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Shanling UA2 Plus DAC AMP – Strong Little Guy

Shanling UA2 Plus DAC AMP – Strong Little Guy

Shanling UA2 Plus is a $ 89 USD entry-level DAC AMP with two headphone outputs, one in 3.5mm single ended format, and one in 4.4mm Balanced format. It will be the star of today’s review and will also be compared to other portable DAC AMPs including iBasso DC04PRO, ddHIFI TC35C, and iFi Go Link



Shanling is a large company from China making very high quality products, and actually having a portfolio that includes some of the best known high-end CD Players and desktop components in China, but also selling some nifty music players to the rest of the world, and going down to entry-level portable DAC/AMPs and Bluetooth receivers. They are available from Amazon but also other shops, Amazon being the one I usually work with for the quick delivery times and exceptionally good return windows, with no questions asked if I happen to not vibe with a product. 

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Shanling. I’d like to thank Shanling for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with the Shanling UA2 Plus DAC AMP Dongle. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it. The purpose of this review is to help those interested in the Shanling UA2 Plus Dongle find their next music companion. 


Product Link

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/46kgBEY

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/3pqc4jL

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/46hhzlu


Build Quality/Aesthetics

Shanling UA2 Plus is rather small, portable and ergonomic. The included cable only works in one direction, at least from what I noticed, and reversing it will make it stop working. Also, with smartphones like Motorola Edge 40 PRO, it tends to work only in one mode, but it consumes very little power. There is absolutely no delay when using Ua2 Plus as a USB DAC, it basically works flawlessly. 

When I first connected it to my windows PC, it had a pretty high noise floor, but it seems like that effect is gone when changing the mode it is working in. In windows, there is no separate volume control, it works following the volume you have set in your Windows machine, and this makes it really likely for you to start it up at full volume by mistake. 

The company has exceptionally good specs for such a tiny device, and although it runs warm, it consumes less than most of the competition, and offers a true balanced headphone output, with up to 195mW of power for a 32 OHM impedance, with a SNR of 117dB and a dynamic range of 120dB. The output impedance is 1 OHM for the balanced output, which would explain some of the higher noise floor I noticed with IEMs. 

There is also a 3.5mm single ended headphone output, which has a meeker 125mW of power for a 32 OHM impedance, with a SNR of 121dB, and a dynamic range of 121dB. The output impedance here is 0.5 OHM, so it will be better for IEMs with a super low impedance. Given that it is super lighty, at 10.6 grams, I can barely feel it while it is connected to my smartphone, but it has enough driving power and a good enough sound to be a good desktop dAC AMP too. It works without needing drivers for Windows, and Android. 

The UA2 Plus version consumes 60% less power in Standby, and 40% less power during playback compared to the traditional UA2, and it is based on Dual RT6863 Ricore Amplifier modules, and a single ESS ES9038Q2M DAC.  


Sound Quality

I have paired Shanling UA2 Plus with a multitude of headphones and IEMs, including iBasso SR3, Erzetich Thalia, HIFIMAN Svanar, RAPTGO LEAF D01, Austrian Audio HI-X60, Unique Melody Maven PRO and ThieAudio Ghost. It is generally better paired with Headphones and full sized cans than with IEMs, as the noise floor with IEMs is existent, and it tends to be audible, while with headphones there’s no noise floor to speak about. At maximum volume it is pleasantly loud and drives even iBasso sR3 pretty well, with very little distortion, being able to keep its cool despite the super low power consumption. Even better, the overall sound is slightly warm, also a bit flat and splashy in the midrange, but very wide, creating the feeling of soundstage rather nicely. For most of the pairings I’ve used the Balanced output, which has a stronger driving power, cleaner midrange, better dynamics, but also a higher noise floor audible, for IEMS the 3.5mm single ended output being slightly better. There is one device that is very similar to UA2 Plus, and that is iBasso DC04PRO, which uses the same amplifier chips and has a similar sonic presentation. 

The bass of Shanling UA2 Plus is very strong and punchy, it is able to actually bring a punch to Sennheiser HD660S, to the point where it has more depth, better sub bass energy and a punchier sound than even desktop DAC/AMPs like JDS Labs Element II+ AMP, and Shanling M1s. The bass has a good energy all throughout the bass, and it doesn’t roll off in the sub lows like with some entry-level DAC/AMPs, which is super pleasing to hear. The bass brings a bit of extra warmth, and lushness to the midrange too, but it is not a veil, rather a bit of extra substance that puts UA2 Plus in a place where I wouldn’t call it dead on neutral. 

