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Shanling Sono Entry-Level IEMs – Zinc Alloy Hybrid Sound 

Shanling Sono Entry-Level IEMs – Zinc Alloy Hybrid Sound 

Shanling Sono is a $79 USD pair of IEMs or In-Ear Monitors, with a dual dynamic driver set in Coaxial fashion, and a Balanced Armature, designed to be ergonomic, fun and lightweight. Today we will be reviewing them, and also make short comparisons between the Sono and other entry-level IEMs, including IKKO OH300 Lumia (49 USD), Salnotes Dioko (99 USD), and Dunu Talos (199 USD).

 

Introduction

Shanling is a popular company from China that is best known for their interesting DAPs, or music players, but also for their intriguing CD players, and within China they are not a midrange, or an entry-level producer, but actually a company that designs and makes high-end flagships for diehard audiophiles. Today we are reviewing an entry-level product that can be found within many stores, including Amazon, which is one of the best places to grab the Sono from. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases, and using the purchase links in my reviews helps me maintain this website and our youtube channel.  

I’d like to thank Shanling for providing the sample for this review, in exchange for my honest opinion. We are not receiving any incentive for this review and Audiophile-Heaven has no affiliation with Shanling beyond this review. This review is a description of my personal experience.

 

Product Link

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/47OpfvF

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/47on2XV

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3GczjCJ

 

Build Quality/Aesthetics/Fit/Comfort

Shanling Sono is a super smooth, ergonomic IEM with a smooth shell, a comfortable fit, and no driver flex. The IEMs feature a dual dynamic driver paired with a balanced armature for their sound, and they isolate fairly from the outside noise, with about 20 dB of passive noise isolation. Something quite new, the IEMs have three magnets surrounding the drivers, to increase the sensitivity of the drivers, and enhance the low end reproduction for the bass. The IEMs use a HCCAW voice coil. 

The upper midrange and treble are mainly handled by a custom balanced armature designed especially for Shanling and their Sono, which is made to enhance the treble presence without causing any peaks. The cable is detachable, and based on the popular 2-Pin connector, the cable being a supple, flexible cable, silver in color and which feels really trusty, considering the price of Shanling Sono. 

The IEM Shells are made of a zinc Alloy, to offer the best comfort, as the IEM shells are smaller than the average, they fit nicely in my ears, causing no discomfort. The included tips are also of an excellent quality and the whole IEM feels super nice even after many hours of wear. There are two sonic filters included in the package, although the changes are not super drastic. The dynamic drivers are 9.2mm in size for the bass driver, and 6.8mm in size for the midrange driver. The bass driver has a Bio Diaphragm, while the midrange driver has a Liquid Crystal Diaphragm. 

The IEMs have a rated sensitivity of 103 dB, and an impedance of 16 OHMs. With the frequency response being quoted to be between 16 and 40.000 Hertz, and the plug being 3.5mm single ended, you’re mostly looking at entry-level sources, DAPs and dongles to drive the Shanling Sono. 

To drive the Shanling Sono for today’s review, I’ve been using a multitude of sources, including Hiby R3 II, FiiO K9 PRO, JDS Labs Element III MK2 Boosted, Shanling H5 DAC/AMp, SMSL DO400, Matrix Mini-i PRO 4, iFi Go Bar, and FiiO Q15. All of those can drive the Sono just fine, and they don’t seem sensitive to source noise, plus the sound is generally super clean and controlled, although Sono has a lot of bass, and if you prefer a leaner sound you should head for the more neutral sources, with less bass uplift, such as FiiO K9 PRO

 

Sound Quality

The overall sound of Shanling Sono can be described as thunderous, with a full bass, a clean treble, with a lot of Sparkle, the low end and the treble balancing each other for a V-Shaped sound. This means that the midrange is somewhat recessed, creating some space for the bass and drums to play more forward, while the cymbals are presented forward too, along with the presence of each instrument, the voices taking a second place and sounding more distant. This can create the feeling of soundstage, and helps the IEMs sound natural rather than narrow, although the whole sound is aggressive, forward, punchy, dynamic and very focused. 

