Shanling M3s - dual AK4490 DAC, 2.5 balanced out, aptX BT, HiBy link, USB out, FW 1.4

Discussion in 'Portable Source Gear' started by Shanling, Sep 1, 2017.
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  1. Shanling

    New firmware update for Shanling M3s, firmware 1.3

    New functions:
    1.Added support of OPUS Codec.

    Changes and fixes:
    1.Higher speed of scrolling text.
    2.Fixed the problem of the wheel’s “press to confirm” function being active while screen is locked.
    3.Fixed other small system bugs.

    Download from Google Drive or Shanling website
    Shanling Have any question about our players? Just PM me or send me email. Stay updated on Shanling at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.

    Arum16, strawed, rynaus and 2 others like this.
  2. foreverzer0
    Can you add the luminous theme version?
  3. Shanling
    Shanling Have any question about our players? Just PM me or send me email. Stay updated on Shanling at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.

    Dobrescu George likes this.
  4. Tex Irie
    Has anyone compared the Shanling M3s vs The Astell & Kern Kann?
    Jemsheed likes this.
  5. silverfishla
    @Shanling Can you make the screen brighter in the next firmware update please. The screen is not bright enough for sunny daylight use.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018
  6. rynaus
    Replying to my own question, in case anyone else from EU is looking to buy balanced cables.

    Ordered one from Forza Audioworks
    Arum16 likes this.
  7. kp297
    My full review, overall rating is 7.5/10.

    TLDR: The new value king. I’m a car guy, so I’ll use a car analogy. M3s is like a Toyota Avalon, damn good value (compared to spending twice as much for similar Lexus), with a great build as well. However, there are a few quirks, but if you can get past those, you will love this.

    Let me preface this by saying I am just entering the world of ‘audiophile’. Until recently, my most used pair of ‘headphones’ were AirPods. Not to say AirPods are a bad product, but it’s ultimately a compromise of audio fidelity in lieu of convenience.

    For many years, music has just been something I put on in the background to enhance an activity (exercising, studying, partying etc). It wasn’t until I heard a member of Daft Punk describe the sheer amount of work that went into ‘Get Lucky’ did I begin to delve into this area. Around this time, my father acquired his first hifi setup (WA8 Duo+HE560), and he was showing me the ropes of all the essentials (Herbie Hancock, Sting, Coltrane, Queen), music I ordinarily would not listen to. After spending hours listening to classics (and my modern favorites) on my fathers system, needless to say, I was hooked. Fast forward a few years later, and here I am presenting a review of my first DAP and hifi headphones. c'est la vie.

    As we all know, the audiophile world can be likened to gambling. We all like to think our next BIG purchase will be ‘end game’ and stop us from future spending. But this is an illusion. As a student, I needed a DAP which had adequate hardware to prevent the temptation of upgrading, but also embraced a cost conscious price. Enter the world of Chi-Fi (chinese hifi), featuring companies such as iBasso, Shanling, FiiO, Cayin and others. Most of the products offered had a great feature set such as USB DAC mode, decent screen, extensive file support etc. However I noticed Shanling’s new S products had a design which outclassed them all, and runs a responsive OS to boot. Additional points that Shanling is an active participant on HeadFi, with great a customer service team that answers any questions/issues fairly well (unlike cough *Fiio* cough). Seeing as the M3s was released last fall, and features impressive internals for the price, I took the plunge.

    Industrial Design and Engineering (7/10)
    What can I say, the build is fantastic! It’s an aluminum frame sandwiched by tempered glass. Shanling definitely took some cues from the iPhone 5, but this is ok! It feels wonderful to hold, and can fit comfortably in any pocket. Be proud Shanling! Your design team is great, while the engineering team…dropped the ball (or scroll wheel).

    The scroll wheel is the main device to navigate across the interface, so this needs to be as robust as the OS. With the M3s while the OS is snappy and smooth, the scroll wheel holds back the experience from being truly enjoyable. Shanling has rated the wheel at 100k turns and 500k ‘clicks’ and apparently uses Japanese ALPS technology. However, despite all this, it doesn’t dissuade my feelings of uncertainty when using it. Each scroll actuation feels mushy, and the interaction between the wheel and the software is a glaring issue. For example, when scrolling down, 1 turn should equate to scrolling down 1 item. This is not the case. Sometimes it’s 1:1 but after one ‘turn’, the ratio quickly becomes 1:4, and scrolling becomes a mini-game. After a few sessions of using the M3s, scrolling becomes almost predictable, and I can generally scroll to what I want with two adjustments. But even though this is a minor annoyance, it’s puzzling how a mechanism so inept and imprecise got through the design process. Shanling is aware of this issue, and hopefully they will address this in the M5s.

