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Shanling UP Portable DAC/Headphone Amplifier AMP ES9018K2M+MAX97 Support Native DSD Decoding

Rating:
4/5,
  • Description Small and extraordinary. The simplicity of beauty. Renew the sound quality for smartphones. Easy connecting to Iphone and Android smartphones. A set of different wirings for type-c interface. High gain and low gain selection.Suit for differene headphones. Specification Dimension:62*24*7.2mm Net weight:About 13g Sample rate:DSD native playback:64FS,128FS Output Level:1.45V32Ω D/A converter:ES9018K2m Headphone amplifier:MAX97220A USB interface:Type-c Output:pO(3.5mm) Output power:65mW@32ohm Frequency response:20Hz-20kHz(-0.5dB) THD+N:<0.004%(600mV@32) SNR:>108dB Clock Jitter:30ps(Typ) Referenced clock Jitter:200 femtosecond Supported OS:Windows XP、7、8、10(32/64bit),MAC OS*10.7 or upgrading ones,Android,IOS Package Instructions Warranty card Lighting Type-C wiring Micro USB(OTG) Type-C wiring USB A-Type-C wiring Type-C(OTG)-Type-C wiring

Recent Reviews

  1. jinxy245
    Great Sound You Can Take Anywhere
    Written by jinxy245
    Published Apr 2, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Portability, Sound Quality, Android & IOS pairing
    Cons - Fingerprint Magnet, Lots of competition
    The item for review is the Shanling UP, which is a Dragonfly-esque USB DAC/amp for use from a computer or mobile phone. A huge thank you goes to nmatheis for lending out the UP for the purposes of this review. Shanling is a relatively lesser known audio company that has actually been in existence in one form or another since 1988, officially taking the name Shanling in 1996. Recently Shanling has been making a bit of a buzz in the personal audio world with their DAPs (I own the M2), and now they have introduced their first portable DAC/amp, the UP.
    Upfront.jpg
     
     
    I’ll start with a little about myself. I’m pushing 50 and have less than perfect hearing (50 is pushing back). I’ve been a music lover for as long as I can remember, and I learned to listen a little more critically during the few years I sold audio equipment (and the more I listen, the more I learn). My fascination/infatuation with headphones began about 4 years ago, and has only gotten stronger. I’ve only recently taken a more serious look at the hardware end of the audio equation, and I’m enjoying the journey.  The majority of my listening was done listening to FLAC, WAV & various MP3s with my Samsung Galaxy S7, and my HP all in one PC being used as a source. My tastes are fairly eclectic, but my listening centered on classic rock, folk, jazz, classical and various genres of EDM.
     
     
    The UP comes in a relatively small box, and not surprisingly there were few accessories (The Audioquest Dragonfly 1.2 I bought had only a storage pouch). The Dragonfly is made to go right into a USB type A slot in a computer or laptop, no wires required. Shanling took the other route, utilizing a USB type C connection for the DAC/amp and including various wires to connect to your source (USB C to A, USB C to micro, USB C to lightning and Type C to Type C).
    UpCords.jpg
     
    Physically, the UP is similar in size to the Dragonfly, though unlike the Audioquest, UP is made from “2.5D Glass” which I found very easy to smudge with fingerprints.
    IMG_0598.jpg (Fingerprint Magnet!!)
     
    There aren’t any controls to speak of, just a headphone out, a USB in and a low/high gain control.
    UpGain.jpg UpUSBC.jpg
     
    Set up was very straightforward. It was nothing more complicated than plug and play with my Phone. My PC required a driver download to get started. When plugging in the UP for the 1st time, it did seem that there was an attempt to self-install the driver, but that failed, Unfortunately, I also had bad luck downloading the driver from their website. I’m not sure if the file itself was corrupted, but it was a no go until I got a little help from originalsnuffy, who informed me that any of the Shanling USB drivers would work. After downloading one of the other drivers on their website, I was good to go. If you’re a fan of DSD files, I can report I had no problems playing the few files I have for test purposes.
     
     
    My first surprise came as soon as I received the package in the mail. I was excited to try out the UP, and all I had on hand was my HD600 & my phone. I figured, ‘why not? Let’s give it a torture test right off the bat.’ I won’t BS you, it was nowhere near the full potential of the HD600, but at the same time, it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it was better than the rated 65mW@32ohm has any right to sound driving a 300 ohm 102 dB SPL/V headphone from a smartphone. The bass was loose, especially on demanding tracks, the treble was a bit peakier, but the midrange, that beautiful Sennheiser midrange was still intact. I was surprised how listenable that combo was, but boy did it drain the battery quickly.
     
