Shanling EH3 Review
Shanling EH3 Review
Shanling EH3 Review

Shanling EH3 Review: A highly versatile device

Shanling EH3 Review
9

Shall we explore another music box hailing from the Celestial Empire?

Indeed, Shanling is more than just a Chinese brand to me.

I approach their devices with a sense of fondness, yet my reviews remain objective.

Packaging and assembly

Quite usual for Shanling, we are greeted by a simple cardboard box without any hint of design. On the one hand, the desire to save money and invest all the money in sound is understandable. Nevertheless, it is an expensive thing.

Complete set :

  • Shanling EH3
  • Power cable
  • Remote control
  • Manuals
  • USB-A cable

Of course, this set will be enough to start using, but you still want more accessories for different usage scenarios. At least it would be nice to get an RCA cable and batteries for the remote control.

Technologies

  • Shanling EH3 is equipped with wireless playback including Bluetooth 5.0 and 2.4G/5G Wi-Fi. It can work as a Bluetooth receiver and supports LDAC, AAC and SBC codecs. It also connects to local Wi-Fi networks and can serve as an Airplay 1 or DLNA endpoint.
  • The EH3 was primarily designed as a companion to Shanling’s proprietary ET3 CD player via a high quality I2S connection.
  • The EH3 uses the flagship ESS ES9039SPRO 8-channel DAC with a fully balanced amplifier of around four OPA1612s.
  • Thanks to the FPGA (Programmable Logic Integrated Circuit) of its own development, KDS crystal oscillators and XMOS XU316 USB chip, EH3 can be called a comprehensively completed device.
  • The EH3 has a dual power system split between the analog and digital sections to minimize interference.
  • The Shanling EH3 is the brand’s second most powerful amplifier after the EM7.
  • Available DLNA system. A DLNA server is software used to share files with other devices on a home network. This is why Wi-Fi is available, by the way.

 

Design

Appearance is not something special. It’s just a heavy black box to listen to music through, but I can still call it classy. A very high-quality build and a cool metal body give the user a premium feeling. On the sides of the frame there are holes for passive cooling/ventilation. Its circuitry is engraved on top of the amplifier, which adds to its appeal. The front panel, on which the screen and outputs are located, has a glossy finish. It looks great, but be careful not to let fingerprints spoil your aesthetic pleasure.

On the front panel of  the Shanling EH3, there are 4 headphone outputs: two single-ended via 3.5mm and 6.35mm jacks, as well as a balanced output via a 4.4mm jack and 4-pin XLR. All of them are located like a block of cameras in some smartphone. In general, cool. On the back panel we have:

  • Analog path: RCA input and output and XLR 3-pin output.
  • Digital path: coaxial, optical, USB (Type-B), IIS (I2S) and others.

You can insert a flash drive or any other storage device and control the playlist with the buttons located on the top cover. The device is equipped with a Bluetooth and WiFi antenna. The main power switch is also located here.
There is a small circular display on the front panel. With the help of the volume wheel, you can choose different filter presets, adjust the language, amplification mode, update the firmware, and the screen will in turn display all these results. Compact, great solution.

Management

5 buttons on the top cover and a wheel on the front facade are responsible for control. The buttons are ordinary, I would like a clearer tactile response. They are responsible for the following functions:

  • play/pause;
  • flipping tracks forward/backward;
  • changing the playback mode;
  • Back button (for convenient interaction with the screen and wheel).

The wheel has an excellent mechanical stroke and tactile cut-offs. It left a good impression, it is a pleasure to use.
In addition, there is a proprietary application and a physical remote, but I did not use either of them, because I tested the device mainly as a desktop DAC/amplifier (the switches on the case are enough for this).

I really like the lack of touchscreens and Android systems where you can install games and such junk. I’m a fan of physical controls, so the EH3 satisfies me quite well in that regard with its multi-function wheel with buttons, which was discussed earlier. By the way, the Ingenic X2000 chip is responsible for the operation of the system. I did not notice any bugs or freezes during testing.
According to the classics, Shanling devices have a heating system installed, otherwise I cannot explain its temperature during operation. When using Bluetooth, by the way, it is quite cool. In all other cases, you can warm your hands, but this is not a minus, but only an observation.

