QT – Shanling M0

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to review the Three Shanling DAPs in their product line.  At that time, the M1, M2s and M3s were the options available. Since then, the M5 and M2x have arrived along with the subject of this quick-Take, the M0.    In that previous review,  I mentioned the M1 being perhaps the best gym and travel companion of the three due to its combination of size and feature set.  Now the M0 takes that prize.  It’s a tiny player that packs nearly all of the features of the M1 into a box not much larger than an Apple watch.  I have started to buy one on multiple occasions but never could justify it (I  know when has that stopped me before?).   Well the other day, a friend was looking for a new DAP and about that same time a titanium M0 was listed in the classifieds on HF.  Naturally I had to buy it, if my friend liked it, it was his, if not, I had my excuse justification for having one.

In common with the other models I have reviewed,  the M0 sports the same glass and metal construction with no plastic to speak of.  The Screen has less bezel than the larger models and takes up nearly the full size of the player (a necessary change considering the diminutive size of the player).    Also because of its size,  there is only one large button similar to the M1, but the wheel is on the right hand side rather than on the reverse and is usable as on/off (long press)   play/pause (Short press) or forward/back by pushing it upward or downward as well as volume control by twisting.     The micro-sd card slot on the left hand side is sealed against dirt/dust/water (the player is NOT waterproof so don’t misread that, just the slot is designed to exclude it).   The 3.5mm port and USB-C port on the bottom are both open and will let water in if submerged.   This particular M0 came with a clip for wearing on a belt or shirt.  Unfortunately, like in my earlier review, the clip obstructs the micro-sd slot so must be removed to change cards.

Below is a listing of the two smallest Shanling models compared:

 M0M1
Size40x45x13.5mm60x50x13mm
Weight33 grams60 grams
Screen Size1.55 inches2.35 inches
Screen Resolution240x240360x400
Battery Capacity640 mAh950 mAh
Battery life w/o BT15 hours (claimed)9-10 hours (claimed)
Battery life w BT9 hours (tested)7 hours (tested)
DAC Chip UsedESS ES9218PAK AK4452
Micro-SD capacity (officially supported)512 GB256 GB
Bluetooth Version Supported4.1 w APT-X, LDAC4.0 w APT-X
Output Power80mW @ 32Ω35mW @ 32Ω
Output Imdepence0.16Ω0.16Ω
DSD Playback64, 12864, 128
Supported FormatsAPE, FLAC, ALAC, WMA, AAC, OGG, MP3, WAV, AIFF, DSF, DIFF, DSDAPE, FLAC, ALAC, WMA, AAC, OGG, MP3, WAV, AIFF, DSF, DIFF, DSD
Max resolution32/384 Wav
24/384 Flac
24/192 WAV
24/192 Flac

 

Looking at the above specs, we can tell that the M0 is designed for efficient in-ears and is not going to be the DAP to choose if you are planning on running anything over 32Ω or much below 100dB\mW sensitivity earphones.   The little machine did manage to run some of my more efficient cans (Cascade) to reasonable volume, but one has to think this is taxing the battery beyond its expected limits and repeatedly doing so will likely shorten component life.

 

UI/Controls:

Starting the M0 is fairly quick with total time from button press to ready to play taking around 35 seconds.  The now playing screen displays album art with the controls overlaying it as seen in the second photo below.  If the player sits without interaction for a few seconds, the menu disappears and only the album art is shown (3rd photo).  When moving to the next song, the controls pop back on screen as seen in the final photo below.

 

In getting familiar with the M0, I found the controls are a good mix of touch functions and physical controls although with the size of my fingers touch control is a bit awkward as I tend to hit more than one button at a time.  The main screen displays a single icon at a time that corresponds to the major menu functions and then tapping on each reveals the sub-menus beneath.    As seen below, the menu has now playing, my music, playback options, folders, and settings.  Each of those in turn has a list of options that are selectable.

