Shanling M2s AK4490EQ Mini Bluetooth DSD256 HiFi Lossless Music Player

Average User Rating:
4.35714/5,
  1. subguy812
    4.5/5,
    "Dynamite In A Small Package"
    Pros - Form factor, pocketability, smooth sound quality, powerful
    Cons - No case, precision when changing volume, no on-board storage
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    Shanling M2s

    *The product was provided to me by Andrew at MusicTeck for an honest review

    M2s

    Purchase Here: MusicTeck
    Manufacturer Website: Shanling

    A Little Technical Stuff:
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    Shanling M2s


    -MRSP: $199; (can be found for less currently @ $149.00)

    The M2s is the first Shanling product that I have had the pleasure to listen to and obviously it is the first time I have reviewed one as well. I have been overall impressed by the M2s, it’s tiny size, the amount of power it delivers and the slightly warmish signature and the UI. The standard for which I hold most DAP’s to would be the A&K UI and the M2s UI is very feature rich and user friendly. Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect when you purchase the Shanling M2s.

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    Unboxing and Accessories:

    Anyone that has followed any of my reviews knows that I don’t like to spend a lot of time talking about boxes and accessories. I will include a few photos and give a brief description. The box is a rather plain black box. The front of the box has a drawn outline of the M2s unit. The outline is the actual size of the DAP that is located inside the box. The back of the box has a very brief list of the features of the player and not much else worth mentioning.

    Upon opening the box lid, you will see the M2s nestled in a foam cutout and laying on top of a ribbon for easy removal. If you remove the foam cutout insert you will see a cardboard envelope(box) which holds all of the accessories.

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    The included accessories are a couple of sets of screen protectors, a microSD card reader, a pin to reset the device, USB-C charging cable, warranty, manual and quick start card. While this is a budget friendly DAP it still must be mentioned the obvious omission was a case. I always feel a case is a nice addition, even a silicone cheapo case, to prevent the DAP from scratching when placing it down on a table. Cases for the M2s can be purchased for around $19 and it is probably a worthwhile investment considering the back of the DAP appears to be glass. You can see the M2s case in photos throughout the review. While the case adds a little protection, especially for the back as it is softly lined, it also adds a little frustration because it makes it impossible to grab the scrolling wheel between your fingers to turn it you must roll it from the front with one finger.

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    Design and Build:


    The M2s is a very small device. It is the most pocketable I have ever encountered since my SanDisk Clip Zip days. The small frame is really appreciated if you exercise or regularly engage in activities like long walks. Aside from the small dimensions it is also very lightweight, 100g. The DAP that I am reviewing is black but it is also available in blue or red. Despite its tiny size the build quality feels very solid and sturdy to the touch. Even though it is sturdy feeling I wouldn’t want to tempt fate and use the DAP naked as it is tiny and slippery.

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    The upper right side of the DAP has the power button. To turn the M2s on, press and hold (long press). The power button is also used to wake up the device, with only a brief press, when the screen turns itself off.

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    The right side of the unit has the scroll wheel and below the scroll wheel is a button to return you to a previous menu screen. I want to talk about the scroll wheel a little as I have mentioned in other reviews that scroll wheels can really mean the difference between a good consumer experience or a frustrating experience. The scroll wheel on the M2s is wheel built, without any looseness or play. For the most part the scroll wheel is precise. In my experience, I have found that when controlling the volume, it appears to be difficult to perform a single volume click often resulting in jumping up multiple volume notches. It loses some of its preciseness when controlling the volume. Since this is the only M2s I have used I can’t say if this is a characteristic of this specific unit or the M2s on a whole. I must also mention I am using firmware version 3.0. The scroll wheel becomes very important when you realize the screen of the M2s is not a touchscreen so you depend on the scroll wheel to cycle through and select your options, pushing the scroll wheel “enters” the selection. After using the Opus#2 for so long I have become accustomed to touching the screen to control the device and because of that I felt kind of dumb because it took me a while to adapt to the scroll wheel type of control of the M2s over the touchscreen control of the Opus#2.

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    The left side of the device has a reset hole a play/pause button as well as a back and forward button used to advance to the next or previous music track. Further down the left size is where you can find the microSD slot. I used a 256gb card and found the device read the card flawlessly and quickly, which is a very good thing considering there is no internal memory in the M2s. It doesn’t bother me that there is no on-board storage as I usually keep all of my music on some type of removable storage, but it certainly needs to be mentioned.

    The bottom of the M2s has a USB-C slot to be used for charging as well as data transfer and a 3.5mm headphone jack which also works a line out when selected from the software settings, sorry no 2.5mm balanced output on the M2s.

    I find the M2s aesthetically pleasing. It’s small size, metal frame, glass front and back all add to the appeal. Black is a sexy color but it is also a fingerprint magnet, which I guess is another great reason to buy a case.

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    Connectivity:

    The unit has Bluetooth and allows the user to connect headphones and cellphones without any stress. It works flawlessly and with ease in finding a Bluetooth connection and maintaining a connection. I connected the V-Moda Crossfade 2 wireless headphone, LG V30 and V-Moda Remix portable speaker. All connected easily, quickly and without issue. All connections were solid and stable and allowed for good distance for a Bluetooth device.

    The cellphone pairing allows the listener to stream their favorite streaming app, from the cellphone, while keeping your wired headphones plugged in to the M2s.

    One feature I would like to touch on is the HibyLink feature. To utilize HibyLink you will need to download the Hiby app to your cellphone. Once you pair the Hiby app to the to the M2s it gives you control of the M2s from your cellphone. In other words, you can keep your M2s in your pocket and use the cellphone as a sort of “remote control” for the DAP. I enjoy the fact that I can use my big touchscreen to control the M2s as opposed to the scroll wheel.

    The M2s plays most of your favorite file formats including Native DSD. I put it through its paces listening to a varied selection of musical files and never had a hitch, stutter or lag while playing music, including gapless. For a lengthy rundown of the file formats the M2s plays look up in the technical section near the top of this review.

    The M2s can also be used as a USB DAC. I found it had the ability to drive anything I threw at it, unfortunately my HD650 is on loan and I wasn’t able to test it.

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    UI:

    I am not going to take an incredibly deep dive into the GUI. As I have said in previous reviews it requires too much detail and is boring for the reviewer and maybe the reader as well. For the most part I use folders to select my music. I will say the GUI provides a good consumer experience and if you have used Hiby software in the past you will feel at home. I am very simple in my wishes for a DAP, I like good control ie. awesome scroll wheel or touch screen, great sound quality and ability to drive all of my headphones and IEM’s, while exhibiting killer battery life. The M2s check all of the boxes confidently with the added bonus of a tiny footprint in your pocket, what’s not to like? For those of you that utilize an EQ it does include a 10 band EQ, personally the EQ didn't do much for me. There are also low and high gain settings and I found low gain to be powerful enough for most of the IEM’s I connected. One other aspect to discuss is the low pass filter mode. The options available in this area are sharp, slow, short delay sharp and short delay slow. I found the short delay slow setting to be my preference. To get an idea of how the menus function please look closely at my photos embedded in the review.

    Moving on to the sound:

    Writing about a DAP and how it sounds can be a tricky proposition because of the many different sets of headphones and IEM’s used for testing and the large amount of A/B testing with those headphones and IEM’s and as well as how they sound in comparison with other DAP’s in my possession. It requires a lot of time and testing as well as critical listening. I also want to mention that this is the least expensive DAP I have so it really isn’t fair to compare it to the likes of an Opus#2 which is my reference DAP. Some of the other sources I have are the LG V30(quad dac), and the big brother of the M2s, the M3s.

    I would say that the overall tone is slightly warm but with good clarity and resolution. It is not the most detailed sound and not the clearest, it is smoother and easier listening than it is detailed. It has a musical quality that is incredibly enjoyable. I found it to deliver well in the bass department and especially in the mid bass notes.

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    The treble extends nicely in relation to the signature and provides enough extension so that the slight warmth in its tonality does not overshadow the rest of the sound across the spectrum, it is not a bright player and the treble extension is not incredible but it works in relation to the overall experience. Without any treble i the top end end the characteristic of this player would change to a much more warm signature.

    To my ears, the M2s does not feel congested or narrow, it is not the broadest stage or separation I have ever heard but it certainly is adequate and does not detract from the entire package. I also want to note that I have not heard hiss in any of my headphones or IEM’s making for a black sound floor.

    To compare it to the M3s ($279) I would say that the overall tone is similar, very similar to the M2s, which is a good thing. It could be that they are from the same family tree. The M3s distances itself from the M2s extensively in its stage. It is noticeably deeper and wider than the M2s. Overall, the M2s is smoother in signature and the M3s is clearer with a broader stage. Also, the M3s has a balanced output which I prefer to utilize.

    The LGV30 ($800, price I paid) is a cellphone but with a quad dac, Sabre ES9218P, it is one of the finest sounding cellphones I have heard. In comparison to the M2s it is brighter and has an increased clarity and a wider stage. Again, there is a massive price difference and not a fair comparison like the Opus#2.

    Just because I can’t provide a description of the HD650, doesn't mean I don't have plenty of other fine gear to assist me in providing sound descriptions.

    Meze
    99 Neo - The Neo has a strong bass presence yet the mids, treble and detail are quite good, with a smooth, non-peaky signature. When pairing with the M2s, I felt the m2s exacerbated the already strong bass on some recordings. The details were present and the stage was wide but in some tracks the bass was a bit over powering. I did not expect this as the M2s is only slightly warm.

    EarSonics EM10 - is a sublime paring with the M2s. It appears this is a match made in heaven. The M2s tends to bring out the weaknesses in this CIEM. The sub bass rumbles to go along with a tight mid bass. Wide stage, crisp air up top and I felt it upgraded the EM10.

    Custom Art FIBAE 2 - is another sublime paring. Tight, punchy bass with a polite sub bass rumble. The mids are detailed and transparent. The treble extends well and the stereo separation and stage is wide and incredible.

    64 Audio U18 - I felt when pairing with the M2s I lost some the musicality that the U18 generally provides. The treble seemed spikey, and bright. It would have thought the smooth signature would have paired well. I am not sure why but the smoothness of the M2s did not provide me with the best U18 experience. Not bad, just not optimal.

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    Keep in mind, there are so many variables and combinations of cables and eartips, as well as custom vs. universal that can alter your experience. So, your mileage may vary and probably will compared to my comparisons.

    In Closing:

    This is my first experience with a Shanling product. It is also the first entry level DAP I have ever reviewed, Shanling or otherwise. While I have owned other budget minded DAP’s, Fiio X3 and X5 for example I wasn’t reviewing at that time. I have to say I came away impressed with the Shanling M2s. From its long walk and exercise friendly form factor to its ability to drive all of my IEM’s and headphones and its intuitive, feature laden UI it certainly should be a consideration for a budget minded, on the go individual.

    It has sexy, good looks and is well built and well designed. I do wish Shanling would have included some protection for the sexy body of the M2s but cases are available for an additional purchase, an accessory I would highly recommend.

    Shanling has a winner on its hands and has certainly set the bar in the budget DAP sector. For competition’s sake I hope the other manufacturers take note. I look forward to future Shanling offerings….stay tuned…more to come.

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    Dobrescu George likes this.
  2. twister6
    4.0/5,
    "Mr. Slick!"
    Pros - neutral signature, transparent sound, excellent build, compact slim design, duplex Bluetooth functionality, HibyLink support, battery life.
    Cons - high output impedance, no internal storage, no included case.


