The Shanling ME700 Lite is a more affordable version of the original ME700 IEM featuring a hybrid single dynamic and 4 balanced armature driver design. It is priced at $499.
Disclaimer: The Shanling ME700 Lite sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion in this review. We thank the team at Shanling for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about Shanling products we have reviewed on Headfonics click here.
Note, this review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2021 which you can read up on here.
The ME700 Lite from Shanling is the latest variant of their ME700 flagship earphones, featuring a similar driver configuration but differentiated in tuning and design. The changes include adopting a new dynamic driver in its hybrid configuration using titanium plating this time which might suggest some changes in the sound signature.
While the ME700 is exceptionally full and powerful in the midrange, this time the ME700 Lite has its bigger sibling’s denser mid-bass pressed down for enhanced tonal balance, clarity, and precision.
Coming with a new color scheme the ME700 Lite has its tuning and outlook aligned, well-matched with a dual-tone gold and silver-colored cable made from SPC and gold-plated copper wires.
The original ME700 gets its mesmerizing midrange density from its gold plated driver, which shapes the frequencies by changing the impedance on the membrane and producing that additional warmth and clarity.
The Lite version is completely revamped with a more modern, stiff titanium-based membrane, explained to enhance speed, dynamics, and quite possibly the resolution also.
The midrange and upper registers are handled by a dual customed mid-treble range custom BA and another dual BA is installed for the treble. This time the bass driver does not steal the show, resulting in more forwardness especially in the upper vocal range.
Highly contrasting with the ME700 that has a dark and elegant theme, the new M700 Lite version has an ivory white finish. The white is decorated by a light gold color logo that subtly adds some luxuriousness to the design whilst also looking more playful.
The faceplate has an extra glossy layer that adds some depth and reflectiveness when you view it at a side angle, quite a simple and straightforward design.
With some polished stainless-steel parts, the glossy housing looks refreshing and classy. I personally like how they put extra effort into brushing up the look on the small parts and it does help adds to the visual appeal.
I was wondering would Shanling include the same cable but it turns out that the ME700 Lite comes with a new stock cable. It matches well with the body design and looks interesting in the specs.
The new stock cable has a 4 x 42 strand count of a single crystallized structure SPC together with gold plated copper cores braided together. Shanling explains they want to achieve a lower distortion and cleaner more extended higher frequency performance with this configuration.
It is rather an unusual stock cable to come with this IEM but the downside is that it is limited to a 3.5mm option only. Compared to some other SPC cables lying around this stock cable sounds full in the mid-bass and helps to push out some additional treble detail.
Switching to some other balanced cables around may help further expand the staging and midrange texture, but that may push the vocal image further back leaving a more hollow sound. In fact, the stock cable is quite a good match with the ME700 Lite giving it an expansive sound on the X-Axis with just a 3.5mm connection.
Comfort & Isolation
I am not sure if they come from the same mold, but the ME700 and Lite versions do offer similar levels of comfort. Likewise, the fit is perfect, it doesn’t extend too deep and sit well on the ears.
The finish on the earphones is impeccable like a pebble with contours on the shell that are just perfect for my ears. There is no pain or fatigue wearing it for over 4 hours when I am typing the impressions.
Switching to some foams tips I get a punchier sound whilst still offering some really good isolation. Because it is an over-the-ear design the level of microphonics from the cables are relatively low. This is a secure fit with no pain or stress experienced on my ears during the review process.
Packaging & Accessories
The ME700 Lite packaging isn’t as frugal as I expected it would be given the lower price point. The fancy gift box that comes with the Lite has a layered design, opening the drawer on the right you will find the accessories inside
Aside from the cleaning tools, there are 3 sets of different colorful silicone ear tips in S/M/L sizes. They are sized and designed to tease out different aspects of the ME700 Lite tuning so you can also switch between them for vocal, balance, and staging refinement.
Putting on the vocal tips that have a larger bore I find it sounds the most natural. The leather case, on the other hand, is similar to the one we got with the ME700 and it is very well designed to feel premium and offer excellent protection to the earphones. There is enough room to fit the IEM even with thicker aftermarket cables.
ME700 Lite Sound Impressions
The original ME700 has a very characterized tuning that focuses on the midrange intensity, while the Lite version is developed in a similar but more modernized way, sounding more neutral and fits pretty much all genres of music.
In general, the ME700 Lite sounds cleaner, smoother, faster, and more energized in the treble. The low-end is punchy which helps it to synergize well with pop or music with high energy.
The fast and clean attacks in the lows, as well as the less-thick midrange, will draw your focus to the backing instruments and details in the space rendered. With a more balanced tuning, it has good synergy with phones and laptop outputs but will definitely sound better with better sources.
Overall the ME700 Lite scores a better balance between expressive bass and clarity while spacing the vocal more distant from the listener. The engaging and flatter tuning allows good detail to be heard and works well with pop and trending music on YouTube and Spotify.
Bass and Mids
The bass in the ME700 lite has some resemblance to what I have experienced from the ME700, full and rich in sound with good dynamics and air, but with more control and speed this time.
The new driver material has enhanced the bass response speed but with slightly less low-end extension. The bass decay is faster and lighter, fast percussions sound more accurate, also swifter on the ME700 Lite as the mid lows are less protruding. This leaves more room for detail in the upper mids to shine as well as give a stronger perception of midrange staging space.
The vocal has some space to breathe when listening on phones and entry-level DAPs but pushing the listener a few yards farther. Live recordings and operas sound spacious and the tuning allows more room for multiple instruments to be presented at the same time.
With mid-tier or higher DAPs i.e. the M8 that is equipped with a stronger amping stage and higher decoding power, you will discover a lot more detail and depth in the bass while the vocals have more authority and sound livelier.
