SHANLING M2 HiFi Portable Lossless Musicl Player DSD Player

General Information

Specification:
Model: M2
Colour:Black
Type:Portable HI-FI series
Series:Low Level
Display:2.35"TFT LCD screen(360x400)
Format Supported: APE, FLAC,ALAC,WMA,AAC,OGG,MP3,WAV,AIFF, DSF, DIFF
Sample rate: 44.1kHz - 192kHz
Output Level: 1.3Vrms
D/A converter: Cirrus Logic CS4398
Low pass filtering: JRC MUSE8920
DAC: supported up to 192KHZ/32BIT
USB:USB Micro-B
Output:headphone(3.5mm)/LO(3.5mm)

Audio Performance
Output power: 125mW @ 32 ohm/13mW @ 300 ohm
Frequency response:20Hz~20KHz(-0.5dB)
THD+N:102dB

Clock Source
Clock Jitter:30ps(Typ)
Referenced clock jitter:200 femtosecond

Battery:2200mAH lithium battery
Memory:micro TD(Maximum 128G) System
Supported: Windows XP, Windows7,8(32/64bit),MAC OS X 10.7 or upgrading ones
Dimension: 11 x 5.3 x 1.4 cm

Package:
1 x M2 Player
2 x Screen Protectors
1 x Storage Pouch
1 x Data Cable
1 x Card Reader
1 x User Manual
1 x Coxial Cable
1 x Warranty Card

Latest reviews

Pros: Very capable sound. Great form-factor. Solid, intuitive UI.
Cons: High output impedance. One card slot.
M2IM03.jpg

::Disclaimer::
The great and devious nmatheis conscripted poor Pinky into the US Tour for this Shanling DAP, the M2. I review it now, with no financial incentive or affiliation with the manufacturer. What follows are my impressions, which are as free from reason, rational thought, or objectivity as is possible in the human character.

::The Review::

Shanling’s design work on this line is everything I want from artists. It’s bold, unique, and a little silly—especially the M3. I approve. Make it your own, I say!

M2.jpg

M2CFBack.jpg


All the buttons are solid. The wheel wears many hats and is very accurate in navigation and selection. It turns with ease while avoiding a loose, ramshackle property. I’m reminded of Cayin’s N5 wheel, only not as hansom.

I have some affection for the UI. It’s very easy and direct. The themes are a nice touch, and I found one that vibed with my disposition. That said, I feel the M2 resents me, employing its own form of passive-aggression in the hopes of breaking my spirit. Like when I’m listening to a song and decide to meander through the settings. I must keep moving, never pausing to contemplate a particular feature. If I do sit on a menu for an entire eight seconds, Miss Shanling will penalize this indecisiveness by throwing you back to the Now Playing screen, and be all like “What? You weren’t done?” “No B****, I wasn’t!”

A fantastic deep Sleep Mode lets you keep this DAP turned on for days and days before the battery dies. It just hibernates forever, and then kicks back on in half a second when pressing the power button. Actually, the M2 was in Sleep Mode when the last reviewer shipped it, with plenty of battery left over when I received the package.

That’s enough of all the boring stuff. I didn’t test USB DAC functionality, or whether it would float when dropped in a lake, thus proving it a witch. We know it’s a witch. No need to stand on ceremony.

Time for… SssOUuunD!

The Shanling M2 has a clean, neutral-warm sound that is laid back and very easy on the ears. I was impressed with the soundstage. A/B testing left me convinced it’s even wider than the X5 Classic. In fact, it’s overall signature and tone is frightfully close to that of the X5. I’d struggle to tell them apart in a blind test. The FiiO represents details better… maybe, but holy hell are they close.

Digititis plagues the M2 in small, subtle ways. It’s like the rainbow shimmer in a pool of motor oil, spread out over the entire spectrum. It’s artificial and unhealthy. Your ears aren’t drenched in it, but you can hear it glistening on the edges of every note. This is common in the price range. You can’t expect that high-grade analogue quality of the TOTL players and it’s not so bad as to ruin the experience.

