Shanling M6 Review

Sound performance

 

 

For the purpose of this review, I used my Onkyo IE-C3 for IEM testing and the Hifiman Arya for headphone comparison. All files were streamed from Qobuz in Hi-Res, when available, Spotify and my own catalog.

Overall signature

The Shanling M6 is real “tour de force”: it’s the same dry and chasing sound, but elevated at a whole new dimension.

Shanling players have always been linear, flat as monitor speakers but neither boring. This is still true with the M6. If Cowon always boasts how good their player can be for music recorders, I think Shanling could give them a run for the money.

Dynamic is top-notch, layering is razor-sharp and the sound stage pinpoints accurate. When plugged in through a balanced output, it’s sometimes uncanny to hear those voices coming from the back of your head, when the track uses too much pan-effect.

Every nuance, every sensation is there, heightened by the dryness of the sound. Yet, this is not the same one found in the earlier models, the upper-highs feels much more potent. It’s still dry – much more than FiiO – but clearly Shanling perfected its score and sweetened the whole set.

Instruments are neatly defined, transients are fast and the longer you listen the more get accustomed to those uncanny moments where the voice seems to slip right behind your head. Money from Pink Floyd is the perfect test-track to figure out what I meant by that: the first seconds’ ping-pong between left and right, and with my Onkyo IEM, you get dizzy in an instant.

 

The output power is surprisingly good. If you intend to rock your big headphone, chances are the M6 will be able to do so. I plugged the Sennheiser HD800S and the Hifiman Arya, and if the Sennheiser will not deafen me, the Arya could get very loud. Again, stick with the balanced output, as power falls short once you get back in SE mode.

All in all, this is -at the moment- the best Shanling player the brand ever released. It’s also the best choice for those who like dry sound, in the opposite of the mellow one you get with the FiiO M11, or the high-pitched SR15 from Astell&Kern.

Tonality

Highs: airy and flat. This is no surprise, the Shanling M6 is on the sharp side. Details and micro-details could be overwhelming, if not for the fast transients and sharp attacks. Even higher tier players would have a hard time competing with this player, on this section: you’ll hear details unheard before, period. As a matter of fact, classical music and jazz is a bliss.

Good test track : The Spoils – Massive Attack

Mids: flat but smooth. As I said, voices can be uncanny sometimes, as the soundstage shifts at the back of your head. It’s very much like the Cowon Plenue 2, with a very very slight bump on the upper mids, just enough to give voices more depth and body. A definitive upgrade compared to the previous Shanling M5S.

Good test track:  Revival – Gregory Porter

Lows: tight and deep. The bass of the M6 reached much lower than expected. It’s not flamboyant, but when you push the volume up, you can easily hear those discrete rumbles in the background. Head to head with the M5S again, the difference is subtle but real. It’s more impactful, more realistic and overall more natural.

Good test track : Space diver – Boris Brechja

Noise: the Shanling M6 is absolutely dead silent in any conditions. Even when I used Spotify or took the player as a Bluetooth amp, I didn’t hear any hiss or hum. Great!

Conclusion

Finally, Shanling has completed the circle and gifted us a fully-fledged flagship player, for cheap. The M6 carries all the good traits found onto the previous models – exquisite finish, good battery life, clean and dynamic sound – into a case befitting its ambitions.

The new screen, combined with a real Android experience makes for a wholly better experience. UI is snappy, the design is superb and most of all, sound quality is excellent. It’s more neutral than its direct competitors, yet always entertaining. In short: it sounds as good as it looks.

Obviously, the Shanling M6 goes directly to my recommendation list and should be an alternative to the FiiO M11. If the M6 sounds slightly better in my opinion, it lacks the dual-slot found in the FiiO player, but that’s a personal choice.

 

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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 February 7, 2020

      Vibhav Srivaths

      Page 2 has a typo, mentioning that a Shanling M2x is is bundled with the Shanling M6 – took me by surprise 🙂

    • Reply April 24, 2020

      Mr Fripp

      I think shanling is an undervalued brand. The have very good DAP’s. I have tried many DAP including fiio m6, m9 y m11 pro. Today i have sr15, kann, m2x, r6 pro and now the shanling m6. Despite of some thing that they have to fix (like gapless option) this DAP sound great. I really enjoy listening it. My first impresion is that I enjoyed more that the m11 pro (i sold it). I cannot say that sound better than the m11 pro because it depends of many thing like the headphones thay you are using and the style of music that you are listening. I love rock ( all kind of) so for me, rock music sound better in my m6 thant the m11 pro. If I listen pantera or metallica, in my m11 pro will sound beautiful but losing the energy. It’s just my opinion.

      Thanks fornthe review

      • Reply May 31, 2020

        Matthew Helvick

        Can you elaborate on the gapless issue? Is it something that just isnt an option? I usually put my stuff on random but most albums i have flow from song to song. Gapless was something i thought was solved back in the early 2000s

    • Reply June 7, 2020

      Mr fripp

      Hi,

      They don’t put the gapless option in their music app. I asked them and they confirm me that the option is not available and probably they will add it. For that reason i have dowloaded the fiio music. I love progressive rock and there are song that must be played with gapless option but i agree, most of the time i play random music too.

    • Reply June 13, 2020

      Fernand

      Hello, what would be a better option? ibasso dx160 or Shanling M6 (no pro) greetings and thanks

    • Reply July 23, 2020

      Don

      Can you compare to the ibasso dx160?

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