When In Manila, many Chinese brands are now arriving with their own high-resolution music players due to the great popularity and demand that FiiO and iBasso brought when they released their own lines of music players. Some of them playing the safe game pushing out affordable but good players, while some trying to land a harder mark with great quality with a reasonable price. Shanling Audio has been around the audio scene for a very long time, even older than me and is known well in Southeast Asia. Now, Shanling tries to play the DAP (digital audio player) game to battle it out against the well known and regarded players of FiiO and iBasso. They have come up with the Shanling M3, a portable music player promising to deliver high resolution audio quality, and I should tell you from the start, it does a really really good job!
Packaging/Build: iRiver’s Astell & Kern players are like the “iPhone” of portable music players now, having a very premium look, build, UI, and even packaging, it hits a very very expensive ballpark price. Interestingly enough, the Shanling M3 has a similar very premium packaging. It packages in a medium sized simple but very elegant box that shows-off the Shanling M3. With the Shanling M3‘s build quality, it gives a very sturdy and good grip in hand. The shape sits nicely, and the weight and construction seems right and sturdy with that metal body. The design is similar to a cigarette lighter with the controls being a jo-wheel like button and knob interface on the upper-right hand side of the player. Obviously though, the size is far from a cigarette lighter as the Shanling M3 is pretty big. If there’s anything to mention about the Shanling M3 with terms of looks, I’d have to pinpoint the UI as it is a very straightforward and simple UI. Not as elegant as the Astell & Kern DAPs, but then, the iBasso UI isn’t that fancy either, well unless you change the wallpaper then everything looks cool. Don’t get me wrong, simple and straightforward is good.
Sound Quality: The iBasso DX90 and the FiiO X5 are the two going head to head the most in the DAP (digital audio player) game. The AK240 of course is the one at the top of the game, but that is in a different ballpark as you are going to spend almost the price of an old 2nd hand car for that. For most however, the X5 and DX90 are the two battling it out. The DX90 being ahead by having a more balanced signature and great imaging. The FiiO x5 is also a favorite due to the bass and warmth that it gives that even non-audiophiles appreciate. With the Shanling M3, if I were to describe it in an easy way, I’d say it is the FiiO X5 on steroids! Better treble extension, more forward mids, the mids are more forward and has slightly more grain and is less smooth than the FiiO X5, but it’s actually effective in bringing out more intimacy to the vocals. Bass is slightly less hard hitting than the FiiO X5, but is more controlled and has better extension to the lower regions. Overall, the Shanling M3 exposes a more “fun” and more intimate sound signature over the FiiO X5. With comparison to the DX90 though, the DX90 has a great detail retrieval and much more balanced. It would end-up in a matter of taste if compared with the DX90. Overall though, the DX90 still tops because of the great detail and transparency.
Overall: For a Hi-Res music player to come into the audiophile scene, the Shanling M3 hits so many good marks that puts it ahead of the popular FiiO X5. I just simply wish that more people could hear it. For the price of aroud $350.00 (roughly around Php 15,000.00) the Shanling M3 is really a great music player to play your high quality losless music files and rips, and is a great performer to enjoy your music collection!
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