Shanling M3X

General Information

Introducing Shanling M3X​

M3X is our newest Android Hi-Res portable player, built on the same platform as our previous three Android models. But this time we are aiming at the more affordable part of the market, with a little bit less focus on the most demanding DAC chipsets and the most powerful amplifiers.

M3X was designed as a scaled down version of our flagship M8, to be a more practical and smaller player, with only 4.2-inch touch screen. Making it 25% smaller and lighter than our older M6 and M6 Pro players.

M3X is a first Hi-Res player to use the new ESS Sabre ES9219C DAC/AMP, a new generation of a very popular chip that was previously used in our M0, UP4 and other products. Using two of these chips, to offer a balanced 4.4mm output for better sound and more power. And also including full 16x MQA unfolding, for all fans of the Hi-Res music streaming.

M3X will stand out with its class leading battery life, offering up to 23 hours of playback on a single charge.


Availability at international markets - March 2021

Price - 339 USD / Euro

Specifications


System: Open Android 7.1, with AGLO

Screen: 4.2 inch, 1280 x 768

CPU: 8-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430

Memory: 2GB RAM + 32 GB ROM

Expendable memory: MicroSD card slot

DAC/AMP: 2x ESS Sabre ES9219C

Hi-Res Audio: Up to PCM 32/384 & DSD256

MQA Support: Full unfolding, 16X

Outputs: 3.5mm jack Single Ended & 4.4mm Balanced

Wi-Fi: 2.4G & 5G

Bluetooth transmitter: LDAC, LHDC, aptX HD, aptX, SBC

Bluetooth receiver: LDAC & SBC

USB: USB-C, with USB DAC and USB transport function

Battery: 3200 mAh

Battery life: Up to 23 hours (SE, single DAC) / 20 hours (SE, dual DAC) / 19 hours (Bal)

Dimensions: 109 x 72 x 15.9 mm

Weight: 168g

Output power: Up to 240mW @ 32Ohm (Bal)

Output impedance: < 1Ohm

Latest reviews

bryaudioreviews

New Head-Fier
When it's gone, it's gone ⏳ - Shanling M3X Limited Edition Review
Pros: - warm neutral sound signature
- full forward mids
- deep, snappy bass
- airy, well-tuned treble
- wide soundstage
- good imaging
- good detail retrieval
Cons: - thick mids might not be for everyone
- a bit lacking in terms of dynamics
- upper mids a bit too laidback for some
The Shanling M3X Limited Edition needs no introduction. It is a $430usd Android-based DAP that is made in collaboration with MOONDROP and Tanchjim. The trio has tuned this limited edition M3X to provide a new warmer sound output with a darker background and better control. They have also mentioned that its tuning will work best with Tanchjim and Moondrop's IEMs.

The unboxing experience here has been nothing be spectacular. The M3X Limited comes with a big white box with both Moondrop and Tanchjim's mascots in front. Once opened, I am presented with a custom white leather case, a few custom art pieces, a USB cable, a user manual, and lastly, the M3X Limited itself.

There will only be a total of 1500 units of these made, with only 500 units available for the international market. So if you are looking to pick one up, better act quick before it is too late :)

*This review is split into 3 parts: Non-Audio Opinions, Sound, and Sound Configuration Settings. If all you care about is sound, please skip part 1 and go straight to part 2.

IMG_20210625_232236.jpg



Part 1 - Non-Audio Opinions​

As mentioned above, if you’re not interested in the following, you can skip straight to Part 2 for my sound impressions. However, I'll keep this part very short as I'll only cover things that matter.