The midrange is also brought forward quite a bit more than with most of the competition, making UA2 Plus a bit splashy, because it is very wide sounding, but also the midrange is very in your face. This makes most music sound very holographic and wide, very forward and aggressive, making UA2 exceptionally enjoyable with rock, EDM, pop and electronic music, but not a very good fit for classical, as the dynamic range is somewhat compressed (to bring the midrange forward, it compresses it somewhat relative to the background, and makes everything sound louder and more in your face). The midrange has a linear presentation when it comes to the frequency response, the lower midrange is presented equally loud and forward compared to the upper midrange. 

The treble of Ua2 Plus is not super forward, and it is a smooth and clean treble, the kind you listen to relax to, but which doesn’t roll off. Ua2 Plus doesn’t have any lack of airness, but it is not sharp nor harsh, being actually a bit brought behind the midrange, so it never sounds intrusive or over the top, even with bright headphones and aggressive music. 



Shanling UA2 Plus vs iFi Go Link (89 USD vs 49 USD) – The strength of both iFi Go Link and Ua2 Plus is how little power they draw, so it comes as no surprise when you’ll hear that both are very economic. This being said, that’s the only thing they have in common, because the driving power itself, is much higher on UA2 Plus which can easily drive headphones which are known to be hard to drive, but also have a more clean, clear sound with a wider soundstage and better resolution, better details and a more dynamic sound, being a full upgrade over iFi Go Link, but for a higher price, which can be considered to be almost double. 

Shanling UA2 Plus vs ddHIFI TC35C (89 USD vs 48 USD) – We have a lower price for TC35C, and it is a smaller device with a more ergonomic idea behind, but it has a much lower driving power, and the sound is considerably better as presented by UA2 Plus. We have better detail, better resolution, and clarity, with better bass impact and a wider soundstage on Ua2 Plus, which simply sounds more natural and more realistic. TC35C consumes even less power than Ua2 Plus, but at the point where you purchase a dongle, I generally would consider Ua2 Plus to be better to go for if you have a headphone or IEM with a balanced cable, and if you want to get a better sound that most smartphones have when they do have a 3.5mm headphone output, to which TC35C can sound similar, while UA2 Plus will feel like an upgrade. 

Shanling UA2 Plus vs iBasso DC04 PRO (89 USD vs 119 USD) – We have a stronger competitor in iBasso DC04PRO, but it also consumes quite a bit more than UA2 Plus, being a better option if you have a smartphone or laptop with a good battery and if you don’t mind it requiring a bit more power to work. The Amplifier chip used in both is the same, so they have a somewhat similar maximum driving power, but the DAC is different and iBasso employed a Dual DAC design, while Shanling went with a single DAC solution, which may explain the difference in power draw but also small differences in sound. The sound is less forward on DC04PRO, it is warmer, thicker and more powerful, with a brighter treble, but this comes at the cost of it being more power hungry. In theory, UA2 Plus also supports higher data rates and more exotic file types, but with the limited availability of those, I can’t confirm whether that’s useful for the average user. 


Value and Conclusion

We have very strong value from Shanling, and if you find that you’re always running out of battery, you’ll likely want to go for UA2 Plus, which has considerably lower consumption that most of the competition, without sacrificing on the driving power, and the sonic quality, compared to what else you can grab. It is also super nimble, light and tint, but it has both a balanced and a single ended headphone output, making it a great choice for those who want a versatile DAC AMP Dongle without breaking the bank. 

At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a powerful, dynamic and clean sounding dongle DAC AMP, with a wide presentation, a warm bass, but a smooth treble, and a forward, in your face midrange, and which has good detail and clarity, Shanling UA2 plus is fully recommended and a super enjoyable option for any music lover out there. 


Product Link

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/46kgBEY

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/3pqc4jL

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/46hhzlu

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Full Playlist used for this review

We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature.  I recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music! The playlists are different for Spotify, Tidal and Youtube, and based on the songs I enjoy and are available on each!




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