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Truthear Shio and Topping G5 Comparison


Forum Donor
Mar 13, 2021
Finally received the Truthear SHIO DAC/AMP(?) Toggle from Shenzhenaudio I ordered a while back forgetting Chinese new year was imminent. Lesson learnt.

Anyway, I've been, like all those addicted to audiophile noise (or is it nonsense?), reading the reviews for this DAC. Most have given it the thumbs up. I must, say, listening to music being processed by it now, I have to agree that it is mighty for the price. Another Truthear segment buster.

There is the nod to the much pricier Moondrop Moonriver (so many moons!) 2 CS4 with almost identical architecture which is 2.7 times more expensive than the SHIO. The Topping G5 is a whopping 4.3 times the cost and about 16.5 times the weight (G5 265g/SHIO 16g). This makes walking about with the SHIO in tow feel invisible. This is a big plus for a portable DAC! I guess the Moondrop Moonriver would also be as unobtrusive as the SHIO albeit, I suspect, slightly heavier in stature, as it appears its body might be machined from a chunkier billet of aluminium. Fancy tool cut paths too adding to their cost, while the SHIO has made an interesting choice of omitting fancy, by covering the SHIO with leather. I think it's leather?

I mean, I'm not sure like others who have tried to work out whether the leather pattern is from cow or plastic injection mould. I think it could be a case of both! My suspicion is that it is a budget leather with imprinted polymer, you know? like the ones covering really expensive handbags!

I like the leather pattern and unlike the likely disgraceful ageing of the G5 by scratches, dinks to its thin aluminium shell and wearing of its pristine clinical high lustre engineered finish (like the old Sony Walkmans) due to its enormous size, making it an obviously cumbersome device susceptible to being banged about; I rather think the SHIO will gather the patina of an old trusty wallet.
They say, leather ages well, even fake leather! As an aside, it was a bad day when I finally released my 10 year old leather shoes, worn almost continuously (obviously not in bed) through thick and thin, resoled and returned like new to the same abuse in service about 5 times. So, the thought of tattered bits on my worn out Shio is a pleasant thought. The SHIO might turn out to be a tough little blighter.

The device spec appears to be a pretty close match to the Moonriver and it is as simple as that. No more to be said.

I found no problems with the headphone socket latching and holding firm the 3.5mm male pin belonging to my Truthear Hexa. There is a 4.4mm socket and that is a balanced output according to the spec sheet. This is one up on the Topping G5 which does have a 4.4mm output socket but it is not balanced. This is my opportunity to moan about the TRN T2 Upgrade cable - why don't they offer the thing with 3.5 and 4.4mm male sockets. The TRN T3 Pro can be bought with a 2.5, 3.5 & 4.4 mm jack bundle at additional cost, but it is a quirk that this option is not made available for the TRN T2.

The SHIO is very accomplished indeed and it is not a surprise given the technical spec. It may be the case that Truthear have re-engineered a similar device, but it isn't a rip off. It is a job very well done.

The comparison with the Topping G5 was easy in the end. The G5 is a superior audio reproduction unit, but I can tell you the SHIO is not that far behind in performance! So much so, that I will not be lugging my G5 around with me anymore. I will have my SHIO in my pocket everywhere. It is easily good enough to act as a substitute for the G5 in the arena where the G5 is limited by being a bit too heavy. That's everywhere outdoors!

I played music via Apple Music through my IPhone (I hate that thing) with an after market DD ddHiFi MFi06 lightning to USB Type C data connector which is a significant add on cost of $30 ( 50% of the cost of the Shio ), but I needed it for the G5, so IPhone owners beware. The SHIO is shipped with Type C to C connector, that should please people with sockets to match on their phones.

The SHIO performed admirably from out of the box. It was a doddle to get working and should be for people who have great difficulty in operating devices using intuition. As an added bonus it gets a little bit warm, handy byproduct to have as a hand warmer in your pocket on a cold day. I guess just let it dangle about in the breeze on a hot one or just have a warm pocket, there doesn't appear to be big risk of accelerating high temperatures! The G5 gets quite warm too and, to me anyway, it might be a case of getting warm before reaching full glorious operating potential. I wonder if anybody else has had that experience?

The SHIO's range of usability will probably extend, like others similar in size, to activities requiring physical exertion. Being extremely light and small, it would easily fit into a waterproof pocket; useful for cyclists and motorcyclists. Come to think of it, might look cool hanging out of an expensive handbag or man bag!

The important cost/performance ratio of the SHIO is staggering and that is not an understatement. This little device has been at the receiving end of some clever design brains who no doubt live in undecorated reinforced concrete square buildings with minimalist white furniture and no TVs. There could be carpets though.

