Shan­ling M2s £190

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Hi-res Music Players -

FOR Good de­tail; de­cent dy­nam­ics, rhythm and bass AGAINST No in­ter­nal stor­age; un­ex­cit­ing sound Ap­ple’s de­ci­sion to dis­con­tinue the ipod Nano left many peo­ple look­ing for an al­ter­na­tive me­dia player. Af­ter all, there’s still a de­cent de­mand for some­thing small in stature to fit eas­ily into your bag or pocket, but that also pro­vides a su­pe­rior sound to your com­mon or gar­den smart­phone. As far as pric­ing goes, that lit­tle gap in the mar­ket is pre­cisely where the Shan­ling M2s finds it­self sit­ting – but does it meet that goal?

An easy fit in a pocket

Look­ing a bit like a cig­a­rette lighter, the M2s is a neat lit­tle pack­age. It has a re­as­sur­ing heft to it and, at ap­prox­i­mately half the size of the av­er­age smart­phone, it takes up an en­cour­ag­ingly small space in a jacket or back pocket.

You move through its nav­i­ga­tion screens us­ing the dial on the side, press­ing in­wards to ‘click’ on songs, al­bums and set­tings. It’s sur­pris­ingly quick to use, al­though those with larger hands might find it a bit fid­dly.

Get­ting your mu­sic onto the M2s is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. It doesn’t have any in­ter­nal mem­ory, and while it can sup­port up to 256GB of ex­ter­nal stor­age through a Mi­crosd card, that’s still an ex­tra thing you need to buy.

The M2s can play up to 24-bit/192khz and DSD256 res­o­lu­tions through its ESS9016 dig­i­tal-to-ana­logue con­verter. Shan­ling says that its 1800MAH bat­tery will get you nine hours of lis­ten­ing time.

Wire­less func­tion­al­ity

With aptx Blue­tooth 4.0 con­nec­tiv­ity, you can stream ‘Cd-like’ (16-bit/44.1khz) res­o­lu­tion mu­sic from the M2s to wire­less speak­ers, but its cord-cut­ting ca­pa­bil­i­ties don’t stop there. You can also con­nect your smart­phone to it via a ded­i­cated app, to con­trol play­back and vol­ume if you’re in another room, or if it’s stuck at the bot­tom of your bag.

But when you ac­tu­ally get it play­ing, the M2s’ sound qual­ity is a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing – even for such an af­ford­able piece of kit. It’s a de­cent enough per­for­mance, but there’s still some way to go be­fore it gen­er­ates the ex­cite­ment nec­es­sary to rec­om­mend it prop­erly.

Its in­sight is its most at­trac­tive fea­ture, but, still, it could do with some fine­tun­ing. The nat­u­rally harsh and ag­gres­sive vo­cals of Run the Jewel’s Run

the Jew­els, and the plo­sive, al­lit­er­a­tive de­liv­ery in the mid­dle of the song, is in­sight­ful enough that you get a sense of how the rap­pers are al­most spit­ting out the lyrics. On 36” Chain, the ar­cade-like sound ef­fects have a good lay­er­ing to them as well, but it doesn’t sound quite as sparky as we’d like.

A sense of time and space

Mov­ing on to some­thing de­cid­edly more up­beat, Elec­tric Light Or­ches­tra’s Turn

To Stone, the bounc­ing pi­ano that in­tro­duces the song and the pop­ping key­board riffs that keep the mo­men­tum go­ing are con­veyed rel­a­tively well by the M2s. It’s not go­ing to in­spire you to jump out of your chair and dance, but it makes a good at­tempt at cap­tur­ing the kind of en­ergy and piz­zazz the band is known for.

Its tim­ing is de­cent, as it avoids trip­ping over some of the rapid har­monies, and it’s rea­son­ably spa­cious. There’s enough room for each in­stru­ment to flour­ish, with­out hav­ing them sound dis­con­nected from the rest of the per­form­ers.

Ul­ti­mately, though, it’s lack­ing in so­lid­ity, un­able to de­liver a re­ally pow­er­ful, punchy per­for­mance. Play­ing the Ea­gles’ Ho­tel Cal­i­for­nia, the force­ful drums that kick the song into ac­tion come across hol­low and loose.

But is it enough?

While the M2s doesn’t have a bad sound, we don’t find it ex­cit­ing enough to fully war­rant spend­ing the money – there’s just not enough of an im­prove­ment in qual­ity to jus­tify car­ry­ing around a sec­ond player.

Those look­ing for a good, por­ta­ble, ded­i­cated mu­sic player might want to think about sav­ing a lit­tle more cash, and go­ing for one of the other play­ers here.

It feels a bit as though we’ve tested the Onkyo DP S1 be­fore. The player is in­cred­i­bly sim­i­lar to the re­cently re­leased Pi­o­neer XDP 30R. It’s fairly easy to see why: Pi­o­neer sold its AV di­vi­sion to Onkyo in 2014, so each brand has put its own spin on a sim­i­lar de­sign theme.

But just be­cause some­thing looks the same doesn’t mean it will sound the same. The DP S1 has a few – al­beit slight – dif­fer­ences that give this player its own in­di­vid­ual flavour.

Cos­metic changes, and more

On the sur­face, it ap­pears to be cos­metic changes that set the DP S1 apart. The lock but­ton, which stops its touch­screen be­ing ac­ti­vated, is cir­cu­lar not square, and the screen fonts are slightly dif­fer­ent.

At the bot­tom of its face etched de­tails re­veal some of the player’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions: 16GB of stor­age (which can be in­creased to 416GB via two Mi­crosd card slots,) sup­port for 32-bit/192khz and DSD128 mu­sic files, and twin SABRE ES9018C2M dig­i­tal-to-ana­logue con­vert­ers.

There are also two head­phone jacks, one 2.5mm for bal­anced op­er­a­tion, which has the po­ten­tial for bet­ter per­for­mance, and one for the more com­mon 3.5mm con­nec­tion.

Search­ing for a search­bar

Us­ing the player can be tricky. Its 2.4in touch­screen is smaller than most so, al­though it re­sponds ad­e­quately, it can be chal­leng­ing to in­put email ad­dresses and pass­words when log­ging in to the two stream­ing ser­vices of­fered – Tidal and Deezer. (Tunein in­ter­net ra­dio is also avail­able.)

One fea­ture that’s miss­ing is a search­bar. We can for­give its omis­sion on play­ers con­trolled by phys­i­cal but­tons, but if you have a lot of mu­sic on your player it can be a lengthy process to scroll through all your artists or al­bums.

Some will get around that by us­ing the app that lets you con­trol the player from your phone – but if both are sit­ting in your pocket, it’s not nec­es­sar­ily any faster.

We think the DP S1 has a more re­fined sound than that of the Pi­o­neer XDP 30R. While we wouldn’t say that its per­for­mance is sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved, there are tan­gi­ble changes. It’s like hav­ing a fa­mil­iar meal, but some­one’s al­tered the usual sea­son­ing.

The main dif­fer­ence is that the Onkyo is more spa­cious, with greater flu­id­ity in the way it han­dles dy­nam­ics. Mahler’s Res­ur­rec­tion Sym­phony (#2 In C Mi­nor), rises and falls with slightly more el­e­gance than on the Pi­o­neer. The strings are whipped into con­trolled bursts at the start, but there’s clear de­lin­eation be­tween where the notes be­gin and end.

There’s no in­ter­nal mem­ory at all on the Shan­ling, so you will have to bud­get a lit­tle more for a Mi­crosd card

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.