Review: Shanling CD-S100 Mk II CD Player

Category: Digital

When it was available in North America, the Shanling CD-S100 cost $699 in Canadian dollars, and came to be placed at the top of its price class. That original player has been replaced by a Mark II version at CDN$999.

I owned a Shanling CD-S100 for nine months before selling it to buy a CD-S100 Mk II. Is it worth spending the extra money for the Mark II version? In a word, yes. In my opinion the new player represents a great big step towards the high end.

Both the S100 and the S100 MkII are remote-controlled. The cheaper S100 has a Philips CDM 12-10 transport controlled by a CD7 servo. Its D/A converter is a Burr-Brown 1732 24-bit/96kHz chip. The output stage uses OPA 2134 op amps. The S100 has HDCD decoding and built-in 24/96 upsampling, permanently swiched into the circuitry. It has an attractive low-profile design with a round display window in the center of the front panel. Its power cord is detachable and substituting an upmarket power cord allows extra detail to come through in the sound. The S100 is remarkable for true timbres and rhythmic drive, and it is even more remarkable as a value for money. Still more can be had from it with aftermarket upgrades to internal parts.

The CD-S100 MkII has a higher chassis, a thicker front panel, and it weighs a good deal more than the smaller player. Its display window is rectangular and is placed under the disc drawer. The front panel “On” button is actually a standby mode switch; the power switch is at the back on the left. Powering up turns a front panel LED red and pressing the standby button turns it green. This larger, more expensive player has a newer version of the Philips transport/servo system in the S100, a Burr-Brown 1738 decoder and OPA 604 op amps. HDCD is absent. There is 24/96 upsampling, switchable from the remote. The remote control is heavy, with larger buttons than the smaller player’s. You can also control volume from the remote. The three RCA output jacks on the back panel (one digital, two analog) are of excellent quality. The power cord is detachable.

It is worth noting the construction quality of the two players. The S100 is cleverly made. Note the detail in the photo of the front corner. The front panel looks like solid metal until you take the top plate off, when you see it is actually a folded plate. The execution of the metalwork is excellent and it appears the company has gone to some trouble to get it looking right.

The MkII version looks just as good, but for different reasons. It has a solid metal front panel, heavy and rigid--see the photo. The top plate and the rest of the chassis are similarly heavy-duty. Extra money spent on structural integrity does not necessarily show up at first glance, it’s not mentioned on a spec sheet and only careful buyers generally appreciate it. However solid construction makes a big difference in resonance control and isolation from vibration, both necessary for good sound. This is the feature of the S100 Mk II that suggests most clearly to me that the designers’ first priority was music.

A look at the internals of both players shows up several differences. The S100 has the same shielded power transformer and prefilter board as the MkII but the rest of the power supply circuitry is on the same board as the audio. The S100 Mark II’s transport is shielded. the original S100’s is not. Lots of space inside the box means reasonable isolation of the components in the S100, but the MkII has even better isolation while being much more overbuilt.

Does the different construction of the Mark II make a difference in sound? The MkII preserves the timbres and drive of the S100 but adds a new level of detail and realism. Voices have more presence and emotion, ensemble sounds are more coherent. There is warmth, harmony and an engaging realism : a better sense of a musical event. The S100 needs a power cord upgrade to provide a sense of hall sound but the MkII has that out of the box.

With the player initially installed in my classroom, I listened to Eva Cassidy’s version of “Fields of Gold” with a student who stayed late. We tried the S100 first, then the S100 Mk II. We were both silent after the Mk II's rendition. It was much more emotionally touching. The S100 is a dynamic player, it can get you dancing. The Mk II can do that, and it can touch you too. With the Mk II I noticed more extension and weight in the bass ; more natural, less sibilant highs ; a more neutral background and so more perceived detail. Notes last longer as they diminish and disappear, and more of their richness survives as they do. Voices are rounder. I think I noticed a strange effect of upsampling in the S100, a change in the soundstage, as though it were like a movie projected through a special-effects lens. This was absent in the Mk II, but I had switched upsampling off that time.

Switchable upsampling on the Mark II makes it possible to discover your preference, of course. Over time I came to prefer upsampling for most types of music, but I liked small instrumental ensembles, string quartets for example, without it. I didn’t use the remote volume control, preferring the sound when I used the amplifier’s volume control, but remote volume would be very convenient in some applications--a bedroom “lullaby system”, for example.

The original S100 did not seem to me to be a bad player—quite the contrary. I was delighted with its sound in my second system and could find nothing better at the price. However I gained a whole lot in musical involvement by moving to the S100 Mark II. In fact, the Mark II designation does not seem to me to do the player justice. I would prefer to think of it as a whole new player. It doesn’t look like the S100, and inside the box the only common elements are the transport mechanism, part of the power supply and perhaps the clock. All in all the S100 Mark II seems to me to be twice the player the S100 is, for a lot less than twice the money.

