Shanling UA1 Review

Shanling UA1 Review

12 July 2021 0 By Petros Laskis

Powerful and Affordable

Pros: – Sounds good
– Crystal clear
– More powerful than the competition
– DSD256 and PCM 32bit/384KHz.
– Very affordable
– Small size
– Low power consumption
– Good build quality
– Configurable gain and low pass filter

Cons: – A touch forward
– Cable fabric prone to fray
– No lighting edition

The UA1 was kindly provided by Shanling free of charge.
Shanling never asked for a favorable review and this is my honest and subjective evaluation of it.
The retail price is $45.

Technical and physical specifications

The Shanling UA1 is a small USB type C DAC/amp adapter with an embedded cable.
It is powered by an ESS 9281P chip and supports DSD256 and PCM up to 32bit/384KHz.
It is compatible with Android , Windows and Mac but sadly it doesn’t support iOS.
A small USB – A adapter is included to connect with a standard USB port.


The power output is rated at 1.6V/32Ω that translates into 80mW/32Ω and the output impedance is as low as 0.5Ω.
The specifications are quite impressive for such a tiny USB adapter with THD – 0.001% , Dynamic range – 119dB and SNR – 119dB.

The DAC chip is housed inside a small rectangle body which is made from aluminum and measures 15x39mm with a total length of 115mm including the cable while total weight is a mere 8.3gr.


The main body is connected to the industrial quality USB type C plug with a Hi – Fi grade high purity copper wire and both inputs are reinforced with a molded plastic strain relief.

Overall build quality is very good and the UA1 seems to be quite durable although the cable outer fabric is prone to fray.

The UA1 uses an additional cotton shielding to prevent any interferences from wireless networks that are coming from surroundings or the phone itself.


Set up

The Shanling UA1 is plug and play with Android and Mac but we need to install drivers for Windows PC.
Unless a headphone is plugged in , the UA1 will remain into sleep state in order not to consume power.

One special feature that most competitive adapters don’t offer is the accompanying Shanling music app which is available for Android and allows the user to customize the UA1.



We can choose between the eighth available low pass filters , select the gain between low and high and adjust the channel balance.
The Shanling music app is a full featured music player but the user is not obliged to continuously use it as all the adjustments are stored permanently into the UA1 memory.

Sound impressions

In order to evaluate the UA1 we have used various entry level to mid price iems like the Moondrop Aria , FiiO FH3 , Meze Audio 12 Classics V2 and iBasso IT01X.

Right from the beginning it became pretty obvious that the UA1 sounds balanced and enjoyable with some extra energy into the treble.

Let’s start with the frequency response which is as flat as it gets and extends to the extremes of the audible band without rolling off.

Then let’s talk the noise floor which is as low as it gets and the UA1 is silent without any audible hiss.
Clean and clear the UA1 is one of the best dongles regarding internal noise and is able to resolve good detail for the category without becoming analytical.


The sound projection is quite spacious and favors an open wide soundstage with precise positioning and good cues of reverb and echo.

Bass is textured and full bodied , well controlled and tight with satisfying dynamics.
Mids and highs are clear and present with good layering and separation so everything sounds well defined without missing a single note.

Mid to high register vocals and instruments are weighty enough to keep up with the base foundation but reaching higher there is a certain loss in body weight.

The decay becomes a little rushed and some digital artifacts creep in so the UA1 will sound a little bit forward and lean with a touch extra energy but never harsh or etched.

So some users might think of it as overly energetic or aggressive but mind you that we are talking texture quality and timbre characteristics here and not frequency response which is flat without accentuating the treble.


Power output is higher than the competition and the UA1 is one of the most powerful dongles for the category and the size.
It was able to drive every iem we have tested with surplus of headroom and also yielded satisfying performance with easy to drive headphones like the HD660S.

A brief comparison against the Rhodium and the A30

Two of the best entry level budget USB dongles is the Periodic Audio Rhodium (review) ($49) and the SoundMAGIC A30 (review) ($59).

The first one is tiny with a minimal footprint and low power consumption but it’s power output is limited to 1 Vrms.
The other one is a little bulkier but it has physical control buttons and a water resistant design while it can do a full scale 2 Vrms output.

That translates into 31mW(32Ω) / 25mW(16Ω) for the Rhodium and 31mW(32Ω) / 62mW(16Ω) for the A30 so compared the Shanling UA1 is definitely the most powerful of the three but the SoundMAGIC is the only one to double at 16Ω.


Sound wise , all of them are balanced and enjoyable with a touch of different flavor to the overall sound signature as a result of the DAC chips that are used.

The Shanling UA1 is more resolving and fast paced , with extra energy at the treble and sounds more forward than the other two who are more relaxed and analogue regarding the overall timbre texture.

Bass is tighter with greater layering and dynamics on the UA1 but with the downside of being leaner and less full bodied.
The Rhodium and especially the A30 feature fuller sounding mids and treble with better decay characteristics on the latter so the overall presentation is more natural and smooth.

Not surprisingly the Rhodium with the carefully implemented power filtering components is the cleaner of the three.

All three are highly recommended and they feature different physical and sound characteristics to fit successfully different use cases.

At the end

The Shanling UA1 is an excellent budget USB dongle that is going to significantly upgrade your everyday listening experience without breaking the bank.
If you seek extra power and you favor a crystal clean , spacious and somewhat forward presentation then this is the one to get.

Test playlist

Copyright – Laskis Petros 2021