Although I mentioned a few pairings already, I still wanted to highlight a few to provide a good sense of the strengths of the M8.
64 Audio Tia Trio
I paired the Trio with the PlusSound Exo GPS cable and pairing this with the M8 provided great synergy. The Trio get a very analogue-type bass that is full of texture and detail, quite lush and at the same time punchy and physical. It rumbles more than I am used to. The treble gets a very nice, somewhat sweet sparkle and the overall feel is musical and fun.
FiR Audio M4
I used this pairing in my classical music series because combined with the DITA Audi Oslo cable, the pairing with the M8 produces the biggest and most natural feeling stage I have heard so far. It felt like a concert hall and as if the M4 were scaling beyond my usual PAW6000. The PAW6000 also made for quite a bright pairing that was toned down by switching to the M8 and midrange notes became a little warmer and fuller sounding, that in my opinion really helped with the timbre of acoustic instruments.
Vision Ears VE5
A superb pairing together with the Effect Audio Lionheart cable. I find this pairing to be among the most natural sounding I know and transparency is fantastic. The midrange is beautiful with outstanding vocals that are clear and have great density. The M8 makes the stage of the VE5 bigger and yet they still maintain something that feels intimate and focused.
The M8 has a wide range of connection types that give it great versatility. The Qualcomm CSR8675 chipset offers full BlueTooth 5.0 support with LDAC, LHDC, aptX HD and SBC transmission and reception, as well as additional aptX LL, aptX and AAC reception. It has 2.5/5G WiFi with WiFi file transfer support and firmware updates.
For wired, it has USB DAC function with up to 32 bit/768 kHz and native DSD512 support. It has a software Line Out that sets the volume to LO voltage level and this works with every module, as well as USB digital out. I have used the digital out with the Violectric V380 desktop DAC/amp and it works very smoothly. The M8 automatically recognizes a DAC/amp has been connected and when unplugged switches back automatically as well.
With the M8 Shanling have firmly established themselves in the portable high-end with a very refined, high quality and beautiful sounding DAP. A lot of attention to detail went into it and the only area where some improvements can be made is at the software level. The implementation of the AK4499EQ DAC chips has been done very well and the sound quality reflects that, it is a very high quality reference sound with a hint of warmth and a natural feel. It is refined and does not resort to any tricks to add a perception of detail. Build quality is great and the system runs super smooth with full Play Store support. Last but not least, the highly innovative interchangeable headphone socket adds versatility that will extend beyond just the different types of standard headphone out. Excellent job Shanling!