In this review, I’m taking a look at the $499 Shanling ME700 Lite in-ear monitor. The ME700 Lite is a Penta-driver hybrid earphone with 1 dynamic driver and 4 balanced armature drivers.
Shanling is a Chinese HiFi company that has been producing high-end, hi-fidelity equipment since they were founded in 1988. In the early days, the company was focused on manufacturing hardware equalizers and Hi-Fi amplifiers.
In recent years, they’ve been known more for their line of DAPs (Digital Audio Players) and earphones. However, they seem to be going back to their roots with a new line of desktop streamers and amplifiers, as well as maintaining their DAP and IEM lines.
In any case, Shanling has a wealth of experience and a wide array of products aimed at music lovers and audiophiles.
Disclaimer: 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.
Included eartips and accessories
High-quality stock cable
Tonality might be a little bright/forward for some
No balanced cable included
Shanling ME700 Pro
Frequency Response Range: 20 – 40000Hz
Gold-plated copper and silver-plated copper hybrid cable
Packaging & Accessories
The Shanling ME700 Lite comes in a large black box with a white cardboard sleeve. As you open the magnetically sealed top you’re greeted with the earphones seated in a large foam insert. The rest of the contents are in a slide-out drawer positioned at the bottom of the box. Here’s a list of what’s inside:
Shanling ME700 Lite earphones
Detachable MMCX hybrid cable
Faux leather carrying case
9 pairs of silicone eartips in 3 types (vocal/soundstage/balanced)
In terms of its physical design, the ME700 Lite has a minimalist aesthetic. The pseudo-custom 3D-printed shells are ivory white with gold colour logos on the faceplates. There’s a single vent o the top plane of the shell while on the front side is the MMCX connector.
The aluminium nozzles are also gold-coloured and have a solid lip for securing eartips as well as a protective metal grill. Internally, the ME700 Lite hosts a single titanium-plated dynamic driver and 4 balanced armature drivers.
The included cable is something a bit different than we’re used to seeing. It’s a 4-core hybrid cable with interwoven gold-plated and silver-plated copper wires. It has polished stainless-steel connectors with matching Y-split and straight 3.5mm termination.
When it comes to handling, the cable performs well with regard to microphonics and comfort. Unfortunately, it has some memory and bounciness but it feels and looks wonderful.
The ME700 Lite has a neutral-bright tonality with a clean, open character. It’s certainly not an IEM for anyone looking for a warm, laid back presentation. Conversely, it’s energetic with speedy, tight bass, forward upper-midrange plus crisp but even treble.
The ME700 Lite’s bass is tidy and controlled. It’s a bass that is conservative in quantity but exhibits inherent quality. From the sub-bass to the mid-bass the transition is very linear. By doing this it achieves its natural weight and impact while keeping the actual amplitude fairly low.
Frenic’s “Deathless Audio” is a mellow track with sparse elements and a hard-hitting kick drum. Listening on the ME700 Lite, the drums hit with physicality and impact that in no way sound “Lite”. And yet, thanks to the control and rapid decay, there’s no noticeable bleed or hindrance to the midrange.
The ME700 Lite’s tuning is surely optimized to highlight the midrange and vocals in particular. This is done not only by taming the bass but by adding a significant upper-midrange lift. But it works slightly more in favour of female vocals than for their male counterparts.
Notwithstanding, ME700 Lite’s vocal reproduction is a joy to listen to. In Soen’s “The Other’s Fall”, Joel Ekelöf’s vocals remain clear and articulate in spite of the energetic electric guitars, bass guitar and frenetic kick drums. This song also highlights the resolution and instrument separation of the ME700 Lite which is able to maintain order and congestion in the midrange.
When there’s an upper midrange focus like the one on the ME700 Lite, the treble needs to be carefully tailored to avoid overt brightness. Shanling manages this with a dip in the lower treble which keeps the tonality reasonably natural and reduces the sharpness of the attack on percussion instruments.
The treble rises again around 6-8kHz to deliver clarity and extra detail retrieval. While I wouldn’t necessarily describe the ME700 Lite as sibilant, it makes no effort to mask any inherent sibilance in recordings. In addition, I found certain cymbals slightly lacking in definition. The dominance of the upper midrange can conceal some of the treble’s natural sparkle but there’s still a good amount of airiness overall.
The soundstage has slightly larger than average dimensions, especially in terms of width. Instrument separation is good as a result of the controlled bass and fast transients enabled by the titanium-plated driver. Imaging and placement are sufficient but fare better on instrumental rather than vocal-oriented recordings.
Panther Audio Aura DX4 ($469)
The Aura DX4 is a quad-driver hybrid IEM with 1 DD + 3BA drivers. Both earphones share a similar bass response, however, the ME700 Lite bass is faster and has a better-defined leading edge. The Aura DX4’s lower midrange has more body and warmth. This is due not only to having more upper-bass but also less upper-midrange and treble emphasis.
As a result, the Aura DX4 has a warmer, slightly darker tonality but better overall resolution. ME700 Lite, on the other hand, has better detail retrieval and a brighter presentation. When doing direct A/B comparisons, the Aura DX4 sounds duller but when my ears are given time to adjust, the ADX4’s tonality sounds more natural.
The Aura DX4’s soundstage is narrower but has greater depth compared to the ME700 Lite which is wider but shallower.
DUNU DK-3001 Pro ($469)
The DUNU DK-3001 Pro is another hybrid Penta-driver IEM with 1DD+4BA drivers. The DUNU has a more balanced presentation, where the bass, mids and treble line up more in unison with each other. There’s more fullness in the upper bass and the less-forward core midrange creates more of the classic light v-shaped signature.
Although the vocals don’t pop quite as much on the DK-3001, they sound more natural and effortless compared to the ME700 Lite, which feels like it’s reaching to prove itself as an ‘audiophile-grade product, versus the more natural presentation of the DUNU.
Detail retrieval is a little better on the ME700 Lite, while the DK-3001 Pro has better overall resolution. As a result of the natural dip in the core and upper midrange, the DK-3001’s treble has more room to breathe. This means the midrange clarity is increased but the general tonality isn’t as bright.
When it comes to soundstage, both IEMs occupy a fairly large space but the ME700 Lite is more upfront and intimate. Conversely, the DK-3001 soundstage is similar in size but doesn’t put the listener in the front row.
The Shanling ME700 Lite combines a minimalistic, pure design aesthetic with a clean, bright sound signature. Incorporating impressive detail retrieval and tight, controlled bass, it’s an IEM that has been tuned for a specific niche of listeners. It won’t suit everyone but those looking for clear vocal emphasis with a tidy bass response will find delight in its purity and articulation.