  • What's inside?: Dual ES9219C DAC/Amp from ESS Sabre + Panasonic tantalum capacitors. The non-limited M3X uses "special large-capacity tantalum capacitors" instead.
  • Battery Life: Easily 17 - 20 hours of playback time per charge with Dual DAC on. Really impressed with the battery here. Shanling advertised it as having 23 hours with Single DAC and 20 hours with Dual DAC. Pretty spot on IMO.
  • Performance: is good. The interface is snappy and responsive. It is rocking an 8 core Snapdragon 430 with 2GB ram.
  • Buttons: 4 in total - power button (also as the volume wheel), next track, play/pause, previous track. Pretty ergonomic and well placed, especially for right-handers. However, I would prefer it if the play/pause button is textured/dented. Textured buttons makes it easier to eyeball without looking. First-world problems, I know. But hey, it is worth mentioning.
  • Portability: And as for the ergonomics and portability of the M3X Limited, I would say that it is pretty good. It is decently sized, easily pocketable, and I have no problems handling it with one hand with my small Asian-sized hands.
  • Features: 16x MQA unfolding, Bluetooth both ways, AirPlay, Wifi… You name it, the M3X Limited has it. However, I find that the WiFi here takes a bit longer than expected to connect to 5Ghz Wifi bands. Do keep that in mind as I find it annoying at times.
  • Design: As Yumu Song once said, "the M3X limited edition is more than just a DAP; It is an art piece". The design here is beautiful, with custom number engraving at the side (mine is limited no. 1243/1500! 🥰). Its build is pretty solid too. So no complaints.

IMG_20210625_232315.jpg


Part 2 - Sound​

*Disclaimer: This review is done using Dual DAC Mode on + linear-phase lowpass filter. Check out Part 3 to see why this matters.


PROS ✅:​

  • To put it simply, the M3X Limited is a warm-neutral sounding DAP with a focus on adding fullness and thickness to the mids. I would describe it as being a resolving and musical-sounding DAP with fast snappy transients, open soundstage, full-sounding mids, and good detail retrieval.
  • The bass here sounds snappy, full, well-textured, and detailed. It has a bit of added weight and warmth to it to make it sound fuller and more engaging. It is also capable of going deep down into the sub-bass regions without any notable early roll-offs. A big plus for me as I initially expected it to roll off a bit earlier, but it did not. However, the bass here isn't your thick, punchy, dominant bass that some might expect from a fun sounding source. It is actually leaning more towards the neutral and resolving side. Do keep in mind that the bass here is by no means lean or neutral. As mentioned above, it has a slight warmth colouration, making it sound fuller.
  • The Midrange is the star of the show here. Just like the bass, it has a slight warmth colouration, which in return gives the mids a more forward and fuller presentation. If I were to describe how the midrange here sounds, I would describe it as being full, forward, open, and weighty. The added warmth and fullness do push vocals forward, making them sound more forward and intimate. Do not mistake the vocal intimacy here as having a small soundstage though, as the soundstage here is pretty wide. More on the soundstage later.
  • It terms of detail retrieval, as expected from a DAP with Dual ES9219C DAC, the M3X Limited is no slouch. As mentioned above, I find the M3X to be a pretty resolving sounding DAP. With Dual DAC Mode ON, I was able to pick up on tiny nuances and plenty of microdetails easily without cranking up the volume.
  • In terms of upper midrange, I find the upper midrange here to be pretty tamed and smooth with zero sibilance or edginess. No typical "upper mids glare" that I find present on most of Shanling's products.
  • As for the treble, I would describe it as being detailed, airy, and snappy. It is well extended with great "treble air qualities". Just like most of Shanling's sources, the treble is never bright sounding. In M3X Limited's case, it is never bright, fatiguing, edgy, or dry sounding. You will have no issues pairing bright-sounding gears with the m3x limited.
  • As for the soundstage, it is wide and tall with good depth and layering. I would describe the soundstage here as being somewhat like a hall. I am a sucker for soundstages that are tall and deep, and the M3X Limited definitely delivers here.
  • In terms of imaging, it is also clean and precise with great image separation. Thanks to the well rounded and wide soundstage presentation, pinpointing where instruments are coming from is, imo, almost effortless. Pair this with the M3X Limited's ability to resolve details and you are in for a treat.
  • Pairs perfect with Harman-tuned IEMs or any IEMs with laidback vocals / thinner mids. The added weightiness and fullness in the mids works really well here. IMO, the Shanling M3X Limited pairs perfect with Moondrop Blessing 2: Dusk. Pairing the M3X Limited with my Moondrop Blessing 2: Dusk just sounds like these two are seriously made for each other. They weren't joking when they said they tuned the M3X Limited specially for Moondrop/Tanchjim's IEMs huh?


