Packaging & Accessories
Packaging as you can see in the pictures is simple yet sleek. Both of the devices come with a USB-C Cable & removable Clip Case, but that’s it. At this price point, should we really expect more?
Build Quality & Design
I have used several of Shanling’s devices and they really do manufacture robust devices, these units are no exception. Both devices also have the same build quality.
The body is Aluminum Alloy CNC, covered with 2.5D glass on sides. It’s pretty but the glossy surface attracts fingerprints though. Some people absolutely hate that, so take that in mind. Also, it’s easier to scratch as well. So be careful with how you handle the units. Maybe Shanling should consider going full aluminum, but I’m sure we then have other things to complain about.
The plugs feel solid and the 64-step volume wheel feels accurate. It has a nice tactile feeling to it and that’s always important when on the go. I am also glad that they went with a wheel instead of push buttons. For me this is a nice addition to this sleek looking device.
Both of the devices have a neutral sound signature and there seems to be little to no coloration which is excellent. I am certain that that Shanling focused on clarity and transparency with these Bluetooth devices.
The UP2 and UP4 maintain excellent control over the whole spectrum. Nothing is sharp or edgy or too much. There’s no improper band elevation at all. Many BT DAC/AMP combos I used before had some kind of low region problems such as lacking in rumble, lacking in that “smack” effect that we all love and enjoy.
“Harmonics.” They are after all, the reason of our toe-tapping sessions. Fortunately, Shanling got them right. There seems to be no issues with low region authority. I am using the Fearless Roland with them and what I hear is clear, articulate bass response with enough oomph to get you going. I’ll try to compare them in the next chapter, let’s see if UP4 worth extra 20 bucks.
For starters, UP2 sounds a tad thinner compared to its bigger brother, but the difference is subtle. Resolution-wise there for sure is notable difference between the two. The UP4 has richer vocals, a more accentuated low region and sharper highs. All this resulting in a more refined presentation. The overall resolution and detail retrieval of both devices are impressive, especially for the price and form. The UP4 is a step ahead of his little brother in this regard as well.
Technicalities are where the biggest differences lie between the double trouble siblings. The UP4 is more capable in the instrument separation and PRaT sections, resulting in an effortless and relaxed presentation. This pretty much justifies the extra $20 for me.
Furthermore, both of them have good power delivery despite their small size. I conducted my testing with the HD58X, which is a 150Ω headphone from Sennheiser. The UP2 had trouble driving it and I would not recommend getting the UP2 if you’re planning on using full sized cans. Fortunately, the UP4 provided enough power and successfully fed my HD58x. I have not experienced any sibilance during my testing of both devices.
To sum things up, I honestly think that both the UP2 and UP4 are capable devices and if you pair your favourite head and earphones phones with either, you will not experience much of a bottleneck here. You don’t often hear these words about Bluetooth DAC/AMPs very often, so I’d definitely give them a try as they won’t break the bank.
Apart from the good and jolly, I also have a couple of things I don’t like as much about the UP2 & UP4. In the operation manual, it is stated that the device needs to be used with DC5V 1A or it may be damaged. For me this is weird because I was told that this was the age of fast charging. The users may not have chargers anymore with such low output. Shanling should have used some kind of power stabilizer in order to protect devices during charging. A possible solution would be to include a suitable charger in the box.
Another problem I ran into was with the UP4, when I experienced quite loud hissing whenever I stopped playback. This also caused trouble when I paired the UP4 with my B&O Lab 4000, active speakers, in my living room.
In conclusion, I can still easily recommend these devices to people who want to set themselves free of hefty DAPs, and just have a good time running around with 40g of pure Bluetooth bliss.