    UI/Interface (7/10)
    The Shanling M3s eschews the bloat of Android for a custom Linux based OS. The consequence of this is a fast and responsive experience. If you check out HeadFi, many in the Chi-Fi community laud Shanling’s OS as the fastest and best in the world of Chi-Fi players. I haven’t had the opportunity to use players from other companies, but from what I’ve seen on from other reviewers, you can expect this to be more responsive than an Android based Fiio for example. The downside of not being Android based, is the lack of streaming app support (Tidal, Deezer etc). Some see the lack of Android as a positive or negative. On one hand, no apps, on the other hand, you won’t be distracted from apps/email/notifications. I would recommend the HibyR6 if you are in the need of Android. Users have the option of changing themes from the ones Shanling ships with the device, to ones other M3s users create. At the time of this writing there are only a handful of user created themes, but it’s good Shanling has provided users the tool to create them. The default purple theme is good enough for me.

    A sticking point, whenever you disconnect the M3s from a computer, the M3s needs to rebuild the music library each time (takes about 1 min for a large library), a minor annoyance.
    ***EDIT A fellow Head Fiier (Howlin Fester) pointed out this is a feature enabled by default, I have since disabled it via system settings and has not been an issue since.

    A pleasant feature of the M3s is it’s support of Hiby Link. Hiby Link allows you to control the M3s remotely using Bluetooth via your smartphone. At a passing glance, this doesn’t sound useful, however when traveling on the train or bus, it becomes a great convenience feature. Instead of being forced to use scroll wheel interface when on the move, I can use the Hiby App. This results in immediate and satisfying music selection, and I found myself using it even during home listening sessions. Of course, the Hiby app is in dire need of a make over, support the resolution of the new iPhone X model, and also needs full English support but the functionality itself is solid.

    Sound (8/10)
    When listened to my first song “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach”, I took notice of a complete new layer of the song. There is a sub bass note which begins 15 seconds into the song, and lasts throughout the song. This new song layer elevated my appreciation of an all time favorite, and introduced me to the strong point of the chipset system used in the M3s (AK4490EN DAC). The M3s excels in separation. Every instrument has plenty of room to breathe. When comparing Takako Mamiya’s Love Trip on the iPhone 5 to the M3s, the bass and mids were in full force on the M3s, it’s as if new energy was poured into the song. The iPhone 5, sounded weak in comparison.

    M3s doesn’t add anything unnecessary to the music, I would describe it as neutral. If you use a bright headphone (eg K3003i), it will be bright. If you use a warmer IE800, music will sound warm. M3s aims for a clinical presentation for accurate sound, and it definitely delivers. The highest volume I used was 66 at low gain for a quiet classical recording, and many Head Fi’rs report these can drive 650’s well. Nothing to complain about, but if I ever hear a Dave/Hugo2/Yggy for reference I’ll be sure to publish my thoughts comparing to the M3s.

    In summary, the M3s is an outstanding device and challenges the Chi-Fi market in a bold fashion. The simple OS, articulate sound presentation, and wonderful craftsmanship add up to a strong addition to the Shanling family of devices. Even as an app junkie, you won’t see me clamoring for Android to be added for future revisions. Shanling made the right choice here, I just wish they used that better judgement with the scroll wheel. If you can look past this, and prefer a non-Android player, you may not need another DAP until you’re prepared to spend the money for a Lotoo Paw Gold. I wonder how will Shanling followup with the M5s? I’m excited for what the future holds.

    Features I Liked
    • Gapless Playback
    • Long Battery Life (13 hrs)
    • Feels wonderful in the hand
    • Snappy OS
    • Great Screen
    • USB DAC mode
    Features That Needs Work
    • Scroll Wheel
    • Leather Case Design Flaw

    M3s Specs:

    K3003i Specs:

    iSine 10 Specs:
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018
  8. Howlin Fester
    Very excellent write up. I enjoyed reading it very much.

    Regarding Auto Scan:
    I was on the recent Shanling DAP review tour. When I mentioned the Library Auto Scan, Shanling mentioned that it is a user setting and you can turn it off.
    Do you have Auto Scan turned on? Or is it still auto scanning when you disconnect from the computer even with Auto Scan turned off.
    Shanling likes this.
  9. kp297
    Ah ha! Yes, this was enabled by default, I have disabled it. Thanks for the tip!
  10. Howlin Fester
    No problem. Happy to help.

    Also. Are you aware of this awesome function? << PAGE UP/DOWN >>

    I use folder view exclusively. If you press the FFWD and RWND buttons (on the left side) while you are in the folder view, it will page up and page down.
    Makes navigating large file counts a breeze.
  11. kp297
    Yes I do use the page function (it does help), however the scroll wheel still presents a problem when selecting songs. I haven't fully trained my muscle memory to rely on the page buttons yet, as using the wheel feels more intuitive even though it's imprecise.
  12. subguy812
    Yes...The Kann has the A&K house sound of the AK100II & AK120II. It is warmer but it is also smooth. The M3s has more clarity and transparency. The storage on the Kann is nice and the power.
  13. Tex Irie
    Is it prone to sibilance with something that sounds like an Oppo PM-3 or Shure SE846?
  14. jmac1516
    Do basic instructions for doing the manual firmware update exist anywhere? Just want to not screw anything up!

    Do you guys download to a card or can you simply connect the M3s to your computer?
  15. kp297
    If you go to the Google Drive link Shanling provides, instructions on installing the software update is a file labeled 'update instructions'. It provides all the info you need.
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