A review of the Shanling player M3s — the most stylish of...

A review of the Shanling player M3s — the most stylish of players

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It seems that Shanling is very like the approach adopted in automotive engineering, — reuse your successful discoveries, releasing different models in a very similar case. We have already seen M5, M2 similar to the previous generation, now it’s time to “rethink” M2s firing model older M3s.

Of course, major changes have occurred inside. Moving strictly within the framework of fashion, Shanling made the M3s fully balanced, adding a second DAC AK4490. The processing was subjected to the amplifier, in addition to adding balanced connectors, the company was able to reduce the output impedance and process the sound in the direction of “more interesting” feed. To fuel all this stuff has increased the volume of the battery and the operating time when using conventional output grew significantly (and using balance). Of course, slightly increased the size of the case and expected price. If M2s is sold somewhere for $ 200, the price new is around 250-280 $ (of course, the numbers are correct at the time of the review).

Specifications

  • DAC: 2 × AK4490
  • OH: MUSE8920 + AD8397
  • Frequency range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz (-0,15 dB)
  • The ratio signal/noise: ≥115 dB
  • Total harmonic distortion+noise: 0,0015%
  • Output power (@ 32Ω): 130 mW normal output, ≥230 mW balanced
  • Output impedance: <0,3 Ω the normal exit, <0,6 Ω balanced
  • Channel separation: >75 dB, normal output, >102 dB balanced
  • Support formats: MP3, WAV, WMA, FLAC, AAC, ALAC, APE, ISO, DSF, DFF
  • Maximum resolution: up to 384 kHz/32 bit, DSD up to DSD256
  • Display: 3″ 480 × 800
  • Battery: 2600 mA/h
  • Work time from a single charge: up to 13 h regular output, up to 8 h balanced
  • Charging time: ~2.5 h
  • Input: USB-C
  • Outputs: 3.5 mm naushnikov/line, 2.5 mm balanced
  • Memory card: MicroSD
  • Dimensions: 13 mm × 53 mm × 14.5 mm
  • Weight: ~135 g

Packing and delivery

Packing M3s quite traditional: a box of thick black cardboard with texture, top, white “dust cover” with good printing. Inside too, there’s no surprise — right under the cover is the player, and below accessories:

  • USB-C cable
  • manual and warranty card
  • 4 protective stickers (suitable for front and rear)
  • replacement sticker “HighRes” (for those who are not high-resolution)
  • plug for 3.5 mm port (it is also possible to press the reset button)
  • MicroSD card reader

It turns out that, on the one hand, included a lot of things, and with another — the most important, of the cover, I didn’t.

Design and management

The appearance of the player is very similar to the M2s, with the small difference that the “Troika” has become even longer (a necessary step to accommodate the increased battery and balanced scheme). The player still looks great: the metal “frame” of the case is complemented by a 2.5 D glass on both sides. It looks great, perhaps the M2s and M3s is the most stylish player initial segment. And on average, perhaps they’d be very OK. Of course, the glass collects fingerprints, but used here, an oleophobic coating, so it is fairly easy to scrub. It is also obvious that glass is fragile, but here, except for case, it is difficult to advise something. Player comes in three colors: black, blue and graphite grey, they all look very stylish. The build quality is very good, backlash, squeaks and knocks when shaking no.

The increased size of the device will not go to harm him, the player is still quite thin and narrow, so it fits in your pocket and as well fits in your hand and controlled.

The controls are fairly traditional. On the left side there are three buttons to control playback, MicroSD card slot and reset hole. On top is a power button, it also serves to screen off. On the bottom put the interfaces: two outputs (balanced 3.5 mm and 2.5 mm) and USB C. As in previous version, player very versatile in terms of connection, via USB port it can charge, connect as a USB drive or DAC, also sees the player connected via this port to an external USB DACs and USB-OTG stick. On the right side is the control wheel, it selects menu items and on the playback screen allows you to adjust the volume. Clicking on this wheel is used to select menu items, just below is a button return to the previous item. The encoder wheel quality, so it clearly rotates with a characteristic easy clicks, allowing you to conveniently control the player. Like previous models, the company retains M3s inherent in the entire line of ergonomic disadvantage: the volume can only be adjusted on the playback screen, in other cases it is used for menu navigation. Can’t say that this is a big problem, but such a persistent disregard of the defect is surprising.

