Shanling UA5 Review

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User Experience & Controls

I am an Android 12 user, I also have UAPP and Tidal. Both of the applications detect Shanling UA5 right away. My phone initializes the DAC in seconds and listening to DSDs in UAPP is a seamless and easy process. Tidal works great also, without any bugs. The UA5 has a custom FPGA that handles USB data, sampling, and similar workloads. It is quite agile so you don’t really wait for anything. The UA5 offers easy-to-use controls. The Volume wheel also acts as a button, and when you hold it down, you access the device’s menu. In this menu, you can choose whether you want to activate a single DAC or double DAC, turn the auto-charge on and off, set the gain level high or low, change the power mode, switch between filters, set the screen timeout duration and adjust the channel balance. The UA5 does not have a huge driving capability, its SE can dish out 137mW into a 32-ohm load. I don’t recommend using 150+ ohm headphones with it.

The BAL out is almost twice as powerful at around 210 mW. The UA5’s power delivery is equivalent to devices such as the MoonRiver 2 or Beam 3 Plus. Additionally, the usage of LDOs seems to have worked because the unit has a good, black background with no noise. Furthermore, the device firmware is upgradable and I had absolutely no noise/jitter/RFI issues while using 4.5G/5G on my phone. 

Shanling UA5

Sound Signature

Immediately after my first listening session with the UA5, my Hippocampus pulled a string of a very distinct memory from a year ago. I’ve heard this signature before. The UA5 shares very similarities with the M3X which I reviewed around a year ago, here on Headfonia. Like the M3X, the UA5 features a smooth, balanced signature with slight hints of warmth, especially around the upper midrange and treble regions. It features a good note weight and a solid bass while staying transparent through the spectrum.


The UA5 has a solid bass performance. The bass is rounded and powerful and the impact is impressive. Especially from the balanced HPO. The bass quantity is slightly more than what we call reference or flat so the bass region boosts the general warmth by a small margin, resulting in a smoother, more engaging sound. The texture of the bass is very good, it does not feel artificial or unnatural. Instruments like contrabass have good authority and can be easily followed on a crowded stage. The bass stays controlled and does not bleed into mids or overly saturate the signature.

Shanling UA5


The midrange is engaging, smooth, and detailed at the same time. The smoothness comes from the polite upper mids and that’s a Shanling specialty. Mid-dependant instruments feel natural and engaging with plenty of details. The vocals are delightful and engaging with a good amount of thickness. The UA5 puts the vocals just a tad forward and places the instruments behind so you have a clear perception of the stage depth thanks to this positioning. It is a rare thing to get a proper imaging performance from non-full-size DACs so this is quite nice to hear.

The UA5 is not a detail monster and it does not try to be one, the details are there but you will have to pick them out yourself. The M3X has a similar behavior when it comes to detail-retrieval, both of the units are quite smooth and detailed but not in an in-your-face way. Furthermore, the delivery of the mids is unique, the UA5 does a great job of conveying the emotions from the track to you. 


The highs of the UA5 follow the rest of the spectrum by staying smooth and balanced. The treble extension is good, the UA5 has no trouble hitting the top octave and recuperates fast. The transients feel quick and agile while having no sharp edges. The treble resolution is quite good as well, especially for a dongle under the $250 USD mark. The quantity does not feel lacking and the highs have plenty of details. The UA5 has a very smooth character, it’s like it was crafted for long listening sessions. You won’t feel fatigued with the UA5.

Shanling UA5

Technical Capability

The UA5 has a solid technical foundation. The unit features a relatively wide and deep stage for a dongle. It offers good detail-retrieval, resolution, and clarity across the spectrum. It has a smooth, natural timbre with good note weight. The tonality of the instruments does not feel artificial or unnatural at all. The signature is also quite coherent, with no unwanted peaks or dips found anywhere on the curve. PRaT-wise it does a good job too. As I mentioned above, the attack and decay feel fast and the device handles congestion quite well, thanks to the clean background and good technical foundation. It also scales well with higher-end monitors like the Monarch MKII.

Let’s move on to the difference between the BAL and UNBAL HPOs. Firstly, the BAL output sounds slightly more coherent to my ears with tighter bass, slightly more energetic upper midrange, and better positioning of the instruments. It feels slightly more detailed and resolving, compared to the SE but the difference is definitely not huge. If you are already invested in BAL cables feel free to use the 4.4mm HPO but there is no point in spending $200 USD or more on BAL cables to use the BAL HPO instead of the SE HPO.

Shanling UA5


vs. Moondrop MoonRiver 2 ($189 USD)

The MoonRiver 2 is a competitive product by another Chinese company, Moondrop. The MR2 utilizes dual DACs from Cirrus Logic. It offers slightly more power and features a similar form/factor. Starting with the bass, the MoonRiver 2 has a flatter and more neutral bass response with less impact. The UA5 feels warmer and rounder in comparison. As for the midrange, the UA5 has smoother delivery here also, presenting the vocals in a more engaging way compared to the more neutral MR2. The detail-retrieval is better on the MR2 but upper mids can be quite harsh with bad pairings / bright IEMs. The treble on the other hand is a big battle between the two units.

Both of them sound very good but MR2 has better attack and feels sharper, slightly more extended in comparison. The UA5 is smoother, and rounder. The MR2 feels airier and more resolving. Overall, both of the units are quite good and technical-wise they perform close to each other. There is a distinct signature difference between the two units and people who enjoy warmer, smoother sound signatures should go for the UA5 whereas people who like their sound neutral, transparent, and flat should go for the MR2 instead. 

vs. Audirect Beam3 Plus ($189 USD)

The Beam3 is the latest offering of the Audirect. It features a single ES9281AC DAC chip from ESS Technology and two undisclosed op-amps. It can dish out 122mW into a 32-ohm load via unbalanced output and 230mW into a 32-ohm load via balanced output.Material-wise, the UA5 feels much more premium with its anodized aluminum exterior with a matte black finish. Power-wise, the UA5 offers almost as much power as the Beam 3 Plus and the BTR5, capable of delivering 210 mW into a 32-ohm load. The Beam 3 Plus on the other hand can dish out 230mW into a 32-ohm load. Sound-wise the most distinct difference between the Beam 3 Plus and the UA5 is the delivery. The UA5 offer more transparency, detail, and an overall cleaner presentation. The Beam 3 Plus has a less energetic upper midrange and treble region. It also offers a less spacious headroom. Technical-wise UA5 has a better stage depth and better coherency in comparison.

Shanling UA5

Last Words

It looks like Shanling has made a really impressive entry into the portable high-end USB DAC/AMPs. We have reviewed many Shanling devices before and like all of those, the Shanling UA5 as well, features great technology under its hood and has awesome design along with stellar build quality. It is totally pocketable and offers smooth but clean sound from both the outputs.

It has enough power to drive any IEM on the market and it offers good value for the money. If you need a solid portable companion and enjoy a smooth, balanced sound signature, I recommend trying out the UA5. It’s a solid device and USDB DAC/AMP dongle.


Page 1: Shanling, Shanling UA5, Packaging & Accessories, Specs, Design & Build Quality, User Experience & Controls

Page 2: Sound Signature, High, Mid, Low, Technical Performance, Comparisons, Last Words


4.4/5 - (259 votes)

Long time Tech Enthusiast, an ambitious petrol-head, Yagiz likes his gadgets and always finds new ways into the tinkerer's world. He tries to improve anything and everything he gets his hands onto. Loves an occasional shine on the rocks.

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