Truthear SHIO USB-DAC Review

Truthear released its first portable USB DAC-AMP last month, the SHIO. It uses dual CS43198 DAC chips, with PCM768 and DSD256 supported. It features both 3.5mm and 4.4mm earphone ports. SHIO also comes with hardware volume keys.

SHIO supports all kinds of audio formats, from 16Bit/44.1kHz to 32Bit/768kHz, and even all types of DSD.

SHIO provides a 3.5mm single-ended output and a 4.4mm balanced output, fully meeting the user’s requirements. Truthear is also focusing on the gain mode, SHIO combines High and Low gain, for easily carrying most earphones on the market.

Looking at the exterior design, SHIO is covered by an aluminum alloy shell with CNC CNC precision machining, offering a lightweight and sturdy experience, as well as, it combines with sandblasting and anodizing treatment processing, giving us a delicate texture. Seamlessly covered by high-grade leather, bringing a great tactile experience and presenting you with the integration of ruggedness and elegance.

SHIO comes with a standard custom multi-core dual-ended USB TYPE-C OTG cable with high-quality oxygen-free copper cores, delivering reliable structure and stable transmission. Alternatively, thanks to the interchangeable cable, SHIO can be used with an iPhone, but you will still need an adapter.

What’s in the box

Specs

  • D/C Chip: Cirrus Logic CS43198 x 2
  • Sampling Rate (Maximum): PCM 44.1kHz – 768kHz | DSD64 – DSD256
    Type-C input
  • 3.5mm single-ended output
  • 4.4mm balanced output
    THD+N (@1kHz) (A-WT):
  • 3.5mm SE: <0.00025%
    4.4mm BAL: <0.0002%
  • Output:
    3.5mm SE: 1.4Vrms(Low Gain), 2Vrms (High Gain)
    4.4mm BAL: 2Vrms(Low Gain), 4Vrms (High Gain)
  • Output Power:
    150mW x2 @32Ω
    55mW x2 @300Ω
  • SNR: 130dB (A-WT)
  • Dynamic Range: 130dB (A-WT)
    Frequency Response: 20-20kHz (±0.1dB)
  • Background Noise: <1.6uVrms (A-WT)

Price: $69.99 

I would like to thank Shenzhenaudio for providing me with the review sample of  Truthear SHIO DAC (non-affiliate link).

Sound

The portable USB-DAC market is very saturated right now and new products are coming out every day. As the number of products increases, it becomes more difficult to distinguish good products from mediocre ones. Fortunately, the product we are listening to today is very good and it manages to make you notice it from the very first track.

The Truthear SHIO has a dark, silent background, a dynamic signature, and a full frequency spectrum that seems flat-lined and neutral in frequency response and it seems to produce music in a rather transparent way.

These DAC chips have the clarity of the CS43131 which is a notch below the CS43198 but with an ounce of added warmth and character plus a slightly wider stage.

It seems Truthear was very concerned with the noise floor and particularly with hiss. They managed to keep it way down with the SHIO because I never heard any although I was trying to provoke it to surface it never did, especially on low gain and on high gain just the same.

The Truthear SHIO seems to take a step forward in imaging capabilities plus added placement accuracy from let’s say the first iteration dongle DACs that were introduced into the market which generally sounded somewhat narrow and lacked depth.

Lows

The bass region is fast, agile, and has a good texture. The quantity of the sub-bass is sufficient, but I can say that I expected a little bit better in terms of impact. Bass feels agile and recovers fast, which contributes to the sense of speed and PRaT, hence, enhancing the technical capability of the SHIO. The control is very good here also, so there is no section overlap of any kind and the transition between bass and mids feels smooth. 

Mids

The midrange is perhaps my favorite out of the three major regions. The low mids have a good body, are adequate, does not feel too thick or too thin. The SHIO is quite balanced in this regard. The timbre feels accurate, the presentation feels neutral and transparent. It does not feel like it’s throwing details in your way, more like it presents them and you are welcome to pick them out. What I mean here is that the presentation does not feel forced or artificial, it is rather detailed, articulate, and transparent in a natural way. The vocals are brilliant with great resolution. The transition between subregions is seamless, the mids feel coherent and they do a great job of carrying the emotion hidden in the tracks. The upper mids have impressive energy and extension and follow the steps of the impressive treble. 

Highs

The top-end spectrum is quite nice. The SHIO has great treble energy. It is not particularly aggressive or bright, Truthear did a good job of fine-tuning the treble. The quantity feels accurate and the quality is definitely impressive. The definition and extension are great also, highs have good attack/decay and feel dynamic. The unit does not have an impressively wide stage, and the sensation of air is highly dependent on the pairing. As I said before, the SHIO reflects quite accurately. Overall, the treble is impressive.

Volume keys and status led.

Sum-Up

The SHIO is a transparent, clean, and resolving DAC. It offers a neutral signature. It does a great job of conveying the sound signatures of the in-ear monitors or headphones you pair it with and does not saturate or color them. This is exactly what you should expect from a good-quality USB DAC-AMP. 

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