• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

Shanling UP4 Review (DAC & BT Headphone Adapter)

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
35,004
Likes
130,463
Location
Seattle Area
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Shanling UP4 DAC and Bluetooth Headphone Amplifier. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $105 on Amazon including Prime shipping.

This is a very compact unit even though it has battery built-in:

Shanling UP4 Review Bluetooth Headphone Amplifier.jpg


There are two outputs: standard 3.5mm and "balanced" 2.5mm.

There is a nicely implemented volume control which has very fine graduations unlike the stock ones in the operating system.

A single mode button on top is heavily "overloaded" as far as functionality serving as both gain control and filter settings. I had no luck changing the gain when I used the unit on Windows. Switching them made no difference. Could be operator error although there is a firmware upgrade that deals with this on Android.

Some really nice specs are provided by the company (e.g. SNR of 120 dB or something like it) so let's see how it measures.

Shanling UP4 Measurements
As is common with many dongles, I could not properly use my ASIO interface to talk to UP4 so I am limited to just static test files. Fortunately we can run the dashboard:

Shanling UP 4 Measurement Unbalanced Headphone Amplifier.png


Ouch. This is disappointing. Distortion is quite high causing SINAD to sink so low. Switching to balanced output improves things a hair:

Shanling UP 4 Measurement balanced Headphone Amplifier.png


In this day and age, this is a failing grade:

Best bluetooth headphone amplifier review 2021.png


Balanced output at 1.7 volt is not high enough in my book (like to see minimum of 2 volts) to power high-impedance headphones. Fortunately balanced output remedies this as we will see later.

Dynamic range is also quite poor:

Shanling UP 4 Measurement balanced DNR Headphone Amplifier.png


Not sure where the 120 dB comes from. Sometimes these devices distort more when charging. I had a heck of a time decoding the many colors and blinking the one LED does but I thought it was indicating that it was happy and charged.

Jitter is very clean but then again the high noise floor covers many sins:
Shanling UP 4 Jitter Measurement balanced Headphone Amplifier.png


I struggled through changing the filter once or twice and got this:

Shanling UP 4 Filter Measurement balanced Headphone Amplifier.png


So the typical sharp filter is there which is what I used for the rest of the tests.

Most important bit here is power delivery. So let's start with 300 ohm load:

Shanling UP 4 Power 300 Measurement balanced Headphone Amplifier.png


As expected, unbalanced is not impressive but balanced is quite good:

most powerful headphone adapter 300 ohm.png


Situation is better at 32 ohm:
Shanling UP 4 Power 32 Measurement balanced Headphone Amplifier.png



most powerful headphone adapter 32 ohm.png


Shanling UP4 Listening Tests
I started listening with Sennheiser HD-650 using unbalanced mode. There just wasn't enough power there to get excited. So I quickly switched to balanced and now we were in business! The volume control was a joy to use compared to the terrible software controlled ones, or coarse controls on many dongles. The nice experience continued with Drop Ether CX. Plenty of volume, detail and dynamic range. Was it a bit distorted? Hard to say without a proper AB test.

Conclusions
As a stand-alone DAC, the performance of UP4 as tested is terrible. I say as tested since I could not change the gain. But I doubt that it would make that much of a difference. What rescues the UP4 is its balanced output and nice volume control. In addition, it has bluetooth which many such dongles don't have.

Because of the above factors, and despite the terrible DAC measurements, I am going to put the Shanling UP4 on my recommended list.


-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
Last edited:

Vict0r

Active Member
Joined
Nov 6, 2020
Messages
278
Likes
474
Location
The Netherlands
I use a Shanling M0 DAP on the go and it's a lovely little bit of kit. Supports usb-DACs (usb otg) as well, making it a cute little transport. I was hoping this dongle would be a cool addition to it, but it looks like Hidizs/Tempotec is still the way to go. Oh well. Thanks for the review!
 

Loathecliff

Active Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2021
Messages
141
Likes
133
So two good bits, and one bad.

Amir, you need a battered panther? :) (hereafter to be known as 'BP')
 

Palfim

Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2021
Messages
30
Likes
15
At first glance I got reminded of the q5 review, similar device for same purpose and sinad in the 80s.
But q5k has desktop class noise performance as attested by you and way higher dynamic range , but more distortion which results in a similar bad score I suppose ? And more power, plus about 90 sinad through ldac bt I think?
At that price point , I'd pick the q5k. Right now it's the only device which lets you lock to specific ldac values like 24bit/44.1khz. With everything else , I got sick and tired of going into the developer options every single time I reconnect BT.
Thanks for the review !
 

bobbooo

Major Contributor
Joined
Aug 30, 2019
Messages
1,479
Likes
2,007
At first glance I got reminded of the q5 review, similar device for same purpose and sinad in the 80s.
But q5k has desktop class noise performance as attested by you and way higher dynamic range , but more distortion

Note the measurements shown on the first page of the Qudelix 5K review are still incorrect due to the sample rate being set to 96 kHz despite the test signal being 44.1 kHz. The re-done measurement with the sample rate set correctly shows less distortion, with all harmonic products less than -90 dB (audibly transparent), lower than the max level of the Shanling UP4's harmonic products. Then of course there's the major advantage of the Qudelix 5K over all these competitors that has the potential to improve audio quality more than SINAD ever could: its in-built fully parametric equalizer providing system-wide EQing from any source (including over LDAC). It's a game-changer.
 

