Reviewer at hxosplus
Obliterating the competition
Pros: + Fantastic sounding with a musical and organic character
+ Great transparency and technicalities
+ Natural and realistic timbre
+ Limited digital glare and artificiality
+ Both 3.5mm and 4.4mm headphone outputs
+ Silent and noise free
+ Full scale 4V output with two gain settings
+ 60 steps hardware volume control with physical buttons
+ Power efficient
+ Premium looking
+ Good quality cable
+ Lightweight and compact sized
Cons: - Competition can sound more resolving and detailed
- No accompanying application
- The LED will not display sampling rate
- No MQA decoding for those who care
- A USB type C - A adapter is not included
- The stitching line of the leather lining doesn't look firmly glued
The review sample was kindly provided by Shenzhen Audio, free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
I didn't receive monetary or any other kind of compensation and I don't use affiliate links.
The price of the Truthear SHIO is $69.99 and you can order it from Shenzhen Audio.


Truthear SHIO

This is my first experience with Truthear, another manufacturer from China who is mainly distributed by Shenzhen Audio and has released three in-ear monitors and a DAC dongle.


The Truthear SHIO is a compact sized USB DAC dongle with a detachable USB type-C cable and dual headphone outputs, a 3.5mm single ended and a 4.4mm balanced one.
The SHIO features two pieces of the CS43198 DAC chip by Cirrus Logic and can handle PCM up to 32bit/768kHz and DSD256 but will not decode MQA.
The balanced architecture results in a high power output, 2V RMS for the 3.5mm output and 4V RMS for the balanced or roughly 150mWx2/32Ω and 55mWx2/300Ω.


The Truthear SHIO has two gain settings, low and high, for better matching with various earphones.
You can select the gain by simultaneously pressing the tiny hardware volume control buttons that are located at the side of the chassis.
The LED will light red for the low and green for the high gain.
There are two firmwares for installing in the Truthear SHIO, one for a regular sync-system volume control and the other for hardware internal volume mode with 60 steps of independent volume adjustment.
No need to say that the second is the better and the one I have exclusively used during my time with the SHIO.


Build quality and appearance

The Truthear SHIO is compact sized, measuring 54x20x14mm and maybe the most lightweight dongle with both 3.5mm and 4.4mm outputs as it weights 17g only.
It is made from lightweight aluminum alloy with sandblasting and anodized treatment, the main body is covered by high grade, black painted, leather that adds a luxurious feeling and a unique appearance.
Build quality is very good but I am concerned about whether the leather texture will deteriorate after time and if the leather cover will get unglued at the seam line.



SHIO comes with only one short USB type C-C cable which is made from high quality oxygen free copper in a multi-core geometry and has a nylon mesh covering.
A USB type C to A converter is missing and for iOS you have to buy a separate cable or a suitable adapter.


Power output and noise floor

The unit was left playing music for more than 50 hours before listening evaluation.
I have used various earphones like the FiiO FA7S, FH15 and the Penon Vortex with balanced and unbalanced plugs.
The balanced output is undeniably the better one and should be preferred when possible but the 3.5mm is still excellent sounding retaining all the sound characteristics minus some loss in overall technicalities and dynamics.
The Truthear SHIO is powerful enough to run sensitive headphones like the Sennheiser HD660S or the Focal Clear Mg while it is power efficient and will not deplete the battery of the host device too fast.
The internal noise floor is pretty inaudible and I haven't experienced any EMI issues.


The SHIO is absolutely fantastic sounding with a neutral and balanced tuning but moreover with an analogue and organic sound signature that is rarely found at this price point.
The technicalities are also very good, the sound is transparent and true to the source material without any induced coloring, signal deterioration or frequency response deviations from the device itself.
The SHIO is full bodied and weighty sounding for the whole frequency range and not only in the bass so the sound texture is homogeneous and even from the top to the bottom.
The bass is extended, tight and controlled with good layering and very satisfying definition while it is also very dynamic and impactful, especially from the balanced output.
Pair the SHIO with a bass shaking earphone, like the FiiO FH9 and be prepared for some hard hitting moments full of a shuttering low end.
The mid-range clarity is great, the SHIO is articulated and refined but what stands out the most is the natural timbre and the realism of the presentation.
Voices and solo instruments sound delightful and lifelike, lush and mildly warm with plenty of colorful overtones and great harmonic wealth.
The same kind of naturalness applies to the treble which is smooth and easy to the ear but without missing in extension and resolution.
The notes sound rounded and weighty without rough edges and sharpness with plenty of air around them and a natural decay over time.
The SHIO is fast and energetic but not too much as to sound hasty and analytical, there is a gentleness to the overall presentation, the sound is diffused and organic but you wouldn't call it as lacking in detail retrieval, bite and sparkle.
What is really striking is the almost complete absence of digital glare, I don't know what filter they are using but the timbre is surprisingly analogue and lacking in artificiality.
The SHIO can tackle all sorts of music, from popular hits to the most demanding classical music works like Shostakovich's 15th symphony.


It is not only that the whole symphony orchestra sounded full bodied, realistic, tonally balanced and dynamic but moreover the SHIO was able to draw a quite large and expanded soundstage with a solid center image, satisfying positioning accuracy and holographic properties.


Compared to the iBasso DC03 Pro ($69)

The iBasso DC03 Pro has the same asking price as the Truthear SHIO and is also using two pieces of the CS43131 DAC chip which is supposedly the same as the CS43198.
The difference is that it has only one single ended output that is limited to 98mW@32Ω (2Vrms@300Ω, 1.77Vrms@32Ω) but in exchange it is slightly more thin and lightweight.
The DC03 Pro is also compatible with the iBasso UAC application which allows the user to select the output gain and among the 5 available low pass filters.
With the DC03 Pro it is obligatory to use the UAC application for your selections to take effect since they are not stored in the memory of the unit when the SHIO will remember the last gain setting.


The DC03 Pro is fantastic sounding thanks to its natural, balanced and musical sound signature that is not devoid of technicalities.
And while someone would expect these two to sound almost identical the truth is that they have a couple of differences.
The DC03 Pro is slightly more clean and transparent and maybe a touch more refined and defined but on the other hand, SHIO has the slightest leading edge in musicality and engagement.
It is more communicative, it offers better sentimental involvement with the music, the sound of the SHIO is fuller and more organic, smoother and a touch more analogue-like, the timbre is natural and the overall presentation leans closer to realism.