The upper part of the front panel is occupied by the screen, it is the same as in the M2s, but since the “Troika” longer below the screen remains more empty unused space. The screen itself is quite good, the resolution and viewing angles, and color reproduction, is quite level. Traditionally in the sun the screen fades significantly, though, covering her hand image you can see.

Firmware

On IOS traditionally worked “great and terrible” Hiby, hence the “standard feature set” specific to their players, and logic of the menu. Speaking “in General” — the player is quite stable and fast, different “children’s sores” is largely solved, so in most scenarios M3s shows itself to be a reliable device.

Main menu feature traditional Shanling in a semicircle, displaying in the left part of the cover of the current album. It looks impressive, but it is noticeable that the designers didn’t know where to put the magnified area of the screen, in menus and in the “Now Playing” free space is clearly “walks” unused. The main screen offers the traditional 5 points: return to the playback screen, the media library, file browser, sound settings and system options.

The screen playback (Now Playing) does not carry any surprises, everything is quite expected: the top cover, just below the time, the name, position and everything else. Long press on the scroll wheel opens the extra menu: play mode, add to playlist/favorites, settings, playback, system settings, and delete the file.

Menu My Music hides the typical media library — there is a list of recently played tracks, playlists, favorites, and default groups: all time tracks, albums, artists and genres. Scanning files is quite fast, so the library update doesn’t take very long.

Then there is the traditional item File Browserthat hides, as you can guess, the file browser. Here you can see the contents of your memory card or connected via USB-OTG external drive. At this point, long press on the scroll wheel also opens a context menu allowing you to delete the file/folder or add it to a playlist.

Sound settings (a.k.a. “Play Settings“) is also quite familiar: the volume limit and volume default gapless playback or fade-transition between tracks, EQ, memorizing the current position, gain mode digital filter (4) sound, volume leveling (replay gain), channel balance and transition to the next folder when the current is exhausted. This is the “gentleman’s set” M3s on the current firmware.

System Settings is also quite familiar to all users of the players with firmware from Hiby. Here you can configure the update media libraries, background, theme, backlight time and timers off. Of course, switch the USB mode (DAC or file access), 3.5 mm output (linear or naushnikov), output mode DSD. Here you can set the system clock (in my memory Shanling — the only Android player with this capability). By the way, if you hate that after a short delay the player all the time returns to the playback screen is also you can turn off the option in English is called “Automatically Resume Play”. There are also buttons can be set working under a locked screen, and a choice of time until the immersion of the player in deep, saving the charge sleep. Immediately switches on Bluetooth and connects devices.

“Blue tooth” in the player is implemented very versatile, M3s not only can transmit audio to headphones and speakers, but also it can act as a receiver, if you want, for example, to stream music from your computer or smartphone. However in this case, the APT-X codec will not work (at least my MacBook Pro shows that involved SBC). Implemented in the player and support Hiby Link — Android smartphone (and more recently iOS) you can control playback, when viewing the media library of the player.

While working on the one hand increased, normal 3.5 mm output is 12 hours and 40 minutes (tested traditionally MEEAudio with P1 in the role of load 44.1/16 FLAC, low Gain), on the other hand, with balanced output, the charge will last 7 hours and 50 minutes), which is considerably less, although also generally quite good.

Sound

To listen to the device used the following headphones: iBasso IT03, 99 Meze Classics, Audio Zenith PMx2, Noble Kaiser Encore, Campfire Audio Andromeda, 64 Audio U12, HUM Pristine and others.

In the previous model M2s Shanling tried to get rid of the typical, slightly vintage supply M2, but slightly overdone, and the sound of the M2s turned out quite so faceless average. Of the series, when there are no problems, but also to cling to something to celebrate “good work” — won’t work either. It seems that the developers this problem is also realized and tried to give the girl M3s his face.

NCH at M3s a little bit stressed and slightly softened, which gave the effect of “realism” for live instruments. Of course, these nuances are not pronounced, so to complain about the lack of resolution and the study of textures here is not necessary, all is good for this price level.

