Disclaimer: The Shanling M2S was sent me directly by Shanling for this review. The price is 199 USD and it has 3 color options; black, blue and red. I compared the M2S with Cayin N3 many times in the text. You can check out Lieven’s review on N3 to have some idea about these 2 entry-level players.
Shanling has become quite renowned as of late and we see their audio players on Head-Fi and other platforms. Their DAPs receive praises all over the forums and here we go with their latest player, Shanling M2S.
Shanling also have some mid to high-end DACs and amplifiers so you might want to check out their website HERE.
SHANLING M2S – Design, Build and Usage
This little player is the newest addition to Shanling’s lineup and it has 1.45cm thickness, 100g weight and 3inch retina screen. Both front and back glasses are 2.5D, so it feels very comfortable in hand. This is a pocketable and very easy to use player with nice ergonomics, and it reminds me the form factor of AK100. I absolutely loved using the player throughout this testing time I had.
Build quality is quite nice too. It comes with an aluminum body and the finish of it looks very cool. It feels sturdy and compact in hand, especially those 2.5D glasses give an impressive look and feel to the device. General usage is satisfying with this DAP but you need to get used to the wheel navigation system. No worries though as it’s very simple to get used to it.
You can see how tiny it is in this photo:
What if they used a touchscreen? The screen is 3 inches so maybe it wouldn’t be very comfortable to use like that in a small size. Anyway, the wheel on the right side is easy to use once you feel comfortable with it. It has 2 functions, scrolling up and down, and entering by pushing it as a button. And of course on the playback screen, you set the volume with it. I think this is a reasonable solution by Shanling for this size. In comparison with Cayin N3, I found this one more practical. By the way, there is a back button right below the wheel so you use that one for going back.
On the left side you have 3 buttons, which stand for play/pause, forwards and backwards. On right side of the top you have the power button. When you open the screen with it you face with an additional lock screen which is a little unnecessary to me. It acts like a lock screen on a smartphone with clock and battery info. But you need to press the power button once more to reach the interface. There’s no option to remove that lock screen by the way. Maybe with a software update they can add the option. (Update: After the review people told me that you can get rid of that screen with disabling the clock on settings. Nevertheless, I think that setting could’ve been more clear) On the bottom you have 3.5mm standard jack and USB Type-C port. Note that 3.5mm output also works as Line-Out.
The UI is pretty and polished overall and the screen has very nice colours with good brightness. I didn’t face a problem or an annoying bug with the UI. It took around 35 seconds to update the library of around 1000 songs. Quite fast. And the overall experience is very fluid too. Just like the build and design, the software is smooth and solid. It has every kind of feature you can ask for in todays standards. In addition to the form factor and beautiful UI, it can act as a USB DAC, has good amount of power to drive many phones, has a microSD slot that can take up to 256GB and it has a Native DSD playback!
You also get a nice case inside the package, as in the photo. Not very practical to me but still good.
For stream users, there’s an excellent Bluetooth feature. Just like we’ve seen from Cayin N3 it works like a Bluetooth DAC. The feature is very convenient, especially controlling your music from the smartphone is fast when compared to DAPs of course. And not having a cable attached to your smartphone is another plus in my book. On the other hand, when I used TIDAL I heard some cracks and pops sometimes over the Bluetooth connection. Spotify was better, probably because it’s MP3 and there’s less data to transfer compared to Lossless TIDAL. Even so, I really liked this feature and I think there may be many people around who’ll buy this DAP just for this.
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