Aesthetics, Build Quality and UI:
The M5s is a sleek looking DAP with well thought out placement of buttons and ports. The front panel is mainly filled by the touch screen; however, the screen doesn’t fill the whole panel, there is a space at the bottom that is blank. The rear panel is glass, the right-hand side has the volume knob/power button on it and the left side has playback controls and the microSD card slot. On the bottom you have the 3.5mm single-ended headphone out, 2.5mm TRRS balanced headphone output and the USB-C connector.
The overall build quality is excellent, but with all that glass I would advise you get a case and possibly a screen protector for the front. The main chassis is made out of aluminium, the buttons and sockets all feel sturdy and it has a reassuring weight to it.
The M5s uses Shanling’s own MTouch firmware which is super intuitive and easy to use. It is based around swiping certain directions to go back and forth between menus, you can customise the home screen and overall it is bug free and smooth in use. There are plenty of sound tuning options, digital filter/EQ/Gain etc… When you dig deep into the settings you can really set it up to how you want it to work, but even out of the box it is really easy to get used to. The now playing screen shows the album art along with the track title and artist, if you want to see the bit rate and other info you can click on the album art and scroll across to the detailed info. Overall the MTouch firmware is sleek, fast and easy to use.
The M5s has Bluetooth, with which is can be used as a transmitter or receiver, it supports LDAC/AptX/AAC. You can use it as a USB DAC, you can use the USB-C as USB Audio out into an external DAC making the M5s a transport only.
There is WiFi for DLNA, Airplay & OTA update for now, with more features possibly coming in the near future.
16 hours playback in single ended, 9 hours balanced is pretty good for a player of this calibre and price. There are a few more settings and features when you dig into the player, but the above should give you a brief overview of some of the key features.
The M5s upon first listen sounds like any good DAP should, clean and detailed without any obvious colouration going on. When you spend a little more time with it you begin the discover that it has a hint of warmth to it with a fairly easy to listen to sound signature. The M5s is a really easy DAP to get on with during day to day life, it just kind of does its thing in a very easy and effortless way. There is no noticeable roll off, there is also no real colouration anywhere even if it does err slightly on the smoother side over a more analytical sound signature. There is no loss of detail, soundstaging and separation are excellent and the main thing that comes to mind is just natural. The M5s sounds natural, not strained, not trying to throw every little detail at you. It wants you to forget about it and listen to the music.
Power wise the M5s is really impressive, it has a pitch-black background with sensitive IEM’s and the low output impedance means it plays well with multi BA setups, yet the high gain setting means you will get enough volume and most likely power for all but the most demanding of headphones.
The M5s is a great DAP for the price, packing tons of features into a solid and aesthetically pleasing device. The UI is snappy and responsive, the sound quality is neutral and balanced without being too analytical.