Hidizs S3 Pro vs Shanling UA1

Hidizs S3 Pro

Dimensions 20 x 10 x 9 mm
Net Weight Approximately 6g
MQA Support X8
Sampling Rate Indicator Light Supported
DAC Chip ESS ES9281C PRO
Sampling Frequency Up to 32Bit/384kHz
DSD Up to 128
Output impedance <0.5Ω
Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise 0.0008%
Signal-to-Noise Ratio 117dB
Channel Separation 70dB
Frequency Response 20Hz-40kHz  (±0.1dB)
Output Power LR 55mW@32Ω 3.5mm SE
Power Connector Type-C
Supported Systems Windows 10, Mac OS, iPad OS, Android, iOS or newer systems.
(For iOS users, the Lightning OTG cable has to be purchased separately)

Shanling UA1

Dimensions 39 x 15 x 9 mm
Net Weight Approximately 8.3g
MQA Support No
Sampling Rate Indicator Light Supported
DAC Chip ESS ES9218P
Sampling Frequency Up to 32Bit/384kHz
DSD Up to 256
Output impedance <0.5Ω
Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise 0.0001%
Signal-to-Noise Ratio 119dB
Channel Separation 77dB
Frequency Response 20Hz-50kHz  (±0.5dB)
Output Power LR 80W@32Ω 3.5mm SE
Power Connector Type-C
Supported Systems Windows 10, Mac OS, iPad OS, Android, iOS or newer systems.
(For iOS users, the Lightning OTG cable has to be purchased separately)

First the obvious, the sound

For testing, I used my most natural IEM, the Meze Rai Solo.

S3 Pro

The S3 Pro reaches deep on low frequencies and is very controlled on both sub-bass and mid-bass with a warm tonality. Drum kicks, bass guitar notes sounding right on the spot that I am used to from Rai Solo, no significant chance comparing to my desktop setup, except the amount of scaling of course, which is hard to expect from portable DAC/AMP like S3 Pro with 55mW(@32Ω) output power, but it gets the job done in a pleasing way.

Going into the mids, the vocals continue with the natural and well-balanced sound. Both male and female vocals keep their natural tonality and instruments their life-like timbre. This is the point where I am describing the sound signature of the IEM and not the S3 Pro. Hereby I can say that the S3 Pro does not change the sound of the earphone in a way that I can hear. That would not be good, to be honest.

Treble, again close to neutral and transparent. Very slight bright tonality, especially when you listen to MQA tracks but with enough airiness and extension. The Hidizs S3 Pro also has enough air and space between instruments and vocals which leads to a good level of separation and soundstage.

UA1

Like the S3 Pro, the UA1 also is entirely silent, with no hiss or any background noise even with low impedance and sensitive IEMs, that part I tested with Geek Wold GK10 that has 8Ω of impedance.

The Shanling UA1 also sounds quite neutral, as the S3 Pro, with no dramatic coloration to the sound, which again is a very good thing as an end result. From here now I can copy and paste the sound impressions from the S3 Pro and nothing can be wrong with that. Lows have good bass extension and rumble, mids have the exact notes tonality (good timbre) and body which I expect from the Rai Solo. The treble region has a very good amount of transparency and extension with no loss of energy and air.

The soundstage is also very sufficient, by that I mean you can’t expect wonders from a 45$ portable DAC/AMP, but again very pleasant for the price. This goes also for the separation, not on the desktop level, but way better comparing to your gear’s standard 3.5mm headphone output.

Comparing to S3 Pro the UA1 has more power output with 80W(@32Ω) which comes in handy driving more demanding earphones.

Differences

Different firmware to flash for different sound

The Hidizs S3 Pro is supposed to have 3 different firmware with 3 different sound signatures but as I write this review there were no download links for those on their support page. I hope will be online soon. UPDATE: The firmwares are ready to download, https://www.androidbrick.com/download/hidizs-s3-pro-tuning-firmware/

The Shanling UA1 has an APP called Eddict Player in which you can have the control to change the gain (yes it has high gain even for more headroom if needed), the channel balance, the volume, and the digital filter which is very handy in my opinion. The changes you made stays even if you plug the UA1 into another device like your PC or another phone.

If you like listening to DSD format the S3 Pro supports only up to 128, but the UA1 can go to 256. As I mentioned before S3 Pro’s power output is 55mW at 32 Ohms and UA1 has 80mW at 32 Ohms with additional high gain. The Hidisz S3 Pro supports MQA, UA1 does not.

And last but least is the price. You can buy the UA1 for 45$, the S3 Pro’s early bird price was 55$ but when I check it from Hidizs’s website it looks 65$ now (with iPhone OTG Adapter) and 69$ when sold alone(!).

Conclusion

Sound-wise you can’t go wrong with either the Hidizs S3 Pro or the Shanling UA1. But it gets tricky price-wise. The old early bird price of the S3 Pro of 55$ was amazing. But the new price of 69$ taken from their website differs around 25$ now comparing to the old 10$ difference with UA1. With 69$ price range, you come close to 85$ territory of Shanling’s flagship portable DAC/AMP model, the UA2 which is in the same league as Hidizs’s flagship product the S9 Pro (113$).

Update: Shanling has updated the UA1 model with a new DAC chip ES9219C and named it UA1 Pro. Except for the DAC chip specs-wise they are completely the same including the looks (UA1 Pro has a new grey color option) and weight. “Overall same sound and performance, with just a little bit better THD measurement.” is Shanling’s statement, plus the price is raised to 49$.

Verdict

Are you an iPhone user and looking for the best price/performance DAC to try Apple Lossless Music and MQA? Hidizs S3 Pro is made for you at price 65$ with iPhone OTG Adapter. Non-iPhone users, the S3 Pro is still one of the best price/performance portable DAC/AMP for MQA use. Don’t care about MQA but want the best sound for the best price around? You know the answer, UA1 or UA1 Pro.

Hidizs S3 Pro

Shanling UA1

Editors Note

Apart from portable use, these DACs can be also used for desktop solutions. Here is my example using my old Hilidac Atom Pro connected to my PC, feeding my Harman Kardon AMP as a DAC for my desktop stereo speaker setup.