    The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally posted on my blog, and now I would like to share it with my readers on Head-fi.

    Manufacturer website: Shanling; available for sale on MusicTeck, Amazon, and other retailers.


    Intro.

    Shanling has been in business for almost 30 years, developing audio products since 1988, and recently gained a lot of attention with DAP releases. This is a first time I'm testing and reviewing their product, for sure an overdue, which I almost turned down because of M2s headphone output impedance spec. I have read other opinions about pair up of high output impedance sources with multi-BAs, though never had a first-hand experience of my own to confirm it, until now. At the same time, I don't want to sound like the focus of this review will be solely on HO spec. M2s deserves more because it impressed me with its design and a lot of features under the hood which I would like to share about in my write up. So, let's see what I found!

    Unboxing.

    M2s arrived in a very compact packaging box with a clever outline of the DAP on the cover instead of the actual picture. I don't need to remind anybody about how saturated entry level and mid-fi DAP market is. Often, what sets product apart is some unique design element or a feature that gets your attention. This silver outline brings up the attention to a control wheel on the right side of this unit. The back of the box has a brief, yet very impressive list of the features, giving you an idea of what awaits you inside.

    With a cover off, you get a closeup of M2s inside of a secure foam cutout. From the first look, you quickly realize how small this DAP is. Also, it’s easy to get a wrong impression thinking it has a touch screen because of the smooth front edge-to-edge glass with a small wheel on the right side. With M2s out, underneath you will find a selection of various accessories I'm going to talk about next.

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    Accessories.

    Here you will find 2 sets of screen protectors, considering M2s has glass surface on the front and the back. Also, a warranty and a manual, along with a quick start guide. Furthermore, you will find a microSD card USB reader, a reset push pin which also doubles as a 3.5mm headphone jack dust cover, and USB-C charging/data cable. More and more manufacturers are switching to a new USB-C standard, so an extra USB-C cable never hurts.

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    The only thing missing was the case. I mean, the case is available, in 4 different colors which you can get here, but it's optional and cost another $19. This is a very nice hard-shell wrap around pleather case which I found to be a MUST for M2s. A small size and a smooth glass back makes this DAP slippery in your hand. The case improves the grip and protects the glass on the back, thanks to a soft material layer on the inside. The only comment here, I wish the cutout around HW playback controls would be a little more open for an easier access to the buttons.

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    Another cool optional accessory is a tempered glass screen protector designed specifically for M2s. Film screen protectors are there to prevent scratches. Tempered glass protectors prevent glass from cracks where upon impact the protector can be easily replaced while keeping the DAP's screen untouched. This tempered glass protector is shatterproof, with oleophobic coating (to prevent oily fingerprint smudges which are easy to wipe off), 9H surface hardness, and high transparency. Pretty much, this is smartphone quality tempered glass.

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    While I find the case to be a must have accessory, tempered glass is just a "nice to have" optional accessory.

    Design.

    M2s is very small and pocket friendly, measuring only 85.5mm x 53mm x 14.5mm with a weight of about 100g. The DAP comes in 3 colors, black, blue, and red. It feels very solid in your hand, though it does feel a little slippery with a transparent glass back cover on top of the aluminum shell. The front of the DAP is also covered in glass, giving you an impression of a touch screen, though it’s not. The actual visible Retina screen area of the display is 3 inches, but the front glass extends beyond that, covering edge to edge.

    The top of M2s has a power button, with a typical long press to power on/off and short press to turn screen on/off. To turn the unit on, just listen for a relay click when pressing and holding the power button. Left side has reset pinhole, followed by 3 hw playback control buttons with a large Play/Pause in the middle and smaller Skip Next/Prev buttons on each side. MicroSD card slot is toward the bottom of the left side, supporting up to 256GB (and probably the latest 400GB as well) which is the only storage due to no internal flash memory.

    At the bottom, you have USB-C port which is used for charging, data transfer, as well as USB DAC input and Digital output. Next is 3.5mm headphone output which can also be selected to function as Line Out from within Settings menu. Right side at the top has a small wheel which is used for scrolling and navigation through the menus and selections. The wheel has a very precise control with a nice click action you can feel, easy to operate with a thumb, though still with enough resistance not to be loose. The wheel itself also doubles as a click button when you press on it, with a nice tactile feedback. Below the wheel is a small return button, to take you out of the current screen, like an escape button.

    Overall, it’s a very nice-looking DAP, with a comfortable compact footprint, and a very efficient ergonomics of the controls enabling easy one-handed operation.

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    Under the hood.

    Despite its small footprint, M2s is packed with a lot of features. To start off, it has a popular AKM AK4490EQ DAC, along with a very capable TPA6120 hi-fi stereo headphone amplifier from TI. And speaking of headphone amp, the output is rated at 130mW into 32ohm load which is pretty good for a small DAP. But the bittersweet of this is an output impedance of 4.8 ohms which is noticeably higher than a typical < 1ohm impedance found in many other portable DAPs. That was a part of a spec which got me a bit cautious, but I decided to let my ears be the final judge.

    M2s is capable to support DSD256 playback, up to 192kHz with 24bit depth. And it also supports other lossy and lossless formats such as: APE, FLAC, ALAC, WMA, AAC, OGG, MP3, WAV, AIFF, DSF, and DIFF. Just keep in mind, DSD is supported in wired connection mode with headphones plugged in. When you switch to Bluetooth wireless headphones, DSD files are not supported due to bandwidth limitation, which makes sense.

    As part of Bluetooth wireless connection, you get BT4.0 with AptX codec support. And this is Duplex BT mode where you can pair up M2s with BT wireless headphones or pair up M2s with your Smartphone or another DAP supporting BT to act as a wireless Bluetooth DAC. This could come very handy to stream Spotify or Tidal from your Smartphone, transmitting it wireless to your DAP. Or, you can use Hiby audio app with HibyLink to control your M2s remotely.

    As I mentioned already, no internal storage is available, but you can use microSD card up to 256GB, and I suspect the upcoming 400GB should be supported as well. Last, but not least, the internal 1800 mAh lithium battery will give you between 9-10 hours of playback with mp3/flac files at an average listening volume. Listening to DSD files or with BT enabled will reduce the battery life, also expected. Also, full charging takes a little over 3 hours with 5V/2A charger.

    GUI.

    When you start M2s, you are greeted with a familiar Menu selection, something you have seen in many other non-Android DAPs by FiiO, Cayin, and Shanling. No surprises here since Hiby fw/sw is behind this release, which mean that many will feel like at home navigating through M2s menus. Starting from the top, Now Playing will bring you the currently playing track, and My Music helps you sort by recent plays, open all, list of tagged My Favorites, as well as Album, Genre, Artist, or the Playlist. File Browser takes you to microSD card or OTG expansion storage, where you navigate by directories (my personal preferred way). As mentioned before, navigation is easy and under control using a scrolling wheel and pushing it to select the song or the settings.

    Play Setting has an extensive selection of options with Maximum volume limit and Default volume setting, Resume mode (off, or by Location in a song or the Track itself), Gapless Playback or Fade in/out (both working quite well), 10 Band EQ with +/- 6 dB adjustment and different genre specific presets or a custom EQ setting. You also get 2 levels of gain setting, Low pass filter mode (steep or gradual, per AKM DAC setting), Gain replay, Channel Balance, Play Mode, and Folder skip on playback (on/off).

    In System Setting you have a lot more options, including different ways to update the music, Bluetooth menu/setting, Backlight setting, auto-shutdown and sleep timer, different options for Screen locked operation (where you select which hw button function to enable), resume play, a few different Themes, Clock setting (always visible in notification bar and in the lock screen), USB mode (DAC or usb data), DSD output mode, HO/LO output selection, Language, About M2s, Restore factory settings, and System update (fw).

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    The main Playback screen will have the clock, volume level, and battery status in notification bar (notification bar is visible from every screen). Then, you have a large area of the screen dedicated to artwork of the song, if available, and at the bottom you can see info about the song format, the file index number from the directory or folder, the time scroll/scrub bar with a current time position and a total track time, the Song/Artist name, and Play mode on the left side or Favorite "heart" indicator on the right side. While in Playback screen, press'n'hold Volume wheel brings up a shortcut menu with Play Mode, Add to Playlist (either My favorites or a Custom playlist), Play and System settings shortcuts (per description above), and Delete file option. Also, press'n'hold of Return button in Playback screen takes you to the main "front page" menu.

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    Overall, all the menus and settings are easy to navigate, self explanatory, with lots of options, and a fast learning curve even for those who are not familiar with Shanling, FiiO, or Cayin DAPs. One unique feature worth mentioning is a Lock Screen with a Clock (which can also be disabled). When you turn the screen off and then back on, you are greeted with a lock screen which you can unlock by pressing the power button once. When you are exercising/working out, I find it to be a very convenient feature to see the time.

    Sound Analysis.

    I know that some DAP reviews go into details of describing the sound like it's a pair of IEMs, which ends up being just a description of headphones or earphones used for evaluation. I prefer to go more in-depth during DAP comparison and pair up sections of the review. While here, I wanted to note a general sound signature and a technical performance of M2s.

    To my ears across multiple IEMs, I hear M2s as having a relatively neutral signature with a tonality that going to vary. This variation will depend on IEM pair up where 4.8 ohm output impedance of M2s comes into play. With lower impedance more sensitive multi-BA IEMs, I hear the mid-bass being slightly attenuated in quantity and lower treble being lifted - giving the sound a brighter tonality, more revealing in nature. With higher impedance IEMs, especially those with dynamic drivers, the sound is more neutral and smoother, having a little fuller body and more musical tonality. Some might find this pair up effect to be quite useful in fine-tuning of the sound, similar to how people use EQ or tip-rolling. The effect will vary between IEMs and not necessary night'n'day, but it's there.

    In terms of dynamics of the sound, it feels rather expanded, without any compression or sound congestion. It doesn't have the fastest transient response of the notes or the blackest background, but this is not something I would expect from an entry level DAP, especially with a spec of 108dB SNR. But regardless of that, I still consider the sound to be quite dynamic with a nice layering and separation, including a spacious soundstage expansion.

    Lately, I have been reviewing a lot of higher end DAPs, so it's easy to lose focus and to become biased against entry level DAPs next to flagships. You have to realize there are different expectations at different price brackets. And of course, the question of higher output impedance will come up. Is it going to make M2s sound bad? Of course, NOT. It will affect some low impedance high sensitivity multi-BA IEMs, where depending on their baseline tuning, the sound can change when paired up with M2s, and some people can either like or dislike this effect. To get into more details, let's take a closer look at Comparison and Pair-up sections.

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    Comparison.

    Due to so many similarities in functionality, the first detailed comparison, which I have been asked by a lot of my readers, will be with Cayin N3. Other comparisons will be a little shorter, but I made sure to mention in every case the pair up using both the high and the low impedance IEMs.

    M2s vs Cayin N3 - with higher impedance IEMs, these sound very close to each other. Very similar soundstage expansion, and similar neutral-warmish fuller body sound with plenty of details, decent dynamics. Not very transparent or super layered, but with plenty of natural musical neutral tonality. For example, 80 ohm Westone ES80 sounded relatively close in tonality and overall performance when using M2s vs N3.

