Current testing methodology is v1.2
November 28, 2022
Price not available
6.46 x 4.53 x 1.73 in
The Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition can be considered a modified version of the original Android-based M3X Digital Audio Player (DAP).
The Ltd. Edition was tuned by the brand, Shanling, in collaboration with renowned Chi-Fi audio giants, Moondrop and Tanchjim, which works very well in favor of those who own earphones from these brands.
Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition
The best of three Chi-Fi giants in one nifty audio player.
The Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition is a variant of the original Android-based M3X DAP.
They’ve slightly adjusted the tuning of the M3X and made performance improvements with its noise floor. This provides Moondrop and Tanchjim users with more warmth.
With performance tweaks, a slight tuning revision that adds more synergy, and a fully customized backplate featuring anime graphics, the M3X Ltd. has been regarded as one of the best entry-level DAPs.
Because of its build, sonic performance, battery life, feature, and connectivity, the Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition is truly a gorgeous piece of audio equipment you’ll relish and appreciate to the fullest.
- System: Open Android 7.1, with AGLO
- Screen: 4.2 inches, 1280 x 768
- CPU: 8-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430
- Memory: 2GB RAM + 32 GB ROM
- Hi-Res Audio: Up to PCM 32/384 & DSD256
- MQA Support: Full unfolding, 16x
- Outputs: 3.5mm jack Single Ended & 4.4mm Balanced
- Wi-Fi: 2.4G / 5G
- Bluetooth transmitter: LDAC, LHDC, aptX HD, aptX, SBC
- Bluetooth receiver: LDAC & SBC
- USB: USB-C, with USB DAC and USB transport function
- DAC/AMP: 2x ESS Sabre ES9219C
- Battery: 3200 mAh
- Battery life: Up to 23 hours (SE, single DAC) / 20 hours (SE, dual DAC) / 19 hours (Bal)
- Dimensions: 109 x 72 x 15.9 mm
- Output power: Up to 240mW @ 32Ohm (Balanced)
- Output impedance: < 1Ohm
What’s in the Box?
- Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition Digital Audio Player
- White leather case
- Shielded cloth charger cable
- Art prints
Stuff I like
- Snappy, full-bodied bass response
- Full and forward midrange and smooth airy treble
- Good technicalities and wide soundstage
- Anti-compression AGLO software a
- Long battery life
Stuff I like less
- Limited to 1,500 units worldwide
- The remaining units are pricey
The build of the Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition is stellar.
Since the M3X is a shorter version of Shanling’s M8 design, it retains that sleek look with increased portability and grip.
It has a gorgeous screen with a resolution of 1280×768 that renders colors beautifully. The body has a brilliant silver finish that glints when hit by ambient light and the side is adorned with crispy black details indicating the unit number.
There are three buttons for backing, pausing, and skipping music. Meanwhile, opposite these buttons is the power button that doubles as a volume adjustment knob.
All the buttons and the knob stay in place and feel nice to press. They don’t wobble and have no flex to them whatsoever.
The scroll wheel has grooves on its sides and has nice tension to it, ensuring easy and reliable volume control.
The Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition comes with a nice white leather case that’s uniquely designed just for it. It adds extra heft to the DAP while providing extra protection and peace of mind against accidental drops.
Overall, the M3X Ltd. Edition feels solid and well-built.
The interface of the Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition is snappy and responsive with its speedy 8-Core Snapdragon 430 with 2GB RAM.
It’s not the fastest hardware out there but it isn’t choppy or slow, unlike other entry-level DAPs.
Navigating through its screen is lag-free and smooth. It’s on the slower side of slide speed but I’m not too trigger-happy going back and forth through the screen because my apps only take up about one widget space.
One thing I love about the M3X Ltd. Edition as an Android-based player is its AGLO, which stands for Android Global Lossless Output.
This lets you avoid the dreadful Android software barrier that resamples anything past 48kHz. This also ensures that you’re getting an accurate and untampered reproduction of everything you’re listening to.
As for storage and stability, the unit comes with 2 gigabytes of RAM but comes with an SD card slot that lets you expand your memory.
Believe it or not, 2 GB of RAM allows for smooth UI and management of multiple running apps without slowing down. It’s also enough to download a lot of apps and store your music files locally.
Overall, the interface and stability are top-notch, especially for its weight class.
Shanling beefs up the M3X Ltd. Edition with 3200mAh of battery capacity.
They advertise it as lasting for up to 23 hours with Single DAC and 20 hours with Dual DAC, which is mind-blowing considering mine reaches up to 3 days of use. It never seems to die on me unexpectedly, which I’ve greatly appreciated.
All in all, you’ll find the battery performance to be beyond satisfactory and one of the many pleasant upsides to the M3X.
The Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition is compatible with a lot of operating systems. It works with Android and Apple operating systems on your phone or PC.
The M3X Ltd. Edition, as an open Android player, has Wi-Fi connectivity, Airplay, and Bluetooth. It utilizes Bluetooth 4.2 and supports codecs like LDAC and LHDC along with others like AptX HD, AptX, and SBC.
It acts both as a transmitter and a receiver as it can send and receive signals from other devices.
