Shanling M6 review : Worth every penny

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Easy to fall in love with

Excellent

Shanling has left no stones unturned with the M6, it has all the features one can ask for. Its sound quality is fantastic, the display and UI is very good and has all the popular connectivity options one can ask for. The Shanling M6 is easily one of the best DAP for under $500.

  • User Ratings (1 Votes) 9.8

MATCHING WITH HEADGEARS:- (single ended)

What is an excellent source which can’t play well with the headgears. The M6 with its excellent balance pairs very well with all type of earphones and headphones let it be single BA, multi BA or demanding ES hybrids.

With ER-4P (9.8/10):

What makes the ETY 4 micro series great is excellently preserved by the M6. Compared to drier sources the M6 exhibits its artfulness and brings out good lower end body while maintaining the usual excellence with details. The slight brightness of the 4P is now a little less evident. The pairing brings out the best out of the 4P. Not only it sounds more involving and resolving it leans a bit towards the musical side too. If your ER-4P needs a change of stance, this is it.

With TSMR4 (9.5/10):-

It has a similar effect on it. The notes have fantastic accuracy, tonality and details to them. The bass has better depth and a bit more sub-bass presence without any mid bass emphasis. The decay speed is excellent with a hint of juiciness. Mid range and treble region have excellent transparency without any sharpness to them. Vocals are pleasing with very good texture and tonality. The treble region feels exceptionally well controlled with a hint of dampness. The stage is bigger with better dimension in every axis.

Shozy Pola39 (8.5/10):-

The ES hybrid is a TOTL IEM with a warm signature and it pairs well with the M6. The bass is slightly tighter while having a hair better texture. The sub-bass have lovely rumble and extension to it. Mid range is slightly more energetic, vocals have outstanding organic touch to them with plenty of texture. The instruments have excellent clarity and details. The stage size is even bigger but the treble stage is slightly smaller in height.

The Pola39 already have a tendency to be a very revealing IEM, it can expose any shortcoming of the recording or the source. It is the only earphone that brings out the only down side of the M6. The pairing is nothing short of very good but the pairing with another DAP I have brings out a bit more out of the Pola39’s treble.

If treble energy is not something you desire the pairing is 9.3/10.

Fischer Audio M12s (9.2/10):-

The M6 drives the M12 without any problem. It brings out a bit more bass extension and rumbe, the mid bass is slightly more focused with a lot of texture and details. The slight metallic tonality of the M12 reflects a bit here too, but less so. The mid range is cleaner with fantastic stage space and air between instruments. The vocals have pinpoint accuracy with nice texture. The stage size on the whole is better than the Burson Playmate in every direction. The clumsy treble region discovers its expansion and it feels more natural and expanded now.

The analytical sounding M12s does pair well with the M6, it brings down a bit of aggressiveness of it but if you think dry and peakiness not what you are after just don’t pair it with a neutral sounding DAP like M6.

AKG K371 (9.5/10):-

The sudden rush of energy of the K371 is dialled down by the M6. The Notes are now well behaved and don’t have the urgency to pop out on their own. You still can feel a bit of jitteriness but it is considerably lower now. The bass region is more extended with better sub-bass presence. The mid bass is tighter with less boominess. Mid range has very good details and clarity with plenty of micro details. The slight metallic tonality of the K371 is still there not as evident anymore. The treble region has very good extension and energy, which was kind of missing with a few sources. The stage is far more expanded and holographic now with good amount of air between instruments.

BALANCED PAIRING:-

Yes, all electronic equipments have shortcomings. What makes them better is how they can minimize the margin. The M6 has an aptly powerful single ended output and it drivers most of the things without any problem but it stumbled upon the Pola39 and got a bit nervous, that’s when the extra power and channel separation comes into play.

It really matter what type of cable you are using but in general going balanced brings nearly 3X more power and the power reflects into tighter notes, cleaner floor and bigger stage. This might reflect a bit more with the SPC cables and slightly less so with pure copper cable.

Pola39 (9.5/10):-

When I switched from stock Symphonym cable to Nocturnal Acrux balanced cable the Pola39 changed its stance. The sound signature is maintained but the bass notes are tighter, instruments sound a bit more precise, the stage is bigger with more even stage distribution, it is more complete now as the only complain I had single ended output is now addressed. The Treble region is now more agile and breaks free off the dampness which was limiting its dynamism.

GOING WIRELESS:-

Using servers with UPnP and air play does limit a bit of the freedom as it restricts the range. Going wireless with BT makes a bit more sense and with the market flooded with wireless earphones it has become one of the most used connectivity options.

BT 4.2 equipped M6 can steam high quality audio, it has far better clarity and dynamic range compared to the mobile phones. It brings out more micro details and the extension at both ends is considerably better. It still cannot compete with the wired mode but it is getting close. You still lose a bit of treble extension and energy with upper treble region but the loss of far less than it used to be.

