ME500 is a hybrid with a 10mm dynamic driver and a dual balanced armature, the Knowles TWFK-30017. Its sound signature has a slight tilt towards the upper registers with good supportive tight bass presentation from the dynamic driver and a clean midrange. ME500 focuses on a clean and detailed presentation with good amount of detail retrieval with a dynamic and open soundstage.
- Bass – ME500 has the dynamic driver doing bass duties and the bass sounds tight, controlled, crisp yet smooth. Since the balance of the signature is tilted slightly towards the upper mids, the bass never comes off as overpowering. It has a nice linear and neutral character but can bring in good impact and rumble when the song has it, yet always sounding in control and clean. It has decent amounts of sub-bass presence and note definition is pretty good. Bass character can be altered with the multiple options of ear tips included in the package and they really do work!
- Mids – Lower mids sound very clean and clear. There is no muddiness or boxiness. Vocals, snares and toms come out sounding very natural with some extra zing because of the upper mids which are more present than lower mids. The upper mid peaks are at the right places which keeps tonality and timbre of most instruments accurate and natural, though at louder levels that same boost in the upper mids can start sounding a little hot. But nonetheless, at average levels, everything has good clarity and balance.
- Treble – The treble range is very open, clear and sparkly. The treble is on the bright side but there is no sibilance and everything sounds exciting and energetic. It’s not the intrusive kind at all. It’s the kind that makes songs exciting. It adds nice top sheen on string and brass instruments and cymbals sound life-like. Its character enables good detail retrieval and has a nice feeling of airiness.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation.
- ME500’s soundstage is open with good width and depth. Depth in particular is impressive as instruments that sit behind in the soundstage are portrayed pretty well. Imaging is pretty well done too with accurate placement of all instruments. Because of a brighter character and good amount of detail retrieval, separation between instruments is good too.
- Shozy BG – BG is an all acrylic shell with a metal nozzle whereas ME500 has an all metal shell. As for sound, BG sounds slightly warmer overall compared to ME500. Bass in both sounds controlled and tight with BG’s being slightly more prominent and ME500’s sounding tighter in comparison. Mids sound equally good but ME500’s mids sound livelier and more energetic. Upper mids in ME500 are more prominent. ME500’s treble is more extended than BG and also sounds more open and airy. Both have a good soundstage and good detail retrieval.
- BGVP DM7 – DM7 has 6BAs and semi-custom shaped resin shells. DM7’s bass has more resolution and mid-bass quantity but ME500’s bass has more sub-bass impact and is pretty fast for a dynamic driver. ME500’s lower mids are cleaner whereas DM7’s are fuller. Upper mids are more prominent in ME500 but DM7’s upper mids are equally detailed and resolving. ME500’s treble is more open and airy than the DM7.
- Fearless S6Rui – S6Rui like the DM7 too has 6BAs and semi-custom shaped resin shells. S6Rui’s bass is more present. S6Rui has fuller lower mids whereas ME500 has them leaner and cleaner. ME500 has more upper mids presence whereas S6Rui has it smoother Harman style. ME500’s treble is more extended and present whereas S6Rui’s treble slightly rolls off post 8-9kHz. S6Rui has a warmer soundstage whereas ME500 has it open, airy and slightly wider. Resolution and detail retrieval is great on both.
Special Mention – Shanling UP2.
UP2 is Shanling’s portable Hi-fi Bluetooth amplifier sporting Bluetooh 5.0 with support for LDAC, LHDC, aptX HD, aptX LL, aptX, AAC and SBC. It has the Qualcomm CSR8675 Bluetooth chip, a ESS Sabre ES9218P (same as M0) DAC and Knowles SiSonic microphone. It has an output impedance of 0.25Ω and an output power of 67mW @ 32Ω with 116dB SNR, which is pretty sufficient for most IEMs and headphones, except for headphones with crazy high impedances. It supports up to 96kHz/24 bit and has very low distortion at 0.005%. It also works as a plug and play USB DAC/AMP with laptops. The LED light indicator on the body flashes the codec being used using different colors, each color representing a particular codec.
It has a 400mAh battery claiming life of 11 hours per full charge and deep standby time of 200 hours. While I was sifting through the lineup of product reviews, I hadn’t switched on the UP2 for almost 20 days until I got to ME500’s review, and the UP2 was still at 100% charge, which amazed me! As for ease of use, I’m highly impressed with the UP2. It’s small, extremely portable and very ergonomically designed. It has the classic Shanling wheel which has multiple functions. All the functions are listed for you convenience below in the image from the Shanling website. They work as advertised and respond to the inputs properly.
UP2 sounds pretty good too, be it as a USB DAC or as a wireless DAC/AMP, especially with its hi-res codec capabilities. I’m always skeptical when it comes to Bluetooth DACs but well UP2 impressed me a lot! I generally like to use it when I’m going for a run, a bike ride with my phone in my backpack or doing random chores while I have my phone/DAP in one place. In my tests, its range was pretty good and the connection was mostly always stable while staying inside its range of connectivity. Sound has a nice warm character and it does a pretty good job keeping the resolution nice wirelessly too. I didn’t really get the urge to shift to wired connection when I was using the UP2 and that says a lot about its capability. The Knowles mic’s voice quality is very good too.
Shanling ME500 Platinum edition is one of the best sounding IEMs around the $300 mark. It is highly resolving, detail oriented and makes for an exciting listen. Its energy is something that most people will appreciate. With strong and rugged Platinum coated Brass shells, it is built like a tank and will be great for rugged/on-the-go use. It comes with ample ear tip options and a leather case in the package too. All in all, it is a very well-designed product and gets a thumbs up from my side. Also, make sure you try the UP2 if you’re looking for a portable Bluetooth Hi-fi AMP which also doubles up as a USB-DAC. It is crazy good for the price and will serve you well.
Gear used for testing and review.
- Macbook Pro
- Shanling UP2
- Hiby R6 Pro
- Oneplus 7 Pro
Reference Songs list.
- Foo Fighters- The Pretender, Best of you & Everlong
- Coldplay- Paradise, Up in flames & Everglow
- Ed Sheeran- Thinking out loud, Bloodstream & Galway Girl
- Chainsmokers – Somebody, Sickboy, This Feeling & Closer
- John Mayer- Slow dancing in a burning room, Stop this Train & Say
- Gavin James- Always & Hearts on fire
- Switchfoot- Meant to live & Dare you to move
- Our Lady Peace – Do You Like It & Innocent
- Linkin Park- Papercut, Somewhere I belong & Talking to myself
- Maroon 5- She will be loved, Payphone & Lost stars
- Lifehouse- All in all & Come back down
- Breaking Benjamin – Diary of Jane
- Karnivool- Simple boy & Goliath
- Dead Letter Circus- Real you
- I Am Giant- Purple heart, City limits & Transmission
- Muse – Panic station
- James Bay – Hold back the river