Review: Shanling M3S – Perfectly Balanced – Headfonia

Disclaimer: Just like with the M2S, Shanling M3s was sent as a review sample from Shanling directly. Thank you guys for working together with HFN.

INTRO

The “Tiny Musical Wonder” M2S review was posted on Headfonia around 5 months ago. Since then, Shanling released the Shanling M3s with an identical design but with more advanced features in terms of sound reproduction. I’ll try to reflect the device’s performance truthfully as much as I can.

DESIGN & BUILD

The Shanling M3S is exactly the same with M2S in terms of design. The only difference is that the M3S is longer by 27,4 mm. The thickness and width is the same one to one. The screens also share the exact same dimensions. So I’ll repeat; I really dig this compact and sexy looking, slick design from Shanling. Despite being longer, the M3s in my opinion is still very very pocketable compared to most DAPs.

Same story goes for build quality as well. The aluminum frame feels premium and the 2.5D glasses add a sleek finish to the body, so the device feels very complete, one piece and sturdy. The audio jacks are solid and secure, aluminum is pretty resistant to small dents and the glass doesn’t scratch easily. Only question in my mind is the durability of the volume pot. I heard things about the pot detaching from the body or simply failing with the M2S in the long term. Since all navigation is done by the wheel, of course it would be under heavy use so be aware. Only time will tell.

Even so, my sister uses the M2s daily and the wheel is perfectly fine until now. Also keep in mind that 2.5D glass is more prone to crack, if you drop the device on its corners accidentally.

USER EXPERIENCE

Just like the M2s, the design is ergonomic and the device is very comfortable to hold with rounded edges and a small form factor. The same 3 buttons are there on the left side for controlling playback. The power button is on the top, which is not an area that I prefer, but it’s not a big problem really.

On the bottom you have the 3.5mm standard output together with the 2.5mm balanced output – which is an addition to the M2s – and the USB Type-C port. Note that the 3.5mm output also works as Line-Out.

The wheel navigation is not extremely easy to get used to at first, but after some time you adapt to the device. It has 2 functions: scrolling up and down, and entering by pushing it as a button. And of course on the playback screen, you set the volume with it. Therefore it’s not difficult by any means.

But if I were Shanling, I would consider adding a touchscreen with the next offering, by designing a wider and a bigger screen. Touchscreen wouldn’t make sense with a screen of this size, but if they make a 4” screen then it would be possible to make the screen touch sensitive. Volume wheel navigation is not bad but when you consider the lifespan of the wheel in particular, I think it’s not the most ideal system. And it’s also not practical with the case Shanling provides. The case prevents you to use the wheel comfortably.

Just like the M2s, the device can work as a Bluetooth DAC. So you can play your music files from your phone wirelessly. That way you can use streaming services on your phone, put the player in your pocket with your IEMs/Headphones plugged, and listen to your streamed music through high quality DACs and amp circuit. But to be honest, the sound quality imo is not the best with Bluetooth.

SOFTWARE

Software wise it’s again exactly the same with the M2S. I’ll quote my own thoughts about the software from the M2S review here:

“The UI is pretty and polished overall. It took around 35 seconds to update the library of around 1000 songs. Quite fast. And the overall experience is very fluid too. Just like the build and design, the software is smooth and solid. It has every kind of feature you can ask for in today’s standards. In addition to the form factor and beautiful UI, it can act as a USB DAC, has good amount of power to drive many phones, has a microSD slot that can take up to 256GB and it has a Native DSD playback!”

The original firmware version was a little buggy but thankfully Shanling released the 1.2 version and fixed all the issues from 1.00. Check out the addressed issues HERE.

M3s has the Apt-X Bluetooth support by the way, which is nice.

VIDEO

Our hardcore Headfonia followers should remember my video post about the M3s for Watch It Wednesday. Here’s the video again, just in case you’ve missed it:

HIBY LINK

Shanling M3s supports the HiBy Link feature through Bluetooth. That means when you download and install the HiBy Music software to your phone, you can remotely control your M3s without even touching it. That’s pretty awesome and useful. This is also added for Shanling M1 and M2s.

This is the list of what you can do with HiBy Link:

  • Control playback and volume
  • Browse through folders, albums, artists, genres and songs loaded on your Shanling player
  • Add songs into your playlists
  • Edit playlists
  • Use search function to quickly find
  • View details of played files
  • Share currently played song’s info over other apps(for now supporting Chinese apps like Wechat, QQ, Weiboo)

Check out this Head Fi thread for how to install and how to use it.

Go to PAGE 2 for sound impressions