The bass is full, deep, and has a thunderous presence, being audible with death metal and black metal, and being downright super powerful with EDM, Trance, Duybsteb and bass-heavy music. The bass is generally natural in speed, has excellent body and clarity, and it seems to never distort, not even one bit, which is better than even some midrange IEMs do in the low end. The bass driver has a satisfying impact for all drums, both acoustic and synth / electronic bass notes, creating the feeling of size, space and weight really neatly. The bass tends to be uplifted all the way across, from the 40 hz range, all the way to 90HZ, where it gives a stronger upper bass and substance, not just a strong lower and sub bass. 

The midrange has a sudden change of character, and you can hear how each driver is tuned, the midrange is clean, pushed in the back, having a faster speed for the driver, creating less impact, and a smoother texture / tonality. This allows for good detail and resolution, and takes care of pesky peaks that can make certain instruments fatiguing, the midrange having less lower midrange presence than they have upper midrange presence. This creates the feeling of emotion, female voices are emphasized, sadder songs being more vivid, and hitting better in full emotion, while happier music is more distant. 

The treble is very punchy, with the BA driver being quite a bit more powerful, and showing more texture, more presence, being the punchy type. This means that the whole sound is dynamic and can handle super high volume well, although the V-Shaped character gets stronger the stronger the listening volume is. This works especially well for pop, eDM, Dubsteb, and all kinds of music with synthetic instruments. All in all, the more mid-forward the music is, the better Shanling Sono handles it, and you don’t have to be afraid of brighter music, or of music with little bass, Sono can locate that bass and easily bring it to your ears. 

 

Comparisons 

Shanling Sono vs Salnotes Dioko (79 USD vs 99 USD) – The build of Dioko is great, and it comes with a nice cable, just like Shanling Sono, but Dioko is so large that it does not fit most ears out there, so Shanling Sono is the better choice if you’re looking for comfort, and it is far smaller, and far more ergonomic in practice. The sound of Dioko is detailed and clean, but Shanling Sono, while costing less, provides more impact, a more intimate soundstage, but with slightly better instrument separation, and a bigger, more thunderous bass. The midrange is fairly similar between them, while the treble is sharper, more sparkly on Shanling Sono, making Dioko sound almost mid centric when switching quickly between them. 

Shanling Sono vs IKKO OH300 Lumia (79 USD vs 49 USD) – The comfort is great on both, and while OH300 Lumia has a lighter body, it is slightly larger, and Shanling Sono has a better cable, so it wins in overall build and ergonomics. The sound is actually similar, both have a strong bass, both have good detail, but Shanling Sono, while being just a bit pricier, is considerably more detailed, cleaner, has a better instrument separation and better precision. OH300 Lumia tends to sound a bit wider, while Sono is more focused, and has a much larger and wider sounding bass, where OH300 Lumia is wider in the midrange and treble, but feels anemic in the bass when compared directly to Shanling Sono. 

Shanling Sono vs Dunu Talos (79 USD vs 199 USD) – Shanling Sono is more ergonomic than Talos, but both are okay for long-term wearing. One thing that we can learn here is how Talos, which is really bright, could have been more balanced, and it is the way Shanling Sono did it, Sono has better impact and more substance for all instruments, which helps balance its sound a lot, allowing you to hear the details and nuance in music, comparing to Talos which can be too bright and too fatiguing. All in all, I would grab Shanling Sono more often as it is more even and balanced in the tonality. 

 

Value and Conclusion

We’re talking about a super entry-level IEM that can deliver a clean and controlled sound, which has no distortion in the bass, which has a super clean midrange too, and a sharp, detailed treble. This all comes in a comfortable package, with a nice design, and it even has a super good cable in the package, so the value is over-the-top, and for 79 USD, it is hard to find something with a similar quality and overall package, usually either the sonic performance or the comfort being sacrificed. 

At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a clean sounding, V-Shaped entry-level IEM with a thunderous bass, excellent ergonomics, and a clean design, Shanling Sono is fully recommended and a great choice. 

 

Product Link

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/47OpfvF

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/47on2XV

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3GczjCJ


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Full Playlist used for this review

We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature.  I recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music! The playlists are different for Spotify, Tidal and Youtube, and based on the songs I enjoy and are available on each!

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_cjBXGmwSHSdGcwuc_bKbBDGHL4QvYBu

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5J3oloz8Riy9LxEGenOjQ0?si=979ba4f082414be7

https://tidal.com/browse/playlist/330fd544-8e5b-4839-bd35-676b2edbb3d5

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