Today we’re sharing the review of the Shanling EM5, the brand’s new desktop source which costs $849 USD.
Disclaimer: The Shanling EM5 was sent to us directly from Shanling. Big thanks to Shanling and the people who helped me to get this device. The review reflects my honest opinion as always. The sound impressions were taken with Sennheiser HD660S, Softears Cerberus, Sendy Audio Peacock, and Hifiman Deva Pro.
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 performance.
Shanling also developed a complete range of players and IEMs. We reviewed almost all of their portable products, including the Shanling M8 DAP which was selected as the best DAP by myself. Nano also reviewed lots of Shanling products as well as Yagiz. You can check them out here.
About Shanling EM5
The Shanling EM5 is a continuation of Shanling’s desktop device line-up. After the high-end M30, which has been an ambitious project, they released the EM5 and EA5 “streamers”.
Although Shanling names the EM5 as a streamer, the device can basically be turned to every possible scenario. It is a DAP, DAC/Amp and a streamer altogether. I used it mostly as a DAP in my tests so one can say that this is like a cheaper DMP-Z1. Ultimately, Shanling names this device as a “Music Streaming Center”, which is appropriate.
The device uses the AKM4493EQ DAC, CPAF Low-Pass Filtering, 1620 mW of power at 320 ohms, a separated power supply, and 3 headphone outputs (4.4, 6.3 and XLR). Everything is controlled from the screen of the device which is located directly on top. The software is Android and the UI is the same UI from Shanling portable DAPs. The device can also be controlled remotely, via Shanling’s “Eddict Player” application. The EM5 supports up to DSD512.
Inputs – Outputs
When it comes to inputs, the list goes on and on. The EM5 has a digital USB port for playing music from a stick, a USB DAC port for using it as a DAC/Amp. It also has an ethernet port for the best possible streaming performance. It doesn’t end there of course, as it also has coaxial and optical inputs. On the output side, there are many options as well. There are coaxial and optical digital outs and RCA/XLR analogue outs, so a total of 4 choices.
So this device overall is a complete and standalone music system. You don’t need any PCs, phones or any other connections for using it. Of course, if you want to, you can use the EM5 as one part of a music system as well. You can use it as a DAP with its microSD port for listening to your local archive. You also have the option to connect any music streaming service with WiFi or ethernet. There you have a streaming DAP.
For other scenarios, you have the option to connect it to your TV, computer, or smartphone. The possibilities are many. This is one of the most flexible devices you can find on the market. For the full spec sheet, you can check here. For the dedicated product page, you can go here. The EM5 doesn’t come with a battery, so you need to plug it into a power outlet.
Design and Build Quality
The design is familiar from other Shanling products so far, with a dark approach and gold writings on the chassis. We can definitely say that there’s a distinct influence from Sony after the DMP-Z1 though, judging by the volume pot. This was also the case with the M8 DAP, which shows some influence from the -already legendary- WM1 series. Sony proved there’s a market for these kinds of desktop devices, so I wouldn’t blame Shanling for this one for following a similar approach in terms of design language. It’s not as impressive looking as the flagship M30, but it’s very stylish and elegant.
You may find the top markings a bit unnecessary like the MQA badge, Hi-Res Audio markings, or the block diagram. They could’ve followed a similar approach to M30, which shows small areas of the circuit board, but for some reason, this one is all closed.
So the design is subjective as always, but I doubt anyone would find a weakness in EM5’s build quality. The unit is built exceptionally well with a glass top together with the screen, and a full aluminium chassis. This one feels like a rock-solid device from top to bottom. The feeling on the volume control is particularly impressive with good rigidness and clicks. All of the ports, inputs/outputs are nicely built as well. So I have zero complaints here.