     
    Emboldened, I set up the UP for my PC. The results with the HD600 were better, but marginally, so I went on to see what kind of synergy the Shanling had with some of my other headphones. As you would expect, the UP pairs best with lower impedance headphones, and that’s what I concentrated on. I found the UP to add a slight “U” to most headphones I paired it with, and the result was pleasing with everything I tried. Starting with my 64 Audio U6 (ADEL), I was concerned the pairing would be less than ideal, but It was musical and not over done at all. The U6 is a pretty neutral earphone, and the UP didn’t change that. It did bring a touch more emphasis to the bass and treble without sounding unnatural, or impacting the midrange. The fantastic Cymbal work in Alex Skolnick Trio’s version of ‘Still Loving You’ had a bit more shimmer in the intro, and the bass had slightly more impact.
     
     
    Moving on to my AT M40X was a match made in Heaven. They are relatively easy to drive (98db, 35 ohms) but they can sound shrill when underpowered. Paired with the UP, they sounded as good as I’ve heard them.  The pair gave ‘Love Will Keep Us Alive’ from Eagles’ Hell freezes Over a terrific sense of space, highlighting the best of this well recorded tune. Similarly pleasing results were found trying my Cardas A8 with the Up. The A8 does bass really well (IMO) and listening to deadmau5 ‘Bad Selection” from 4x4=12 is a perfect example. When the synth drops at about 30 seconds in, it’s as clean and powerful as you could hope for. The bass has distortion in the recording itself, so if the audio chain isn’t up to snuff, it’ll sound really loose and break up. No such problems here. If you like EDM, I can’t see you not moving your feet with that combo.
     
     
    When comparing the Shanling UP to the Audioquest Dragonfly 1.2, one advantage that goes to the UP is being able to pair with a smartphone. Having a high quality audio source that can literally fit in your pocket is a convenience only rivaled by a decent DAP. It could definitely be argued that the UP/smartphone pair is a more convenient solution, especially if you factor in streaming (which I have no real experience with). So I’d give +1 for Shanling.
     
     
    In direct sonic comparison, the playing field is more level, and it becomes a matter of preference. I found the Shanling to have a little more power on tap, and to be more sparkly overall, with the 1.2 sounding more smooth. The ‘edges’ around cymbals and such are more etched with the UP, which depending on the recording (and the volume), can be a boon or a bane. I didn’t experience the Audioquest as having any less detail, but rather a more laid back presentation to the upper register.  I found the midrange to be marginally more vivid on the Audioquest, male and female vocals sounding a little further back on the Shanling. Bass was the most similar, with the UP having a bit more mid bass overall, but otherwise being close in quality and quantity.
     
     
    On sound quality alone, I’m not sure there is an obvious winner between the two. Feature wise, it’s really not a fair fight. Whereas comparing Audioquest’s more current models would be more appropriate, the Shanling up has the clear advantage here, pairing with a smartphone as well as handling DSD 128 and a max PCM sampling rate of 192 kHz (Dragonfly 1.2 maxes out at 96 kHz). The 1.2 is discontinued, but is still reported to be available on Amazon for $115-$125 USD. The UP retails for about $150, but is currently on Massdrop for $125 (Which means it will be again). Shanling just gives you more for the price.
     
     
    Shanling did a really good job with the UP. It’s easy to use, and more importantly it sounds great. It can do justice to some more demanding headphones, but really starts to sing when paired with lower impedance headphones & earphones. If you’re looking for an easy portable solution that can pair with a smartphone or a laptop, you owe it to yourself to check out the Shanling UP.
    Upangle.jpg
  2. originalsnuffy
    Good at What it Does; Turns a Smart Phone into a DAP; adds good Shanling "house" sound to PCs and Macs
    Written by originalsnuffy
    Published Mar 12, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Built in MFi for iphones; Easy to install Windows Drivers; Smooth Sound; Small and Lightweight
    Cons - Hard to Setup for DSD on PCs (really a PC issue); Somewhat Expensive
    When you ask most Head-Fi readers about purchasing a USB stick like device for computer audio; they will generally talk about the Dragonfly family.   Bracketed in between the two key Dragonfly unit prices comes the Shanling UP.  Priced at $150, it offers a smooth sound and easy to set up PCM playback.   If you want to turn your smartphone into a DAP you can add this unit and be off to the races.
     
