Shanling MTW100 Review – Wireless Weekend

Sound Impressions

Summary

Dynamic Driver

Despite using a dynamic driver, which is what 99% of other TWS use, the DD MTW100 tuning is very different from the typical consumer warm V-shaped performance.

The first thing that will hear is a low-end that is a bit on the clean side. It still has all the trademarks of a dynamic driver with excellent extension and a good response sub-80Hz. However, it does not sustain that through the mid-bass with equal force even with a scooped out lower-mids.

Comparing this to the likes of the Astrotec S80 and 1MORE’s Stylish and sounds quite gentle if anything. However, it can definitely hit hard when called upon only what you get is more of a sub-bass response that has a strong contrast with a peakish upper mids and lower treble overtone.

As a result, it is not a rich signature by any means. A signature with a good bass fundamental? yes, I will give the DD version of the MTW100 credit where it is due. You will not find the low-end rolled-off by any means.

Rather the warmth is lacking in the mids so it sounds steelier, brighter, and a bit shouty from 2-4k. There does not seem to be any upper-mids dip to quell that so the treble peak is much more noticeable in the timbre due to the lack of warmth down below.

On the plus side, the flatter bass has the better layering and separation than something like the 1MORE’s Stylish which is softer and bloomy. You can pick out individual elements of the bass performance in tracks fairly readily on the MTW100 DD. It also means vocals are much easier to pick out on the MTW100 DD and not overwhelmed by the low-end.

Balanced Armature

The BA sound signature of the MTW100 is where I think most would gravitate outside of the die-hard dynamic driver fans. Granted, you do lose the power and planted feel of that larger driver but in return, you get a much more even sounding timbre across the range and a more complex level of instrumental layering.

Being a BA timbre it is slightly drier with a shorter decay but it is not an arid level of dryness. Those bigger full-range BA drivers tend to have a bit more warmth than the older smaller Knowles drivers from a few years ago. It sounds way less shrill and more natural in tone than a few tweeter level drivers for sure.

The mids performance is where the real focus is and that is not surprising. I tend to find a single full-range to be optimal across the midrange frequencies with a slight roll-off at both ends and that is what you get here.

The staging is more on the intimate side with vocals pushed forward. However, the relaxed treble extension prevents the higher pitching vocals from sounding sharp and grating. It does not convey huge weight or a richer texture in instrumental notes, it is more on the lighter and sweeter side which I tend to prefer.

There does seem to be an attempt to prevent the vocals on the dynamic driver from sounding recessed with the pushed 2-4k range but it sounds way less natural than the BA MTW100’s smoother delivery.

Shanling MTW100

Wireless Performance

(Tested with a Samsung Note 9, Huawei P20, Acer Nitro 5 Windows 10 laptop)

Pairing

Although this is the V1 and not the V2, the pairing on these was lighting fast with both phone and DAP. There is a 2-stage pairing on the V1. First, they have to pair with each other, then they pair with the source. Taking them out of the cradle starts stage 1 and to be honest it is almost immediate with the numerous times I have tried new pairings.

This goes for both MTW100 by the way, there is no difference in either of them in terms of pairing ease. However, one small thing which you may not notice unless you have both variants. They both have the same MTW100 BT label when scanning. It might get confusing.

Range & Stability

The range is not terribly long, certainly not as good as the Astrotec S80 or the HELM TW5.0 but as long as the 1MORE Stylish. I would say an easy 10m with one wall between source and driver. It is superior to the Lypertek TEVI by about 1m once you throw in a second wall.

The signal stability within that range is very good with both MTW100 options suffering no drop out up to 10m with one wall. once you throw in a second wall then at best 11m and plenty of dropouts.

Latency

Both MTW100 variants show the same degree of latency when watching media on an Acer Nitro 5 Windows 10 laptop via Bluetooth. We tested 3 H264 media files via VLC with varying audio sample and bit rates and found the latency on the MTW100 to be a bit on the high side at 0.3s hasten. This compares to the vast majority at 0.2s hasten or less when tested with similar files.

Select Comparisons

Lypertek TEVI

£99

Technical

I quite often refer to the TEVI as a TWS standard-bearer and with good reason. The price is competitive and the features are plentiful. The Shanling MTW100 has some difficulty matching it on paper but it is not a complete home run.