    With low impedance iems, the story is completely different. While the soundstage expansion remains relatively the same, the bass and the treble have a noticeable change, due to higher impedance output of M2s. M2s sub-bass still has the same extension, but the quantity is reduced in comparison to N3. The same with mid-bass, the impact is not the same as N3. When it comes to treble, relative to N3, M2s treble gets lifted, which also gives sound a little more airiness. This change was consistent across multiple low impedance IEMs, and in some cases, it worked toward the advantage of pair up, while in other cases not as much. For example, I used 8 ohm iBasso IT03 and 5 ohm Westone W80, and due to a warmer, smoother nature of W80, I found pair up with M2s to be an improvement where bass became more balanced with a reduced amplitude while upper mids/lower treble opened with more details due to a brighter presentation. But on contrary, IT03 sounded better with N3 where the upper frequencies were smoother and more natural, while with M2s the bass got reduced and the treble became rather harsh and grainy.

    M2s vs FiiO X3ii - with higher impedance IEMs, I can hear a similar soundstage expansion and neutral-warmish tonality, though M2s has more sparkle in treble. But when it comes to a technical performance, M2s has an edge where the sound is more dynamic (vs X3ii being a little flatter), more layered, and more transparent. It's not a night'n'day difference, but noticeable enough.

    With low impedance iems, the marginal technical advantage of M2s is still there, but the tonality changes due to reduced bass and more treble - a preference here will depend on pair up synergy with specific IEMs. Also, worth mentioning that M2s has a blacker background while X3ii had some hissing.

    M2s vs Lotoo PAW 5k - with higher impedance IEMs, I hear M2s having a little wider soundstage, but the tonality is very similar, a neutral-warmish sound. In terms of performance, M2s has a bit of an advantage with better dynamics and a little more transparency in a sound.

    With low impedance, the technical performance difference remains the same, and it's the same tonality difference where the bass gets slightly reduced relative to PAW5k and the treble is lifted. So again, it will depend on this finetuning effect and how it pairs up with different iems.

    M2s vs Aune M1S - with higher impedance IEMs, soundstage is very similar in SE (BAL of M1S is wider), tonality is similar except M1S is a little smoother and with slightly better layering between sounds. Otherwise, very similar dynamics and transparency.

    With low impedance, very similar performance, just a difference in tonality due to slightly lower bass and more forward treble. M1S balanced output enhances the soundstage, but I focused on 3.5mm SE port comparison since M2s doesn't have balanced HO.

    M2s vs Shanling M1 - Finally, I wanted to bring up a comparison between M2s and it's little brother, M1. M2s has a little wider soundstage. The overall tonality is similar, but M2s sound in more revealing, more transparent, more layered, and it has a noticeably better dynamics expansions while M1 sound feels flatter and more compressed in comparison. Basically, M2s has a better technical performance.

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    Pair-up.

    I think this is the most important “sound” section of the review, since you can see the effect of output impedance with different headphones/earphones where I also mentioned their spec.

    Audio-Technica R70x (470 ohms, open back) - 3D expanded soundstage, excellent bass impact with a deep sub-bass rumble, a little elevated low end, but very tastefully. The sound is more balanced rather than a typical "neutral" signature I'm used to with R70x. I hear more transparency and sparkle, but also the sound is a little leaner.

    Audeze EL8C (closed back planar magnetic) - nicely expanded soundstage, punchy tight mid-bass, lean mids, and very crisp treble. In this pair-up the sound was a bit too crisp and metallic for my taste.

    VE Zen earbuds (320 ohm) - wide expanded soundstage, tight articulate bass, neutral transparent mids, crisp airy treble. The overall sound is tighter, crisper, more transparent, rather than smoother warmer more natural tonality I'm used to with Zens.

    MEE Audio Pinnacle 1 (50 ohm, single dynamic) - wide expanded soundstage, v-shaped sound signature with more emphasis on low end and treble. Treble is more forward in this pair up, very crisp and airy. Overall, keeps the revealing nature of these headphones, without being too harsh.

    In-Ear SD4 (multi-BA, 22 ohms, 120dB sensitivity) - wide expanded soundstage, v-shaped signature with a nice balance between bass and treble. A nice mid-bass punch, fast and articulate, good sub-bass extension, lean lower mids smooth upper mids, crisp well defined airy treble, not sibilant or harsh, just crisp and revealing. A pretty good pair up considering SD4 can sound harsh with many other sources.

    UE UERR (multi-BA, 35 ohms, 100dB sens) - wide expanded soundstage, balanced revealing tonality, tight punchy bass, lean transparent mids, crisp and airy treble (non-fatigue). Changes tonality from neutral organic to more balanced revealing, and it sounds a little better than original sound I'm used to.

    Westone ES80 (multi-BA, 80 ohms, 111dB sens) - wide expanded soundstage, balanced natural-revealing tonality, tight punchy mid-bass with a nice sub-bass rumble, neutral lower mids and revealing natural upper mids, crisp airy treble. Here, the sound shift is more from neutral to balanced which I also enjoyed quite a lot. It makes ES80 sounds almost like an upgraded ES60.

    Noble K10UA (multi-BA, n/a) - wide expanded soundstage, tight punchy mid-bass with a deep sub-bass rumble, lean lower mids, revealing upper mids, crisp airy treble, a little bit of sibilance with upper frequencies leaning more toward the brighter tonality. Not a bad pair up, but not harsh at all, but I can hear a bit of that 6k peak.

    64 Audio U18 (multi-BA, 9 ohms, 115dB sens) - wide expanded soundstage, balanced signature with more mid-forward focus, bass is tight and fast, but not as high quantity, lower mids are lean and upper mids are revealing and detailed, but lower treble is a bit too crisp and bright. I wasn't too crazy about this pair-up, the sound became too revealing and analytical.

    CFA Andromeda (multi-BA, 13 ohms, 115dB sens) - wide expanded soundstage, balanced signature with more mid-forward focus, bass is tight and fast, but not as high quantity, lower mids are lean and upper mids are too revealing, on analytical level, treble is very crisp and airy, a bit too harsh for my taste. Didn't like this pair up at all, the sound was too harsh and grainy.

    CFA Vega (dynamic, 18 ohms, 102 dB sens) - wide expanded soundstage, v-shaped sound, powerful bass impact, though sub-bass rumble is not as deep, fast well controlled bass, neutral lower mids, revealing detailed upper mids, crisp airy treble. The overall tonality is a little less organic and more revealing, but not harsh or sibilant.

    shanling_m2s-38.jpg

    Wireless/wired connections.

    The duplex wireless connection of M2s, the same as N3, is a very cool feature. You can either connect M2s to your phone or connect headphones to M2s, but not both at the same time since headphones can simply pair up with a phone directly without M2s being in the middle. And thanks to its low sensitivity Bluetooth transceiver, I was able to use wireless headphones > 55ft away from M2s, in open space across the room.

    Connecting headphones wireless to M2s was fast and easy. Here, I have it with a pair of JAAP wireless sports earphones which I have been using a lot lately:

    shanling_m2s-35.jpg

    Pairing it up with my smartphone was also a breeze, and I made sure to enable High Quality mode. Not sure if I hear a difference when it's disabled/enabled, probably need more listening comparison. The beauty of this pair up is turning M2s into a Bluetooth wireless DAC where you can stream audio from your phone (Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, etc, or just a music playback) and listen to your headphones connected wired to M2s.

    shanling_m2s-36.jpg
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    HibyLink is a new feature, where your smartphone becomes a remote display controller of your DAP. To take advantage of this feature, you need the latest version of Hiby audio app which supports HibyLink. Once enabled on M2s and your Smartphone, after successful pair up you can control the playback of your Shanling DAP straight from a comfort of your smartphone large touch screen - very convenient, considering small footprint of M2s which you can hide in the pocket.

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    If you got an older computer/laptop and want to improve your audio listening experience, you can use M2s as USB DAC after installing USB driver found on http://shanling.com/download/List. It's certainly convenient if you have a need for it.

    shanling_m2s-51.jpg

    M2s can also be used as a digital transport to drive an external USB DAC. For this you will need usb-C to micro-usb (or full usb) cable. I recommend staying away from usb-C adapter, and look for a quality short cable if you are dealing with a portable USB DAC like HA-2 or Mojo. I found no issues using this particular Black Sheep Merino custom cable which I recommend. In pair-up of M2s and HA-2, I found the sound to be a little brighter and crisper, due to AKM vs ESS DAC signature difference, while still being resolving and transparent.

    shanling_m2s-52.jpg
    shanling_m2s-53.jpg

    And of course, the most fundamental connection is using M2s Line Out output to connect to an external portable amplifier. HO and LO ports are shared from a single 3.5mm output, you have to remember to select it in Settings, and also remember to switch it back because it stays enabled even after the power down. Using M2s with E12A portable amplifier, I found the sound to be very expanded (soundstage), with a great transparency and a neutral resolving signature. One of the advantages of LO pair up is being able to have HO with a low output impedance, depending on the spec of the portable amp.

    shanling_m2s-54.jpg

    Conclusion.

    Regardless of Shanling M2s being an entry level DAP, it still turned out to be a long review in order for me to cover all the details of the performance and the features packed inside of this slick little audio player. I know it’s shallow to talk about the DAP looks when the sound should have a higher priority, but it’s hard not to be impressed the first time you pick M2s up, either. And as much as I was skeptical about the navigation wheel, I found it to be very ergonomic. The glass front and back are gorgeous and just asking to be swiped, pretending it’s a touch screen. I mean, it’s a great looking little DAP, neutrally tuned to enjoy your music with wired and wireless headphones, as well as being able to use it as a digital transport, or wireless DAC, or usb DAC. Regarding its pair up with headphones, I covered in detail how it will affect the sound due to its higher output impedance. Thus, you will have to make your final decision depending on your selection of IEMs.
  3. Mshenay
    5.0/5,
    "Setting the Standard For Entry Level DAPs"
    Pros - Balanced Sound Signature, Ultra Portable Size, Intelligent Physical Interface, Ease of Use, Build Quality, Digital Connectivity Options
    Cons - Paltry Micro Dynamics, Little Hazy Up Top
    Digital technology has come quite a long way in even the last 5 years. With advancements in small scale electronics manufacturing comes the allure of new found computing power. Which seems to invite the creation of a multitude of entry level products that can almost do it all!

    An as exciting as that is, I still find my self drawn back to my legacy products. Straight forward gear with only one basic function. They say the key to success is to keep it simple stupid. At only $150 the Shanling M2s amazingly gives us the best of both worlds, a device with a complex suite of connectivity options but a super simple physical user interface. An for some one like me, who already has such a large collection of gear the M2s fits in perfectly! It can do a lot, but it's most impressive function is it's primary function. That's not to say the M2S handles connectivity poorly, but rather the on board performance is at the level that I don't feel the need to try an improve it by feeding it either line out into a more robust amp, or digital out into a more robust DAC.

    Here in the states you can purchase it via Amazon with the brown leather case bundled in, Musicteck.com among other online retailers. I'd also like to thank our friends at Musicteck for allowing me the opportunity to listen to the Shanling M2s. As always my thoughts and views expressed here are my own, and I do not receive any financial reimbursement for them.

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    Build & User Interface
    The packing is clean, black cardboard with a hard foam insert to keep the DAP secure during shipment. Included is a little fabric bag, a charging cable and some screen protectors. My demo also came with the brown leather case, which added a little extra grip.

    [​IMG]
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    Build quality is impressive, the 3 inch screen is easy to read even in direct sunlight. The placement of user interface buttons is absolutely stunning! This has to be one of the first DAPs I could easily and consistently operate with only a single hand.

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    This little black wheel sits at the center of the interface, it's sensitivity is a little difficult to use at first though after a day or two I was able to master the use of half and full turns to speed up menu navigation. It's also used for volume controls, and operates smoother without as much responsiveness.