    For Apple users, you do not need to purchase the Apple CCK device ($40 for the latest version).  The device has Mfi built in.   
     
    So let's explore both use cases; computers and smart phone.
     
    Computer:   The generic Shanling USB driver is easy to install on Windows 10 as it is digitally signed.  The download for the USB driver seems to be corrupted for the UP; but you can download any of the Shanling USB drivers and they all work with this device.     With the MAC no drivers are needed.   How does it sound?  With PCM, I found it smooth and powerful enough for my IEMs.  But then again I no longer have any inefficient IEMs so that is not much of a test.  It sounded good with the FLC8S and the Carbo Tenore.  I did not test my LZ-A2 with this but that is fairly efficient also.
     
    What about DSD?   I was finally able to get this to work properly with FOOBAR and JRiver.  It required quite a bit of fiddling with ASIO drivers to get this work properly.  At first with JRiver the volume controls were inoperative.    I switched from WASAPI to ASIO and then it started to work well.  I got the idea for using ASIO from the FOOBAR support sites.  I was also able to get FOOBAR to work witht the device after installing the needed ASIO and DSD plugins.
     
    iPhone:  I played back PCM and DSD files using my favorite swiss army knife media apps; NPlayer.   I also used Nplayer to play a home converted video of  live Rolling Stones (Marquee club to be precise).   Yes, Handbrake can be your friend for those conversions.   Everything sounded clean and correct; and better than the native iphone sound.  Now the iphone has okay sound; but i don't think it is particularly smooth and certainly lacks in bass punch.  The Shanling UP solved those problems.
     
    The downside?  Plugging right into the phone, the UP can suck power from the phone at a rapid rate.  I would bet that phone power time is cut by more than 50% when using this device.  I also had to reboot the phone once to get the device to work.
     
    Using with M1:  For gins and giggles I tried hooking up the USB C to USB C connector to the M1 and the UP.  The idea was that many people are using the M1 as a transport; so why not a transport to the UP?  Anyway, I did not get this working.  Granted, I spent more time trying to get DSD working o the PC and did not have the patience to troubleshoot this very hard.  I really do not know why it did not work.
     
    Conclusion:
     
    So why buy this thing?  I think it would appeal to the road warrior that wants to minimize the number of devices used when travelling.  For that context, it is great.  If you don't mind multiple devices; a dedicated DAP may be the ticket.   For example, my Shanling M2 can also be used as a DAC/AMP with the Apple Camera Connecting kit.  So that is a much bigger setup.  The effective cost is $90 higher; $50 more for the M2 vs the UP plus $40 for the Apple CCK.  And the CCK needs to be powered to work (power connections are built into the new version of the CCK).
     
    For its purpose, this is a good device and worth considering.  It has a similar sound to the Shanling M1.  Not as transparent as the M2 or, for that matter, higher end units, but still a nice step up from the built in DACs for most smart phones and computers.  
     
    If the "UP" was  $50 or even $75 it would be  a "no brainer" purchase for the audio gadget buyer.  At $150 I think the buyer should carefully think through the merits of a USB stick vs a full on DAP in DAC mode.
     
    IMG_2064.jpg
    IMG_2069.jpg
  3. ngoshawk
    UP with the "Encreasement" of Sound!
    Written by ngoshawk
    Published Feb 22, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Small-USB-size, an "Encreasement" of sound, simple to use (for Apple products), good push in sound, adequate power
    Cons - Glass smudges, too many competitors, a bit overpriced compared to competition, a bit "lumpy" in sound
    UP with the Encasement of Sound!
     
    When I heard the Shanling UP, I was perplexed. I had read many a comment espousing the virtues of the Audioquest Dragonfly Black (DFB), and especially the Red (DFR). People were making these tiny little wonders sound like the second coming, of well…you know. Kind of like the (pretty much warranted) hype surrounding the Chord Mojo. Sometimes the hype is real, and warranted. A device comes along that really does take us by storm. One, which works to not only enhance what we listen to but also allow us the freedom to use across many platforms. This I think is the true appeal of such devices. I have always had a place in my heart, and persona for multi-use devices…witness the Leatherman tool. This device took the portable tool world by storm (not that the ubiquitous Swiss Army knife did not, but you really needed the ALL OUT knife to fully appreciate it, and I still do, mine), when it came out and competitors soon realized they must jump on and compete or be left behind.
     
    th.jpg th-3.jpg
     
    Does one "need" more than a single multi-tool? Does one need more than a single amp...
     
