Truthear Shio Review
The Truthear Shio is a compact digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and amplifier combination unit that retails for $69.99. The Shio features a 3.5 mm single-ended output and a 4.4 mm balanced output, as well as a physical volume rocker. The Shio uses dual Cirrus Logic CS43198 DAC chips, only seen previously on more expensive products. ShenzhenAudio sent me the Shio in exchange for my impressions.
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I have used the Truthear Shio with the following headphones:
- Moondrop S8
- Dunu Kima
- Truthear Hola
- TinHiFi T4 Plus
- Moondrop Void
- HiFiMan HE400SE
I have tested this device with local FLAC and Spotify Premium. Visit my last.fm page to get an idea of what I listen to:
XenosBroodLord’s Library | Last.fm
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:
The Shio comes in a small grey cardboard package with a white slipcover. The slipcover features the anime mascot “Shiroi” on the front face and details the Shio’s technical specifications on the rear face. The device itself and a small Truthear-branded USB-C to USB-C cable are secured in a foam mounting tray inside the package. In terms of documentation, the Shio comes with a warranty card and an owner’s manual written in Chinese, English, and Japanese. The Shio also includes an illustrated postcard providing key biographical details about Shiroi.
DESIGN, BUILD QUALITY, AND AESTHETICS:
The Truthear Shio has an oblong form factor with rounded corners. The four long faces of the device are covered in a textured pleather wrap. The wrap is subtly embossed with the Truthear logo on one side. I strongly dislike the use of pleather in most products and the Shio does not change my mind. The pleather looks and feels cheap and tacky. I would have preferred the entire device use the black anodized finish present on the top and bottom faces. The Shio features a female USB-C port, which enables use with different kinds of transport devices. The metal volume rocker is located on the spine of the device. There is a small LED indicator off to the side of the volume rocker that indicates the current gain setting. The pleather around this LED is not cut perfectly, adding to the cheap presentation. The 4.4mm balanced output is gold-plated, but the 3.5mm output is not.
STANDARDS COMPLIANCE AND FUNCTIONALITY:
The Truthear Shio is not compatible with headset controls, nor does it send connector status to the host device. It also lacks pause on headphone disconnect functionality. Because the Shio is most likely intended for use with a desktop or laptop, I am willing to overlook these omissions, but I would love to see at least the pause on headphone disconnect feature enabled on more balanced source devices. My aging Qudelix 5K has this feature for its balanced 2.5mm output, so I do not understand why this functionality is overlooked on so many products.
Truthear has made an ASIO driver available for the Shio here. I generally stick to WASAPI (Shared) for ease of use with Equalizer APO, but I did confirm that the driver worked with MusicBee.
Note: I made the following observations with a system-wide -4 dB pre-amp setting as suggested here. While I recommend using this pre-amp setting to preserve fidelity, it does reduce the headroom of all connected source devices.
The Truthear Shio is very powerful. Pairing the Shio with the Moondrop S8 using the balanced output, I reach my typical listening volume at a Windows system volume setting of 12/100. The HiFiMan HE400SE requires a volume setting of around 40/100 using the balanced connection. On the single-ended side, the Truthear Shio required a setting of 20/100 and the Moondrop Void needed 32/100. I did not need to use the high-gain setting for any of the headphones I tested the Shio with.
POWER CONSUMPTION AND HEAT MANAGEMENT:
I took the following power consumption measurements with the Truthear Shio connected to my PC:
All measurements were taken on the low-gain setting. The Windows system volume was set to 60/100 using the balanced output with the Moondrop S8 and 94/100 using the single-ended output with the Truthear Hola. Playing a -12 dBV 1 kHz test tone from REW, these volume settings achieved an SPL of roughly 94 dB, as registered by my IEC-711 clone microphone.
The Shio does not appear to have a true idle mode:
The Shio has excellent heat management and does not get warm to the touch even with prolonged use.
SOUND COMPARISON WITH THE HIDIZS S9:
Note: I made the following observations switching back and forth between the Truthear Shio and the Hidizs S9 repeatedly under sighted conditions. The two devices were volume-matched to within .5 dB. Any perceived differences between the two sources may be a result of the remaining volume difference. There was also a delay of several seconds when switching between devices. The Moondrop S8 was used as the transducer for this comparison. In most cases, any differences between competently designed sources are infinitesimal and not necessarily apparent under uncontrolled testing conditions.
The Truthear Shio sounded slightly more grounded than the Hidizs S9, which is to say that there was more of a bass emphasis. The bass was better controlled and there was greater instrument separation, particularly between low- and high-frequency instruments. The S9 tends to oversharpen treble transients, whereas the Shio sounded smoother and more realistic.
The Truthear Shio is a terrific value and an easy recommendation from both a measured and subjective performance perspective. However, the sub-par build quality and questionable aesthetic may be dealbreakers for some. I hope that Turthear releases a revision with a cleaner, less polarizing exterior design quickly.
The Truthear Shio can be purchased here:
Truthear SHIO Dual CS43198 D/A Chips Lossless Portable DAC Amplifier/ (shenzhenaudio.com)