Nothing too heavy was tested, but most of my efficient or small phones paired beautifully. The Audio Technica IM03 is my favorite. So full and natural with that “live in-concert” feel. The Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 On-Ear is a close second. They render a wide, airy, reckless sound, yet the M2 smoothed them a little in a very pleasant manner. The Klipsch X7 is utterly at home with this DAP. They pull out every detail and revel in the width of the staging. I had forgotten just how capable the Klipsch are at such things.

SennShanling.jpg

Now… When I use a sensitive IEM with a multitude of Balanced Armatures, like the JH Audio Angie, an abundance of warmth descends upon your music. I’ve been told this is due to the moronically high output impedance, which plays havoc with IEMs of this category. It sounds flat-out dark. Everyone knows the X5 is warm, but next to this my FiiO felt airy and sharp. It feels like a blanket lay over the music. You can sense the air and upper registers muffle, the clarity goes away and many of the details dim out. I haven’t felt this suffocated since listening to Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black on the ATH-IM04, sourced by the X5 Classic. Talk about dark on dark on dark. The Shanling does this to Angie of all phones, at only 2 o’clock on the bass pots, playing Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors. That’s beyond madness!

M2Angie.jpg

I dock them two stars for that alone, as an unforgivable sin.

So be warned if you intent to ever own a sensitive IEM like so many of the top phones. The Shanling M2 is simply not meant for them.

I don’t have a great deal more to say. During the week I had the tour unit, I didn’t manage too much time with it. Not being able to use my best IEMs with the M2 drove me into the wanton embrace of more desirable gear. So you could say I was a bit neglectful of my tour duties. Certainly take that into account as you meditate on my profound wisdom.

Really, there’s only a few things that sets this DAP behind the X5: One card slot. Less driving power. Stupidly high output impedance. If I had to choose, I’d go with the X5. But when you compare the M2 to the X3ii (closer prices), now I see a much easier victory. I would absolutely take the Shanling.

-~::Pinky_Powers::~-

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PinkyPowers
PinkyPowers
My review has a slightly harsh edge to it, which I soften some with humor. But my overall experience was not negative. If it had been, the star-count would be below the half-way mark.

I rated it fairly, as I see things. The M2's sound quality is quite good for the price. It competes hit for hit with the X5 Classic, which was a hundred dollars more upon release. However, no matter what the price, no DAP should sound bad with sensitive, TOTL IEMs. It sort of defeats the purpose. It's unacceptable, and my rating reflects that.
theMUKe
theMUKe
Nice review. I can also compare the M2 against the Fiio X3ii and, just as you, I prefer the Shanling!
ballog
ballog
Hello how would you compare the M2 with iBasso DX50? I want to upgrade because I personnally find that the sound of DX50 is not dynamic enough and lacks bass kick. I usually pair my dap with earbuds namely TY Hi-Z 32, Auglamour RX1, Tomahawk, VE Monk/Monks plus (basically non-high impedance earbuds). I find that only the TY Hi-Z 32 is satisfactory with the DX50 (sound is quite dynamic does not lack much bass).
Pros: Visible in daylight. Clear sound at moderate price point. Good as a DAC.
Cons: ISO support for DSD/DSF playback would be nice. DAC driver not signed.

I had an opportunity to spend some time with the Shanling M2.  I had some sense this was a popular machine from a less well known brand whose first product, the M3, was also well regarded.  What I was not expecting was how much I would enjoy this machine.
 
First, a few thoughts on how I use portable players.  I typically listen to FLAC files, either redbook 16-44 or higher res.   I typically play music by folders, usually complete albums.  On my iphone I create playlists as that is pretty much the main way to get music onto the unit.  With hi res players, I tend to drag music into folders, and sometimes  number tracks to create a poor mans playlist.  So I did not check out playlist support on this unit.
 