Compared to the Moondrop Dawn ($69)

Another great USB DAC dongle with the same price and dual CS43131 DAC chips but this time the Moondrop Dawn is with a balanced only output, a barrel shaped chassis, non removable cable and without hardware buttons.
Thankfully you can use the Moondrop LINK application to select the output gain and your favorite low pass filter.
These two DACs are almost identical sounding, the Moondrop would be my recommendation if someone asked for a very musical and technically competent USB DAC dongle.
Well, until now, because the truth is that SHIO offers the same type of sound signature, if not slightly better, but it presents a better overall value because it has dual headphone outputs, it is more luxurious looking and has hardware buttons for controlling the volume and selecting the gain.


In the end

The Truthear SHIO is absolutely fantastic sounding with a very musical and organic sound character not devoid of technicalities.
It is also lightweight and compact, featuring dual headphone outputs, hardware volume buttons, detachable cable and a premium appearance.
The Truthear SHIO is undeniably great and maybe the best sub $100 USB DAC dongle.

Test playlist

Copyright - Petros Laskis 2023.
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They sound pretty much close. I can rate them from warmer to more neutral and more technical as SHIO - UA1 Plus - DC03PRO.
And from bulkier to more compact as SHIO - DC03PRO - UA1 Plus.

Pick you poison!!
Not easy... if i'd look dimensions i'd take UA1 plus or M12, but i like how you described Shio...
  • Like
Reactions: Ichos
It's bigger than the others but it is lightweight.


New Head-Fier
Please note: At the time of writing I am not a seasoned audiophile, I am still fairly new to the hobby and am just describing what I hear

+ Transparent, clean sound, can blow my ear drums out if I so wish
+ Smooth analogue feeling sound, warmish tint
+ More power then anyone really needs in a dongle DAC, easily powers IEMs and most headphones out there especially on 4.4mm BAL output
+ 70 usd for dual CS43198! Mooonriver 2 eat your heart out.
+ I love the leatherette design it looks so nice in my eyes and feels nice too.
+ Firmware with independent volume control - thank you TE!
+ Buttons feel nice & tactile
+ LED light isn't bright which is good for bedtime use

+ Finally it works with other apps other than USB Audio Player Pro on my OnePlus 10T unlike my apple dongle even if it isn't bit perfect.

- Wish there was a USB C female to USB A male adapter included for PC use but I have a drawer full of cables anyway

Sound Presentation - 4.5
Driving Power - 5
Volume Control - 5
Features - 4.5
Value - 5
Total - 24/25

Highly recommended buy

Headphones used: S12 Pro, HD 560S

Music genres I listen to: Pop, hip-hop, k-pop, EDM, indie rock.

Games I played: Apex Legends
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100+ Head-Fier
Truthear SHIO 🎵 - Best dongle DAC under $100usd?
Pros: - Smooth relaxed sound
- Low power draw
- Punch thick lower mids
- Full sounding mids
- 4.4 Balanced output
- Detachable USB-C cable
- Doesn't get warm when in use
- Gain switch
- Good power output
- Good value
- (update firmware) independent volume control
Cons: - Not the most technical for the price
- Can be too warm/too much bass for some
- Doesn't sound good with their very own Truthear HOLA

Update (10 Feb 2023):
Truthear just released a firmware upgrade for the SHIO which totally fixes the volume issues i had. I would like to praise and acknowledge Truthear from taking action and fixing this issue fast.

Link to download here.

Here are the changes i had to make

- (update firmware) independent volume control
- (update firmware) volume issues fixed!

- No physical volume control (buttons control software volume)
- Volume issues with windows

(5 - 7 min read)


Truthear SHIO is Truthear's first entry into the dongle DAC market. It comes in at only $69.99usd and it features Dual CS43198 DAC chips, which according to Truthear, "was only used in high-end DAC amplifiers". With so many dongle DACs currently in the market now, can Truthear stand out from the crowd with their very first dongle DAC? Read on to find out!



D/C Chip :CS43198 *2pcs
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%
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)


Just like the Truthear HOLA (review here), the Truthear SHIO's box is pretty small and compact, which I like. At this price range, companies should focus on investing in the IEM itself for a better price-to-performance ratio, and not on the packaging. Upon opening the box, you are presented with a short USB-C to USB-C cable, some paperwork, and the dongle DAC itself.

Overall, the unboxing experience is decent. No complaints for $69.99usd!




  1. Design/Output ports - The entire body of the SHIO is covered in faux leather, with a 3.5mm port and a Balanced 4.4mm port in the front. On one side, you get your LED light and your volume buttons. On the back, you get your USB-C port for connecting the cables.
  2. Portability - The dongle DAC itself is pretty compact and small, so I do not see any issues in terms of portability. Overall, it is very easy to pocket and carry around.
  3. Power Draw - In terms of power draw, based on my 2 weeks of use with the SHIO, power draw seems to be on the low side, which is great. I've tested it with my Samsung S9+ and also my Shanling M3x. I did not notice any huge drop in battery percentage when the Truthear SHIO is plugged in and in use.

    However, the SHIO does not have an Idle mode, so I do recommend unplugging them when not in use.
  4. Compatibility - I have tested the SHIO with my Windows laptop, Windows desktop, Android phone, and my iPhone. It works totally fine with everything. However, if you are on an iPhone, you will need to shell out for a USB-C to lightning cable on your own, as it isn't included in the box.
  5. Additional Features:
    • The addition of volume buttons is nice. However, they aren't "true" volume buttons as they just control software volume, instead of the volume on the dongle DAC itself. Truthear released a firmware upgrade which gave the SHIO independent volume controls. Kudos to them
    • To toggle between low/high gain, hold down both vol up and vol down buttons for 1 second. The LED light will go from red to green.


On paper, the Truthear SHIO has an output power of 150 Ohm @ 32 Ohm / 55mW x2 @300Ω via its Balanced out.

I have tested the Truthear SHIO with a few different headphones/IEMs like:
AKG k371, Sennheiser HD600, Truthear HOLA, Tforce Yuan Li, Final Audio E5000, Final Audio B3, Acoustune HS1650cu, and Moondrop Variations.

The SHIO is able to drive easier-to-drive headphones/IEMs like the AKG k371, Acoustune HS1650cu, Moondrop Variations, and the Truthear HOLA (with a HUGE caveat. Read below). However, it is unable to drive more power-demanding gears like the Final e5000 and Sennheiser HD600 well, which isn't at all surprising.

