Pros: + Great Modular design to support and array of devices
+ Great Resolution in a portable form with ESS Sabre ES9038Q2M DAC chip
+ Great Sounstage & Imaging
+ Balanced output of 2.5mm with 3.5mm in a tiny package
+ Powerful enough to drive most IEMs and headphones
+ Special Mode to support Gaming
+ Clear Bass & Mids
Cons: - Mild peak in treble as found in other ESS sabre devices
- Gets heated quickly when driving power hungry IEMs
Shanling UA2 - The new Portable Powerhouse USB DAC/AMP
I have bought this USB Dac/Amp with my own hard earned money and no one has paid me anything or supplied me with any review units. So, everything mentioned in this review are purely my own based on my experiences with the Dac/Amp.
Shanling is well-known for their wide range of Digital Audio Players and hence I do not see the need to introduce them to my audiophile friends.
Shanling had evolved significantly in last 5 years or so with a lot of products under their portfolio.
Based on the same great DAC / AMP chip as Shanling’s popular portable players and Bluetooth amplifiers, UA2 brings the same high-quality audio in smallerform and more affordable range. It is also an upgrade from their previous UA1 without a doubt.
It seems like Shanling has taken the guts out of their great Digital Players and put them into a smaller form. Shanling UA2 portable USB DAC/AMP comes with the same DAC chip that are being used in many high grade Digital players... the ESS Sabre ES9038Q2M DAC chip.
It also comes in a great minimalist form factor and is easy to fit into any pocket.
While there’s no support for Bluetooth, it has support for Balanced 2.5mm port together with the regular 3.5mm port.
Also, this support Hi res audio up to DSD512 which is enough for most audiophiles.
The specifications as mentioned in Shanling website is below:
The unboxing experience is quite minimal... It comes with a USB C to USB C cable and a USB C to USB A converter...
Following are the key traits when it comes to sound:
- Clean Sound
- Great Soundstage & Imaging
- Good resolution
In summary, the Shanling UA2 is a very powerful and great sounding dac/amp for the price.
I use Qobuz mainly and have paired it with both iPhone and iPad and in both cases found the performance to be great in all occasions.
Furthermore, I had paired the hip-dac with quite a selection of IEMs... such as: Fiio FD5, Mee Audio Pinnacle P1, Meze Rai Solo etc.. and the list goes on...
In Addition I had tried with different types of cable: 99% Pure copper and 7N 24AWG Pure silver cables to understand the differences in sound.
The tracks I have used can be found from the below playlist that I have used and generally use for most reviews... The BASS:
Bass felt quite clear and textured. There is good extension and depth to the bass. Every instrument sounds natural and there is good depth in the bass also. Overall good neutral clear bass. nothing overwhelming or overpowering.
Midrange felt great specially for instruments like Guitar - the sound is just rich & full of texture. Piano went down and decayed naturally, violins had good vibration, and was great sounding. Human voices are happening exactly in this region and very natural sounding for both male & female vocals.
It is pretty cool experiencing cymbals and bells in a very clear and defined way, there is more bite in there with some very occasional mild peaks. when paired with pure copper cable - this peak also went away giving way to amazing clear and textured treble.
Soundstage is just great for the price bracket and I found it above average both in terms of width & depth. It enhances further if used with a pure silver cable.
It is not unnatural and changes with the actual track.
Imaging & Timbre:
The UA2 produces a good amount of the microdetails and nuances. I think it is one of their best qualities. Layering is done well and it gives the user a decent amount of directional information and placement. Imaging and timbre further shines with the use of pure silver cables.
Imaging & Timbre:
The Shanling UA2 provides a detailed, well-balanced sound, and while listening to few tracks, I was impressed by how such a small & portable DAC/AMP could produce such detailed yet powerful sound!
I've found the UA2 to be very musical with great resolution and power performance and I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for small & portable DAC/AMP within this price bracket.