Shanling H2 Review

In this article we take a look at the whole new Shanling H2. A compact DAC/Amp selling for just $169 USD.

 

Disclaimer: Shanling sent us the H2, free of charge, for the purpose of this review. In exchange, we’re going to give our honest opinion, as always.

About Shanling

Founded in 1988, Shanling has been developing Hi-Fi products for more than 30 years now. From high-end CD players to classy tube amps, the brand made a name thanks to great craftsmanship and top-of-the-line performance, embodied by devices like the new T35 – an ultra high-end CD Player – or the new SCD1.3 a lovely all-in-one CD/Amp/DAC player – something that I’d love to try too.

Shanling also developed a complete range of players and IEMs, like the M6 and M6 Pro (21) that I previously reviewed, now topped by the Shanling M6 Ultra, the M7, and the almighty M9 Plus that Berkhan and Yagiz loved and praised, with good reasons.

And, in addition to all of that, the brand also have a full range of delightful portable DAC/AMP today, like the Shanling H7 and H5 – two wonderful devices that I previously reviewed – or compact USB-sized DAC like the UA4 and UA1 Plus.

But, all of that was just an introduction to the new H2: the smallest version of the brand’s flagship DAC/Amp. The new reference in the sub-$200 bracket? Time to find out!

Design & Build Quality

Casing

As usual with the brand, build quality is absolutely flawless – even phenomenal considering the asking price.

No gaps, premium materials everywhere your eye can see, and your hand can touch, thanks to the same aluminium unibody case found on the higher end device. And, with the two scroll-wheel now directly integrated into the body, the Shanling H2 feels even more natural to hold and control. Truth be told, out of the three devices (H2/H5/H7) the H2 definitely is my favorite one : I find it simply gorgeous – even more with the black finish.

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And, if the H7 was kind of massive – even if not as big as the FiiO Q7 – the new Shanling H2 is a lot more nimble. I considered the H5 a good improvement compared to its bigger siblings, but that didn’t mean the DAC was, by no means, a small device nor a lightweight one. But, with the H2, that isn’t true anymore and I considered it tiny enough to be carried away in my jean pocket, and not in a dedicated pouch.

Size-wise, the DAC is now 102 mm tall, 71.5mm wide, and 21.5mm thick, with a total weight of just 185.3g – a massive shave-off compared to the H7 and H5 – and that’s without the leather case.

It’s still an incredibly geeky device, with a screen that’s way too small/sharp for a portable DAC/AMP, but in the meantime, the H2 benefits from all of Shanling’s finesse – just look at how nice those wheels look and feel. Flagship build, for less than $200? Count me in!

Layout

Like the H5 from which it derives from, the Shanling H2 offers a surprisingly solid I/O that should cover most modern use.

On top you get:

  • a power on/off button
  • a control button that allows you to switch between the various source, or access the menu option

Then, upfront you have:

  • two scroll wheels, respectively used to control the DAC, and to set the volume

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And, finally, at the bottom you get:

  • a 3.5mm headphone output, so you can connect your headphone (unbalanced)
  • a 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced headphone output, to connect a balanced headphone
  • two USB-C port, one for the charge / one the data

Backside, you have:

  • a full-size line-out, with L/R RCA ports
  • a 3.5mm digital line-in coaxial or mini-toslink (the Jack to Cinch port is included)
  • two USB-C ports, with one used for charging and the other one for Data
  • and, once again, a micro-SD port!

And, last but not least, you also get a monochromatic 0.9” LCD (not oled) screen, that displays all the information like volume, playback info, options, or even the name of the track playing. Lovely!

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Screen

Usually, a screen on a DAC/AMP is just for show. But, once again there’s a real purpose and the Shanling H2 definitely makes good use of its screen, even if visually it both look better/worse than before. Better because the fonts look even crisper, worse because LCD still cannot catch up with OLED in terms of pure quality.

Sure, it’s not the first device of its kind to get a screen – xDuoo or FiiO already did that – but the H2 really make a good use of this is one of the first to carry its own embedded player, thanks to its micro-SD port. A feature that appears quite useful in many situation, creating the old but funny Apple iPod mini behavior: you put your music, put everything in shuffle, and just enjoy the trip.

Again, it’s ridiculously small but I didn’t have to crank up the brightness, but fonts are sharp, responsiveness is great and overall, this one delivers a great experience. Even more if you take account of the fact that… it’s a DAC/AMP, not a DAP!

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Bundle

Inside the box

The Shanling isn’t really well-dotted, but you do get the mandatory accessories.

Inside, you will find :

  • 1x Shanling H2
  • 1x USB-C to USB-A cable
  • 1x USB-C to USB-C cable (short)
  • some documentation

Sadly, the device only comes with a sole USB-C port and no USB-C to 8-Pin adapter, but thankfully I just had to use my ddHiFi TC28 Pro to connect the H2 to my iPhone – and those who’ll get the new iPhone 15 and 15 Pro will be able to plug the DAC to their phone directly. Lucky!

The article continues on Page Two, after the click here

Page 2: Everyday Use
Page 3: Specifications
Page 4: Sound performances

4.8/5 - (19 votes)
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A nerdy guy with a passion for audio and gadgets, he likes to combine his DAC and his swiss knife. Even after more than 10 years of experience, Nanotechnos still collects all gear he gets, even his first MPMAN MP3 player. He likes spreadsheets, technical specs and all this amazing(ly boring) numbers. But most of all, he loves music: electro, classical, dubstep, Debussy : the daily playlist.

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