LDAC is supported in both its Android and Prime modes, which is convenient whether you’re streaming using apps or just listening to your stored files. The signal on LDAC is relatively stable and reaches up to 5 meters, which is pretty standard.
It may have trouble if you’re trying to listen to the M3X through a room with thick walls since this messes with the signal a little.
Overall, you get a lot of options when it comes to compatibility and connectivity. What’s something you liked that was left out?
Now let’s see how the Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition performs in terms of sound.
The bass on the M3X Ltd. Edition is powerful and dynamic.
It’s deep and impactful as it presents satisfying boominess and fullness with an engaging and speedy performance.
It gives the signature an organic warmth that adds character to its tuning.
The midrange is clean, natural, and expressive. It gives a full-bodied sound that’s forward with amazing texture and quality.
This makes male and female vocals sound rich.
The upper midrange has great energy without any peaks and it amplifies when high gain is turned on. The overall midrange is eloquent and substantial, making the midrange performance of the M3X Ltd. stellar.
The treble of the Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition is well-extended and has great tonality on its high notes.
It’s very resolving and produces a lot of air in the frequencies, making for a very natural, open, and spacious listening experience like maple syrup on an already excellent pancake.
The transient response is excellent on the Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition as percussions are very distinguishable and distinct from one another and have great timbral resonance and tonality.
The soundstage is wide and has good depth, especially in its price range.
The frequencies are handled with great prowess and focus, there are no abrupt peaks or dips in the tuning and everything sounds coherent and musical.
Instrument placement is good as well as the layering. There’s enough space in the soundscape that lets the instruments breathe and perform as their separate entities.
All in all, the M3X Ltd. Edition presents a very capable and impressive technical section.
The Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition has numerous features and here are the ones worth noting.
- MQA – Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) is an audio codec that lets you stream songs in Master/HiFi quality. It’s like a zip file type of codec that unravels in real time as you listen to it. Streaming services like Tidal offer MQA and the M3X supports up to 16x MQA unfolding.
- USB DAC – The M3X can also be used as a USB-DAC by connecting it to your computer. If you’re a MAC or Linux user, this works without any need to install any drivers. If you use a Windows computer, you need to head on to the Shanling website and download the drivers for the M3X, which is quick and easy to do. This lets you access the M3X’s powerful Dual ES9219C DAC to use as a desktop DAC. Remember if you’re using full-sized cans, opt for the 4.4 balanced output port for more power.
Audio Configuration Options
You can configure the Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition in many different ways and here’s how the different configurations work.
Linear Phase Fast Roll-Off vs. Apodizing Phase Fast Roll-Off
The Linear Phase Filter seems to be the more natural option, giving you fuller bass and better timbre.
Meanwhile, the Apodizing phase filter gives you drier notes with an edgier definition. I’ve also found that it gives more upper-midrange energy.
These filters, although very useful, will affect the tuning in a very minute way. They’re not overly critical and sound-defining in any way and you shouldn’t stress out trying to figure out which one is better. Use each one according to your preferences.
Still, it’s cool for Shanling to add these options as sound tweaking and flexibility are always welcome in my books.
Single DAC vs. Dual DAC
Single DAC mode is smoother and more relaxed. It isn’t as resolving as the Dual DAC mode but it’s generally better if you want a laid-back listening session or if you want to preserve more of your battery.
Dual DAC mode has better detail retrieval, separation, and definition of the notes. This is my de facto setting on the Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition and find it resolving. I love me some good details.
Single Ended vs. Balanced
The single-ended output gives you 80 to 101mW at a 32ohm load depending on if you have Single DAC or DUAL DAC mode on.
The balanced output will give up to 240mw and will generally have better performance regarding instrument separation, layering, soundstage, and amplification.
Low Gain vs. High Gain
Low gain sounds more relaxed and open. The soundstage sounds wide, and the signature is very natural and pleasant.
I usually have my volume set to about 60-70% and that gives the midrange ample forwardness. I find the low gain to be more articulate and spacious and I enjoy songs that have a lot of layering and reverb to them with it.
High gain feels tight and dynamic. It brings the midrange a lot more forward and injects more energy into the intodrange. Instruments and vocals sound a lot close to you and the details are more defined.
The soundstage on high gain sounds a little more cramped and narrower compared to low gain, but you’d generally be switching to high gain if you prefer a more energetic and dynamic signature.
The Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition model is a superb DAP with a robust overall performance.
The build, sonic performance, battery life, features, and connectivity make the Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition a relic of a masterpiece.
If you want to get the non-limited edition model, it’s generally going to be cheaper and easier to find. It possesses the same features and builds as the limited edition, so you’re not missing out on anything if you get it.
The Ltd. Edition deviates just a little with its customized shell aesthetics and optimized sound for Moondrop and Tanchjim earphones.
Having said all of these, the Shanling M3X Ltd. Edition model is a tri-force of a DAP, combining the powers of industry acoustic professional Shanling and two prolific audio giants, Moondrop and Tanchjim, creating a very powerful and stunning portable audio player.
Gavin is a college student who has a lot going on. From collecting IEMs and modding mechanical keyboards, to different hobbies like digital drawing, music mastering and cooking. It is safe to say he is a complete multi-faceted geek (and he's kinda cool too)
This post was last updated on 2024-02-23 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.