Shanling M6 Ultra Review: The All in One

I haven’t reviewed a DAP for a bit and I was somewhat itching to try something new. I find no problems with my Shanling M3X for my standard portable needs or even something like the newer Topping G5 transport device paired to my iPhone. So my need to purchase a new DAP to check out has been rather low. Luckily for me, my fiancee has been eyeballing something new to use over the FiiO M11. She really liked the way the new M6U(shortened) looked so it ended up working out for the both of us. It was time for her to upgrade and it allowed me to check out and review a new DAP! The M6 Ultra is running Android 10, it uses the newer AKM AK4493SEQ DAC(4 total) and comes in at $919.

Quick shoutout to Shanling for setting me up with a review unit at a discounted price. While I always appreciate stuff being sent in to test and review, It never affects the rating of my review.

Gear used

Moondrop Moonriver 2, Shanling M3X, Moondrop Kato, Moondrop Variations, Thieaudio V16 Divinity, ZMF Atrium.

Looks and Feel

The M6U is a little thicker but it isn’t a huge DAP. I thought it felt good in the hand and I liked it more than my Hiby R6 2020. It is slightly heavier but this is probably due to battery weight. The version I received came in their emerald green and it is quite a nice color. A darker green with a matte finish on the side and black glass as well. The buttons on the side feel of quality and don’t get pressed while in my pocket which is nice as they’re the pause/forward/back buttons. The volume wheel has a nice clicky sound and feel and it doesn’t feel cheap like the one used in the entry level M3X DAP. I really like the looks and feel of this DAP overall. I also like that the memory card is covered and gasket sealed to keep dust and lint out of the port. 

Android performance

The M6U is a modern DAP using mid grade tech and running Android 10 which is a nice change to see from slower and very old Android used on most DAPs. The CPU is a Snapdragon 665, it has 4GB of RAM and comes with 64GB internal storage. This makes for a very snappy performing DAP overall. I didn’t try to game or anything as I use my DAPs for music and the occasional web browsing in Chrome if I’m in bed and my Phone is charging. I enjoy seeing the faster performance though since updating libraries or using streaming apps results in less time wasted and less crashes or hangups. It also came with the google play store pre-installed so I didn’t have to mess around looking for the official store app to install later on. As time goes on, I hope the DAP makers are able to keep up with providing performance experiences like this with newer Android versions.

Accessories and unboxing

The M6U comes in a very nice box and when you open the flaps, you get the player on the left and a small set of accessories on the right. The accessories boxes include a charging cable, extra screen protector, manuals and warranty info and some rubber gaskets for the memory card should the old ones crack or rip. I think the included accessories are fine but I would like to see a 18W(at least) charging block included but it’s standard practice to only include a cable with modern DAPs.


These final impressions were done via Poweramp. This will be what the M6 Ultra sounded like with all the headphones I used. Things like headphone pairings will produce different results and impressions vs what my ears hear on my specific gear.

The overall sound signature of the M6U is what I would consider neutral. I tend to stray away from “neutral” as I don’t find much excitement in neutral sounding source gear. That being said, this very much has a “desktop” like sound which is nice given the M6U’s price. The bass is mostly neutral and it has very good control. Speed is average but everything I used had a good sense of quality down low. The mids are again tame but it can still pull in good details and the vocals are able to breathe and feel separated from the rest of the stage. At least for most of the IEMs I used. The treble is also again neutral and while the M6U can pull in some good details, it lacks a little sparkle or sharpness. It’s not the end of the world and still sounds really good. I just personally like a little extra sharpness from the treble. Mind you that the differences between this and other gear I tried aren’t extreme and while noticeable, it’s not gonna change the way headphones sound(mostly). While this section isn’t very long, the M6U is good at providing good details and bringing out the best in headphones and IEMs without adding really any extra flavor. 

