Shanling UA2 Portable DAC/AMP Unboxing & Impressions: Hi-Res In The Pocket
Shanling doesn’t need any introduction to HiFi Audio fans. They have been in the business for over 30 years manufacturing everything from CD players to desktop amplifier systems. For the past few years, the brand has been constantly developing high-quality portable products such as IEMs, Digital Audio Players, and USB Portable DAC/AMPs. I am here today to discuss their latest Portable USB DAC/AMP, the Shanling UA2.
Shanling unveiled its two latest Portable USB DAC/AMPs last year, the UA1 and the UA2. UA1 is the entry-level device that was released recently after the announcement of both products. The high-end UA2 is released just a few weeks back bringing new features such as balanced output, high-performance Sabre DAC, powerful output, and more features. Shanling UA2 is available on the HiFiGo store for 85$, you can check out other features and technical details on their store here.
Packaging & Accessories:-
The Shanling UA2 comes in a small cardboard case with the UA2 product image and Shanling branding logo on the front & technical features on the back of the top cover. Inside we have the Shanling UA2 and USB Type-A adapter placed firmly in the foam layer. Below we get a Type-C to Type-C connector cable along with a quick start guide, a warranty card, and two Hi-Res audio stickers. The packaging is minimal and comes with all the accessories required to get one going. The only thing it lacks is a lightning connector cable to use UA2 with iOS devices. It will be available separately. You can check our unboxing video on YouTube below.
>Shanling UA2 USB DAC/AMP.
>USB Type-A Adapter.
>USB Type-C to Type-C cable.
>Quick start guide.
>Hi-Res Audio stickers.
Design & Build Quality:-
Shanling UA2 has a premium shimmery finish. It is quite lightweight making it versatile and easy to carry around. There are two headphone output ports on the front(one is 3.5mm single-ended and the other is 2.5mm balanced), and a USB Type-C connector port on the backside. It has Shanling, UA2, Hi-Res Audio branding logos on the top, and a Mode switch on the side of the UA2. This mode switch allows using the UA2 with Nintendo Switch gaming console. There is also a small LED indicator light near the headphone ports that glows in different colors as per the playback file bitrate. In terms of design and build quality, the UA2 is a very well-built product with a premium finish. The included Type-C connector cable has a sturdy build too.
The Shanling UA2 can be connected easily to any Android and PC/Laptop device with the provided USB Type-C to Type-C cable and Type-A adapter. For using it with iOS devices one will have to purchase a lightning cable separately. No issues in connecting it with any devices such as Huawei Mate 40RS Porsche edition and windows 10 laptop. It offers plug-and-play support.
There is a companion app that users can install on the connected source device(such as smartphones). It allows for fine-tuning volume, adjusting gain, or changing the digital filters that affect the output.
For this review, I used the flagship TRI Starlight IEMs equipped with four EST, two BA, and one DD driver units. The pair showed widely expanded dynamics and extension, drastically improved sound output with a generic USB Type-C DAC/AMP with the smartphone. I never had to go above 30% volume level to let the Starlight shine with all its glory that shows that the UA2 has good enough power to power up IEMs and earbuds easily on the go. I also used it with iBasso SR2 full-sized headphones for a brief amount of time and was completely satisfied with the dynamics and level of the output on the high-gain mode chosen using the companion application.
Shanling UA2 provides an ultra-clean background and better dynamics in the output when compared to the generic smartphone output. It does not color the output in any way and presents the users with a natural approach showing the true pros and cons of the connected earphones or headphones. But with the extra power that the UA2 provides brings drastic improvements in the sound output showing better controlled lower end, good extensions at both the ends, Great layering, Noise-free dark background, and so on.
With the UA2 in the chain, IEM like Tri Starlight showed better control in the lower end with precise punches and deep extensions. The lower end showed improved quality with rich texture and details with every bass drop. It doesn’t sound bloated, loose, or muddy and is presented in a fine manner.
The mids showed good clarity and quality, thanks to the precisely controlled lower end. There is no muddiness in fact acoustic instruments, wind instruments, vocals everything is precisely detailed and has a good sense of airiness. With such clean output, the connected earphones show an extra bit of liveliness and engaging factor for its users.
The Treble portion shows class-leading extension and airiness in the output. When tested the Tri Starlight with a generic dongle it lacked such extensions and sounded quite compressed. Using the UA2 brings out the true liveliness of the pair with excellent extensions and clarity in the treble portion.
With the extra bit of power that UA2 provides the connected earphones/headphones excel in soundstage providing a wide sound stage with a good sense of depth and height. The output has a pitch dark background that pops out instruments with ultimate separation and clarity.
Shanling UA2 does its job excellently. It brings tremendous improvement in the sound quality with improved dynamics, clean background over the regular smartphone output. For about 85$ it can easily compete with some entry-level DAPs and presents the users with excellent Hi-res music enjoyment without breaking the bank.