Aesthetics and Build Quality:
The M2x follows in the footsteps of most other Shanling products, a curved body with tempered glass on the back and the touchscreen on the front. The buttons on the side control FF/REW/Play-Pause and the wheel on the other side functions as a volume control and power button. On the bottom you have the 3.5mm output, 2.5mm balanced output and USB-C connector. Overall the M2x is a small, solid and well-designed player that feels great in the hand.
The mix of tempered glass and aluminium make the M2x feel solid and well build, although with all that glass it is advisable to get a case for it. All the sockets are tight and I cannot find a single issue with the build quality.
The M2x is first and foremost a portable player that supports high-res audio, PCM up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD up to DSD256. The M2x like its siblings, relies on external storage in the form of a single MicroSD card slot.
The M2x has Bluetooth with all the latest high-quality codecs including AptX and LDAC, along with AAC and SBC, it can also be used as a Bluetooth receiver should you wish to use it as a DAC/Amp between your phone and your wired earphones.
It can be used as an external DAC when plugged into a computer, it can also output digital audio via its USB-C port allowing it to be used as a digital transport.
You have WiFi for OTA updates along with Tidal online support, sadly there is no Tidal Offline support like on the M5s.
The touchscreen is easy to use and responsive, with all the usual options like customisable EQ, High/Low gain, shuffle/repeat mode. You also have line-out mode when you want to connect it to an external amplifier. Battery life is around 8-10.5 hours depending on the volume and output you are using.
One of the best things about the UI is the fact you can select what icons you want, and which you want to hide. This makes it easy to customise to your tastes, and makes it easy to find Album/Artist/Tracks etc…
The M2x is exceptionally clean with virtually no hiss even with sensitive in-ears like the Andromeda. The low gain setting should be more than enough for most in-ears and sensitive over ears, yet in high gain the M2x does a very respectable job at driving harder to drive loads like the Sennheiser HD6XX series. Shanling have done an excellent job at implementing the AK4490 with a complementary amp circuit to bring out a natural and clean sound that really does sound better than its price would suggest.
Shanling may have packed the M2x full of features, but plug a pair of headphones in and you can hear that they have not forgotten about the sound quality, with excellent extension on both ends, plenty of resolution and layering and a neutral sound stage. It doesn’t have the hyper revealing nature of some top end players, yet it does not sound veiled or congested like some of the lower priced models can.
The M2x is honest, it presents the music in a neutral, detailed yet ultimately fairly neutral way that is enjoyable without becoming fatiguing. You can change the EQ if you wish to alter the sound, along with changing the digital filter which will bring about very subtle changes in the sound.
For £199 the M2x is pretty much the perfect portable player for general daily use, it lacks the streaming capabilities of more expensive devices but it has a neutral and detailed sound backed up by a powerful internal amplifier and clean background. There is a lot of functionality, yet the sound quality has not been forgotten, it really is an impressive little DAP.
Build Quality: 5/5
Sound Quality: 5/5