Shanling M2s AK4490EQ Mini Bluetooth DSD256 HiFi Lossless Music Player - Reviews
Pros: 3 sizes, designs, and price ranges to cover all use cases from casual to hard-core. All are great sounding, with tons of features and good battery life.
Cons: Cases obstruct changing SD cards
only a single card slot even on high-end M3s model.

I would like to thank Shanling for setting up the review tour for their 3 most commonly seen DAP models and for including me on the tour. I have owned 2 of the three in the past but never had them all in hand at the same time.

First let’s take a moment to look at the things these models all have in common before delving into the unique qualities of each.

Construction is solid with metal sides and high gloss glass backs each opposite a full-sized display. The screen has an outer black bezel that frames it all the way round but does a good job of disappearing when the player is powered off on the M2 and M3s. On the m1, the frame is more easily seen. Some of the buttons are in the same place on all three models. On the left side, forward and reverse are present although they are separated by a play/pause on the M2s and M3s that is not present on the M1. The M1 also has a return button on the left above the forward/reverse buttons. All three have scroll wheels on the right with the M2s and M3s having the return button immediately below the wheel. The M1 has the power button below the wheel while the M2s and M3s have the power button on the top at the righthand side. The bottom of all the units have the 3.5mm port and the USB-C port. On the M1 the SD Card slot is at the bottom while the SD slot on the M2s and M3s is on the left-hand side about ¾ of the way toward the bottom of the player.

M3s Top (Same as M2s)

Bottom View (Blue M1, Silver M2s, Red M3s)

Left Side View

Right Side View​

A couple of things I will note that I would like to see updated on future models.

1.) All of the cases obscure the SD card slot so it is impossible to change cards without removing the case. With only having a single slot, it would be nice to at least make the slot accessible without having to go remove the case.

2.) On the M1, pushing the wheel inward works as the play/pause function. Giving the user the option to set the push-in on the toggle wheel to be the play/pause function on the M2s and M3s would make pocket use much more feasible as the leather case obscures the actual play/pause button to a degree that makes pocket use more difficult. This is not really bad on the m2s although there is no tactile way to be certain which button you are pressing without finding the others to reference its position. The problem is particularly pronounced on the M3s where the case covers the buttons and removes nearly all tactile reference to which button is which.

And now for something completely different....

While the three DAPs share a similar physical construction and the same UI, they are really not targeted to the same audiences and the question of which is best is going to depend largely on use case.

The littlest Shanling (for now):

The M1 is the smallest, lightest DAP in the Shanling stable and is aimed at the ipod Nano/shuffle market of gym dwellers, runners, and hikers/outdoor types. The size and weight of this unit is roughly ½ that of the larger two players. It comes with a strap for wearing the unit on an arm and the case doubles as a belt clip. The shortcomings of the M1 are intended trade-offs in order to achieve this size/weight ratio. With all portable players, battery life is a key issue and the smaller the unit, the larger the issue becomes. The M1 sports a 950mAh battery which when measured on my discharge tester was nearly exactly as specified. With such a small power reserve to work from, the M1 must be as efficient as possible and does a good job of divvying out power in a way to make the unit last nearly 8 hours on a charge if the display is only used sporadically and Bluetooth is disabled. Using Bluetooth does decrease the longevity of the battery to closer to 7 hours which is still very good. Output is good with low impedance/high sensitivity earphones, but as impedance rises or efficiency drops, the M1 becomes less and less useful. The specs list output as 35mW@32ohm which means that anything over 32ohm is probably going to feel underpowered when run off the M1.

Use cases for the M1

Put simply, if you are looking for a DAP you can slip in a pocket and forget, the M1 is for you. If you are a backpacker or hiker and are concerned about weight but want to take your music with you, the M1 and a pair of iems makes for a ¼ pound combo.

Fir use at the Gym, while running, or while out pursuing other outdoor activities, the M1 is an extremely compact package that makes it nearly perfect.

If you intend to use Bluetooth headphones, the M1 also makes a great choice since it’s size and battery life make it fantastic for dropping in a pocket and heading out for the day.

For non-head-fi types, the M1 makes a good first dap as the limitations (lack of full DSD support, and limited output power) are not likely to come into play with most consumer level headphones or common mp3/Aac files.

If none of these options are your use-case, read on.

The other end of the Rainbow – The M3s.

If the M1 is a the cut all corners to save weight and cut size gym use model, the M3s is the no-holds barred audiophile model. Sporting dual DAC chips and OPamps, 32/384 resolution, DSD 256 support with an 11.2mhz clock for DSD, balanced output, and specs to be proud of for both distortion and SNR, the only things the M3s seems to have in common with the M0 are a similar set of physical controls, and a familiar UI. About the only feature distinctly lacking on the M3s is support for Dual micro-SD cards which is commonly found in players at this price point. (Even Shanling’s flagship M5 does not have dual card support and actually says it is limited to 128gb card size although personal experience suggests otherwise.)

The M3s aims squarely at the likes of the Opus #1s, the Fiio X7ii, the Cayin N5ii, Cowon Plenue P, the pioneer/Onkyo DAP, and the AK 70. To say the market is crowded at this price point is an understatement, so how does one compete? For some (Opus) the answer is to focus on one aspect and make it the best it can be. For most others, it is to pack absolutely as many features as possible into the box and hope that one of those features is the thing that tips the scale in their favor. The M3s takes the later road and packs, Bi-directional Bluetooth with all the bells and whistles (Apt-X), HibyLink so the player can be remotely controlled, USB DAC mode for use connected to a computer or phone, digital filters in addition to a customizable EQ, along with the previously mentioned dual mono signal paths and both single ended and balanced outputs.

In order to run all this circuitry, the M3s steps up to a 2600mAh battery which measures 2430mAh on my discharge test. This is enough to provide a full day’s use (12 hours on single ended, nearly 10 hours using Bluetooth, and 7.5 hours using balanced output). By all accounts, this is among the best in class as it outlasted the Plenue, Opus, and Cayin N5 on single ended playback and bettered the Opus and AK on balanced. The only players that bettered the battery life of the M3s in my tests were those with a single DAC chip and it certainly seems reasonable that when you have ½ the circuitry to power, you should be able to make the battery last longer.

The sound of the m3s is very good but shows some of the natural leanings of the DAC chip used. In recent years AK’s premium line has been called the “Velvet Sound” series and I think that is a good description of it. The AK4490 is very musical at the expense of masking some of the micro-detail. The M3s has good bass extension with slightly forward bass that extends into the mid-bass range, mids are thinner than the bass and highs are again slightly forward. Treble extension, while good, is not quite as well extended or controlled as the Opus #1s. The good news is the M3s is capable of excellent reproduction when fed good source material and still be forgiving of poor sources. Considering the fact that many will pair the M3s with streaming audio sources (Tidal, Spotify) this makes a good compromise. The downside of the M3s tuning is, smooth musical rendering can hide detail which is most evident in the already slightly thin mids.

The next thing to look at with the M3s is which earphones to pair it with. The Output power of the M3s is nearly 4x that of the M1 in singled ended mode (35mW vs 130mW) and nearly double that again when using balanced (230mW) (All of these ratings are at 32ohm). I had no trouble driving headphones up to 150ohm using the single ended output and was able to drive some 600ohm Beyer’s using the balanced out. At 600ohm, you are not going to get very much volume out of the M3s to be sure, but not many people use 600ohm headphones while on the go anyway. When paired with either iems or portable headphones, the m3s has no trouble getting volumes to realistic listening levels with plenty of headroom to really crank the volume for those who want to rock out.

Use Cases for the M3s:

1.) Looking for portable DAP for DSD (up to and including DSD256) or 32/384 playback, this is one of the few that has the specs to really handle it while still retaining enough output power to run larger headphones.