CONS ❌:​

  • Bass could be thicker and punchier.
  • Treble could be a tad bit sparklier.
  • Full and forward midrange presentation might be fatiguing for some after long listening sessions.
  • Mids colouration could make thick sounding gears sound too thick. (potential "fix" in Part 3. See "Lowpass filters comparison")
  • Upper mids might be too laid-back/shy for some. (potential "fix" in Part 3. See "Lowpass filters comparison")
  • Dynamics could be a bit better. (High gain mode helps with the dynamic issue, but not without introducing some cons. See Part 3 - "Low gain vs High gain mode" for more info)
  • Requires burn-in. Sounds bloated OOTB. I recommend at least 3 days (or 15 charge cycles).
  • Limited to only 1500 units worldwide. When it's gone, it's gone.



Part 3 - Sound Configuration Settings​

Here is where I describe the sound differences between different outputs, lowpass filters, gain modes, and DAC modes.


1. LOWPASS FILTERS COMPARISON (LINEAR PHASE FAST ROLL-OFF VS APODIZING PHASE FAST ROLL-OFF):​

  • I find the linear phase filter to sound more natural, with fuller bass and better timbral characteristics.
  • Apodizing seems to give vocals and upper mids a slight edge, making notes sound somewhat edgy? This in return takes away a bit of the timbral characteristics, making notes sound dryer. However, the bass is leaner and less "bloaty" now. If you find your M3X Limited to be too warm to your liking or lacking some upper mids energy, switch to Apodizing filter.

2. DUAL DAC MODE VS SINGLE DAC MODE:​

  • With Dual DAC on, you get better detail retrieval, better separation, more resolution, crispier notes.
  • Single DAC mode is smoother and more relaxing sounding. It isn't as resolving nor is it as detailed as dual DAC mode, but I can see myself using Single DAC mode on days when I want better battery life or a smoother sounding experience.

3. SE VS BALANCED:​

  • Balanced out gives you better instrument separation, better layering, better soundstage depth, and more power.
  • Recommended to use Balanced out with the M3X Limited.

4. LOW GAIN VS HIGH GAIN MODE:​

  • Low gain sounds more relaxed, open, balanced, with mids that are more forward.
  • High gain seems to give the M3X Limited a slight V-shaped tonality. Bass becomes punchier and more dominant. Upper midrange are slightly pushed forward, and mids/lower mids are slight recessed. I find high gain mode to sound more dynamic and tighter overall, but soundstage seems to be tighter and smaller.


PART 4 - In Conclusion​

I think what Shanling x Moondrop x Tanchjim did here is great. They took the original M3X, which is deemed "the best $300usd DAP" by many, retune it, and make it even better. Yes, it is slightly warmer. Yes, it is slightly more coloured. But this colouration is what gives it that musicality that the original M3X needs, making the M3X Limited a musical yet resolving sounding DAP.

In my opinion, if you are looking for a DAP that is warm-neutral, with full forward mids, snappy bass, and airy treble, the Shanling M3X Limited Edition should definitely be considered.

Remember, there are only 1500 units available (only 500 available for the international market). So act fast before it is all gone!


Link to purchase (non-affiliated):
https://hifigo.com/products/shanling-m3x-asano-tanch-mitsukihimi-limited-editon


20210704_233055-02.jpg
  • Like
Reactions: Pancakess

fabio19

100+ Head-Fier
Shanling M3x
Pros: A qualitatively almost superlative sound for a DAP in this price range. Powerful amplification, with an almost imperceptible level of background noise. The brightness of the screen is good and the fluidity of the screen is also very good. The DAP looks robust. Good reactivity when turned on (I used a 512 GB Sandisk Extreme Pro micro sd)
Cons: The trolley of the micro card does not give the impression of being very resistant. It should be used with particular attention. Cover images appear with a very slight delay.
Specifications

