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Shanling ME700 Lite Review – Blue Skies

Sound –

Testing Methodology: Measured using Arta via IEC 711 coupler to Startech external sound card. 7-9KHz peaks may be artefacts/emphasised due to my measurement setup, less so with deep fit. Measurements besides channel balance are volume matched at 1KHz. Fit depth normalised to my best abilities to reduce coupler resonance. Still, due to these factors, my measurements may not accurately reflect the earphone or measurements taken by others. I gave the ME700 Lite 100hrs of burn-in to ensure maximum performance prior to subjective breakdown.

Tonality –

The ME700 Lite is a bright, open and energetic earphone that retains some balance with its punchy DD-driven bass. It isn’t for those wanting a warm or full-bodied sound like the ME700, providing a neutral tonality and generally thinner instrument body throughout. In turn, its virtues are clarity and definition with an upper-mid forward tuning and uptick of middle-treble energy aiding an airy and open image. Bass remains well present with a good amount of kick and fullness. It is fairly flat with a deep-bass bump that creates a reasonably contrasted and engaging signature in addition to preventing the higher frequencies from completely overwhelming. Finally, the lower-treble has been tapered off slightly to prevent this earphone from becoming sharp, sibilant or over-articulated. Still, definitely a signature for those not averse to brightness.

Bass –

The low-end is quite linear in its tuning but there is an uptick of thump in the deep-bass aiding range and dynamics. It sits just behind the mids and treble but isn’t overshadowed. Sub-bass is extended and very tight, forming a energetic and hard-hitting impact if not heaps of slam. As the mid and upper-bass are both even and neutrally toned, the ME700 Lite offers a highly clean and accurate bass presentation. Note size is neutral, just a touch bold due to the deep-bass hump, but there’s nothing that deeply affects timbre or separation here. In turn, don’t expect much warmth or punch on the flipside.

I personally find this a happy middle-ground between balance and engagement as the slight increase in punch and note thickness does contribute to a more versatile listening experience. However, I did love the technical performance of this driver, delivering a super tight, agile and defined rendition with a focus on sharp timing and tactile punch. Attack is very concise and the notes decay quickly, so the thicker note structure isn’t really felt by the listener. Excellent separation is retained throughout and definition is also a standout performer as a result. The ME700 Lite is for those valuing a highly controlled and tactile bass response if not the biggest or deepest extending one.

Mids –

Clearly a focus of this earphone, the ME700 Lite caters to those valuing clear, transparent vocals if not the highest coherence or the most realistic timbre. With a moderate lower-midrange dip, the earphone possesses large bass/midrange separation, sacrificing note body and creating a clear bias towards vocals over instruments in so doing. It is then defined by a gradual climb to prominent 3kHz hump, further serving to bring vocals to the fore. Vocals are also presented with convincing size and enhanced clarity. The tone isn’t cool nor the timbre metallic, but both are on the precipice for my preferences. This is not a warm or especially euphonic earphone, though Shanling have sensibly tuned it to achieve a dead neutral tone alongside an utter lack of low-end colouration. This contributes to a very high-definition, delicate and clean midrange presentation.

Again, the thinner body is something to consider and would be my chief timbral complaint as it does create a slightly dry male vocal rendition on certain tracks. Conversely, the voicing is mostly natural with logical emphasis for pinna gain, albeit a bit overdone for my tastes. This means that though vocals do sound thin and forward, they aren’t strained, peaky or diminished. The tuning above further counterbalances with an uptick of density and smoothness above the 3k hump and in the lower-treble that minimise sharpness and sibilance. We are certainly observing a trend towards more substantial, warmer tonalities in the high-end, but revisiting a tuning like this has been refreshing. To reiterate, the timbre is not ideal, but that does not mean this earphone is without its merits for it remains highly clean, clear and delicate in its midrange portrayal.  

Highs –

It seems that some critics feel that dips in the frequency response can be chalked up to poor acoustic design whether due to improper crossover points of phase cancellation. I am of the belief that these changes can be intentional and that appears to be the case here. The dip in the lower-treble is not large, but clearly noticeable. Accordingly, the ME700 Lite isn’t aggressive in its detail presentation though I find this in good taste, given that it is quite a crisp and energetic performer. The lower-treble dip grants some respite and smoothness, aiding long-term listenability without harming detail retrieval. This is mostly redeemed via the moderate middle-treble emphasis around 8kHz, which instigates a crisp and clean treble instrumentation rendition.

By avoiding the 6k range, it isn’t sharp or over-forward whilst retaining a excellent energy and clarity. It’s not all positives, however, as treble instruments are left sounding very thin, again portending towards the belief that this earphone was tuned to provide an idealised representation of music over overt accuracy. It has great separation once again and fine details are brought to the fore if at the cost of texture and timbral accuracy. There’s also a good amount of background detail here, more than you may expect at this price point. The ME700 Lite has great headroom emphasized by abundant air and impressive sparkle. Though resolution doesn’t match the better high-end gear I own, this rounds off a solid take on the open/clarity-driven sound signatures replicated so frequently in Chi-Fi yet not so commonly with such success as demonstrated by Shanling.

Soundstage –

The ME700 Lite offers a middle-pack soundstage presentation but with some defining traits that elevate it above others. Dimensions are what you would expect from a $500 earphone, large but not otherworldly, it is also a nicely rounded stage which aids immersion. Imaging is slightly less accurate than I’d like due to the sculpted tuning. Vocals can overwhelm instruments at times and the thinner tuning can make elements difficult to locate. Conversely, separation is fantastic throughout, there’s abundant air between each element and small details are easy to pinpoint. 

Driveability –

With a high 109dB sensitivity counterbalanced by a 16-ohm impedance, the ME700 Lite is a very efficient earphone suitable for portable sources. In addition, as its impedance isn’t excessively low, it should tolerate an output impedance up to 2-ohms without sound signature fluctuation despite lacking a flat-impedance design. I found the earphone to be quite hiss prone due to its sensitivity so a clean source is advised.

Output Impedance Sensitivity

Switching between the Shanling M2X (1-ohm) and Hiby R6 (10-ohms) revealed that the ME700 Lite has the opposite response of the majority. Bass became noticeably more prominent on the Hiby while mids and highs were pushed back to an equal degree. I actually did prefer the tonality from some sources with a slightly higher output impedance if not quite to the extent of the 10-ohm Hiby which was quite bass forward. I find this an interesting avenue for users to tune the ME700 Lite to their liking. Besides this, do keep output impedance in mind as this earphone is sensitive to source pairings.

Driving Power

The ME700 Lite isn’t hard to drive in any regard. Bass control was slightly improved on my desktop stack relative to the M2X, but the differences weren’t huge, especially given the already fast decay and clean tuning. The soundstage does scale nicely as does detail retrieval up top, however, I would characterise the ME700 Lite as prioritising efficiency over scalability overall.

Suggested Pair Ups

The ME700 Lite pairs well with slightly warmer sources such as the Shanling M2X which brought up the bass and midrange body just a touch. For those wanting additional bass, a higher output impedance works to good effect as a simple broad-spectrum bass boost. The earphone is quite source sensitive to just a few ohms will do, unfortunately, this may make this a difficult process as adaptors frequently have much higher impedances. Otherwise, the ME700 Lite doesn’t require much driving power to be driven to potential but does benefit from a low noise floor due to its sensitivity.

Next Page: Comparisons & Verdict

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