2.) If you are looking for a dap that offers the ability to tether your phone and stream music from your favorite services, the M3s offers both Bluetooth and wired options.

3.) If you want to be able to use your DAP as a transport for an external DAC (either Bluetooth or Line out) or if you want to do the opposite and use the M3s as a DAC for you USB capable source, you have both options.

4.) If you are looking for a DAP with balanced output to offer additional power to higher impedance or lower sensitivity earphones that need that bit of extra push the M3s offers balanced output with enough power to run hungry cans and enough battery to last a full workday.

Middle Ground – the M2s

Some people will have read to this point and realized that at different times of day, they fit into both the M1 and the M3s use case. While you could always purchase both if your budget will allow, there is another option that while a compromise, gives you most of the features of both the m1 and the M3s in a single device.

The M2s is exactly in between the M1 and M3s in dimensions and very close to the midway point in weight although it leans more toward the m3s in feature set and battery capacity. The M2s uses the same chip as the M3s but instead of using one per channel, the M2s uses a single 4490 to handle both channels thus saving 50% of the circuitry. This allows for a 1800mAh battery while maintaining an 8-hour battery life. The M2s shares the ability to use it as a DAC with your USB source, or as a source for your USB DAC. It will also tether to a phone via Bluetooth and allow the use of your favorite streaming sources. Output power is the same as the Single-ended output of the m3s. The M2s does not have the balanced output of its bigger brother but for many that will be a non-event as most headphones come wired for single-ended. The M2s has more than enough output power for most in-ears and portable headphones up to 150ohm. Above 150ohm, the output begins to drop in volume and while still usable, it will be limited. Above 300ohms, the m2s begins to struggle to produce enough volume to be listenable. A lot will depend on how efficient the headphone or earphone used is, but it is worth noting that for high impedance/low sensitivity cans, one should try the m2s first before assuming it will have adequate power to run your cans at a comfortable listening level.

Use Cases for the M2:

1.) If you have a need for a DAP with good sound quality for use with Single Ended earphones.

2.) If you want to stream media from your phone and let the DAP do the work of decoding and save your phones battery.

3.) If you want a DAP you can use as a source with USB DACs or if you want to use your DAP as the USB DAC with another USB source.


I had mixed emotions about the M2s as this was the one of the three players I hadn’t owned previously. My thinking going into this review was: I questioned whether the $79 price difference between the M2s and M3s was enough to be worth losing the 2nd DAC and the balanced output. After using both players for 10 days, I can say conclusively that I made the right decision for me by purchasing the M3s. On the other hand, if you have a limited budget, the M2s makes a very good all-around player with a lot of capability and premium build quality. The $200 DAP market has gotten very competitive and while I can’t say the m2s is the only player one should consider, I can certainly say it deserves a spot amongst the top 3 I have had the opportunity to try at or near the $200 price point.

I could find a reason to buy all three of the Shanling Players and actually have purchased 2 of the 3 already. The M1 is about perfect for a pocket player when combined with any easy to drive IEM. For a combined price of sub-$200 for the M1, the case and something like the KZ-Zsr it would make a good gift idea for those new to audio. This combination may well end up in a few stockings come this winter. For my office DAP, I could be happy with either of the larger two depending on budget constraints. At the top end, the M3s is competitive with the sound quality of the likes of the Opus #1s, the AK70, and the Cowon Plenue which puts it in very good company.

While the three players may not be interchangeable and some fit specific uses better than others, it is hard to imagine a use case for which one of the three is not a top-flight competitor. Knowing that even as I type this Shanling has introduced and even smaller and touch screen M0, I can only surmise that the next generation of DAPs from Shanling will likely all incorporate the changes found in the M0 in the next generation of their higher-end products and continue to improve an already very solid line. If you haven’t yet, you should check out Shanling, chances are pretty good they build something that will make you smile.

CHIPS and DIP (Sockets that is). (Notes an DAC Families)

I spent some time AB testing the M3s vs some other DAPs in the same general price range. It seems that three chip families define the market at this price point; The Sabre series (9018/9023/9028), the Cirrus Logic (4398 and 43198), and the AK (4490,4490EQ,4495). All three families are very capable and while I think that implementation is far more important in the overall sound produced by the DAP than which chip is used, chip families due tend to have a house sound or tuning that tends to be visible in most of the products sporting the chip. I want to admit right up front, input quality, input processing, clock quality, and analog stages have a lot to do with sound and implementation is more critical than which chip is used in creating a quality product. Those other components may either enhance or mask the natural tendencies of the DAC making it harder to pick out which family is in use but with more samples of products with each chip, certain qualities do begin to show through.

AK (4490)– Good bass extension but slightly forward bass that extends into the mid-bass range, thinner mids, followed by slightly forward highs. Treble extension, while good, is not quite as well extended or controlled as the Sabre line. AK calls the line the Velvet Sound and I think this is a good description as when I think of velvet, I think smooth. The AKM series in general produces a very musical signature and is more forgiving of source material than either of the other families. The downside of the AKM tuning is, smooth musical rendering can hide detail and does especially when it is combined with the slightly thinned mids. For me, as a devote of blues-rock, guitar detail is all important and the AKM can sometimes mask it.

Sabre (9023) – Very accurate and clinical at the expense of being the most digital sounding of the three. If AK went for the “Velvet” signature, Sabre went with “technical”. Where AK went with natural, almost tube sounding filters, the Sabre series went for absolute precision sometimes at the expense of musicality. The Sabre series tends to have the brightest sound of the three families partially because it also has the best treble extension of the three (at times by a pronounced margin). The lows and mids of the Sabre series tend to be closer to neutral than the AKM series and slightly thinner.

Cirrus Logic (43198)– The CS chips tend to be a little closer to the Sabre than the AK in that they are slightly bass light with neutral mids and well extended highs. They are a bit thicker and fuller than the Sabre while still maintaining a clean sound and more detail than present in the AK chip. The CS provides a balance between the other two chips that offers some of the technical micro-detail of the Sabre while maintaining some of the musicality and natural tonality of the AK.

Again, these are the ramblings of an old fool so your mileage may vary.
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Pros: Incredibly versatile functionality
Cons: No Bluetooth AAC support and clunky Line Out mode
TL/DR: Best in class


As this is my first review, the background segment seems like the most pertinent in order to judge credibility, so here goes. (no pressure, no pressure) OK...

I've played music since I was a little kid (but almost all of it self-taught, so not the most technical) and my weapon of choice (since my late teenage years) is the (acoustic) guitar. So my musical tastes have centred around that instrument for the longest time. So when somebody asks me 'What kind of music do you like?' I'd be like 'Anything with guitar, mate' and heavily influenced by what I'm playing at the time. So this would basically cover everything except EDM, hip hop etc. though I'm partial to a bit of quality 90s hip hop, which shows my age but I digress...

My first venture into this world was the Fiio E7 and the Westone UM2. They were both great but the E7 died after a very good innings and the UM2 was rendered unusable when I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and discovered what cauliflower ears were! Since then, I've been cornered off to the circumaural section of this forum. My DAP genealogy would be:

IPod 5.5g (deceased)
Fiio x3 1st gen (flogged off)
Fiio x3 2nd gen (thinking of selling)
XDuoo x3 (retuned)
Shanling M1 (flogged off)
Onkyo Granbeat (keeping for now)
Shanling M2s (obviously)
Chord Mojo (although not strictly a DAP at all)

My current headphone stable:

Hifiman HE-400i

AKG K712

Sennheiser HD380 pro (w/ Ablet sheepskin ear pads)

(Koss Porta Pro)

I will mostly be comparing this to the Shanling M1 (it’s little brother) and the Fiio X3ii (it’s direct competitor, prior to the release of X3iii) as I believe it to be the fairest reference point. Comparing it to anything else I own/used would be an ‘apples to oranges’ type of situation. I did wait at least six months to review this because I wanted to be sure to make the distinction between liveable minor little niggles and actual annoyances. Also, with a lot of these products, the software takes time to mature and a lot of the initial gripes will have been ironed out with firmware updates. With FW3.1 update, a lot of the niggles have been ironed out – so well done Shanling. So let’s get on with the show, starting with….


