Shanling H2 Review
Shanling H2 Review
Shanling H2 Review

Shanling H2: A high-quality DAC and amplifier

Shanling continues to expand its range of portable music players with the release of the Shanling H5 in the summer of 2023, following the flagship Shanling H7. This particular device has proven to be highly successful, although it does have one drawback – its battery life. Despite this, I am completely satisfied with the H5 and have high hopes of one day being able to test the top-of-the-line H7. Looking ahead to 2024, Shanling is set to launch the more affordable Shanling H2.

Naturally, the H2 has slightly reduced functionality and simplified internal components, making it less powerful. However, its lower cost makes it an attractive option. Today, we will delve into the details of this new product, comparing it to its older counterparts and assessing its capabilities against competitors. We will explore whether it is worth paying extra for the older versions and provide a comprehensive analysis. As always, we will begin by examining the packaging.

Unpacking and packaging

The packaging is designed with a dual purpose. As we open it, we are welcomed by a pristine white cover featuring a stylish depiction of the device, slightly angled. However, the color of the device shown on the cover does not match the actual color of the device inside. Removing the cover reveals a vibrant green box with a striking holographic effect that becomes even more pronounced in bright lighting. On the top of the sturdy box, we can spot the company’s motto, “Life is short, listen more” – a reminder to embrace life to the fullest. In the center, the company logo is prominently displayed.

Delivery set:

  • the DAC itself and the  Shanling H2 amplifier
  • cable USB type c – USB type c (for connecting to a phone, laptop or tablet)
  • cable USB type c – USB A (for charging the device)
  • four silicone legs
  • short user manual, warranty card, advertising booklet

The images in this material do not include the cover, but it is available for separate purchase. In order to maintain the station in optimal condition and enhance its sensory qualities, I highly recommend investing seven hundred hryvnias in it. With the cover, the device becomes much more user-friendly as it prevents fingerprints, keeps your hand warm, and provides a secure grip. Additionally, the cover adds a touch of style with its pleasant light brown color, while also offering protection against external factors such as scratches and chips.

Specifications

Weight and size indicators:

  • dimensions: 71.5x100x21.5 mm
  • weight: 185 grams

Connection interfaces:

  • inputs: USB type c – for charging, USB type c – for connecting to a source, Micro SD memory card slot
  • outputs: unbalanced 3.5 mm for headphones, balanced – 4.4 mm

DAC: Cirrus Logic CS43198

  • format support: DSD(“iso”, “dsf”, “dff”). ISO / DXD / APE / FLAC / WAV / AIFF / AIF / DTS / MP3 / WMA / AAC / OGG / ALAC / MP2 / M4A / AC3 ​​/ M3U / M3U8 / OPUS
  • via memory card: support PCM 192 kHz / DSD 128 D2P / DSD64 Native
  • via USB: support for PCM 384 kHz / DSD 256 Native

Acoustic parameters:
One-way output:

  • Output Power: Low Gain 1.7V @ 32Ω (90mW @ 32Ω), High Gain 2.4V (180mW @ 32Ω)
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 40 kHz (-0.5 dB)
  • THD+N: 0.0007% @ 32 ohms (1V low gain), 0.0007% @ 32 ohms (2V low gain)
  • Channel separation: 80 dB @ 32 ohms
  • Dynamic Range: 123 dB @ 32 Ohms (High Gain)
  • Signal to Noise: 123 dB @ 32 Ohms (High Gain)
  • Output impedance: 0.4 ohms

Balance output:

  • Output Power: Low Gain 3.3 V @ 32 Ohms (340 mW @ 32 Ohms), High Gain Level 4.65 V (680 mW @ 32 Ohms)
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 40 kHz (-0.5 dB)
  • THD+N: 0.0008% @ 32 ohms (1V low gain), 0.0007% @ 32 ohms (2V low gain)
  • Channel separation: 111 dB @ 32 ohms
  • Dynamic Range: 125 dB @ 32 Ohms (High Gain)
  • Signal to Noise: 125 dB @ 32 Ohms (High Gain)
  • Output impedance: 0.8 Ohm

Wireless connection:

  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • codecs: LDAC / SBC / AAC

Battery:

  • 2100 mAh
  • up to 12.5 hours of work on unbalance (3.5 mm)
  • up to 10.5 hours on the balance (4.4 mm)

Features:

  • the presence of a screen of 0.99 inches
  • work through the Eddict Player application
  • support for SD cards up to 2 TB
  • 4 built-in filters

 

Design and features

The device’s design closely resembles the entire “H” line, featuring a case with rounded edges, two potentiometers, and two color options: black and silver. Although mine is black, it oddly appears silver on the box. The body is made of nice, lightweight aluminum, giving it a monolithic feel. It is slightly lighter than the average smartphone and weighs about 100 grams less than the H5 model. The H2 weighs 185 grams, while the H5 weighs 270 grams. In terms of size, the H5 is noticeably larger in width and thickness, but there is minimal difference in height. I highly recommend purchasing a case to ensure comfortable portability and to preserve its appearance.

