Shanling introduced a new design for the M9, departing from the Sony-influenced design of the M8. This one is much more authentic and Shanling remarks that the design is derived from their 25th-anniversary edition HiFi line. The chassis is from a single piece of aviation-grade aluminium. The sides of the player have a complex “wave” created by CNC processing. The backside and the top of the player are made from glass.
I think this design is simply better than the M8, not to mention the authenticity. This one stands out more so than the previous model with a distinctive look. I really liked the waves on the sides. The topside is a nice touch from Shanling with glass as well.
The new player also introduced a small secondary screen on top. This is obviously an influence from the modern-day smartphone “notch” design, but Shanling decided to use that with new functionality. This screen shows battery charging and volume information together with sample rate and current time. Not a game-changing design, but it provides an easier operation without using the actual screen.
The M9 feels like a rock in the hand, and the new aluminium chassis has good weight and toughness. The premium feeling is quite close to the A&K SP2000, so I can say this is a worthy flagship player. The glass top adds an extra layer to the luxury feel. The sides of the player feel great in particular when holding the device. This is one of the best players I’ve held in terms of overall feeling and quality.
The one thing I didn’t quite like is the volume dial. The dial wobbles around a bit and it doesn’t look quite as luxurious as the rest of the player. This dial also acts as a power button so it’s frequently used. But as far as ergonomy goes, I think it’s better than the M8 with a more protruding profile. The interchangeable headphone sockets have a better build quality over the previous model, and the sockets lock in perfectly with easier operation with more stability and rigidity.
Another point I’m going to make is the back panel. It’s a frosted glass as far as I can see, but the sound when I tap that panel is not very premium. This is not an issue when you attach the protective case though. In fact, I think the device feels better with the leather case.
The package content is the same as the previous model. Once again we have the small case storing the headphone sockets, a protective case, a USB Type C cable inside a nice premium wooden box. You also have a screen protector film.
The case that comes with the M9 is a very different one. This is more like an aesthetic touch to the player rather than a rock-solid protective solution. The backside of the case has that giant M letter and the sides are almost completely open. The 4 corners of the case protect the player mostly, whilst other areas are exposed.
For the screen, it’s not protective at all, since the floating screen design places the display higher. So even with the case, you need to be careful when using the M9. The case can protect the player from some knocks and blows, especially on the corners, but it’s not %100 dependable.
The Shanling M9 has a very good and satisfying user experience from top to bottom. The hardware and software upgrades over the M8 provides excellent usability and comfort. I didn’t have any significant problems while using the player.
The Shanling M9 is huge. This is almost in the transportable category so don’t think about taking it and doing activities or running around. It’s OK for trips on a train or bus, but it’s not like a companion for walking outside for instance. It’s doable, but wouldn’t be very comfortable. I can fit it in my pockets with coats or trousers but it’s still nowhere near the best solution for portability.
You can put it in your small bag and control it from your smartphone though. The “SyncLink” feature allows you to do that, which I will mention just below.
First of all, the upgraded CPU performs very fast for a DAP, almost like a smartphone’s quickness. Going through different screens, apps and songs is no problem at all. It’s fluid, smooth and very easy to operate. The switch between Android Mode and Prime Mode is very fast in particular. The device opens up quick as well, and the 8GB of RAM allows great multitasking.
As far as a DAP goes, this is almost a perfect experience. I recommend modifying the animation scale to .5x from developer options in Android. I do this with all my Android phones to get a faster feel. As for WiFi, I find out that it has great reception which is as good as my Android phone with a great 5 GHz performance.
As the Shanling M8 owners would agree, the M8 is a hot running DAP. Shanling chose to use the chassis as a heatsink with that one. Although Shanling claims that the M9 uses the same cooling system as the M8, I can conclude that the M9 is not as running hot as the M8.