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    The power button is placed just above the control wheel, while it is a little small using the case makes it much more manageable.

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    The forward, play/pause and back buttons run parallel with the control wheel. The small size and button placement are what allow for super easy one handed operation. As I was able to operate the unit with either my left or right hand respectively.

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    My only real gripe with the player is that the USB and 3.5mm output are on the bottom, I found my self operating it more upside down than right side up. The USB port it self is well built exhibiting very minimal cable play, the 3.5mm is much the same.

    Graphic Interface:

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    Navigation between each of the different menu's is quick and painless, double clicking the power button takes you back first this lock screen then right back into the main menu.

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    From here you can accesses your music library, the play and system settings sub menu's as well as get back to what's currently playing.

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    A favorites option is available here, also rewinding a song works with a single press after 30 seconds or so, other wise if it'll switch to the previous track. I found holding the back button to be more consistent and often just as quick.

    [​IMG]

    The volume control works without having the player on. How ever when your viewing the "now playing" screen it appears with a numeric value scale.

    Specs
    Output power
    : 130mW@32ohm
    Frequency response: 20Hz--20kHz(-0.2dB)
    THD+N: 0.003%(A-weighting,outputing 500mV)
    SNR: >108dB(A-weighting)Dynamic range: >108dB
    Output impedance: 4.8Ω Sampling rate: 44.1kHz--192kHz
    Supporting format: APE, FLAC, ALAC, WMA, AAC, OGG, MP3, WAV, AIFF, DSF, DIFF
    Dimension: 53mm×14.5mm×85.6mm
    Net weight: about 100g Screen: 3 inches

    During my time with the M2S I was tested it both stand alone and sourced from my mobile device. I did the majority of my listening with my Superlux HD 668B, now outfitted with Cosmos Velour Ear Pads for a more balanced frequency response.

    Sadly I was unable to get the USB Drivers to configure for my Windows 8 laptop, so I was not able to listen from a Laptop/Desktop PC Source. However Bluetooth connectivity provided a convenient high quality output that, I was able to get to hook into my Windows 8 laptop. Thankfully I had no drop outs and only a marginal amount of added noise.
    Having the M2s tucked away powering my headphones sourced from my V20 was a convenient option, but honestly the M2s sounded best with hard cable connections. So I spent most of my time with it hard wired to external sources or it self, because of the unique button lay out I had no problems multi tasking with it. It's smaller size and simpler lay out actually make it a quicker more convenient to operate than my LG V20, seeing as I only need a single hand to take full advantage of the M2s functionality.

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    Sound

    The Shanling M2s offers an energetic natural sound signature that's very agreeable to a wide variety of headphones. Overall, I found it to be very linear throughout it's entire frequency response. Good extension from top to bottom with spacious and exciting imaging. While it wasn't deficient with micro detail, it did add a touch of emphasis to ambient noise which can often overshadow some more complex transients. Overall I enjoyed the energy that the M2S presents alongside a more natural warmth.

    Bass Quality:
    The M2s offers a very lean low end, while not lacking power or sub bass response there were times I wanted a little more body from it. Larger instruments, like the Double Bass had a more hollow tone than what I consider to be natural. Non the less, bass guitars, cellos, kick drums and synths were spot on. In fact while listening to the large opening drum in the Eagles live rendition of Hotel California, I found the bass to be very articulate. With plenty of authority an enough resolve to present the unique vibrato within the decay of each strike.

    Mid Range Purity:
    Equally beautiful and clear, the M2s does an excellent job retaining mid range purity. It has just a touch of extra decay and mid range emphasis. Enough to take the edge off something shouty like my Superlux HD 668B without detracting from it's tactility and excitement. Igor Levit's presentation of Aria struck me the most with the M2S, a lot of entry level range players either present to much decay and ring or too little and lack weight. With the M2s, I got just enough body on the mids to preserve the beautiful quality of each note as it decay'd without having any excessive ringing present. Something that not even my HM 601 does!!

    Highs:
    While only marginal, the M2S does have a touch of over emphasis and grain up top. While that emphasis does add some extra presence and energy, it also masks over some transient information and can create a very mild haze. Listening to Jazz felt the high hats had to much energy, to much tisssss as it were. It masked some of the energy of the percussion. Although, the added emphasis really helped resolve a touch more vibrato in bells and other small dense metal percussive instruments.

    Resolve:
    That added emphasis up top does add emphasis to ambient noise and other macro details, which in turn does mask some more complex transient and micro detail. Additionally, the M2s had excellent macro dynamics but suffered smaller gradual volume changes. Going back to the live performance of Hotel California, the M2s didn't clearly resolve the gradual crescendo leading into the first verse.

    Imaging:
    Imaging was more spacious than I expected, sounds within the audible space moved quickly within it. The only fault of the M2S was a lack of a clearly defined rear channel and a tendency to sound a bit disjointed at times. The same quality that adds some excitement to the image it presents, can sometimes take away from the cohesiveness of that image.

    Speed:
    I felt the M2s presented a good sense of time and changes within that domain. While it had a small touch of emphasis on the attack of instruments, that emphasis didn't diminish the decay or release of notes. It's just fast enough to be tactile without sounding almost "un-real."

    Line Out Pairings & Impressions:
    Through out my listening time with the M2s I found my self most impressed with it's on board amp! Running the line out was un-impressive with products within that $100 price range. In the end I always found my self preferring the very balanced presentation of it's on board head amp. Ideally, you shouldn't need use the line out to adjust to frequency response, but rather provide ample power for harder to drive headphones.

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    Schiit's original Vali 1 is by far my favorite sub $100 tube amp period! That said... it did NOT pair well with the M2s. The frequency response is similar to what's on board the M2s, and while there's better transient response it also adds just enough warmth and decay to completely rob the M2s of it's tactility. I was though, able to gain immediate improvements in imaging namely a more cohesive sound stage and the appearance of a well defined rear channel. Still in the end the experience wasn't very engaging and didn't hold my interest.

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    The Shanling M2S's line out is a bit of a double edge'd sword, in that it scaled beautifully with my Pico Power. An only scales with more robust amps in the Mid Range price point of the market. Such as the HeadAmp Pico Power and my G1217 Project Ember II. In this case pairing it with these amp netted me only benefits with no immediate drawbacks or compromises. Though, it's a little far fetched to recommend a $400 amp for a $150 source.

    Ultimatly, I feel that owners of the M2S are going to love the DAP's built in amp, the only situation that the Line out is needed would be to pair with a harder to drive headphones that need more power. An frankly I like that, it's very cost effective as a consumer to purchase a product that is already at 100% without adding any additional components.

    Though how does the M2s compare to higher priced DAPs and portable DAC/Amps?

    Comparisons:
    To answer that question I compared the LG V20's built in ESS Sabre DAC/Amp output to that of the M2s. Additionally I also compared the M2s to the Geek Out v2+. In each case, I used Neutron running on my Android as the interface, and compared the output of each hardware configuration.

    [​IMG]

    I've never been impressed with LG's Partnership with ESS Sabre, what should have been equivalent to entry level DAP or portable Dac/Amps, products around the $100 price point, has consistently proven to be worse. The M2S's out put was all around better in almost every aspect when compared to the V20's ESS Sabre output. The only advantage the V20 has was a tauter more defined bass. Other wise the LG v20 had a thinner mid range, an even harsher more accented top end, less micro dynamics, more emphasis on macro details alongside an even greater micro detail haze and by some miracle an even wider more spacious but disjointed sound stage. Ultimately the M2s dwarfed the V20 in terms of Audio Quality. Thankfully I can still enjoy the convenience and gambit of Neutron's DSP's settings via either a high quality wired connection or over blue tooth. Both of which offer an improvement over the wired output of my V20.

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    I spoke earlier about how ludicrous I felt it was to pair up a $400 amp with a $150 DAP, given that at that price point there's some heavy competition. Well thankfully, I have just the competitor to put things in perspective! Sadly the M2S did not compare well in a head to head battle against the SE output of the Geek Out v2+. The V2+ had the edge in every metric I judge. A very literal and lateral upgrade to the M2S, an frankly that's what I expect. Retailing for $499 the Geek Out v2+ is in an entirely different price bracket, an caters to a different customer base at that.

    How ever, an interesting comparison is how the M2S fed into the PicoPower compares to the Geek Out v2+.

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    The results were impressive, I didn't expect the M2s when amped through the Pico Power perform as well as it did. Honestly, the Pico Power/M2S combo had the most cohesive sound stage and best tonality. The M2s fed a beautifully natural mid range warmth into the Pico Power. The horns in Miles Davis so what were indescribably vivid, full with a from the body quality without losing some of the airy from the lips transients nor the echo of the room they played in! Feeding the Line Out into the Pico Power also improved the micro detail and dynamics. Though the slight haze up top remained, the Pico Power allowed the distinct attack of the snare drum to shine through more vividly than before.

    Ultimately though, the Geek Out V2+ still had better resolve. Free from excessive emphasis up top with even more precise micro dynamics alongside a true to life presentation of complex transient information. All of this from the SE output of the Geek Out v2+, which is in reality a portable balanced Dac/Amp. Switching into the Balanced Output would undoubtedly push the imaging above that of the M2S ->PicoPower combo.

    That said, the M2s did astonishingly well as an analog source feeding into a more resolving amplifier. It's also got the addition of Bluetooth connectivity, a fully function GUI, equalizer and media storage that the Geek Out v2+ doesn't offer. So price wise, it's quite competitive.

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    Truth be told, my various DAP reviews these days are all efforts to find a replacement for my previous go to recommendation, the Rockboxed Hifiman HM 601. I started with a 602 eventually sold it and wound up with another 601 years later that I still use as my daily driver. I enjoy the sound signature just that much, an rightly so. Compared to the Shanling M2s the HM 601 offers better micro detail and dynamics with a heavier more resolved low end without any emphasis up top. It also presents an intimate but extremely cohesive audible image. The only real draw back to the HM 601 is it's mellow organic sound can sometimes be a little romantic with headphones that share the same sound signature, and in the worse case scenario there is some audible mid range ringing. While both have some mid range emphasis and added decay, the HM 601 does very rarely over emphasis mid range frequencies. Interestingly, I didn't experience any apparent ringing throughout any of my listening sessions, in fact I was impressed with the level of both naturalness and polite tactility the M2s presented. Still, all things considered the HM 601 is still one of the best sounding entry level DAPs in my book. Though it's flaws are becoming more and more obvious as it age's not so gracefully. The analog headphone out is rather noisy, so it doesn't like super efficient anything. Even worse it's not even that powerful, for now the line out is exceptionally clean and scales like a champion, but that amazing hardware is locked within it's chassis. The HM 601 does not function as a USB Dac, while the HM 602 does, you still need to find one. Even worse, neither of them work with Cellular devices as far as I know. So as much as I like how it sounds, the HM 601 isn't really practical recommendation these days.

    Finally, how does the M2S compare to the Cayin N3? While I don't have the N3 with me any longer, my impressions of it again'st my LG V20 and HM 601 are still logged. Bluetooth output from each is almost identical. I found no real discernible difference between the two. The biggest difference between the two is their function, with the Cayin N3 I actually really took advantage of the Bluetooth Dac/Amp functionality because of how much easier Neutron Music Players interface is to operate. The combined DSP settings I have in Neutron on top of the N3's digital filters allowed me to fine tune the sound for whatever headphones I was listening with. Without having to slog through the N3's exhaustive menu system.