The front of the Shanling H2 features a 0.99-inch colored screen, and we will discuss its functionality in more detail later. There are also two indicators on the front, one for charging and the other for displaying the sample rate of the signal passing through the DAC. The two potentiometers on the sides are encoders with a digital display of the volume level on the screen. We will delve into the management aspect further in a separate section.

Features:

  • the lightest and most compact in the H line, convenient controls
  • support for a memory card up to 2 TB, and convenient management of the media library thanks to the Eddict Player application
  • high quality Cirrus Logic CS43198 DAC
  • the USB input is equipped with an XMOS XU208 chip to ensure the best performance with your smart devices: smartphone, tablet or laptop. Asynchronous connection with low latency for a perfect wired connection
  • new op amp design for perfect tuning. Two SG-Micro 8262-2 operational amplifiers are used for balanced output to headphones, combined with Japanese Silmic II Silk capacitors
  • pretty high power: offers 2 connection options via a standard 3.5 mm output and a balanced 4.4 mm output, optimized for sensitive, low-noise headphones. Output power: 3.5 mm – 180 mW, 4.4 mm – 680 mW at 32 Ohms
  • long working time, thanks to the 2100 mAh battery with a special PMU chipset, it offers up to 12.5 hours of operation on a single charge from the 3.5 mm output, and up to 10.5 hours via the 4.4. mm output
  • the back of the H2 features two USB type c connectors that separate the charging from the DAC input to reduce interference and give the user full control over device charging
  • wireless connection is made thanks to Bluetooth 5.0, the LDAC codec is supported for wireless Hi-Res playback, and of course this certification is also present via wire
  • 2 indicators present on the top panel inform about the format and sampling frequency of the material that passes through the DAC, and the other indicator shows that the device is charging (more details on the screenshot)

 

 

Controls and connection interfaces

Let’s start with the connection interfaces:

  • USB type c connector (for charging)
  • USB type c connector (for connecting to smart sources: smartphone, tablet, laptop)
  • microSD memory card slot for listening to music, support up to 2 TB
  • 3.5 mm headphone output
  • 4.4 mm headphone output

Now, let’s discuss the features and functions of the controls on the Shanling H2. At the top, you will find two buttons. The button on the right is solely responsible for the on/off function, requiring a press and hold for approximately 5 seconds. On the left, there is a multifunctional button that allows you to navigate through the menu and switch between different outputs. Below these buttons, you will notice two encoder wheels, which do not have a fixed position.

Device management:

  • activate the device by pressing the right button for 5 seconds
  • With a short press on the left, we can switch the outputs: Bluetooth, memory card, USB connection
  • when pressing the same button for 3 seconds, we enter the menu, switching modes in the menu is carried out with the left wheel, and switching items with a short press of this button. You can also switch tracks with the left wheel, to the previous one when turning counterclockwise, and to the next one clockwise.
  • the right wheel is for volume control only.

What we can customize:

  • gain level (high or low)
  • switching tracks (in a circle, alternately repeating the same track or interspersed)
  • switch between 4 filters (0-3)
  • adjust screen brightness (1-10)
  • switch between UAC1 (for low latency in games and videos) and UAC2 (for better playback quality)
  • channel balance
  • screen orientation with the ability to rotate 180 degrees
  • auto-off time from 15 minutes to 2 hours or off
  • change theme blue/green
  • update the firmware
  • do a factory reset
  • firmware version

 

Functional capabilities

Shanling H2 functions as a standalone device once it transforms into a player. You can achieve this by transferring your music library to a memory card and inserting it into the appropriate slot. Alternatively, you can connect the H2 to a smartphone, tablet, or laptop using a wired connection through the USB type-C connector. Despite its compact size compared to previous models, it can be used not only in a stationary setting but also as a portable accessory alongside a smartphone.

Moreover, it offers wireless connectivity via Bluetooth 5.0. By connecting your wired headphones to the H2, you can enjoy high-quality sound with your preferred headphones while keeping your phone free. However, it’s important to note that calls must be answered through the phone as headsets with a microphone are not supported.