Obviously, the Topping G5 provides a lot of sonic headroom. This is exemplified in comparing the SHIO and G5 with the IEM killer that is Terrence Fixmer's Matiere Noire album. You try this album at your own risk, but the echo in an empty chamber is easily resolved by the G5 whereas the SHIO doesn't quite reach the hollow dark empty spaces the G5 can. The G5 attains that numbing intensity of your senses operating at full max when someone switches all the lights out down a deep mine shaft. The deafening silence is reproduced with eerie magnificence that has your ears straining for dear life to hear something. Of course, this is listening experience was routinely disturbed by the notification pings from my IPhone. So, it's a good tip to switch off notifications from these devices if you want to listen to music. It's a shame Apple don't provide a "I want to be left alone" app.

The G5 does have a problem with EMI, but this is most prevalent when the G5 is co-joined at the hips with a phone. I recently tried placing constructing an EMI shield by inserting a doubled over piece of aluminium foil in between devices. To the best of my knowledge so far, this seems to provide quite an effective solution. Surely, Topping should have sorted this issue out. The SHIO does not have this problem at all because it is not in very close proximity to the noise from the phone.

Again, for a fraction of the cost, it is a bloody close run thing between the SHIO and G5, I mean, the SHIO is big sound for little buck. At this point I must again point out the amazing performance/cost ratio of the Hexa IEM. Couple the Hexa's light weight with the SHIO and you've got a formidable combination.

I've worn the Hexa and Shio as I've been making cups of tea (no, that's not my daily slog!), straining steamy pasta and walking about and it beats having the G5 +Hexa hands down. Being so light it doesn't have the inertia and thus, propensity like the G5, to snag, clunk and clatter into things when its in your pocket! That's another thing, the G5 needs big sturdy pockets!

The SHIO is branded as a DAC/AMP. Indeed it has hi and low gain settings which is changed by pressing down both ends of the volume rocker switch simultaneously. High gain is indicated by the red low gain LED turning green. Quite neat, but will it be durable with the fists of Thor?

The Hexa in high gain setting is difficult to volume control with the rocker switch which is tiny. When its in your pocket its near impossible to isolate quickly. Having said that, a very useful feature of the SHIO is that it appears to memory return to the volume setting you had if you disconnect the SHIO, interrupt and alter the main volume control on the phone/device if, for example, you had to make a call. Maybe, that could mean much less need to strain the fragile in appearance volume switch. However, I have my reservations about its long term durability, I guess we shall see.

Volume control is not as refined as the G5 with the SHIO just toggling the generic control setting of the Iphone. That doesn't let the G5 off the hook though with its volume control knob far too close to the strap ears of the device. I found it a pain to turn when my fingers were greasy after eating a few naughty items (potato chips). Really it should have a sturdy rubberized grip.

In terms of the SHIO's impact on IPhone battery life, well this doesn't seem to be a significant point of concern. After hours of listening, the battery indicator on my IPhone was slightly depleted and I don't know if that was due directly to the SHIO, people harassing me with texts, emails, the bluetooth or wifi.

Compare that with the G5 and there is a great deal to improve with Topping's offering. Even after a few hours playing, the thing is almost dead and takes ages to recharge.

If you inadvertently leave it on, which is an easy thing to do, then a flat G5 doesn't work and it takes ages to recharge - I mean many hours. Further, there is very scant warning from any LED that the device is dying! This needs to be fixed ASAP by maybe, introducing an audible “I need recharging” signal.(seems to be a Topping guru prowling about on ASR - please take note sir!)

In conclusion, I really like the SHIO, I love it in fact! It will certainly replace my G5 as my portable device, but not as my "I want to be alone in a dark room" DAC. It is another wonderful bargain from Truthear.

It's as simple as that.

I hope Amir provides us with a comprehensive technical review soon.

Just as an update, I carried out a survey of dongles and there are quite a selection available and have been reviewed. The closest match to the Truthear is the cheaper FiiO KA1 at $50. Although there is only one 3.5mm socket, there is a lightning to USB C cable option bundled in which is a good trade off. If anyone is interested in a comprehensive survey of on the move dongles then I would recommend a check of this site

There seems to be an emerging consensus that the Questyle M15 is on the top of the pile in terms of audiophile quality, but in a recent review the Truthear SHIO came out very slightly behind the considerably more expensive M15. This goes to show just how good the SHIO is. Another link to reviews of dongle to satisfy the insatiable.

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Grand Contributor
Forum Donor
Oct 25, 2019
I don't view the g5 as the same product type as the dongles to be honest. And for iem the dongles are great in any environment, except the phone battery drain.

I view the g5/mojo type as "mobile office" suitable for harder to drive over ears or where you don't want to drain phone battery powering a dongle. Not really for mobile /walking listening.

The moonriver is great by the way but not 3 or 4 times the price of the shio and others.
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