For the price, I would say that SHIO's power output is good, if not more than enough for most budget IEMs that you might use it with (e.g. Moondrop Aria, Dunu Titan S, Tin Hifi T3 Plus, Moondrop Chu etc.). However, if you are looking to drive headphones/IEMs like Final e5000 and Sennheiser HD600, I think you are looking at the wrong price point.



I would describe Truthear SHIO's sound signature to be warm, bassy, and smooth sounding. Overall, the Truthear SHIO is a coloured-sounding dongle that makes everything you plug into it sound warmer, thicker, and smoother sounding.


In terms of bass, the SHIO is full, warm, and thick sounding. This makes the SHIO a great pairing for brighter sounding IEMs like the Tanchjim Zero, 7hz Zero, and HZSound Heart Mirror. However, it does not pair well with warmer IEMs like their very own Truthear HOLA. Bass can also get uncontrolled at times, which makes the bass sound boomy and lacking in texture.

In terms of midrange, it is warm, full and lush sounding. Vocals overall sound full, but female vocals/upper midrange sound a bit relaxed. I find SHIO to pair well with shouty IEMs like the Moondrop SSR. It gives the SSR a bit more bass and tames the upper midrange shout.

In terms of treble, overall, it is smooth and slightly dark. I personally find the treble here to sound a bit too dark for my taste. However, as mentioned above, this tuning can pair quite well with brighter IEMs like the Tanchjim Zero, 7hz Zero and etc.

In terms of soundstage, is slightly small and intimate. I would describe the stage to be somewhat around your head. Like a small studio.

In terms of imaging, however, is a bit blurred and fuzzy. The same goes for transients. Transients here sound a bit too soft and relaxed, making the SHIO sound a bit dull and lacking in terms of technicalities.


Unbalanced overall just sounds slightly softer and flatter in comparison.

Balanced sounds a bit more authoritative and dynamic, with slightly snappier transients. This makes the SHIO sound more engaging and fun. Soundstage also "opens up" a bit, with a slightly wider stage and headroom. Not to mention, you also get more power out of balanced, which makes driving single dynamic IEMs or "harder to drive" IEMs a better experience.

Overall, the balanced output on the SHIO is superior and is what I'd recommend you to try out.

ISSUES FACED (Fixed as of 10-Feb-23)​

However, there are a few volume issues that I've faced while using the SHIO with my Windows PC and android phone. When using the SHIO with a Windows PC, on average, the max volume I can go to is 6/100 on 3.5mm unbalanced and 4/100 on 4.4mm Balanced. This is quite low as 10/100 volume on Balanced is enough to blow your ears out. Even worse, when used with my Shanling M3X (without UAPP), I can still get around 50dB of loudness when my volume is literally set to 0/100.

I have already tried installing the driver provided by Truthear (link here). However, that is just an ASIO driver for the SHIO so it does not fix any of the issues I've mentioned above.

I think a firmware upgrade is needed from Truthear to get these technical issues fixed—just like the Colorfly CDA M1 and Shanling Ua2, which both had similar issues in the past but were fixed with a simple firmware upgrade.


Truthear SHIO ($69.99usd) Vs Moondrop Moonriver 2 ($189usd)


(picture courtesy of Headphonia. Check them out here)

Controversial take, but I do not like how the Moonriver 2 sound. The MR2 I find to have too much midbass, and upper mids sound a bit too relaxed. They might sound and synergize well with most Moondrop IEMs (as they mostly sound lean/clean), but with most other IEMs, they sound weird in my opinion.

In comparison to Truthear SHIO, SHIO sounds more balanced to me. With lesser midbass bump, and upper mids not as relaxed. Sure, in terms of driving power and technicalities, the MR2 is the much better one, but the MR2 is also $100usd more expensive than the SHIO and the tonal balance (at least for me) sounds off.

Truthear SHIO ($69.99usd) VS Shanling UA2 ($65usd currently)

(picture courtesy of Soundphile Review. Check them out here)

UA2 has a U-shaped sound signature, it is more aggressive sounding, upper mids are more forward, treble is sparklier and brighter, bass is punchier and tighter, and midrange is leaner and slightly more recessed. Transients and imaging are sharper, soundstage is roughly the same.

UA2 can sound slightly aggressive at times, especially with the wrong pairing (e.g. V-shaped IEMs), whilst the Truthear SHIO is the other way around. It can sound too smooth when paired with smoother sounding IEMs (Truthear HOLA).


The Truthear SHIO offers quite a complete package for a dongle DAC at an affordable price. At $69.99usd, you get warm and smooth tuning, balanced output, decent power output, volume controls, detachable cable, dual DACs, low/high gain, low power draw, and doesn't get hot when used. However, I think a simple firmware upgrade is needed to fix the volume issue that I've faced as that can get quite annoying to use. Fixed as of 10-Feb-2023

Overall, the Truthear SHIO is quite a decent dongle DAC for the price. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a warmer smoother sounding dongle DAC. Thank you for reading.


Thank you Cloris Gee from ShenZhenAudio for sending over the Truthear HOLA (review here) and Truthear SHIO for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Interested in getting the Truthear HOLA & SHIO? Here are the purchase links (non-affiliated):
Truthear HOLA link - https://shenzhenaudio.com/products/...gh-performance-dynamic-driver-in-ear-monitors
Truthear SHIO link - https://shenzhenaudio.com/products/...-chips-lossless-portable-dac-amplifier-dongle


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Update: truthear released a new firmware update that fixes the windows volume issues and gives SHIO independent volume control. Kudos to them! HUGE Quality Of Life upgrade IMO

How does this dongle sound with Tforce Yuan Li?
@audionab Sounds good. Adds more warmth and midbass to the Yuan Li. Balanced recommended


500+ Head-Fier
Truthear SHIO - Warm and small as a lighter
Pros: - No background noise, warm sound profile pairs best with bright IEMs
- 2 x CS43198 and balanced output at this price are very good
- Even though it’s not a very powerful amp, there’s enough power to drive the majority of headphones and earphones out there at decent volume levels
- Small and lightweight
- It’s never heating up
Cons: - Warm sound profile doesn’t pair well with warm sets
- Limited output power
- Could have used a manual gain switch
- Pleather sheath could wear off over time, a fully aluminum shell would have been better


Together with the Truthear HOLA, Truthear released the SHIO, a very small portable DAC/AMP that features a double Cirrus Logics CS43198 and both balanced and unbalanced outputs.
Let’s see how it’s built and how it performs.