Unfortunately, I had already sold the M1 by the time this model was released so I couldn’t make a direct comparison but if memory serves, it is in line with the house sound from Shanling. A touch on the warm side but nothing drastic (obviously). A laid back sound that’s very easy on the ears, perfect for casual listening on the go. The X3ii is a little colder in comparison – but I’m splitting hairs here. Not much in it but when pushed for a difference, that’s what I’ll say. Given that it’s a small, portable device and my ‘out and about’ headphones (HD380) have a bias towards bass, sonically, the X3ii is a better match but that’s only with MY headphones. Your mileage will probably vary greatly. Again, splitting hairs. They’re not bad with either the K712 or HE-400i and I have absolutely no problems or issues with it, but I have the Mojo and my desktop rig for those cans so to me, analysing the pairings would be a bit of a wasted exercise.

Form Factor

Although it is larger than the M1, I think it’s only larger in one dimension – length. This is all going from memory (sorry, I can’t be bothered the look it up) but the thickness and width seems to be same or very similar. It is noticeably smaller than the X3ii and settles in the pocket that much better. But more importantly, it stacks with the Mojo beautifully. Better than either the M1 or the X3ii. This really is the weapon of choice when it comes to pairing with the almighty Mojo as a stack.

Ergonomically, it is an improvement over the M1, in my opinion. I’m sure a lot of you will disagree with me, but I prefer this sticky-outy dial on the side to the one found on the rounded corner of the M1 – Particularly when pressing ‘select’. I feel more assurance when pressing the M2s dial, that it won’t jog the dial during the press. Having said that, it is a little awkward to actually jog the dial when using one-handed. It really isn’t an issue once you figure out you hand placement. I guess it also helps that I have quite dainty hands. The additional size also helps it settle into the hand a little better than the M1. Square really isn’t a comfortable shape to hold. The proprietary ‘leather’ case helps against accidental input on the dial since the dial ‘sticks out less’ but the cut-outs for the buttons on the left were very cramped and was very difficult to press without very careful angling of the fingers. But it’s nothing a little dremel-ing couldn’t fix!

Obviously, the large iPod-style ‘click wheel’ of the X3ii is a far superior navigation system that has been tried and tested for well over a decade (thank you Apple) compared to the little jog dial on the side found on the M2s, but when adding the screen size into the consideration, it all becomes a little more complex. Having had enough time to really live with it, I think I prefer the (much) larger screen over the larger click-wheel. The jog dial really isn’t the issue I first imagined it would be. Again, it might just be because I have small hands. The X3ii is also a noticeably larger and heavier device. I believe that the size and weight (i.e. portability) is a very important factor to consider for a PORTABLE device. In this department, M2s wins hands down.


What can I say, there’s not a lot this little bad boy can’t do! The features list on this thing is staggering. To begin with, the screen on this device is gorgeous. Apart from the fact that it’s not a touchscreen, it really is on par with decent smartphones. Even the small text is clearly visible without pixilation and the album art is better represented than most dedicated DAPs out there. Certainly the best I’ve seen in this bracket. It handles all the formats I could throw at it. Admittedly, most of what I have is either FLAC, ALAC or AAC with a few DSDs so it’s pretty bog standard. I did try Vorbis and (more recently) Opus for a bubble and can confirm that it works. USB works for both TX and RX (Transport and External DAC) and works without a hitch. On Windows, with the relevant driver installed, it works on both ASIO and WASAPI without issues. Although it probably deserves to be mentioned that at the start of playback, there is a little blank before the sound kicks in so you do miss out on the first second or so of music but unlike the Mojo, it won’t happen every time you change tracks so you can rewind again if you really want to hear that 1st second.

It probably works best as a transport and stacks with the Chord Mojo beautifully. I’m sure the little elves at Shanling had the Mojo in mind when deciding on the dimensions and button placement of the M2s. The controls of the M2s is still very much accessible when stacked and having that lovely screen facing you with the glow of the Mojo’s globes softly filling the background gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. The later addition of HibyLink was an added bonus. It opened up the door to a whole new level of convenience.

It also has full OTG support, meaning you can extend the storage beyond the one MicroSD slot provided on the side with just about any medium of storage via USB. I can confirm that both my 512GB memory stick (yes, you read that right) and my 2TB HDD (with Y splitter for extra power) are recognised by the M2s and can play music from them with no issues. This is a feature that had very limited support from Fiio for the X3ii and later dropped all together, much to my dismay.

As an experiment when bored, I hooked up the M2s to a powered USB hub with the Mojo and my music library (an external HDD) and it worked surprisingly well. I was able to access my entire music collection through the Mojo without the use of a computer or a network. If only HibyLink had access to OTG, this would render Foobar2000 pretty much redundant (not really) if its only use was for playback. One can only wish.

HibyLink was a surprise feature I was not expecting when I first bought the device. It was an additional feature that was introduced in one of the many firmware updates. It allows the interface to be controlled by your smartphone (or tablet) via Bluetooth connection and allows extra features like playlist creation. Unfortunately, the official iOS version is a little ropey but is fairly robust on the Android version. As mentioned earlier, does not allow access to OTG. Hopefully this will be rectified by Hiby soon.

The Bluetooth also works as a transmitter and receiver. Unfortunately, as a receiver, it only accepts SBC. I understand it to be a hardware limitation and seems in line with similar products. It can transmit AptX no problem to any compatible headphones or receiver. The real caveat here is that there is no native AAC support via Bluetooth. It has been confirmed by Shanling so it’s official. There is AptX so it’s not a deal breaker but since all my lossy files are AAC, it would have been nice. Very nice. Oh well, such is life…

The Line Out mode can be enabled from the settings menu but I never use it for the fear of blowing my ears off when I plug the headphones back in. This is the only true gripe I have with this device and is where the Fiio Xii has a true edge over the M2s. The X3ii has a dedicated Line Out port as opposed to the M2s that shares the Headphone 3.5mm socket for its Line Out. It wouldn’t be so bad if the Line Out mode was disabled once 3.5mm jack was unplugged to potentially save your ears and/or sensitive IEMs. Maybe in a future FW update… Also, AFAIK the Line Out function here is just the volume set to full power, and not bypassing the amp section. This is yet to be confirmed by Shanling.


Shanling really has outdone themselves on this one. It’s the best in class in my opinion – at the time of writing, of course. No other DAP in its price range compares in terms of value, functionality, ease of use and aesthetics. The main problem I have with this DAP is the fact that it can do SO much, that I start to expect it to do everything. I have to remind myself that this is a small, budget DAP that’s under £200. If it had AAC support for Bluetooth and OTG for HibyLink, this thing would be perfect. But I guess it’s my fault for seeking perfection from such a device. Shame on me.
Pros: Nice build, small and lightweight, great battery and memory capacity, very neutral sound, respectably powerful, type c connector.
Cons: Selector knob needs a sensitivity adjustment, unable to quickly scroll from i.e. A straight to i.e. R,

Of the three DAP’s I received as a part of this tour, the M2s is the one I was personally most excited about. You see, two years ago I was actually able to review the original M2 model so I’m quite interested to see what Shanling has changed.

A little about me

I would like to say that first and foremost I am NOT an “audiophile” but rather an audio enthusiast. I listen to music to enjoy it. Do I prefer a lossless source? Yes, of course. But I can still be very happy streaming from Pandora or even my YouTube “My Mix” playlist. I also prefer equipment that sounds the best to me personally regardless of what frequency response it has or rather or not it's “sonically accurate” and I always have and shall continue to encourage others to do the same.

