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Shanling UP4 Review (DAC & BT Headphone Adapter)

GWolfman

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Thanks, but Qudelix 5K is still at the top of my "to-buy" list.
 

stalepie2

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Huh. I would have thought this would have measured better. I was thinking of getting the UA1 for some reason.
 
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amirm

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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?
The graph is right. The label is wrong.
 

SOUNDSONIC

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I was caught in between UP4 and BTR5. With such measurement, I can easily go to the BTR5. But wait....the BtR5 has not been tested yet. Could it be better or worse? Thanks a lot, Amir. This review will surely influence my decision. Much more , with your indulgence if you could also measure the Fiio.
 

SOUNDSONIC

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The UP4 and BTR5 share the same chippos. Is it safe to assume tthey have the same measurements?
 

Zerohour

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I'm hoping this does not become a trend with other Shanling products, really keen on trying out the Shanling UA2
 

Berwhale

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The UP4 and BTR5 share the same chippos. Is it safe to assume tthey have the same measurements?

No, how they measure will depend on the implementation (i.e. the cirucuit board design and other components the DAC is paired with).
 

staticV3

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I was caught in between UP4 and BTR5. With such measurement, I can easily go to the BTR5. But wait....the BtR5 has not been tested yet. Could it be better or worse? Thanks a lot, Amir. This review will surely influence my decision. Much more , with your indulgence if you could also measure the Fiio.
Here are measurements of the BTR5:
https://www.l7audiolab.com/f/measurementreview-of-fiio-high-fidelity-bluetooth-amp-btr5/

All measurements were done via USB and with an isolator, since the BTR5's USB bridge is pretty bad, resulting in lots of added noise if connected straight to a PC.
 

SOUNDSONIC

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digititus

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I had the baby UP2, which I liked a lot (until the control/volume wheel broke). Never used it as a USB DAC, but it was very competent for mobile use with Bluetooth. I understand the test suite needs to be consistent across all tested products, but as Shanling has stated, the main purpose of this product is to be used as a BT receiver. I can't imagine BT will test any better than USB, but to see a comparison of BT receiver vs BT receiver tests would be insightful.
 

raistlin65

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I had the baby UP2, which I liked a lot (until the control/volume wheel broke). Never used it as a USB DAC, but it was very competent for mobile use with Bluetooth. I understand the test suite needs to be consistent across all tested products, but as Shanling has stated, the main purpose of this product is to be used as a BT receiver. I can't imagine BT will test any better than USB, but to see a comparison of BT receiver vs BT receiver tests would be insightful.

If it tests worse with a USB connection than using BT, then there is likely something wrong with the firmware.
 

raistlin65

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@amirm sent me back my UP4.

Amir had it in high gain mode.

Shanling specs describe it as 71mw into 32 ohm high gain, 91mw into 32 ohm double DAC boost mode.

https://en.shanling.com/product/257

Amir measured 65mw into 32 ohm before clipping in high gain. So not that different from Shanling.

Would have been good to know if the power vs distortion profile follows the same pattern for the dual DAC mode.
 

flre

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Hi,

First thanks Amir for another great review!
Although this may not be the perfectly right place I feel I need to share some of my experience here concerning portable BT receivers, including the UP4. Mainly because below each of these reviews, a discussion about the alternatives starts at some point. And I briefly owned the BTR3K, UP4, ES100, BTR5 and finally settled on the Qudelix 5K. I am not an audiophile and actually just started to get into the technicalities of audio gear while searching for a way to do so wirelessly. I was perfectly content with my iPhone 6S's output before upgrading to an XS. I mainly listen to music while doing sports, outside and inside. I've got several wired headphones with different levels of noise isolation for these purposes that I like very much. And I didn't want to search all over again for wireless options when losing the headphone jack (found the lightning dongle kind of impractical). Plus I like the convenience of not having to throw away perfectly good headphones because the non-replaceable battery died.

