Beginner Audiophile : How to Level-Up your Audio Game

Beginner Audiophile : How to Level-Up your Audio Game

Tried and tested, Headphone Zone recommended and highly commended products to be your stepping stones to audiophilia.

Getting your right Fit with Earphones Reading Beginner Audiophile : How to Level-Up your Audio Game 7 minutes Next Active Noise Cancellation Explained

Just bought yourself a new flagship phone and suddenly find yourself stranded without a 3.5mm jack? Or feeling skeptical that your capable earphone/headphone isn’t performing to their potential because your phone or laptop doesn’t 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 expensive on your wallet and refrain you from getting into high-quality sound. Here’s where we give you alternate solutions, where you can experience high fidelity audio without breaking the bank!

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

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

GO WIRELESS WITH THE SHANLING UP4

Shanling-UP4

Design & Hardware:

The Shanling UP4 is an ultra-portable balanced Bluetooth DAC & Amplifier with 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 DAPs from Shanling’s lineup, the design of the UP4 will make you feel at home. The I/O and physical hardware on the device include a 3.5mm single-ended and 2.5mm balanced headphone outs, an in-built Knowles SiSonic microphone with the latest 8th generation cVc noise cancellation tech 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 other controls. The Shanling UP4 enjoys added credibility with the 'Hi-Res Audio' and 'Hi-Res Wireless Audio' certification from the Japan Audio Society. You can trust it with high-resolution music.

The Internals:

What’s inside the UP4 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 UP4 pack's dual ESS Sabre ES9218P DAC chips that deliver higher resolution, improved channel separation and better detail retrieval in your music. Power output for a device this tiny is a very impressive 91mW @ 32 ohms for a single-ended and 160 mW @ 32Ohm for balanced output, which in layman terms is the power that you would require to juice up almost all your IEM’s and headphones. The UP4 packs a 550mAh battery which Shanling claims to deliver 15 hours of playback/talk-time when using the single-ended output and 10 hours with the balanced output with 300 hours of deep standby time.

Wireless Abilities:

The UP4 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! The Shanling UP4 also features one-button NFC pairing, making it easy to pair with NFC enabled devices.

USB Audio DAC:

What makes the UP4 standout and be considered an all-rounder, is its ability to be used as a USB DAC using its Type-C port, which turns this beast of a device, into a wired soundcard to get the absolute best audio fidelity for those audiophiles who demand no loss in their audio. Just plug and play the UP4 onto your Phone, Laptop or PC, irrespective of it being a Windows or a MAC and the UP4 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 UP4 for just ₹ 7,999 from here.

STAY WIRED WITH THE IBASSO DC05 & SHANLING UA2:

Shanling-UA2

Design & Hardware:

The iBasso DC05 & Shanling UA2 are from the same family of ‘pigtail’ style dongle DACs that serves as a great alternative to those who have just got 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 DACs compared to the ordinary dongle DACs that come packaged in your smartphone box is that these won’t compromise on audio fidelity in the slightest and, on the flip side, are going to take it to the next level in every way possible.

There’s not much to differentiate between iBasso DC05 and Shanling UA2 in terms of physical attributes for the most part, with the main exception being that the UA2 offers dual output ports with balanced 2.5mm output for those audiophiles that have earphones/headphones with balanced cables along with detachable connector cable. The DC05 comes with a 3.5mm single-ended output and is more mainstream in terms of its I/O, which works with almost any off-the-shelf IEM/headphone. Both the DC05 and UA2 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 for added versatility. Finally, they feature an LED light indicator to let you know they are powered ON and ready to make you get your feet tapping to your favourite tunes!

iBasso-DC05

The Internals:

Both the iBasso DC05 and Shanling UA2 have considerable firepower under the hood considering these are small portable dongle DACs that you can throw into your pockets and carry everywhere! The DC05 features dual ES9219C high-performance DAC chips, capable of handling PCM 32-bit/384 kHz and DSD 256 natively, which is a feat for a dongle DAC in this price range. Power output also continues to impress here with 80mW at 32 Ohms load, which is sufficient to power most sensitive to reasonably power-hungry IEMs & full-sized headphones alike.

The Shanling UA2 comes with the tried and tested ESS Sabre ES9038Q2M DAC chip which can handle Hi-Res Audio of up to PCM 32Bit/786kHz and DSD512 on the go. Power output on the UA2 is handled by a dedicated Ricore RT6838 amplifier to deliver a high-grade sonic experience. This Ricore amplifier can out 95mW at 32 ohms load, capable of driving various IEMs and headphones.

The DC05 and UA2 make sure all your Hi-Res Music is delivered to your earphones/headphones in its cleanest and purest form.

You can purchase the iBasso DC05 for ₹ 5,999/- from here and the Shanling UA2 for ₹ 6,999/- from here.