Ambient mode comes to Chi-Fi with rich and detailed sound
Disclosure: unit was provided by Shanling for review. The opinions here are entirely my own.
Design / Build
The case of the Shanling MTW100 is beautifully designed — relatively flat square with very rounded corners made of a highly polished plastic. This design makes the case easy to slip into your pocket and forget about it, and the high polish finish makes slipping it into your pocket easy. The Shanling logo on the front is more reminiscent of an audiophile designer’s signature than of a Chi-Fi company. The earphones continue the same high-end feel and design with the high polish plastic finish and designer logo on each earbud. Shanling’s experience in designing portable audiophile-grade gear makes these TWS a natural continuance of the company’s expertise.
The earpohnes are very similar in shape and fit to that of the mifo O5, except where they lose the two tiny nubs for buttons that let you easily control the O5’s, the MTW100’s gain touch control. While the earphones look similar, the cases of the mifo O5 and MTW100 are very different — the O5 case is made from metal, quite large and heavy (on account of that huge battery), and uses microUSB, the case of the MTW100 is small, light, and uses USB Type-C (thankfully!) and Qi wireless charging.
The fitment of the earphones is relatively shallow but still provides a really good seal with a good amount of noise isolation. Unfortunately the on-ear controls are somewhat lacking on these — double tap to play/pause, tripple tap to skip tracks, and a 3-second hold to activate/deactivate the ambient noise feature. Interestingly, I think this might actually make them a bit easier to insert, adjust, or just remove for a few minutes as it decreases the accidental presses — every action ends up being deliberate.
The sound is where the MTW100’s come into their own. The Knowles BA driver provides an excellent amount of detail and clarity and reaches lower than most other single-BA units. I have no doubt that future multi-driver TWE’s will surpass these, but for the time being I believe this is the best BA-based TWE on the market.
The sound profile is quite neutral with enough bass to ensure that you’re hearing every aspect of the recording. Instruments each have their own spacial placement and don’t overlap with each other. Bill Evans’ live recordings transport you to the club where he’s playing, with sounds of whispers and rustling coming from all around. Diana Krall’s voice sounds rich and forward and yet you still hear every light touch on the high hats and every strum of the bass guitar. The cacophony of sound that lesser TWS produce is instead clear and distinct here. And while bass is somewhat lacking for heavier genres, Halestorm’s voice takes center stage and the heavy soundtrack takes a back seat to let you focus on the vocals. Listening to Top 40 tracks is a pleasure in these — Camila Cabello sounds like she’s singing right in front of you; with the decreased focus on bass, Ariana Grande and Shawn Mendes sound great, and Billie Eilish is nearly whispering in your ear.
The soundstage is one of the better from the TWS that I’ve tried so far, and remains quite intimate. This is especially evident in recordings like Diana Krall’s The Girl in The Other Room where the stage opens up in front of you and makes you feel like you’re sitting front row center stage.
As is the case with all Balanced Armature IEM’s — the BA version of the MTW100 has a sound profile that may not be for everyone, but I honestly believe that everyone should have a pair of BA IEM’s to hear a different aspect of their recordings, and perhaps to hear things in their recordings that other earphones have been missing. The neutral sound profile along with the relatively shallow fit makes the MTW100 a really easy listening TWS for long periods of time while the sound quality makes it just as easy to get lost in the music.
Connectivity has been rock solid without any drops and good range. Audio delay is under 100ms on YouTube/Netflix — barely noticeable for most people, but those sensitive to it will notice lip-sync issues.
In a quiet setting the mic quality is fantastic — had people surprised that I was using a bluetooth headset. But as with all TWS earphones — there is a bit of an audio delay and with the mic being far away, any added noise makes the audio quality worse. I normally take out one of the earphones (the one where the mic is being used) and just hold it by my mouth to get the mic closer.
Most Chi-Fi units give you, at best, good quality audio with good battery, sometimes a nice design or good case. The MTW100 also give you two specialty features: Qi wireless charging and ambient or pass-through mode.
The Qi wireless charging seems to be hit and miss — I have two Qi charging plates, and these charged on the 10W capable charger, but the 15W charger showed an error LED when attempting to charge on that.
The ambient mode on the other hand worked great. It passed through sounds of people walking, cars, baby monitor, doorbell, even allowed me to place an order at the coffee shop (though I believe that’s rude, so I prefer to take out the earphones altogether for that). There is a very small echo effect when talking to people, but wasn’t really an issue for me and I could still understand people perfectly.
The Shanling MTW100 (BA) are exceptional TWS earphones. The sound quality is fantastic — and if you don’t like the neutral sounding BA driver, just go for the Dynamic Driver version. Everything about them feels premium and the inclusion of ambient mode and Qi wireless charging makes these feel like they should cost double or triple what they do. Everything about these is done really well and they are a very easy recommend, even for Chi-Fi earphones at this price range. These are going to replace some of my current regular line-up of TWS, and will be going in my pocket for regular use at work and outside.
Note: for those comparing these to the mifo O5 Professional, the MTW100 have better audio range and slightly better audio quality, much smaller and lightly case, audio pass-through mode, wireless charging, USB type-C wired charging, touch controls. The mifo O5 have button controls (albeit oddly reversed), huge battery in the case. Shape and fit of the earphones are nearly identical between the two.