Despite some quirks and problems with the software, and some design decisions, the EM5 has a very impressive sound performance. The presentation is linear with excellent balance and coherency. The other impressive part here is the stereo imaging which is sharp and focused. The EM5 also has very good dynamism and sound-stage, together with a very nice definition in all regions.
As the cherry on top, the EM5 has a slight musicality in it so when I say balanced and linear, it doesn’t mean it sounds boringly so. The presentation is very ideal and balanced for audiophiles, and it’s not picky with IEM/Headphone selections. Synergy is not an issue with the EM5. You can use it with different sounding gear and you’ll have the same performance. So the EM5 is a very ideal source/streamer as it doesn’t alter the sound too much.
The EM5 has a linear presentation as I mentioned so that’s also present in the bass region. It doesn’t add any warmth or additional lift in this area. Instead, it gives the bass in a neutral way with good attack and speed. Decay and texture are not extraordinary, but very good. Even dynamic drivers are handled with good precision and speed, and the pace is especially good with the EM5.
So I would say the bass is very clean and neutral with good quickness. The best thing here is the speed of the bass, and lows hit tight with good definition. However, don’t expect a warm bass performance. Of course, this would depend on your choice of IEMs and headphones, but the EM5 doesn’t add any colouration just so you know.
The mid-range is musical with a good timbre and resolution. There’s a nice definition in here with plenty of detail. In fact, the level of detail in the mid-range might be the most striking quality of the EM5. You can hear every little nuance effortlessly. This is of course proportional with your gear, but even with a mid-fi headphone like the HD660S, the detail level is excellent.
Tonality-wise things are very good, as it produces a natural and musical timbre. It’s not as captivating as my desktop setup (Tradutto+FA22) and lacks a bit body when it comes to instruments, but still very good and actually comparable to a full desktop setup. The mids play smoothly with good transparency and balance. I would say the mid-range is a bit lifted, but for just a small amount. This makes the EM5 a very musical device, giving you the joy you need for your listening sessions.
Mids also sound very clear and everything is crisp and focused. As I mentioned, the excellent level of detail, combined with the good tonality and definition, makes the EM5 a very enjoyable device. It’s safe to say that the mid-range is EM5’s strong suit.
Treble is not the highlight of the EM5, but that doesn’t mean the treble isn’t good. The mid-centric nature of the EM5 means that you won’t hear a very bright treble, which is indeed the case. The EM5 gives the treble with good definition but with nice smoothness.
The thing I liked about the EM5’s treble is that, even though it’s not very sharp or bright, it still provides excellent detail. The treble is also quite articulated and resolving. It gives the treble softer but still with good energy and articulation. This was also the case with the M8 DAP. So we can say that Shanling retains their house sound with good balance, mid-range focus and smooth treble.
The EM5 has a good sound stage and separation. The instrument separation is very good in particular. Everything is separated nicely and I did not expect to hear this performance. You can point out many instruments of a song from multiple directions. And it gets even better because it also has a good sound-stage performance. The stage is not incredibly wide and deep, but it’s still good enough for a 3D feeling.
Another great thing about the EM5’s sound is its naturalness. It plays so sweet and smooth like the most natural-sounding players or DACs on the market. It’s just smooth and easy-going, without trying too hard to make you “wow” with its bass or treble. It presents you with a very rich and lush sound, and it does that with good dynamism. The tiniest details in the recordings are presented effortlessly. Having a great background performance certainly helps in that regard, which the EM5 has.