UPDATE March 2019: the M0’s price has risen by $10 since launch and is reviewed here.
The problem with portable audio? Listeners who opt for DAPs because they sound better than the average smartphone often find their second device’s form reflects its contents, not its intended use. The majority are too bulky for all but jeans- or coat-pockets.
China’s Shanling aims to tackle this problem with their latest portable player. The M0 is a matchbox- sized DAP that puts a 240px x 240px touchscreen on the front a 45mm x 40mmm x 13.5 mm shell that weighs in at a breast-pocket friendly 38g.
The M0 features an in-house developed OS that plays music gaplessly from an inserted microSD card (up to 512Gb, none onboard) to drive 80mW into 32 Ohms headphones. Low impedance IEM users are covered by the M0’s 0.16 Ohm output impedance. The 630mAH battery’s life is rated at 15 hours between charges but offers a 30-day sleep mode.
Handling internal D/A conversion and headphone amplification is the ES9218P combo chip from ESS Labs. And should you wish to use Shanling’s more audiophile-sensitive circuitry with other devices, be advised that the M0’s USB-C port can be connected to a PC/Mac for use as a USB DAC. Like microSD card playback, native DSD64, D2P DSD128 and good old PCM up to 32bit/384kHz.
But wait – that USB-C port is bi-directional. The M0 can also be used as a transport to feed a third party USB DAC.
Click this image to see the M0’s UI in motion:
The problem with smartphones? Few support the advanced (read: better sounding) Bluetooth codecs – Qualcomm’s aptX or Sony’s LDAC – offered up by the better Bluetooth headphones – the Sony MDR-1000X/WH-1000XM2, B&W PX. LDAC support is slooooowly rolling out to Android devices as part of Google’s Oreo 8.0 update but aptX support remains device dependent. Apple has so far only optioned AAC for its iOS devices.
Shanling aims to tackle this issue with the inclusion of aptX and LDAC support in the M0. This mini-DAP can also be used as a palm-filling Bluetooth transport. An opportunity to get the very best performance from our fancy wireless headphones without dropping big cash on a new ‘phone or a different, probably bulkier, device.
In other words, the M0 aims to deliver better sound quality to your wired and wireless headphones, in a properly pocketable form and without breaking the bank. Furthermore, it’s a USB DAC for your Mac/PC. That’s a substantial dose of functionality for the M0’s asking price: US$99.
And for those who like to colour coordinate, the M0 will ship in a range of colour options: black, red, blue, titanium and violet.