Shanling BA1

Shanling BA1

7 September 2021 0 By Petros Laskis

Excellent desktop Bluetooth receiver with headphone amplifier

Pros: – Stable Bluetooth connection
– Crystal clear signal
– LDAC
– Good sound from the analog output
– Headphone amplifier
– Minimal footprint
– Beautiful
– LCD screen
– Budget friendly

Cons: – No coaxial output
– Fingerprint magnet
– Treble a touch lean

The BA1 was provided by Shanling free of charge.
They never asked for a favorable review and this is my honest and subjective evaluation of it.
All links provided are not affiliated in any way and I don’t earn anything by clicking on them.

(I am a very bad photographer and this was a pain in the ass to photograph so please spare me.)

Introduction

The Shanling BA1 is a Bluetooth 5.0 desktop receiver with a digital optical output, a full scale (2V) analogue stereo RCA output and a headphone amplifier.
The retail price in the EU is about €160.
Full specifications are available here

Technical specifications

The Bluetooth receiver inside is a Qualcomm CSR8675 chip that ensures extremely stable connectivity and thanks to the support
of all the advanced Bluetooth codecs, it allows for a Hi-Fi
level Hi-Res audio playback over Bluetooth.
The codecs supported are HWA/SBC/AAC/aptX/aptX LL/aptX HD/LDAC with the latter offering resolution up to 24 bit/96 kHz.
The DAC/amp chip is the entry level ES9218P by ESS, the same used in the Shanling UA1 portable DAC but configured somewhat differently.
The power output of the headphone amplifier is rated at 1.41V maximum voltage so it is better suited for iems and sensitive headphones.
The unit supports USB DAC function without the need to install drivers though it is limited to 16 bit/48 kHz.
The same USB type C input is used for powering while in Bluetooth mode but a power supply is not included in the package.

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Physical and appearance

The unit is actually very slim and small measuring 128x100x26mm and can easily fit in the most cramped desktops.
It is well made from high quality plastic with a nice black shiny color which unfortunately is a fingerprint magnet.
At the left side of the front face there is to be seen the on/off button, at the center a small, red LCD screen that displays various information and at the right the 3.5 mm headphone output.
At the back we have the analogue RCA output, the digital optical output and the USB type C input.

User experience

Operating is pretty easy as the BA1 will enter pairing mode after powering on and then after the initial setup it will automatically reconnect to the last connected device.
Up to two devices can be connected to the BA1 at the same time.
The “pairing” prompt will flash on the small red screen and after an established connection it will display the Bluetooth codec on use while under USB DAC mode it will display the input sampling rate.
Besides that a “LO” logo indicates that the analogue output is active while it will automatically mute upon headphone connection and the logo will change to a small speaker icon.
The digital optical output is always active no matter if we use headphones or not.

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The Shanling controller application

The unit is supported by the Shanling controller application that is available for Android and iOS.
It allows the user to manually select the desired Bluetooth codec, choose one of the eight available digital filters, modify the channel balance and configure the included equalizer.
There is also a selection between low and high gain, an OTA firmware update tool and the full user manual.
All choices are permanently stored into the BA1 memory until they are reset through the application.

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Operation modes

With three different outputs the Shanling BA1 offers great versatility and we can use it either as a wireless digital transport to pass the signal to a better DAC or listen to music through the analogue output or the very welcomed headphone amplifier that most similar devices don’t have.

Digital wireless transport

This is in the primary function of the BA1 allowing wireless communication with any Bluetooth device such as a phone or a TV set and passing the digital signal to an outboard DAC.
The connection is strong and stable without any annoying drops with a range up to 10 meter, depending on the thickness of the walls.
The transmitted signal remains crystal clear and thanks to the LDAC codec the overall quality loss is minimal and barely detectable at least with ordinary audio systems.
A truly hassle free performance and the only thing we missed is a coaxial output which is more stable and secure than the optical one.

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Sound impressions

The RCA analogue output and the headphone amplifier share the same sound characteristics so the following impressions apply equally to both of them.

The sound is balanced, transparent and linear with well extended low and high ends while timbre is natural enough and not very artificial.
Bass is there when it is called for, with good dynamics and layering.
Not the fullest sounding but quite tight and controlled enough, to easily count as satisfying at least for an entry level device.
Mids are well separated, always present with crystal clear and well rounded vocals, good instrumental timbre and enough micro detail to add the necessary insight.
The highs breath air and energy without being boosted but they do tend to lose some body and sound a little glary but nothing too annoying or piercing as to put treble sensitive users off.
The soundstage is airy and open enough without congestion with good positioning accuracy and acceptable depth although not quite holographic.

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Switching between the wired USB DAC mode and the wireless Bluetooth transmitter under the LDAC codec the user will be hard pressed to notice any differences, if there are any.
The headphone amplifier was mostly tested with some casual iems like the FiiO FD1 and FH3 but we also got great results with the easy to drive Sennheiser HD660s that felt well driven and not underpowered.

At the end

The Shanling BA1 is a budget friendly wireless Bluetooth receiver with a minimal footprint and an excellent wireless performance making for a great digital transport.
Add the very satisfying sound quality through the analogue output and the handy headphone amplifier and we have at our hands a versatile little device without any serious drawbacks that gets highly recommended.

Test playlist

Copyright – Laskis Petros 2021