That's when I discovered that there was such a thing as tiny Bluetooth receivers that would do the trick. But even though all the mentioned devices measure at worst OKish for my demands, I was quite disappointed with the first one I got - the BTR3. Turned out I couldn't tell a difference between iPhone 6S out and the BTR3 on USB, AptX (from my windows laptop) even SBC was fine. But AAC sounded more like playback from a cassette (source volume at max as recommended). Somewhat overly warm. Incidentally I was setting up a raspberry pi + dedicated digital out as an Airplay / Bluetooth sink for my old AV receiver at the time and thus knew that AAC was not supposed to sound THAT bad (at least not when using the Frauenhofer AAC implementation). Actually I couldn't tell the difference with the source being an already compressed Spotify stream on that setup. So the BTR3 went back and I got the UP4 instead. At first I was blown away by what I percieved as clarity and resolution. But I soon noticed that some songs I liked a lot were hard to listen to because the region around 4-7 kHz had an almost painfully piercing characteristic to it. Again, it turned out that over USB everything was fine. SBC, too. Well, signature-wise, anyways. I thought I could hear quality-degradation, which may or may not have been placebo. But AAC was a different story. In my layman's terms I would say soundstage somewhat narrowed and there was this uncomfortable, piercing quality to the upper midrange (?). I later saw at least one post in a different forum talking about distortion in the highs over BT with the UP4. Maybe that is it. By that point, I was kind of fed up with BT receivers already, but got the ES100. Finally, all codecs I could test sounded good. Different level of compression artefacts maybe but otherwise the same experience. I won't go into detail why I got the BTR5 and finally the Qudelix. The ES100 had quality issues with the charging port and the BTR5 had some firmware glitches and then the Qudelix was released and I loved the app of the ES100. Anyway, I couldn't tell a difference between wired and AAC with any of these last three and in particular even ABX'd the Qudelix versus the apparently-not-so-bad Apple Lightning adapter with a devastating (or perfect :) 50% correct identification just out of curiosity.

My bottom line is that while for my purposes all these devices should be fine as far as the predominantly wired measurements I can find go there are definitive differences in Codec implementation - at least AAC. I could not test LDAC or any other options except aptX or SBC. Nor do I have headphones with balanced cables (although I doubt that should make a difference). So even if the optimum use case is with higher grade codecs or USB, it would be quite helpful to see how these devices perform in their dedicated use case - as BT receivers, possibly with different codecs. Or at least bear in mind that despite good measurements, codec implementation might be off.
I must add that I could only test the BTR3 and UP4 for a couple of weeks (around June 2020) before the return window closing. So both companies might have fixed the issue with a firmware upgrade.
 

auberginemoji

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Ummm.... If you "couldn't change the gain" due to the "overloaded" mode button (which controls 2 functions), then these results are utterly useless.
 

Asylum Seeker

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BTR5 has a quick and easy way to toggle between USB 1.0 and 2.0. Would that make any difference to the test results?
 

Yasser 06

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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.


/


I bought this unit on Alie (before chinese paid the VAT in Europe) to replace my BT3 which could not power my easy to drive AKG k 702, it turns any headphone into a wireless device.
So it's very unique, there is little competition : the BTR5 and a more recent version of the UP4 (that cost twice much) .

One must avoid BTR3 and BTR5 since instead of a volume knob they use horrilbe buttons.

It is not intended to be a high fidelity device but it is very handy.

The output level is too low even for my AKG K 702 except if i use the so called double dac monde.

I don t have any headphone with balanced cables so i cannot comment about this.

The main default is the battery life which is like 5 hours ? in double dac mode.

Audio Technica just released the second version of its ATHM50X bluetooth with 20-30 hours, apprently it sounds very much like the regular ATHM 50 , but i m hesitant since this headphone is more monitoring and it never convinced me, but i should retest it since when i checked the ATHM40 of a firend i believe that my braidn just had to be used to a different sound signature and the more i listened to it the more i like it.


Anyway i would really welcome a similar receiver with better performance and higher output power.
 
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