Pros: Really all the DAP you need
MQA – 750k streaming
Cons: Screen is a little unresponsive
Needs an hour-long update to work correctly
A little thick still
I picked up the newish Shanling M3 Ultra (M3U) from Musticteck during their winter sale because I got sick of trying to use a stupid dongle to listen to music away from my desk. I have the HiBy FC3 and it’s pretty good, but the connection issues annoy the crap out of me. So, I grabbed this little guy for a really reasonable price. This also allows me to use my phone without having to worry about what’s playing. It does MQA unfolding, can stream Tidal, has a good battery life, doesn’t drain my phone’s battery, has a balanced 4.4mm output, has enough power to use with full-size headphones, is small and relatively light for a DAP, has Android 10, and has good sound from Tidal. I have no complaints of significance lowering its score, especially at this price.
The screen is big enough to be useful, though it sometimes requires two presses to hit what you’re aiming for since everything is pretty small. Overall, it’s big enough to be usable and small enough to not take up 3 pockets and a backpack just to carry it. The green color is great, though the screen protectors on the front and back and top are fingerprint magnets and more slippery than the aluminum sides. It has a USB C and a SD card slot on the bottom, a volume dial on/off button on the right side, a forwards/backwards/and play/pause button on the left, and a 4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm jack on top. Everything feels good and works well with no connection issues. MAKE SURE you update the software through the tech support app in the bottom right before use or it will crash (it will take about an hour.) It would be nice to see a case for this included, but at this price it’s not needed and it just add bulk. Android 10 works great and I had no issues downloading and installing or streaming Tidal. Overall, a fantastic package.
It has dual ESS DAC chips that work really well and a really solid amp. This is one of those products that sounds good enough that you really don’t need to pay for an $800 DAP or a $2000 DAP. While you may be able to hear a small difference between those three, this checks basically all the boxes for Tidal streaming and most file formats. The MESt Mk2 still have sharp treble, the RAD-0 still have great mids, the XTC-O still excels at everything – especially bass, and the HEXA are still the best IEM under $500. Watching this little guy stream at 750k is really cool. Your headphones will be more of a limitation here than anything else. The soundstage is good, with good reverberation and resonance. I tried my Truthear HEXA IEMs, UM MEST Mk2 IEMs, JMA XTC-O full-size over-ears, and RAD-0 full-size over-ears on here with balanced and unbalanced outputs and they sound close enough to my Burson Conductor 3XP that I have 0 complaints. It drove them all quite easily, even the RAD-0 (my hardest-to-drive headphones) were at a good volume on balanced at 45/100. It just works, I’ve literally had 0 issues since updating the software (before the update, Tidal freaked out.) So yeah, great sound for the price/size.
This is tough. I’ve never owned an extremely expensive DAP, so there’s the chance that spending 4x as much could yield better results – I just kinda doubt it is worth the price increase when the M3U performs admirably. This was definitely cheaper, smaller, with better battery life, and overall just as good sounding as my Fiio M11 Plus ESS was. It also doesn’t have the M11’s annoying volume slider. The M11 came with a case…and that’s about the only thing it did better (there’s a new version, the M11s I think that comes pretty close to this in price and features, but it’s bulkier and heavier – still not a bad option if you hate Shanling and love Fiio.) It’s way better than my HiBy FC3 dongle, which I have a love/hate relationship with. Get this, there is no reason not to, it’ll even work as a desktop dac/amp if you need it to, or you can plug it into a full-size amp and use it as a DAC/streamer. Very cool
Yeah, you get it. I love this little guy. Good feel, good weight, good features, and good sound – there’s nothing significant to take points off for on it. Now, if someone wants to send me a high-end DAP to compare to this, maybe I’ll find some reasons to remove points, but at this price, I can’t imagine doing better. Go get one if you need something like this.
Wolfhawk’s Rating: 9/10