In today’s review, I’m checking out the Shanling ME80 earphones. The ME80 features a single 10mm driver with a nanocomposite diaphragm and lightweight aluminium alloy shells.
This isn’t my first rodeo with a Shanling product. I have already reviewed some of their DAPs plus the excellent ME500 Platinum Edition wired and MT100 TWS earphones. Shanling was founded in 1988, the same year they released their first Hi-Fi stereo amplifier.
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.
Excellent build quality
Small, lightweight and comfortable
High-quality detachable cable
Clear, detailed sound
Upper mids/lower treble can cause fatigue
Impedance: 16 Ohm
Driver: 10mm dynamic driver
Sensitivity: 111+-3 dB
Cable: Silver-plated copper
Frequency response: 20 – 40000 Hz
Package and Accessories
The Shanling ME80 comes in a rather large but low-key box surrounded by a grey and white cardboard sleeve. There’s an image of the earphones on the front and some of the features and specifications listed on the back. Here’s what’s inside the box.
Shanling ME800 earphones
Detachable MMCX silver-plated copper cable
Faux leather carrying case
3 pairs of “Vocal” silicone eartips (S, M, L)
3 pairs of “Balanced” silicone eartips (S, M, L)
1 pair of generic silicone eartips
ME80’s CNC shells are based on Shanling’s original “Water droplet” design that the ME500 adopted. However, these shells are 25% smaller with rounder edges for greater comfort. Crafted from 6000 series aluminium alloy the housings have been anodized and sandblasted to create a titanium look.
The faceplates feature a 2D glass panel with a Shanling logo beneath. ME80 looks and feels very premium for something at this price. Each earpiece weights just 5.7g without the cable making them extremely lightweight.
On the top of the shells are the MMCX connectors which are conveniently colour coded for easy identification. There’s a small vent just behind the MMCX connector and another one near the base of the nozzle. Internally, ME80 has a 3rd gen dual-magnet 10mm driver with a PU + PEEK composite diaphragm.
In terms of comfort, these new, smaller shells are a big improvement over the ME500’s larger and heavier housings. ME80’s lightweight and rounded body feels natural in the ears and it’s easy to forget they’re there at all.
Noise isolation is about average for a small metal earphone such as this. It won’t block out noise like a closed all-BA unit but it’s perfectly suitable for normal everyday environments.
The included cable is silver-plated copper with transparent insulation. It has plastic colour-coded MMCX connector housings and flexible heat-shrink ear hooks at the top. The chin slider, Y-split and straight 3.5mm plug are all matching aluminium in the same colour as the earphones.
When it comes to handling, this cable performs well. It’s quite supple, has minimal microphonics and is resistant to tangling.
With its low impedance and high sensitivity, the ME80 is extremely easy to drive and does not need any extra amplification. It will work fine with any source including phones.
The Shanling ME80 has a mildly v-shaped character with enhanced bass, clear mids, a boosted upper midrange and lifted treble. It’s a mixture of warmth and brightness, making it dynamic but slightly edgy to listen to. Although it has a warm full-bodied bass, the treble lift makes it slightly brighter than neutral.
ME80’s bass carries the hallmarks of a dynamic driver i.e. impact, extension and the ability to move air. The transition from sub-bass to mid-bass is fairly linear meaning both carry similar weight in the mix. It’s an enhanced bass in terms of quantity and is north of neutral but not basshead level.
Bass notes are slightly rounded and sound natural. It’s reasonably fast for a dynamic driver but trades in the last bit of speed for authority. In Marion Hill’s “Breathe Into Me”, ME80 delivers the heavy bass notes confidently in a controlled manner without losing the vocals in the boom.
ME80’s midrange is clean and vibrant, a character defined by its upper midrange and treble peaks. Pianos and guitars sound very clear and the midrange as a whole has excellent transparency. Despite the roundness and fullness of the bass, ME80’s mids have good note size and articulate vocals.
The fly in the ointment for this type of presentation is occasional shrillness in the upper mids. The 2.5kHz peak (in conjunction with the one at 5kHz) is a little too enthusiastic, making the attack on certain instruments quite sharp. An example of this is Osamu Kitajima’s “Ghouls Through The Gateway” where the snare sounds particularly stabbing. On the plus side, the mids have good separation and resolution.
The treble is crisp and precise. A rise at 8kHz adds snap and clarity to the overall sound while another peak at 11kHz delivers more air. It’s fairly lively and treble-heads will appreciate the extra lift here. Overall, the treble is quite upfront and I found some cymbals and electric guitars quite fatiguing.
The extension is good and although it’s not always harsh, it might too lively for treble-sensitive people. It could use a touch of extra warmth here for added accuracy. However, the benefit is a treble that is revealing and provides abundant details.
ME80’s stage is slightly larger than average, a result of it’s controlled bass and enhanced upper midrange/treble. Imaging is good, aided by the treble definition and precision. The neutral note size in the midrange further boosts the cleanliness of the stage although there’s still traces of warmth from the bass.
Moondrop Starfield ($109)
The Moondrop Starfield is another single dynamic driver IEM. It has a warmer and more mellow presentation compared to the ME80. Both IEMs sound very close in terms of sub-bass response but the ME80’s mid-bass has better definition and texture.
Starfield’s midrange is warmer and smoother albeit less resolving. Vocals have extra body and are more romanticized compared to ME80’s more raw approach. Instrument separation is better on the ME80.
In the treble, Starfield is more laid back and mellow. Its treble notes are softer and smoother but surprisingly close when it comes to detail retrieval. Starfield is good for the treble-sensitive while ME80 would appeal more to people who like their highs a bit hot.
WG T-One ($94)
The WG T-One has a single dynamic driver just like the ME80. It has a slightly warmer tonality as a result of its fuller upper bass and lower midrange. Sub-bass extension is similar but the T-One’s mid-bass is rounder and not as well-defined.
T-One has more body in the midrange and a warmer tone while the ME80 has more articulate vocals and extra clarity. Both IEMs have a lifted treble but T-One is a bit warmer and not quite as bright. ME80 has better detail retrieval and instrument separation but the T-One sounds more organic and a tad smoother.
The Shanling ME800 is a great addition to the brand’s line of in-ear monitors. It has outstanding build quality, comfort and a dynamic, exciting sound. It’s easily one of the better earphones at this price point, especially for those who like a bit of extra treble energy.
I’m particularly a fan of these exquisite shells. They look and feel more premium than most of their direct competitors and are a huge improvement ergonomically over the ME500. With releases like this, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of Shanling in the earphone marketplace.