System: Open Android 7.1, with AGLO
Screen: 4.2 inch, 1280 x 768
CPU: 8-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430
Memory: 2GB RAM + 32GB ROM
Expendable memory: MicroSD card slot
DAC / AMP: 2x ESS Saber ES9219C
Hi-Res Audio: Up to PCM 32/384 & DSD256
MQA Support: Full unfolding, 16X
Outputs: 3.5mm jack Single Ended & 4.4mm Balanced
Wi-Fi: 2.4G & 5G
Bluetooth transmitter: LDAC, LHDC, aptX HD, aptX, SBC
Bluetooth receiver: LDAC & SBC
USB: USB-C, with USB DAC and USB transport function
Battery: 3200mAh
Battery life: Up to 23 hours (SE, single DAC) / 20 hours (SE, dual DAC) / 19 hours (Bal)
Dimensions: 109 x 72 x 15.9 mm
Weight: 168g
Output power: Up to 240mW @ 32Ohm (Bal)
Output impedance: <1Ohm

LINK: https://en.shanling.com/article-M3XIntro.html
LINK: https://en.shanling.com/download/77

INTRODUCTION: I wrote the review after 150/200 hours of listening (more or less). The curiosity of listening to a Dac Saber (ES9219C) mounted on a Shanling was remarkable. I had listened to the Shanling M6 Pro (loaned by my friend Xinlisupreme) and I must say I enjoyed it greatly. M6 Pro is equipped with the AKM AK4497EQ Dac and therefore with M3X I was able to have a term of comparison from the point of view of the converter, because otherwise M6 Pro stands at a price range higher than M3X. Although M3X.
does not give the idea of being an entry level DAP, especially from a qualitative and multimedia point of view.
I also own an Astell & Kern Kann which in terms of "multimedia" offers much less even if it belongs to a much higher price range than M3X.

PACKAGING: Blue box, with asymmetrical closure (detail). Housing of the DAP in a black spongy tub. Below, we can find the guide booklet, warranty card and screensaver adhesive films. On the side a box with the USB cable.

in2.jpg

in1.jpg





DESIGN: M3X measures 109 x 72 x 15.9 mm for a weight of 170 grams approximately. Small, handy, non-slippery. Frontally it presents the screen for almost its entirety with a very small frame (4.2 inch, 1280 x 768). Above and below the frame is ½ mm, while on the sides (right and left) it is full screen. In the upper edge we have the two Outputs inputs: 3.5mm jack Single Ended & 4.4mm Balanced.
On the right side, the on / off button and the black wheel for adjusting the volume. On the lower side, starting from the left we have the trolley with the micro sd housing (which as mentioned I think it should be used with considerable care and attention to prevent the breakage of the plastic flap that closes the slot where the micro sd is stored moved more towards the center we have the input of the usb / dac cable.
On the left side of the dap, we have the 3 buttons for play, forward or rewind. On the back we have a glass-like side, with the small Shanling logo placed in the center at the top in a very refined silver color. All the details seem well studied and overall a sober but classic line at the same time.
22.jpg


INSIDE: System: Open Android 7.1.1, with AGLO, very fluid, smooth. Excellent brightness and visibility even in sunlight. CPU: 8-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430
Memory: 2GB RAM + 32GB ROM Expendable memory: MicroSD card slot
DAC / AMP: 2x ESS Saber ES9219C. Wi-Fi: 2.4G & 5G.
When turned on, the display starts up after about 10/12 seconds. The home screen we have (in order from the left side): Clock Icon, Shanling Player Icons, Settings Icons, and Firmware Icon. I forgot: Really good battery life (3200 maH)

