I would like to believe that all of us are aware of Shnaling. They have been releasing products in a lot of catagories lately. They started with DAPs and now they are one of the best DAP makers in the market. They have ventured in to IEMs, BT and USB DAC/Amps.
I have previously worked on their M5s, M6 and both of these were the best sounding DAP of their time, much better at balance and value proportions than their competitors like DX120 or DX160. Even the Sony ZX300 had more colored and uneven emphasis across the spectrum.
Here I have the Shanling M3X, which fills the void between the M6 and the M2X. This $500 to $200 price bracket is the stepping stone for most of the audio enthusiasts. It is a follow up to the M3S and an upgrade to the M2X, the M3X comes with a lot on improvements. It has bigger display (4.2 vs 3.2 inches), runs on more powerful hardware and has Android 7.1 (the friendliest android version for audio) operating system. Basically M3X is a chubby mobile phone without a SIM slot. One can install Play Store and enjoy a lot of stuff on this slightly smaller display. Unlike the more expensive offerings M3X opts for a mid range DAC chip ES9219C and guess what, to provide a fully balanced output it has two of these.
All of this can be bought at $339 or 30,000rs.
Get one for yourself from here:
For Indian buyers:
ACCESSORIES & PACKAGING:-
There M6 comes in a clean and simple looking box and a few necessary accessories can be found inside it. There is a type C cable, a user manual and a warranty card rounds up the list of things out of the box. Both the screen guards are pre applied so one needs not to bother.
They like to sell their cases separately but it would have been nice if they had bundled it with a basic case.
The M3X looks like a more evolved M5S. Its metal body is flanked by curved glasses on both back and front. At the bottom one can find the Type-C port along with SD card slot. Right side houses the signature wheel which doubles as the power and wake up button, left side has three music controller buttons and the top is house to the 4.4mm and 3.5mm sockets.
With a weight of 168g the M3X is a very light weight DAP, lighter than both my mobile phones and thanks to the bigger body it feels less dense which helps with better weight distribution. With a height of just 109mm, width of 72mm and thickness of 15.9mm The M3X feels solid in the hand and is very comfortable to operate with one hand.
Nothing is mentioned about the glasses used on both the sides and I have not tried scratching them either but the pre applied protectors do help with confidence. Thanks to the use of glass the M3X will barely survive a fall even from the height of an average table so getting a case is totally a necessity.
Display: Front side of the M3X is dominated by a 4.2 inch capacitive display with HD resolution. Touch response of the display is very good, as good as mobile displays. It has acceptable sunlight legibility and I had no problem seeing the display in direct sunlight. There is a small led just below the wheel. It turns red when charging and turns blue when fully charged.
TECH SPEC and UI:-
USER INTERFACE: The M3X runs open android 7.1 and one can use playstore and APKPure app stores to install your favourite application. It is a pure android DAP with gain setting, lowpass filter modes and wireless playback quality options. In the drop down menu we have shortcut to audio setting, gain, airplay (for media servers), PO/LO option and we have an option to switch off the android mode and go into prime mode which disables the android UI and apps turning the M3X into a pure audio source. You still have access to setting, you can access wireless connections but you can’t access any other app. It is more like a launcher where the music player takes over.
Updating the Firmware is kind of tricky. There is no software upgrade option in the setting, it has to be updated from the support app or the whole firmware can be downloaded from the official website.
The Default (pre installed) music app is Shanling Player and it is not bad at all. It has UPnP and SyncLink options built into it, you can make playlists, delete tracks at your will and other basic functions include a basic graphic EQ if EQing is the need of the hour. You can always install and use your favourite music app from playstore for better control and customizable options.
SPECIFICATIONS: To handle the Android properly the M3X carries over the Snapdragon SD430 soc (octacore) from M6 but now has only 2GB of ram with 32GB of onboard storeage. Out of the 32 GB only 24.2GB are available for storage. Ram management too is very good, most of the time it has more than 1GB of RAM is available. If you want to run games on the HD display let me tell you the SD430 can run subway surfer and other low on graphics games without much trouble but don’t expect it to run PUBG or COD.
Now moving on the audio specs it uses dual ES9219C DAC chip which gets help from KDS crystal oscillators. In single ended mode the separation has improved from 65db with M5s to 75db and balanced crosstalk goes super high to 115DB.
It has “Hi-Res” certification for both wired and wireless connectivity.
The M3X has all the connectivity options as any other android device. After the usual wired connectivity you can connect it to your PC via the USB cable and use it as a DAC too (Shanling PC app needed).
The M3X has handful of wireless connectivity options. It has BT 4.2 and full array of Wi-Fi connectivity. It supports 2.4g and 5G dual frequency Wi-Fi. If you like BT you can stream and transmit high resolution music or do both at the same time. Connect the M3X with your mobile phone or TAB and you can use it as a high-res Bluetooth amplifier (Codec support: Two Way – LDAC & SBC; Transmit only – HWA LHDC, aptX HD & aptX). With support of UPnP you can connect to your media servers without carrying around your whole music library with you.
The M3X has a healthy 3200mah battery to keep the lights on and its battery life is mighty impressive. The official figure is 23hrs when you use single DAC mode with display off but the practical number with dual DAC mode was giving me more than 17-18hrs of playback time. This is very impressive considering its battery size and playback duration of its competitors. Playing videos YouTube or streaming video definitely drains the battery faster. Streaming audio do sustain better battery life of around 20hrs.
Exciting News is the SDM430 has QC 3.0 and can be topped up in around 1hour 40 mins with a 15w charger. Using a 10w charger will take around 2 hours and 30 mins.
M3X is a mid range DAP and is not the most powerful DAP in its price range either but it has 80mw with 3.5mm out in single DAC mode and 101mw in dual DAC mode. The 4.4mm has a power of 240mw. all these figures at 32ohm which is not bad at all. Yes, one cannot say that it will drive tricky IEMs and most of the headphones without any problem but does well with most of the IEMs I threw at it. It can struggle with planar and some multi BA IEMs. At 1ohm output impedance it is compatible with nearly most of the IEMs.
Sound quality, select pairing and conclusion on the next page.
Very nice detail review and picking up minute notes in low, vocal and treble . I am a cowon fan but cowon is not available now so planning to buy shanling m3x. Is this on par with cowon, as i think nothing can beat cowon in sound quality.
M3X is not exactly in the League of Cowon Daps, if you want to buy a Plenue R in pristine condition, write back.
Hello thanks for a great review. Could the m3x comfortably drive Phillips fidelio x2hr? Thanks
Yes, it can, without much problem.