First detailed look at Shanling M0

Comparison.

Here is a brief comparison with some of the selected entry level budget DAPs.

M0 vs Shanling M1

M0 has a little wider soundstage, better sound dynamics, and a more balanced sound signature, plus I hear more transparency in the sound (less coloring). M1 soundstage is narrower, sound is a little flatter (not as dynamic), and there is a little boost in bass which slightly colors the sound. Both have Bluetooth (M0 also supports LDAC), uSD memory, can be used as transport control and usb DAC, though M0 is smaller and has touch screen.

shanling_m0-48

M0 vs Cayin N3

Both have a very similar soundstage width and a nice dynamic sound, but there is a difference in tonality. M0 is more neutral and a little brighter compared to N3 which is warmer, smoother, and has a stronger bass impact. Both have Bluetooth (M0 also supports LDAC), uSD memory, can be used as transport control and usb DAC, though M0 is 1/3 of N3 size and has a touch screen.

shanling_m0-49

M0 vs Lotoo PAW PICO

In comparison, PICO has rolled off sub-bass and more neutral mid-bass, while M0 bass goes deeper and has a more balanced impact. Mids are better layered, more transparent, and more detailed in PICO, while treble is almost the same. Except for anemic bass, PICO has a better technical performance in mids and treble, but that’s about it. PICO has no display, no controls except for play/pause/skip buttons, no settings, no Bluetooth, only internal 32GB of storage. M0 is a mature micro-DAP with many features of a regular full-size DAP, as previously described.

shanling_m0-50

M0 vs FiiO X1ii

M0 has a wider soundstage, more dynamic sound, better separation of the sound, better definition and higher resolution. X1ii is smoother, has a flatter sound, less resolving, less transparent. X1ii has no touch screen, while both have Bluetooth, though X1 doesn’t support aptX or LDAC and a lot bigger in size.

Wired/Wireless Connections.

USB DAC mode works OK once connected to my Win7 laptop, and I didn’t even have to install drivers. Before connected, you must remember to switch USB mode to DAC. While connected, M0 displays the sampling rate and bit depth, but I don’t think it’s accurate yet, which I’m sure will be fixed in the next fw update. I wasn’t able to use it as USB DAC connected to my smartphone (old Note 4), need to investigate this further.

shanling_m0-57

Since I don’t have any LDAC enabled headphones, I only tested Bluetooth with aptX, and found it to work great. I tested this pair up with Sennheiser Momentum 2 Wireless which could be picky when it comes to wireless connection. The pair up was fast, the sound was clear and detailed, no different than any other wireless pair ups with different sources. After connected, I could walk 45ft away from M0 in the open space before connection starts to get choppy. Also, I had M0 in my front and then in my back pockets, even covered with both hands, and never lost a connection.

At the current moment no LDAC Receiver mode is implemented yet, but I believe it’s a work in progress for the next fw update.

With usb-C OTG connection, so far, I tested with both iDSD BL (using a cheap $3 usb-C to USB OTG adapter) and Oppo HA-2 (using Shanling own L2 cable), and it worked great in both cases. The trick is to turn iDSD and HA-2 first on so it’s running off their internal battery, and then connect M0 which detects “audio connected”. If you connect first and then turn dac/amp on, they will be draining M0 battery, overhearing it.

Also, the initial release (fw 1.5) has a fw bug when used as a digital transport where playback stops after a short while, but it has been already addressed and should be fixed in the next fw update.

You also have an option to use Line Out (switch between HO and LO in Settings) so you can pair up M0 with an external amp. With LO enabled, volume is fixed and set to the max. As usual, I used E12A to test LO and found no distortion or clipping, very clean transparent sound, a little more transparent when comparing M0/LO w/E12A vs M0 directly. Also, I hear an improvement with a little wider soundstage and better layering/separation of sounds.

shanling_m0-58

Conclusion.

