My experience with the EM5 has been positive, but I think Shanling can improve various aspects, especially in the software. Before sharing my ideas about those, let me share my general experience with the device first:
First of all, not having any obligation to connect to a PC or phone makes the EM5 a very flexible device on your desk. It gets the job done in terms of being a complete music solution. I mostly used it as a desktop DAP and listened to both streaming and local files. The main playback software is exactly the same as the M8 DAP with the same features.
The device can be controlled remotely via Shanling’s “Eddict Player” software. This software projects the device’s screen to your phone/tablet, so you don’t need to be right next to the device at all times. The Android software is quite stable and I haven’t had any significant trouble with the UI. Of course, it’s not as fast as the smartphones that we have nowadays, but nevertheless, it’s still very good. One thing I appreciated with wireless projection is that, when you adjust the volume on your phone, it directly adjusts the output volume. You don’t need to turn the volume wheel. It’s a nice touch.
There’s one more thing I discovered with the EM5. When you plug two headphones into BAL and SE outputs, you can listen to them both simultaneously. I didn’t expect that to happen. This was the thing I liked about Chord Hugo when it first came around. A rare feature that allows you to listen to with a friend, or better, with your wife!
Even though the device provides a pleasing user experience, there are areas that could’ve been better and these areas can be improved in the future. First off, the EM5 needs a power outlet to work. There’s no battery available, so this factor limits the device’s flexibility a bit. A battery-powered device would’ve been excellent so that you can put it on any desk in your house or office. Of course, this would make it pricier and more complicated so I’m not the one to judge.
Secondly, the screen is flat on the top with horizontal placement. I think a screen with an adjustable mechanism would be much better for better ergonomics. A tilted display feature would make this device easier to use, just like what A&K did with their latest CA1000. Nevertheless, I recommend you tilt the device with a dedicated stand.
The wireless projection feature allows you to bypass the screen on the device, but it doesn’t work perfectly as it has some quirks and small bugs. The screen on your phone and tablet is the exact copy of the device’s screen. It has to be horizontal when you use the feature. You need to tilt your phone for the horizontal format since the software doesn’t allow vertical usage. This takes away the usability a bit since the picture on the display becomes stretched. When you use the native format, the display becomes very small on the phone.
Apart from that, the wireless projection is a bit slow and sluggish to control the device. Sometimes it disconnects randomly, especially when you’re on a streaming service like Qobuz. When the screen goes off to save power, your wireless projection screen on the phone goes away as well. So you need to wake up the device to see the display again. The workaround for this is to set the display not to turn off for 30 minutes which is the maximum allowable time.
Another issue, for now, is the DSD playback. The EM5 has issues with some DSD tracks which the bass becomes distorted with low texture. Oddly enough, with some songs, the problem goes away after 30 seconds of playback time. So I think this is mainly a software issue which Shanling can resolve soon. Other formats work perfectly fine. You can set up the SRC mode on Android to set the sample rate to a fixed format like 24-192 to work around this issue for now.