I'm a 26 year old firefighter, for the City of Concord, North Carolina as well as the U.S. Army North Carolina National Guard. The cliché of wanting to do this since I was born couldn't be more present with me. I've worked hard over the last several years to earn this position and now it's time for me to work even harder to keep it.

My interests/hobbies are powerlifting, fishing and relaxing to audio products and reviewing them to help other decide on what products would work for them. Few things make me as an audio enthusiast/review feel more accomplished than when someone tells me that I helped them find the type of sound they've always been looking for.

Now, the sound signature I personally favor is a relaxing, warm and sensual sound that just drifts me away in the emotional experience of the music being performed. Yes, accuracy is still important but I will happily sacrifice some of that if I'm presented with a clean, warm sound that can wisp me away into an experience that makes me yearn for more.

My ideal signature are that of respectably forward mids and upper bass range with the bass being controlled but with some slight decay. I like my treble to have nice extension and detail reveal with a smooth roll off up top as to not become harsh in the least. Examples of products that have given me chills and keep giving me the yearning for more feels are the (in no particular order) Bowers & Wilkins P7, Oppo PM-1/2, Empire Ears Hermes VI & Zeus XIV, Audeze LCD-XC, Meze Headphones 99 Classics.

Equipment used at least some point during the review


-iFi Nano iDSD Black Label




-Amiron Home


I am by no means sponsored by this company or any of its affiliates. They were kind enough to send me a product for an arranged amount of time in exchange for my honest opinion. I am making no monetary compensation for this review.

The following is my take on the product being reviewed. It is to be taken “with a grain of salt” per say and as I always tell people, it is YOUR opinion that matters. So regardless of my take or view on said product, I highly recommend you listen to it yourself and gauge your own opinion.

The Opening Experience


Why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience

Please allow me to explain why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience with a product. Maybe it’s due to my southern roots in the hills of eastern Kentucky, but I’ve always been raised under the pretense of when you introduce yourself to someone for the first time you present yourself with confidence, class, character, pride, and competence. You greet the other person with a true warm smile, eye contact and a firm handshake. Anything less or short implies to other person that you either don’t care about them, are too full of yourself, too busy to be bothered by the likes of them, or worse, just generally disrespectful.

As a consumer, I take this same belief to when I open a new product. Why? Because think about it this way. How else can a company introduce themselves to their customers? How do they present their products? Are they packaged with pride and presented in such a way that makes the listener eager to listen to them? Or maybe they’re just wrapped up and placed in an available space. How about the box itself? Is it bogged down with jargon that says look at this, look what I can do. I’m better than anything on the market and here’s why read this and check out that. Or, is the package clean, simplistic and classy? As if saying to the customer ‘Good day, pleasure to meet your acquaintance. Please give me a listen and allow me to show you what I can do and allow my actions to speak louder than my words.’

This is why I feel so strongly about the initial presentation of a product, and I feel it’s truly a shame more people don’t. But with all that aside, let’s discuss how this products introduced itself shall we?

The handshake I received from the Shanling M2 was pretty nice I will say. Shanling kept the packaging beautifully simple, and IMO, professional. The front only shows an outline of the M2s DAP while the sides only have the Shanling name or their logo. The back does have what I feel is an unnecessary bit of writing that could’ve been placed on the inside pamphlet but I do understand why they feel they needed to add it, and even still, Shanling put the writing in a classy way that really gives the viewer a feeling of premium quality.

As you open the box you’re greeted with a brief manual and the Shanling M2s DAP presented centered and recessed inside a cut out foam. This is the same as the original M2 as well as their M3s DAP and I really personally enjoy this consistency, it let’s me know what to expect with them. Under the dap’s holder is the type C charging cable, owners manual and warranty guide, and two sets of screen protectors.

A fairly straight forward unboxing but one that I really respect, especially for a DAP in this price range (+-$200). So for what it’s worth, well done Shanling, I feel like you’ve given me a firm handshake and respect and appreciate me as a customer.



The build quality of the M2s is very nice. Shanling has maintained the aluminum body they had on the original M2 but instead of the carbon fiber back it’s now a glass casing over the back. I’m impartial to this change. I liked the carbon fiber look of the original but the new glassy back looks just as nice.

The overall construction of the M2s is very similar to that of its bigger brother the M3s. The power button is on the top of the unit and as you look to the left side you’ll find the track previous, play/pause, track forward, and the micro SD card slot that hold up to 256gb. The right side has the selector rotator knob as well as the go back button. And the bottom has the type C charging port and a 3.5mm aux port.


Shanling has definitely stepped up their game with the M2s. The M2s has bluetooth 4 w/ apt. X which allows you do connect the M2s to wireless speakers, headphones, etc… and with the HiBy Link Wireless (and connected application) you can control the M2s completely with your phone. This sounds like a really cool feature and to disclaim I did not personally try this feature, but I also personally don’t feel it’s a really needed feature either. I can just as easily pull out the M2s as I can my phone. A feature it does possess that I do really enjoy is the ability for it do be utilized as a USB interface for an external combi unit (amp/dac).


Again I find the Shanling M2s being consistent with the rest of its line up (sub M5 only due to me not yet being able to listen to is during my time of writing this review). The M2s has a very neutral sound that, to my ears, didn’t offer any coloration to the audio being played. And this little guy can power pretty strong headphones. As I’m writing this I’m listening to the Beyerdynamic T1 second generation and it’s powering it fairly nicely (in terms of volume it’s able to drive it well above what I find comfortable listening levels) but it also handles lower impedance headphones perfectly fine as well (I was unable to test my super sensitive Empire Ears ciems but do the M2s not offering a 2.5mm balanced port [not an issue for me though]).

I do still find the UI a little bothersome. From my original review, my biggest quarrel was that if you’re browsing through your music and say you want a song in the S’ you can’t quite remember the name or the artist but you’ll know it when you see it, it takes quite a long time to scroll all the way down to the letter you’re wanting. I can’t put much blame on Shanling though because this is an annoyance I have with MANY other dap’s, even of MUCH higher price points.

Ending on a high note. Like the more expensive M3s, the M2s also has a wonderful amount of volume control settings. As I said in my M3s review, when I’m getting myself in the sleep mood, my ears get much more sensitive and I can hardly listen to much on anything but a speaker because my phone by itself just can’t go low enough which is unfortunate because I’d rather listen with c/iems as to not wake up my wife as well. Thankfully the M2s answers this issue I have and I’m able to turn this down to the perfect level of softness and still maintain all the detail it gives at higher volumes.



*......There's always a piece of Phoenix fur...always*

My final thoughts on the $200(ish) Shanling M2s is that for its price, it’s a great DAP. There’s ample amount of features and its build quality is on par with products costing much more, including in its own family. It can respectively drive every headphone I’ve tried with it as loudly, or as softly, as I’d want it to go. Yes there’s some more headphone potential off of a desktop setup or amp with more power output but for its consumer friendly price, I think Shanling did a fantastic job with their M2s.

Also, make sure to check out my unboxing and review videos. They’re pretty awesome AND you getta put a face to the Army-Firedawg name. If this review helped you out at all please hit that thumbs up button for it really helps me out a lot. Till next time my friends, stay safe.
Pros: Excellent sound and synergy with Meze 99Neo, Great soundstage, easy user interface, great ergonomics
Cons: cuts off beginning of track after initial turn on.
Shanling M2s:
Easy, Peasy, Sweet, and Breezy. And Sounds great too!

I opened the box, grabbed the M2s, checked to see that it was charged, and slapped in a card and my 99Neo headphones, and hit play. Easy, peasy, sweet, and breezy… Mother of all machines! Does this thing sound great!

Let me back up a bit.

