Shanling M0

REVIEW - Shanling M0




Website - Shanling







Specifications
  • Size: 40*135*45mm
  • Screen: 1.54 inch, 240*240 high definition touch screen
  • Weight: ~33g
  • DAC model: ESS Sabre ES9218P 
  • Battery time: up to 15 hours
  • Standby: about 30 days
  • Charging time: about 2 hours
  • Battery capacity: 640mAH lithium
  • Storage: Micro SD only, maximum support 512GB
  • Output port: 3.5mm
  • Output power: 80mw@ 32
  • Output impedance: 0.16
  • Channel separation degree: 70dB
  • Recommended earphone impedance: 8-300
  • Frequency range: 20HZ~20KHz
  • Distortion: 0.004% (A-Weighting, output 500mV) 
  • Signal to noise ratio: 118dB (A-Weighting)
  • Bottom noise: <3uV (High gain)


Price: $99~109.

Purchased from MusicTeck.


Great customer service and the package arrived in just a week time which is quite a record considering the usual customs delays.

Unboxing...





The package includes the USB cable (Type A to Type-C), manual and warranty card.




Design

The Shanling M0 is among the smallest portable audio players on the market. The design is not just super compact but also very cute, and probably a selling point for the M0. Build quality is not left behind. The unit is very well built with a whole CNC aluminum machined chassis (including the volume wheel) in a very smooth finish. The shape is well rounded on every single corner too. The square shape and low weight (<40g) is also very pocket-friendly and ultra-portable.



The M0 is not just compact but also very minimalistic. The front side consists of the small ~1.5" LG touch screen of tempered glass. The screen resolution is not too high with just 240*240 of display, though the brightness can be set high enough. Color depth is average but nothing to complain about for this small form factor.


At the bottom there are two different connections for multiple uses, USB Type-C socket to the left and 3.5mm plug. The USB port can be used not just for charging and access the micro SD, but also for DAC function, while the 3.5mm port can be set as output for extra amplification.



To the left, there is the hidden micro SD card slot and reset button, well protected by the plastic cover. There is no internal storage on the M0, though it should support up to 512GB cards. Only tested with 128GB Samsung card and no issues so far.



Finally, the right side holds the small control wheel used for volume adjustment, power on/off if held a few seconds and screen on/off on single press. There are extra 2 functions that may be assigned to this button by user preference (see next section).





User Interface & Software

The interface is very simple. Apart from the volume wheel there are no physical controls and everything is managed by the small touch screen. It may sound that this makes things simpler, but in practice, the lack of the basic playback controls can be a disadvantage. Not a problem when using Bluetooth sets, but the 3.5mm plug does not respond to in-line controls.

The wheel can be set to 2 extra functions by user preference, play/pause, next or back track; useful, but still limited. Moreover, the wheel lacks accuracy when adjusting the volume, usually jumping two steps instead of a single one. It is annoying but not a serious issue as the volume changes are very low from one step to another and probably something that could be fixed by a next firmware release.

Using the Shanling own MTouch OS the navigation with the small touch screen is easy and the response is fast enough most of the time. You start with five different round tiles at the home screen and can go back to any previous menu with a short swipe to the right. The small screen can only show four lines a time, which is quite acceptable.

In theory, it is also possible to go back to the home screen by single touch and hold on any screen or menu for a few seconds. However, in practice this feature is far from being perfect and can be more than frustrating; sometimes it works just fine, but others there is no response regardless what part of the screen is touched. Moreover, while the scrolling through lists is fast, it is also too sensitive and on a slight swipe up or down it will go to the end or top of the list; problematic when scrolling through long file lists. Also, if a folder or file name is too long for the screen, then it is possible to scroll the whole line text by a short swipe to the left; this must be made with lot of care, because if missed it will scroll to the beginning or end of the current list.

The software on this M0 already arrived with the last 2.42 version. And good news that so far the system is surprisingly very stable, no freeze and never needed to reset the unit after a month of daily use.

Below the different screens and menus:

Playback screen(s)


Home screen(s)


My Music


Playback settings


System


Wheel shortcuts


Volume bar


Themes



Battery

Rated to perform up to 15 hours. A fair statement when using only the wired 3.5mm output with easy to drive gears with a volume level of around 30 (out of 100) and on low gain. However, the numbers will drop drastically when using any wireless feature even at lower ~20 volume steps, where the battery may hold up to around 10 hours. And if used as source for a DAC or amplifier then it will drain the battery even much faster.