The single BA version offers a discernable sound quality alternative since the TEVI uses a dynamic driver though the TEVI can offer aptX as opposed to just SBC/AAC from the MTW100.

The TEVI you have 10 hours single cycle battery life (50% volume, SBC/AAC) compared to 6 for the MTW100 dynamic driver and 7 for the BA. The cradle on the TEVI has the best capacity in the market at 70 hours max giving you another 6-7 charges on the go compared to 21 and 24 hours on the MTW100 variants.

The TEVI also offers BT5.0 and IPX7 much like the MTW100. It’s Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus has the same application as the MTW100 Vs’s direct connection feature.

The final difference is the apps integration or lack thereof. The TEVI has one and is firmware upgradeable. The MTW100 does not and cannot be tweaked or upgraded.

Lypertek TEVI

Design

The finish and form factor looks better on the Shanling with more variation in colors and a smoother finish. The isolation is superior on the deeper fitting TEVI when comparing stock tips but I prefer the comfort of the Shanlings.

Also, the touch controls on the Shanling’s are less irritating than the physical controls of the TEVI but it does not have volume control which the TEVI has. Finally, I prefer the durability of the TEVI case but the styling is more unique on the Shanling cases and they are more pocketable.

Performance

Both the TEVI and the MTW100 pair pretty fast though slightly different in terms of a process. The V2 will differ with the direct connection but since we do not have one here I can’t comment on it.

Both use master-slave left and right, however, the TEVI shows up as individual drivers in my scans whereas the MTW1000 has a single “Shanling MTW100” label. Overall, a slightly cleaner pairing and faster pairing process in favor of the MTW100.

The MTW100 range is marginally better than the TEVI and the stability at the maximum range a lot steadier. It is probably one major weak point of the TEVI. It does seem more susceptible to interference and dropouts than the MTW100.

Latency is better on the TEVI with a 0.1s hasten tweak on VLC Windows 10 compared to 0.3s hasten tweak using the same media files with the MTW100.

Dynamic Driver Tuning

With the DD version of the MTW100, I found the TEVI dynamic drive tuning to differ in a few areas. I think there are two key differences you are going to pick up right away. The slightly higher bass quantity and more elevated treble and upper mids of the MTW100.

The TEVI sounds the warmer of the two, with a more subdued treble and upper mids response. That bass is actually more mid-bass sustain and less of a dip into the lower-mids than the MTW100.

The MTW100 DD sounds a little more sub-bass emphasized and scooped in the lower-mids. Not to say it does not have depth but it is rather more linear with mid-bass and possibly a little lighter on its feet as a consequence.

Instrumental timbre is wetter but also more planted and richer on the TEVI whereas the MTW100 is a little lighter and cleaner to an upper mids and treble emphasis. Vocals feel much more emphasized on the MTW100, but slightly shouty at the same time if higher pitching and can be prone to more ‘steeliness’ in its sound than the TEVI.

BA Driver Tuning

The BA driver places a lot more emphasis on the midrange making it a mild N-shaped curve compared to the U-Shaped TEVI. The MTW100 BA timbre is very distinct and different from the TEVI dynamic driver.

The MTW100 is a pacier cleaner sound with more emphasis on individual note articulation. You will hear a wider range of instrumental presence and be able to better pick out left-right imaging as well as mid-centric instrumental layering. The low-end is tighter but leaner and less extended. Treble is not overly extended but it does sound coherent and not as ‘steely’ as the DD version.

The TEVI, by contrast, is deeper sounding, more planted with a longer rate of decay. It will sound more powerful with a better fundamental but also less complex in the mids with a vocal emphasis to balance the low-end girth. The TEVI does not have much of a treble emphasis either but it sounds a little richer and smoother. No real surprise here in terms of driver timbre.

In terms of staging, the TEVI is deeper sounding whereas the BA MTW100 has more left-right separation and is more intimate in terms of positioning.

1MORE Stylish True Wireless

$99

Technical

The 1MORE Stylish is a single 7mm titanium composite driver. That marginally bigger than the graphene 6mm driver of the DD variant of the MTW100. Both of these TWS use BT5.0 but use different chipsets. The 1MORE uses a Qualcomm implementation and the MTW100 uses a Realtek SoC.

The V2 MTW100 has that direct connection technology that is not available on the Stylish. Although firmware upgradeable and apps integrated, unlike the MTW100, I very much doubt you will see TrueWireless Stereo Plus suddenly appearing on the Stylish.