    [​IMG]

    On the flip side, the M2s doesn't have that level of fine tuning, but it undeniably simpler to operate all by itself. It has a slightly more natural sound and doesn't really need to be "fine tuned." I only need it and a pair of headphones to enjoy my music, where as with the N3 fine tuning was more of a necessity. Functionally the N3 is still the better jack of all trades, it's line out scales easier and it's digital filters allow you to dial in the sound that's best for you. If all you own is a pair of headphones, it's an excellent place to start as it's so much more than just a digital audio player. Where as the M2S is more impressive as a classic straight forward DAP, with the extra connectivity options as a bonus. So if your like me, and you have a couple of fully fledged desktop systems. The M2S makes for an excellent sounding, adaptable super easy to use on the go system.

    Conclusion:
    Shanling has a real winner here in my book, it has some extra functionality and convenience but what ultimately impressed me was it's function as classic Digital Audio Player. Frankly, I don't really use my HM 601 as much, the improvements in sound quality aren't really worth the added hassle and fuss honestly. The exceptional build and sound quality pair with a phenomenal user interface that is by far one of the easier to operate DAPs I've ever used. An it's that combination of superb sound and ease of use that set the Shanling M2s as a standard for entry level DAPs in my book!
  4. FortisFlyer75
    4.0/5,
    "Shanling M2s mini box of tricks packs a punch."
    Pros - Sound Quality (that scales better the higher file quality used), Size, Light weight, Build & Design, Good slick easy to use UI and button implementation, HiBy remote app, Flexinility of features - USB line out, Bluetooth amp, Dac only feature. Native DSD256, Amazing value to features & sound ratio! list goes on...
    Cons - Recessed treble to make this truely & evenly balanced sound across the range is only thing that lets the sound down for me.
    Lack of internal storage.
    Be nice if supplied screen portectors were applied at manufcaturing stage
    Er?
    Introduction

    DSC06005.JPG DSC06021.JPG

    With already been a Shanling M1 owner which I heard the last year at Canjam London 2016 before it was released and was impressed by its size, ease of use and power for such a small unit but did ultimately buy it as a line-out source to either a Chord Mojo or the Hugo at the time and serve as more of a back-up dap to my Sony ZX1 at the time which has since died and gone to DAP heaven.

    And now I have had the chance thanks to Glassmonkey once again for letting me have a chance to listen to the new M2s which builds upon the M1 in all aspects but does not cost a king’s ransom up the ladder from the M1 price to acquire the new bigger brother model here.

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    M2s Design and ergonomics


    First impressions are this player is this is a truly compact portable DAP which is light weighing in at only 100 grams! Which fits in the hand very comfortably? Continuing in the footsteps of the previous Shanling daps with been a aesthetically and ergonomically talented eye for design and build with good logistical operations which are slick and fast and easy to use with a sound that is alone second to none let alone the build quality of this device given the still affordable end of the DAP market is a good achievement.

    The M2s now sports a multi- function small metal wheel on the side that serves as both the volume and scrolling dial when in options menu and press in to select. This has good feedback although maybe a little to responsive when trying to use fast it you can end up jumping one stop past your desired selection sometimes but I prefer this to been laggy or too slow and the wheel feels solid and well built using a Japanese alps which they quote been good for 500,000 times been pressed and 10,000 rotations so will let you know how it goes on that! I am approx. 559 presses and 350 rotations so far… !

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    Then there is the return/ back up button which is located on the same side underneath the volume wheel making overall navigation of the UI fairly quick process with one hand. On the opposite side of the player the previous play/pause and next buttons are present which also has the micro SD card slot on the lower half which will take up to 256GB storage.

    The top of the player is where they have located the on/off wake up button which just leaves the bottom of the player where you will find your 3.5 jack output and the new and becoming more common USB C type charge connection on the other side at the bottom.

    The frame is made of CNC machined aluminium which gives the M2s a solid feel and which keeps it feather and with the small size you will not notice this in your pocket on your commute to work especially as you do not have to keep delving into the pocket with the new HiBy wireless link that can be controlled from an app on your phone which leads me on nicely to a feature they have just added called HiBy link.

    This is where you can keep your player in your pocket/ bag and use the app on your phone to control it and view all the songs and albums on the phone as if you was using the player itself or when hooked up in a line out mode to other equipment such as speaker hi-fi for example across the room and control the player from your phone and you can even edit your playlist and add favourites from the phones as well as browse your music on the player and control playback which is a great feature to have and find on a player still this affordable.

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    The M2s has Bluetooth 4.0 Apt-x which can also be used as a BT amp/dac for your smartphone also. The USB 2.0 connection is the new C connection type as on the M1 and can be used as a OTG function or used as USB line out or even use the player as a DAC only which will do up to 192khz.

    Yes there is really not a lot this tiny player cannot do really, but wait there is more!...

    The 3 inch retina HD screen is sharp enough which it has to be really on a screen this small to get everything on the screen information wise which for those with less than either perfect vision or overdue an eye test may just struggle with some sections of font on the player having to be small.

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    Battery time is quoted at 9hrs from the 1800 Mah Lithium Polymer battery which I would say is not far from what I got with it just about considering I was going between flac files to Hi-Res and DSD tracks and playing around with it browsing with the screen on. Charging this back up from empty is a 3 hour wait before you can hit the road again.

    The good thing about the size of this player if you are on the go you can just add a small portable battery bank using the USB connection which are similar in size and give another full charge to the player are handy things to have and still do not take up much room together if in your pocket.

    The M2s has a good layout in general and navigation once memorized is a breeze to use and makes sense with it been the same UI basically as the M1 just with the button layout been different which was only frustrating in swapping back and forth between both players started to make it confusing with their respective different physical button layouts which logically I would say the M2s has improved over the M2s in where the buttons are located which means they have learnt and moved forward with small details like this.

    The options within the player settings are quite comprehensive also for a player in this price tier just like the M1 is which gives the player good versatility and for those who like to tweak the EQ settings you will be glad to know it has a 10 band adjustment with various genre EQ pre-sets already available to select.

    For the price in terms of build, design, and features let alone the sound quality at this price all this together you get a very strong player for the money as Shanling seem to have a knack that make players that simply work with good ergonomics and are stable in operation with the software which is not always the case from some of these far eastern manufacturers out there costing more that continuously have bugs in their software. What couple of small issues there have been in software operation Shanling have never hung around in getting an F/W update rolled out to patch it up which is a good sign these guys take it all seriously on the end users part.

    Only thing is with it looking good with solid build design and operation been slick with all these features is the M2s able to compliment all that with the sound quality to do this DAP justice of all the hard work that has gone before it so far?....

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    Sound Impressions:


    Because this is still classed as an affordable at the run of the ladder DAP there was me thinking this would be just turn up listen to it then compare to my M1 dap and howay we go but it was anything but with what IEM’s I currently have giving very different results with both daps with the same IEM which made it not so straight forward so from the word go the M2s is different to the M1 in how they both pair with the same IEMS..

    So the M2s is still following in the footsteps of the M1 rather than the M5 sound meaning this player is not neutral or flatter sounding with the M5 but is more musical with a warmer overtone and more fun in the dynamics area with good depth as well as a spacious dispersion of soundstage on offer allows this player to provide a big vast sound delivery even with just IEMs hooked up.

    This is a sound signature that has plenty low end presence to its signature which is quite a rounded boom type of delivery, not ta slouchy or slow muddy bass but not the tightest or taught bass you will ever hear but you will get a fair share of bass note hits on every track you listen to if your inclined to liking more than average bass on your dap player then you will be at home with this making soundtracks from films by Hans Zimmer have a good amount of sub bass rumbling on low notes that floods the soundstage with plenty of atmosphere to the soundtrack.

    The M2s comes across sounding stealthy with its low floor noise making sensitive IEMS (that I had) perform without any hiss issues hiss wise which lends to this player performing with great effect with the soundstage with musical notes when delivered been easily located with fairly accurate positioning.

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    The mids are evenly balanced with them neither too recessed nor overly forwards but intimate enough this is the driving force which is just as well as this M2s otherwise would be at risk of the low powerful bass been too overly dominant and distracting but here the M2s mids keeps its head above water.

    The only time the mids felt like they were going to struggle was with the lower mids been over powered on delicate details if the said IEM or headphone used with them was already bass happily tuned as much as the M2s was they then had the possibility to be domineering over the lower mids especially with more heavy rock orientated tracks. The mids are leaning on the warmer side yet inviting with an acceptable clarity and speed… fast enough to keep your attention from dozing off.

    The amount of detail rendering to notes that the M2s provides is pretty good at this level but it is the tonality of instrument’s that help the mids to sound more analogue sounding making the M2s an easy natural listening experience with the M2s that is never overly analytical at any time yet resolving just enough it still shines with finer details to be heard in the execution of leading/ trailing notes.

    Listening to Ed Sheeran Bloodline song in Flac 16/44 which provides plenty of depth and dynamics with an ever present mids section with string work and Ed’s vocals coming through to the fore of the track and the lower end bass having a reassuring solidity and body to each note played.

    Or Beth Ditto similarly shows her powerful vocals come through with good definition and projection almost leaping out from the rest of the music a stage further towards where you are sitting gives an exciting feel to this album with mids always taking main stage with plenty of vibrancy and hard hitting lows deliver an overall powerful full bodied rock feel.

    Although with the treble it just feels to match the upper range with Beth’s vocals anything in the upper register such as Cymbals/ Hi-hats sound veiled like it behind the rest of the music, some treble ranges on daps can sound in the mix evenly clear and can be heard but with the M2s it just seems shaded a lot of the time and would not mind if it was equally balanced in the mix but it is not the case and found treble presence not shining enough to compliment the equal amount of mids and low bass this DAP has to offer.

    On the other side with more tepid music such as London Grammar “If you wait” album or Yello “Toy” album benefit from the low noise floor of the M2s where the music is about revealing the finer side of subtle passages of delivery in songs combined with the good soundstage allows musical notes to appear from pinpoint starting positions from the dark canvas into the light which really helps this DAP to shine with finesse at this price point. Again this is not the most resolving detailed dap ever but it certainly helps to hear things a lot easier with location and timing when the noise floor has a black background has the M2s has.

    The above was based on using FLAC 16 bit files’ and decided to try a range of High Res anywhere from 176, 192 and DSD 128 & 256 files now the M2s goes this high with DSD.

    Listening to some songs I have in both in Flac 16 bit and High Res 96 or 192 there was a difference in terms of overall tonal definition been improved with albums from Muse or Rag N Bone Man having more body to notes and improved headroom with tracks but unless the recording or mastering is not stella to start with there was not a significant massive jump in some cases over the Flac 16 bit on the M2s with some albums in High Res but when it was a good High Res recording the M2s improved in what it would give back over 16 bit Flac files.

    Where the M2s did scale significantly and sounded more impressive to my surprise was with DSD files in general had a more natural detail with less colour to instruments like a layer of fuzz had been taken away lifting a veil compared to Flac tracks.. Even when compared with a large number of songs in High Res. There was also an immediate noticeability with the separation and space for instruments and vocals to breath with better control on notes played on DSD albums which means we all do not need to spend over £1k on a dap just to get DSD files to sound noticeably good.

    Listening to Blue Coast all stars in 256 DSD gave an organic and natural tone to hearing it as if in the studio you can hear it is recorded a great clarity and air to the recordings in DSD with a more accurate and tighter emphasis on the low end and top end of the register to anything I had heard in Flac 16 bit or High Res up to 192 files. It was probably the first time I really can hear the treble shine and come through a lot more prominent as it should really on the M2s with DSD files.

