With phones sporting more storage every day, and music listening going online through streaming services, digital audio players are all but dead. If you’re reading this review with the intent to buy, you are a really niche customer.
This subset of buyers would ideally involve audiophiles who really care about the quality of music they listen to and want dedicated portable media players for that. That’s the market the Shanling M0 should ideally fit the bill for most.
This tiny 40x1350x45mm media player has a ESS Sabre ES9218P DAC inside, a headphone jack, USB Type-C charging and a scroll wheel. It also supports bluetooth connectivity, for those who use wireless headphones.
The touchscreen interface is nothing worth writing home about but does the job. The entire thing, including design, what it does, and how it works is quite simplistic. You just push in a micro-SD card (up to 512GB) into this and start playing music from it. Period.
That said, the question really is why you should spend ₹10,000 on a portable music player when your phone does the job just fine.
The short answer, to be honest, is you shouldn’t unless you’re a real audiophile. While the M0 is portable, you will carry it along with your phone, not in place of it. It brings superior audio quality compared to any phone in this price range, and most that are significantly more expensive.
It supports DSD, FLAC, DSF, MP3, WMA and most other file formats. If you’re using high quality audio files, like FLAC or DSD, you’re in for a treat. The M0 handles 32bit/384Khz files and offers about 12 hours battery life on each charge.
However, you need good headphones (though it covers impedance as low as 8 ohm), a well-tuned ear and good music files to really take advantage of this. A big miss here is that the M0 doesn’t allow you to control the equaliser, which would have made it easier to adapt to different tastes in music. You will likely feel this if you’re a bass-head and want more powerful, booming bass. That’s where the M0 is slightly weak, in terms of audio quality. Highs and mids sound quite sharp.
To conclude, the Shanling M0 is certainly a product some would consider buying. However, in the larger portable media player market, it is an entry level device. That, at a price of around ₹10,000 may be difficult to justify.
Moreover, the true audiophile market will probably prefer something better (even if they are more expensive), like the Fiio M7 or the more premiumly priced ones by Astell & Kern and Sony.