Shanling M6 Pro Review Comparison gear: Pi2AES -> Yggdrasil A2 -> 789 with Sigma 11 LPS iems: CA Andromeda 2020 and sometimes og Solaris Build This thing is a tank. It feels very high quality with aluminum sides and a very solid feel. The device has curved edges, but is a bit flattened on the edges where you hold it which makes it feel really nice in your hands. It’s a bit heavy and thick when you’re used to a phone, but there are important parts inside and I’m sure Shanling doesn’t have the engineering savvy of Apple or Samsung to cram parts in tight spaces as well. The volume knob is a nice touch, I hate touch screen volume adjustment. It turns nicely, and it also moves in small increments which is very nice for sensitive CA iems. I can get the volume exactly where I want it easily. Which is impossible on an iPhone or even my Drop 789 amp on low gain because there just isn’t enough play in the volume knob (ok, I can get the volume where I want, but it takes tiny tiny touches to the volume knob). Also nice, is that in settings you can set what level the volume goes to by default after it shuts down so it’s not always crazy loud when you turn it on by default. Nice. The only thing that is annoying is the touch screen isn’t as sensitive as good smartphones, which makes interacting with it a little more cluesy than a good smartphone. The (optional in settings) double tap to turn it on isn’t as reactive as an iPhone and the alternative is pushing the volume knob which is a little awkward and tends to change the volume when you push it. I think the touch screen could be a little more sensitive to make this easier but I’m really nit picking here. Once you get used to it, it’s fine. And I don’t think you can expect better at this price and for a DAP. It has 3.5mm SE and both 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced output which is appreciated so you don’t have to buy all new cables. USB C charging is great of course as it’s universal UI I have a Samsung S10e for BubbleUPNP for my Pi2AES and I hate the UI. I actually like the UI on the M6 Pro. It’s simple and clear. I don’t know anything about android OS and I was able to sign into my google account and download Tidal, Amazon Music and Spotify and start listening to music very quickly. I don’t know how bluetooth works, I didn’t try it. What’s the point of a nice DAP if you’re using bluetooth? WIFI was easy to setup. It seems really fast. The Tidal app works smoother with less quirks than on my iPod 7th generation. There’s no lag or bugs so far at all. Battery Life A bit concerning. I went from 70% to 55% in less than an hour just now streaming Tidal. It went from 99% to 70% sitting over night off. I don’t know how long it would play streaming straight or if streaming is more battery intensive due to wifi use. I just would want a good 8 hours and this seems to be cutting it close. Don’t take this too seriously I haven’t done tests. Background Noise The M6 Pro is dead silent. My 789 even with the ridiculously expensive linear power supply still has a very faint hiss with CA iems. Sound In Brief Surprisingly resolving and dynamic. It really grabs iem drivers by the balls and slams hard. Dynamics sound tighter than my desktop rig (see above) but that could be because of the tonal balance (a bit bass lite). Resolution is behind but surprisingly not by that much. The tonality is a bit brittle sounding if I’m nitpicking, my desktop setup sounds more natural and organic while not loosing any control or having any bloom. The FR feels slightly thin and tipped upwards but the M6 Pro not bright at all. It’s just not a warm sounding DAP. Just slightly on the thin side of neutral and slightly bass lite. Most people will probably perceive this as "neutral". Those who like solid state amps will not notice this at all, it’s much warmer and has more body than most solid state amps but my desktop rig has noticeably more body, weight and bass than the M6 Pro. When switching back to my desktop rig I kind of breath a sigh of relief from the more natural tone and more balanced presentation. Great soundstage for such a small device, it’s not close to my desktop rig but it’s still good. Treble Very neutral. A tiny bit brighter than my desktop rig and not as smooth but basically exactly on target with great tonality. There’s plenty of air. It sounds pretty similar to my desktop rig. Midrange No major complaints. It’s a little on the cool side, my desktop rig has a warmer, more natural midrange. But the M6 Pro midrange is very natural and spot on in terms of presence. It’s not forward or recessed. The Andromeda 2020’s recessed vocals are recessed exactly where they should be, it neither fixes this or makes it worse. Generally, the midrange is very natural sounding with lots of air. Bass Punchy! This is going to be a good thing for most people with BA iems. It makes the og Solaris hit really hard I was really surprised when I first heard it. The og Solaris has slightly loose bass even on my desktop rig, but on the M6 Pro it sounds like a good full sized headphone. Punchy, layered, textured, hard hitting. But the downside is that it’s slightly bass lite. Which is probably partly why it has these positive qualities. My desktop rig has about 30% more bass. Synergy Andromeda 2020 The M6 Pro sounds really good with the Andromeda 2020. The Andromeda’s warm tone and slightly loose bass go really well with the M6 Pro. I really can’t recommend this combo enough. Og Solaris The M6 Pro frickin rocks with the og Solaris. So resolving and dynamic, it hits very hard for an iem. The bass is pure awesomeness in it’s control and slam, it can be pretty intense. The overall sound is a tiny bit thin and sterile but this is my preferences at play and also really nit picking. The og Solaris is already on the cool side just a bit IMO so this DAP doesn’t do the tonality any favors. But I think most folks will like it, it’s very clear, dynamic and resolving. I’m listening to Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love right now and it sounds really really good with the og Solaris. So much slam, tons of information, and the soundstage is excellent. Really rocks it. A bit aggressive but in a good way for most people I think. I really can’t say enough good things about the bass quality of this combo. Maybe some will want more bass, but what’s there is the best I’ve heard from an iem. (I haven’t heard the JVCs or many dynamic iems to be fair). I bet this DAP would slay dragons with the DROP JVC FDX01 I don’t know about the Ara or Nair. I think I would want a slightly warmer DAP and would go for the M6. I’d hate to change the perfect tonality of the Nair. Use With Full Size Headphones I used my modded T50rp as it’s a pretty normal load, not too sensitive or inefficient. Using full size headphones, the M6 Pro showed more shortcomings compared to my Pi2AES -> Yggdrasil A2 -> SOHA1. But what do you expect? My SOHA1 is no ordinary SOHA1, it’s a unicorn with some unique parts and a somehow way over performing sound that is comparable to 1-2k amps (I’ve done the comparisons in house). The M6 Pro I think was designed and tuned for iem use, but it does a good job with fairly efficient headphones. It's still just a tiny bit thin sounding, and the treble is extended, but is a bit congested and dull and lacks shimmer. It’s really not bad at all though, I would in fact say it does a pretty damn good job. Much much better than an iPod. Its’ got good control over the drivers and good dynamics, soundstage and resolution for what it is. I think I would opt for the iFI Diabo or Micro BL (or whatever Schiit is cooking up) instead for full size headphones but they are both more expensive and lack a source. Final Thoughts I think this is an excellent DAP and I highly recommend it. It holds it’s own surprisingly well against the best iem rig money can buy. It’s not as good of course, but its not as far behind as you’d think such a small device would be. Synergy with your iems is important with this DAP. I would pair it with neutral - warm iems (how many of those exist?). That may be the biggest problem here, is that most iems are bright and don’t have a ton of warmth unless we’re talking cheap crap. Most are geared towards clarity, which this DAP will enhance. That could be a good thing or a negative depending on your goals. A negative if you’re trying to balance out an iem that’s too bright or thin. I think for me, from what I’ve heard, the M6 would be the better DAP for me due to a more natural tonality from what Shanling has said. But others will love the clarity, resolution and hard hitting dynamics of this DAP. Sign up for the loaner tour here!