Shanling M3s review - expatinjapan

 Shanling M3s with Campfire Audio Vega and Astral Acoustics Taurus cable.

Shanling M3s review

Before the Shanling M3s was released another of their products was doing the rounds rather quite successfully. The Shanling M1.
The Shanling M1 has developed a following and a celebrated history as a decent wee player and also as an excellent source to such dac/amps as the Mojo etc. 
I myself haven`t had the opportunity to really try one out, but Ta-ke at Head pie has reviewed it:
and impressions have been shared by shared by Mimouille:

My curiosity was piqued already way before the Shanling M3s was released or even announced.

Superb and stunning lines. The Shanling M3s with iBasso IT01

Unboxing and build

Clean cut outer packaging with a solid core inside.

First glimpse. So shiny, like an audiophile jewel.

A word to the wise Smurfs

Specs and stuff

USB-C cable

Covers shields of glory! For front and back.

Exquisite and almost delicious

Navigation buttons. Scroll and enter, small for go back.

2.5mm Balanced, 3.5mm SE/Line out and USB-C for charging and data transfer.

Main on/off power button. Reset. Usual play/pause, Forward and back buttons.
Micro SD card port not shown.

 Shanling M3s with Campfire Audio Vega and Astral Acoustics Taurus balanced cable.


M3s portable music player

Shanling M3s DSD256 AK4490 Bluetooth 4.1 Apt-X Portable Lossless Music Player


A new form to fully meet the wireless and balance era
-Balanced output and unbalanced output.
-2.5mm balanced interface connects with balanced headphones to provide more powerful drive, a full-balanced circuit to bring a wider sound field and more accurate positioning.

Dual DAC, 4-way LPF circuit, 4-way amp circuit, true full-balanced output
-Dual output, well designed optimized circuit
-Using two AK4490 as DAC chips
-Two MUSE8920 chips as low-pass filter chips
-The part of headphone amp is divided into two AD8397, regardless of cost, sophisticated materials, only for seeking more excellent voice performance.

Dual crystal oscillator (KDS ~ DSB series)
-H24.5OD727 and H22.5OD726 two crystals use the sound source with different sampling rate respectively.
-Provide clock frequency, the use of Japan's large vacuum imported crystal oscillator.
-High accuracy, effectively reduce the phase distortion

FC Capacitor (Panasonic)
-4 Panasonic FC audio capacitors plus 4 Panasonic polymer tantalum capacitors are used for amp power supply filtering.
-Polymer Tantalum Capacitors (Panasonic)
-4 Panasonic polymer tantalum capacitors are used for DAC power supply filter, with excellent electrical performance, low ESR

Omron relay
-Two OMRON relays provide circuit protection for single-ended and balanced output respectively, pure physical disconnection and suction, relative to the silent chip, no effect on the output

New Hiby Link function
-Open the Hibylink function, make the phone become M3s bluetooth remote control
-Don't need to take out the player can complete all operations, wireless and convenient
-One touch and connect, remote control playback, adjust the volume by yourself, beautiful endless

Two-way 4.1 Bluetooth, support Apt-X Bluetooth protocol
-Two-way Bluetooth, you can send Bluetooth signals, you can also receive Bluetooth signals

Rounded transition, fine design language, giving you a better sense of gripping
-Aluminum alloy frame and the front and rear 2.5D tempered glass panel converge together, fine body size, one hand grip more ergonomics, bring a good hand feel experience.

HD Retina screen
-3 inch 480 * 800 pixels 300PPI

Dredge oil pollution, less fingerprints
-Using mobile phone level coating process, dredge oil and water

Two-way USB Type-C interface
-Connect the computer can be as an external decoder

Support USB digital output function
-Support DSD Native / Dop / D2p output mode
-Can be connected to decode amp, then can be used as a digital turntable

Sony Hi-Res standard certification
-M3s through the Japanese Hi-Res certification, a high degree of restoring audio, to bring you a more realistic listening experience

Big driving, low noise
-The main chip through excellent packaging shield, optimize the power circuit design, maintain a large drive and meanwhile reducing low noise.

Support playback a variety of lossless format
-Support for hard decoding DSD256, PCM384kHz / 32bit support include: MP3, WAV, WMA, FLAC, AAC, ALAC, APE, ISO, DSF, DFF and other lossless audio formats, support cue, m3u, msu8

Special operation wheel
-Japan imported ALPS surface exquisite masonry bumpy texture
-Can press 500,000 times, can turn 100,000 times

Excellent life time (specific life time according to the different environment will be slightly different)
-Unbalanced interface: 13 hours
-Balance interface: 8 hours

20 days deep standby
-Ready to use at any time, no need to set, no need to shut down

Precise CNC, to create all-metal frame
-Integral form curved body, the surface uses sandblasting process, to give your gripping a new experience.