Disclaimer: the sample was provided by Cloris from Shenzen Audio free of charge in order to write an honest review. I do not represent them in any way and this is not promotional content.
At the time of the review, the Truthear SHIO were sold for $69,99 on
Shenzen Audio Store’s website.


Technical Specifications​

  • DAC chip → 2 x Cirrus Logic CS43198
  • Sampling rate → PCM 44.1 kHz - 768 kHz | DSD64 - DSD256
  • Input → USB Type-C
  • 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
  • THD+N (@1kHz) (A-WT) → 3.5mm SE: <0.00025%
    4.4mm BAL: <0.0002%
  • SNR → 130dB (A-WT)
  • Dynamic Range → 130dB (A-WT)
  • Frequency Response → 20-20kHz (±0.1dB)
  • Background Noise → < 1.6uVrms (A-WT)
  • Dimensions → 54 mm x 21.5 mm x 14 mm


Packaging is very simple, practically identical to the one used for the Trutheat HOLA. It includes:
  • The Truthear SHIO
  • The USB Type-C to USB Type-C cable
  • User manual

Design and Build Quality​

The Truthear SHIO is very lightweight, it’s as small as a lighter and it’s fully made of metal with the sides being covered by a pleather sheath. The build quality is not crazy good, moreover because of the pleather surrounding it, and maybe an aluminum shell would have been a slightly better choice.
The volume control feels very responsive and has a nice feeling to it, and the overall assembly is good.
An important thing to say is that it never heats up while using, and this is big “plus” considering that there are dongles that get warm rather quickly.



The Truthear SHIO is actually the cheapest portable DAC/AMP featuring a double Cirrus Logic CS43198, which is still a great chip even though not the most recent.
The amp section was implemented by Truthear, instead, considering that the CS43198 does not feature any integrated amp.
With respect to sound quality, it’s not the most transparent and linear source out there, but overall it’s safe to say that the Truthear SHIO introduces substantial improvements from a standard smartphone or notebook 3.5mm jack port.

From the first moment, it’s clear that SHIO slightly smoothens the overall sound with a touch of warmth that makes it a relatively warm source, so those that always look for the most analytical, transparent and linear sources on the market should look elsewhere. In addition, there are no background noises or hisses, which is good news.
Power is where the SHIO shows its limits, but this was to be expected considering it runs through a Type-C port and does not have an integrated battery.
It’s pretty clear that the SHIO suits IEMs much better than over ear cans, moreover because those who have been into this hobby for a long time are already aiming for mid-tier headphones, which are generally harder to drive than the average IEM.

Last thing to mention is that there is no dedicated gain switch as SHIO is automatically switching to high or low gain depending on how you push the volume up or down (this isn’t a dealbreaker for the price, but many would have liked a dedicated low/high gain switch).

Pairing and improvements​

The pairing mostly involves the 3,5mm output, even though the SHIO also has a balanced output which has much more power (look at the specs).
To make a sort of “comparison”, I have taken my Galaxy S7 Edge (that still has 3.5mm jack port) and I have also tried using the Apple Type-C dongle (EU version) on my daily phone, which is a POCO F4.

In every comparison, though, the SHIO has a lot more power than both S7 Edge and Apple dongle, and it’s also a chip that wins in overall resolution, so I won’t write this in every single case.
Considering the fact that SHIO is a pretty warm source, as a rule of thumb, it’s always interesting to pair it with bright sets in order to “compensate” the two different approaches and hear the differences.

Truthear SHIO w/ Truthear HEXA
The Truthear HEXA are already excellent at handling complex passages and pinpointing instruments, and they have lots of details. But they usually shine with good sources and SHIO is no-exception: when using the HEXA through the SHIO, they have more bass impact than both the S7 Edge and Apple dongle, and they are slightly smoother, less dry and more pleasant and fun overall.

Truthear SHIO w/ Truthear HOLA
The Truthear HOLA reach pretty high volume levels even when plugged into weak sources, but the SHIO seem to emphasize their weaknesses: the bass becomes even more boomy and warmer and they don’t seem to benefit from this particular pairing. This surprised me in an awkward way considering that they were released together and that they are also presented in very similar packaging.

Truthear SHIO w/ Moondrop Chu
The Moondrop Chu are smoothened and the low-end becomes a bit more engaging and punchy, which is definitely a plus considering that this is a pretty bass-light set.
This is another case in which the combination of a bright set and SHIO’s warm output results in an almost perfect match.

Truthear SHIO w/ Celest Pandamon
The Pandamon seem to benefit from SHIO’s amplification: the bass is punchier, the stage is slightly wider and they become a bit more impactful overall.

Truthear Shio w/ KBEAR Believe
The differences between “Believe with SHIO” and “Believe without SHIO” (S7 Edge directly or on my POCO F4 through my Apple dongle) are evident, not only because of the fact that SHIO is doing its job but mostly because the Believe are very inefficient.
In this case, the added power helps, but the overall performance is not scaling at its best, moreover because the bass is still a bit boomy and the upper midrange, although smoother, is very hot at times.
In fact, plugging the KBEAR Believe into a Topping L30 drastically improves them, by making the bass much faster and tight and rendering the upper-midrange in a more transparent way.
In this case, SHIO proves another time that warm source and warm sets don’t work very well together, although the KBEAR Believe are outliers considering their high inefficiency.

Truthear SHIO w/ Sony MH755
MH755 is another set that is known to benefit from amplification but SHIO makes them even warmer and slightly bassier. It seems like the bass is a bit tighter but the added warmth is not making the MH755 more enjoyable. I would not use the MH755 with the SHIO from a purely timbrical perspective.

Truthear SHIO w/ Meze 99 Classics
The 99 Classics are very warm along the spectrum and SHIO gives them slightly more bass impact and warmth. This is not needed on the 99 Classics so this is another pairing that could be avoided.

