Today we are reviewing the new Shanling AE3, the latest IEM from the brand is selling for €/$169.
Disclaimer: the Shanling AE3 was sent to us free of charge by Shanling in exchange for our honest opinion. You can find them on their website, or your nearest dealer.
Founded in 1988, Shanling has been developing Hi-Fi products for more than 30 years now. From high-end CD players to classy tube-amps, the brand made a name thanks to great craftsmanship and top of the line performances. Since, Shanling catalog has kept growing with DAP like the M6 and M6 Pro, portable DAC/AMP, and even in-ears.
And, if last time we reviewed the ME700, the flagship, today we are looking at the opposite side of the scale, with the AE3. A new model, priced at just $169. How does it fare compared to its siblings? That’s what we’ll find out!
The MEX00 Series
As usual, here is a quick presentation of the Shanling IEM range.
The Shanling ME100 is the entry-level IEM from the brand. Sold just under $/€120, it got one dynamic driver, an aluminum CNC Milled frame, and removable cables thanks to MMCX sockets.
There are a lot of options in this price range, so we’ll have to check if the ME100 is any good. That said, the custom-made driver is capable of exceeding one tesla, which is impressive, to say the least.
The Shanling ME200 is a hybrid, dual driver, IEM. What took it apart from the other models (before we got our hand on the AE3, was the acrylic 3D-printed shell, where the ME100 and ME500 are given metallic enclosures. Still, acrylic shells remain the best option available, in terms of comfort and isolation.
The dynamic driver is strictly the same: a double magnet dynamic driver, with a nanocomposite diaphragm. For the mids and highs, Shanling added a Knowles driver, properly tuned for their need. Last but not least, there are five “pop” colors available: floating clouds purple, sun red, volcanic ash grey, clear blue, and deep blue. All match well with the silver-plated copper cable.
The Shanling ME500 is the mid-range/premium model from the brand. Like the ME200, it enjoys a dual-driver hybrid configuration, where a dynamic one is matched to a BA driver. Bonus point, the Knowles driver combines two chambers in one, to ensure better performances.
Again, the shell is made of CNC-cut brass, which is quite impressive for a $269 IEM
Shanling ME500 Platinum
If you want to go even higher, there is a platinum version of the Shanling ME500. What’s the difference? The shell is coated with platinum, one of the most precious metals on earth.
We reviewed it a few months ago, so I can auto-quote myself:
“They are built like a tank, comfortable, well-designed (yes that’s subjective I know) and, most of all, sound great. If they can become hissy with some sources, once correctly driven, they give a crisp and clear performance. If you favor voices and dynamic, the ME500 should definitely be in your list.”
The Shanling ME700 is the golden boy, the flagship. So much that the brand even chose to gold-plate the dynamic driver for “further absorption and unwanted vibrations”. Also, while the ME500 and ME500 platinum enjoyed metallic cases, the new ME700 gets a more classic acrylic shell.
We reviewed that model a few months ago, here is an excerpt:
“The Shanling ME700 isn’t the TOTL you would expect, but they are the great IEM you deserve. [..] Sound wise, it follows the path carved by the ME500, but improves almost every aspect: wider sound stage, richer mids, cleaner lows, and a step-up in terms of resolution. My only regret is how shy the lows may appear on budget DAP, not that may be a concern for most of you. Yet, it’s been a long time since I’ve put my ear on an in-ear this dependent of the source.”
The Shanling AE3 fits just between the ME100 and ME200. It shares the same acrylic case found in the latter, but ditch the hybrid configuration for a full BA setup.
There is more than that of course, but don’t worry, this is the model we’ll review today.
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