In this article we review the Shanling MW200 Neckband Bluetooth DAC&, which is selling for $119.99 USD.
Disclaimer: Shanling sent us the MW200 for the purposes of this review, free of charge. I only covered the import taxes and fees. All thoughts and experiences with the product are naturally my own. Headfonia and Shanling are not related in any way.
Founded in 1988, Shanling has been developing Hi-Fi products for more than 30 years now. From high-end CD player to classy tube-amps, the brand made a name thanks to great craftsmanship and top of the line performances.
These past years, the brand also developed a complete range of portable players, IEMs and Bluetooth devices. You can check our previous Shanling reviews here. Today I’ll be reviewing their new wireless neckband dac& adapter, the MW200.
What is a Bluetooth amplifier exactly and why does it exist?
Well, in my opinion the most important market introduction was seen when Astell & Kern released their XB10 into the market. I was skeptical, as always, but went on and bought one. The first days using it the XB10 did not really impress me but then I had to use a lot of trains. Lots of people and chatter in a confined space, you get the idea. And that’s where the concept of the Bluetooth amplifier really comes in handy. I was storing my in-ears (Earsonics S-EM9 at that time) with thick braided cable around the Bluetooth amp to keep them together, plugged in. Ready whenever, without the need of plugging it in and out, without the need to reach my phone. At that time it felt perfect, even though the size was an issue.
That just was the form factor side of things though, let’s look at it from an audiophile standpoint. Yes, I am well aware that Bluetooth audio capabilities are still somewhat limited but if you’re aiming for casual hifi listening sessions on the go, which may include some kind of streaming service such as Tidal, it should/could be enough. Current LDAC cap is 990 kpb/s which is around the level of CDs, but it’s not quite there yet. Of course these DAC/AMPs, compared to a smartphone, deliver a much better sound quality thanks to their proprietary DAC/AMP designs. Not many people want to walk around with two blocks of smart devices in their pocket however, so most audiophiles started using dedicated DAPs on-the go. The big advantage: sweet and sublime sound quality. But now times might be changing again and some users will surely adapt to these new smart devices, leaving the DAP out of their pockets.
Today’s DAC-AMP is a neckband design, so you are almost completely wire-free. I used to think that neckband products are not really well-thought devices. Oh boy I was wrong. They are here for a reason. That reason is that the technology is just not there yet, it is really hard to place a LDAC compatible high-end Bluetooth chip-set into the small shell of a TWS earphone. It is not possible to put a big battery there whilst opting for a high-end DAC. Therefore, to get the best of both worlds, we go to the neckband route. I’ve heard my fair share of neckband devices in the past actually, Sony’s C400 & WI-1000XM2, Sennheiser’s Neckband Momentum and some more.
The product that renewed my hope towards neckband products was the 1More’s DD ANC Pro Neckband IEM. This is the first product that I would label as Hi-Fi. This is my brief history towards neckband products. Fast forwarding today, Shanling researched and developed a neckband style dac& adapter and sent us for a review. I used it well over a month and I will try my best to convey my experiences to you.
Specs & Technical Data
Bluetooth Chip: Qualcomm CSR8675
Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 5.0
Supported codecs: LDAC, HWA LHDC, aptX HD, aptX LL, aptX, AAC, SBC
Audio DAC&: AKM AK4377A, SNR: 119 dB, Up to 27 mW @ 32 Ohm
Connectors: Gold-Plated MMCX, Cable: 18 Strand Quad-Core Silver Plated Copper
Microphone: Knowles SiSonic
Water resistance: IPX4
Battery life: Up to 14 hours (SBC Codec) / Up to 11 Hours (LDAC High-Quality)
Other features: NFC pairing, Companion app for Android and iOS, OTA updates, USB DAC function(up to 16/48)
Packaging & Design
The Shanling MW200 comes in a simple, white cardboard box. Shanling listed specifications and features on the back side of the box. If you go ahead and unbox it, the neckband adapter welcomes you with all its glory.
The first thing I noticed is the smooth black material that Shanling opted for. Feels quite premium in hand and since it is going to sit on my neck for hours, that is great news. Shanling did not forget to use its signature 2D curved glass accents like usual. There are 4 buttons on the device and 1 circular LED around the play/pause button to let you know about power status and which codec is currently playing. There is a Knowles SiSonic microphone on the left side as well.
Currently, the only connector option MW200 offers is gold-plated MMCX. I hope to see a 2-pin option in the future. One thing I didn’t like about this design is the cable length. Although MW200 features Hi-Fi grade 4-core silver plated copper cable, they are nonsensically long and prone to touch your neck. Additionally, MW200 is IPX4 certified. That means it can withstand water to some degree. That’s always good to have.
As for accessories, Shanling supplies MMCX spacers, a leather carrying pouch and a USB-A to USB-C cable. Those are the only accessories you get with the MW200. To sum it all up, I like the overall design. It feels quite premium and build quality is definitely above the asking price.
Comfort & Stability
I have tried many IEMs with the Shanling MW200. Comfort-wise I had no problems. However, there is a small problem with MW200’s design. The Shanling MW200 has these permanently curved hook-shape cables. Well, if you have a IEM that does not support over the ear fit, you will not be able to use it with MW200. I don’t really understand the logic behind this design decision. I guess they know something I don’t. Anyhow, the skin-friendly silicone finish of MW200 feels great around my neck.
I often forget that it’s there. As for Bluetooth stability, MW200 never let me down. I used it over a month and never have I ever experienced an audio drop-out. I used LDAC exclusively via my Android phone. I can leave my phone in my room and roam around my 150m² house without any issues so range is quite good as well.
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