I started this review with an original intention to write a short first impression, but as I continued to play with M0, this impression grew into a mini review. I still planning to revisit and to update it, especially after the next fw release, but hoping that in a meantime this write up can already give you a good idea about the functionality and the sound of this little guy. Also, I hope it can answer a burning question many audio enthusiast have every time a new audio player is released: do I really need another DAP? There could be a lot of skepticism when you see a tiny gadget that looks like a toy. But once you start using it and realize that it can easily handle FLAC and DSD files, can play your tracks gapless, and can be used as USB DAC or Digital Transport driving external DAC/amp – you quickly realize this is not a toy, but rather a tiny hi-res DAP packed with a big functionality.

It’s a brand new product release with an early firmware, but I already found it to be stable enough to enjoy audio playback and very responsive navigation. The next fw update is just around the corner, fixing some of the bugs and hopefully enabling LDAC receiver functionality. Of course, it’s not going to replace your flagship DAPs, and it doesn’t have as much power as some of the mid-fi sources to drive more demanding headphones. You got to have realistic expectations considering tiny size of this DAP, though I have to be honest that it exceeded my expectations for an entry level audio player. I would definitely consider it if you have been looking for a tiny wired/wireless source on the go, have patience and eyesight to use a very small touch screen, and don’t want to compromise on sound quality just because it’s an entry level $99 DAP.

 

14 thoughts on “First detailed look at Shanling M0

    1. I used to refer to M1 as small. Can’t call M0 small anymore, it’s tiny 🙂 You really have to hold it in your hand to feel it, like a smartwatch.

      Like

  1. Did you work out how to change the system settings? When I try to adjust the time or change the double click setting, for instance, I can choose new values but can’t set them and then return to the system settings page. I’ve tried all sorts of swiping and pressing with no effect. Have you managed to do it – if so how?

    Like

    1. not sure if I already replied to you question on Head-fi in M0 thread a few days ago, unless it was someone else asking the same question? With time, you just dial the right one, and swipe left to right to go back to Settings menu. The time will be updated. If you are having issues, just wait until next week when Shanling releasing fw1.52 with lots of fixes and optimization of touch screen sensitivity.

      Like

      1. Thanks, sounds like someone else is having the same issue. I’ll keep an eye out for the update.

        Like

  2. I’m thinking of buying either an M0, or an M2s, as a front end for a Shure KSE1200 (the M2s is a near perfect match, size-wise, for the KSA1200 amp): you’ve heard both via their LO, using an E12A; which sounds better?

    Like

    1. M0 has a better DAC implementation, I would go with that. m2s will be easy to navigate since you have physical buttons and can control playback without relying on touch screen, with M0 you can only do volume and program it for either play/pause or skip, and might need to look closer into display since it’s small. With KSE1500 you have their own DAC/amp, with KSE1200, amp only, relying on DAC from the source. IMHO, M2s dac implementation is not ok, but M0 is better.

      Like

  3. Very interesting first look!
    Since M0 looks like a better buy than M2s, do you think M3s is still a significant upgrade in sound quality (clarity, soundstage, etc.) from the M0?
    I live in Canada and M3s price is about 2 to 3 times the M0… I just want to know if, from your perspective, M3s worth it or not (using SE output).
    I mostly use Pinnacle P1.
    Thanks!

    Like

    1. It’s an upgrade, especially when it comes to balanced more powerful output. But typically people get one in addition to the other, not instead of it.

      Like

  4. This is small enough to seriously consider creating a wristband accessory for it. It seems like it could actually function as a practical setup.

    One thing I haven’t heard commented on is how sweat proof this is. I know some older music devices have turned out not to work for some of my friends/family who sweat a significant amount when exercising.

    Like

  5. Really appreciate your reviews TW.
    Many Thanks!!
    I was sure the PAW pico was going to have a superior sound sig so I am glad that you put me straight on this.
    Can you share your impressions of the Andromeda with the M0?

    Like

    1. Pico is great, but very limited in functionality when compared to M0. Andro and M0 pair up is on a warmer, fuller body side, a little thicker sound, still quite detailed. Soundstage is really wide.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s