 

Sound:

The first thing I noticed about the M0 is that the background is jet black.  I expected some level of hiss with running high sensitivity low impedance in-ears like the Magaosi K5 but instead was greeted by complete silence.   Beyond that, I find the sound of the M0 to be somewhat predictable.  Power limits are visible at both ends as the bass lacks a bit of authority compared to its larger counterparts and the treble rolls-off a bit earlier as well.   Detail is good, but not on par with high end models like the M5s.    The upside is the signature is fairly clean and doesn’t get congested like it might were the bass a bit thicker.     If extension at both ends is the limiting factor, mids are certainly the strongest suit.  Tonality of the mids is very natural and realistic and may actually surpass the larger Shanling players in that respect.  Detail level is respectable and timbre is very good as well.       The strong mids do give the M0 a bit of a warm tone without feeling like mids dominate the signature or are excessively forward.    Lower treble follows the mids in pattern and is a bit more dense than I would have preferred.    The early roll-off and thickened lower treble combine to obscure some top-end detail and make the M0 sound less open than its larger siblings.     Soundstage is more intimate than extended, but separation remains good and seating the orchestra is possible with only a few anomalies in positioning.

Use cases for the M0

Put simply, if you are looking for a DAP you can slip in a pocket and forget, the M0 is for you. If you are a backpacker or hiker and are concerned about weight but want to take your music with you, the M0 and a pair of iems makes for a ¼ lbs combo.

For use at the Gym, while running, or while out pursuing other outdoor activities, the M0 is an extremely compact package that makes it nearly perfect.

If you intend to use Bluetooth headphones, the M0 also makes a great choice since it’s size and battery life make it fantastic for dropping in a pocket and heading out for the day.

For non-head-fi types, the M0 makes a good first dap as the limitations (lack of full DSD support, and limited output power) are not likely to come into play with most consumer level earphones or common mp3/Aac files.    It also offloads music playback from the cellphone which allows conservation of phone battery life and all-day use of both the phone and the music player without having to charge either at mid-day.

 

Comparisons:

Shanling – The M0 has replaced the M1 in the product line and comes dangerously close to the M2s with a bit less warmth to the overall sound signature than the M2s.  Honestly in today’s market, I think the most relevant models are the M0 and the M5s.   Even the M2x doesn’t offer the features of the M5s, nor can it compete with the size of the M0 for those that want a pocket player.

Cayin – The closest model to the M0 in size is the N3 which is still more than double its size and weight.  The N3 does offer a flatter signature with better extension at both ends and more detail, but suffers from a more complex UI compared to the M0.

Hidizs AP80 –  The AP80 shares a lot in common with the M0 as both use the same dac chip and both run a customized linux os.  The AP80 has almost double the screen real-estate of the M0, but also nearly doubles the weight.   Feature wise the two are nearly identical and ultimately the decision is going to come down to whether you prefer the larger screen or the more pocket able size.

 

Conclusions:

I knew the M0 was going to be small, but was still surprised at just how small it is.  Other than thickness, it has nearly the same dimensions as a smart watch (face/housing) and feels almost weightless.   Having said that, it does not feel cheap or poorly made and construction is solid throughout.    This player shows what can be done in today’s market using miniature components and high charge density batteries and bodes well for the future.   If all the core functions can be fit into a player this size and have it operate well, imagine what can be done in something the size of the original Shanling M3.       The M0 sounds good, feels solid, works well (with the caveat of having large fingers) and has reasonable battery life.   I can highly recommend it for anyone looking for a DAP for casual use.   For reference use, the M0 is not a true neutral signature and will probably need a bit of diligence when pairing as it also does not support a full EQ to tune it to a flat response.

Shanling's little DAP - M0
  • 7/10
    Build Quality - 7/10
  • 7/10
    Sound quality - 7/10
  • 7/10
    UI / Controls - 7/10
  • 8/10
    Battery Life - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Connectivity - 7.5/10
7.3/10

Summary

Pros:  Tiny, well built, good battery life,  lots of functionality

Cons: Not a neutral signature, large fingers may struggle with UI.