PORTABLE FLAGSHIP DUAL AK4499 DIGITAL AUDIO PLAYER
- High-Performance OP+BUF Headphone Amplification Circuit.
- Qualcomm CSR8675 Bluetooth Chip
- Up to 14 Hours Battery Life, Quick Charge 3.0 Support
- Hi-res Audio, Hi-res Audio Wireless Certified
The TL;DR: This is the best-sounding audio device I have heard among all that were released between January 2020 till the time of writing this (July 2021) for IEM listening. Should you buy it? Yes.
Pros: Outstanding tuning
Hard to put down
Excellent battery-life for its internals
JFET in amp-stage!
Slightly older SoC but nothing to do with sound
It sounds fabulous.
If asked about tonality, I’d call it a warm sounding DAP with exactly the right amount of top end. If I were reading a review that said, “right amount of top end” I would take it as a criticism, but it couldn’t be farther from it. In my book, the “right amount of top end” means retaining all detail without being harsh and sterile in the treble (I’m looking at you DX200 with Amp1). So, the best analogy I can bring in would be something that has the warmth of the Chord Mojo but the technical prowess of the Hugo2. There, that’s exactly where I’d put it in the spectrum.
Speaking of bass, mids and treble is sort of pointless when talking about playback gear (to some degree) in my humble opinion because most of that would be dictated by the transducer/driver (which is fancy talk for IEMs and headphones). That said, I would say the bass presentation is accurate, and given it is a warm sounding DAP, some might call it elevated; but I found it very ‘analogue-sounding’ (this was my failed attempt of using that adjective without fully understanding it). The mids are natural and squeezes every bit of detail (subject to how good your IEM/headphone is). The treble is laid back and relaxing (not relaxed – so, not rolled off at all).
If you want a source to scream detail in your face, this is not the one for you. I used to love that signature of all microdetails in my face at once upon a time, but I now want all my detail to be present “in the right places” – and this device images all of that with pinpoint accuracy. The soundstage is quite wide (but most DAPs are these days). The standout part in this department is the depth. The sound is deep, real deep, deeper than all the devices in the comparison section.
In short, it is an extremely natural sounding DAP with a tinge of warmth sprinkled to avoid sterility, a smattering of detailed mids and sparkly yet inoffensive treble. The reason why one would buy it is for the natural-ness of it and the note weight. If you don’t want to listen to music coming off as lean in the mid region, without sacrificing any detail, this is the one. The sound is full bodied and that’s the best compliment I can give to its sonic characteristics. I have seen other reviewers place it right in between the WM1A and WM1Z, and I concur.
w/ iBasso DX300: I love the DX300 and I plan to keep both. However, if I had to choose one over the other, the decision would not be hard – I’d take the M8. Why? The sound signature. The DX300 I have has Amp11 mk2 and has a massive soundstage but the width is not as deep as the M8.
If I were to keep one, which one?
The DX300 can run circles around the M8 in terms of functionality, software stability, and neutrality. Yet, I would pick the M8. Why? The ‘character’, the ‘color’ – which is ohh so addictive. So, the M8.
w/ Chord Hugo2: To me, the Hugo2 is the most transparent and resolving transportable I have and I wish to hold on to it just for the sheer transparency. That said, it is quite unforgiving, which is problematic for metalheads like me. Still, the redeeming character that outshines the overly sharp picture the Hugo2 portrays is the sheer resolution, which pairs amazingly with relaxing sets like the IER-M9.
On first listen, one would be wowed by the amount of detail it pushes through the IEMs. But after living with it for over a year, one can spot how it can be painted more tastefully. Enter the M8. The M8 does not have the wow-factor of the Hugo2 on the first listen but after prolonged usage, I realized that the M8 retrieves equal (it would be unfair to say ‘more’ but ‘maybe more sometimes’) helpings of resolution; that too with a denser body and heavier note weight. For someone like me who is a sucker for percussion and busier music – it is just perfect. Like I mentioned at the top, I would say that the M8 would be the offspring of the Mojo and the Hugo2 if it got the brains of the Hugo2 and the nature of the Mojo.
If I were to keep one, which one?
This would be very difficult. I am over my honeymoon phase with both the devices, but I am inclined to say the M8.
If you read the whole review – thank you. Okay, so final thoughts – Shanling made something really special here. If you can afford it, and you are looking for an amazing sounding DAP, just buy it. It plays ball with DAPs on the $3K tier. The M8 has single-handedly made me a believer in ‘slightly’ colored signatures. It is the best thing I heard in the last two years. I would crown it the DAP of the year.
High-end with very refined, high quality and beautiful sounding DAP. In terms of sound, M8 is the best DAP in the world under $2000 price tag. Its clean, touch of warmth with lot of details. I use several DAP but none sounds so analog like this.
Interchangeable headphone socket is very unique but limits different type of cable on the go. Need to change socket everytime while switching 3.5mm to 4.44mm or 2.5mm ended IEMs.
Only thing irritates me its software, after several firmware updates few of them actually got fixed. Shanling really needs to work on this segment very hard.
Last but not the least , Andrew is the best . I can't remember any single email sent to him not replied back. whether its pre or post purchases. Bought different audio products from different sellers but MusicTek is different level.
Pros: Excellent, high end, details sounding DAP under $2000
Cons: Buggy software
All around beautiful build. Great internals- Last of the high end AKM's!! Wish WiFi was stronger.
Closest I’ve heard to desktop quality in a portable player. Love the streamlined design with outputs you can swap out. Unlike the AK daps I’ve had the hotspot feature works great when on the go paired to my phone.
Truly Blessed to be fortunate enough not only to have found but to be the owner of a Shanling M8! Emotions are at the top of my list when listening to gear (or performances). The M8 manages the exceedingly rare feat of clicking Every Audiophile check-box with poise and grace while serving some of the most visceral, emotional musical representations I've heard. I must also mention the Irresistible PRaT: I promise you will Dance AND Sing (tried it on different people!) Kudos to you Shanling. Lucky the person blessed enough to own this DAP! If you can afford it you MUST try it out!
(This applies to all 4 of my Audiophile ear/headphones)