I was selected to be a part of the Shanling Hi-Res Portable Players Review Tour. Shanling provided a travelling kit of M1/M2s/M3s Hi-Res DAPs as short term loaners for the purpose of evaluation and review. With 10 days to play around with, Shanling knew that people couldn’t possibly take a deep dive into all 3 DAPs. So they suggested picking one and focusing on it. I chose the M2s.

Thank very much to Shanling for choosing me to be part of the tour. As things tend to happen in a busy, modern life, the review kit showed up at the absolutely worst time. I was recovering from a nasty bug that kept me in bed for the previous two days, and the family was set to leave the next day for the four day weekend to attend a Hockey tournament with my Son’s travel team. Thursday night before we left, I received the package from @reginalb. But all I was able do was notice that a brown box arrived and go back to bed.

Initial Impressions:
On Friday morning, I opened the box and grabbed the M2s, like I said above, and stowed it away for the trip. I was immediately struck by the fun sound upon a quick listen, but had to wait a little while to feed my musical hunger.

On the drive to the Northern Virginia/DC Metro area, I was able to pick up the M2s and my Trinity Icarus III iem. I listened to some of my test tracks. Everything was offered up in an EXTREMELY fun presentation. The Santa Esmeralda cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” was a standout of the trip. I could not quit smiling through that whole song. And it is a loooong one. After a bit, I threw on some JJ Grey and Mofro and listened to that until we got to DC. That was about all the listening I was able to do on the trip. So I had to wait until we returned home to dig into the inner workings of the M2s.

What’s in the Box?

The fine folks at Shanling sent along a box full of goodies on top of the 3 DAPs. Here’s what was in the box Detective Mills:
M1 - with all accessories
M1 case with 2 armbands
M2s - with all accessories
M2s case
M3s - with all accessories
M3s - case
L2 - Usb C to Usb micro cable

- All 3 of the M series DAPs accessories include the following:
USB A to USB C cable
USB A to TF Card reader (mini unit with cap over the USB A end)
Little pointy poker thing
4 protection screens
Warranty card
In addition, the M3s includes a tiny "Hi-Res Audio sticker" (In addition to the one installed on the front of the M3s)

How does the M2s Sound?

One of the most important things to me in a DAP is gapless. Who wants to hear breaks in the middle of any Pink Floyd album? Certainly not me! Well, Dark side of the Moon sounds so spacious and lush with the Neo 99. Gapless works perfectly. Again, to state that this is a FUN player, I ended up listening through two whole Pink Floyd albums before I even noticed the time passing.

Nick Cave and the Cayin N3 vs Shanling M2s:
Listening to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Henry’s Dream, Nick and the band have wonderful timbre that makes your skin crawl. (If you have listened to Nick, you know what I mean.) Nick has a wonderful low male-vocal growl. The dynamics range from quiet whispering and light guitar strums to straight up, in your face cacophony.

When comparing the Cayin N3 to the Shanling M2s, I feel like the Shanling has fuller body and wider soundstage. The Shanling M2s seems to immerse me more fully inside the song with more happening all around. I find the Shandling presentation to be more engaging and fun. Cayin N3 is definitely more forward and close. My personal preference is for the Shanling wider and more enveloping sound. I was able to test both with the song “Christina the Astonishing” using 2 sets of Meze 99Neo and listening to passages back and forth. Both units have the filter set to short-sharp. I find that I like the presentation of the Shanling M2s over the Cayin N3.

Listening to “Do You Love Me” from Nick Cave’s - Let Love In album, I can hear all the different instruments and vocals clearly. It sounds like I’m sitting in the middle of a large cathedral with a lovely reverberation off the walls and floor. (If anyone has had a chance to see a show at “The Tabernacle” in Atlanta, it is that kind of sound. The Tabernacle is an old church converted to a concert venue with old wood floors and vaulted ceiling. I was lucky enough to see Tool at the Tabernacle in 2005. My all time best sounding/favorite show ever.) Listening to this song with the Meze 99Neo reminds me of that venue.

One of my favorite Nick Cave tunes, “Red Right Hand” is an absolute revelation on the M2s/99Neo combination. I listened to it 3 times in a row. And probably another ten times throughout the evaluation of the Shanling products.

Beginning of tracks are cut-off: But not a big deal
One consistent issue that I AM NOT a big fan of, is the fact that when you start playing the DAP, the first half second or so of the file is cut off. It has been mentioned before in the Shanling threads, so this is not a big surprise. But it is annoying. Hopefully this is something that can be fixed with a firmware upgrade that will allow the M2s to buffer the beginning of songs for a seamless start. And upon further testing, I believe that this is a power-up issue. As I played it more and more, I don’t think it happened when I jumped to other albums within the folder structure. So that makes it even less of a concern.

EDIT: Shanling read my review and replied with this info 01.29.2018:
“Cut off - happens only on very first playback after you turn on device, it doesn't cut anything when you change songs, albums, folders, etc...”

M2s vs RSA Intruder:
After re-charging the M2s, I tested it with the Ray Samuels Audio Intruder DAC/AMP via usb-out. The DAC of the Intruder will only accept 16/44 files. This is perfectly fine by me, since I only have 3 or 4 albums that are higher bit rate than the 16/44. With the 99Neo, I set up the M2s on 60 low gain, and the RSA Intruder on 11:00 or 11:30 on the volume pot. While switching back and forth between the M2s using headphone out, and the Intruder with USB Input and single end out. I feel like the M2s has a slightly larger and holographic image. The width seems the same, but the height seems greater on the M2s than on the Intruder.

The Intruder has been my favorite and constant companion for many, many years. I have used it with my iPod touch via line out dock, the iBasso DX50 with Line out, the Cayin N3 via usb out. Through my audio journey, it has been the sound that I compare everything to. Recently the Cayin N3 via USB to the Intruder has been my favorite. (Yes. I know that I’m only using the N3 as digital transport in this setup.) The M2s is the first time I’ve found something that I may enjoy the same or more as the Intruder. I really like the vaulting sound of the M2s.

Listening to the beginning of Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand” again, you can really hear the tolling of the bell that starts the track. Then the lighting of the cigarette, inhalation of breath to get the cigarette’s cherry burning, then the echo on the snap of the lighter. The sound pans back and forth between the left and right. This presentation really envelops me and makes me the center of the song. I can really feel the creepy intentions of the song and the sense of unease that they want you to experience. I feel like I’m watching a horror movie and the camera is just close enough to see up/down/left/right, but you know something is lurking just outside the camera’s view and is going to jump out at you. That is how I feel listening to “Red Right Hand” with the Shanling M2s and the 99Neo.

Help from Chesney:
Listening to two Demo Discs from Chesney I am getting a better grasp on soundstage depth, height, and imaging. I used to think that I was incapable of discerning soundstage. I found out that I have just been listening to the wrong equipment. With the help of the Audiogon Headphone Experience and The Ultimate Demonstration Disc, I can hear the depth and height of the bells as they raise from 1 foot to 8 feet. On the Sara K track playing live in the studio, you can feel the intimate quality of her voice while pinpointing the other instruments in the room. The Livingston Taylor – Grandma’s hands is simply sublime, and Ana Caram – Corenteza recording sounds exquisite from the church it was recorded in.

With the M2s, I’m able to identify height better than I have with any other components. Previously, with the N3>Intruder package, I experienced great depth and width. The M2s adds height for me. Thank you Shanling.

M2s vs M1
I wanted to take a few minutes and try out the other offerings by Shanling. I grabbed the M1 and checked it out vs the M2s. Trying out Nick Cave again, “Red Right Hand” on the M1 doesn’t have the same heft to it that the M2s has. The M2s seems to have just slightly more cubic volume than the M1.

M2s vs M3s
Trying out the M2s vs the M3s, I immediately noticed how much heavier the M3s is. It feels very solid in your hands. I popped in a Micro SD card and the M3s started scanning. The M1 and M2s didn’t start an auto-scan. I use the Library folder, so I didn’t bother to scan on the M2s and M1. It is no big deal, but something I noted.

