Shanling M0 Pro Review
Shanling M0 Pro Review
Is it a DAP? Is it a DAC? Is it a Bluetooth receiver? Is it a hobbit? No, it is the Shanling M0 Pro!
Pros: + Very good sound quality
+ Balanced sound signature without treble sharpness
+ Great technicalities for the price
+ Open and spacious soundstage
+ Single ended headphone output that can be made balanced with a simple adapter
+ The balanced output is quite powerful
+ Can be used as DAP, USB DAC, USB transport, Bluetooth transceiver
+ Stable Bluetooth connection with LDAC support and good sound quality
+ Ultra compact sized and featherweight
+ Excellent build quality
+ Lots of customization and 10 band EQ
+ Responsive touch screen
+ Value for money
Cons: – Lack of physical buttons for controlling music playback
– Small touch screen can make your life difficult
– aptX-HD codec is not supported
– Average battery duration
– An OTG cable is missing
– The balanced cable adapter is sold separately
– The balanced output is of better sound quality than the single ended
– Single ended power output is rather limited
– Slightly lean and dry texture
The review sample was kindly provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review.I didn’t receive monetary or any other kind of compensation and I don’t use affiliate links.
The price of the M0 Pro is $129 and you can buy it from the Shanling Amazon store.
Do you remember the Shanling M0 or the FiiO M5?
These, and other miniature sized DAPs, were once in high demand but they have fallen into obscurity after the evolution of USB DAC dongles that have flooded the market.
But times are changing, history goes in circles and it seems that they are slowly recovering and becoming the trend again.
Hidizs, with the AP80 PRO-X, was one of the first manufacturers to resurrect them and now Shanling has released the successor to their legendary M0.
Shanling M0 Pro
The new Shanling M0 Pro follows closely in the M0 steps, but this time they managed to squeeze in a fully balanced audio circuit with two pieces of the ESS ES9219C DAC chip which supports up to 384kHz/32bit PCM and native DSD128.
Moreover, Shanling managed to utilize a balanced output, while keeping the overall size of M0 Pro the same as its predecessor, thanks to an innovative brand-new type of 3.5mm connector that combines both single-ended and balanced connections into one.
Working perfectly with all your standard single ended 3.5mm connectors, while allowing for a proper balanced connection through a special 5-pin 3.5mm to 4.4mm cable adapter that is sold separately.
Shanling M0 Pro is able to provide improved sound quality and an increased output power that can be as high as 236mW/32Ω from the balanced output or 90mW/32Ω from the single ended.
The Shanling M0 Pro also packs an upgraded, bidirectional, Bluetooth 5.0 chip, assuring compatibility with the latest Bluetooth headphones and improving connectivity.
It will transmit in LDAC, aptX, AAC, SBC and receive in LDAC, AAC and SBC so if your phone doesn’t support LDAC you are stuck with the plain aptX since aptX-HD is not supported.
The Shanling M0 Pro has a micro SD card slot which supports up to 2TB of storage capacity while it has a bidirectional type-C output that can act both as a USB DAC or a USB transport.
The only accessories that you are going to find in the box is a USB A to C cable and an extra screen protector film except the one that is pre-installed from the factory.
A shorter, USB type C-C, cable would be very handy.
Design and build quality
The Shanling M0 Pro is extremely compact sized and lightweight as it measures 43.8x45x13.8mm and weighs 36.8g only.
It is not that bigger than the Shanling UA3 USB dongle.
It is more compact than the Hidizs AP80 PRO-X but it doesn’t have hardware buttons for playback control and dual headphone jacks.
The square shaped chassis is made from a single aluminum piece with a curved glass front face that envelopes the 1.54″ touch screen which has 240×240 resolution.
Build quality and finish are excellent and the M0 Pro is available in three colors, red, green and black.
A beautiful leather case is sold separately and you can choose between black, red, dark orange and green.
At the right side of the chassis there is the tiny volume control wheel which has tactile feedback and also acts as the on/off switch.
At the bottom you will find the micro SD card slot which is protected by a rubber lid, the USB type-C connector and the 3.5mm headphone jack.
The Shanling M0 Pro utilizes an Ingenic X1000 platform that runs a highly optimized version of the in-house developed MTouch OS which is designed to offer a simple, one-handed operation.
The LCD screen is quite responsive and it gets the job done but people with larger fingers will have some hard time with it while the lack of physical buttons for playback control will make your life more difficult.
Thankfully, you can customize the double and triple press action of the volume control switch to perform skip, next or play/pause but that’s it.
The database update is pretty fast and browsing though the folders is done without lagging.
The home screen menus are cleverly arranged for a simple operation and include the Now playing screen, System configuration, Playback options, Folder browsing and Tag browsing.
You can’t browse with art thumbnails but the cover will be displayed in the playback screen.
Swiping from the left side of the screen to the right will get you to the previous menu.