SOUND: We then come to the main aspect of the Shanling M3X. Before dwelling on this aspect I must say that the Dap is sensitive to the various IEMs I have tried. In no particular order: Dunu SA6, Tansio Mirai TSMR5, Faerless S8P, BGMP DM8. All BA, but despite this M3X behaves differently depending on the IEM that is fed to it. While in general it behaves very well with MP3s (little highlighting the qualitative limits of these recordings) and obviously it behaves even better with Flac and DSF formats. I have tested the Shanlig M3X with numerous IEMs, such as Dunu SA6, Faerless S8P, BGVP DM8, Tansio Mirai TSMR 5, Vision Ears VE3. I noticed a remarkable sensitivity to the various impedances of the IEMs in question. For example, with the TSMR5 I was at just over half the volume to listen at sustained volume, while with the BGVP DM8 I reached the maximum volume of the M3X. The piloting of Faerless S8P and DUNU SA6 is also very easy.
M3X is a fairly balanced sounding dap, with a very good amount of body and three-dimensionality. The Saber DAC, gives a little more texture to the mid and mid-high range, without ever becoming excessive or invasive. The speed of execution and the recovery of details are also good, which at times leaves favorably
impressed if we remember the price range of this DAP. I also liked the focus, present but always pleasantly soft and tending to warm. The sound in general is however in its totality quite neutral with (as already mentioned) a tendency to warm always pleasant and never over the top.
The heat in question does not invade and does not invalidate either the clarity of the sound or its three-dimensionality which is not very large but far more than sufficient. M3X combined with very easy to drive IEMs (like the Faerless S8P) amplify this factor even more. But this obviously happens a little with all the IEMs I've tried, and logically with different results. Whether they like it or not becomes a subjective factor.
It is not a DAP for bass lovers beyond all things. In the sense that it has a full-bodied, present, warm bass, but always very correct, defined and circumscribed. And here the Dac Saber does its part. In the mid-range M3X plays with exemplary body and correctness, again in reference to its price range, of course. The amplification is really excellent, which always seems to work smoothly and always leaves the feeling of still wanting to turn up the volume. With the VE3, M3X amplifies its full potential as it seems to fit perfectly with the Vision Ears sound philosophy. Although I personally preferred (but here it comes down to subjectivism) Faerless S8P and Dunu SA6, where everything manifests itself in a faster, clearer, more open way to the detriment of the warmth of the mid-range, its body and its involvement. emotional. With the TSMR 5s, the MX3 sounds very similar to the VE3s but with a slight high-end brilliance. The opening of Prince's 1999 song (listened over and over again with all the IEMs listed) made me prefer the balance of the VE3 to the brilliance (but I'm on top) of the TSRM 5. For the rest the two IEMs behaved the same way. In terms of nuances, the quality of the VE 3 was preferred, but the TSMR 5 had an enormously wider and wider stage. And here it becomes a matter of preference.
19.jpg
20.jpg



Faerless S8P: Overall very three dimensional sound. Slightly lacking in body and warmth. Good details and separation of tools. Slightly fast well-defined low range.


Dunu SA6: Here too the sound impresses with its 360-degree perception. Medium and medium-low range, clearer than usual but with a record speed. At the expense of some details and a warm tone that some might lack


Tansio Mirai TSMR 5. Here it borders on perfection along with VE3 which I will describe below. Great body across the range. Good detail recovery and remarkable speed. The three-dimensionality in a slightly more intimate stage than SA6 is also excellent. Only in the high range there is a slight emphasis. Not annoying but noteworthy.
21.jpg


CONCLUSIONS:

In all cases, however, the M3X always maintains its own personality, consisting of a good body in terms of musicality in general. The warmth in its complexity is always kept in good evidence even in the presence of IEM with a “studio” character like Dunu SA6. Obviously (at least personally) I have always preferred the M3X sound with IEM in balanced. Even if the difference with 3.5 in unbalanced is not very noticeable. Sometimes in unbalanced M3X it sounds less open but more intimate and "cerebral". And here too it becomes a question of pleasantly subjective choices. Excellent construction, beautiful and classic design. Simple but for this reason sober and at least to my taste, very pleasant. "Grip" in the norm even if the dimensions of the dap make it easy to manage and very little slippery. With a small price difference you can also buy the cover for now available in two colors (at least at the time of my purchase). Shanling's really good job, in my opinion, lies in the implementation of all the port engineering solutions.
Alex.Grimm
Alex.Grimm
But m3x better than LG sabre smartphones?
fabio19
fabio19
i have never listened to smathpone lg
alexandros a
alexandros a
Very comprehensive and informative review...
I have DX160 (which hardly lives up to 8 hours long playback using balanced mode) & HIBY R5 between others.. But I ll go for the M3X just for the full bodied sound and the musicality those two characteristics intrigued me most..........

Comments

There are no comments to display.
Top