Filters and fun features

The M6U does have filters and as usual, I couldn’t tell the difference between any of them. I did set it to short and fast in hopes that it would bring the sharpest sound. It relies on apps internal EQ and lacks any “neat” little sound tricks or any system wide EQ in the settings. This is fine honestly with how neutral it sounds. I would say those who like to EQ will be using their own apps over anything that might have been included internally anyways.


The staging was fairly average width wise but had good depth. It feels a little more closed in but it makes up for this with really good imaging. Very much on desktop level in terms of imaging and separation.

Battery life(and heat!)

The battery life claims 13.5 hours single ended and 9 hours balanced. 58.5 hours if you only use Bluetooth!!! I would assume this is from low gain and I agree with their claims. I made it about 8.5 hours through work with about 18 percent remaining running balanced on low gain at around 55 percent volume. I would say that those running full size power hungry cans might need to take note that they may burn through the battery in a few hours if running on high gain at higher volumes. Something that is nice about the M6U is that it allows for fast charging up to 18W which is wonderful. Something I always find lacking in modern DAPs is the slower charging speeds I see. The M6U does get rather toasty from consistent use and on my daily walks at work, it would heat up and cause a small discomfort in my front pocket. I tend to keep my daily DAP and transport(Topping G5) out on my desk as they can get slightly toasty when used in long bursts. The M6U just heats up quickly but stays steady. I would recommend a case such as the official leather one they sell for the M6U to help keep direct contact with the DAP at a minimum should it bother you.

Bluetooth/Wired connectivity

I didn’t really run a bunch of bluetooth headphones off the M6U as I don’t really use bluetooth on my DAPs and I tend to use Airpods Pro with my iPhone only when I know I need to take a call and stay hands free. That being said, My fiancee who does use this with bluetooth did claim it sounds pretty good with her high end bluetooth speaker at work. She also said the range was pretty good compared to the last DAP she had prior to this one when using LDAC.

On the wired connectivity side of things, the M6U can be used as a portable DAC/amp for things like PC/Macs. I ran it mostly to check that it worked properly and I had zero sound issues for longer sessions using it as a desktop DAC/amp. I did however have issues getting the screen to turn off when attached to a PC and when I attempted to press the power button to try and turn off the screen, it would crash the player sometimes. I just simply stopped trying to turn the screen off when I used it as a desktop DAC/amp and I had no problems.

Personal grips with the M6 Ultra?

I don’t really have any complaints outside of the normal personal nitpicks. I don’t like that it heats up so quickly. It never gets so hot that I have to pull it out of my pocket but I also don’t like the slight discomfort either. 

The battery life is a little on the low side which is fine for IEM users but I think full size headphone users might have some possible issues with this. The flip side to that being that it powers full size cans decently well and it fast charges off a 18W charger so it can charge up faster if needed. Other than those two little personal nitpicks, I would say this was a well thought out and designed DAP.

Single ended and balanced power output

We get a peak of 240mW into 32 ohm via single single ended and 720mW into a 32ohm load via balanced. I think the output power is pretty good given this is a DAP. Even though the Topping G5 I recently reviewed has an output of 1.2W into 32ohm, it doesn’t need to worry about heat as much since there's no screen, other sensitive parts, ect.. For a DAP I give it a pass as I know a lot goes into what a max output can be without toasting everything else in the process. With the most sensitive IEMs I have on hand(V16, balanced), I was able to listen comfortably around 22-25 volume on low gain. With the ZMF Atrium, I was able to pull off good volume at 53-56 volume on high gain. I think this DAP will power everything just fine and fairly well too.

IEM pairing opinions

Moondrop Variations

The Variations took well with this pairing. The Bass stays strong with maybe a little better control overall. Feels less over the top but it still sounds full with good impact. The mids are rather smooth and sound a little more relaxed. There is still very good detail with vocals sounding detailed but a little more blended in the background. Less forward and more so a part of the whole stage. The treble is still sharp but with a slower decay at the end of tones. Makes for a less sharp or sparkly sound that I notice with the Variations. Staging felt about average vs other gear but the Imaging was definitely more accurate with this pairing and about par with my desktop stack.


