR:120db-power output:190mw)
So, I think this is the direct competitor the M0pro since this is an ultra portable DAP with similar feature but slightly bigger size which is more appropriate for touch screen control. As well, the PRO X have 3 extra button for proper blind control, so you can fast foward and change tracks as any DAP should do.
The UI is based on Hiby music app, which is way mmore user friendly. Quality of the screen is superior with PRO X too, so the scrolling is more precise and touching is more sensitive.
Unlike dual 3.5mm se and bal output of M0pro, you have a 2.5mm bal out and 3.5mm single ended out, which i prefer. The battery life is near 2 time longer too, which is another big plus. For EQ lover, PRO X is better too, since you have the nice Hiby EQ and MSEB sound tweaking too.
Now, soundwise while not as impressive as the Moondrop Dawn 4.4, it certainly offer higher fidelity sound. Again, it's cleaner and edgier in definition, spatiality is notably deeper and imaging way better.
We have more sound info, micro details and while more vivid and energic, the balance feel more neutral and not as spiky in treble plus euphonic bass and mids that the M0pro offer.
Channel separation is 10db better with the PRO X which surely explain superior imaging accuracy and cleaner space in separation.
Tonality wise, it brighter, dryier and have thinner timbre that isn't as warm and thick as the M0pro, I do prefer vocal timbre of M0pro and mids seem a bit lighter in note weight, sens of dynamic is more excited with the PRO X too so while I would pair the M0pro with bright IEM, i wouldn't with the PRO X.
Sound layers are wider in presence, making the soundstage more holographic and immersive, while with M0pro it's rather an ''in your face'' presentation.
If you seek for a euphonic tonality with thicker and more natural timbre (colored way), the M0pro might be a better choice, but for 30$ more you get better and cleaner and more neutral sound performance with the AP80 PRO X, which have longer battery life and way better UI too so for me the choice is easy here, even if the more laid back musicality of M0pro can feel more versatile for diversify IEM pairing, which will get darken, smoothen and thicken in their sound presentation.
With the time, I devlop I hate/love affair with M0pro. It begin with the fact that the balanced adapter wasn't included and take months to arrive. Then the control screen was too small for my thumb and not very precise in scrolling, affecting my enjoyment of this DAP.
The lack of control botton didn't help, but I find a way to accomodate this need by customizing it.
Then I discover the balanced output and tremendous power it deliver, and enjoy the warm dynamic musicality it deliver....until I discover the battery life limitation.
I can't overseen that for 130$, the Shanling M0pro deliver a very immersive, natural, mid centric and laid back musicality that I want to get lost in for hours....I mean, until the battery is fully drown. But at they end, it doesn't feel like a fully finish product and the clumsy UI solidify my dislike of touch screen dependancy when it come to DAP.
PS: I want to thanks Linsoul for sending me this review sample. I'm not affiliated nor compensated to write this review. My opinion are 100% independant and unbiased.
You can order the Shanling M0pro for 130$ here (strangely, the mandatory balanced adapter isn't for sell at this store):https://www.linsoul.com/products/shanling-m0-pro?variant=43657044984025