After long-time exploration in the digital audio player (DAP) and amplifier markets, Shanling decided to take a leap of faith and enter the in-ear monitors (IEMs) market with their ME100, the first IEMs from Shanling Audio.
Shanling was founded in 1988 in China as a headphone amplifier manufacturer. Throughout years of effort, they obtained bunch of patented technology qualifications, such as Sony LDAC, Bluetooth Qualification Body (BQB), and Hi-Resolution (Hi-Res) Audio. These became certified by the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association (JEITA) and Japan Audio Society (JAS).
In 2019, Shanling embarked on their new journey, IEM development. The ME100 is their first attempt in the IEM market. Being a huge player in the DAPs and amplifiers market, Shanling is definitely not a stranger to audiophiles. With the launch of ME100, they further strengthen their feet in the audiophile market, from different perspectives.
How’s the first attempt from Shanling? Is it as good as their DAPs and amplifiers? Let’s take a look in this article!
- Neutral and balanced sound signature
- Excellent build quality
- Accurate sub-bass
- Uncolored and natural midrange for vocal monitoring
- High quality stock cable
- Smooth and well extended highs
- High quality storage case
- Wide soundstage
- Can be easily driven
- Short IEM nozzle
- Sound difference between different ear tips is minimum
With the sudden surge of Chi-Fi IEMs in the market, a lot of IEM manufacturers from China don’t have a great passion in packaging their products. They focus mostly on increasing the driver count while lowering the price. Shanling took a unique approach – both packaging and audio quality are not compromised, while keeping the price affordable.
The packaging of ME100 should be one of the best for Chi-Fi, within the price range of USD$150. The outer white sleeve provides its information. The “Hi-Res” certified logo is printed on the outer sleeve too. This is one of the factors that attract consumers.
Removing the outer sleeve, the black inner box provides sufficient protection to the IEMs and accessories. The inner box is separated into two sections – the upper section is used to store the leather storage case with ME100 and cable in it, while the lower section is used to store accessories such as ear tips.
These are the accessories included in the box:
- 3 pairs of “balanced” silicone ear tips (M size preinstalled)
- 3 pairs of “bass” ear tips
- 3 pairs of “vocal” ear tips
- A pair of foam ear tips
- Cleaning tool
- Leather storage case
- Driver: 10 mm dynamic driver
- Cable connection: 3.5 mm gold plated unbalanced jack to MMCX
- Cable length: 1.3 m
- Cable material: oxygen-free copper
- Impedance: 16 Ω
- Sensitivity: 111 ± 3 dB
- Frequency response: 20 – 40,0000 Hz
- Weight: 28 g
Design and Build
The ME100 has a relatively small shell, which could be a savior for those audiophiles who have small ears. The shell is made of 6000 series aluminium alloy. Shanling went through a series of considerations when choosing this material for their shell. The 6000 series aluminum alloy is more durable compared to conventional acrylic shells. It helps to reduce the harmonic distortion in the internal chamber of the IEMs too.
Shanling uses MMCX connection for their IEMs, which can be easily found in the market. I can easily swap the cable with my aftermarket upgrade cables. The nozzle of ME100 is slightly shorter compared to other IEMs. This causes some problems for me to use my aftermarket ear tips on ME100 – the nozzle and lips do not provide sufficient grip to secure the ear tips. Fortunately, the provided stock ear tips fit my ears well.
The cable provided for the ME100 is an octa core high purity oxygen free copper (OFC) cable. According to Shanling, each core in the cable is made up of 18 strands of copper wire to maximize the conductivity. Every core is then wrapped with a thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) sheath, to minimize the microphonics from the cable.
The storage case provided by Shanling is premium and luxury. The case is hard to provide sufficient protection against knocks and drops. It’s spacious and I can always store my ME100 neatly in the case, without the need to squeeze it. There is a small pocket on the lid of the case. I usually store the additional ear tips in the pocket. What a thoughtful design!
Fitting and Isolation
As mentioned, ME100 has a small form factor, this helps to improve the wearing experience, especially for those who have small ears. With large ear tips provided in the packaging, the ME100 can sit in my ears well. While I am writing this review, it’s raining outside my room and I’m totally oblivious to it because of the passive noise cancellation from ME100.
Tested and proven, the fitting and isolation of ME100 is definitely above average!
Despite having a short nozzle, the provided stock ear tips are long to extend deeper into user ear canals. This improves the isolation. The overall wearing experience is comfortable and enjoyable!
Before the review is written, the ME100 went through 100 hours of burn-in to ensure the performance is at its best condition. I pair the ME100 with my Lotoo Paw S1 and MacBook Air 2020 when I am working at home and pair it with Shanling UP4 with my iPhone XR when I am commuting. The finding on both pairings are consistent.