Truthear SHIO w/ Hifiman HE400SE
SHIO does a great job at making the HE400SE more than usable when a dedicated desktop amplifier cannot be used, something that is impossible for the Apple dongle or the S7 Edge’s jack port (there’s just not enough power to “move” the drivers properly). The bass becomes punchier and more lively and there’s a hint of added warmth that is rather pleasant.
When using the SHIO, mid-to-high volumes are not a problem, but even at the highest volume level there’s still something missing, moreover in the low-end, and it seems like that the HE400SE needs more power to shine. When using these in high-gain mode on a Topping L30, the differences in the low-end are pretty evident: the Topping L30 win hands down being able to push the HE400SE so that the bass can punch as it should.
In the end, I still think SHIO is doing a great job as the HE400SE are more than usable and perfectly enjoyable.

Truthear SHIO w/ Superlux HD-681F
When using the SHIO, the Superlux HD-681F show some improvements in note weight, which is usually missing when plugging them to a weaker source. Mids and highs don’t seem to be positively affected but the added note weight makes everything less dry.

Final Thoughts​

SHIO’s warm sound profile makes it a very nice companion to pair with bright IEMs, while warm IEMs are not the ideal sets to pair with this dongle. At this point, one thing that I do not understand is the reason why this was (communicatively speaking) made to be paired with HOLA, which are warm and would need a more linear source.
Other than that, I am happy to recommend the Truthear SHIO: it is a great product, not only because it offers some good internals which are usually found in more expensive products, but also because it’s compact, reliable, it never heats up and has a good aount of power, and all of this for just $69.


500+ Head-Fier
Pros: good heat management, smooth and natural sound, uses female USB-C port for modularity, reasonable power consumption, powerful
Cons: pleather exterior looks and feels cheap, no pause on headphone disconnect for either output

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.


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


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.



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.



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.


I took the following power consumption measurements with the Truthear Shio connected to my PC:

Shio PC Single-Ended In-Use.jpg

Shio PC Balanced In-Use.jpg

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:
Shio PC Idle.jpg

The Shio has excellent heat management and does not get warm to the touch even with prolonged use.


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)


500+ Head-Fier
TRUTHEAR SHIO: Power Overwhelming and Affordability.
Pros: △ It has lightweight metal alloy chassis and a faux-leather upholstery with its outer cover to give that premium feel.
△ A dual output jack on its interface.
△ Detachable Type-C OTG cable.
△ Flagship-grade Cirrus Logic DAC/Amp chip
△ Transparent and neutral sounding dongle.
△ Can decode native DSD format up to DSD256.
△ Has a quite powerful amplification that can able to drive even the most power-hungry planar cans out there.
△ Finally, a volume key button which also work as manual gain switch.
△ Very versatile on connectivity to most multimedia devices and OS compatibility is essentially very flexible to portable audio enthusiast like us either on desktop or mobile.
Cons: ▽ No MQA support for MQA connoisseurs.
▽ Until now, it remains to have some qualms on its build quality.(I hope I was wrong)
▽ Still needs some refinement on technical aspects and do some fine-tuned on tonality to reach the level of some flagships dongles.
▽ If you are familiar on typical Cirrus Logic devices which has thicker, warmer and more analogue sounding that you are quite familiar and use into it, this device might be odd and uncanny to you.(just my slight quibbling about it)

"The single most important top-level trend is the shift to mobile."

–Max Levchin, Software Engineer and Co-founder of Paypal.

This is my second product review for TRUTHEAR and this time its a USB DAC Dongle. USB DAC dongles are becoming a staple device for a portable audio enthusiast. I'm quite aware of its possible relevance given that the 3.5mm headphone jack will go extinct in the future due to some trend on following such a "cult of courage" by a tech company declaring that analogue jack is obsolete and almost all phone manufacturers followed suit on it.


Like all audio companies, TRUTHEAR made a wise decision to jump on the opportunity and they also released a USB DAC dongle that will be more affordable and will give an appealing to be valuable proposition for audio improvements. Along with TRUTH HOLA, TRUTHEAR accompanied it with TRUTHEAR SHIO.

TRUTHEAR SHIO (Shio means salt in Japanese) is a USB DAC dongle device, it is the company's first attempt to release such a device. Like its name, It enhances the audio quality by decoding an audio file and delivers a more dynamic and even better sonic performance just like the salt seasoning that makes the flavour of dish taste more palatable to our tongue.


Like almost USB DAC dongles, SHIO takes an elongated rectangular appearance and it is made of lightweight, CNC-milled aluminium alloy that gives a decent solid build quality. Then it was laminated with a P-leather (Polyurethane) upholstery that seamlessly covered the metal shell chassis to give a sense of premium and sophistication on feeling. It also features a hardware key button for volume adjustment and manual gain switch which is quite tactile enough. On both sides of the ends, it has type-C for data synching from multimedia device sources like smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs then on the other opposite part is where the dual output interfaces were placed. It has a short detachable type-C OTG cable covered with nylon fabric mesh, this cable will ensure a better transmission of data.


These output interfaces consist of a 3.5mm unbalanced output jack and a 4.4mm balanced output which gives more choices and requirements beneficial for a portable audio enthusiast. Both jacks can deliver an impressive power output depending on your listening gears required amplification power.


I've tested the SHIO to some cans with planar transducers like from Hifimans, Fostex and Audeze which are notoriously known to be power hungry sets that needs a desktop grade DAC/Amps and amazingly, SHIO deliver a laudable performance to drive and amplifies those cans smoothly and efficiently.


Regarding its hardware keys buttons, it still relies on multimedia host's incremental volume level on amplitude scaling, specifically on music software apps that supports USB dongles like HiBy music player, UAPP and Onkyo, and unfortunately it doesn't have an independent volume of its own. But given that it has a hardware volume key button which gives me another option aside from doing some volume adjustment from my phone, it is quite helpful on my part. It also serves as a manual gain switch as I mentioned before by pressing the middle part of the button and there's a small LED indicator beside it to determine the colour-coded gain mode, Red for normal gain mode and yellow for high gain mode on PCM. DSD gain mode has different colour, Blue signifies low gain mode and Purple on high gain.

On SHIO'S internals, it has dual, flagship-grade CS43198 Cirrus Logic DAC/amp chips. I'm quite familiar with this DAC/amp model as this is one the latest generation of DAC/amp coming from Cirrus Logic that is very power efficient and has advanced digital interpolation filter modes. It has a DSD playback that can support up to DSD256 and sampling frequency up to 384KHz (x2 on SHIO since it is dual). It can support up to 600 Ohms with an impressive dynamic range of 130 dB. This DAC chip will definitely deliver a very high performance that is almost achievable from desktop grade DAC/Amps. The most notable devices that use the same DAC chip are A&K's SR15 and SR25 Mk.II, iBasso DX300 and Topping D30 PRO.


