PROS: tiny size, touch screen, impressive sound for an entry level DAP, usb-c with USB DAC and Digital Out, Bluetooth with aptX and LDAC, battery life.
CONS: needs a clip accessory, firmware is still work in progress.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
I usually don’t write long first impressions, and even with a few I have posted in the past – I took my time to gather the thoughts. Impressions could be biased and deceiving, driven by a new toy syndrome, and often just a mentioning of receiving a new product generates a flood of questions from my readers. That’s exactly what happened after Shanling M0 arrived at my doorstep. I was fascinated by how much they packed into this touch screen micro DAP, and I spent almost a week, on and off, playing with it to the point where I feel comfortable sharing my first impressions.
We are so used to innovations in DAP design coming from the high-end flagship market, that when it comes to an entry level, people only judge the value based on the price and how much functionality it’s packing. We don’t really expect innovations in $100 entry level DAP, yet Shanling proved everyone wrong by combining a footprint and a touch screen ergonomics of a smartwatch into a DAP that packs some impressive performance and functionality. So, if you are like me, a sucker for micro audio gadgets, you might be interested to find out more about this latest Shanling release.
Unboxing and Accessories.
The compact packaging box M0 arrived in has a very colorful cover sleeve with its micro DAP in different chassis colors (black, blue, red, violet, and titanium) as offered by Shanling, and with a highlighted feature of Bluetooth with aptX and LDAC codec support. On the back you have a brief spec in multiple languages.
With a sleeve off, there is a small giftbox where under the cover you will find M0 inside of a secure foam cutout, a small box with a cable, and warranty and manual booklets.
M0 is a small DAP with a minimalistic set of accessories, though I found the included usb-c cable to be of a premium quality with a nice braided sleeve. The available optional pleather case is a nice addition and cost only $15. This is a very small DAP with a slick design, so anything to enhance the grip is more than welcome. This optional case doesn’t add too much bulk to M0, has a generous opening for usb-c and 3.5mm HO port, very generous opening for a volume wheel to easily access it with a thumb, and a covered micro USB port. The soft lining inside the case will protect its metal finish from scratches. Considering M0 has a touch screen display, I found the front edge-to-edge opening not to interfere with its operations.
Shanling is also working on finalizing a clip accessory which going to be almost a necessity for people with an active lifestyle or those who will use it while exercising.
I already referred to M0 multiple times as “micro” DAP because it’s one of the smallest DAPs I have tested, on par with Lotoo Pico, and as tall as some of my aftermarket headphone plugs. We are talking about 40 mm x 13.5 mm x 45 mm dimensions with a weight of only 38g, while a pleather case adds another 4g to the weight. The front of the DAP features 7H hardened tempered glass with 1.54″ high definition touch screen by LG (240 x 240 resolution) wrapped around in all aluminum CNC curved body. The touch screen is responsive, surprisingly better than some of the smartwatches I have tried in the past. In M0 design, Shanling implemented their own MTouch OS. This is their first touch screen interface, and the smallest DAP in their line up, compared to M3s, M2s, and M1 I have tested in the past.
Inside the DAP there is ESS Sabre HiFi SoC ES9218p DAC, which has been recently utilized in LG V30 and V30+ smartphones. This 32bit mobile audio DAC has a built-in headphone amplifier, digital filter presets, support of up to 32bit/384kHz sampling rate including native DSD decoding and all the popular lossy and lossless file formats, such as DSF, DFF, ISO, DXD, APE, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, AIF, DTS, MP3, MWA, AAC, OGG, ALAC, MP2, M4A, AC3. I tested playback with MP3/FLAC/DSD without a problem.
Another advantage of this ESS DAC is optimized performance to maximize a battery life. Using 640 mAh lithium battery, M0 has about 15hrs of playback time and a quick 2hr recharge time. I will update the playback time with my actual measurements after a few full charge/discharge cycles.
For such a tiny DAP, it’s rated at 80mW at 32ohm load (translating into 1.6V) with a low output impedance of 0.16 ohms and SNR of 118dB. There is no internal storage, but you have a single micro SD card supporting up to 512GB. Also, it has Bluetooth 4.1 with Qualcomm aptX and Sony LDAC codec support. M0 implements usb-C bi-directional interface, supporting USB DAC and digital output transport functionality, in addition to charging and data transfer. The audio output is from 3.5mm port which can also be selected as Line Out.
The design is very minimalistic. Left side has micro SD port which a weather tight cover. The bottom has usb-C and 3.5mm headset port. The right side has multi-function high precision wheel, easy to turn with a thumb, yet with a nice resistance and a click action for every turn. The wheel also doubles as a push button, long press to turn the power on/off, short press to turn the screen on/off, and a double-click which could be assigned to play/pause or to skip during the playback. I found the use of volume with display off while also double-clicking to play/pause the song to be very convenient.