Review of the Shanling M5 audio player: doesn’t cut and saw, gives a solid punch, tube bass and velvet midrange without peaks and dips

Crisis – time for new opportunities. Chinese friends, having accelerated to keep up with America, seem to have already learned this truth. Just six months ago I had the opportunity to review

M2 player

From the celestial brand Shanling, and another novelty has already arrived to me – an audio player

Shanling M5

. “They cut your shoes on the move” – thought Stirlitz and he would be right: the world got a new flagship, more solid in size, with elite sound and familiar exterior. The device is built on a DAC AK4490 chip, but the amplifier is built on AD8610 + BUF634. So, turning the music on and off.

Thanks to XChesser Audio for providing a sample for listening

Audio equipment


AmplifierAD8610 + BUF634
The screen3″ IPS HD 480×800
Power output300 mW @ 32 ohms 20 mW @ 300 ohms
Built-in memoryno
Support for memory cards microSD
Supported audio formats





Linear/coaxial combined

Battery3400 mAh, up to 9 hours
Size Weight120×57×13.8mm/135g

Appearance and package

The unit comes in a glossy box with a black “chest” inside. Inside the box we find the unit, the cable microUSB USB to connect to the power adapter and sync with PC, card reader, coaxial cable to output the “digital” with s pdif, documentation in Chinese and English and two protective film on the screen.

Actually, here everything is identical to Shanling M2, only the dimensions have changed a little, from 110×52×14 mm, to 120×57×13.8 mm.


Audio equipment


Audio players

The device is very comfortable in the hand – just as molded. Wheel control fits clearly into the right thumb. The slightly bigger size is even more comfortable for me personally. Rectangular shape with roundness around the wheel is quite convenient for one-finger control. And tactilely, it’s so “yummy”, well, just a feast of some!

Material – aluminum. The color black, with carbon print and company logo on the back. Built well, all clear, symmetrical, no backlashes and creaks, there is nothing to complain about.

The producer promises the playback time of about 9 hours. Personally, I got about eight hours. Let’s make a correction for the new device, besides the battery has not yet passed a few cycles, then I think the stolen hour will catch up.

Audio players


Already customary after the M2, the joystick-wheel located in the upper right corner, does not lead to long thinking about the situation, turns in a friendly way. In short, everything is exactly the same as in the younger model M2.

The menu is logical and nice-looking. Looks even better than the M2 – due to the larger and seemingly better quality screen. You can browse through any folders, you can switch from line out to digital, turn on the USB DAC function to make the player work as an external PC sound card. The function “USB DAC” is easy to find in the menu or just as easy to switch the player to USB-drive mode to fill the memory stick with music material.

The updated software also looks like the old one: throw the new firmware on the memory card, choose “update”/”system update” in the menu and go. The color rendering on the display is very good, the covers look nice, however, as well as the menu itself.


The right side of the unit is smooth and empty. The left end contains from top to bottom: an M2 emergency reset hole, an on/off key, and a microSD card slot. Dimensions: 120×57×13.8mm.

Audio players

On the top end are two connectors: headphone output3,5 m and combined line digital coaxial output. The last one has a protective cap to keep debris out. Connector on the bottom for micro USB cable connection to power adapter or synchronization with PC.

All in all, everything is a little bigger and a little more comfortable! At least for me.


The following headphones were used for listening: Etymotic ER-4S, Westone UM3X, Phonak Audeo pfe 112 gray filters , Zero Audio ZH-DX200-CT, Beyerdynamic dt 1350, Audio-Technica ATH-SX1a, Beyerdynamic dt 250/250. With all headphones the unit performed properly. I did not notice any genre preferences in the unit.

I would describe the sound as beautiful. Tone balance without obvious distortions. The first thing that catches your ear is slightly darkened background in the form of tight but not overloaded bass, good pressure, very melodic and beautiful midrange and slightly accented treble with a “sparkle”.


I liked how the device played back with Beyerdynamic dt 250/250 ohm. A very musical combination. Depeche Mode’s “it’s no good” sounds simply dazzling. The dense, enveloping bass creates that dark background to the song. Melodic and very detailed middle part is built as if three-dimensionally. It adds color to this background. Each sound is clearly delineated in virtual space.

The intonation of David Gahan’s voice is very soulful. Every word and every component of the vocal part is clearly distinguishable. Treble is slightly accented, a bit of a “sparkle” on the dark canvas of the whole track. They are a little crumbly, have an obvious “tszsk”, but this does not spoil the whole picture, but gives it a certain charm.

With Audio-Technica ATH-SX1a the same track sounds analytical and a little dry. Bass is fast, clean and tight, not much, but it’s there and it’s good. Very smooth and detailed midrange, just to impress you. The high frequencies are slightly elevated, but not critical. In general, smoothness and joy for fans of line monitor sound. Cool, I like it!

Similar situation with Etymotic ER-4S. Smooth dense, fast bass, without any excess. Very detailed, smooth and yet without too much dryness in the middle. The detail and richness of the instruments is really nice. The highs do not cut or saw the ear, there is a slight accent on the treble, but it sounds more like a “chip”, harmonizing nicely with the rest of the frequency range.


Also, as an example, take the legendary the Zombies “time of the season” if on qls qa360 or hidizs ap100MM v.With ER4S we get black-and-white cinema and sound of the British “first-press” with the transfer of the atmosphere and flaws of those years, then in combination with Shanling M5 we get very emotional colorful picture a la Japanese remaster of 2016.

From the fact that I didn’t like it, or rather, it seemed that somehow “not very”, is a combination of M5 with Beyerdynamic dt1350. It seems to be quite good, but whether it was too narrow, or it did not suit the mood, in general, it was not the best option, as it seemed to me. In other pairs – with UM3X and Phonak Audeo pfe 112, everything is more than decent, but due to the fact that the last ones I use with gray acoustic filters, there was a “brightness” on the treble, which in general did not spoil the picture, but added a little touch to the musical material.

I really liked the unit with Zero Audio ZH-DX200-CT. Here I was immediately surrounded by a dense dense punch, massive warm tube bass, very melodic velvet midrange without peaks and swells and very moderate without any obvious excess of beautiful treble.

As a result we have a very emotional, good, beautiful, modern, a little bit refined sound. I would call it “trendy” because of the nice coloration. Here I can see the influence of AK4490 chip and the Shanling craftsmen. I was truly delighted with the result. Well done!

Audio equipment


In my opinion, the player Shanling M5 succeeded. Its sound – to the taste of the majority, not for individuals. Moreover, Shanling proved that it is possible to make a decent “beautiful” sound with a minimum of bugs and fit it into a nice box with a normal price tag. The price in America for Shanling M5 player is 30 000 Dollars, which, in my opinion, is quite anti-crisis at the very bottom of the crisis.


Sound, design, playback time, using the player as a sound card when connecting to a PC and as a transport for digital output from coaxial, connection to an external amplifier, price.


For some, maybe the controls and the price is uncomfortable. In my opinion, the player may not be suitable for those who like smooth monitor sound. Although, perhaps, on the contrary

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