When it comes to playback, SHIO is compatible with all known lossless audio formats from FLAC to DSD. It is rated that it can decode a file format of lossless audio quality from 16/44.1KHz (CD-quality) up to 32-Bit/768KHz (Hi-Res, Vinyl-grade) on PCM and up to DSD256 on DSD/DXD format.

The product packaging of TRUTHEAR SHIO is rather simple and yet still presentable despite few inclusions. It has a USB Pen drive chassis, a short type-C OTG cable and some paperworks like warranty card, instruction manual and a postcard with TRUTHEAR's mascot, Shiroi.


TRUTHEAR SHIO is compatible with all modern multimedia devices and software operating systems. It can be tethered on smartphones, Laptop,Tablets and PCs. On OS compatibility, it is suitable for Windows, Android, iOS (you need an OTG lightning adapter), MacOS and Linux which make the SHIO very versatile device.


Here are some technical details on power output rating of TRUTHEAR SHIO:

●3.5mm TRS: 1.4 Vrms (low gain), 2Vrms (high gain)
●4.4mm TRRS (Balanced) 2 Vrms (low gain), 4 Vrms (high gain)

●x2 150mW @ 32Ω
●x2 55mW @ 300Ω

When it comes to tonality, SHIO has a rather balanced-neutral sound profile which is quite unusual for a Cirrus Logic DAC/Amp compared to other devices with Cirrus Logic DAC/Amp chips which are usually on a warmer sound quality. It is also crisper and transparent sounding compared to most CS devices that I've tested before, So SHIO even piques my interest on how TRUTHEAR did it.


Precise, tactile and punchy, those characteristics that give the cohesive profile of bass quality on SHIO. I discerningly hear those rumblings and reverbs clearly from the sub bass-focus instruments on synth-pop, classic rock and old school hip hop tracks like low tuned bass guitars, electric drums and synthesisers.

Mid bass has an ample dense texture to give a homogenous sound on bass guitars to have a resonant and a more hefty sound, a more deep, richer and smooth sound on bass-baritone vocals and then a sonorous and more "menacing" sound of a bass kick drum.


For a balanced-neutral sound signature, the overall midrange presentation of SHIO is transparent, sterile, linear and has a sufficient warmth just to have a balanced texture on its note weight. In essence, it doesn't sound dry to me after all. Vocals on both genders deliver an acceptable cleanliness, with the sense of spaciousness and energy. Male vocals like baritones, countertenors and tenors have its distinct pitch quality to have this guttural, deep, power and fuller sound quality. On female vocals, first are contraltos, they have this soothing, angelic and smoky sound that are quite pleasing to my ears. next are the mezzo-sopranos which have this hypnotic, luscious and tender to give that cosy listening experience and the last were sopranos, these type of vocals and probably the most technical and complex have this bright, power, full-range timbre and agile (especially for coloratura ones) to give a provocative and regal sound.

As for instruments, it gives an almost accurate sound reproduction of each specific type of instruments, a buttery to lingering crisp sound of an acoustic and electric guitar, an austere to vibrant sound of a violin. Then a brassy, "heroic" and warmer sound on brass instruments like trombones and trumpets, a velvety and reedy sound of a saxophone, a mellow and ethereal sound of a flute. Tom drums have this dark to sonorous sound while snare drums have this cracking and penetrating sound quality. Pianos have this warmer, broad to vividly bright sound that every strike on its keys gives us that mesmerising sense.


Treble is rather neutral on this set, it has an adequate brightness to give a scintillating detail and at the same time it has this smoothness to even out some unwanted peaks that might cause harshness and sibilance in tracks.

Cymbals have the right amount of shimmer and sizzle while hi-hats have that shortened crisp sound to give the chick sound. It has a modest amount of sparkle and harmonics to give that airy, Hi-Fi feel.


As I try to estimate the overall dimension proportion of its sound field, It has an above average extent on its sound/speaker stage width, with good height and a perceived distance in depth either from the front or rear. It really gives me a decent spatial awareness within my head room to give me an immersive feel.

It has good imaging capabilities that let me locate the placement of certain elements in the overall sonic field like instruments and vocals. As for separation and layering, it has a sufficient spacing and organises its specific dynamic and frequency layering of each element in an orderly that doesn't muddle up and sounds congested on more complex, multi-instrumental tracks.

Regarding resolution capability, SHIO performs very solid and cohesive on exhibiting macro-dynamics and a considerable sharp micro-details retrieval on defining nuances and overtones.

As for timbre, it sounds so natural and has this almost uncoloured that there is a very subtle hint of elevation of some frequency on its pitch black sonic canvas to give a crisp and neutral sound.



■ They are quiet comparable from dimensions of its sizes to the overall build quality. XO has more solid metal alloy chassis and have more heft than SHIO. It also has larger RGB LED lighting panel which more appealing towards on current users like gamers. While it doesn't have volume key button but it has digital filter key button.

■ Both interfaces have dual output but XO's balanced output is of a 2.5mm instead of 4.4mm balanced which in my opinion is better and logical than a bit fragile 2.5mm. They have similar type-c for connectivity on their host devices.

■ Both are capable on doing decoding on lossless audio file format but XO has a lesser power output compare to SHIO as I need to crank up a substantial amount of volume level just achieve a proper amplitude level especially on planar cans but on less sensitive IEMs and earbuds, they both perform fine. XO has more warmer and more analogueish sound compare to more transparent and neutral sounding SHIO which really amazed me, like XO has a dual ESS DACs on its internal which is known ro na have tad brighter, transparent neutral sounding.

■ XO can only decode DSD format up to DSD128(DOP) and has MQA unfolding up to 16x while SHIO has native support of DSD format up to 256 but it doesn't have MQA support.



■ S3 PRO takes a circular shape form factor but it it has non-detachable type-C. It has a single interface output and it is a lone 3.5mm SE. The weight is somewhat similar to a SHIO which is on the lighter side.

■ S3 PRO has a flagship-grade ESS DAC, an es9281C in which can deliver a well-amplified sound quality. They have almost identical sound signature which is balanced-neutral but S3 PRO has tad brighter treble. Another feature that S3 PRO has was a full decoding and unfolding MQA support which SHIO doesn't have at all.