The Eddict Player app, available on both PlayMarket and AppStore for free, enhances the control features of the H2. The app provides a detailed overview of the device’s capabilities, eliminating the need for a detailed description as everything is visible in the screenshot. Eddict Player enables you to scan your memory card, access all music stored on it, and easily navigate between albums and artists.

With a 2100mAh battery, the Shanling H2 offers a battery life of approximately 12.5 hours for 3.5 mm and up to 10.5 hours for 4.4 mm, according to the manufacturer. These figures were obtained under controlled conditions at medium volume, so real-life usage may vary slightly. It’s advisable to consider a 30% reduction from the manufacturer’s stated battery life for a more accurate estimate.

Sound

In this section, I will provide an analysis of the sound produced by the Shanling H2 when paired with my FiiO FD5 headphones, as well as a comparison to the sound of my Shanling H5. The H5 can be considered the older sibling of the H2, offering a larger size, more power, enhanced functionality, and a higher price tag.

Before delving into the specifics of the sound, let me briefly touch upon the overall presentation. I listened to the audio through a wired connection from my smartphone. Now, let’s discuss the headphones themselves. They possess a bright rather than dark sound signature, which is evident in the VHF and HF ranges, with an emphasis on the low frequencies. The presentation is not overly weighty or focused on a particular segment of the frequency range. Instead, it maintains a balanced and musical character, leaning towards brightness rather than warmth and darkness.

When it comes to the low frequencies, they are soft, airy, and possess a certain weightiness. The bass extends deep, but the emphasis lies more on the sub-bass rather than the mid-bass. While the texture is present, it is not particularly rich. In other words, there is an accentuation in this area, but it is relatively subtle.

Moving on to the midrange, it is bright, expansive, and slightly pushed forward, contributing to a wider soundstage and creating a more expansive virtual scene. Vocals are accurately delivered in terms of timbre, but there is a slight sense of artificiality, as if they lack a natural quality. In terms of instrument detailing, everything is quite commendable, with good separation and a sense of fullness and volume.

As for the high frequencies, there is also a slight accentuation, but it is appropriately implemented. There are an ample number of high frequencies present, although the focus lies more on the quality and refinement of the details. I did not particularly notice them, as if there was a slight lack of emphasis on micro-contrasts, but rather a focus on overall coherence and musicality.

In summary, the sound produced by the Shanling H2 can be described as bright yet soft, with the exception of rock music, which may not be as enjoyable subjectively.

Before discussing the sound differences, I would like to highlight other variances (in comparison to the H5) that I believe are significant. Firstly, it does not have a linear RCA output or a digital input for connecting sources via a 3.5 mm connector. Secondly, it lacks the ability to pause tracks directly from the device itself. Thirdly, it offers greater power output by 200 mW on the balanced output and by 50 mW on the unbalanced output. Additionally, I would like to mention that on the H5, headphones and sources were connected from different sides, whereas on the H2, they are connected from the same side, which I find less convenient. The battery life is approximately the same, with no significant improvement or decline. What I appreciated more about the H2 were its compact size, color display, and price point. Everything else remains at a similar quality level. Therefore, the features present in the H5 are reflected in its price, while shortcomings like battery life persist.

The sound presentation of the H5 is warmer and deeper compared to the H2, with a deeper mid-bass, less bright mid-range frequencies (though equally wide), and more developed high frequencies.
Low frequencies: more volume and scale, possibly more natural and textural due to the emphasis on mid-bass, providing a better feel.
Midrange: less prominent than the H2, but maintaining a similar width in vocal and instrument positioning. Timbres sound more natural and balanced, with a reduction in synthetic brightness.
High frequencies: slightly emphasized to enhance the listening atmosphere, with noticeable microcontrast levels, although not exceptional. The range is more defined, offering increased stage presence and detail.
Upon comparison, I realized why the higher price tag is justified – the sound quality is significantly better, reflecting the price difference. There is a noticeable improvement in each frequency range, but cost remains a crucial factor for many when making a decision.

Conclusion

Shanling H2 is a natural progression of the “H” line, offering a high-quality DAC and amplifier from a reputable brand, constructed with premium components. It retains the option for wired and wireless use, as well as the memory card slot, which is particularly useful when paired with the Eddict Player app for easy music management. The sound signature, typical of Shanling, is musical, smooth, and enjoyable, without sacrificing analytical detail. It strikes a balance between brightness and warmth, making it appealing to a wide range of listeners.

Shanling H2 Review
Shanling H2
8.5

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