Other differences include an IPX7 rating of the MTW100 whereas the Stylish has no rating and aptX decoding on the Stylish versus SBC/AAC on the MTW100. Both use BT5.0 protocols and both have DSP for call clarity though the Surrounding Awareness Mode on the Shanling’s has nothing comparable on the Stylish.

I prefer the touch control sensitivity and accuracy on the Shanling but I do like the Stylish’s apps integrated EQ and the fact it has a volume control on the drivers which the MTW100 does not have.

Battery life between the two are pretty even with 6.5 hours per cycle and up to 24 hours in the cradle on the Stylish.

1More Stylish True Wireless

Performance

You can pair the 1MORE via their app as well as the traditional Android/iOS route and it is as simple and quick as the MTW100 pairing process. I had no issues with 2 smartphones and the laptop BT connection.

The V2 of the MTW100 will have the additional direct connection benefit that the Stylish does not have. The Stylish uses a master-slave system similar to the V1 but both are quick to pair with each other and then the source.

I also found them to have the same range and stability performance of around 10m with one wall and just a short distance or around 1m further before drop out when going behind a second wall.

The one area that there was a minor gap was latency on media files using VLC with Windows 10. Here the Stylish was hitting what I call the ‘norm; for TWS at 0.2s on our tested files whereas the MTW100 lagged a bit more at 0.2s hasten.

Dynamic Driver Tuning

The MTW100 DD sounds quite different from the Stylish. First, the dynamic range is better on the Stylish with that aptX decoding capability. It has the effect of making the MTW100 dynamic driver sound much smaller or further back in the chamber.

However, the tuning on the MTW100 DD is better for me. It is a cleaner sound, yes maybe a little harder on the upper mids and treble but much more articulate. The Stylish v-shaped is darker, warmer with more bass bloom but less treble separation and air. It sounds softer as a result with less instrumental separation.

This has the effect of making the Stylish mids sound veiled and overly rounded or warm by comparison. Now, you could also argue the MTW100 DD is lean by comparison with far less bass weight and warmth so there is some preference at play here. However, I think that more open midrange and better treble headroom swings it for me for the MTW100 DD.

BA Driver Tuning

I prefer the BA MTW100 over the Stylish for everything bar hardcore EDM and some dark synth wave. If you are into huge warm bass then the Stylish will do the trick, the MTW100 has far less bass and power but the articulation, detail and instrumental separation are much better.

If you need to tease out a precise guitar pluck, a complex percussion play or a chugging bass rhythm that can be easily picked out then the MTW100 is the correct choice here. For better power and depth then the Stylish has an edge with more body and a wetter tone throughout.

However, it comes with more bloom, a bit of smear and a slower longer decay. The Stylish does not play as well for mid-tempo rock and male vocals which can be smothered by the bass quantity. That seems to be the BA MTW100’s forte. It feels the more balanced of the two for a wider range of genres.

Astrotec S80

$89

Technical

The S80 was one of our earlier TWS reviews so it will be interesting to stack against the MTW100 since their launch dates were both 2019.

The S80 uses a beryllium 6mm dynamic driver which will be an interesting contrast to the graphene 6mm inside the DD version of the MTW100. It will also offer something very different from the BA MTW100.

Both of these TWS use BT5.0 and neither can decode beyond SBC/AAC so there won’t be a decoding gap for audio. The IPX rating is higher on the MTW100 with an IPX7 compared to the IPX5 of the S80. The S80 uses Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo and not Stereo Plus so it is one step behind the MTW100 V2 with its direct connection technology.

Both have a responsive touch control system rather than physical buttons. However, the S80 does have volume control built into the driver’s touch system whereas the MTW100 does not.

Battery life between these two is virtually the same at 6 hours per cycle and up to 24 hours in the cradle. Both cradles use USB-C charging though the MTW100 BA has the advantage of wireless Qi charging.

Astrotec S80

Design

I love the design of the S80 case, I hate the form factor of the drivers. The MTW1000 drivers are smaller, better designed, comfier, and seal better with the stock tips. The S80 cradle is finished to a higher quality and feels more durable.

The Shanling cases are more pocketable, brighter, and more fun-looking in their aesthetic but just a bit cheaper in terms of build quality. The shallow depth of the cradle also makes tip rolling a nightmare on the Shanling.

