Review : Shanling M2X – Harder, better, faster, stronger

Sound performance

For the purpose of this review, I used my Onkyo IE-C3 for IEM testing and the Sennheiser HD-800 for headphone comparison. All files were FLAC 16/44 or FLAC 96/24 from Qobuz, be it in USB DAC mode or pure player mode. Streaming comes from Spotify in “exceptional” mode and is send directly though Airplay and Tidal is streamed in Hifi+ quality.

Overall signature

The FiiO M2X sounds… almost exactly like the M5S. If FiiO created some differences between the M7 and M9, this is not the case with Shanling. It’s the same dry and chasing sound, followed by the same amazing dynamics you heard in the M5S.

I’ll quote my old review, it’s still accurate up to this day :

“It’s amazingly flat and unless you never heard a monitor speakers, it’s hard to describe how tight they feel. Every nuance or sensation is perfectly transcribed but the natural rumbling I’m used to is almost nonexistent.

It took me no less than a a full album to get my hearing accustomed, even more with classical music. A good track to test was Aulos from Vladimir Cauchemar – Orchestre lamoureux version, beginning pianissimo and rising steadily to a massive fortissimo.”

The output power is lower than before, the Sennheiser HD800 was not happy with the M2X but it’s still enough for 90% of users. As before, stay with the balanced output, always. The sound stage is wider, by far, and you can definitely hear massive improvements on the lower end of the chart.

Lows are shyer than before and I had to push the volume a bit higher, compared to the M5S. Transitions are clean and ASDR remains exceptional, that’s really impressive for a sub-300$ player. If you’re on a budget but want something more analytical than your average DAP, you should really give the Shanling M2X its chance.

Tonality

Highs : neutral and pleasant. The M2X is more analytical than musical, that’s a fact. Details and micro-details flow uninterrupted and I was surprised with subtle sensations I could not hear on the FiiO M6 before. For classical music, it’s nothing short of amazing.

Mids : flat (maybe too much). I’m a bit less convinced by the mids, flat is good but I’d have prefer a more engaging signature. It’s a bit like the Cowon Plenue D2, details and dynamic with less emotion than the FiiO M9 (my favorite player in this regards, in sub-300$ player). If you already heard the M5S, no surprise here, it’s… identical.

Lows : accurate and tight. Bass are less potent on the M2X, that’s probably cause the new amplifier are a bit less powerful. At equal volume, it feels like the sound is thinner, especially around 150Hz. Some might prefer this, I don’t. Yet, it’s very subtle, unless you heard the M5S five minutes ago, you could never spot the difference.

Noise : the Shanling M2X is absolutely dead silent in any conditions. Hurray !

Conclusion

Simply put, the Shanling M2X is an M5S in kid clothes. You get the same sound signature – dry, precise, subtle – without the awkward design previously shown by the M5S. I was afraid the M2X might have lost what made the M5S different, in a good way, due to the mono DAC circuit instead of dual mono, but that didn’t happen. Sound stage is a bit narrower but honestly, that’s the only issue you have compared to the M5S.

Sure the UI is still awkward, but if I found the Shanling M5S polarizing, it’s a very different story with the M2X : for 219$, it’s a very solid choice. Sound quality is top-notch, build quality is astounding and if you’re used to AirPlay streaming or Tidal, it’s a great alternative to DAP such as the FiiO M9.

A great player which goes directly in our recommendation list for the sub-300$ category.

Review : Shanling M2X – Harder, better, faster, stronger
4.3 (86.67%) 15 vote[s]

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A nerdy guy with a passion for audio and gadgets, he likes to combine his DAC and his swiss knife. Even after more than 10 years of experience, Nanotechnos still collects all gear he gets, even his first MPMAN MP3 player. He likes spreadsheets, technical specs and all this amazing(ly boring) numbers. But most of all, he loves music: electro, classical, dubstep, Debussy : the daily playlist.

    6 Comments

    • Reply April 25, 2019

      Heath

      I’ve owned the Fiio M9, Fiio M6, Fiio m3k, Shanling m0 and the Shanling m5s. I think the m5s has the best sound of all of them. I also feel like the OS on the Shanling m5s is the best/easiest to use/intuitive of all these devices. How’s the screen in comparison to the m5s? Is it the same resolution/quality? I really like the smaller size of the player vs the m5s which is tank.

      • Reply June 11, 2019

        blazer39

        can elaborate more in that statement?!
        how is m5s compared to fiio m6 for music like metal or rock?!

    • Reply April 25, 2019

      Skirmantas Milius

      Should I upgrade from my current ibasso DX90 which I still enjoy?

    • Reply April 27, 2019

      Stu

      I have an M2S, the output power with the M2X is lower, how does the sound compare between the two??

    • Reply May 7, 2019

      Malay Raj

      Hi does it support .m3u8 playlists?

    • Reply May 14, 2019

      Andy

      Can you please make comparison with hiby r3. Thank

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