The MEXT wasn’t the best pairing but I find a brighter source works better with the MEXT. The bass is still in bass head territory but it does feel a little more on the neutral side and a bit more controlled. The mids are still warmer and I definitely noticed the instruments in the mid range to have a slight veil to them. The upper mids were still strong but once again, it felt better controlled and less colored. Unlike the Variations, I did find the vocals to sound more forward and I enjoyed the vocals with this pairing. Especially female vocals. The treble was super relaxed and the MEXT isn’t a detail monster and it very much shows here. The more neutral sound signature meant the MEXT wasn’t able to get the small treble boost it needed to sound its best. I don’t mind the pairing but I tend to gravitate away from neutral sources as most of my IEMs tend to be on the warmer side.

THIEAUDIO V16 Divinity

The V16 sounded pretty good but like the other IEMs I tested, I prefer a brighter source and the M6U has a more neutral sound signature. The bass is still very good with a little less bass impact. The bass still sounds spacious and full but it feels it's missing a little something. Still very good overall here. The mids are warmer but I still picked out good details. The vocals feel separated from the rest of the track in most instances which gives a bigger sense of staging. The treble was mostly tame but I could still pick up details just fine. I just prefer the extra sharpness and a faster decay in the upper frequencies that I just don’t seem to notice with the M6U. Even if It sounds like I’m complaining, this was a very good pairing and one I would recommend for those with the V16 in their inventory.

Over ear pairings

ZMF Atrium

The Atrium does sound best from desktop gear IMO so most portable amps I use tend to sound a little weak in terms of bringing out the best in the Atrium. The M6U surprisingly got me most of the way there in terms of sound performance. It still lacks the fullness and can sound a little “lean” when paired to the M6U. I seem to have this problem with all the hard to drive full size headphones. No matter what I use on headphones like the Atrium, it lacks something. In the case of the M6U, the bass lacks a bit of impact, the mids are somewhat boring if not lacking fullness to the sound and the treble feels a little lean and almost clinical. I didn’t like the way the pairing worked with the Atrium but I’m told some EQ on harder to drive headphones will usually solve the issue I have for portable source gear.

DAC/Amp comparison


Why did I pick my desktop stack to compare against the M6U? Well! The M6U is a portable that performs like desktop gear when it comes to sound and power output to more power hungry headphones. The SMSL stack does go for a more neutral-bright sound signature while also providing a good dynamic bass which tends to work well with all the headphones I use. The M6U however goes for a very neutral sound so while I find the SMSL stack brings out just a bit more treble and bass in the headphones I use with it, the M6U just lets the headphones perform without any real coloration added. I prefer the SMSL stack but I can easily appreciate the performance of the M6U and it’s AKM DACs.

Shanling M3X

The M3X is the entry level DAP for Shanling and both the M3X and M6U both share pretty much the same design. The M3X is much smaller and lighter than the M6U but it also runs some really old hardware and an ancient Android 7.1. When it comes to the sound side of things. There is a brighter sound signature to the M3X but it lacks the detail retrieval and resolution that the M6U can provide. I think the M3X is a wonderful entry level DAP but I would definitely tell anyone to save up for the M6U if they want a better sounding and more modern DAP.

Overall thoughts

I love my little M3X and while I didn’t like the Hiby R6 2020 I had most recently, I absolutely loved the Shanling M6 Ultra. As such, the M6 Ultra gets a full recommendation! I would say the seasoned DAP user will really enjoy the M6U. Newcomers to DAPs in general will want to take some time to see if they can deal with the size and weight of an upper mid range DAP like this. I’m very impressed with Shanling’s release of the M6U and I’m happy to see some AKM DACs back in the wild even if I’m a ESS kinda guy. Thanks for reading!!


  1. Finally a decent review of this product !!!! Thank You so Much regards from spain


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