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Over So Small a Thing – A Review of the Shanling M2s

Shanling provided the M2s free of charge for the purpose of this review, for good or ill.

The Shanling M2s sells for $199.00 MSRP
M2s on Amazon

When the offer came to review the new Shanling M2s, I jumped at it. I spent a week with the original M2 back in the day. It was a solid player, with one major flaw: around 5 Ohm output impedance. This made sensitive multi-driver IEMs sound dark and wrong. At the time, my best earphone was the JHAudio Angie, and the M2 f**ked with it in terrible ways.

I expected this would prove an issue Shanling could overcome. And so I looked forward to seeing them do just that with their latest offering.

The original M2 was a straight-forward DAP. All it did was play files stored on a microSD card. The M2s, on the other hand, strives for a bit more.

It does Bluetooth Apt-X output, and standard BT input, for f**ks sake! It can be used as a DAC, streaming wirelessly from your smartphone. That is AWESOME! I had no trouble setting it up, either. If you’re at all familiar with BT pairing, you’ll feel right at home.

It has robust headphone driving power, and native DSD playback. Right this moment I’m listening to a DSD copy of Brother in Arms by Dire Straits, on my Sennheiser HD6XX. Volume is not even maxed out, and it’s good and loud.

Shanling knows the way to my heart is a nice volume wheel. This wheel does much more than that, however, acting as a navigation/scroll interface, and, when pressed, selects whatever item is highlighted. It’s a goddamn button! The other buttons are simplistic and to the point. Nothing to write home about. They just work. The basic use of the M2s takes a little getting used to. Once you grow accustomed to it, the strength of this streamlined design is apparent. It is a powerful little player and a joy to use.

Included in the package is this awful hard-shell case. Why is it awful, you ask? Well, it makes contact with the volume wheel, adding annoying amounts of resistance and making the wheel nearly useless. Worse even than that is how bloody difficult it is to get off. I nearly broke the DAP, and goddamn did my fingers smart, but once it was back off, I never put it on again. It is no doubt the torment mankind deserves, but not one I’d recommend for your leisure time.

This generation of Shanling incorporates the USB Type-C port for date transfer and charging. Cayin is on this now, as is the new Astell&Kern. Pinky sees a trend. The winds are changing…

I’ve played FLAC files in 16bit/44.1Khz, and in 24bit/192Khz, as well as DSD files. Shanling was quick to handle all formats and resolutions. It didn’t seem to struggle with any of them. I’ll tell you, it’s bizarre watching a small device like this play DSD so easily. A part of me thinks it shouldn’t be possible. But what can I say? Technology is progressing, as ever it has.



Pinky Powers

Pinky Powers

Pinky is an artsy twat. Illustration, graphic design, writing. Yet music escapes him, and always has. He builds his own cables, and likes to explore the craftsmanship of others. He's a stabby one, also. At the first hint of annoyance, out comes the blade. I say he's compensating for something... in a big bad way. If we all try really hard as a collective, maybe we can have him put down.


13 Responses

  1. I don’t recall if I ever transferred any files over while the card was inside the M2s. I just put in my 128GB microSD, full of FLAC files (in properly formatted folders), and Shanling had no trouble reading those files.

    If worse comes to worse, you can format your card in the player, take the card out, and use an SD reader to load it up from your computer. Then just put it back in.

  2. The presentation and support for the MPs is shockingly bad. The instructions are minimal and virtually unintelligible, tracks downloaded from a PC (using any number of software solutions) end up as unidentified, meaning the player is useless. It only just works with MP3 files, meaning that all the high specs are little short of useless fluff. It’s shockingly bad,

  3. Thanks for pointing that out.

    When I’m writing, I don’t like to break my flow by scouring the net for numbers. Usually I’ll do that after, during the editing process. Sometimes certain things are simply missed.

    The 7 Ohm output was me trying to remember from nearly two years when I reviewed the M2. I always meant to double check that, but it got passed me.

    As for my experiencing with the M2s… it sounds fine on all my IEMs. Since the output impedance is nearly the same on both players, I don’t know why that is. Sadly I don’t have Angie around anymore for me to see how she handles the new Shanling.

  4. Shanling M2 has 4.9 Ohm output impedance, not 7.
    Shanling M2s has 4.6 Ohm output impedance.
    And you said that M2s has no matching issues, lol. I already have no confidence in your review.

  5. From my experience, a device like the M2s will deliver a noticeable improvement in sound quality over any smartphone, or computer.

  6. Hey there.. without a point of reference (atleast the options I can afford) it is hard for me to understand how this would sound. I am looking at this player for my vsonic gr07. My surface book drives the gr07 plenty well with decent depth and very good extension.. Atleast to my standards that is (yeah I haven’t heard the greater iems/headphones tho I did own an entry fi hd598 before gr07)…this is the problem I am facing out of this review since I can’t see any way to compare with what I have. I don’t like the way my OnePlus 3 sounds. It’s not terrible but I wish for better. It is midbassy with not good extension so lacking proper low end and bad hazy stereo image(I love the phone for things I other than sound). So all I want is the dap to sound atleast as good as the surface book (which has a fairly weak amp but clean btw). Things I love about gr07.

    1. Imaging (atleast compared to what I have heard)
    2. Lack of grain (except in treble region where there is minor ringing).
    3. Fairly linear but extended low end without much bloat..

    I don’t necessarily desire a warm sound or anything like that. I like any tonality as long as it has nice detail layering extension and imaging and doesn’t have much peaks and dips.

    Do you think the shanling m2s would fit my needs well?

  7. Hopefully I’ll get the N3 back pretty soon. I spent a little time with it before sending it on its way for the North American Tour. It was quite good, but that was weeks and weeks ago. I don’t remember enough of how it sounds to make a proper comparison.

    After the tour is over, the agreement is for it to come back my way, and I’ll do a review of it then.

  8. I have recently reviewed the Cayin N3 as part of the European tour. I strongly suggest you give it a try, as soon as you have a chance to do so. It may make you rewrite the last line of your (excellent) review, at least soundwise.

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