PO / LO integration
-Can "Line out" connect with external amp

Shanling M3S and Jomo audio 6R


Size: 113 × 53 × 14.5mm
Weight: about 135g
Power supply (adapter): DC5V, 2A / Type-C USB interface
Charging time: about 2.5H (off state)
Life time: about 13 hours (headphone output); about 8 hours (balance headphone output)
Battery capacity: 2600mA
Storage: external TF card, the maximum capacity to support 256GB
USB: Type-C (USB2.0)

Headphone output (3.5mm)

Output power: 130mW (32Ω / THD + N <1%)
Frequency response: 20Hz ~ 20kHz (-0.15dB)
Signal to noise ratio: ≥115dB (A-Weighting)
Output impedance: <0.3Ω
Channel separation: > 75dB
Distortion + Noise: 0.0015%

Balanced headphone output (2.5mm)

Output power: ≥230mW (32Ω / THD + N <1%)
Frequency response: 20Hz ~ 20kHz (-0.15dB)
Signal to noise ratio: ≥115dB (A-Weighting)
Output impedance: <0.6Ω
Channel separation: > 102dB
Distortion + Noise: 0.0015%

Some additional information about functionality etc from the Shanling website:

As a source for a DAC/AMP

The Shanling M3s connected easily and immediately to the Hidisz DH1000

Shanling L2 Cable - Type-C to micro USB audio cable


Thick gold-plated Micro USB connector: audio input (decoder)
304 steel TYPE-C connector: audio output (Such as mobile phones, players, etc.)
Engineering plastic shell after injection molding, polishing, sandblasting, grinding and other processes to focus on details, superb technology
Gold-plated USB plug, Plug use parts to thick gold- plated, the transmission of audio, from the surface of gold through, no doping impurity is the best
Japan Furukawa silver-plated cable
Each high-purity copper-silver cable is composed of 4 strands of wire, each with 7 cores, each core contains 26 silver outer cores, and the shield layer is made of silver-plated shielding

Brand name: Shanling USB decoding cable
Type: TYPE-C to micro USB
Standard: 10 ± 1CM
Material: high purity copper silver-plated
Wire diameter: single core 30AW

Shanling M3s and Astrotec Lyra 150 ohm earbuds using the single ended port


The Shanling M3s was tested with a variety of earphones and FLAC.

The Shanling M3s is a pleasant surprise within the modern hallowed halls of hi-res touchscreen wifi enabled streaming android daps.

Taking a more no frills approach with a simple yet effective UI the Shanling M3s leaves one to concentrate wholly on the sound aspect.

Utilizing AK chips in SE and balanced outputs the M3S exhibits the general signature one has become accustomed to when listening to the AK4490 and other similar DAC chips.
A full bodied rich sound, detailed, smooth with silky vocals and a decent width and average depth.

The Shanling M3S is no stranger to this familiar sound signature and seems to embrace it, with fast bass, a rich oozing middle section and silky vocals that float just above the music, the highs aren`t extended as is common with the AK chips, but like the vocals simmer just above the mid section. The bass serving as a platter for the rest to ride upon without encroaching upon the overall effect.

I found instrument separation, clarity and resolution to be good with a variety of file sizes and genres.

Coherency is great, although I thought a few times it could be better in places. But the majority of listening was a satisfying experience.

The sound sound stage when using the Andromeda was fairly wide but isnt as far reaching as it can be when paired with other high end daps, but that is to be expected. Regardless the sound stage is wide, with a good amount of depth.

When  used as a source for a higher tier dac/amp the M3S connects easily and allows it self to be utilized easily with the resulting effect being dependent on the quality of the dac/amp at the end of the delivery.

The sound is neutral focussed with a touch of warm mids and a healthy under lay of bass, vocals are strong yet just above the music, treble isn't a defining feature of the sound signature but is pleasingly present.

The sound is definitive mid fi in a low fi package.

Shanling M3s, Campfire Audio Cascade with ALO Audio Continental V5 and interconnect. For fun.

Whilst the M3S does have enough juice to power most middle level headphones, If using the balanced port one can eke out a bit more power. 



Shanling M3s and Kinera Limited Edition earbuds

User interface

The Shanling user face is quite intuitive and easy to use.
Utilizing a multi functional wheel for scrolling and entering, and a smaller button to go back.
Admittedly with a bevy of Android touch screen devices around me I would often pick up the Shanling M3s and tap tap at the screen for while before realizing what I was doing. Cue sad trombones and face palms.

As you can see the screen has good resolution and the menu can be clearly seen.

Firmware updates,  Driver downloads and User Manual links


The Shanling M3s is an excellent player or source. Its lightweight and robust body make it simple to use on the go for a variety of uses, either as a stand alone player or as a source to an external dac/amp.

Its simple button enter, and button back UI with the enter button also doubling as a scroll wheel keeps navigation easy and smooth.

The sound is clear and isnt lacking in its smaller form.

The Shanling M3s veers away from the popular Android touch screen with wifi and bells and whistles approach, yet retains a modicum of usability by having a decent enough screen to provide ample visual cues as to where one is and what one is doing.

The price will be attractive to many looking for a player that concentrates more on the sound alone aspect.

Having single ended and balanced jack ports will be a plus for many.

Noise floor is generally low.
The low output impedance is favorable for multi driver IEMs.

There is no internal storage, but most people no doubt that purchase this dap will have a few micro SD cards lying around for easy insertion.

The Hiby UI will be familiar to many.

The Shanling M3s easily connects to an external dac/amp making it an excellent choice for a low cost source to more higher tier dac/amp of your choice.

The sound overall is quite acceptable, good resolution with a variety of file sizes and genres.
I thought at times the coherency could be better in places, the sound sound stage when using the Andromeda was fairly wide but isnt as far reaching as it can be, separation is decent.
The sound is mid focussed with healthy under lay of bass, vocals are strong yet just above the music, treble isn't a defining feature of the sound signature.

It has great control, coherency being a defining feature. 

The Shanling M3s is a neutral dap, with a wee bit of warmth to the mids, but is fairly linear overall.
Although simple in form and UI, its internals and the resulting complexity is enough to please the general and advanced user. That paired with its usefulness as an excellent source makes the M3s a budget bargain. A jewel within the womb awaiting its chance to explore new audiophile worlds.

Shanling M3s and Campfire Audio Andromeda Balanced out.

Thank you to Shanling for sending the Shanling M3s for review

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