Shanling read my review and replied with this info 01.29.2018:
“Scanning when SD card is inserted - this can be set up in settings, if you want player to do automatic scan or not. Apparently somebody set up M3s differently than other two players”

“Red Right Hand” on the M3s has a similar presentation as the M2s. The M3s seems to have that slight bump in soundstage, imaging, clarity over the M2s. It feels like there is a step up the same way there was a step up from the M1 to the M2s.

Then again this may just be psycho-acoustics. I need to get a SPL meter so I can start level matching everything. My level match is done by ear. But I will say that the M3s does sound very, very nice. I don’t have a 2.5mm balanced cable, so I won’t comment on the balanced output of the M3s.

My personal preference is for M2s due to ergonomics and sound. I believe that the M2s has the best size and sound for me. I don’t think I would miss out on anything if I chose an M2s over the M3s.

Moving over to Concrete Blonde – “Dance Along the Edge” from their self titled album, the M3s sounds simply glorious. I’m going to say, again, that the Meze 99Neo has some serious synergy with the Shanling DAPs. Johnette Napolitano’s bass lines are deep, full, and impactful to match her rich voice and James Mankey’s crunchy guitar.

About me and my music:
I almost forgot to mention my baseline. All of my music is FLAC Level 5 16/44 ripped from my own CDs with dB PowerAmp and verification. I did listen to the 96kHz Jethro Tull – Aqualung Steven Wilson remaster. I listen to Rock, blues, Classic Rock, Heavy Metal. No classical, Jazz (except for the Chesney tracks), EDM, Hip-Hop, etc. I just turned 49 years old and think I have decent hearing. I feel that reviews should have music specified, and that is why in each section, I mention the artist and songs I’m listening to at that time to make that evaluation. I tend to really enjoy closed back headphones and iem. As always, this is my impression and YMMV, To each his own, etc.

As I’ve been writing up this review, I’ve listened to my test tracks again, and now I’m listening to the High Rez Jethro Tull – Aqualung (Steven Wilson Remaster). One of my favorite albums, and simply a wonder on the M2s with the Meze 99Neo. My conclusion is that I really, really like the M2s. I am a big fan of separates, but this is the first stand alone DAP I have used where I don’t feel the need for the Intruder. The M2s and the 99Neo have great synergy together. I’m going to stop writing and just listen. Enjoy…
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It does sound awesome doesn't it!! Super happy to hear that you like it, and great review over all I too love the Demo discs from Chesky Records, I use Four Surround Voices alongside Drum & Bell around the mic most often myself alongside the shaker test from the Headphone disc and Spanish Harlem from their Ultimate Demo Disc.
Really nice review! To two points:

Cut off - happens only on very first playback after you turn on device, it doesn't cut anything when you change songs, albums, folders, etc...

Scanning when SD card is inserted - this can be set up in settings, if you want player to do automatic scan or not. Apparently somebody set up M3s differently than other two players
DrSHP is the line out put?
When you set the out put on line for use with external amp,and then poweing the player off,is it maintain its setting or going back to headphone out put?
Pros: Amazing Portability, Great Sound, Excellent Ergonomics, Strong Software Support, Good Sound Quality, Fair Price, Good Overall Performance
Cons: Battery Life Could Be A Bit Longer
Shanling M2s - Ultra-Portable Versatility

Shanling brings the smallest device we've ever seen to our table, with promises of an awesome sound, along with a lot of features. In this review we'll explore how much a device this small can do.


Shanling is a huge company from China, well-known for their portable devices, as well as desktop Amps, DACs, Power Conditioners and many other devices, which are quite loved within the Chinese and the Asian Market. They recently started selling their awesome products outside of China, and Shanling M2s is one of their latest introductions, an ultra-portable DAP with a lot of power backing it.

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Shanling, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by Shanling or any other company. I'd like to thank Frankie from Shanling for providing the sample for the review. The sample was provided along with Shanling's request for an honest and unbiased review. This review will be as objective as it is humanly possible, and it reflects my personal experience with Shanling M2s. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Shanling M2s find their next music companion.

About me

First Impression

It was a very interesting day when I received Shanling M2s. It arrived late in the afternoon, when I was already awake, and working on a very intriguing script for Seventh Heart Studios's Eternal Hour.

A delivery car quickly brought Shanling M2s in a friendly fashion.

Since it was a late Summer day, I rushed back to the cool comfort of my room, to explore M2s and its intricacies.

At first, I was dazzled by how small M2s can be, how nimble yet gentle the overall device felt, and by how much of the device's front panel was occupied by its display. I turned it on, then noticed a bright and vivid display, and was greeted by Shanling friendly firmware. Somehow, it reminded me of the good-old-days of FiiO X5 and FiiO X5ii.

All said and done, I plugged the little device with HIFIMAN RE2000, to see what the fuss is all about.

For a moment, I couldn't believe my ears, as Shanling M2s sounded very good, despite its size. In fact, it was many times better than the likes of Clip+ or such, M2s having a very full bass, and a sparkly treble. I went outside to take a walk, and meditate on the sound I was hearing from this impossibly small yet unbelievably strong device.


First things first, let's get the packaging out of the way:

Shanling M2s comes packaged in a small yet very functional package, where it has all the space needed for its accessories. The black box with is made out of hard cardboard, and it has a slightly velvety feeling, with the device's outline painted on the top.

Shanling neatly wrote the rather impressive specifications on the back of the box, in a silvery-fine writing.

The unboxing leaves a nice impression, with a good sense of value within the package, along with a general feeling of quality.

There a quite a few extras tucked in the package, like a few screen protectors, that can also be applied on the back of M2s, a high-grade USB cable, and the mighty M2s itself.

The package is pretty nice for an entry-level DAP, and it really doesn't feel like Shanling is treating M2s as an entry-level, but more like the best budget option they were able to offer.

What to look in when purchasing a high-end DAP

Technical Specifications

DAC - AK4490EQ
Perfect Bit Playback - Yes
Max Decoding - 32bit / 192kHz
USB DAC - Yes, Dedicated Tesycon Driver
Display - 3.0" Retina IPS Panel
DSD Playback - Yes
Operating System - Android
Bluetooth - 4.0 + APT-X
Battery - 1800 mAh, 3.7V Lithium
SE Output - Yes, 3.5mm
Weight - 100g
Dimensions - 53 mm x 14.5 mm x 85.6 mm
Body Material - Glass + Aluminium
Output Power - 130mW at 32 OHM
Frequency Response - 20Hz - 20 kHz
Amplifier - TPA6120
Output Impedance - 4.58 OHM
Playback Time - 9 - 10 Hours
USB - USB Type-C
Colors - Red, Blue, Black

Build Quality/Aesthetics/UI/Firmware

I had the honor to hold quite a few flagship devices in my hands by now, but it is rare that I have the chance to explore an entry-level DAP, especially one that is as raved as M2s is.

Starting with the build quality, Shanling M2s feels like a very small yet very solid device. The edges of M2s are all rounded, so it has one of the best usage ergonomics possible, and the user browses and interacts with M2s via a wheel on the right side, along with a back button. The wheel clicks when pressed, and although it has tactile ridges that offer a bit of feedback, they are not always in a 1:1 raport, so going by one click might sometimes scroll two lines, but this happens rather rarely and I've been having quite an excellent time browsing and exploring M2s using its wheel. The glass back of M2s looks very glamorous, with excellent definition of every edge, along with a very nicely written logo on the back.

Shanling M2s sports a 3" non-touch display in the front, a power button on the top, the navigation wheel, along with the back button on the right side, the USB Type-C and the 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom, and 3 song navigation buttons on the left side, along with the microSD slot. Above those buttons is a reset button, which can be pressed via a needle, but happily ever since owning M2s, I haven't needed to press it once.

