In this review, I’m checking out the Shanling ME500 Platinum Edition (PE) earphones. The ME500 PE is a triple hybrid driver IEM with one dynamic driver and two Knowles balanced armature drivers. It has a brass shell with platinum plating that feels fantastic. But how does it sound? Let’s find out.
Shanling is a Chinese company that was founded in 1988 and is a well-established and respected manufacturer of audio products. Their previous products cover things like equalizers, power amplifiers, CD players and even karaoke devices. In recent years, Shanling has become most well known for its portable digital audio players (DAPs) and now they’ve startled developing their own line of earphones as well.
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Shanling ME500 Platinum Edition Review
- Built like a tank
- Punchy, tight bass response
- Detachable cable
- Good accessory bundle
- Clear, engaging sound
- Earpieces might be heavy for some
Package and Accessories
The ME500 PE box comes with a white cardboard outer sleeve that has an image of the earphones on the front and a list of specs and features on the back. Under the sleeve is a basic black box with an embossed Shanling logo on the top.
Once open you’re greeted with the C4 leather case and a foam insert packed with various eartips. The earphones are inside the carrying case, held firm in a smaller foam insert. Let’s break down the box contents with a list.
- Shanling ME500PE Platinum Edition IEM Earphones
- Silver-plated MMCX/3.5mm audio cable (1.3m)
- Balanced silicone eartips (S/M/L)
- Bass silicone eartips (S/M/L)
- Vocal silicone eartips (S/M/L)
- Soundstage silicone eartips (S/M/L)
- Memory foam eartips (M/M)
- Premium C4 leather case
- Cleaning tool
Yeah, that is quite an extensive accessory bundle and it’s great to see the various types of eartips included to ensure you can get a good fit and seal out of the box. The semi-rigid carrying case is a good addition too, as you’ll want to prevent scratching or damage to the glossy shells in while in storage.
Build Quality and Design
I know it’s a word I toss around here frequently but the ME500 PE shells feel legit premium. The mirror-finished platinum-plated brass housings feel hefty in the hand, almost like you could use them to secure the gold medal in an Olympic hammer throw event.
The build quality is outstanding and they feel as solid as they look. I think if you dropped an atomic bomb on the ME500 PE they would come out unscathed. There are 2 small vents on the shells – one on the rear edge and another near the base of the nozzle. As usual, there is a metal mesh covering the nozzle opening to protect the internals from ear wax and other debris.
Internally, the ME500 PE contains a single 10mm nanocomposite dynamic driver and dual Knowles TWFK-30017 Balanced Armature driver. The Platinum Edition has upgraded MMCX connectors with a thicker gold-plating which improves the connection and provides a tighter fit than standard MMCX connectors.
Just like the shells, the Platinum Edition cable has had a revamp and now takes the form of a fully silver-plated copper with improved weaving and sealing, reducing the risk of oxidization. The 8-core cable is tightly twisted and feels strong. It handles quite well and has minimal microphonics.
Transparent MMXC connector housings sit at the top of the cable, followed by some pre-formed PE heat-shrink ear guides which have also been improved in comparison to the standard edition. The Y-split is aluminium with Shanling logo printed on each side and there is a matching aluminium chin slider. The cable terminates with a straight aluminium 3.5mm plug.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
The shells are average in size but they are heavier than your average IEM thanks to the brass body. It shouldn’t be a problem because the cable is worn over-ear which bears the weight and the generous eartip selection should ensure you get a secure fit. I have no problems wearing them for hours at a time.
Noise isolation is above average; Hey you have solid chunks of platinum-plated brass in your ears, what did you expect? Perfect for commuting and everyday environments you won’t hear much external noise when using these.
Gear used for testing includes the Shanling M5s and Soundaware M2Pro as portable sources. Straying from my usual FiiO K3, this time around for my desktop listening I plugged into the Singxer SDA-2 DAC. This was fed Hi-Res flac and DSD files with Foobar2000.
Here is another case of a vented IEM that doesn’t measure the way it sounds. I have provided the original measurements plus another one showing the difference with the inner vent open and closed. Somewhere between the two is closer to what you’ll actually hear when using the IEM as it is partially blocked when in your ears. I urge you not to concentrate too much on the graphs and instead try to get an impression of the sound from my (admittedly inept) description below.