As I conclude my assessment about this product, This is my fourth review article on doing some thorough assessment on USB DAC dongles. I'm actually learning and gaining some insights about its inner workings on every dongle devices that I've reviewed upon. It really proves that the implementation and refinement of its circuitry of the DAC along its amplification by proper clocking for jitter sensitivity is main driving factor that make sound more of a high quality and TRUTHEAR SHIO is a testament of it.

For sure that it has perceptible lesser technical performance and less pristine sound compared to some more expensive midrange and TOTLs USB DAC dongles (depends of your preferred sound profile). Though with its very affordable pricing, good power output and a logical physical volume key button. TRUTHEAR SHIO is one of the forefront of such product that gives a propositional value to its users will be the common denominator of its versatility.

TRUTHEAR SHIO is now available on SHENZHENAUDIO. If you are interested about this product, check it out HERE*

(*Guaranteed non-affilated link)



Some Tracks Tested: ( * = 16-bit FLAC, ** = 24-bit FLAC, *'* = MQA, '*' = DSD, *'= .WAV)

Alison Krauss -When You Say Nothing At All *
Jade Wiedlin - Blue Kiss**
Led Zeppelin - When The Levee Breaks **
Mountain - Mississippi Queen *
Queen - Killer Queen **
Guns N' Roses - Patience *'*
Eric Clapton - Tears in Heaven '*'
Sergio Mendes- Never Gonna Let You Go '*'
Pearl Jam - Daughter **
Roselia - Hidamari Rhodonite *
Assassin - Fight (To Stop The Tyranny)*
Celtic Frost- Visual Aggression *
New Order - Blue Monday *
The Corrs- What Can I do (unplugged version) *
Jimi Hendrix Experience - Voodoo Child *
The Madness- Buggy Trousers *
Metallica - Motorbreath **
Mariah Carey- Always Be My Baby *
Destiny's Child - Say My Name *
Malice Mizer- Au Revoir *
Mozart - Lacrimosa *
New York Philharmonic Orchestra - Dvorak- Symphony 9 " From the New World." *
Eva Cassidy - Fields of Gold (Sting cover)*
Michael Jackson - Give In To Me *
Exciter - Violence and Force *
Diana Krall - Stop This World **
Debbie Gibson - Foolish Beat *'*
The Sisters of Mercy – Lucretia My Reflection**
Suzanne Vega – Luka **
Lauren Christy – Steep *
Ottoman Mehter - Hucum Marsi *


I am not affiliated to TRUTHEAR nor receive monetary incentives and financial gains as they provide me a review unit for an exchange of factual and sincere feedback from yours truly.

Once again, I would like send my gratitude to SHENZHENAUDIO and also to TRUTHEAR for providing this review unit. I truly appreciate their generosity and trust towards me and other reviewers.

UPDATE: TRUTHEAR released a software update on SHIO to fix some issues. You can check it out


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100+ Head-Fier
Truthear Shio Review - "Worth Its Salt?"
Pros: - Affordable price
- Small, compact size
- Low power consumption
- Cool during operation
- Solid sound quality
- H/L gain selection
- Versatile pairing
- 4.4mm and 3.5mm jacks
Cons: - Low driving power (on paper)
- No MQA (might actually be a pro to some)
- Minor issues with build quality
- Non-independent volume control (UPDATED: there is an optional firmware update to change it to 60-step independent volume control)
Disclaimer: ShenzhenAudio provided me with a review unit. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Unaffiliated product link.



Truthear Shio is Truthear first attempt at a USB-C dongle at $70, which also happens to be their first non-IEM product after their highly regarded Zero and Hexa. The word "shio" means salt in Japanese, but I am not sure of its significance; I'll just take it as Truthear's 'salt' to finish off their wonderful dishes of great value IEMs so far.

Packaging and Build Quality​

Shio came in a very small, economical packaging. Inside the packaging, there are some documentations, the Shio dongle itself, and the cable.



Shio has a metal shell covered with a PU leather with visible seams on the side. There were a couple of minor build issues with my particular unit. First, some excess glue from the leather wrap was visible near the 4.4mm port. Secondly, the leather was cut too close to the volume up button, rubbing against it and making it mushy. I fixed both issues without any difficulties. It also seems to be an isolated case as a friend of mine purchased the Shio separately and didn't have any issues. YMMV. Overall, I'm not particularly impressed with the build quality; I would have preferred a plain aluminium housing personally.

Sound Impressions​

Truthear's decision to go with dual CS43198 is a very good one, delivering a top-notch detail reproduction and clarity with high dynamic range and low distortion values. However, going with CS43198 would also mean that Truthear has to implement their own amplifier section, as opposed to the more common CS43131 which has built-in headphone amplifier, which may explain the lower power output with Shio. With that in mind, the amplifier section of the Shio is still pretty capable of retaining a good amount of sonic information from the DAC section.

While the sound isn't the most clinical, Truthear smartly prioritized sound enjoyment rather than the most detailed reproduction. Not to say that Shio is coloured or non-linear, just that the direction of the sound shaping made it sound more analogue and musical instead of dry precision. Each note sounds meaty and sustains longer, adding to the bass impact without making it sounds overly warm. That said, the upper midrange and treble suffer a little bit from a slight 'smear' in the notes, but overall it just manifests in a more laid-back, non-fatiguing listening experience. I can say that Shio shares a similar tuning direction as iBasso DC06 or Xduoo Link2 Bal.

Driving Power and Pairing​

On paper, Shio might look extremely lackluster in the power department:
  • 150mW @32Ω
  • 55mW @300Ω
NOTE: The specifications did not say which connection this is measured on, but I assume that this is on balanced connection

However, I'd like to point out why this might not matter as much as we think. To measure power, it's usually taken by playing a static test tone in increasing source volume until the amp distorts. I always say to people that test tone isn't music and it is often the matter of how the amp budgets and delivers its power in response to the changing dynamics of a music that determines its overall driving capabilities. Of course, having a higher maximum power ceiling would give way more leeway to support wider range of headphones and to allow larger headroom for a more demanding tracks. That said, Shio still drives a wide variety of headphones and IEMs competently despite its seemingly low power on paper.

