Shanling UA1 USB DAC/Amp review

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Known for their wide range of Digital Audio Players, I do not feel the need to introduce Shanling to my audiophile friends, we have seen Shanling evolve from a decent Chi-fi Brand to a Global brand with a lot of products under their portfolio. For those who aren’t very familiar with the brand, Shnaling has been in the consumer audio market for the last 5 years. Initially they were making some of the best DAPs in the budget segment.

Initially they struggled a bit with QC (M3s, back in 2017) of one of their products but from there they haven’t looked back. Now, Shanling makes some of the best and most popular DAPs and even though they were a bit late, jumped into the USB audio market with the Shanling UA1. Priced at just $60 it is an entry level DAC/Amp with plenty of power and enough mass appeal.

Get one for yourself from these links:

For Indians: https://www.headphonezone.in/products/shanling-ua1

USA: https://audio46.com/products/shanling-ua1-portable-usb-c-adapter

Asia: https://www.linsoul.com/products/shanling-ua1

TECH TALK:

Adapting same ESS Sabre ES9218P Hi-Fi chip

Hi-Res Aidio Certified Dongle, support up to PCM 32/384 and DSD256

Compatible with Android, Windows and MacOs

Comes with a USB-C female to USB-A male adapter

FREQUENCY RANGE20Hz~50KHz (-0.5dB)
THD+N0.001% @32ohm (A-Weighting)
OUTPUT POWER1.6V@32ohm (80mW@32ohm)
DYNAMIC RANGE119dB @32ohm (A-Weighting)
SIGNAL-TO-NOISE119dB @32ohm (A-Weighting)
CHANNEL SEPERATION77dB @ 32ohm
OUTPUT IMPEDANCE<0.5 ohm
DIMESIONS39 X 15 X 9mm body /
77mm Cable
WEIGHT8.3g

IN THE BOX

BOX CONTENTS1. Shanling UA1
2. USB-C To USB A Adapter
3. User Guide

For those who are not aware of all these jargon, let me simplify a few things for you.

If you are using a headphone/earphone with 32ohm, UA1 can deliver power of 80 mW or 1.6v. The only down side is the 77DB channel separation, which is still very good for a $60 dongle.

PACKAGING A ACCESSORIES:-

UA1 comes in a small tidy box. There isn’t anything special here, along with the UA1 a type-c to type A adapter can be found inside, what can you expect from a entry level USB dongle.

BUILD AND DESIGN:

UA1 doesn’t have anything fancy to its build quality. At just 8.3g it is a lot easier to carry around. The main body has a unique rhombus like shape with rounded edges giving it more ergonomically shape to hold. The body and type C jack are made out of metal giving it a sturdy feel to the hand. Thankfully the connector cable is externally covered with nylon braiding serves as a layer of protection from any mishaps.

CONNECTIVITY:-

UA1 works flawlessly with mobile phones and unlike some of the complicated USB dongles in the market it works without any hick ups with the desktop too. Just plug and play. No software required.

DRIVING POWER:-

UA1 is an entry level dongle and does exceptionally well with 99% of IEMs. It has no problem handling multi BA or multi DD or even hybrid IEMs. 160mw is more than enough for most IEM. Single DD with higher sensitivity like KBear Believe is driven without any problem either.

Being an entry level dongle it do not qualify to be used with headphones but it does not do badly either. It drives my Fischer M12s effortlessly. Headphones like HD6xx and HD58x too can be driven up to acceptable levels but the lack of power is unable to deliver desirable stage expansion. Driving non demanding headphones like HD598 and Emperior is much easier.

SOUND QUALITY:-

The UA1 excels at this. It does not introduce any coloration but a bit more dynamism can be seen across the spectrum. It simply do not have any preference or favors for a particular part of the spectrum but if the IEM sounds a bit cramped, the UA1 can help with uncompressing.
Bass:-

The lower end feels a bit tighter than it is with mobile phones. That’s because the added power provides much better control which restricts the IEM from getting muddier or interfering with the lower mids. It still has excellent bass extension and rumble to enjoy. A bit tighter notes result into better texture and details as notes do not overlap even with bassy IEMs. Do not expect the UA1 to boost the lower end volume and you are good to go.

Mid Range and Treble:-

What amazes me is the UA1’s ability to keep the whole spectrum clean and tidy. It does not have any tendencies to cramp or overlap notes which help with excellent transparency and details. I do not find a single flaw with the UA1’s mid range. It has the exact notes depth and body which I expect from the IEM. Let it be vocals or instruments the UA1 is able to extract the best out of the IEM. The only added attribute is its extra bit of liveliness which gives it a more tingly and crispy feel. It perfectly showcases the background and foreground abilities of the IEM which a mobile phones struggle with.

Treble region has class leading amount of transparency and extension. There is no lack of energy or sparkle. I love the way it maintains agility and keeps up with high speed tracks. Yes, those who are super sensitive to spark might find UA1 a bit aggressive but if you do not mind a bit of aggression, it is simply outstanding.

COMPARISON:-

Compared to the similarly equipped LG G7 the UA1 has more dynamism and liveliness. G7 is good with power too but does lack with a bit of density. G7 do not have the notes depth and finishing energy of the UA1. UA1 has better transparency too.

Both share similar dynamism but the sonicality of UA1 is much superior. As an audio source the UA1 is a better sounding option at a much cheaper price point and can be used with all the modern day mobile phones without 3.5mm jack.

CONCLUSION:-

UA1 is excellent as an entry level DAC/amp. There is no 2nd thought about it. It is the best dongle for under $60. Those who do not want to break the bank and want to have a small and durable DAC/amp at their exposal for a multipurpose use need not to look beyond the UA1.

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About Author

My humble audiophile journey started in 2010, when I was in college, where I fell in love with the elements, nuances, and variations of this mesmerizing world. The ability of tiny earphones to recreate amazing sounds made my bad days tolerable and good days better! Now I am a full-time audiophile with a preference for musical tracks, especially vocals and engaging ones. I must admit I am addicted, but not to drugs or alcohol, but to earphones. Come join me as I share my experiences, bad or good, and let’s have some fun!

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