Overall, there is decent power and control in the bass. The tuning has a good balance with an easy-going tuning and definition so it won’t be too attention-stealing while keeping enough dynamics to prevent it from sounding flat with weaker sources.
The penetration power in the treble has been enhanced with the new gold-plated copper and SPC cable, accompanied by the new titanium-plated driver that makes the lower register sound more nimble and less dominant.
The upper mids and treble are well energized with an elevated 6-7kHz range giving forward vocals some shine and clarity. This works well with modern recordings in pop and rock, especially with thinner and lighter voices that sound more loyal to the original recording.
Other instruments like saxophones, flutes, and violin also sound more forwarded and brilliant. There is a small hint of brightness that adds some excitement and presence while being nicely controlled and sound dynamic at high volume levels.
With the mid-bass region being less intimate and the treble being more pronounced, it is easier for the ME700 Lite to render a larger perceived sound stage, positioning the instruments further from the listener.
The vocal is well centered, clear, and quite tightly imaged, unlike the ME700 that radiates a fatter image with a larger radius. With the mid-treble range being lifted instruments are nicely defined and with good air and separation. The layering is excellent so nuanced details, such as being able to hear the instruments rolling in from far apart, are easy to pick out.
At 16Ω and 109dB SPL sensitivity, the ME700 Lite is rather easy to be powered. Side by side with the ME700, it feels easier to drive but in part due to the change in tuning reducing the original bassy tuning as well as the faster dynamic driver being implemented.
On my iPad laptop and phone, you get decent dynamics and a punchy bass response. The low-end is more solid when moving on to stronger outputs. There is good potential for the ME700 Lite to be scaled while maintaining good tonal balance and control in all frequencies. Overall, it sounds pretty good with any device connected.
The stock cable only has a 3.5mm option available so I am putting it on various 3.5mm outputs, and the result is satisfactory even on entry-level DAPs, for example, the HiBy R3 Pro. The ME700 Lite is quite easy to drive but still sensitive to gain and power.
With the higher gain on players such as the M8, you will hear the bass sounding more airy and full while more treble detail will be unveiled.
With a cleaner, easier to drive, and more neutral tuning this time the ME700 Lite pairs well with any gear around and scales up nicely with sources that are textured in the mid lows. However, treble may get slightly hotter and more sibilant with cleaner, more powerful DAPs.
Bass & Midrange
The key difference between the two is mainly the way they render the midrange frequencies and overtones as well as their general response to power or in how they scale.
The ME700 gives a more colored tone and rounded upper mids to create a densely bodied vocal line. Such character allows the ME700 to sound very expressive with some older pop especially old Cantopop or traditional Japanese tunes, allowing the low notes to be vocalized fully as well as strengthening the effect of reverb.
On the ME700 Lite, there is still good air and power in the bass, just that it is not as intense as the ME700. This helps it to sound more neutral and fitting a wider range of music whilst being brighter and more playful in tone.
The speed of the dynamic driver and the BAs that are responsible for the higher frequencies are well aligned on the ME700 Lite. It sounds much less colored and swifter than the ME700 which has a slower decay speed in the bass.
The ME700 Lite is an all-rounder and noticeably easier to get good synergy with different DAPs, even on phones, laptops you will get a solid bass punch and a rather good extension. The ME700 Lite is more loyal to the recordings with some lifting in the 6-7kHz range. Also with drums and brass instruments that need the mids presence as well as the air in the treble to sound lively.
I find the ME700 having more potential to sound expanded, immersive, smooth in articulation, and more affectionate with the right genre. It scales better with more powerful sources such as the M8 and Hifiman HM1000, though it is less friendly with entry-level sources when compared to the ME700 Lite that always sounds more balanced and responsive.
Bass & Midrange
The moment I picked up the ME700 Lite it reminds me of the Final B1 in the way how they push the vocal image a bit far off.
Putting them together and switching between them to test, the Final B1 is extended slightly deeper down and sounds swifter in the crossover region. While the ME700 Lite is more energized and punchy, stronger in dynamics, and being more spacious at the same time.
It doesn’t mean that the B1 is weaker in this respect, but the better control and refined midrange are limiting its openness.
The mid-treble transition is swifter, and the treble is more pinpoint defined on the B1. There is more precision and control, also more micro-detail shining through on the B1 in a nutshell and the vocal image is more refined.
The ME700 has different traits and sounds more expressive in the bass with a slightly fatter image and slower response, sacrificing some control to bring out more energy in the treble. The mid-lows, which give the tuning more transparency and energy, are also more friendly with lossy old files.
You can see how Final aims at precision and resolution here but it takes a stronger DAP for it to sound as spacious as the ME700 Lite compared to lower-powered devices, which have a “fun” tuning and emphasized mid-treble frequencies.
The ME700 we checked last time is a gem with a unique sound character and excellent midrange performance. Yet the niche tuning may not be for everyone especially those who seek a calming listening session or cleaner output.
This time Shanling has created a much more neutral-sounding option that gives more space to the recording, enabling the vocal to penetrate higher while accommodating more instruments with its better control and linearity over the whole frequency range.
At an even more appealing price, the ME700 Lite is a competitive choice for those who want an expansive, balanced-sounding hybrid with a little sprinkle of exciting brightness in the upper register.
Shanling ME700 Lite Specifications
- Drivers: Single Dynamic Driver & 4 Balanced Armature
- Impedance: 16Ω
- Sensitivity: 109±3dB
- Frequency range: 20-40,000 Hz
- Cable length: 1.3m
- Earphone Connector: MMCX
- Cable connector: 3.5mm Jack