Mid-range, on the contrary, served without the slightest trace of color, the player is not trying to add emotion or something to do with the stage and positioning of the instruments, the midrange here is not beyond resolution, but for a niche player is quite good and at the micro – and macro-dynamics. Imaginary scene average in both directions, but the separation of instruments and plans made fine.

Treble is also a bit accented, in most cases it is beneficial to the flow of the player, Recalling the proper usage of the filter “sharpen” photos — the sound becomes a little lighter, a little easier, small release focused and give the flow saturation effect. Naturally, player should avoid really bright headphone, though it depends more on your taste preferences. Separately, I note that, despite the emphasis on bass and treble, “middle” M3s has no effect of failure, because the focus is not using the AFR, talking about the “V-shape” there is silly.

Of course, without multiple comparisons, it will not be.

FiiO X3 Mark III. Of course, younger than the average player FiiO M2s over a competitor because of price, but since X3-3 still sound better than “two”, you can compare with M3s. Player from FiiO offers a more neutral sound with a bias toward lightness and better resolution on MF/HF, while the Shanling more perfect for fans of holistic sound and a warmer stream music.

Cayin N5. Another neutral and skillful player without pronounced accents in the sound. Factoring in the difference in size and ergonomics (and it is great), purely on the sound — N5 better resolution and micro-dynamics, but more dependent on the recording quality and can sometimes sound dry.

Shanling M2s. If you compare two players with each other, is perhaps the most appropriate word to describe the differences would be “boring”. Not to say that the M2s sounds boring, but the contrast with bold accents of “big brother” that’s perceived sound of the second generation.

FiiO X5-2. Despite the release of the 3 generation FiiO X5, the second is still sold, and, after discounts, is one of the most powerful offerings in this price segment. A fairly compact size, convenient controls, sound, steadily balancing between technique and emotion — that is the strengths of the five. When compared to the M3s, that X5-2 is better at resolution, offers a more emotional midrange, but in some genres it plus emotions can be excessive.

Compatibility

It was the right step for processing the amplifying part to reduce impedance, this made the player more friendly to the headphones crossover. Also some models will benefit from the balanced connection, but mainly — due to the added power. Subject to the availability of 230 mW “balance”, player universal load and can rock almost anything except for very tight patterns and Vysokomol. Noise sensitive models (ku-ku, Andromeda) is, but it is small.

Genre player, of course, is universal, if you like it a little “painted” feed me, he especially liked the type styles of jazz, chamber music, live is not heavy rock. However, everything else he plays is also nice. The quality of the recording it is quite tolerable, more than 6 points on a 10-point scale of fault-finding he can’t score.

A few traditional tracks as example

Kid Rock — Greatest Show on Earth. Let it not bother you the name, nothing to do with the epic Nightwish album, the first track of recent album kid Rock has not. We have the same almost poppy hard “stadium” format, equipped with an atmospheric Intro and a lovely melody with driving riffs. This music is well suited to serve M3s, winning from accent on LF and a good study of the MF.

Max Richter — Song of the Dead. Perhaps the most interesting song from the soundtrack to the TV series Taboo. Minimalistic orchestration, piercing female vocals, contrasting combination of high and low notes, emphasized by the flow Shanling M3s, sounds very impressive.

Victor Rice — Motion Study I. Do not undertake to define the genre beyond this the work of Victor rice, there’s a bit of reggae, little bit of Latin music, a lot from jazz, but the list does not end there. If you take a good player (Yes, M3s for example) with appropriate flow, this album will be a wonderful memory of summer and warm and will help to brighten up winter.

Insights

Shanling clearly understand in what direction they should develop their device. Main disadvantages M2s were identified and carefully eliminated, a new player turned out and stylish, and the music. It would seem that it would be possible to relax and start to open the champagne, but on the approach of a lot of competitors that promises to make the beginning of winter very hot.

PS If you like music and/or actively interested in the topic of portable audio — subscribe to my channel @PortaFi Telegram, where I am able to announce the reviews, sometimes I share news, thoughts and good music.

Buy Shanling M3s