The Shanling M0 is an unbelievably tiny Hi-Res music player from China, and given its circumstances, most people would disregard it as some cheap iPod Nano (Gen 6) knock-off. But it’s far from that. This little thing is capable of supporting up to 384KHz 32-bit sampling rate, which basically means it can playback all the best audio files on this planet. Japan Audio Association has even certified the M0 for its High-Resolution Audio performance, the smallest player to receive such certification.
The body is made of CNC aluminium, with 1.54-inch curved glass touch screen from LG. The digital to analogue converter (DAC) on the M0 is the ESS Sabre ES9218P, which is the same DAC that LG uses for the V30+ and G7+ ThinQ. Comparing side-by-side, the audio characteristic is almost identical, delivering substantial musical details, controlled clarity at the higher frequency, forward mids, and full bass. Compared to the A&future SE100, the M0 is obviously not as meticulous and driving, and complex musical tracks can still sound comparatively crowded, but the SE100 is a dozen times more expensive. The M0 easily beats most of the smartphone audio in the market and other similarly-priced DAP.
The M0 is not just about the audio quality, there are so many ways to listen to the audio. Besides the usual way of plugging the headphones directly to the 3.5mm jack, the M0 supports Bluetooth audio over aptX and LDAC. It can also work as a Bluetooth receiver (LDAC supported, but not aptX) to connect wirelessly to other audio devices. So, say your smartphone (like Huawei P20 Pro) does not have a 3.5mm audio jack, you can pair the M0 to the smartphone to enjoy wireless audio streamed from the smartphone to M0. The audio quality from the P20 Pro to the Shanling M0 (over LDAC) is clean and flawless to my ears.
In addition, M0 can also work as a USB sound card (i.e. bypass desktop/laptop audio processor) as well as acting as digital USB audio transport to connect to an external USB-DAC (like Chord Mojo).
The only major problem I find with the M0 is the UI, which feels somewhat clumsy. Because the M0 is so petite, handling the device will be a compromise. You navigate the UI by scrolling up and down for same-page content and swiping right to go back previous screen, but the touch gesture feels like a hit-and-miss. There is only a single hardware button on the device – a scroll knob to adjust volume and functions as a click button to turn on and off the screen. Through the settings, a double-click action can be customised, like play/pause track. But I can live with that: the M0 is so basic-looking, it cannot be taken seriously, yet it offers some serious audio quality.
Note also that there is no internal storage, so you need a microSD card – up to 512GB – to listen to music.
If you want to experience Hi-Res Audio without breaking the bank, the Shanling M0 should be your first choice. It is amazing how a tiny music player like Shanling M0 offers so much premium audio and wireless capabilities at just S$168. It definitely costs more to buy a Bluetooth receiver, USB audio card, and a Hi-Res DAP separately.
Shanling M0 comes in 5 colours, available at most of the audio and headphone stores like Zeppelin & Co., Jaben, Treoo, Connect-It, as well as Lazada. Local units enjoy 1-year warranty.
- Display: 1.54-inch 240×240 touch screen
- DAC: ESS Sabre ES9218P
- Sampling Rate: up to 384 KHz 32-bit, DSD 128
- Storage: MicroSD card up to 512GB (not included)
- Connectivity: 2-way Bluetooth, USB Type-C
- Wireless Codec: SBC, AAC, aptX, LDAC
- Battery: 630 mAh
- Battery Life: 15 hrs
- Dimensions: 40 x 13.5 x 45 mm
- Weight: 38 g