     
     
    But it is the Leatherman with which my school bag becomes a smidge heavier. And I am OK with that; for I know the multitude of times I need a tool of that device. My colleagues often borrow it. I am OK with that, too. The UP may be such a similar device, over time; and should the accolades warrant, that would be OK too. I approached my time knowing a bit about such devices. Mainly only what I have read about the Mojo or DFR. But that was enough to pique my interest. And it was a good time listening, too.
     
     
    DSC_0121.jpg
    Lightning/USB cable/FLC8S...an excellent combo
     
     
    Build/Specs:
     
    Simple, small, straightforward, like a flash drive.
    Four cables: USB to USB-C, USB-C to Lightning, C-C, USB-2 to C.
    So small! $150…plug and play.
    2D glass on one side, matte finish plastic on the others.
    A compatibility switch for Android devices.
    As Fleasbaby says, “Sexy Shanling logo” on the front.
    Supports-DSD, 64 FS, 128 FS
    Ouput-65mW @ 32Ω
     
    DSC_0109.jpg DSC_0115.jpg
    A good sized box, and four different cables highlight the accessories
     
     
     
    Sound/Gear used:
     
    FLC8S
    Audioquest Nighthawk
    MacBook Pro
    iPhone 6+
    YouTube
    Tidal streaming
    Native iTunes music
    Onkyo HF iOS music app
     
     
    Sound off the bat:
    1. The UP boosts the mids, and they are definitely pushed forward. Not sure if it is better, as in enhanced, or just increased…
    2. Lumpy volume control…BIG jumps between notches on both iPhone 6+ and MacBook Pro…annoying…I came to find out that most battery-free DAC/Amps fall into this category; so I live with it. And that is OK.
     
    The FLC Technology FLC8S IEM sounds almost made for the UP. A well-rounded IEM, the myriad of options presented with the FLC8S, match the versatility of the UP. A good match it was, too. Since I like to find a sound, and leave it that way, I left my FLC’s with the Gray/Red/Gunmetal filters for the best bass. It does not disappoint me, either. This is the combo, which gave me the forward pushed mids at the get go…almost that “HEY! I’m over here, let’s play!” push. It is not unacceptable, as this type of device will do that. Think of it as a “gain switch,” and you will understand. As I stated, this type of device is new to me. Again, I do not find it unacceptable. I’m beginning to see the versatility (Leatherman!) of this type of DAC/Amp.
     
    DSC_0120.jpg
    The size of a flash drive, it is small
     
    Not quite the same loudness/push of sound with my Audioquest Nighthawks on YouTube and my MBP, as opposed to the FLC’s…still quite acceptable, just not the push forward as much as through my 6+. The Nighthawks do not seems to benefit as much, either. I know in my initial comments, I stated that the NH works just fine, and it does; but not quite the synergy as the IEM of choice. Maybe I am on to something…maybe this really is meant to be a portable solution, a jack of all trades portable solution. One, which you can find that perfect combo and take it with you.
     
    When I went between YouTube on Firefox and Sling, I had to unplug from the MBP, and plug it back in again…like a soft “reset.” I even switched between the HiBy feature and internal speakers toggle in the open “Sound Preferences” window. Different sound files? That said, Tidal works flawlessly, unencumbered by the change of songs. Me thinks the problem is going between videos.
     
    That HUGE lump though…I have gotten used to it, and I hear it is common with small DAC/DAPS such as this. Still annoying. That lump in the mids can make bass too heavy on some songs, especially through my 6+. I found no such overt push through the MBP, though.
     
    I had a very different sound between the 6+ (Amazon Music and internal storage music) and the MBP on YouTube. The 6+ seems to have a “deeper” sound, with a darker tone to it. Not sure if this is due to the mid-push, but I do like the sound. This seems almost contrary to my previous findings with YouTube and other tested equipment. A sound, which I liked very much with the Focal Elear/ampsandsounds Kenzie combo. We are talking about a difference of approximately five times the price, though. And very different paths. Not really a fair comparison, so we will leave it at that.
     
    Someone said on the thread (@fleasbaby), that he liked the iPhone sound better than his computer…initially I was not sure… yet after my week, I concur. I simply get a more “voluminous” sound from my 6+, than the MBP. Don’t get me wrong, the MBP is stellar in its presentation together with the UP, I just like the 6+ better. This does play well with what Shanling intends for the use.
     
