Clear, Clean, Comfortable.
PROS: Solidly built aluminum shells, great comfort, good selection of accessories (great leather case!), good quality ergonomic cable, a clean and clear sound.
CONS: Can be a little to bright for some, PVC ear guides can cause some irritation over time.
I would like to thank Shanling for providing me with the ME100 in exchange for my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.
- Drivers: Single 10mm dynamic driver
- Frequency response: 20 – 40,0000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 111 ± 3 dB
- Impedance: 16 Ω
- Cable: 8-wire, oxygen-free copper with MMCX connectors
- Price: US$ 119
- For Sale on MusicTeck and Amazon.
Although it might not always be obvious to those of us in the head-fi community who focus more on portable gear, Shanling is actually a Chinese Hi-Fi company with a long history. Established in 1988, Shanling finds its roots in stereo amplifiers and has since then gradually built up a portfolio with a wide range of products. The move into the portable gear market came in 2014 when Shanling released their first portable DAP, the M3, followed a year later by their entry-level M2 and in 2016 by both their flagship M5 and the highly popular miniature-sized M1. The M1 was recently succeeded by the even smaller sized M0, which I have been using as my training DAP and packs an awful lot of performance in a diminutive sized player. With their various DAPs, Shanling established itself as one of the most popular companies for affordable, yet high-quality players on the global market, breaking the stereotype that is sometimes still attached to Chinese products.
Most recently Shanling added a completely new product line to their portfolio by moving into IEMs. Shanling entered this market with the entry level, single dynamic driver ME100, which will be followed by the slightly higher-level hybrid ME500. At around US$120, the ME100 sit in a highly competitive market that seems to be flooded by IEMs of widely varying quality. There is a large selection of what a friend of mine recently called “generic meh” and maybe one or two really stand out as quality offerings. It is very rewarding if you can find those one or two, but I have tried to get a feel for the various IEMs and it feels like trying to find a needle in a haystack. So generally I don’t get around to many offerings within this price range. The Final E4000 and E5000 were the exception up to now and I was really impressed by them. I still am actually, as the E4000 are these days paired with the M0 for a really great, small form factor training setup. So when I got in touch with Shanling about the ME100 I was a little skeptical at first, but soon found that Shanling had been putting a lot of thought into their first IEMs and I felt they sounded really promising. More than enough reason for me to have a closer look.
When the ME100 arrived I was quite surprised by what I received. Removing the white cardboard sleeve and opening the black box revealed a very nice presentation of the selection of included tips with above it a leather case in which the ME100 monitors were neatly presented together with the mmcx cable. Included also were a booklet and cleaning tool. I felt the presentation made the unboxing feel quite like you would expect with a premium product. Moreover, the selection of included accessories is really well thought through. The leather case is genuinely useful and the foam holding the ME100 monitors can be removed to create the perfect amount of space to place the ME100 connected to the M0, making for an ideal travel setup. The foam on which the tips are presented has an indication of what their effect on the sound is. Out of the box medium sized ‘balanced’ tips were fitted on the ME100, but also included are ‘vocal’ tips and ‘bass’ tips, all in small, medium and large sizes, as well as one set of medium foam tips
Build quality and fit.
Of course a nice presentation does very little if the product itself does not have the quality to live up to the expectation that is built up by it. Happily Shanling’s attention to detail extends to the ME100 themselves.
The shells are made out of two pieces of CNC machined aluminum with a decorative piece of black tempered glass on it. From the website I gather that this design was inspired by the shape and smoothness of a water droplet. It is a nice design, but importantly, is also very solid and the shells feel like they will hold up to intensive use well. As the ME100 have a 10mm dynamic driver, the shells are vented and Shanling went for two vents, one on the back of the shell and one on the inside. It is smoothly done and indeed the whole shell is as smooth as a drop of water, giving great comfort. I have worn them for long listening sessions and found the shape to be very ergonomic, the weight to be nice and light, and the stems to have a good size (not too thick or too long). Overall comfort was among the best I have had from all the IEMs I have used.
The ME100 use MMCX connectors, which I personally think are a sensible choice. I know that not everyone is equally happy with those connectors, but my Shure SE215 have never given me any issues in all the years that I have abused them. Only my E4000 have given me some rare cut outs after I went running with those in the pouring rain and the hard wind blew the rain straight onto the IEMs for more than a hour. I expect that if you keep them dry and clean, they should work well long-term.
The included cable is another example of Shanling’s attention to detail. It is an 8-wire, pure copper cable that uses quite a thin gauge. The braiding itself is quite tight, but the thinness of the individual wires means the cable maintains a nice suppleness and is not thick or bulky at all. The termination is made with a nice aluminum plug that is smooth, but has edges to provide grip, which is mirrored in the design of the aluminum y-split. The MMCX connectors have an aluminum base with a plastic cover that has ridges to provide good grip when plugging or unplugging the connectors. The ear guides are made of a pre-bent PVC tube, which is certainly more comfortable than the cables that also have a memory wire in them, but I am personally not a big fan of this either. When I wear the IEMs for long periods of time I do start to experience some skin irritation from the PVC rubbing against my ears.
Overall I think the ME100 offer an excellent build quality for this price range (and above), a well thought out design, good selection of parts and great comfort. So it is high time to have a look, or more accurately “a hear”, to see if the sound too can live up to all the anticipation that is being built up.
All listening was done with my AK70 from the SE out and some with the Shanling M0 and Cowon Plenue 2.