    With what few DSD files I do possess now days still I was pleasantly surprised how well the player scaled and had more room in performance to offer with DSD files which reminds me of the more transparent airy realistic tonal reproduction I hear in WAV files over FLAC which album art on DAPS was only reason to go FLAC for me in first place so if they would make a majority of all mainstream albums we all listen to in the world in DSD as standard would really benefit hearing it like that on the M2s by a Shanling mile. So in short the M2s just scales better & better with the higher files you can give it will reward you back with a higher performing playback in music.

    The M2s player has a habit though of pulling you into the music with its warm dynamic and punchy sound like signature and find myself tapping along to it even if with been used to daps like I have recently with the Sony Walkman WM1A or Onkyo DP-S1 which are still another level on the whole but to still just forget those superior performance characteristics of those players and just enjoy the music is a strong testament to the M2s.

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    M2s with Headphones & IEM’s…


    I will start with just how the M2s performs with IEM’s and a couple of headphones then will go onto the second part of how it compares with the Shanling M1 dap I own.

    This may also not be quite as detailed or neutrally balanced as its flagship Shanling M5 DAP but is still a relatively detailed sound enough it made my Pioneer Master-SE1’s with over 500 hours on them acceptable to listen to for an enjoyable enough session not just in terms of powering them okay which it does with a fair amount of ease.


    I was not wincing as sometimes when you put a budget player through a flagship £1K plus headphone the cohesion breaks up as the headphone cannot handle the low resolution or lack of it the player throws at the headphones but not with the M2S as I was surprised it was acceptable to have a session on the SE1’s which made me think wonders never seize as would of these been the case a few years ago with a budget player and this is just on reflection with cd quality files in WAV or FLAC files I was using. Of course the SE1 is far from been able to perform to its full ability which would naturally come with matching equipment costing a few thousand pounds but was nice to know it could sound above acceptable to be able to have an enjoyable session on the M2s with the SE-Maseter1 headphones if I wanted or needed to.

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    M2s with Meze classic 99’s...

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    Another headphones that was a perfect match that are both in the same price universe as the M2s was listening to this with the well renowned Meze Classic 99’s which have been my surprise headphone I listen to a lot even with the Pioneer SE-Master1 in the fold now I still love listening to the Meze which is still I think is again testimony to how good this headphone is for the price which is a shared trait there with the M2s doing the same equivalent in the DAP arena.

    The Classic 99s for those who already know Its warm (not thick warm) signature with a generous deep bass response would think the extra low end they portray combined with the M2s favourably tuned low end would be too much but thankfully this is not the case of too much of the same been overcooked here and they seem to complement each other despite sharing the same type of signature with both been on the warm side by nature.

    With the Meze the M2s has an airy big hall feeling to the soundstage with good headroom for these closed back Meze cans allowing for music to have a good perception of depth giving a very immersive feel listening to this combination. Vocals comes across as been seated in the front row giving quite the intimate feel and connection with the vocalist amid the amiable depth of range the M2s has combined with the 99 Classics.
    DSC06238.JPG

    The M2s have a good midrange balance with the Classic 99’s ability to show good amount of detail rendering handled with just enough analytics to give the M2s an edge at this price range to give a good overall balance of both fun and insight into the information needed to be serious enough for the discerning of serious listening sessions.

    Even though the very generous low end bass for some who are not used to Meze 99’s bass or find it too much may want a more neutral pairing for the M2s but those who love their Classic 99’s will not find this pairing anymore overbearing on the bass response than It already is.

    Considering the ample space and headroom listening to the Classics on the M2s I was just wishing the M2s top end was just a more prominent with the top end to equalize the balance through the range it just seemed a tad too distant at times and buried in with the mids and lows to truly give an overall balance as the Classics are a headphone that is not treble prominent to start with but does show treble well without been over obvious but with the M2s seemingly shy treble it was a little lost at times yet over all it was still a good paring with this combo having a low end punch you won’t forget in a hurry, in a good way!

    DSC06237.JPG


    IEMS


    Moving on to IEM’s which many will be using with the M2s was interesting as I was able to go from a £10 pair of VE Monk+ IEMS then on to a pair of Meze Classic 12’ @ £70 then £170 RHA T20 then Vibro Lab Mayas which cost approx. £400 then my JH16pro customs which was £1k+ so is an interesting and contrasting mix of IEMs to see how the M2s would respond across the board and continuing with the Meze theme with the Classic 12 IEMS which happen to follow the same blood line as the 99 Classic headphones so like its headphone counterpart it is very similar in make-up signature wise.

    DSC06247.JPG


    With it been an IEM coming in almost 2/3 cheaper than the 99 Classics it is not quite so forward or as detailed in the mids and the low end is a little more rolled of and doesn’t have quite the boom hitting factor of the 99 Classics yet it still is an fairly enjoyable listen on the M2s although again this pairing I would say the treble was still a little more recessed still and didn’t feel the clarity entirely there with this pairing. On the whole again not a bad paring but just hampered by a couple of things to be a perfect pairing with the Classic 12’s.

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    VE Monk+

    DSC06241.JPG

    Next up I thought I would now work my way up from the bottom of the money pile with the VE Monk+ which was at home with the M2s pretty much straight away as it lapped up the mid-range of the M2s ability to remain focused and balanced with the music and sounded how the monk does with most daps pretty reliable and consistent with its sound and is not a fussy EIM with no heirs or graces at this price point so if you want to find out how good a pair of £10 VE Monks can sound try them on the M2s and you might just be in for a shock!

    DSC06240.JPG

    RHA T20...

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    Trying my RHA T20 was a different contrast all together and the T20 is one of those if you get the pairing right they will be a good balance to them and become very addictive and sound is if they are above their £170 price tag but get it wrong and it can sound bit of a mess in un-equal measures and unfortunately that is the case here even the friendly warmer musical M2s does not shine right with the brighter T20’s with the mids been subdued and pretty recessed then the low end bass comes across as an unrealistic bass reproduction that is very thud like then the treble is also inconsistent and pitchy making it a very hard pairing to listen to with detail rendering suffering as a result due to these issues.

    The irony is the instruments had the ability to sound quite tonally neutral and it is just the overall balance to the frequency range matching and presentation in detail which is a miss-match here.

    DSC06252.JPG DSC06257.JPG

    As I have already touched upon T20 is a very fussy IEM and was not a surprise when they did not match all though one hopes for opposites to attract it didn’t on this occasion sadly.




    Vibro Lab - Mayas...

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    With the Vibro Lab Mayas which are a lovely blend of mid organic open detailed sounding pair of IEMS worked well with the M2s which really balance out well across the board and allow the top end to shine through more than other IEMs here on the M2s with normal flac 16/44 files and the mid-range has ample room to breathe and allow small detail rendering to come through easy allowing good layering.

    With higher res files or DSD the M2s made the Mayas become an amplified version of itself just improving in all the areas such as leading edge details more apparent and control of notes resulitng in better sense of clairity, timing and space around each note played on top of its already impressive pairing in sound.

    DSC06223.JPG

    With the Mayas conservative low end it actually just cuts back the M2s tendency to be forceful or too colourful on the low end giving a much more natural and realistic sub bass definition in response. The treble was recreated really well on the Mayas although the M2s still not jumping out with treble enough to be even an equal balance overall with help of the Mayas it made treble notes more easy to notice without having to go looking for it with your brain with the amount of detail and tonality the Mayas possessed on the higher register.

    The Mayas have proved to me in my time with them they are one of the easier IEMS to pair with various daps and this is no different here and is simply a very good marragie which is just as well as this is my fav IEM at the moment.

    JH16Pro CIEM

    Moving onto the JH16 Pros and it seems the further I go up the tier the more I hear this player improve as if it is not hitting a ceiling at any point for a lower end dap but just seems to improve and has more headroom for sonic improvement when scaling up the IEM ladder and the JH16’s which ultimately can draw upon more resolution than my Mayas does not stretch the M2s so far it runs out of steam.

    It was actually the JH16 was the first IEM I had heard with the M1 when I first heard that at the 2016 Canjam London show and that what took me by surprise then was how good it paired with a higher end CIEM for such a bargain dap and the M2s is no different and if anything is able to give you more performance with the M2s which is able to handle and show more detail transients with more agility than the M1.

    Yet the only thing I would say with the M2s generous bass response they have given it combined with the JH16’s extra tuned bass gives it a tad too much emphasis on the lower register in terms of quantity delivered with this pairing and takes away from the attention to what is been played in the mid-range area with some tracks, yet at the same time I am still hearing more information within the bass notes with the better resolution the JH16 can reproduce.

    ....This lower end bass actually makes the 99 Classic headphone combo sound sterile which is saying something! So nothing wrong with the quality of the bass but together the quantity is a bit too much here even for my liking with someone used to or not minding a signature that shows a lower tuned bass response.

    Treble is something that sounds at times the most hardest and maybe unrealistic part to reproduce with the lower end IEMS with the M2S but with the JH16’s even though they are not the most neutral treble notes the M2s has enough to make the 16’s shine with more subtle with rendering of notes making them sound more like the individual instrument been played rather than a generic crash mash of metallic sounds no matter what is played through it in the low to high treble region extends with good consistency which again does seem to bring out the M2s treble more than it has been so far with exception of the Mayas.


    M2s compared to M1 differences in sound.

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    For anyone wandering how does it compare to the M1 which is also a little stunner for the money the M2s obviously brings that new bigger footprint to the table so can pack more inside component wise with the like of Native DSD256 now packing on board with a new AKM (AK4490EQ) chip in the M2 which takes what the M1 had which is very good for the price and just adds some more resolution with finer details improved and a sense of a bigger soundstage and imaging.

    DSC06196.JPG

    The M2s is a more punchier affair with more bottom end presence to be heard or felt yet there is more detail rendering going on compared to my M1 with a fuller bodied and smoother sound which leans towards a more richer warmer signature which I did find there was less revealing treble range to be heard on the M2s compared to the M1 which is not that hard given there seems to be a slight recession on the M2s treble presentation and felt it could have been more present in the mix at least in general which is my only real gripe with the M2s presentation on the whole.

    DSC06205.JPG

    Although it seemed to shine through more with either my Maya or Jh16’s or if the files were exceptionally good high res recordings or DSD files somehow brought the frequency range to life and was more clearer and present to hear. The M1s treble because of this I actually preferred as it was consistently just there doing its job with no matter what music or files and was a more forward revealing treble, maybe not in terms of resolution the M2s but making an equally balanced DAP across the frequency range allowing it to breath more with the generous bottom end the M2s possesses.

    DSC06210.JPG DSC06189.JPG

    The soundstage width to the M2s has wider scope than the M1 allowing IEM’s especially to feel more expansive in a bigger room than the M1 to having the feeling of been more like listening to headphones with the feeling of extra space generated through the more roominess of the soundstage surroundings but the M1 sounds more airy between the instruments you hear in the room despite that room not feeling as big to the M2s which I feel is down to the M1 been less warmer than the M2s with its more neutral bass and more forward & higher treble presence.

    DSC06200.JPG

    So, despite the M1 in comparison clearly lacking the edge in detail retrieval and the M2s revealing better trailing edge retention of notes the M1 had a more inviting slightly more forward mid-range with a more evenly balanced low end response and more consistent presence in the top end with various headphones or IEMS.

