Shenzhen-based audio equipment manufacturer Shanling is best known for its digital audio players and Bluetooth amplifiers. We've reviewed the Shanling M0, a compact digital audio player that punches above its weight in terms of both size and price. However, the company also manufactures earphones - both wired and wireless. Considering that true wireless audio is the big craze right now, Shanling has launched its first true wireless earphones, the MTW100, in India.
Priced at Rs. 5,999 onwards, the Shanling MTW100 is interestingly available in two variants with different types of drivers. You can have dynamic drivers for Rs. 5,999, or technically superior balanced armature drivers for Rs. 6,999. We've had the chance to review both variants of these affordable true wireless earphones. Read on to find out if this little-known brand has what it takes to make a mark in the affordable true wireless segment in India.
The Shanling MTW100 earphones are available in three colour options, but your choice of colour also has to do with your choice of driver. The black and red versions of the MTW100 use balanced armature drivers, while the white one has dynamic drivers. In this case, your choice of colour has a definite impact on performance.
Whatever colour you choose, the earphones come with a contrasting case. The black case is orange inside, the red case is black inside, and the white case is red inside. These dual-tone colour combinations look good, and the cases have matching straps attached at the back. The outer, glossy casings of the earphones are coloured, while the inner parts are matte black plastic for all three variants. We quite liked the black variant, and particularly the black-orange combo of its case.
The Shanling MTW100 earphones themselves look good, with a unique shape. They're small with slightly extended stems at the bottom where the microphones are. A Shanling logo is visible on the outer side of each earpiece. There are touch sensors just below the logos which control playback and the transparency mode, and small power indicator lights just above them. Volume can't be controlled from the earphones, and will need to be adjusted on the paired device.
When it comes to fit and comfort, the Shanling MTW100 is among the best in the budget true wireless segment. The earphones are light, and with the right tips we were able to get a secure, noise isolating fit that effectively kept noise out. The transparency mode worked well, but made ambient sound feel a bit artificial and ‘piped through'. It was only truly effective when no music or sound was being played on the earphones, since music tended to overpower what the microphones were able to pick up from our surroundings.
The charging case looks a lot like the earphones in terms of finish and styling, and is compact enough to carry around in your pocket. The earphones latch into place in the case magnetically, and will power on or off automatically if needed. Three small LEDs light up to tell you the power level of the case when the earphones are placed in it. We weren't very impressed with the hinge of the lid, though; while it looked modern and stylish, it didn't feel very sturdy and the lid was too loose when opened.
The sales package of the Shanling MTW100 includes a total of six pairs of silicone ear tips, a user guide, and a short USB Type-C cable to charge the case. We got around 5 hours of battery life from the dynamic driver variant per charge, and the case offered three additional charges to the earphones for a decent total of 20 hours per charge cycle. While we didn't specifically measure battery life on the balanced armature variant, we do expect it to go on a bit longer since the drivers are a bit more energy-efficient themselves.
The Shanling MTW100's two variants use different driver technologies, and naturally sound completely different. As expected, the more expensive balanced armature variant was, in our opinion, the better sounding of the two. We used both pairs of earphones with a OnePlus 7T Pro (Review) and Apple iPad mini (2019) (Review), for music, as well as audio in TV shows, movies, and games.
Although both variants sound good when a variety of use cases are considered, the balanced armature MTW100 is a bit more musical and capable when it comes to the core usage experience. The sonic signature is an enjoyable one that suits most genres, and sound across the frequency range is handled well. Don't expect neutral or flat-sounding output here; the balanced armature Shanling MTW100 is definitely tuned for the kind of sound that works with popular music.
You'd expect the dynamic driver variant to be a bit more bass-happy, and it is, fundamentally speaking. However, the bass is a bit raw and unrefined, while the balanced armature drivers produce a more calculated and tight low-end that doesn't feel excessive or steamroll the rest of the frequency range. That is to say, there's less raw punch, but much more drive and attack if you opt for the balanced armature drivers.
This is only truly noticeable with music though; for audio in movies, TV shows, and games, we found both variants equally poised. Sound quality is decent enough, and the excellent passive noise isolation helped give us a good listening experience in these scenarios.
Listening to the Borgore remix of Passion Pit's Sleepyhead on both pairs of earphones highlighted this well. We started with the dynamic driver variant to listen to this dubstep track and found that the bass had a bit more thump and extension, but the mid-range and highs felt a bit dull in comparison, with the earphones focussed on the rumble of lows. Switching to the balanced armature earphones, vocals sounded considerably sharper, while the lows were a bit more crisp and distinct. The highs weren't quite as impressive and felt a bit subdued, but this didn't affect the enjoyability of the track too much.
Next, we listened to the rather wacky Club Bolly remix of David Bowie's Let's Dance. The balanced armature Shanling MTW100 produced a detailed and fun representation of this fusion track, with a spacious soundstage and immersive character. The balanced armature drivers once again captured the essence of this track better than the dynamic drivers, reproducing the details in the Indian instruments as well as in Bowie's soulful voice better.
While we enjoyed listening to the Shanling MTW100 and found the earphones to be worth every rupee (the balanced armature variant, at least), we felt that these earphones were somewhat let down in one big technical aspect - Bluetooth codec support. The earphones support the SBC and AAC codecs, and the lack of support for aptX holds the rather capable drivers and tuning back.
Finally, we also used the earphones for calls, and were impressed with how they performed. Sound on calls was good on both ends, in both quiet and noisy environments. The good passive noise isolation was useful here as well, helping cut outside sound and letting us hear the voice of the caller clearly.
Shanling isn't a very well known name among the majority of audio buyers, but the brand is highly rated in audiophile circles and among advanced users. The company's first true wireless earphones are a value-for-money offering, and are definitely worth considering if you have a budget of under Rs. 10,000. The earphones look decent, sound good, and get battery life right as well.
Although the dynamic driver variant is more affordable at Rs. 5,999, we would highly recommend spending Rs. 1,000 more and getting the balanced armature variant. It's more musical, better tuned, and will likely offer better battery life too. Some competing options in this price segment offer better codec support, such as the 1More Stylish True Wireless, and is worth considering for its similar overall experience.
Ratings (out of 5) - Shanling MTW100 with Balanced Armature Drivers
Ratings (out of 5) - Shanling MTW100 with Dynamic Drivers