Shanling Q1

Fashionably… on time!

PROS: price, sound quality, build quality, battery life, two-way Bluetooth w/LDAC support.

CONS: on a heavier side, inherits M0 interface which could be optimized better for a bigger Q1 display.

The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.

Manufacturer website: Shanling.  Available for sale on MusicTeck.


Intro.

In the last few years Shanling has been leading the way of entry level mini DAPs ever since they introduced M1.  After M1, they pushed the envelope further, taking it down from mini to micro level with M0.  While the size was getting smaller, the sound performance remained at a pretty decent level, even challenging some mid-fi DAPs.  But it wasn’t just the size and the sound performance.  Shanling was also making a “fashion” statement, making both audiophiles and regular consumers to consider M0 because it looked cool.  After all, the market is saturated, and you do need extra tricks up your sleeve to stand out from the crowd.

So, where do you go from there in an attempt to top it?  As long as you are keeping a touch screen, going smaller than M0 would not be practical.  And Shanling already has bigger screen DAPs, from M2x to M6.  The only logical step was to revive the original M1 by infusing it with the tech of M0.  That’s how Q1 came to life, a little bit bigger than M1 (yet smaller than M2x), with physical playback controls, touch screen and MTouch OS, and the same guts as M0.  Shanling decided to introduce Q1 through crowdfunding campaign, and I got a chance to test their final pre-production unit which I would like to share about today.

Unboxing and Accessories.

Considering that Q1 review unit I received is pre-production model, sent ahead of crowdfunding campaign, at the moment of shipment to me the final production packaging wasn’t finalized yet.  Thus, I have nothing to share about the unboxing experience of Q1.  But based on my experience of reviewing other Shanling DAPs, they usually don’t disappoint and feature a compact colorful packaging.

Regarding accessories, I didn’t receive any either, but was made aware that you should expect to find a quality USB-C charging/data cable, a matching color silicone case, user guide, and probably a set of film screen protectors.  If I get the final production unit when it becomes available, I will update this section, especially with pictures of their silicone case.  Since Q1 is shaped like a rounded-corners square pebble with a slippery back, the case would be a plus to enhance the grip.

Design.

The original M1 design was a big hit for Shanling, having a perfect balance between the size and the functionality, but it was also a non-touch screen DAP.  With a release of M0, Shanling pushed the envelope of being one of the first micro-DAP manufacturers with a touch screen display.  But for some people it was too small and lacked physical playback controls.  Q1 took M0 to the next level, scaling it up to be around M1 size, just slightly bigger.

Q1 measures about 75 x 62 x 16.5mm which is a little bigger than M1 but smaller than M2x and having a weight of 137g which is about 100g more than M0.  The front of Q1 has a glass surface with 2.7” touch screen (360 x 400 resolution) placed symmetrically in the middle.  The sides and the back are one solid body piece made using zinc alloy material.  According to Shanling, the selection of this material allows them to use new coloring methods.  My review unit arrived in purple, but it wasn’t a boring purple but rather a retro looking color and finish.  Later, I was informed that crowdfunding campaign will offer its own original colors, and purple was only used in review units, to showcase the paint finish.

Looking around the sides, nothing is at the top.  Left side has evenly spaced large round Play/pause and Skip Next/Prev playback buttons, with a tactile response and clear marking.  At the bottom you have USB-C port for charging, data transfer, USB DAC input and USB Audio output.  Next to it, 3.5mm headphone port which also doubles as Line out, and spring-loaded micro SD card port.  On the right side you will find Shanling signature multi-function volume wheel, which looks more like a watch crown with a matching color.  The volume wheel does stick out further than typical Shanling wheels, but to make sure you don’t click it by accident, there is an option in settings to enable double-click to turn screen on/off.  By default, the screen on/off is with a single short click and power on/off with a long press.

As I previous mentioned, the shape of Q1 reminds me of a square pebble with rounded edges, and the weight has a nice heft you can feel in your hand.  But it also feels a little slippery to carry around without a case.  My review unit didn’t come with one since it wasn’t ready yet, but final production unit should include a silicone case with a matching color.  To enhance and secure the grip of Q1, and to make sure it doesn’t slide across the surface when placed on a table, using the case is highly recommended.

Page 2 – Under the hood and GUI.
Page 3 – Sound analysis and Pair up.
Page 4 – Comparison, Wired/wireless connection, and Conclusion.

21 thoughts on “Shanling Q1

  1. Do you think the Q1 has enough power to drive the Sennheiser HD650? The Sennheiser is not terribly demanding compared to Planars but still has a 300 ohm impedance. Thanks.

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    1. I get this question asked a lot, after many dap reviews. One of these days I might have to buy a used pair of HD650 just for review testing… I can’t answer this question without trying this pair up. But my gut feeling tells me it won’t pair up well in this case.

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      1. Thanks for your answer. I guess because many people own a pair of HD650 (or Drop HD6xx) or at least are familiar with its tuning and capabilities so its a good reference headphone that people can immediately associate with. haha

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      1. Thans . I think that could be interesting give a balanced output to Q1 with iBasso Dc01, but I know that Q1 is better than Dc01. And what do you think about Q1 + Iem Fiio f9 pro ? Thank you for your replay !

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    1. Alex, great review. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come back to it for reference.

      If I may, the D2 is higher quality in every way SQ-wise on a test bench, but of course, you must pay a lot more for it. It is also more powerful. That said, at the ear, with the right filter, I see no appreciable difference between the D2 and the Q1. The difference is 3dB at the top end, where the Q1 tops out at 118dB or 117dB and the D2 tops out over 120 for dynamic range and noise.

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  2. @ohm thanks for adding your answer. I seriously doubt between the D2 and Q1 .
    I do have M0 for now and Cowon iAudio X5. I prefer the sound of the latter, it’s more natural comparing to M0, but the X5 battery dies, I’m not that handy to fix that.

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    1. should have a good wide soundstage, and more balanced natural tonality. A little on a smoother side in mids, not the most technical, but a very pleasant tonality, similar to M0.

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  3. Hi, very helpful review!

    This is my first time buying a DAP so I am going to get this one. Have been hearing a lot of good things about them. Can I ask a big favor? I am ordering from this website ( http://www.headphonezone.in ) because I am from India. Could you suggest me a good pair of IEM and over the ear Headphones that matches nicely with the Q1?
    I’ll be eternally grateful!💕🌌💕

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    1. There are literally hundreds of IEMs out there, and often it comes down to your sound preference and budget. A few of my favorite iems are in $2k-$3k USD price range which I use with $1k-$2k USD cables. But I have a feeling, that is not what you are looking for to use with your first dap. Another problem, you might find some you think you like but it won’t be your cup of tea when you get them and you will be stuck. So, talk to the local guys at headphone zone, I heard good things about that store. Figure out and tell them your preferred sound sig, type of music you listen to, and most importantly the budget. Narrow it down to a few choices, and if you are still stuck making the final decision – comment here again.

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