Shanling M6 Ultra

Great sound – Mediocre Battery – No Case

Pros: Great sound quality
Solid build
Easy to use software
Works well
GREEN – but not anymore

Cons: No case – or any accessories to speak of
Meh battery
Buttons are too similar

M6U Screen.jpg

Do you ever wonder if part of your chain is affecting your music quality? Maybe it’s your music service, or your cable, or headphones, or maybe it’s your DAC/AMP/DAP. I had the same question, so I picked up a new DAP to figure out what I was missing. Therefore, up for review today is the bang-for-the-buck DAP king – the Shanling M6 Ultra (M6U)! Musicteck ( was nice enough to give me a small discount on my Like New Green M6U in exchange for this review (I guess they don’t make the Emerald Green anymore.) The M6U is the return to form for Shanling after the AKM fire forced them to move to ESS DACs in 2020. Everyone states that this DAP is a return to the Shanling house sound, but since I never heard the older Shanling DAPs, that doesn’t really mean a whole lot to me. What I CAN do is compare the M6U ( Here) to my smaller Shanling M3 Ultra (M3U) (Here) with the ESS chip and give you an idea of what you get for an extra $500.

Side Note: This is the first non-headphone I’ve reviewed with the new review format, so while a 79/100 may look low, it’s better than the M3U would get if I re-reviewed it today.

M6U Top.jpg

Build Quality / Design / Specs (18/20):

For starters, you get 4x AK4493SEQ DACs, a design that goes back to Shanling’s CD players. On the M3U, you get 2x ESS ES9219C DACs instead – less power hungry and technically lower end. You get an 8-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 CPU with Android 10 – a really good option with the native Google Play store. You get the same thing form the M3U, which is really impressive for under $500 – though the new Hiby R6 Gen 3 now has Android 12 (, so that may be a good alternative to the M3U. The M6U also outputs 720mW @ 32 Ohms (not 320 like their site says) with the balanced 4.4mm jack – THAT is really impressive for a small-ish portable player. That much power can run full-size headphones with ease, almost all of them in fact. The M3U tops out at 260mW @ 32 Ohms. The M6U supports 32 bit/ 768 kHz & DSD512, while the M3U is limited to 32 bit / 384 kHz & DSD256.

The M6U has 2x high-voltage Linearin LTA8092 op ams with a BUF634A which allows for a warmer relaxed sound and independent fully balanced output. There’s also a bunch of other Numbers and Letters involved with the M6U if you’d like me to list them, but I don’t feel like it because most people won’t have a clue what I’m talking about. If you want to know more, look at the images on the Musicteck website. The M6U has a 5650mAH battery, which is bigger than most smartphones, but it only offers 9 hours of balanced play or 13.5 hours of single-ended. It also has fast wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5 if you want to stream it to other things like the excellent FoKal Mystique (also available on Musicteck here:

The build quality is fantastic and I’m glad I got one of the last Emerald Green ones. The M6U comes with screen protectors installed on the front and back of the glass and the body is made from aluminum. There are also plastic protectors on the top and bottom to prevent scratches when plugging in cables. The buttons are high quality and I love that the on/off button is also the scroll wheel for volume. The back/stop/play/forward buttons are large enough, aluminum, and have a satisfying click. No annoying touch controls for volume here like on the Fiio M11. It’s the same on the M3U though and I prefer the round skip track buttons on the M3U for telling which button is which without having to look. Overall, the M6U is fantastically built with some top-tier specs.

M6U Volume.jpg

Accessories (5/20):
It comes with ALL of the accessories. Like…umm…ok, it doesn’t come with any actually. Unless you count the pre-installed screen protectors – then it comes with those. Oh! And a USB-C cable – YESSS. But wait, no 18W charger included, so you can use any of the 236 USB-C cables you already have – guess that’ll sit in the box. Then…a case right? Most higher end DAPs come with a case, even the $3,600 A&K SP3000, and the much cheaper Fiio M11. No? What? No case? I get the lack of case on the M3U, it’s a cheaper, low-end DAP, but why not on your mid-tier DAP that weighs a half a pound? Oh, wait, there is a case…on Amazon…for $40… OK, not cool Shanling – at least it’s not $200 like some companies. Yes, I bought the damn case (Here.) Considering they’re one of the most miserly companies around, this doesn’t really surprise me, but dang – you drop this thing without the case and you’re F’d. So, add the case to your total price when shopping for this. There’s not even a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter (my Topping DX5 came with one of those.) So, yeah, not a well appointed DAP for accessories.

I will say that it does come with a nice green leather box. So that after you open it, you can feel guilt about throwing away such a nice box that serves no purpose once you’ve taken the DAP out. Maybe you like keeping the DAP in the box on your desk an opening it to show it off to people like some sort of ancient Mayan treasure? You do you boo. Seems like they could have spent some of the leather box money on an included case instead.