    The M2 feels closer to the stage than the M1 with vocals similar in localization again with the M2s just able to reveal more closeness in attention to detail in vocal notes giving a singer more depth and clearer projection in the process like with Beyoncé - Don’t hurt song Feat Jack White from her album 13 where her vocal notes have that more thicker body with been able to reveal more easily that raspiness to her power vocals with the M2 responding well through the frequencies of her strident singing notes getting higher.

    Have to be honest here despite the M2s having the edge in many areas over the M1 for bigger soundstage and lower end impact with bass, those who like the M1 may not necessarily like the M2s
    despite the extra detail to be had but going back the M1 from the M2s equally became a bit frustrating not hearing those extra nuances of detail and depth of dynamics the M2s could deliver on its more silent backdrop.

    I personally would not discard the M1 with the M2s on the scene but would keep alongside the M1 strangely enough with the both having the added ability and flexibility with USB line outs thrown into the equation give options for when pairing with various dac or amps to suit.

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    Conclusion


    The M2S is simply a DAP which touches pretty much all bases from the thoughtful design and ergonomics which are very well integrated with a very full feature set spec sheet that doesn’t leave too many stones unturned here if at all (maybe balanced) but hey, look at the price still!

    What impressed me was how it scaled well with my higher end IEMs I had and same for file formats as once good High Res recordings and DSD files were thrown at the M2s it sounded more complete sound in a natural tonal setting and cohesive as it had at any stage I had during my time with it. This is still good with flac 16/44 files (omitting bad recordings again) but it is if this has been designed to shine with those higher files with a noticeable difference even at this end of the price spectrum.

    I only wish on the sound quality aspect would have been for a more consistency with the treble region but the execution of the detail rendering with the warm smooth mids which is more than good enough at this price and the extensive low end with a generous room for the soundstage pulls you into still listening despite the top end not been a natural presence in balance in delivery and presentation on the top end.

    On the whole I could not fault any other aspect of this player and has built a solid foundation on top of the M1 which makes you wonder how the M5 replacement will wow us in the future…

    Exiting times ahead for Shanling which are no small players here in this domain and some other far eastern dap companies could take note from how they build and design a reliable easy to use DAP and will be one to keep an eye on in the next couple of years with future products.


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    flamesofarctica and B9Scrambler like this.
  5. SOULSIK
    5.0/5,
    "Shanling m2s - worth the upgrade from m1?"
    Pros - sound. form factor. small.
    Cons - battery time
    video review:



    [​IMG]

    INTRODUCTION

    Recently, I reviewed the shanling m1, a small portable digital audio player. Now, we dive into one of their more expensive DAPs, oh wait, it is only $50 difference? It was rather surprising how “better” the DAP became from the shanling m1.

    ABOUT SHANLING

    Shanling Began as a developer of audio products in 1988 and produced their first Hi-Fi stereo power amplifier. In 1990 an audio equipment factory within Jieyang Television University was founded, preliminarily defining Shanling’s direction of development. In 1996 Shanling moved to Shenzhen and was renamed Shanling Electronic Co., Ltd. With effective management and scientific cultivation to the employees, Shanling managed to produce devices with ideal high quality. Through internal integration and equipment upgrade, Shanling has become one of the several enterprises in China that was capable of independent developing and manufacturing high-end audio products.

    Shanling has a wide range of product line – SACD/CD player, high fidelity solid-state and vacuum tube amplifier, advanced mini music center, tuner, audio/video amplifier, etc. Besides, being a DVD, SACD, CD licensee,

    Shanling is also qualified for adopting many patented technologies such as Microsoft HDCD, Dolby Digital, DTS, etc. Currently Shanling has established close partnership with many leading high-end suppliers and became one of the most reputable manufacturers of the industry.

    DISCLAIMER

    This unit was sent to me for review purposes by Shenzhen audio. As usual my reviews contain no bias.

    SPECS

    [​IMG]

    BUILD QUALITY / FUNCTIONS

    Build quality: unlike the shanling m1, the shanling m2s comes in aluminum body that is even higher quality than the fiio x 1. The finish is gorgeous.

    [​IMG]

    The features are very similar to the shanling m1 ! check out that review @ soulsikreviews.com

    Micro SD card slot: supports up to 256 GB SD card, which is more than enough to go crazy with all your high-quality music files.

    Gain control: It also has gain control, low gain for sensitive IEMs and high gain for more power demanding headphones

    [gallery ids="645,644,646" type="rectangular"]

    Controls Buttons: extremely easy side buttons for back, last song, next song (from top to bottom in order).

    The scroll button: Feels more solid than the rubberized one on the fiio x 1. It is also smaller than the shanling m1 but much more practical. And you can push on the scroll button for enter which is much more convent than the fiio x1’s huge center button.

    [gallery ids="639,640,641,642" type="rectangular"]

    Bluetooth: Also has 4.0 Bluetooth !

    Also unlike the shanling m1, m2s comes with a more powerful amplifier inside !

    PRACTIALLY

    This player wins the award for practically if anything because of how small it is and how well the buttons were positioned for easy control in your pocket. It is even more practical than the shanling m1. Not to mention, having the variety of high quality leather cases for sale (not included with the dap) for extra protection or activities/ workouts.

    NEGATIVES / THINGS TO IMPROVE ON

    The battery life can be short for some people that forget to charge their device overnight.

    SOUND QUALITY

    I auditioned many different IEMS/headphones across over 100s of different test tracks in lossless flac files. (some include, noble x / LZ A4 / IE80 / HD598cs / m40x / re400 / he400i / hd650 ETC)

    Shanling M2s is similar to the shanling m1 with a bit of a warmer sound with added clarity and articulation in the mids and highs.
    episiarch, trellus and abitdeef like this.
  6. Layman1
    4.0/5,
    "The Box of Delights"
    Pros - Tiny form factor
    Exquisite build and screen
    High Quality Audio performance (inc. native DSD 256)
    Cons - No internal memory
    Not much else!
    This is a review of the Shanling M2s DAP.

    I would like to begin by again thanking the manufacturer (Shanling) and @glassmonkey (Micah, our beloved tour organiser) for their generosity and indeed foolhardiness in offering me a place on this tour.
    With another review tour already arranged for me after this one, Micah is fast becoming my audio pimp! :beyersmile:
    Time to get yourself a cane and a medallion :deadhorse:



    On with the show.



    The thread for discussion of this DAP may be found here:

    https://www.head-fi.org/f/threads/s...ith-ak4490-muse8920-bluetooth-usb-out.843643/



    All details regarding the build and components can be found there (or on the first review of this DAP).

    This review is long enough and the first review has already covered all the specs, so I feel it would be redundant to repeat the process and make a long post even longer!

    Gratuitous photoset IMG_2184.JPG IMG_2189.JPG IMG_2191.JPG IMG_2192.JPG IMG_2193.JPG IMG_2194.JPG IMG_2195.JPG IMG_2196.JPG IMG_2198.JPG IMG_2221.JPG :

    IMG_2184.JPG IMG_2189.JPG IMG_2191.JPG





    Build and User Interface:



    It uses the AK4490 DAC chip, offers Bluetooth out and can be used as an external DAC!

    No internal memory, just a single micro-SD card slot; worth taking note of if you need masses of space!



    When I read the description of the Shanling M2s, I have to admit to being somewhat sceptical; a retina-style display, but navigated using physical buttons only? No touchscreen?! :-O

    In mediaeval times, this would have been a crime most heinous to be punished with flagellation and humiliating root vegetable insertions, but fortunately, we live in more enlightened times these days.

    Although I really wish bile chanting would make a resurgence :p



    Anyhoo, the M2s features buttons for playing/pausing and skipping/rapidly moving forward or backwards, as well as a button for going back out of the folder/menu item that you’re currently in.

    Usefully, they included an on/off switch, which I can only describe as functional and a commendable inclusion :p

    Finally a scroll wheel which can also be clicked to select the item you've scrolled to.

    It’s actually fairly simple to pick up how to navigate around and the experience is novel and enjoyable. I don’t really need to go into it in detail here (although I imagine some of my long-suffering readers wish I would), partly because the included manual tells you everything you need to know, but mainly because I didn’t even need to read the manual; it is easy to quickly pick up how to use the DAP and within minutes, I could just get on with enjoying the music.





    Speaking of which, shall we discuss the sound?

    I have decided that we shall. Please proceed to the next section.



    This is the sound!



    I own the xDuoo X3 DAP; in my recent review of the Aune M1s, I described it as being very similar to the X3 in its transparent, neutral and reference-style sound signature, but a little better in most regards. I haven’t heard any other DAPs directly in the price range of the Shanling M2s, but the Aune M1s is about £50 more, and the X3 around half the price of the Shanling M2s.



    For the purposes of this review, I shall be A/B testing using the Shanling M2s and the xDuoo X3.

    IEM’s used were the formidable tag-team of the Noble Katana (wizard) and the Trinity Audio PM4.



    My favoured method of assessing any piece of audio equipment is to listen to tracks from a variety of genres that I love. I found Hip-Hop and Pop (two genres that I also enjoy greatly) did not elicit any particular differences between the two DAPs, and I don’t have any classical pieces on my newly-created A/B testing tracklist, so these genres will not be detailed below I’m afraid.



    When compared with the X3, which has a neutral, reference-style sound signature with good detail, soundstage and clarity, I found the M2s a little different.

    There may be players that it sounds cool/neutral in comparison to; however, against the X3, I found it to be slightly more warm and organic in its sound signature.

    This was not a negative thing by any means. I think this will depend on your own personal preferences and you may of course hear it differently to how I did.

    Indeed on several of the songs below, its sound signature worked synergistically with the song and presented it beautifully.



    I feel the M2s excels on vocal and acoustic music, jazz and so on. It performs very respectably on other genres and more complex music, but in general I found I preferred a more reference-style signature and with more detail and soundstage to bring the best out of these other genres.



    Read on, intrepid adventurer, for my detailed song-by-song comparison.

    Fire up YouTube/your own DAP, find the songs and listen along with me!

    I’d love to hear your opinions :)



    ‘Love is Blindness’ by U2 (Achtung Baby, HDTracks Deluxe Edition 24/192 FLAC):



    The percussion is a bit more clearly defined and details could be made out more easily on the X3

    The bass was slightly tighter and also more clearly defined on the X3.





    ‘I Still Do’ by The Cranberries (Everyone else is doing it, 16/44 FLAC):

    A terrific soul-stirringly atmospheric and moving song, with quite a complex array of things going on. It’s an interesting tie between the two DAPs. The (comparatively) slightly warmer and organic sound of the M2s is a good match for the mood and style of the song, but the slightly more spacious and detailed presentation of the X3 does great things for the micro-details of the song which in themselves contribute massively to the overall feeling the song engenders. The guitar picking and strumming has a marginally more visceral quality on the X3, which also seems to more emotively present the build-up of intensity in the opening 20 seconds of the song.



    ‘Shoot the Moon’ by Norah Jones (Come Away With Me, HDTracks 24/96 FLAC):

    I noticed something surprising here.

    There’s a small noise in the background 2 seconds into the song (I think someone moving from one guitar fret to another).

    On the X3, this noise is heard in my left ear. On the M2s, it’s heard in the right ear!

    Is this significant of anything? I have no idea, but it certainly was unexpected :)

    Again, the X3 showed clearer levels of detail, as well as a wider soundstage.

    I think the X3 also displayed a slightly greater dynamic range as well.



    ‘Homeless’ by Paul Simon (Graceland, 25th Anniversary edition, 24/96 FLAC):

    This is not to say that the M2s is an inferior DAP by any means.