Rated at 16 ohms for impedance and 116db for sensitivity, driving ME100 properly is as easy as ABC. It works flawlessly with all the devices I have, including my 5-year-olds Asus laptop.
Sound signature and Soundstage
The sound signature of ME100 is neutral and balanced. It has very minimum bias towards any frequency spectrum. As mentioned in the unboxing section, the ME100 comes with three types of silicone ear tips – balanced, bass and vocal. I do notice some slight change in the sound signature while using different ear tips.
With the balanced ear tips, the soundstage is wide and airy, with no bias on any frequency spectrum. After changing the bass ear tips, the sound signature seems to be injected with some warmth. The notes are flowing slower due to the emphasis in the bass. Significant coloration observed compared to balanced ear tips.
For vocal ear tips, instead of boosting the vocal, I find the bass and treble are slightly shy, to make space for the vocal. This ear tip is good for vocal referencing.
The ME100 has an above average soundstage – wide and airy. It has a slightly three-dimensional headroom – extension in horizontal direction is more than vertical direction. This is rare in the price range of USD$150. The majority of the IEMs I own in this price range have more extension in the vertical direction. This makes ME100 a unique competitor here.
Within the review period, I didn’t encounter congestion in the presentation. Complicated tracks like live rock bands can be delivered flawlessly, without collision and congestion.
The ME100 is different from other dynamic powered IEMs. Instead of a deep sub-bass full of rumbles, the ME100 aims to deliver a clean, neat and accurate bass. It has the extension of a typical dynamic driver, but with a faster attack and decay speed, yielding an accurate yet realistic bass. The mid bass is slightly recessed compared to the sub-bass. This helps reduce any coloration or bleeding towards the mids.
With a series of accurate and speedy bass response, the coloration in ME100 is reduced to a minimum, making it a good pair of reference IEMs.
Listening to Homemade Dynamite by Lorde, the sub-bass is punching at the background with Lorde’s vocal flowing undisrupted. The overall presentation is very clean, especially in this type of pop tracks where sub-bass and vocals are flowing parallelly. Any collisions can be easily spotted and the track will be ruined. The ME100 did a very good job here.
Do not underestimate the rumbles from ME100’s sub-bass. Despite its main focus being to achieve a clean bass, the rumble is not compromised. Tested with Booka Shade’s Perfect Time, the bass from ME100 has perfect timing!
The mids has a similar profile as the bass; it’s clean and accurate. ME100 has a greater space in the mids compared to the lows and highs – making the mids airy and spacious. I don’t think there is a need to swap to the vocal ear tips to enjoy a good vocal performance. With the balanced ear tips, the vocals are presented spaciously, taking the center of the stage.
Listening to Once Upon a Dream by Lana Del Rey, her vocals are realistic and slightly more forward compared to other instruments. With the wide soundstage of ME100, the presentation is grand, just like listening to it in a theatre. The rumbles in the sub-bass play an important role in presenting this track astonishingly too. Once again, the bass and the mids integrated well in the ME100.
Moving to the male vocals, Phil Collins sounds lively and emotional in his You’ll Be in My Heart. Similar to previous experience with Once Upon a Dream, the instrumental notes are supporting his vocals well, without snatching the spotlight from the vocalist. This makes ME100 a good candidate for pop tracks, which are more popular recently.
The ME100 has well-extended highs. The highs could be bright for those who have lower tolerance towards treble. Thanks to the wide horizontal soundstage, the highs are as airy and as spacious as the mids. The airy highs result in a high fidelity sound performance.
Listening to instruments like cymbal crashings and string pluckings, they sound realistic and natural. There is no harshness observed throughout the reviewing period.
The realistic and natural highs in ME100 further show its advantage in acoustic and classical music. With the help of accurate positioning and imaging of the soundstage, Listening to classical music is enjoyable on the ME100. The high frequency instruments are flowing smoothly to the audiences’ ear canals, without any stiffness in the flow.
Shanling’s first attempt in the IEM market with the ME100 is fundamentally right. Shanling shows a high level of maturity in tuning and build quality. I am impressed by their first release and I believe with Shanling’s passion in the audio industry, they can definitely be the new benchmark for a lot of IEM manufacturers, especially Chi-Fi.
Shanling ME100 is retailing at USD$119. You can purchase it from Shanling official distributors of respective countries.
Accurate bass, realistic mids and spacious highs, ME100 is definitely an underrated gem in this price range. It’s an excellent choice for those who are looking for a pair of entry-level IEMs with matured sonic tuning.