The M3X has quite a balanced tuning and it works pretty well with anything plugged into it especially the 4.4mm connection. The background is dark enough for little hiss to be detected with sensitive IEMs.
However, the 3.5mm output is quite a lot less authoritative with diminished dynamic range compared to the 4.4mm balanced output. I would recommend using the balanced output on the M3X for the best experience and power.
With the ME700 Lite, the bass is driven quite well with decent power in the low-end, it doesn’t punch very deep but is quite energized. The tonal balance is great in this case, with enough separation and width in the stage rendered in a way that it feels quite expanded.
The output on M3X has enough power to give rock and pop a convincing dynamic sound. Also, it is quite full in the mids but well-controlled to not sound muddy. The area around 6kHz is pronounced such that the vocal sounds swift and extended, also adding more air to the output.
This pairing may not sound very strongly textured but the musicality and clean presentation work well with any music.
The Corsa is Earsonic’s latest 3BA in-ear with a 3-way impedance corrector crossover. This is a balanced-sounding IEM with plenty of details in the mids and treble.
Testing on the 4.4mm output the pairing sounds quite a lot cleaner in the mid-lows, the treble opens up and the vocal image is more distinct without blending into the instruments around. On the 4.4mm output, the staging also got stretched out and sounded more extended in the X-axis, with adequate bass to fill the space such that it does not sound hollow.
The pairing has good synergy and the M3X is driving this 31Ω IEM to sound quite full in body. Sub-bass presence is slightly shy and soft in impact on the M3X when compared to M6 Pro or M8 and it is keeping the output clean and light-hearted.
Overall, the M3X is quite straightforward in tuning, without adding strong bumps or troughs to the output nor a strong sense of separation to the vocal image. The treble is nicely rounded and slightly lifted to complement the slightly soft bass, making the M3X a friendly source with any IEMs that do not require a lot of power to drive.
Switching to higher gain on the M3X will help outline the vocal more clearly and refine the treble texture.
With MQA unfolding power up to 4x, the R3Pro is a $199 player that packs in HiBy OS and LDAC support for Bluetooth users. It has a much smaller form factor and a different focus in tuning, and I would consider both R3Pro and M3X to be agile in response, which makes the output on it sounding joyful and light-paced with any music being played.
Putting them together you will hear the R3Pro as cleaner and faster in impact, making it a good match for gaming music, ACG genre, and electronic music. However, it may sound a bit hollowed out and lacking in bass power when you are expecting fuller drummings and explosive bass punches.
The M3X sounds more energetic and full in the mid-lows and more elaborative in the mids while not being excessive. This makes it a better match for different genres, offering better tonal balance and matchability.
Staging is slightly larger on the M3X but both players aren’t strong in this respect,. With pop and jazz, you will hear more air on the M3X as well as better control power. In contrast, the R3Pro aims at more clarity and sometimes gets a bit overexcited in the treble.
The M3X is ahead in offering superior output quality as well as more software flexibility with open Android, at just a slightly higher price. The power in the output and software features are more convincing as well. The R3Pro is, however, slimmer in profile, and its thinner sound signature has good synergy to ACG/faster electronic music, being a great match with multi-BAs rich in bass.
Hiby R5 Saber
We have covered the R5 Saber not long ago which has a distinct sound signature and full Android experience onboard which makes it a better rival to the M3X. Head to head with the M3X it is very easy to notice their difference. While both players feature Android OS the R5S‘s screen is not as wide, offering better portability, but may challenge users with a bigger thumb.
The tuning on R5 Saber is shaped to bring out extra clarity and dynamics in the mid lows and upper vocal, the staging is spaciously rendered, capturing a lot of air in the upper registers. Testing with MQA files and full unfold power on both machines, the M3X is more rounded, balanced, and slightly better in articulation when comparing their balanced outputs.
Putting on the Earsonics Corsa, the R5 Saber sounds more crispy, airy, and outlined in the vocal but lacks the expressiveness and roundness on the M3X. The vocal imaging is more distinct on the R5 Saber and they have a similar level of detail retrieval power in the mids. The M3X achieves better balance, sounding more friendly with lossy files with its warmer signature.
Overall, the M3X is not as altered and sounds more natural, fuller in the mid-bass region, and works better for those who seek balance in the tuning. The R5 Saber is a great pairing with more bass-intensive IEMs and offers boosted clarity, but may sound harsher pairing with some sensitive multi-ba designs when compared to the M3X.
If your IEMs are thicker in the mid-bass the R5 Saber could be a good match and the M3X will suit most IEMs and reflects their tuning.
Cowon Plenue D3
The D3 is another SOC-based design that offers a rich set of filtering options for users to refine the output. The tuning on the D3, especially in the treble, is very delicately shaped with beautiful overtones and sounds very swift with clean vocals.
The M3X does not behave the same with its focus in the mids, which is more authoritative and less altered, it is also softer compared to the textured, dense treble on D3.
With dynamic IEMs you will notice the M3X being stronger in power, yet the D3 is more bass light and doesn’t sound slow in the bass.
On some pairings, the D3 sounds more spacious and deeper in staging, but at the same time, it does sound more artificial or digitally altered than the M3X. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and with electronic music or game music it sounds more thrilling.
The M3X, in contrast, will be a better match for pop and streaming content that needs the bass to rock and brings you into the mood. It is a safer bet if you listen to a wider range of music and it pairs well with basically any IEMs plugged in.
If we compare to the previous generation M3s the leap on M3X is incredible. Even at the current market standard, the M3X is a seriously strong contender with advanced hardware and great matchability with different earphones and genres of music.
The software experience has a lot of resemblance to M8’s system, so basically you are paying a fraction of the price to enjoy a good part of the flagship offering from the same brand.
At its price bracket, there is little competition especially if you are targeting MQA playback, and the M3X would be a solid recommendation if you are looking for an Android-based device to start your portable audio journey, a BlueTooth source, or a streaming device for your home system.
Shanling M3X Specifications
System Open Android 7.1, with AGLO
Screen 4.2 inch, 1280 x 768
CPU 8-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430
Memory 2GB RAM + 32 GB ROM
Hi-Res Audio Up to PCM 32/384 & DSD256
MQA Support Full unfolding, 16x
Outputs 3.5mm jack Single Ended & 4.4mm Balanced
Wi-Fi 2.4G / 5G
Bluetooth transmitter LDAC, LHDC, aptX HD, aptX, SBC
Bluetooth receiver LDAC & SBC
USB-C, with USB DAC and USB transport function
DAC/AMP 2x ESS Sabre ES9219C
Battery 3200 mAh
Battery life Up to 23 hours (SE, single DAC) / 20 hours (SE, dual DAC) / 19 hours (Bal)