Shanling goes deep into the stationary Hi-Fi, the company portfolio has many such listings and successful models. Almost 5 years ago Shanling has decided to conquer the portable world and released rather functional and well sounding M3. Then we have seen M2 – a good music player for the lovers of dark presentation -, not too successful M5 flagship and at last, the audio player that has shown the vector of development in the company – M1. At this time engineers have understood that the market demands a stylish device. The digital audio players that have come afterward (M2s and M3s), have proved the idea successful. In 2019, Shanling launched the latest budget portable DAP M2X, how about this Hifi player?
Like the M0, the M2X came in a box with a white sleeve that included some basic information on it and images of the different color options available. It looks like the M2X has three options, black, titanium and red, whereas the M0 had a couple more with purple and blue as extra options.
Removing the sleeve revealed the same classic mat black box with a glossy Shanling logo on it and it looks very nice, so no reason to change that. Popping the lid also popped out the very bright red M2X player contrasting sharply against the black background.
At its price point, the M2X’s screen is glorious. Colors are rich, vibrant, and view angles are good. Resolution of 320×480 is good enough to show album artwork with decent detail.
It also takes up enough real estate and is wide enough that touch-based gestures aren’t easily confused. This stands in direct contrast to FiiO’s M6, whose gestures are hard to repeat because the screen is so cramped.
This time, Shanling shipped us the M2X with a neat leatherette case. It is for sale separately. It’s a smart move, even if the music player looks astounding without it, it’s best to keep it covered.
The DAP M2X arrays things nigh on perfect. Pointing down are track forward and play functions. Reverse points up. Volume ramps are higher with a twist up. With ordered lists and software-driven hardware design, such inconsistencies may be inevitable. It’s annoying, but it’s also now par for the course.
The volume wheel doubles as an ON/OFF switch. It sits on the same axis as the play/pause button, but thankfully, it never gets in the way. I’ve never accidentally pressed it whilst using the tracking buttons. This is because the thumb naturally falls higher up on the body. Contrast this to the iPhone 6, whose long body forces the thumb to also nudge the ON/OFF button when engaging volume. Yes, the M2X is more thoughtfully designed than a Cook-era Apple iPhone.
Better yet, the volume wheel returns interactive graphical feedback only at the top of the screen, and can’t easily be accidentally commandeered by a swipe. Yes, you can control volume via the software, but it first requires you to thumb the volume scale before the M2X changes to a volume screen.
DAC and LPF
The Shanling M2X DAP cuts off one of the dual AKM AK4490EN chips found in the M5S. A splendid chip working in a duo with a TI OPA1612 for low-pass filtering. If you look at the numbers, they are a bit behind the M5S :
the advertised SNR is now announced at 117dB in Single-ended mode, and to 116dB in Balanced mode.
Sampling rates support is now limited to 384kHz instead of 768kHz max.
The new circuit traded the previous amplifiers for a new set of AD8397. Power output is rated at 106mW @ 32ohm (single-ended) and 120mW @ 32ohm (balanced) which is still plenty for a pair of IEM or portable headphones.
Another difference is the adjusted output impedance, respectively 1 ohm in single-ended and 2 ohms in balanced mode. No noise whatsoever, theoretically.
Inside the Shanling M2X is a 2,400 mAh battery which does an amazing job at allowing the player to play tracks for a long time. It is, in fact, able to keep the player going for more than ten hours on a single charge when using the 3.5 mm jack output, with that figure going down to roughly 7 hours when using balanced mode. Although these figures are still somewhat limited, they’re in line with what’s on offer on the market – competitors are in the same boat.
The Shanling M2X drains amazingly little power when in standby: it takes five or more days before the battery is completely drained without active usage. That means that you can forget about it and still be relatively sure you will be able to play your favorite tracks when you pick it up again. You won’t have to worry about turning it off at night, that’s granted!
I have used ME500 of Shanling for listening purposes: a three-unit combination earphone with single dynamic driver and double balanced armature drivers.
Except for the very first player, M3, the company has never really tried to make a neutral sound with any accents, and M2x is not an exclusion.
Bass is normal in resolution, not too speedy but also not boomy. There is the lowest bass but it somewhat lacks control. Midbass is better and the player offers quality textures and naturalness of instruments of this register. The lows are balanced and their amount is exactly the same as in the recording. Bass is thick and springy.
Mids are more into macro details, simplifying micro details somewhat. In other words, this is a player for those who want solid presentation and not dry monitor one. Of course, the level of details is not maximal, but it is enough to transmit all nuances from the recording. M2x overall sound is emotional and uses additional energy that gadget brings to the upper mids, underlining the female vocals and some instruments. The sound stage is well built, it is average in width and below average in depth, but instrument separation and layering are rather good.
The highs can also be described as normal. They are not outstanding as in flagship players, with flawless layering and balance of weight in the upper highs, but they are good for the asking price. The highs have good resolution, length, and control, attacks and decays are a little short, but they still bring natural sound.
The M2X is an affordable, richly featured DAP that delivers excellent sound quality. The UI might be a little rough around the edges but is smooth, responsive and intuitive to use. The sound I feel can be best described as neutral with a bit of punch and a slightly brighter tonality to make the music detailed and exciting. Build quality feels great and with a lot of up-to-date features, I think it makes for a great value DAP that is definitely worth a closer look.
Screen: 3.2inch, 320 x 480(resolution ratio)
Weight: about 147g
Support: 32bit/384kHz, DSD256
Gain compensation: high, low
Storage: external TF card, support 2TB capacity
D/A transform chip: AK4490EN
Power (adapter): DC5V,2A/Type-C USB connector
Bluetooth: 4.2 Version
Bluetooth code system: LDAC(2-way)/aptX( launch only)/AAC(2-way)
Output power: 180mW@16Ω/106mW@32Ω
Frequency response: 20Hz-40kHz(-0.5dB)
Output impedance: 1 Ω
Channel separation: 70dB(32Ω)
Dynamic range: 116dB
Distortion + noise: 0.0015%
Output power: 212mW@160Ω/120mW@32Ω
Frequency response: 20Hz-40kHz(-0.5dB)
Output impedance: 2Ω
Channel separation: 107dB
Dynamic range: 116dB
Distortion + noise: 0.0016%
WiFi standard: IEEE802.11b/g/n
WiFi use: DLNA/AirPlay/OTA online upgrade/HiFi Cloud Library/KuGou Music/TIDAL Music
2400 mAh, fully charged in 2.5 hour
10.5 hours in Single-ended output mode, 7.5 hours in Balanced output mode lasting