Shanling M1 review - A very functional entry level DAP. Review and impressions by Ta-ke

*(image taken from official site)

Shanling M1 review
- A very functional entry level DAP


Disclaimer - the Shanling M1 wass purchased brand new and not supplied as a free review unit, with a friend's help I acquired it from China at the crowd funding price.

The Shanling M1 has been a recent hit in Asia, the form factor is eye catching not to mention the beautiful curved glass touch screen sitting on top.
To me it is the first music player that sums up most of the functions in a tiniest package possible, yet there is no pain navigating through the menu.
 I have been hesitating to get a thicker-than-a-phone low end dap just for saving the phone's battery, while most small daps have poor battery run time, now the M1 has perfectly solved this problem and still pumps out fair output quality with low impedance iems.



The tiny metal matchbox-size DAP comes with a very mature and smooth UI design, High-res formats support and most functions you can find on a high end daps.
Surprisingly this small dap features USB (type C) output to external dacs, packs with APTX output which you can use with the A&K xb10/ Noble BTS, also acts as a bluetooth receiver and battery run time last for 8-9 hours per 3-4 hours charge.



Frankly saying the dap doesn't sound as good as some of its big brothers, but for $150 USD it packs in all the functions that would overwhelm any new users into the audio hobby, and don't get me wrong, the sound performance is actually quite good amongst its peers.
The very user friendly UI that make this looks like a purchase a few times more the price.

The overall design is very easy to navigate and functional, and from the starting screen we can see it is powered by Hiby music, well known for their music playback app for android.
Single handed control is easy without much trouble.
The design supports high capacity micro SD cards and I'm using a 128 GB Sandisk without any issue.


It is quite easy to notice the design reference related to Hiby music, mainly the round elements and layout

Opening the box you will see a few OTG cables for amp connection and also a usb cable for PC / charging.
There are also two sets of screen protectors for both front and rear glasses.
The generous contents saves the effort of buying after market cables, but you may grab ones off ebay for better quality.



A fun experience - bluetooth receiver.

Turning on bluetooth in the setting will bring you into a menu showing connected devices, you can then pair it on your phone by selecting ''Shanling m1''. After that you can control playback on your phone and to use your phone's own music library and volume control, at the same time the volume control on the M1 is also active.

The M1 has a very dark background but the down side is relatively low gain/power so it may work well with higher sensitivity items.
Generally the output has more quality and slightly bassier than the original iphone lightning adaptor, very easy to use and pair to the phone.
 And as expected when playing through receiving bluetooth signal it sounds inferior to high res playback on the machine itself, there is slight distortion and loss of sub bass and the sound is more congested.

Connecting to Noble BTS (being host transmitter this time).

Switching to the Noble BTS you will hear more background hiss when nothing is being played but it is subtle and doesn't affect listening.
However the playback clarity and resolution is much enhanced from the previous setup, as I researched the Aptx transmitting function will automatically be on and the quality is real, compared to the standalone Shanling M1 playback quality it is similar however the Noble BTS costs $99 which is roughly the price I bought the M1 at..

Testing with Ocharaku Co-donguri which I have reviewed earlier.

I moved on to testing the Co-donguri on the M1 via phone out directly.
Compared to the Noble BTS as a standalone output I enjoy the Noble BTS more as the highs is more opened up and the power seems to be slightly higher too.
I later used the same combo outside on the streets and the sound signature under street noise makes it less bassy and quite enjoyable. For indoor use it may be better to use the in built equalizers.

Testing with some Westone models.

Fearing a dynamic IEM may be harsh to test a lower end model DAP I put the M1 together with some Westone iems. I have an iphone mic cable on my Westones and there is no problem using it with the M1.
Back to the sound it seems that the synergy is better as there is more headroom with a ba combo, however the overall sound signature is a bit weird so I put it down and try to search for other combos that may sound good.
An interesting find is that the M1 fits perfectly inside the small Westone case, it sits perfectly inside and doesn't need any modding or anything to hold it nicely.



Continuing the tests....

I have tried some other items including a loaner pair of Oriolus Mk2 and flares iems, it seems like the M1 continues to struggle with DD and the R2a is a bit muddy on it, while the Oriolus surprisingly sounded quite decent on it when I tested it outdoor.
In the end I fitted it with the Gr07 and it is quite a nice sounding combo for Asian pop.
The player sound better with higher res files (24bits), I suspect it is the mastering but if you have higher res files and an M1, try to justify this for me.
Generally I prefer playing songs with higher dynamics on it, say techno/ trance tracks as the vocal presentation is a bit recessed.

Conclusion

The Shanling M1 serves well as a BT receiver and a work/ Jogging music playback machine, battery time is a generous >8 hours. It sounds better than your phone, saves your phone's power if you use it as a standalone music player.
The down side is you can't use it as a hands free and answer your calls but you may pair it with a Noble BTS or any other similar device which features APTX and call functions.

At 149.99USD shipped this is a very good secondary device to carry along.



The M1 is Available on amazon.com at USD 149.99 with optional leather case at 19.99
http://www.shanling.com/Product/Detail?id=fe144c3b8eca414f9b1e0cdf0a135b38

Impressions by Ta-ke

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