The ME500 PE has a slightly warm, fairly balanced presentation with an upper midrange boost. It has a full-bodied sound with some added warmth yet exceptional clarity and a smooth but detailed treble.
The ME500 PE’s bass is authoritative and tight at the same time. It has some nice weight when called upon but is actually quite fast. Those platinum-plated brass shells exercise strong control, eliminating any unwanted harmonic resonance and it shows in the nimbleness of the bass.
There’s plenty of sub-bass laying in wait for when it’s needed and when it comes you get an intoxicating physical rumble. The bass is agile and fast enough for rock songs like Katatonia’s “The Night Subscriber” yet full and punchy enough for electronic music, such as Nibana’s “Legacy“.
In the midrange, the ME500 PE stays fairly neutral in its presentation. There is just the right mix of body and warmth carried over from the mid-bass that makes the tonality sound natural and lifelike. Both male and female vocals have good articulation and size and are positioned centrally on the stage.
Clarity is a strong point of the ME500 PE and that keeps the mids clean with enough weight and body to be engaging and emotional. A boost in the upper mids gives the sound an openness and energy without being bright. Electric guitars bite, string instruments are rich and textured and piano notes have a natural timbre.
The ME500 PE’s lower treble deftly rises, providing clarity and lightness to the midrange while at the same time avoiding any harshness or sibilance. It brings energy and sparkle plus a clean snap to snares and added instrument definition.
Upper treble extension is good, providing airiness and detail without too much brightness. The timbre is fairly accurate and engaging and improves resolution and detail retrieval. All this adds up to a vibrant and exciting but smooth treble.
The stage presented by the ME500 Pro is engaging and holographic. It’s above average in width and also has sufficient depth and solid layering. Instrument separation is very good and with the airiness of the treble, it creates a large and open space but one that also has accurate positioning and placement. Vocals are centrally positioned or just slightly forward, making them emotive and appealing.
BGVP DM7 ($299)
The DM7 (review here) has 6 balanced armature drivers per side in a pseudo-custom shell. It has less sub-bass and authority than the ME500 PE’s 10mm dynamic driver but its low end has more definition and texture.
Vocals are brought forward on the DM7 and it has more clarity in the midrange. Instrument separation is better on the DM7 too. However, the extra clarity and separation come at the cost of some mild sibilance and a less natural tone, as DM7’s treble can become shrill and slightly off-timbre.
In terms of physical build, the ME500 PE shells feel much stronger and have much more secure and reliable MMCX connectors (at least compared to the initial batch of DM7’s which have supposedly been improved since).
Kinboofi MK4 ($242)
Kinboofi’s MK4 (review here) has 4 balanced armature drivers per side and 2 tuning switches on each earpiece. The MK4 has a brighter overall presentation with a fast, light bass, detailed midrange and more forward treble.
MK4’s bass is tighter and has more definition but it lacks the warmth and authority that the ME500 PE has. In the midrange, the MK4 is very detailed and has outstanding clarity but the notes could use some added warmth for more naturalness.
The MK4’s treble is crisp and has good note size. It’s slightly more forward than the ME500 PE but isn’t as airy and doesn’t have the same timbral accuracy as the Shanling IEM.
The Shanling ME500 Platinum Edition has a lively and transparent sound with great tonal balance. The bass is punchy and tight, the mids are clear with just enough warmth to sound natural and the treble is detailed but smooth. On top of the quality sound performance, the brass and platinum shells are superbly built and they’re built to last. I’m going to give the ME500 PE a hearty recommendation and in fact, it’s so good that it’s getting a spot on our best earphones list.
Check the latest price for the ME500 Platinum Edition here:
- Drivers: Dual Knowles TWFK-30017 Balanced Armature + Single 10mm Nanocomposite Dynamic with OFC voice coil
- Impedance: 18Ω
- Sensitivity: 111dB +/- 3dB
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 40kHz
- Cable conductor: 8-core silver-plated oxygen-free copper (6N-OFC)
- Connectors: Gold-plated 3.5mm / MMCX
- Cable length: 1.3m