Shanling UA2 Plus Review

Shanling UA2 Plus review featured

In this review, we take a look at the Shanling UA2 Plus dongle DAC. The UA2 features an ES9038Q2M DAC Chip plus 3.5mm and 4.4mm outputs. The price is $89.

Disclaimer: This sample was provided by Shanling for an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.

Shanling UA2 Plus Review
The Shanling UA2 Plus has gorgeous design and a smooth, resolving sound.
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Smooth treble response
Resolving spacious sound
Smaller than average body
Physical Play/Pause button
Lacks fine volume control (Windows)
Lightning cable not included
Our Score

Shanling UA2 Plus

What’s in the Box

1X Warranty card
1X Quick Start Guide
1X USB A to Type-C Adapter
1X USB Type-C to C Data Cable
1X UA2 Plus Portable DAC/AMP

Design & Features

The Shanling UA2 Plus is available in black or silver. It has an aluminium chassis with a matte finish and weighs in at just 10.6 g (without cable). This is one of the smaller dongle DACs I’ve tested recently: for context, the body is only about half the width and thickness of the UA3.

On one end are the 3.5mm single-ended and 4.4mm balanced headphone jacks. At the other end are a USB-C port and a small LED indicator that changes colour depending on the current sample rate.

There’s a small Play/Pause button on the side that can also be used to switch between UAC 1.0 and UAC 2.0 (hold the button while connecting the UA2 Plus to change modes). This is useful if you want to connect the UA2 to gaming consoles.

The power output is 125mW@32Ω and 195mW@32Ω for the 3.5mm and 4.4mm outputs respectively. The ESS ES9038Q2M DAC supports up to 32bit/768kHz and DSD512. There is no support for MQA.

To unleash the UA2 Plus’ full potential, it’s compatible with Shanling’s Eddict Player. Within the app you can control the 6 digital filter settings, gain and volume. Unfortunately, like the other Shanling dongles, these settings are only supported on Android devices.

UA2 plus with iPhone and ME500 PE


The Shanling UA2 Plus shares the same DAC chip as the FiiO KA3 and Dragonfly Cobalt. I haven’t heard the Dragonfly but I am a proud owner of the KA3 and it shares some similarities to the UA2 Plus when it comes to sound.

The UA2 Plus has a close-to-neutral sound with a touch of added warmth. The bass is tight and punchy but not elevated. There’s good extension in the lows and paired with the right IEMs or headphones, the UA2 Plus will fulfil all your bass desires.

Vocals and midrange instruments are forward and somewhat intimate, bringing you closer to the performance. There’s a nice black background for the musical canvas and the UA2 Plus’ directness reveals all the nuances and textures within the mids.

To my ears, the highs are slightly attenuated, resulting in a smoother non-fatiguing presentation. The soundstage is slightly narrower as a result but the forward layering is great for imaging and placement. This is a good dongle to pair with brighter IEMs as it takes a little edge off the treble but still reveals a high amount of details in the music.

UA2 Plus with Meze 99 Classics and iPhone


FiiO KA3

I find the UA2 Plus to be smoother in the treble but no less detailed or revealing. Its stage isn’t quite as wide but I like the Shanling’s stage depth and directness. It brings vocals more to the forefront and fills the mids with excellent texture.

Both units have a snappy well-defined bass. The FiiO has slightly less warmth in the lows, resulting in a drier sound.

While these 2 DACs sound quite similar, their physical designs are much different. I much prefer the UA2 Plus’ smaller and rounded chassis compared to the boxy KA3 and its sharp corners.

Shanling UA3

The UA3 has an AK4493SEQ DAC chip. Despite being equipped with the Velvet Sound technology, UA3 has a more energetic treble resulting in a brighter tonality. Its midrange is leaner and more spacious whereas the UA2 Plus sounds more relaxed and full-bodied.

UA3’s bass is tighter, resulting in more transparent and detailed lower mids. The soundstage is wider on the UA3 and in general, the UA3 gives a greater sense of scale.

Physically, the UA3 is bigger and heavier but like the UA2 Plus, has rounded edges. Both units have the same power output from the 3.5mm jack (125mW@32Ω) but UA3 pushes more from its balanced output (211mW vs 195mW).

Shanling UA2 Plus with phone and IEMs


In summary, the Shanling UA2 Plus dongle DAC offers a compact and stylish solution for high-quality audio on the go. Its lightweight aluminium chassis and sleek design make it portable and comfortable to use.

Equipped with the ESS ES9038Q2M DAC, the sound signature is close to neutral with a touch of added warmth, producing tight and punchy bass, forward and intimate midrange, and slightly attenuated yet detailed highs. The UA2 Plus excels in revealing nuances and textures within the music, offering a smooth and non-fatiguing presentation.

Overall, the UA2 Plus is a great dongle DAC and a worthy upgrade over the original UA2. I recommend it, especially if you’re looking for a portable DAC with a smaller footprint and less boxy form factor.

UA2 Plus specs
Founder of Prime Audio
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