The Shanling M0 Pro is highly customizable and you can configure various parameters like max and default volume, gain, digital filter, gapless playback, channel balance, playback speed etc.
There is also a 10-band user configurable EQ with 12 presets and three empty spaces for storing your own curves.
Other system features include: setting the USB port as a mass storage device or as DAC input or as audio output with a fixed or a variable level, selecting between line or phone output, configuring auto shutting down times, Bluetooth parameters, firmware update etc.
A very handy feature is that the Shanling M0 Pro supports the Shanling Eddict player application link which allows users to control music playback and browsing with their phone when they are paired together through Bluetooth.
So you can have the M0 Pro inside your pocket and control playback with the ease of your phone.
There is no Bluetooth shortcut menu on the home screen but if you swipe from the bottom to the top of the screen then a sub-menu will appear with shortcuts to enable the Bluetooth, adjust screen brightness and playback order.
When the Shanling M0 Pro is connected to a host device as a USB DAC you can choose whether it will charge or not.
The M0 Pro runs completely cool under normal circumstances but it will get pretty hot when charging and playing music at the same time.
Battery duration and power output
The Shanling M0 Pro has a small 650mAh battery that can keep it running for about 10 hours depending on the situation.
High resolution files or Bluetooth connection and the use of the balanced output will deplete the battery faster but still you can expect about 8-9 hours of duration.
The single ended power output is mostly suitable for sensitive earphones but the balanced one is really powerful and it can drive full sized headphones with ease.
I have mostly used the Sennheiser HD660S with a Lavricables pure silver cable and the M0 Pro did an excellent job driving it with plenty of headroom, without a hint of distortion, never getting past ¾ of the available volume.
Earphones like the Penon Vortex or the FiiO FH15 are an easy task for it even from the 3.5mm jack.
The Shanling M0 Pro is dead silent and noise free even when connected to a cellphone with a USB cable.
The Shanling M0 Pro has the typical sound signature of the ES9219C DAC/amp chip when it is used without additional amplification and extra tweaks on the circuit.
This is a crystal clear and transparent sounding DAP with a great level of technicalities for the category, while it is not lacking in musicality and enjoyment factor either.
This particular chip has the tendency to sound a little sharp in the treble but in the M0 Pro, Shanling have managed to keep things under control, especially in minimizing the higher frequencies glare and digital artifacts so comparatively, the M0 Pro is less sharp and artificial sounding than the Hidizs AP80 PRO-X.
It can’t match the natural timbre of it’s bigger brother, the M3 Ultra, that uses the same DAC configuration but with an extra amplification stage but still the M0 Pro has plenty of realism and a satisfyingly natural timbre.
The bass is tight, fast, controlled and impactful enough with great definition but the texture is more on the leaner and drier side rather than being weighty and full bodied.
Mid range is full of transparency and fidelity with a crystalline clarity while it has a lot of harmonic depth to make it sound natural and realistic.
The treble is extended, sparkling and luminous with excessive energy but, as stated earlier, not too bright, sharp or artificial sounding.
It is just a little pronounced when compared to the rest of the frequency spectrum but not harsh or fatiguing, you can listen for hours long without feeling annoyed.
The texture is still on the lean side but not leaner or thinner than that of the bass so the sound has a good level of homogeneity.
Detail retrieval is more than enough while the soundstage is open and widely extended with good positioning accuracy.
Not that grand sized or holographic nor too deep but still very spacious and airy without any signs of congestion at least from the balanced output.
The Shanling M0 Pro, together with the Sennheiser HD660S, provided a surprisingly immersive listening experience with classical music, a high spirited presentation that perfectly suited Prokofiev’s 1st symphony.
Balanced vs single ended
And this gets as to the balanced vs single ended comparison with the former having the definite upper hand.
Better overall sound quality and technical performance, greater sense of impact and realism and of course more expanded and accurate soundstage.
The Shanling M0 Pro is good from the single ended output but the balanced is definitely the better one so it is highly recommended to invest into buying the adapter cable, at least if you own earphones with balanced cables.
The Bluetooth connection is strong and stable with minimal sound quality degradation that is mostly audible at the higher frequencies.
That is if you have an LDAC capable source because otherwise the lack of the aptX-HD codec support is a limiting factor.
In the end
The Shanling M0 Pro is an extremely compact sized and featherweight DAP that can successfully fulfill various use scenarios:
A traditional DAP for local music playback with an output to a wired or a Bluetooth headphone, PC or OTG USB DAC without draining the host battery, USB digital transport to an external DAC and a high quality Bluetooth receiver.
Add to these, the very good sound performance, the powerful headphone output, the ease of use and the good battery duration and it becomes pretty apparent why there is still plenty of room for such compact sized DAPs despite the ongoing rise of the USB DAC dongles.
Copyright – Petros Laskis 2023.