    DSC_0111.jpg DSC_0112.jpg
    Oooohhh....shiny! And a print magnet. But still quite nice at which to look.
     
     
     
     
    Deeper/Final thoughts:
     
    To compare the UP to the DFR is almost unfair. Costing more, and more powerful, the UP was fighting an Uphill battle from the get go. But when hooked to a Smartphone (which is actually more its forte), the UP CAN hold its own. Happily I was quite happy with the combo of 6+ and UP. In fact I liked it better than my MBP combo. There was no lag in songs, no stopping, no stop/start…it simply worked. That said, could something such as this replace a dedicated DAP, such as their own excellent M5, or the new wonders on the block, the Cayin i5 or FiiO x5iii? Most probably not. But that is an unfair comparison. The UP is not meant for that, its virtues lie in the better sound it can provide your iOS or Android. THAT is where the DAPs cannot compete (besides $).
     
    DSC_0118.jpg DSC_0119.jpg
    Without a hitch, Tidal performed well through the combo.
     
     
    This is an easy “enrichment” of sound, but worth the $150?...I initially mentioned that I did not know whether this would be an enhancement of sound, or simply an increase in sound volume. I think that after my time with this unit, it is an “encreasement.” WHAT?! What in the world is that?! What say you, you Plains-stater?!
     
    Well, it is the best way I can describe what I FEEL to be the benefit…The mids are pushed forward (on some songs VERY forward), while bass is increased in any headphone I used. The bass through the FLC’s is truly magnificent. It was already good, but with the UP, I get that extra bit of OOMPH, that meanness of grumble. One that while small means business. This would be like that small kid, who when you look at him (or her) you think “150lb weakling.” Then, when they speak (or growl), you know that you better not rumble…or you will tumble. You feel that they have done that to others, and I for one, don’t want to be their next stumble! So, I gladly accept what the UP gives to me, with that cautious reservation of not having heard others in this same vein.
     
    DSC_0121.jpg DSC_0122.jpg
    Dwarfed, but do not let that fool you!
     
     
     
    I am thankful for the opportunity to try this fantastic little stick…it has opened another avenue of Head-Fi sound to me. This does give me real pause when considering a small DAC/AMP. But, is this something I cannot get from an amp alone? Of course it is, but to have the ability to bypass a “mediocre” DAC in a Smartphone for $150, may be the ticket. I can definitely see the appeal in such devices as this and the Dragonfly Red. But, without more testing, and sampling I am loath to add another amp/type device.
     
    Call me jaded by the plethora of choices we have, but I guess now that I have taken the step forward, I am more cautious with purchases such as this. Many people will use the UP and use it well, it is quite versatile and I get it. I’m just not sure if this is for me….yet…
     
    It is like Twenty One Pilots song, Car Radio…I am at a crossroads for sound…I have replaced gear, sold gear, drooled over gear, loathed gear, reviewed gear, borrowed gear, and purchased gear…but there still seems to be a hole. A slot, which I think needs filling. A slot, which I think needs filling with something else. A slot, which I think might be fulfilled with something such as the UP, to take me for that Ride. A slot, which I think may need another piece of kit, so that I do not have to listen into that damn hole. That silence of sound, which obviously NEEDS TO BE FILLED by something…or does it. Maybe I am destined to sit in silence, pondering with that jet-black noiseless void offered by the UP, whenst it becomes a distant memory.
     
    Then I hear Guns for Hands, and I am lost again…sigh…What have we gotten ourselves into, I think as I close the box…
     
    DSC_0109.jpg
    1. View previous replies...
    2. ngoshawk
      You are entirely welcome. Have fun with it!
      ngoshawk, Feb 22, 2017
    3. Jimster480
      Thanks alot for this review, it was very useful in helping me make a decision of whether or not to spring for this.
      Jimster480, Feb 22, 2017
    4. drbluenewmexico
      I just auditioned the UP and i agree with your review conclusions!  Enhanced midrange
      and volume boosts out of HTC 10, utility form factor a plus, but lumpy sound is good description, and loss of treble details. an enhanced sound probably for lesser phones, but HTC 10 sound natively superior.  would be useful for devices with lesser dac optimizations and volume boosting needs. will be useful for some... enjoyed the spirit of your review, and the conundrum that many head-fires face of "have to find a way i need this new device.."
      drbluenewmexico, Feb 24, 2017
      AlbertoRMRB likes this.

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