My reference points for this unit was ipods, iphones, modified ipods, and hi res players.  The hi res players that I have tested include the FIIO range (X1, X3 I and II, X5 I and II, and X7), and the Lotoo PAW5000.  Also recently tested was the Mojo DAC/AMP.  Until the Shanling, my favorite units were the FIIO X7 (for sound quality not user experience) and the Chord Mojo. My go to units are the FIIO X3 gen II and Gen I, which I do think are bargains for what they offer.
 
But I was not expecting that very good things can come in small packages.  In my view, the Shanling M2 punched way above its weight.  I think its sound was in the hunt with the FIIO X7 and the Chord Mojo, which was completely not my expectation going into the test.  Now none of my IEM units really push a portable DAC/AMP very hard.  My most inefficient units are the Phonak PFE-022, and those went well with this unit in general, especially with classical music.  My regular IEM units, the relatively popular LZ-A2 unit, went well with this machine for rock and jazz.  I preferred the Phonak for classical. 
 
What was truly sublime was using this unit with the FLC8S.   Together these sounded great, for all types of music.  Classical, rock, jazz, it was all there.  Now the FLC8S is a wonderful unit, and does sound good with the FIIO X3 Gen II.  But I kept marveling at the sound with the Shanling.   What an amazing $600 experience, the Shanling M2 and the FLC8S.
 
I tried this unit in DAC mode.  It worked nicely with few hiccups as a computer DAC.  The Windows driver is unsigned, and appears to be the same source as the FIIO windows driver.  However, the FIIO driver does not work with the Shanling, and must be uninstalled.
 
It was also tested as a DAC with the iphone using the camera connecting kit.  It worked, but in general I find the iphone a glitch ridden DAC source.  I get dropouts all the time with various TED podcasts no matter what DAC I am using, and that was true here.  No better, no worse than using the Chord Mojo.  I think the FIIO units are slightly more reliable as iphone DACs but in general I have diminished expectations for iphone DAC usage.
 
I did test some DSD files.  I had on demo file that was part of a Meridien test suit for MQA, and it sounded great.   However, most of my DSD files are extracted from SACD ISO files using JRiver and other utilities.  For some unknown reason all my extractions have various pops and clicks in the files.  That is an issue with some of my extractions, not the Shanling.  Now the latest version of ISO2DSD is much better, so I need to go back and redo some of my extractions. 
 
With the FIIO X3 Gen II I can play SACD iso files directly, and those sound great.  Unfortunately Shanling has indicated that this is not an option with this unit at a hardware level.   The unit did work as a DSD DAC, but again my source material is really the issue. 
 
IMG_1788.jpg
 
I understand an M5 is coming from Shanling.   Nevertheless, a small, amazing sounding and well priced unit ($250) has a place.  I highly enjoyed the experience and I ended up selling my original X3 as partial payment for this unit.
 
Update:  Now that I have had the unit a while I would note that the upper end is stronger than on many other units.  So I found myself turning the treble down in my car a tad when using the line out.
 
I tend to transfer files into the unit using usb from the primary pc.   Disconnections can go awry.  I have had to conduct a paper clip reset more than a few times.  So now I always check if the unit will boot after transferring files and taking the unit for portable use. 
 
Also, the unit runs a bit hot.  I found the leather case (about $20)  helps out.
jatergb
jatergb
"in the hunt with X7 and Mojo"?? That is tooo tempting!
Pros: nice design, good UI, great controls, size, price, overall sound representation
Cons: treble is a bit simplified
1MainPic.jpg

Well, Shanling M3 was really outstanding: lots of connectivity features, great sound, excellent design, affordable price, and so on, and so long… When Shanling decided to create less expensive model, they've really done a great job designing both interface and sound. That's how M2 was created, and I'd like to add my humble opinion to M2 reviews pool.

Shanling targeted M2 to really competitive segment, it's recommended price is $240, there are few really nice DAPs in this niche, but M2 have unique features to stand out among them.

