In this review, we take a close look at the updated Shanling M6 Pro 21, selling for €759 EUR.
Disclaimer: The Shanling M6 Pro 21 was sent to us free of charge by the brand in exchange for an honest opinion. As usual, if you want to get one, reach out to your local retailer.
Founded in 1988, Shanling has been developing Hi-Fi products for more than 30 years now. And if high-end CD player or tube-amp were the core of the brand a few years ago, it seems like they almost completely shifted to portable gear, like DAP, DAC, and IEMs.
Even though, due to recent events, Shanling revamped a few of their products. Like many brands, they were relying on AKM and their super AK449X series for the DAC. But as you may know, a fire halted Asahi Kasei production line and took away a good part of the stock lying at the same factory.
And so, the brand began to switch from AKM to other suppliers like Cirrus-Logic or ESS. A few weeks ago, we reviewed the M6 21 who ditched the AK4495SEQ, for ESS9038Q2M DAC. Today, we are taking up the big brother, the M6 Pro 21, who underwent the same transformation.
Forever 21? That’s what we’ll see now.
The Shanling DAP Series
As usual, we’ll begin with a quick presentation of Shanling’s DAP catalog.
The Shanling M0 is a small DAP that looks a lot like an Apple Watch. As a matter of fact, you can even use the M0 as a watch, with the proper wristband. At the core of the Shanling M0, you have a SABRE 9019P chip. It’s a bit different from the usual 9018S, but the specs remain mostly the same, a good thing.
Berkhan reviewed it and said: “For its very small price and footprint, very good usage and sound performance (…) it sounds good, performs good and the amount of features were just enough to convince me.”
If you want to know more about the M0, check the full review here.
The Shanling M2X replaced the M2S in the brand’s catalog. It shares the same footprint but enjoys a better chipset with an AK4490EN DAC and a WiFi connection for AirPlay and Tidal Playback.
Honestly, it’s a Shanling M5S, but cheaper and smaller with all the goods, minus the stretched case. I reviewed it a while ago, so here is an excerpt of this review: “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“.
Berkhan reviewed the Shanling M3s a few times ago, which appeared to be a “plus” version of the M2S. A nice player, with great sound, but lacking Android streaming apps support. Good news, the brand listened and released an updated version, the Shanling M3X.
This time, the brand shrunk down the M6, giving the new player the same outlines and design, in a smaller form factor. Add a dual Sabre ES9219C chip, Qualcomm CPU, amazing battery life (23 hours!), and most of all, full Android OS, so you can install Spotify, Qobuz, Tidal, etc
Of course, you also get full Hi-Res and Wireless Hi-Res audio certification, and MQA support, for whoever needs it. A great little box on paper, that we NEED to try ASAP.
Shanling M6 21
The Shanling M6 21 took everything the first M6 was – a great player that sounded as good as it looked – and replaced the AKM 4495SEQ chips for Sabre ESS9038Q2M ones. Like every modern player, it enjoys full Android OS, 4.4mm + 2.5mm + 3.5mm outputs to connect (un)balanced headphones.
Soundwise, it’s not as “mellow” as its predecessor but the new M6 offers a wider dynamic range, the same tonal balance, and even more power than before (like twice as much!). Of course, it won my recommendation award and if you want a great mid-range player, this is definitely the one at the moment.
Here is an excerpt of that review:
“For the third time, the brand earned my recommendation, as THE best mid-range DAP of the moment. Same classy design, updated software for better reliability and better sound performances, that gives a very balanced experience overall.”
The Shanling M8 is the brand TOTL, the one that does it all with top-of-the-line chips (dual AKM AK4499EQ), the same AGLO technology, an 8-core CPU from Qualcomm, and no less than 7000mAh of battery.
To top it off, Shanling introduced a new “interchangeable headphone sockets”, meaning that you could virtually change for any type of headphones, with a high-end, gold-plated, socket. A bit over the top on paper, but it fitted the player pretty well, and thankfully, the brand gives you 3.5mm Pro + 4.4mm and 2.5mm adapters, right off the batch.
Berkhan reviewed it, and here is an excerpt of his review:
“So how should I rank the Shanling M8? I would say it’s among the best. This is the first DAP that really impressed me for quite a while. [..] It has good battery life, build quality, and design. It has a unique approach to headphone outputs, which I really liked. Some people disagree about the idea, but I beg to differ.”
Last but not least, let’s talk about the Shanling M30. Presented as a “Modular Hi-Fi Desktop Streaming Player”, it’s a very specific device aiming at hardcore audiophiles… and I want one.
There are 6 different slots, where you can dock various modules like:
- DAP module, touchscreen, and CPU
- DAC module, AKM, Sabre, Cirrus-Logic, we’ll have to wait and see)
- tube module, pre-amp, oh yeah
- amplifier module
- battery module, to ensure high-end performances with a spotless current
I/O follows the same path, with multiple headphone outputs (XLR, 4.4mm, 2.5mm, etc) and multiple digital inputs (USB, Ethernet, Coax, Optical)
A very quirky device, one that I hope we’ll have a chance to review soon.
And now, let’s get into the review!
The review continues on Page Two, after the click HERE or by using the jump below.
Page 2: Design & Build Quality
Page 3: UI & Usage
Page 4: Specifications
Page 5: Sound performances