Shanling UA1

DAC Chip: ESS Sabre ES9218P
PCM 32bit-384khz DSD256, SNR: -119, Power: 80 mW, 3.5mm SE (Microphone: Yes), Metal Chassis & OFC Cable


LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING


💚PROS

  • Clear neutral flat timbre, well balanced
  • Smooth dynamics with analogue presentation
  • Commendable Macro and Micro details retrieval
  • Balanced Mids with good textures and definition, natural Male/Female vocals
  • Treble is crisp and not overly bright
  • Smooth, impactful Mid-Bass, fast decays
  • Natural toned guitars, piano & percussions
  • Normal sized soundstage width and breadth
  • Good spatial imaging with proper placement/layers
  • Great speed and dexterity on complex passages and transients
  • Easy to update Firmware
  • Great tuneability with Eddict Player (Filters & Gain)
  • Works great with iOS via MFi certified adapters
  • Impressive driving power to drive FOSTEX T4RP MK4 at 70/100

💔CONS

  • Treble exhibited grainy/coarse edge and decays
  • Mild Sub-Bass responses
  • No volume adjuster
  • Heats up a bit driving demanding IEMs/HPs

VERDICT

Shanling UA1. This unit was released at the same time as UA2. Markedly priced lower because UA2 was built to be superior of the two. UA1 is a very basic unit with just Single Ended output and permanent USB pigtail. Works great with iPhone too, via MFi certified adapters (I used ddHiFi TC28i). After playing around with the filters option I opted for Hybrid Fast Filters as I always liked fast dynamic responses.

UA1, regardless of what filters I used (changeable via Eddict Player), offered “safe tuning” approach which made it relatively easy to adapt for many usage combination. It does not attempt to excel in any particular areas. Markedly well balanced Jack-of-All-Trades and master of none. In contrast it is apparent that UA2 offers superior sonic characteristics with better dynamic range and overall timbre/dynamics smoothness. UA1 is neither as smooth sounding but it does have solid crispiness. Sub-Bass responses mild with ample Mid-Bass performance to not sound boring. Mids are very neutral and well placed. While spatial imaging is good, it is not as sharp with separation lines or layering as heard from UA2. Evidently UA2 is also superior in technical aspect and resolution.

The biggest concern I have for UA1, audible Treble edges grainy textures when paired with highly resolving Headphones or IEMs. This was outright pronounced on my FOSTEX T40RP MK3, Etymotic ER4SR and VE Asura. Interestingly, UA1 sounded less grainy and a little smoother running from iPhone 7 USB 2.0 as opposed to Samsung S20 USB 3.2. I suspect the extra wattage from the powerful USB was not regulated refined enough by UA1 which seems to be optimized for USB 2.0. Sounds best paired with HZSOUND Heart Mirror and Moondrop Aria. Lively and engaging. However, the grainy edged high frequencies is still evident here.

Shanling UA1 is a “safe tuned” Dongle. Great for casual listening and will not induce fatigue for long listening sessions. Practically sounding good with all of my IEMs and Earbuds without being outstanding either – again, safe tuning.

⭐⭐⭐ ($40.00)

Best Pairing: Flexible for most IEMs and Headphones

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