Testing Environments:
  • UAPP with Tidal or local FLAC files
  • Apple Music on Android (not bitperfect)

Mild Stress Test: Verum 1 (8Ω), Truthear Hola (28Ω), Thieaudio Monarch Mk2 (36Ω), low gain
With these three test gears, Shio drives them competently even on single-ended, barely needing 50% of the volume bar. Great dynamics, full bass impacts, and tame treble. Talking about Verum 1, the manufacturer suggests at least 100mW at 8Ω to drive it at its full potential, which Shio easily exceeds. With the Monarch Mk2, it is a very revealing gear that may expose the flaws in the source. I find that Shio has a little bluntness in upper mids and missing a bit of air. That said, there are no major problem with any of the three gears, and I highly suggest running them with balanced connection if possible.

Moderate Stress Test: Hifiman Edition XS (18Ω), low/high gain
While not being that hard to drive, Edition XS is known to trigger current protection limits of some desktop amps if not careful. That said, at normal listening levels, Shio drives it pretty well with good dynamics and plenty of headroom, about 70% on low gain balanced and just under 50% on high gain balanced. Additionally, the analogue sound signature of the Shio helps with the Edition XS timbre, which may sound a bit plasticky on some sources.

Heavy Stress Test: Hifiman HE400SE Stealth (25Ω), Sennheiser HD650 (300Ω), high gain
This is where Shio starts to fall behind. HE400SE sounds shrill when the amping can't keep up and it does sound quite shrill with Shio, but not severe. However, volume-wise, it's pretty good at around 70% on high gain balanced to drive it to a medium-high loudness. HD650 needs an amp with high dynamic range to overcome its veil. Unfortunately, the limited power budget at 300Ω probably impacted the dynamic range at this impedance load. While I can still somewhat recommend pairing with HE400SE, I can't recommend HD650.

Literal Torture Test: Hifiman HE6SE V2 (50Ω), high gain
Well, I know that taking a headphone with notoriously high power requirements (83.5dB/mW), which people sometimes pair with speaker amps, and pairing it to a dongle might sound extremely stupid, but I'm just doing this for fun. As expected, it needs almost 100% on high gain balanced to get it to a medium-high loudness, but the dynamics are basically dead. Not recommended.

Pairing Suggestions:
Most normal IEMs would be suitable, including Truthear's own lineup of Zero, Hexa, and Hola (EDIT: might be a tad too warm for Hola on subsequent listening). Those with somewhat energetic upper frequencies like KZ PR1 Pro would benefit from the tamer treble range, and also the heavier note weight may also help with IEMs with thinner timbre like 7Hz Salnotes Dioko. As for headphones, anything with medium power requirements would be fine (above 90dB/mW sensitivity at 100Ω or lower), preferably those with a brighter tuning.

As a DAC source:
Shio's big brother, Moondrop Moonriver2, has a lineout mode when the volume is set to 100%. I am not sure whether Shio has a similar feature, but using it as a DAC to feed an amp yields a pretty positive result. I don't hear any noise floor whether it is on balanced or single-ended output on high gain into my Douk U5 or Douk U3 amp driving my HD650. With the additional amping, the HD650 came alive and opened up, revealing the details that the DAC is originally capable of reproducing. You can consider Shio as part of a secondary, semi-mobile setup with another amp.



Normally at under $100, my default suggestion for a balanced dongle would be Colorfly CDA-M1 (still my personal favourite) or maybe Moondrop Dawn if you're willing to give up on 3.5mm jack. CDA-M1 and Dawn are more towards the clinical side of things, so Shio still provides something different sound-wise.

Other options under $100 would also include Hiby FC4 or Fiio KA3, and possibly Tanchjim Space. I personally don't use FC4 so much recently after encountering some random volume control issues with UAPP, but it does have MQA in case you need it. I am not a big fan of KA3 with its overly sharp and fatiguing treble, so I sold it. I am still waiting for Tanchjim Space to be shipped over to me as of writing (I'll update this review if necessary). That said, I am pretty sure Shio is still competitive at this price range.

If we expand the price range slightly, we have the Shanling UA3 and iBasso DC06, which I also find to be quite similar in tonality as Shio. While I see some value in UA3 due to its extra features, the DC06 becomes quite comparatively poorer value-wise against Shio (unless you really need MQA).


Even though Moondrop Moonriver2 would be an amazing comparison considering the same DAC configuration and shared lineage in production, unfortunately I no longer have the Moonriver2 as I have sold it off. In its place, I'll just compare Shio (unfairly) to Questyle M15 and L&P W2-131. Well, what else to say other than those two easily outperform Shio in every aspects: resolution, driving prowess, and build quality. However, considering the price difference, I would expect nothing less from these two. That said, if you're not running highly resolving gears, Shio should be sufficient for most people.


Truthear Shio is a very competent DAC-amp dongle with decent resolution and pleasant tonality. Its actual driving prowess challenges its specifications and measurements. Build quality isn't my favourite, but it's a compromise I'm willing to accept for this kind of sound quality. As of writing, it is still the cheapest dual CS43198 dongle in the market, and it is practically a steal at this price.
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you're not alone my friend, the pleather on mine also cut too close to the + volume button, and around the LED is not cut perfectly, also on my unit the seam where the pleather glued, the pleather cutting didnt cut perfectly so there is some left hanging just like 0.x mm, it makes the seam not flush to the touch, tbh it just a little bit, but kinda annoying still :rolling_eyes:
@littlenezt Yeah, pretty sad about it. I think if they just went with matte aluminium finish, it would look so much better and maybe cheaper to manufacture.

Headphones and Coffee

Previously known as Wretched Stare
Works well , good value
Pros: Looks good, made decent simple to use, volume controls.
Cons: Maybe a little longer cable and a lightning cable too


D/A Chip:
● CS43198 *2pcs
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%
● 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)


2. USB-C TO USB-C Cable
6. Manual * 1
7. Warranty card * 1

The Shio comes in a cute little box with artwork. It is minimal and good for the environment, so I like it. Inside is the Dongle and well-made but short cable and documentation.

Being a frequent user of Dongles, I can say I like the leather wrapped SHIO (salt) looks handsome and construction is good. The included cable is durable but a little short for my personal preference. Using the unit for weeks now not just with the HOLA but a large range of IEM I can say it does a great job.
I found it open sounding and had good clarity with no ground noise there was a significant gain in resolution and volume compared to stock audio. And it presents with a mostly neutral and clean sound.

This is a good value and matched well with HOLA I got at the same time. As with any good DAC this increased the sound quality and volume with no noise or coloration.
Thanks for the review.
Great stuff!