M6U Side Play.jpg

Software / Setup / Ease of Use (20/20):

Well then, surely they put all of their money into something if not accessories right? Yes, right. The android 10 software is top notch. Make sure you go into the bottom right corner under purple Tech Support App and download any updates – this goes faster on the M6U than the M3U. After that, download music or install your streaming app of choice and you’re set. Tidal was super easy to install and setup – MQA happens automatically as long as your settings have quality set to Master or HD. I mean that’s it, I can’t ask for anything better here – it just works great.

A quick note on the screen: the screen looks really good, not that it really matters since I don’t use this for anything other than music and the screen is off most of the time to save battery life. It’s also slightly more responsive than the M3U and easier to hit what you’re trying to tap. Yeah, literally zero complaints in this section.

M6U Case Back.jpg

Performance / Sound (16/20):

Speaking of sections I have zero complaints in, the performance and sound quality is another section I cannot complain about. While the sound quality is not insanely higher than the M3U, it does add a special “something” to higher-end IEMs. In fact, I wasn’t very impressed with the Kublai Khan until I got the M6U and then I had to completely rewrite the review for those. The same goes for the Multiverse Mentor – it sounds fantastic on the M6U and on the M3U, it just sounds fine. More on that in the comparisons section. I’ll be honest, I don’t have enough DAPs laying around to really compare the sound of this to anything other than the M3U – someone send me an iBasso DX320 or A&K SP3000 ok?

Here’s the reason this section loses some points. The battery and the gain. The M6U has a ton more power than the M3U, and I mean a ton – it’s able to power just about any full-size headphone. So why do I need to turn it to a higher volume on the M6U than the M3U to power the same IEMs on low gain? No clue. OK, it has a bigger battery, and more power, which apparently I’m not using since I have to turn it up louder, so how do I end up with almost half the battery life? I legitimately don’t understand that, and I understand electronics better than most people. I guess the output is just using more power no matter what the volume, or the efficiency is just much worse since there’s twice as many DACs? Anyway, the battery life sucks, even on low gain. I use about 10-12% and hour on low gain at volume 35/100 (8-9 hours of battery life.) That’s probably my biggest complaint about the M6U, though other high-end DAPs are pretty similar, so it’s not that it’s terrible in this class, just that it’s nowhere as good as its little brother on battery life. The M6U does have quick charge though, which works…OK, and fills that battery back up decently. The M6U also get hot easily, just like the M3U – the leather case helps, but apparently the SP3000 doesn’t do that. My M3U once got so hot in my pocket that it shutdown and refused to turn back on until it cooled off – it also has more weird software glitches for some reason.

M6U Bottom.jpg

Comparisons / Price (20/20):

On Takida’s “You learn”, the Multiverse Mentor sounds open, with a large 3D soundstage and each instrument enveloping you in a 360 degree field. The bass is warm and everything can be heard clearly. The M3U just sounds flatter – more 2d than the M6U. The vocals are significantly more forward (somehow) but there isn’t as much bass or warmth – and I prefer the vocals still on the M6U. The soundstage is definitely flatter and less engaging. The M3U removes the emotion that the M6U portrays on what is literally one of the most emotional IEMs I own. There is also more sharpness on the M3U – it’s just not as good, which is pretty surprising listening to these back to back. It makes me wonder how many IEMs I’ve rated poorly because of the M3U rather than the IEM itself. That said, the M3U is half the price and still a fantastic budget DAP. If you’re not listening to high-end IEMs, the M3U may be all the DAP you need.

OK, the price – the M6U is not a cheap DAP, but it’s also not an expensive DAP. Sort of like the Thieaudio Monarch is expensive, but not an expensive IEM. $919 for top-tier sound is not a bad price at all. Is it worth spending an extra $2,500 to get the A&K SP3000? Not to me, but if someone wants to let me borrow one, maybe after hearing it I will want one – who knows? Regardless, there’s really not much else in this price range, and certainly not with this performance. The M6U hits above its price range, likely at least to the $1,600 iBasso DDX320.

M6U Mentor.jpg


We always talk about that extra 10% you get from going more expensive, well, the M6U is the middle ground between cost and performance. I can confirm that it sounds better than a cheaper DAP with similar DNA. The battery and lack of accessories really hold it back, but the ease of use, sound quality, and build quality are fantastic. It really brings higher-end IEMs alive and moves that doubt in the back of your mind that your source is holding you back. Unless your mind then tells you to get the SP3k because if the M6U is better, then the SP3K must sound EVEN better haha. At that point, welcome to The Hobby.

Wolfhawk’s Rating: 79/100


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