Sound

The sound has a characteristic Shanling tuning, let’s say, signature handwriting, which is not superfluous. Musical, warm, unobtrusive presentation. I was impressed by the work with the stage, the volume and depth of the space is felt. Texture and resolution are also at a high level.

Low frequencies: Pleasant warm bass, sufficiently elastic and precise.
Middle frequencies: Have a melodic timbre and a natural sound. Expressive, clear and rich.
High frequencies: Detailed and clear. They do not tire, do not hit the ears.

In addition, a few words should be said about power, because  the Shanling EH3 has a lot of it. up to 1.9 W at 32 Ohms // 205 mW at 300 Ohms in unbalanced mode and 5.3 W at 32 Ohms // 700 mW at 300 Ohms in balanced mode. It is quite enough for heavy planars (such as audeze lcd-x), there will be no problems with others either. Completely forgot about digital filters and modes) The gain has three presets (Low, Medium, High).

The SRC (Sample Rate Conversion) function in the cap/amplifier is used to convert the sample rate of a digital audio signal. It can be useful for several reasons:

  • Change the sample rate to match your hardware
  • Upscaling or downsampling to improve sound quality
  • Audio format conversion

 

About SRC presets

Bypass:

  • This preset bypasses SRC, meaning your audio signal will be played back at the original sample rate.
  • This may be the best option if you want to get the most accurate sound transmission.
  • However, if your DAC/amp is not compatible with the original sample rate, you will need to use a different preset.

DSD:

  • These presets convert your audio signal to DSD (Direct Stream Digital) format. DSD uses single-bit modulation to represent sound, which is different from the Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) used in most digital audio formats.
  • Some people find that DSD sounds more natural and musical than PCM.
  • The following DSD variations are available:
  • DSD512: DSD’s highest sample rate, 11.2896 MHz.
  • DSD256: Half the sampling frequency of DSD512, 5.6448 MHz.
  • DSD128: A quarter of the sampling frequency of DSD512, 2.8224 MHz.
  • DSD64: One eighth of the sampling frequency of DSD512, 1.4112 MHz.

kHz:

These presets convert your audio signal to PCM format at a fixed sample rate.

The following kHz presets are available:

  • 192 kHz: A high sampling rate used in many high-resolution audio files.
  • 384 kHz: A very high sampling rate that can provide even better sound quality than 192 kHz.
  • 768 kHz: The highest available sampling rate that can provide the highest possible sound detail.

 

Low frequency filtering mode:

As with all similar devices from Shanling, there is also a mode of filtering low frequencies (Minimum Phase and Linear Phase + various variations of these two). In short, then:

Minimum Phase (Minimum Phase):

  • This mode preserves the phase characteristics of the signal, making the sound more natural and transparent.
  • It can be useful for listening to music, where it is important to preserve the original sound image.
  • However, the Minimum Phase mode can lead to pre-ringing (artifacts appearing before a sharp sound) and post-ringing (artifacts appearing after a sharp sound).

Linear Phase (Linear Phase):

  • This mode equalizes the phases of all frequencies, making the sound more clear and detailed.
  • It can be useful for listening to music with a lot of detail, where it is important to hear all the nuances clearly.
  • However, the Linear Phase mode can make the sound less natural and more artificial.

 

Conclusion

The Shanling EH3 is a highly versatile device that offers a wide range of functions. One of its standout features is its balanced and comprehensive sound presentation. Its sleek and minimalist design allows it to seamlessly blend into any setting, whether it’s placed on a shelf or a desktop. When comparing it to its competitors, such as the iFi NEO iDSD2 and the FiiO R7, the iFi device tends to have a more neutral sound profile. However, both devices are quite similar overall, so it’s highly recommended to listen to and compare them in person before making a purchase.

Shanling EH3 Review
Shanling EH3
9