DavidS

Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2019
Messages
22
Likes
11
It is reasonable to go back and correct the Q5K review? It seems to me to undermine credibility if we don’t do that?
 

dorirod

Active Member
Joined
Oct 9, 2019
Messages
224
Likes
199
Thanks Amir for the review.

It doesn't seem too impressive. I'd like to see how the FiiO BTR5* stack up. Though for now Qudelix 5K seems to still be on top. Good to have so many options though. The FiiO BTR[35][K] haven't been measured on ASR right (couldn't find them through a search)?
 

Palfim

Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2021
Messages
30
Likes
15
Note the measurements shown on the first page of the Qudelix 5K review are still incorrect due to the sample rate being set to 96 kHz despite the test signal being 44.1 kHz. The re-done measurement with the sample rate set correctly shows less distortion, with all harmonic products less than -90 dB (audibly transparent), lower than the max level of the Shanling UP4's harmonic products. Then of course there's the major advantage of the Qudelix 5K over all these competitors that has the potential to improve audio quality more than SINAD ever could: its in-built fully parametric equalizer providing system-wide EQing from any source (including over LDAC). It's a game-changer.
Oh yeah, you're totally right thanks for that updated measurements ! I love the peq too , it's actually the reason (and usability,power ) I bought two of them and even gave the other one to my mum haha. You know mums don't eq, she thought I swapped her Sennheiser for an updated better one when I sneak plugged in the q5k with the autoeq values programmed in. Not a fanboy, it's actually well deserved praise, like I wouldn't ever get rid of my e1da susumu3k either. The support from the team on discord is unbeatable(especially from staticv2), you litterlarly get answered within 2 minutes, free of charge unlike some bigger well known companies.

So now we just need a fiio btr5 review to check all the bt amps from the list?

The recommendation for the shanling is still deserved, it does what it should and can drive difficult headphones in balanced mode.
It's just a hard market for these little bt amps, like 1 year ago that radsone balanced bt amp (forgot name) sold in the thousands in my country alone, everyone going to Amazon basically got it instead of something less known .
 

m8o

Active Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 28, 2019
Messages
276
Likes
186
That's a hell of a qualification attached to the recommendation. An arguably inconsistent one, in a casual 'by memory' sense of things I've read reviewed over the years and given the thumbs down. But it's Amir's site and he can do anything he likes. I'm okay w/that. Subjective application of a recommendations based on objective performance is not a science. ;)
 

buz

Active Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Dec 17, 2020
Messages
147
Likes
105
Thanks Amir for the review.

It doesn't seem too impressive. I'd like to see how the FiiO BTR5* stack up. Though for now Qudelix 5K seems to still be on top. Good to have so many options though. The FiiO BTR[35][K] haven't been measured on ASR right (couldn't find them through a search)?
FiiO app is borderline unusable (1) and the eq does not work with LDAC (I think not with USB either). Not sure one needs to bother...


(1) I have a BTR3 which technically has eq, realistically stops working when I turn eq on
 

dorirod

Active Member
Joined
Oct 9, 2019
Messages
224
Likes
199
FiiO app is borderline unusable (1) and the eq does not work with LDAC (I think not with USB either). Not sure one needs to bother...


(1) I have a BTR3 which technically has eq, realistically stops working when I turn eq on

Yeah I have the BTR3 as well. I like it for the most part, it's just that it would be nice if it had PEQ and some more power (unbalanced). I haven't tried the app's EQ since it's not fully parametric. I don't like the fixed frequencies so I never bothered to try it. The only good thing about the app is that it tells you the BT codec (without needing to decode lights), and allows for channel balance. I will probably get a Qudelix 5K next.
 

jam

Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2020
Messages
66
Likes
98
Location
Montreal
Surprising measurements coming from Shangling. They've been in the audio business long enough to be capable of doing better.
Thanks for the review Amir. You're feeling generous today my friend. Ah... yes it's easy Friday, jeans day. ☺️
 

Illtrick

Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2020
Messages
95
Likes
103
Location
Seattle
I briefly demo'd the UP4, BTR3, and ES100 MK2. With efficient headphones there was no difference in sound I could perceive. When using my Aeon X's the BTR3 didn't stand a chance. Ultimately I returned the UP4 and ES100 MK2 because neither could seamlessly hand off between two bluetooth devices (i.e. laptop and phone). The clip was also a feature that didn't measure up on the UP4.
 

Frankie-Shanling

New Member
Manufacturer
Joined
Aug 12, 2020
Messages
4
Likes
31
Thanks for review on our UP4.

First thing I would like to point out, UP4 is designed primarily as a BT receiver. Its USB input is very simplistic and also limited to 16/48.

For the Gain setting, not sure what exact issue you are facing? You should be able to just double press the mode button to switch between 3 gains in SE and 2 gains in balanced. Changing colors Blue -> Green -> Yellow(Only SE). Just be sure you have headphones or something connected and that UP4 is turned on (It automatically turns off when connected to USB).

For filters, UP4 has 4 different filters, but I see you measured just two? Just hold down the mode button for 2-3 seconds and when LED lights up, filter is changed.

These adjustments can be done easier with the companion app on Smartphone.
Colors of LED and controls are described on our website: https://en.shanling.com/product/257

For measurements, I sent them to our engineers for a comment, will let you know when I hear back ;)
 

Nel

New Member
Joined
May 8, 2021
Messages
1
Likes
0
Please note it is 4am here, but isn't the data for the jitter test missing? I believe it is only showing the focusrite which is at around -130db?
 
Top Bottom