The wheel somehow reminds of the Golden Days of FiiO X5ii, which also relied on a mechanical wheel, and which was one of the best DAPs I had up to that moment. In the browsing / interaction aspect, M2s feels just as good, if not even better, with excellent control for the wheel, and since the wheel is considerably smaller, and on the right side, less effort is necessary to operate it, at the cost of some of the precision a larger wheel offers.

One of the most interesting features of M2s is Hiby Link, a rather useful trick, which lets Shanling M2s connect to your smartphone, as long as you have the app installed. The smartphone can be used to stream music files to M2s, in this case M2s acting as a BT DAC, which is APT-X enabled. The smartphone can also be used as a remote for M2s, in this situation being possible to tuck M2s away in a backpack or a hidden pocket and change songs using only the smartphone.

The main menu of M2s looks pretty neat, the rather good resolution of M2s combined with the bright and colorful display leading to a great user experience, M2s being usable both indoors and outdoors, without any issue.

I find it very good that Shanling M2s relies on Hiby's firmware support, which means that a lot of the awesome features of FiiO X5ii have been ported to M2s as well, like playing through folders. Navigating through M2s feels "at home", and it has proven to be quite excellent, and it can fully be commended as it feels as natural as a touchscreen device, even without being one.

Sound Quality

As a few reviewers mentioned this before, describing the Sonic Signature of a DAP (Digital Audio Player) can be fairly complicated, as the ideal source should sound transparent and it should leave the coloring for the IEMs and Headphones. This being said, every single DAP out there will change the sound in some way with every headphone and IEM, some people naming this "Headphone - DAP Synergy".

Shanling M2s has a dazzling analogue-like signature with a very rich and dynamic sound, a thick and strong bottom end, a sweet and musical midrange, and a pretty sparkly top end. The soundstage size is above average, and it is one of the better ones in the entry level area. The clarity and resolution are both quite excellent as well, leading to a very nice sound, especially for this price range.

The DAC chip is made by AK, which are known for a somewhat velvety sound, which can be recognized in M2s, as it sports a signature able to make a smooth and pleasurable experience out of the fine nuances in music.

Shanling M2s has a relatively high output impedance of 4.8 OHM, which leads to some differences in how it pairs with certain IEMs, sometimes being flatter and more neutral in response, while other times it presents music with a tad more bass or treble emphasis.

Song impressions have been taken with HIFIMAN RE2000, which was also reviewed by Audiophile Heaven:


The bass of Shanling M2s is pretty natural, with a natural decay and good impact. The attack is good and bass notes feel rather full, but they are not very tight, and the natural decay means that the bass isn't the quickest either, leading to a more relaxed bass presentation, which isn't meant to reveal as much as it is meant to be enjoyable. One can easily feel the difference with different bass types and even bass layers, but M2s won't be forward and aggressive as far as its bass goes. Lean-natural would be a good way to describe the bass of M2s, especially with the IEMs I've tested it with (RE2000, RE800, ie800, DK-3001, ER4XR)


The Midrange is very clear and bears a very good detail level for this price range, easily beating the typical smartphone in this department, with a good soundstage expansion and a pretty nice layering of sound. Guitars sound sweet and enthusiastic and both male and female voices sound natural and fairly well-toned. The sound is generally rich and analogue-like, on the smoother side of things, so M2s pairs well with colder and brighter IEMs toning down their natural direction into a more musical and emotional experience.


Shanling M2s has a good treble extension, and with the IEMs I've tested it with, bears good sparkle and general airiness. Considering its price range, M2s performs similarly, or better than most its direct competitors in the treble department. The detail up top is sharp, good enough to be enjoyable, and if paired with an extra-detailed or extra-bright IEM or Headphone, M2s can tone it down a bit and give it a more musical character.


The soundstage of Shanling M2s is quite good and it extends well in all directions, while the sound layering is fairly good for this price point. One can easily point where a sound is coming from, M2s having a much better instrument placing than expected. The soundstage depth is the real surprise here, as M2s tends to have quite the excellent soundstage depth.


The ADSR and PRaT (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release, and Pace Rhythm and Timing) characteristics of Shanling M2s are quite good, the DAP sounding quite natural and enjoyable. M2s plays a very good song for its price point, almost always overcoming smartphones that are many times its price. The ADSR characteristics tend to make textures sound a bit leaner, M2s being very good for its musicality and playful character.

Portable Usage

This is one of the areas where M2s excels quite a bit, being quite small, lightweight, with a good battery life and fairly good driving abilities. For an ultra-portable DAP, Shanling M2s feels quite excellent to take outside, having a good screen brightness and resolution, being possible to use and navigate it with one hand, and even being possible to blind navigate it while in a pocket.

Another important highlight of its portability is its excellent software support, along with its Bluetooth APT-X support, both of which broaden the usage scenarios for Shanling M2s considerably. I've often found myself connecting M2s to my T580 via its APT-X connection, while keeping M2s in a pocket and using T580 for other activities, making both the listening experience and the ease of usage very good for the pairing.

Select Pairings

Please note that for any pairing, the IEM has more impact on the final result than the DAP, the best DAP being one that is as transparent as possible.

Shanling M2s + Dunu DK-3001 - Shanling M2s provides an interesting pairing with DK-3001, making them fairly analogue-like, with a lean yet clear bass, a very clear and well-defined midrange, and a smooth and fatigue-free top end. The whole sound feels natural and there is no track of digital typical sounds in this pairing.

Shanling M2s + FiiO F9 - F9 is driven quite well by Shanling M2s, sounding fairly V-shaped, with a strong bottom end, a slightly recessed midrange, and a sparkly top end. The soundstage size and depth are both quite good with this pairing.

Shanling M2s + FiiO F9 Pro - F9Pro is the bigger brother of F9, providing a much better result than F9 when driven by M2s, with a similar bottom end, a cleaner midrange, and a more airy top end. The soundstage and instrument separation are both better with F9Pro when compared to F9, and M2s tends to enhance this difference a bit.

Shanling M2s + Unique Melody Martian - Shanling M2s tends to smoothen out the rather tight and precise sound of UM Martians, making them a bit more musical, adding a bit of warmth in their sound, taking a bit of their analytical sound and making them a bit more musical, and smoothing out their rather energetic top end for a more relaxing listen.

Shanling M2s + Sennheiser ie800 - M2s combines quite well with ie800, giving them a thick bass presentation, with a very clear and well-detailed midrange, along with an airy, top end. The instrument separation is insanely good, and the whole sound feels vivid and lively.

Shanling M2s + HIFIMAN RE2000 - RE200's analytical abilities are smoothed out a bit by M2s, RE2000 becoming a bit smoother, while their musical side is enhanced a bit. The bass is pretty thick, the midrange is sweet, musical and has excellent detail and clarity, while the top end is a bit enhanced, with excellent clarity and detail.

Shanling M2s + HIFIMAN RE800 - RE800's character is quite influenced by M2s, as RE800 are known to be some of the best acoustic genius IEMs out there, while M2s tends to make RE800's bass a bit larger with a slower decay, the midrange is slightly less analytical, while the top end tends to be less enhanced, leading to more linear experience for this pairing, RE800 becoming a more universal version of themselves with M2s.

Shanling M2s + Beyerdynamic Xelento - Shanling M2s tends to bring a bit more sparkle in the top end of Xelento, while keeping their already analogue and smooth signature, with a very deep and strong bass.

Shanling M2s + Ultrasone Signature Studio - Ultrasone Signature Studio needs a bit of power to be driven to their full potential, or loud enough, but if you enjoy your headphones in a quieter fashion, M2s is able to make Signature Studio sound quite musical, with a large soundstage and a rather natural bass presentation.

