Shanling provided the M3s free of charge for the purpose of my honest review, for good or ill.
Shanling was all sorts of kind to good Pinky and sent over their new player, the M3s. I reviewed the M2s not too long ago, finding much awesome within its tiny frame, and I was eager to see what they came up with next.
So thank you for the opportunity, Shanling. Cheers!
The M3s is bigger than the M2s. Taller, for sure. Yet considering just how itty biddy the M2s is, that’s not saying much. Rest assured, this thing is far from large. The M3s is easily one of the slimmest, low-profile DAPs I’ve tested. Not to mention light weight.
The M3’s frame is wrought of a solid block of aluminum. Aluminum is also used for the buttons and back plate. Basically the whole thing, save the screen, which is glass. Despite this, the M3s is still vulnerable to Electro Magnetic Interference. If you have your smartphone within a few inches of this DAP, you will pick up patterned noise. In my experience, when a DAP is encased in metal, the shell becomes a Faraday Cage, blocking stray signals from reaching the internal components. With a plastic case, well… This interference is only really noticeable when the music stops, or gets good and quiet, but it’s there. So when I’m at my desk, I just move my phone a few feet away, and the EMI goes away.
I don’t consider this a mark against Shanling, since my favorite mid-tier DAP, the Opus#1, suffered this same issue. And I recommended the shit out of that player to anyone with a budget under $800. But again, that DAP was encased in plastic. What I’m saying is: it’s not a deal-breaker, but something you ought to be aware of.
Shanling’s M3s continues the company’s principle mission of bringing volume wheels to the masses. A noble goal I celebrate with abandon. There is no internal storage, so all such capacity is determined by the single microSD slot and however much you shove in there. M3s sports both 3.5mm single-ended output and 2.5mm balanced output, which sounds especially nice. This DAP, like the M2s, uses USB Type-C connection for power and interfacing with a Computer.
The software UI is simplistic and intuitive and as easy to navigate as you can hope for without the aid of a touchscreen. The volume wheel also works as a scroll wheel, which can be pressed to select items you’ve highlighted. You can connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth for all your streaming needs, and HiByLink allows you to control the DAP from your phone… which is really cool. Pairing up with Bluetooth headphones is a cinch; I had no trouble maintaining a connection to my Klipsch X12 Neckband. Then of course, there is the basic USB DAC function. Can’t say I tested that… but I hear it works. Fingers crossed!
Shanling included with my package their lovely leather case. I have not used it much, since the hole for balanced output is not wide enough for some of my 2.5mm plugs. I got so frustrated with it I threw the case in a drawer and never touched it again. The same sort of thing happened with their M2s case, only it was the volume wheel that became useless. Again, I threw the case in a drawer and forgot about it. Because of this, my Shanling DAPs are a little banged up. You will see, here and there, some scruffs and scratches. Don’t be alarmed. It’s fine by me, although it doesn’t exactly make for pretty pictures.