Charging time is actually fair and may take to ~2 hours to fully charge. The USB Type-C does not support fast charging.


Bluetooth performance

The M0 features a 2-way Bluetooth connection, so it can be used either as transmitter or receiver, supporting up to BT 4.1 version with common codec like SBC, AAC, AptX (not HD) and now various LDAC options. I used it mainly for streaming music to some portable earphones and headphones like the u-Jays Wireless, Zolo Liberty+ (total wireless) and the Soundcore Spirit pro for more active use. The paring is not always immediate even with devices already listed on the M0. Once paired the M0 automatically adjust to the best BT codec available. Connection is usually good but not perfect. The BT antenna appears to very sensitive, so if blocked a little bit there are some short interruptions on the music playback and it is very annoying when it happens. Otherwise, it can work continuously for some hours.



As receiver, it worked fine with a couple of Samsung Galaxy phones, and the BT connection was actually better than when used as transmitter.
Either way, the volume can be adjusted by the M0 wheel, though the EQ won't work (not that is worth anyway).

 

DAC usage

The M0 also features a bidirectional USB interface, so can be used either as external DAC, and might need to install extra drivers. It works fine and the playback can be done as usual through the M0 controls.

Also, it is possible to use the M0 as source for an extra DAC; however, the volume is fixed to maximum so it is useless if used with something as the Dragonfly. Moreover, the battery is drained very fast too.


Sound Quality

The M0 rates a low output impedance and expectedly pairs pretty well with easy to drive gears with usual low impedance up to 32ohm and standard sensitivity of ~100db. It can drive any kind of IEMs, dynamic, multi BA or hybrid sets to more than an enough loud level without showing signs of distortion. Earbuds too are well powered as long as they rate up to 64 ohm, and didn't have problem to drive some headphones like the u-Jays, P55 Vento or even the Meze 99 Classics. Moreover, there was no hiss and the background is rather quiet with low floor noise.

Some of the gears used include the iBasso IT01, Dunu Falcon-C, FLC 8N, final E4000 and CustomArt Fibae 3, Periodic Audio Be. For larger wired headphones, the Meze 99 and briefly the SoundMagic P55 Vento (v3).

Inside, the small Shanling M0 adopts an ESS SABRE ES9218P DAC chip, found of a few good smartphones and on other small portable players as well, but of course with a sound tailored by the company.

Sound-wise, the presentation is clean and mostly linear from lows to highs. It is not a neutral, flat reference sounding portable player, but does compete well within the $100 price. While there is not much coloration to the sound either, the M0 shows a noticeable lift on the mid-bass region for a bit fuller note on lower instruments. Easy to catch with any headphones that have a north of neutral bass response but not a serious bass boost with heavy-bass sets. Extension is limited without much sub-bass rumble or depths, but on the other hand the upper-bass is quite controlled and clean when reaching the lower midrange. Layering and texture are decent, and speed is actually good when paired with nice dynamic drivers.

The midrange is neutral if a just bit laid-back. There is not much emphasis on either instruments or vocals, and while the tonality is neither too cold nor too warm it can sound a bit of dry and lean. The level of air and separation suits well for the price; better than a few sub $100 options but clearly below than more dedicated DAPs that cost 2 or 3 times more. Transparency is good enough with a fair level of detail.

The treble has good control with just little boost on the low treble area for extra energy and sparkle, trying to impress with more detail and added fun factor. Extension is decent with just a small roll-off at the higher registers. There is not much room to complain about in terms of treble quantity; however, the quality is not as positive. The timbre is kind of off and more importantly it sounds kind of artificial; not a big issue when paired with more affordable earphones of around the $100 mark, but if going higher it will sound quite 'synthetic' and simplified.

Soundstage is limited, lacks expansion and width with a more 2D effect, though the channel separation is good. It works good enough with IEM or closed headphones sets on lower budget that don't have a large stage presentation, but with higher stuff it will sound very closed and limited.

As reference, the Lotoo Pico or xDuoo X10 are more expansive, and yet the M0 sounds more spacious and airy than the Nano D3 or Fiio M3K; so pretty much it fits well to its price range.




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