These iems are just way over-hyped and over-priced. I compared them to the Astrotec Lyra Nature, and surprisingly the latter delivered better-defined bass and midrange, and crisper highs.
I found that Shanling were investing heavily on advertising these few years and forgot to really work on their products. I've owned the M5 DAP, the MTW100. They both sound subpar in comparison to similarly priced competitions and have minor issues here and there.
Pros: Superb build quality
Well balanced sound - detailed, accurate and spacious
Cons: Shells might be large and fit shallow for some
Brass material is on the heavy side
Review – Shanling ME500 Platinum Edition
Like other Shanling products the ME500 in this Platinum Edition arrives in the typical rectangular cardboard box, white outer box holding all the product info and inner black box with everything neatly organized. The earpieces are arranged in thick black foam inside the leather case along with the silver-plated cable (detached). The ear tips selection is varied (though all single flange tips) consisting of four sets of silicone tips in three sizes each and two pairs of memory foam tips. All the tips are labeled according to their suggested impact on the overall sound. The difference in sound is noticed but nothing major, so it is more a matter of finding the best tips in terms of fit and comfort; personally I’ve opted for the ‘bass’ tips as they provided the best balance, that despite their labeling are pretty much identical in sound of the suggested to ‘balanced tips’, and just offer the better seal.
The ME500 in its Platinum Edition is simply outstanding. Top notch build quality with premium materials, a comfortable fit and so beautiful design and perfect finish. Shells are made of brass and so they certainly are heavier than even stainless steel ones. This edition also features the platinum plating over the brass that not only should improve durability on the shells, but also add a very luxury mirror-like finish. It reminds of the E5000 from final, though it is easier to appreciate on the ME500 due the larger design. The brass shells while on the heavy side are thick and feel very solid. They consist of two pieces very strongly attached; on the inner side there are two small holes which appear to be made for venting matters for the dynamic driver inside, though does not seem to affect the sound performance when tapping them. The nozzle is bit wide and also features an all metal grill. All the included ear tips fit well on it and extra tips can be used as well, including Spinfit and Spiral Dot.
The fit is fixed for over-ear use and the oval shape is completely smooth. The weight is noticed when wearing them and in occasions the fit might get loose if moving around; the fixed guides on the cable help a bit. The nozzle has a proper angle and enough length, just that the width might imply a shallower fit for those with narrow ear canal and also result large for small ears, what ends reflecting in the isolation level – personally, these are quite comfortable, just about average in isolation.
Cable connection is the common MMCX option on the shells side. For the cable plugs, however, Shanling implemented a more secure type adding like an extra ring at the tip of the plugs, giving a better lock on the MMCX sockets avoiding unwanted disconnection. Detaching the cable is not difficult, just a little force is needed compared to standard MMCX types. The cable itself is supposed to be an improved version over the regular ME500 cable. On the Platinum Ed. it uses an all silver-plated copper wire of thin 8 strands very tightly twisted. Quality seems good so far and hasn’t showed any signs of discoloration from oxidation.
Main players used: Shanling M5s, iBasso DX220, HiBy R6 Pro & R5 – all single ended 3.5mm output.
A triple driver hybrid IEM is nothing new nowadays and the dual balanced armature with single dynamic driver setup could be one of the most used. Moreover, the selection of the Knowles dual TWFK-30017 for mid and high tuning is almost a default when seeking best clarity and detail with a bright tonality. The presentation is always detailed but the final tuning tend to vary, from very v-shaped to well balanced full signatures.
In the case of the ME500, and Platinum Edition here, the sound goes for a wide v-shaped sound, with typical TWFK qualities together with a very well matching dynamic part to compensate for bass and that still keeps up with the speed and detail of the armature units. Despite the lively presentation, the ME500 shows good linearity on the low-end, very even in quantity from sub to mid-bass with very good dynamics. The whole bass is very full, plenty in power but no really too thick; it is not an option for heavy-bass preference. Sub-bass is quite effortless, though missing a bit of sheer rumble. In comparison, the mid-bass is slightly lifted, but the balance is well kept. There is excellent control too and fine layering. Speed is well achieved, as it should be if meant to match those super-fast Knowles units.
The kind of v-shaped signature is more noticed when reaching the low midrange. The jump from bass to low-mids is smooth and the ME500 is not really warm sounding so the bass doesn’t affect too match the midrange performance. The whole mids still sound more distant than neutral. Primarily on low midrange, less noticed on instruments and more with vocals, sounding thin and less textured. Detailed is there, just not authoritative enough. Upper midrange is better, still sitting a half step behind in the whole presentation but at least more forward and expressive. I can find the Knowles TWFK very well tuned here. The midrange is smooth and so liquid. The transparency, tightness and precision is very difficult to fault, too. There is air and lot of detail - a bit too technical maybe with that usual analytical tendency.
Treble is bright, and no surprises here. These BA units can go for bright to extremely harsh. Fortunately, it is not source independent with the Platinum ME500. The own Shanling M5s showed the smoothest treble response. On the HiBy R5 it is less forgiving and bit of sizzling treble, more prone to sibilance; the R6 Pro is the brightest, treble forward, but has gains much better treble control. The DX220 gives more bass-treble balance, still on the bright side but not extreme; very treble-sensitive people may not apply. Regardless, the treble is too effortless and fast if a kind of aggressive.
Soundstage shows more width with more equal depth and height. The presentation is spacious and very airy. The detail is set on high priority so missing some musicality and emotion on the sound. Not a ‘fun’ type of tuning but yes a detailed and very accurate.
Brief Sound Comparisons
Final E5000 (Single Dynamic)
The E5000 is much darker sounding with stronger focus in the low-end, with more depth and rumble. Bass extension is easier to notice too. Midrange is logically warmer and thicker on the E5000 as well, and the treble while still present goes smoother. Vocals sound full and sweeter on the E5000 too. Soundstage is similar in width at least when the E5000 is well powered. Detail is higher and much more forward on the ME500, typical TWFK type of signature, being brighter and more aggressive.
Advanced GT3 (Single Dynamic)
Compared to the ME500 the GT3 has a very lively, v-shaped type of sound that while can be tweaked with the different exchangeable nozzles still maintains a much more aggressive and energetic sound. Speed is also very good on the GT3. Mid-bass is more emphasized on the GT3 while midrange is thinner distant and a bit sharper next to the more liquid ME500. Both sets are bright, though the GT3 is harsher, less forgiving, whereas the ME500 shows better treble control. GT3 has a wider stage effect and the ME500 is more rounded.
Akoustyx R-220 (Dual BA – Knowles TWFK)
The R-220 uses, supposedly, an updated version of the TWFK, which can be similar to the ones implemented on the ME500. Logically, the lack of dynamic driver for lows makes the R-220 very light and shy in bass response, but then it is faster and tighter. Midrange and treble share more similarities, being liquid, resolving and highly detailed. R-220 is very linear, maybe too flat, more forward in mids and tuned brighter than the smoother and weightier ME500. R-220 is also more aggressive and sibilance prone. Stage width and depth is better on the ME500, but both are similarly spacious and airy.