Shanling Sono Review

Editor's Note: It has come to my attention that I was listening to this IEM "incorrectly." The Sono has a bass vent port at the bottom of the nozzle, and during my listening and measurements, the tips that I were using had inadvertently slipped down and totally covered the vent, causing the bass levels to increase significantly. This was not the intended sound signature that Shanling tuned it for.

That said, I will likely do a follow-up impressions in the near future, making sure the vent is not covered. 

The Shanling Sono is a new triple-driver in-ear headphone that features two dynamic drivers and a single balanced armature driver and is priced at $79 USD. Shanling is a brand that is mostly recognized for their hardware products such as their line of digital audio players and portable dac/amp dongles and bluetooth adapters, but they have explored the in-ear monitor market from time to time with prior projects, most notably their ME product line.

This product was sent to me directly from Shanling and it can be purchased on Amazon here:

The Sono is one of their lower end products but features exceptional build quality with an all-metal shell design that is very small and lightweight. The shell is kind of an oblong circle that is almost triangular, but is very comfortable in my ears.

The included accessories features a series of tips, a black carrying case, a silver 4-wire braided cable, and a set of additional screw-on filters. These filters change and increase the bass response, however for my review, I primarily will stick with the default black filter set that is already pre-configured with the Sono as I find it plenty bassy for my listening needs.

Sound Impressions

The Shanling Sono is a bass cannon-type IEM with a V-style signature that focuses more of its energy in the bass region. It has a big bass gain, with dipped mid-range and a slightly elevated treble region, when compared to my preferential target. This is quite evident in listening as well, as I do find the bass very strong but I also do not find the treble extra shrill like you would hear on a normal V-shaped signature.

I popped on the old Wicker Park soundtrack - a collection of some great early 2000s indie rock bands and tracks with the Shanling Sono and the Hidizs AP-80 Pro-X player. The despite a lot of these tracks having a lot of cymbals and sometimes higher frequency notes like Jamie Wyatt's Light Switch or the Shin's When I Goosestep, I never felt there was any signs of sibilance or bright notes that bothered my ears. 

In fact, sometimes the overwhelming bass notes suffocated the treble range, and almost drowned out some of the vocal tracks within this record. It's a tad surprisingly just how powerful the bass notes are projected on this little IEM. A little less mid-bass may be preferred here, much like what you'd hear on a similar bass quantity set like the recently reviewed FatFreq Maestro Mini.

Of course, the FatFreq Mini also has a more balanced mid-range and treble and so it does not quite suffer from the occasional muddiness with the Sono, and it's bass is just a tad more defined because of this.

And so yea, the Sono resolution is quite adequate for the price point. Despite being overpowered, the bass range has decent texture and isn't fully one-noted and smoothed over. There is some sense of definition here, and it is one thing I did enjoy and was surprised to hear.

Additionally, the Shanling Sono also isn't smothering in the sense that it's too forward. It actually does have a little bit of soundstage width and depth, and this does allow for decent imaging and separation. The dipped mid-range probably plays a big role here, as it does push vocals further back in the presentation, with more of the focus on the bass and treble range. These psychoacoustical effects with frequency response really help here.

Final Thoughts

The Shanling Sono is a decent IEM and not a bad deal for $79 USD. It is a bass cannon of an IEM and handles it mostly well for the tracks that call out for it. It does occasionally drown out treble and mid-range, but if you're looking for something that has technical competency for its price, it's not a bad choice at all for something different than the same vanilla neutral sound that many IEMs are striving for nowadays. 

This product was sent to me directly from Shanling and it can be purchased on Amazon here:

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