Associated gear
Van den Hul The Second interconnect, Century 21 Alpha 120 integrated amplifier, Audioquest Type 4 speaker cables, Aurum Cantus Leisure II SE monitors on Atlantis stands.

Similar products
NAD 541i, Cambridge CD6

Greetings from Tokyo. Good review, thanks for taking the time. I noticed the system is considerably different from your main system... it may be hard for you to comment but how would the S-100 MkII compare to my T100? I realize there is a considerable price difference between the two, are the differences subtle enough that it's worth saving the extra $$$ and buying the S100 Mk II? It's all about the music! Jeff
Arigato for the kind words, Jeff !

It was a lot of fun for me to compare these two players because I really think they both spend money in the right places, and in that sense they are elegant designs.

I especially think the S100 Mk II is a purist's machine that is relatively affordable. But I would not choose it over the T100 if I could afford both. Especially in its more recent incarnations, the T100 can convey a presence and a sense of a musical event that is even more pleasing.

I don't feel I'm making this up ; I spent a lot of time in the Shanling room at the recent Montreal show, where the latest T100, the 'C' model, was being demoed with the STP-80 integrated and a pre-production horn floorstander from China. This system was, IMHO, of a quality closer to that of my main setup.

Sayonara ! See you soon for a listening session.
HI Tobias .I have to thank you , it's also thanks to your review that i was able to choose the shanling s100 mkII .

The player is now rodding in my system ,I'm very happy with ( i was thorn among some NADs , some Azur and the shanling s100 mki/II .

I eventually stepped on the mkII and what i can say is that is a very good allrounder , it's got a very good bass and an overall balance , it's difficult to find flaws on this machine .

Prbably not becuase it deosn't have , but mainly probably becuase everything convey into musicality with this palyer , and it still remain detailed and resolved .
Thanks for the kind word, Rita ( hope I got your name right ). It's true that the Mark II sounds better after breaking in.

'goN member Foxtrot emailed me about remotes ( thanks ! ) and I realized there was some info missing from the review about the subject. Here's an update.

The Mark II has switchable upsampling, and there's a button on the remote to do it. Ditto for volume control.

The standard CD-S100 does not have either remote volume control or switchable upsampling. However my player came with a remote which had buttons for both. (They didn't work, of course.) That remote was identical to the one that came with my T100.

The T100 has the same remote features as the S100 Mark II.
Update :) thge burning in did a lot for this player that developed an incredible deep bass response and a more precise instruments separation during a month .

I'm changing opa for the s100mkII , since going to opa 627 in palce of the 602 is a very easy manual operation .

I have to say again i'm very pleased with this player.

I finally bought a CD-S100 MII CD player, in comparison to my denon dcd 1015 I immediately noted a difference in the rhytm of the music, a much faster response. The sound is almost as if you have just removed a pre-amplifier or other
equipment. A much more open and direct sound. The up-sampling sounds overall better, but the sound is not as pure in some sense, a little artifially nicer. In comparison to the denon the bass seems less pronounced and maybe the frequency level is not as low. Overall I found the player to be much less harsh in the high frequencies
with my Perreaux amplifier. The sound is more like a class A amplifier, except for maybe the bottom end. The sound is easy to listen to without any fatique. I run the player direct to the power amp. Which is a better option for me than adding a pre-amp. I use the sharkwire musical dream and musical life cables. I wonder how it would sound with silver cables. I have yet to experiment. I noted that the player seems to sound best with Pink Floyd cd's. I haven't figured why as yet.
I have received email pointing out that the CD-S100 does not have volume control, either on the remote or on the front panel. This is true. Neither does the Music Hall CD-25. You will need a preamp (passive or active) or an integrated with these players.

However the CD-S100 Mk II DOES have built-in volume control, and it works from the remote. This is another reason to consider this machine a whole new player, and not a "II" version of the S100.

By the way, I preferred to use the volume control on my integrated amp anyway. With both the S100 Mk II and the T100 players, I felt that the amp's (or the preamp's) volume control sounded slightly better.
Got this player recently -
Incredibly fast player , while it handles things with a great musical p.r.a.t. it keeps doing all kinds of instruments very right , not being on the bright side nor on the warm side ..
One of the best bargain I got ,
adviced wholeheartly under the 1000$ as it sounds much more then 1000$ worth .
another vote , another higly satisfied shanling s100 mkII owner here .

This machine perform on the neutral side of the sound , and is very musical while mantaining a very good tonal portray ability and character .

I won't add more as all the qulities have yet been aforementioned .
I bought a Shanling S-100 Mk II recently and like it better than my old Consonance CD-120. Being able to go directly into the power amp is another plus.