AS Wireless Amplfier:-

If you have most of your collection in your TAB or phone you can pair the M6 as a wireless AMP. Before pair it with your mobile phone to TAB and turn on the Bluetooth amp switch in the BT menu and you are good to go. Using the M6 as a wireless amp brings the loss margin down, the dynamic range improves, treble has slightly better extension but you still cannot say you went totally wireless.

COMPARSION:-

VS Shanling M5s:-

The predecessor of the M6 is still a very good player but is slightly limited with smaller display and lack to a more popular operating system, there is no way you can add extra apps to it. It still have Wi-Fi, you can stream from tidal and same Bluetooth 4.2.

I remember people were saying that M5s is kind of analytical without much bass emphasis, but coming from a whole lot of analytical sounding DAPs from Cowon I will totally disagree to that. M5s is really musical sounding DAP with very good heft to the lower region. The AK4493 inside it is a capable chip and it was easily one of the best players when it was introduced. It has slightly mellow and damp kind of feel across the spectrum. It is difficult to get any type sibilance out of it even with jittery and peaky headphones. One you get used to it, it is one of the most cohesive sounding DAPs in the market.

When compared to the M6 the M5s has slightly bigger mid bass hump, the sub-bass is slightly less rumbly. The mid range is a bit less dynamic and notes are slightly blunt and lush. The upper mid struggles to convey openness and instruments can be slightly grainy. The sound stage is very good but is smaller in every direction. The vocals are mellow and smooth, it really is a musical sounding DAP nevertheless. The treble region is similarly extended but it lacked a bit of clarity. It kind of felt marginally veiled.

The M5s is still an excellent DAP for $400 but the M6 brings a lot more to the table.

VS Plenue R:-

The Burr B housing, analytical sounding R still has a lot going for it. It does not have any fancy functionality to it and is totally built for audio and audio only. There is no UI in it to be precise and the UI it has is not very exciting. I never go out of the folder options of it. It still houses a BT 3.0 with aptx but the Burr B chip is really good.

It sounds dry from the word go. The bass is tighter, mid bass doesn’t have much heft to it, sub-bass extension is a bit lacking and the rumble is slightly missing but man.. The details, it’s the details where it scores really high. I just simply love it. It is very precise and accurate with attacking notes, the attack is somewhere in the middle of Burson Playmate and M6. Faster decay and sharper notes give rise to a drier sound, it is very nimble and agile but takes out the musical and organic feel. It maintains very good extension and energy throughout spectrum. The treble is very lively and can be slightly bothersome to those who are not used to sharper notes. The stage size is considerably smaller but no part of the spectrum feels clumsy. Instruments have pinpoint positioning and have excellent layering and separation.

This chart should help you guys get a hold of things in a simpler manner: (points out of 10)

Source/ criteriaDetails and clarityStage size/ natural expansionBass quantity/ qualityTreble quantity/ qualityTonality/ musicalityDynamic range/ attack
Shanling M69.29.2/9.49/9.39.1/9.059.5/9.29.2/9.2
Shanling M5s8.89.0/9.29.13/8.88.7/8.69.3/9.78.7/8.8
Plenue R9.358.4/9.28.6/99.3/9.39/8.59.3/9.5
Burson Playmate (NE5532)9.39.5/8.48.8/9.19/8.69/8.39.5/9.3

SUMMARY:-

Tuning a DAP is like gymnastics on a balancing beam where everyone will give you scores. You can’t make mistakes and have to perform a whole lot of artistic acts while maintain a lot of grace and excellent balance. The most impressive aspect of the M6 is that it doesn’t take a wrong step. It has fantastic control and composure while maintains equally impressive clarity and details without compromising. M6’s balancing act is admirable. If you don’t have the budget of a TOTL DAP things can barely get better than the M6.

It has the brawn and beauty. It looks elegant with metal body sandwiched by glass on back and front, the 4.7 inch display is very responsive and the M6 uses one of the best chips in this price. The android OS with play store support makes the experience a very friendly affair. There are a whole lot of connectivity options too. Connect it by wires, connect it to the PC, Wi-Fi servers and stream from your mobile phone using the M6 as an AMP, you name it and the M6 has it.

The only complain I have is the Android 7.1.1 coupled with a dated security patch. If someone decides to use it as a 2ndary device things can be insecure. If not the Android version I would like Shanling to update the security patch at least. Maybe the next gen can have a bit more battery and better screen to body ration too? Maybe but thats not a concern as of now.

The M6 is an excellent device for audio and few things more, no doubt it is one of the best DAP in this price.

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About Author

My humble audiophile journey started in 2010, when I was in college, where I fell in love with the elements, nuances, and variations of this mesmerizing world. The ability of tiny earphones to recreate amazing sounds made my bad days tolerable and good days better! Now I am a full-time audiophile with a preference for musical tracks, especially vocals and engaging ones. I must admit I am addicted, but not to drugs or alcohol, but to earphones. Come join me as I share my experiences, bad or good, and let’s have some fun!

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