    I feel it has a more musical sound signature than the X3, slightly warmer and more organic.

    On the track ‘Homeless’, listening to the African vocal ensemble (Ladysmith Black Mambazo – credit where it’s due!) at the beginning, the musicality of the M2s really shone, rendering the song warm and luxuriant; the audio equivalent of sinking into a cosy armchair on a day of deep snow, with a hot cup of cocoa in front of the dancing flames of a log fire*.

    In doing so, it lost none of the detail or dynamics, and I felt it did a better job with this track than the X3.



    *other clichéd imagery is available. A duck waddling and falling over on a frozen lake. An old couple holding hands in an historic street. A cat standing up on its hind legs wearing a top hat :deadhorse:



    ‘The Art of War’ by Anberlin (Dark is the Way, Light is a Place, 16/44 FLAC):

    On this track, around 9 seconds in, there’s a sudden sense of space opening up in the upper-central zone of the soundstage, the faintest hiss (but a deep one, not a tinny one).

    I don’t know much about music production, but I’m guessing this is the ‘channel’ being switched on that the bass guitar is linked up to (as indeed the bass comes in at the same spatial location a second or two later).

    This small, but (for me) enjoyable little detail of the song was, somewhat surprisingly, more pronounced on the M2s.

    Both DAPs handled this magnificent song with aplomb.

    I was eating fruit at the time of listening, so I handled it with a plum :p

    Boom boom. Kindly leave the stage.



    ‘Point #1’ by Chevelle (16/44 FLAC):

    This song features the kind of dynamic range shifts pioneered by The Pixies; verses of simmering anger and regret held in check, exploding into wall-of-noise guitars punctuated with aggressive picking and strumming.
    I feel the X3 did a slightly better job of handling these dynamics, and also bringing out the details from the noise.

    Conversely, the M2s handled the vocals better, its more organic sound signature rendering the vocals more clearly, nuanced and lifelike.



    ‘Blue in Green’ by Miles Davis (Kind of Blue, 24/192 FLAC):

    This sounded gorgeous on the M2s. All the details present and held in perfect balance.

    The piano blissful, the trumpet slightly buttock-clenchingly strident now and then (I’m a bit sensitive to sharp sounds) but mostly outstanding, the brushed percussion tactile, moody and insistent.

    In contrast, this track sounded ever so slightly flat and sterile in comparison on the X3; not poor by any means, but not bringing out the best in the song, despite commendable levels of detail and texture.



    ‘Walks with Me’ by Hobotalk (Beauty in Madness, 16/44 FLAC):

    This song, by a relatively obscure Scottish band is one of my all-time favourite tracks, as close to a piece of blissful perfection as one could hope to find in a song. Wistful, tranquil, beautiful.

    On this track, I feel the X3 presents the song marginally better; it sounds more spacious and open, more clear and balanced. The M2s reveals a more intimate feel, a touch more emotional, but sounds slightly muted and congested in comparison.



    ‘State Trooper’ by Bruce Springsteen (Nebraska, HDTracks 24/192 FLAC):

    This was a close-run race between the two DAPs on this stark and haunting piece.

    They both did a good job of conveying the atmosphere of mounting desperation and menace in the song; the X3 having the edge in terms of detail, but the M2s nudging ahead in the overall feel of the song; emotion and power and energy.



    ‘Ophelia’ by Madeleine Peyroux (Standing on the Rooftop, 16/44 FLAC):

    Similar to the results with ‘Walks with Me’ above; I feel this track presented better on the X3, with the M2s missing the spaciousness and effortless detail of the X3, but still sounding agreeably musical despite this.



    ‘Catoosa County’ by Shawn Mullins (Light You Up, 16/44 FLAC):

    This is a dark, atmospheric, country-tinged acoustic number.

    Interestingly, on this track, I feel the M2s actually did a better job with regards to both clarity/detail/spaciousness and emotion/musicality. It actually sounded so good that I broke into involuntary star jumps and converted to Rastafarianism on the spot :beyersmile:



    ‘Wicked Game’ by Chris Isaak (16/44 FLAC):

    I doubt this song needs much introduction; there are so many aspects of the song that are remarkable; the overall atmosphere, the sublime guitars, the subtle backing vocals murmuring “this love is only going to break your heart”…

    Continuing a theme here, I feel the X3 duly administered the expected birchings to the young pretender in the arena of soundstage and separation, sending it crying home to its mummy.

    Humour aside, in actuality this was in fact very close; similar to ‘Catoosa County’ above, the M2s excelled on this track, really capturing and captivatingly expressing the emotion and nuances.



    ‘I’m not gonna grow old’ by Club 8 (Above the City, 16/44 FLAC):

    A change in mood here. A swift dive down through the levels of bass and sub-bass precedes a euphoric chorus. I feel the X3 handled the energy of the song very slightly better but the M2s was very enjoyable and engaging in its own right.





    Conclusion (TL;DR):



    For reference purposes, I’ve been comparing the Shanling M2s (£150 or so at time of writing) with my current DAP, the xDuoo X3 (£75 or so at time of writing).



    The X3 shares the transparent, reference sound signature of the Aune M1s, but lamentably, it also shares what could be generously referred to as it’s ‘utilitarian’ aesthetic qualities :p



    It’s worth mentioning that the X3, like the Aune M1s I reviewed recently, is bringing to the table a stripped down DAP experience. The budget has mainly gone into making it sound as good as possible, with broad/advanced functionality a secondary consideration at best.

    So to just compare them in terms of price alone is going to be a somewhat misleading exercise.



    Conversely, the Shanling M2s has bells and whistles aplenty, without any significant compromise in sound quality and is an absolute delight to look upon and employ. The screen is beautiful, detailed and clear, which combined with the tiny form factor and ease of navigation make it an item of singular beauty and a joy to use.



    If you enjoy vocal and acoustic music, jazz and so on, this player seems like it could be a good fit.

    It still performs very respectably on other genres and more complex music, but in general I found I preferred a slightly more reference-style signature with more detail and soundstage to bring the best out of these other genres. However, at no time was I left disappointed; we are talking small margins here, and as ever, your ears may hear differently to mine.



    In conclusion, the Shanling M2s offers outstanding value for money, a gorgeous construction, screen and user interface, playback of pretty much every audio file type including native DSD 256 playback, ease of use, tiny size (matches very well with the Chord Mojo!) and a high quality and at times outstanding sound signature.

    “Two enthusiastic thumbs up!” :beyersmile:
    dissembled, BigDave, abitdeef and 4 others like this.
  7. musicday
    4.0/5,
    "Shanling M2S DSD portable music player"
    Pros - Pros: DSD256 native playback, fast and smooth UI, USB DAC, OTG, Bluetooth 2 ways, very good sound for the price.
    Cons - Cons: no internal memory.
    Shanling M2S review :

    NOTE: Since this review unit had to go back, I wanted to have my own, so I talked to PenonAudio.com who offered a discount and I purchased my M2S from them. Fast delivery and exceptional communication.
    Link for purchase:

    http://penonaudio.com/Shanling-M2S?search=m2s


    I would like to say a big thank you first of all to my friend Micah and to the nice guys at Shanling for providing the M2s music player for review. I didn’t pay for it and once the review is finished it will go back to the next person on the list.




    • Technical Specifications :

    • Size:53*14.5*85.6mm
      Weight:100g
      Screen:3-inch Retina high-definition display(480*800)
      Audio formats:ISO、DSF、DFF、APE、FLAC、WMA、AAC、OGG、MP3、WAV、AIFF
      Gain selection: low gain, high gain.
      D/A conversion chip:AK4490EQ
      Amp chip:TPA6120
      Low pass filter chip:MUSES8920
      Support the specification: DSD256,PCM 32bit/384KHz
      Output power:130mW@32Ω、12mW@300Ω
      Frequency response:20Hz-20kHz (-0.2dB)
      Signal to noise ratio:≥ 108dB (A-weighting)
      Distortion: <0.003% (A-weighting, output 500mV)
      Dynamic range:≥108dB.
      Output impedance: 4.8Ω
      Channel separation: 70dB 32Ω
      Rated output level:2.2VRMS@10KΩ
      Life time: >9 hours
      Capacity: 1800mAH lithium battery
      External storage: support up to 256G micro sd card.
      USB interface: Type-c (USB2.0)
      USB Digital input: Native/Dop/D2P Output

      Bluetooth: 4.0 supports APT-X

    As we can see this little music player pack quite a lot of features, can be used as USB DAC, Bluetooth both ways ( streamer and receiver ) USB type C is present and is very sturdy allowing for fast files transfer and charging. There is no internal storage but player can handle micro sd cards up to 256 GB. The player also support OTG for adding extra storage if one needs more, as the player can decode DSD256 native that takes a lot of space.






    • Package : Is all well presented in a small black box.
    • Manuals

    • Warranty card

    • USB type C cable, Micro sd card reader [​IMG]
    • Protective film*4, mine came with film already applied on the back but none on the front, but they can be easily installed.
      [​IMG]
      [​IMG]
      [​IMG]




    The player is very small, just the same size of an London oyster travel card , very impressive for all the features it packs.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]







    Build:

    The player seem of high quality, especially for the retail price of $199 .The sides of the player are made of aluminium with the back and front being made of hardener glass giving a nice weight and feel in the hand.



    On the bottom we find the 3.5 mm for headphones and the USB type C .
    [​IMG]




    On the side we find the volume wheel that also acts as joystick for navigation and the back button.
    [​IMG]




    The other side of the player has the reset hole, play/pause, next and back and the micro sd card that supports up to 256 gb.
    [​IMG]





    On top we find the power button.
    [​IMG]


    Usability:

    As i was not familiar with Shanling music players, their UI, where you use a volume wheel to adjust all the settings of the player and access your music, i was a bit worried but as a matter of fact it took me a very little time to learn how to use it. I am actually happy with it and i am pleased this small player doesn’t use a touch screen. The scrolling speed is very fast and such is booting time and that’s because the player uses a custom UI.

    The screen is high quality 3 inch 800x480 (310 pixel per inch ),that is more than enough to display the album art, and all the other artist information and time.
    [​IMG]
    Looks good isn't it?
    [​IMG]






    Sound :

    None of the above will matter if the player didn’t sound good. And yes it does. I am yet to try it with Chord Mojo, but my Hugo2 is coming soon and i am looking forward to use it as transport. The player is a bit on the bright side but it has a good wide soundstage , good bass extension and instrument separation. I have tried rap, pop , classical music and all sounded good without any artificial sound. Even in the USB DAC mode connected to my windows 7 sound was bright and crisp without distortion even at high volume and player charges while in this mode. There is no coaxial but the USB out is my favourite if using the player as transport. Overall i am really impressed with this player and all the features it offers at a relatively low cost. The player has enough power to drive Koss Porta Pro 60 ohm at the very loud volume on high gain. The output of the M2s is 4.8 ohm and some very sensitive IEMs may hiss but I didn’t experience that with Koss Porta pro and Venture Monk+ cappuccino.

    Conclusion:

    There is nothing to complain about Shanling M2s, maybe if the player had at least 64GB internal storage. The player has a very snappy UI and all features this player offer including DSD256 native playback is remarkable that is usually found in more expensive player.

    Looking forward to new products in the future of this relatively new manufacturer to me Shanling.

    P.S. I would like apologies for eventual wrong alignment new site provided, was a bit of a pain to get things right but I am sure all this will be redressed. Thank you for reading.
    Musicday