Performance

Pairing is a little fussier on the S80 than the MTW100. Both the V1 MTW100 and the S80 use a master-slave system whereas the V2 MTW1000 uses a direct connection process. I suspect the MTW100 V2 is even easier.

The S80 pairing is slower to mate for left and right and its label for connecting often is a confusing “Astrotec-S80-R” suggesting the right receives the signal first then beams to the left. The MTW100 singular label, (no left and right) is faster and easier to figure out when pairing.

The S80 range is excellent and second only to the HELM TW5.0 in the units we have reviewed thus far. Stability is also really good with two walls and around 13m. The MTW100 lags behind in terms of how many walls, I would say about 10-11m max. However, within that 10m range, both are very stable.

The S80 performs a little bit better for latency on media files with a 0.1s hasten tweak on VLC Windows 10 compared to the rather more noticeable 0.3s hasten fix for the MTW100.

Dynamic Driver Tuning

The MTW100 DD version has a little less bass weight and sustained mid-bass warmth and a more elevated upper mids and treble presence. The S80 sounds the slightly wetter of the two in terms of instrumental and vocal timbre and also delivers more depth and power due to the enhanced sub-bass elevation.

The MTW100 has a similar level of sub-bass extension and its bass layering is the slightly better of the two. However, the mid-bass elevation is lower and with a scooped lower-mids it sounds leaner and drier into the mids. Combine that with a more aggressive upper mids and treble signature it comes across as a bit more sibilant and brighter sounding.

The MTW100 is perceptibly more articulate on the top-end but I think the resolution is much the same considering both are AAC/SBC capable. The S80 has a bit less upper-mids prominence and a slightly more liquid treble so it sounds more natural to me for vocals and percussion.

BA Driver Tuning

Some clear differences here. The S80 dynamic timbre is evident with more bass weight, depth, and power. The BA MTW100 is cleaner, more linear but faster and tighter on the low-end. The S80 timbre is richer, warmer with a solid instrumental fundamental whereas the MTW100 is leaner in its timbre but more articulate with more left-right separation and staging width.

Neither has a huge treble extension but again the MTW100 BA timbre is at play here with a drier sound, shorter decay, and more energy. Percussion sounds quicker but lighter in body on the MTW100 whereas the S80 sounds more solid, liquid, and the slower of the two.

Overall, the S80 has a more euphonic and forgiving tone with excellent weight and a natural timbre. The MTW100 BA is the more precise of the two with a more forward midrange, drier timbre, and better pace.

Shanling MTW100

Our Verdict

I think time is the single biggest competitor to a lot of these TWS due to the rate of technology refresh in this sector right now. The MTW100 was launched mid or 3rd quarter 2019 depending on the region and what they can do specs wise is symbolic of a good feature set for that period.

In 2020, ANC is a thing now, even at the low $100 marker we are seeing it pop up in new TWS products. Given the MTW100’s lack of software upgradeability, this is a weak point. The V2 was a good move for direct connection compatibility but otherwise, the likes of no aptX and ANC might leave it in a tight spot.

So, it is just as well the sound quality is above average for an SBC/AAC TWS system. The BA version is the way to go and it sounds competitive to me, even in 2020.

The dynamic driver version is unusual in that it does not follow the normal consumer tuning profile but that is a good thing. However, the top-end is slightly off and harsh sounding which is why I give my vote to the BA version.

The BA MTW100’s mid-centric but natural, coherent tuning will find more favor with audiophiles and plays out really well with modern rock and indie genres or anything really that needs a bit of precision and detail.  With Qi wireless charging and the better battery life that is more competitive and the better value proposition.

MTW100 Specifications

  • Earphone size/weight (Single earphone): 23.1*17.2*22mm/4.7g
  • Charging case size/weight: 56*25*30/39.5g
  • Total weight:48.9g
  • Battery life Earphones: 6 hours (dynamic). 7 hours (Balanced armature);
  • Earphone + charging case: 21 hours (dynamic) ; 24 hours (Balanced armature)
  • Charging time: Earphones 1.5 hours
  • Charging time case: 1.5 hours
  • Input: DC 5V 1A
  • Transmission distance up to 10m
  • Bluetooth version: 5.0
  • Protocol: HSP/HFP/A2DP/AVRCP/SPP/PBAP
  • Bluetooth codec: SBC/AAC
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