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As usual, I don't want to spend a lot of time, describing everything not related to sound, there are lots of really great reviews from Head-Fiers, covering this , so just few my impressions. Box is nice and stylish, you'll have all necessary accessories (but I suggest you to buy leather case anyway, it's good). M2 is also greatly built, aluminium body with carbon insert looks stylish, and player is sturdy and handy. Actually, M2 has it's own face.

I really liked control wheel, it reminds me my favourite Sony NEX. Combined with nice menu, it gives great interface that I like to use. I didn't experience any software issues or glitches. Firmware-wise, M2 have all features that we expect from modern DAP: tons of settings, media library, support of many formats, and so on.

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So, I'll go straight to the sound. During the test I've used: Oppo PM-3, Titan 3 and Titan 5, Lear LHF-AE1d, Ambient Acoustics AM10, VE Monk and Asura v2, HiFiMan HE-400S

Shanling engineers decided to make a nice, musical sound representation that reminds me a bit old vintage sounding of Hi-End gear of the past. It has energetic bass, lively mids and a bit rolled off treble.

Lows are really balanced ("balance" is actually a codename of M2), they have enough power to create "body" of music, but they aren't too punchy, because it can be sometimes irritating. Just prefect average amounts, but with decent headphones it kicks nicely.

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Mids are totally OK, I can't say much here. If we'll forget about price, I can say that M2 missing a bit micro details, but it's only in comparison with really expensive models. Price-wise M2 mids are great: small nuances, emotions, it has it all, and balanced bass does it's job, highlighting midrange. Stage is average in width and a bit less then average in depth. Instruments have normal separation.

Highs are a bit simplified. Not so much to become a mess, but it's noticeable. Luckily, Shanling engineers decided to move treble a little back, so this problem isn't drag to many attention. Actually, treble in M2 is fairly OK to add necessary air and space to music. On the other hand, M2's sound isn't fatiguing even with bright earphones.

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Few comparisons with DAPs of similar price range and/or form-factor. Please note, that this comparisons are subjective, and based on my personal preferences.

iHiFi 800 Really good inexpensive player with "audiophiliac" neutral sound representation. It's better then M2 in detalisation and speed, but M2 offers more "musical" sound and more bass. So, IMHO, M2 is a better option for rock and other heavy music lovers.

Fiio X3-2 Probably, the most popular DAP in this price range. Compared with M2, X3-2 have more accent on bass and treble, offering more "engaging" and "energetic sound", but it can be sometimes too fatigue, so M2's relaxed sound can be more preferable, if you like such representation.

xDuoo X3 By price/quality relation, this player beats almost everything on market. But if we'll compare without price in mind, M2 offers more musical sound without distortion, caused by X3's "slow playback" issue.

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Pairings

Generally, M2 isn't the most universal player. It's not powerful enough to drive hungry big cans, so best headphones for it are IEMs. Also, M2 has pretty big output impedance that makes it not a good solution for multi-driver armatures and hybrids. So, best choice for M2 is a single-driver models with dynamic driver. Luckily, now we have a plenty of them. Especially I've liked M2 with Trinity Techne and Lear LHF-AE1d. Anyway, I've tried M2 with Dunu's hybrids and it was also pretty OK, but DN-2000J really needs higher level source.

Style-wise, M2 is best suited for music that benefits from it's representation: non-brutal metal, classic rock, jazz. Also OK is orchestral classics (keep in mind not the biggest soundstage) and electronics. Brutal metal sounds a bit worse, but still is pretty OK.

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So, Shanling created really great DAP if you like to enjoy the music in general, without nuances neat-picking, without audiophile details attention, just nice music, relaxation and you. Add here affordable price, nice controls and good build quality, and you'll get a perfect travelling companion.

I'd like to thank to Shanling for providing me with M2 review sample in exchange for my honest opinion, I've only had to pay import taxes (that cost me almost 50% of player's price :) )

And a video, showing M2 "in real life"
[VIDEO]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJT5_8og_w0[/VIDEO]

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