Beginner Audiophile : How to Level-Up your Audio Game without Breaking the Bank!

Beginner Audiophile : How to Level-Up your Audio Game without Breaking the Bank!

Tried and tested, Headphone Zone recommended and highly commended products to being your stepping stones to audiophilia.
All You Need to Know About Sample Rate, Bit Depth and Bit Rate Reading Beginner Audiophile : How to Level-Up your Audio Game without Breaking the Bank! 6 minutes Next Sound Signatures Explained

Just bought yourself a new flagship phone and suddenly find yourself stranded without a 3.5mm jack? Or feeling skeptical that your really capable earphone/headphone isn’t performing to its potential because your phone or laptop doesn’t really have the oomph or quality to bring out the best from them? Well, we have got you covered here!

The most probable step that a beginner audiophile looks into generally is to look for a Hi-Res Portable DAP (Digital Audio Player) which in most instances, could turn out to be really expensive on your wallet and refrain you from getting into high-quality sound if you choose not to spend so much. Here’s where we give you alternate solutions, where you can get high fidelity sound, without breaking the bank!

The TWO easiest alternative solutions one can look for, are to :

  1. Go Wireless with a Hi-Res Bluetooth Amplifier for the ultimate portability
  2. Stay Wired with the help of Hi-Res Dongle DAC’s for the purest sound quality 



Go Wireless with the Shanling UP2:

Design & Hardware: The Shanling UP2 is an ultra-portable Bluetooth Amplifier with some super impressive features under the hood. For starters, it is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. If one is familiar with the design language of the latest DAP’s from the Shanling’s lineup; viz-a-viz the M2x and the M5s, the design of the UP2 will make you feel at home as it resembles its bigger brother in every way shape or form! The I/O and physical hardware on the device include a 3.5mm headphone out, an in-built microphone for taking calls, an USB Type-C port for charging and using as a USB DAC, LED indicator light to let you know as to which Bluetooth codec you are connected through and the traditional Shanling multifunctional button/wheel for volume control and various other controls.

The Internals: What’s inside the UP2 is what gets the ball rolling in terms of getting you the highest possible audio fidelity on a budget, especially compared to that of a smartphone. The UP2 packs the renowned ESS 9281P SABRE DAC which supports sampling rates of up to 96kHz / 24 bit. Power output for a device this tiny and ergonomically cute is a very impressive 67mW into 32 ohms, which in layman terms; is the power that you would require to juice up almost all your iem’s and headphones including very sensitive iem’s thanks to the UP2’s 0.25Ω Output Impedance. The UP2 packs a 400mAh battery which Shanling claims is good for 11 hours of playback/talk-time and 200 hours of deep standby time. Charging the UP2 from empty to full takes about 2 hours.

Wireless Abilities : The UP2 packs the Qualcomm CSR8675 chipset inside, which helps it transmit and receive audio signals using the latest Hi-Res Bluetooth Audio codecs such as LDAC/LHDC/aptX HD/aptX Low Latency/aptX/AAC and SBC, making this one of the most value for money and versatile must-have gadget for music on the go!

USB Audio DAC : What makes the UP2 stand out and be considered as a true Swiss Army Knife, is its ability to be used as a USB DAC using its Type-C port, which turns this beast of a wireless device, into a wired soundcard to get the absolute best audio fidelity for those audiophiles who demand absolutely no losses in their audio. Simply plug and play the UP2 onto your Phone, Laptop or PC irrespective of it being a Windows or a MAC and the UP2 just works every time. It bypasses the sub-par audio circuitry of your device, providing you with a clean and natural-sounding audio delivery, which your ears deserve.

You can purchase the Shanling UP2 for just ₹ 5,990 from here.

Stay wired with the iBasso DC01 & DC02:

Design & Hardware: Both the iBasso DC01 & DC02 are from the same family of ‘pigtail’ style dongle DAC’s that serves as a great alternative especially to those who have just got yourselves a new flagship phone which has forgone the 3.5mm headphone jack and left you stranded with your good quality wired earphones/headphones. The ace up the sleeve of these dongle DAC’s compared to the ordinary dongle DAC’s that come packaged in your smartphone box is that these won’t compromise on audio fidelity in the slightest and on the flip side, is going to take it to the next level in every way possible.

There’s not much to differentiate both the iBasso DAC’s in terms of physical attributes for the most part with the main exception being that the DC01 is a fully balanced design with a 2.5mm TRRS out for those audiophiles that have earphones/headphones with balanced cables. The DC02 comes with a 3.5mm TRS out on the other hand and is more mainstream in terms of its I/O which works with almost any off-the-shelf iem / headphone out there. Both the DC01 and DC02 come with standard USB Type-C connectors to make sure it pairs with ease with all your modern smartphones. Also included in the packaging is the USB Type-C to USB Type-A to connect to your laptops and PC as well for added versatility. Finally, there is an LED light indicator to let you know they are powered ON and ready to make you get your feet tapping to your favorite tunes!

The Internals: Both the DC01 and DC02 have some serious firepower lurking under the hood considering these are small portable dongle DAC’s which you can throw into your pockets and carry everywhere! The DC01 comes with the latest AKM AK4493EQ DAC featuring the Velvet Sound Technology which is good for handling PCM 32-bit/384 kHz and DSD 256 natively which is a feat in itself for a dongle DAC in this price range. Power output also continues to impress here with 113mW into a 32ohm load which is big enough to power most sensitive to reasonably power-hungry iem’s & full-sized headphones alike.

The DC02 comes with the tried and tested AKM AK4490EQ DAC which like its balanced brother, can handle PCM 32-bit/384 kHz and DSD 256 too. Power output on this side of the shore is 900mV into 32 ohms which again should help it power most earphones and full-size headphones without a fuss.

The DC01 and DC02 make sure, all your Hi-Res Music is delivered to your earphones/headphones, in it's cleanest and purest form.

You can purchase the DC01 for ₹ 4,499/- from here and the DC02 for ₹ 3,999/- from here.