For most folks, Shanling is an unknown name. But, for audiophiles, Shanling is actually a household name. This Shenzhen-based hi-fi equipment manufacturer is known for making some of the best affordable Digital Audio Players with Hi-Res capability. I reviewed the Shanling M0 last year and liked it a lot primarily because of its clean UI and attractive “cute-as-a-button” design. Honestly, good industrial design is not common among most Chi-Fi (Chinese Hi-fi) players and Shanling is an outlier in that regard.
Which is why I was pretty stoked to check out their new Shanling MTW100 truly wireless earbuds. These come in two different flavors – one with dynamic drivers and the other with balanced armature (BA) ones. And, I’m going to review both today.
Hi, I am Ershad from Mr. Phone and let’s see why I think the MTW100 is an unbelievably good pair of budget TWS earbuds!
Shanling MTW100: design, fit, and controls
The MTW100 comes in three different color options. The Balanced Armature variant is available in Black with Orange accents and Red with Black accents. And, the Dynamic Driver one is available only in White with Black accents. The box has a cute squarish design with curves all around. It has a very small footprint too. Here’s the interesting thing, the Balanced Armature variant costs Rs 1,000 more but for this price you get an extra wireless charging case.
Talking about charging, the MTW100’s case has a Type-C port, and it can charge the case (including the pods) from 0 to 100 in an hour and a half. Also, the balanced armature variant can easily last about 7 hours on a single charge, which is incredible. Plus you get 24 hours – or about 3 charge cycles – extra on the case. On the other side, you get only 6 hours from the Dynamic Driver earbuds plus 21 hours on the case. So, this is another reason why the Balanced Armature one is worth the 1000 extra. But, there’s another reason why you should pay more for the BA ones but I’ll get to it.
Coming back to the design of the plastic case, the lid opens easily but the hinge is calibrated loosely. I kinda like the free flow but it might feel flimsy for a lot of folks. You also get a lanyard in the retail packaging that you can loop easily through the holes on the rear of the case. It is a smart inclusion that ensures you don’t lose it easily. Okay, now coming to the pods, it fits snug in the case and attaches using a three-pin magnetic connector.
Now, the Shanling MTW100 has touch controls on the pods and it works really well. But all you can do is double-tap to play/pause music and triple tap to change the song. Now, triple tap does register as a double tap on many occasions and that can get frustrating. As is the case with many TWS earbuds, there are no controls for changing the volume. By the way, these earbuds also come with a Surrounding Awareness Mode that can be switched on by long-pressing any bud. Essentially, it amplifies the sounds in the environment and makes them sound cleaner and louder. It is a little disorienting at first but once you get used to it, you won’t stop using it.
Moving on, the pebble-shaped pods are designed to sit inside your ears comfortably. I had absolutely no issues with comfort during my review period. And, it doesn’t fall out of your ears either making it perfect for workouts. Another reason why the MTW100 is great for workouts is that it comes with IPX7 certification. Seriously, Shanling has really gone all out with the features.
Shanling MTW100: sound quality
But, what’s the point of all these features if it doesn’t sound good? Well, Shanling is a company that knows what it is doing. I would recommend the BA variant of the MTW100 over and over and over again for its excellent sound. It has a fairly neutral signature with no particular emphasis on any one particular frequency. What you get is a clean, detailed, and analytical sound that completely surprised the heck out of me. And mind you, this is only with SBC and AAC codecs that are supported by the MTW100. Imagine if it had support for aptX! By the way, the MTW100 uses the latest BT 5.0 standard but it can connect to only one device at once, which is a pity.
Let’s start by examining the bass response because that’s what the general audience mostly cares for. So, the BA variant definitely doesn’t have the volume when it comes to the low-end performance. In a popular dance number like Mirza by Nucleya, you can easily tell that the dynamic drivers offer a bigger bass rumble. But trust me, the decay is super slow and you can tell that it is bloated and bleeds into the other frequencies slightly. This is where the fast decay and attack of the Knowles’ balanced armature comes to the fore. I am okay with “less” bass but please don’t deny me the attack.
Another reason why the BA variant sounds better than the dynamic ones is that the dynamics (no pun intended) are way better. If you guys haven’t heard Suryakant Sawhney’s solo album Jaago under the Lifafa pseudonym, you are missing out on some excellent music. I heard the song Candy to test the dynamics and the BA variant just shines. In the intro of the song, the volume levels keep changing to create a unique atmospheric soundscape and it ultimately reaches a crescendo for the ultimate payback! Forget TWS earbuds, many wired earphones cannot reproduce this dynamism well enough. In fact, even the dynamic driver variant of the MTW100 struggles.
The mids and the treble response on the BA variant are fairly neutral and natural. I absolutely loved listening to everyone from Jim Morrison to Sid Sriram to Billie Eilish. The treble, on the other hand, has a bit of a roll-off so it doesn’t feel fatiguing but I am fine with that. Another great tenet of the sound signature is phenomenal imaging. There is no doubt in my mind that if you are upgrading from a pair of ultra-budget wired/wireless earphones you will hear sounds in your favorite songs you haven’t ever heard before.
Now that I have rained praises on the sound signature of the BA variant, the dynamic variant is not really bad or anything. I mean, it sounds good but the BA variant is just way, way better. A major chunk of the audience is also going to be using these earbuds for calls and they okay at best. The Realme Buds Air is still the best for calls in the budget TWS category.
Should you buy the Shanling MTW100?
I am completely floored by the Shanling MTW100. The balanced armature variant has everything that one could ask from a pair of good truly wireless earbuds. Good fit. Check. Great connectivity. Check. Phenomenal sound signature. Check. Good for workouts. Check. Wireless charging case. Check. What more could you ask for?
Well, I hear you…a good price. And you know what? Shanling hits the ball out of the park. These are priced at just Rs 6,999 for the BA variant and Rs 5,999 for the dynamic driver edition. These earbuds at this price definitely punch above their weight.
Heck, they are even better than my current favorites the Samsung Galaxy Buds. In fact, the only other pair of TWS earbuds that sound better are the Sennheiser Momentum TWS and that’s 5 times the price of the MTW100. So, if you are looking for a pair of great TWS earphones on a budget look past other options like the Realme Buds Air and 1More Stylish TWS, and just buy the Shanling MTW100’s BA variant. And, if you are craving for more bass, the dynamic driver edition is available for Rs 1,000 cheaper anyway. Shanling has something for everyone.