Shanling M2s + Meze 99 Classics - M2s is able to make 99C sing with excellent musicality, a smooth character, and a visceral, thick and impactful bass. The best part is that M2s brings a bit more sparkle to the treble of 99C, making them quite enthusiastic in the higher registers. M2s tends to make the soundstage of 99 Classics quite deep and expressive.

Shanling M2s + iBasso IT01 - M2s is able to power IT01 to a very nice and enjoyable sound. As a budget setup, M2s + IT01 sounds excellent regardless of the music thrown at it, with a deep and impactful sub bass, a clear and musical midrange, and a sparkly top end that brings a lot of detail to the listener.

Shanling M2s + MO MZero - One of the best features of M2s is revealed when paired with Mo Zero, that feature being that M2s has APT-X Bluetooth support, being able to drive Mo Zero without any cables, making it one of the lightest and most affordable setup featuring a high-quality headphone and an awesome, potent DAP.

Shanling M2s + Astrotec AM850 - Another excellent budget pairing, M2s is able to give AM850 a deep yet not over-the-top bass, a very clear and vivid midrange, and a smooth yet airy top end. The soundstage is also very deep and wide with this pairing, while the general clarity is quite excellent.

Shanling M2s + Oriveti New Primacy - Quite an interesting pairing, M2s makes ONP sound quite musical and romantic with a an enthusiastic bass, a clear and dynamic midrange, an enhanced and open-sounding upper midrange, and a smooth treble. The soundstage is fairly wide with M2s driving ONP.

Shanling M2s + ER4-XR - Shanling M2s tends to tone down the analytical nature of ER4-XR a bit, giving them a more natural bass instead of their typical tight one, improving impact, a revealing, clear and forward midrange, and a smooth top end that is free of any kind of fatigue. All in all, the pairing is listenable for hours on a row, and M2s brings out the best in ER4-XR, being one of my favorite DAPs to drive them.

Shanling M2s + Kinera H3 - The pairing sounds very nice, with a strong yet tight bass, a recessed yet clear midrange, and a very clear and energetic top end. The soundstage size and depth are okay, while the instrument separation is fairly good.


Most comparisons have been taken with RE2000, Signature Studio, RE800, ie800, and DK-3001. Hiss is usually very hard to notice and I tend to not notice it at all, but I tried my best to compare how DAPs perform relative to each other in this aspect, as well as other aspects that might come off as relevant.

Shanling M2s vs iFi Nano iDSD BL – iDSD BL Nano is one of the best compact DAC/AMP units out there, even when you consider its powers against devices that are considerably more expensive than it, like Chord Mojo. Starting with the bottom end, iDSD Nano BL has a stronger impact, with better bass definition, the midrange is clearer on iDSD Nano BL, and the top end has better extension on iDSD BL. The soundstage is larger and deeper on iDSD BL, but this is to be expected when we consider that the entire structure of iDSD Nano BL is actually built around it being the best DAC/AMP the size and budget constraints allowed, while M2s has a lot of bells and whistles, like navigation options, APT-X Bluetooth, MicroSD Slots, and many other features. In the long run, M2s and iDSD Nano are complementary devices that work their magic together rather than direct competitors, M2s making an excellent source for driving iDSD Nano BL.

Shanling M2s vs HIFIMAN MEGAMINI – Megamini is one of the very few budget DAPs that can stand against M2s, and if we speak only about the sound, as long as you don't mind a bit of hiss, Megamini's sound tends to be clearer, with a wider soundstage and a general more vivid presentation. The software, on the other hand, is much more minimalistic on Megamini, M2s having a few extra features, like Hiby Link, and wheel-based navigation, while Megamini relies on buttons for the navigation. The battery life is similar, and if one doesn't require all the bells and whistles of M2s, Megamini is quite the excellent DAP, but M2s offers the support for a few things that one might love to have around.

Shanling M2s vs Xiaomi Mi Max 2 – The sonic comparison is in favor of M2s, which has a fuller sound, better extension in the higher registers, and better instrument separation, along with a more dynamic sound. Of course, there are many things a smartphone can do that M2s cannot do, including games, internet, video abilities, and so on, but if we consider Mi Max 2 as a music player, M2s is the better sounding device, by a good margin. It should be noted that M2s has seriously better driving power when compared with Mi Max 2, which is a poor source, being unable to drive even most IEMs to decent loudness levels, while M2s has enough power to drive even power-hungry headphones. All in all, M2s will sound better than most smartphones out there, and at a very good price, and in a very nice form factor.

Shanling M2s vs HIDIZS AP200 - M2s and AP200 perform similarly, with AP200 being a bit less enhanced in the bass, with a bit more impact, a similar midrange and a similar top end. The interface is Android with touchscreen on AP200, while it is a proprietary OS with wheel-based navigation on M2s. The soundstage size is similar between the two, along with the instrument separation, which is similar as well. This makes both AP200 and M2s excellent devices for what they are, and either is an excellent option.

Value and Conclusion

Shanling M2s is currently selling for about 200$, and it comes in quite a few colors, and it can be found within a multitude of shops from a multitude of countries, being one of the widest available entry-level DAPs out there.

Looking at M2s from the build quality point of view, it is a very solid, sleek and elegant-looking device, sporting an awesome DAC and AMP configuration under the hood, along with Bluetooth APT-X and USB Type-C support. M2s is one of the very few entry-level DAPs sporting this kind of configuration, along with the excellent after-sales support provided by Shanling.

Given its sonic signature, if you are looking for one of the most versatile devices that sports a very wide array of usage scenarios, along an excellent tuning, with a deep and impactful bass, a vivid and clear midrange, and a sparkly treble, Shanling M2s is one of the best DAPs I've seen in the entry-level area, sporting everything a good DAP should have, build quality, all the bells and whistles, and very good sound.

If you're looking for an entry-level DAP, M2s is surely one of the best choices you can make!

I hope my review is helpful to you!

Stay safe and remember to always have fun while listening to music!

Link to the review on Head-Fi:

Link to the official Thread on Head-Fi:

Link to the official product page:

Link to the official product page #2:

Link to the writer’s head-fi page:

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Dobrescu George
Dobrescu George
It is quite good, especially when you factor in its rather pocker-friendly price!
Excellent review - setting a very high standard. Looks like an interesting player. I love that some of these less expensive players are beating the big boys by providing aptx and analogue like volume controls.
One of the best reviews I've ever had the privilege to read. Simply excellent and so insightful. Plenty comparisons too.
Pros: Form factor, pocketability, smooth sound quality, powerful
Cons: No case, precision when changing volume, no on-board storage

Shanling M2s

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


Purchase Here: MusicTeck
Manufacturer Website: Shanling

A Little Technical Stuff:

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.



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.


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.

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.


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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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.


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!


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.



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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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).


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.



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.



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.


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:


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.


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.


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 It's certainly convenient if you have a need for it.


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.


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.



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.
Hi.the line out put setting remains fixed after selection?
Or after any turnig off and on,goes back to HP out put?thanks
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, 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.


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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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!!

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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+.

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.

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.

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.

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!
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

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.


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… !

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.


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.


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?....



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.


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.


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.


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.

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!



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.


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.


VE Monk+


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!


RHA T20...


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.

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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...

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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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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Pros: sound. form factor. small.
Cons: battery time
video review:


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.


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.


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



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.

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

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

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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.

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Bluetooth: Also has 4.0 Bluetooth !

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


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.


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


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.
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:

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


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:
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 who offered a discount and I purchased my M2S from them. Fast delivery and exceptional communication.
Link for purchase:

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
    Screen:3-inch Retina high-definition display(480*800)
    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

  • Protective film*4, mine came with film already applied on the back but none on the front, but they can be easily installed.

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


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 .

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

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.

On top we find the power button.


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.

Looks good isn't it?

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.


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.