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HOLO Audio Spring DAC - R2R DSD512

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So, some of you are aware I have one of Tim's first Spring dacs here in the US, for review. I am not going to give anything away, but am very pleased so far...ESPECIALLY to announce that through the help of Jesus and Andrew (at Sonore), Juergen and his Linux github, and Tim and Jeff's custom handling of my request to get this dac available for native DSD in Linux..today I updated my uRendu and now have full native Linux support to DSD512 (and DoP to 256). :) And I also have the evaluation Windows driver that also does up to DSD512 natively. Things are moving quickly. The certified Windows driver should be available sometime after RMAF (fingers crossed). But did I say Linux native DSD to DSD512 and PCM to 24/768? :)

 

Stay tuned.

 

Ted which model are you demoing?

 

Can someone speak with authority as to the output stage? Is there any difference in XLR vs. SE?

 

Discrete output?


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This is an interesting item that sounds like the proverbial "giant killer". I would assume part of the quality of the result will be dependent on the quality of the analog output stage, and we haven't been told a lot about that.

 

The new Lampizator Atlantic uses R2R and has separate PCM and DSD paths. It's being sold as a "value" item, but starts at about $4400.

 

Ted, you're an experienced DAC listener. I hope in your review you are willing to make some sonic comparisons to DACs like the Mytek, PS Audio, and Exasound. Maybe not direct comparisons "this is better"; but at least an idea what league this one plays in and some idea of its "character" relative to other known DACs. For instance I always want to ask reviewers "Which other DACs could you happily part with if you knew this one was replacing it? And which not?"


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Secondary Listening: CAPS Pipeline>IFi iOne DAC>Schiit Freya>Kii Three . Also an SBT and a RB Pi 3B+ running piCorePlayer as an SBT emulator. 

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I also hope you are able to listen to it's I2s input.

Waiting in suspense! :)

 

 

I'm going to try to get Ted a Singxer SU-1 in the mail soon.

it's hdmi i2s and compatible with all hdmi i2s pinouts.

 

But one of my favorite ddc's. It has it's limitation of dsd256 native unfortunately, but the sound quality is superb.

 

-----

 

on another note. My wife and I booked our airfare and hotel for RMAF and are now in search of finding someone to discuss bringing our gear to be setup with a system. We will have two, maybe three KitsuneTuned Edition Spring Dacs, and a bit of other gear too, several Holo Audio Products. We've never gone to RMAF but would love to meet everyone we can and hope to be well accepted. I would love to hear from anyone if they will be there and might be interested.


Tim Connor

KitsuneHifi.com / HoloAudio USA

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Ted which model are you demoing?

 

Can someone speak with authority as to the output stage? Is there any difference in XLR vs. SE?

 

Discrete output?

I have a "KitsuneTuned Edition Spring Dac".

From Tim:

"It has our exclusive KitsuneTuned O-Type Transformer that is 99.99% silver! We have it made specifically to our specification with a sourced wire from the netherlands. Also we have added Jensen Caps which are also found on the Level 2 model. These caps make a drastic difference in sound quality. As the silver transformer makes ever more of a percentage increase of performance."

 

And yes, Jeff insists the XLRs sound better than RCA, but my go-to preamp is single ended. I am going to have my Bent TAP (passive but balanced) back from a buddy soon and will test that, but my Perla preamp is much better and my go-to. The Bent will simply allow me to a/b single ended and balanced.

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Analog output stage is discrete class A output.

 

input has opamp

 

The output stage contains I/V conversion and LPF. These two parts use similar structure but different specs.

The opamp is used for input stage and class A discrete buffer component is for output stage. That discrete output stage is working in class a. So when you touch the PCB, you will find it’s very hot. The output voltage is 2.5Vrms for single ended output and 5Vrms for balanced output. The single ended is RCA. Balanced is XLR. They all use the same output stage. Yet XLR output is highly recommended if you plan to listen to DSD512 native.

 

maybe someone asked about the spdif....

The spdif receiver is AK4118A chip.

 

Ted which model are you demoing?

 

Can someone speak with authority as to the output stage? Is there any difference in XLR vs. SE?

 

Discrete output?

 

The spdif receiver is AK4118A chip.


Tim Connor

KitsuneHifi.com / HoloAudio USA

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Subscribed because I am VERY interested. I was about to buy a Schiit Gumby or Yggy so I could try out R2R but this DAC intrigues me because of its DSD capability. Looking forward to the review.


12TB NAS >> i7-6700 Server/Control PC >> i3-5015u NAA >> Singxer SU-1 DDC (modded) >> Holo Spring L3 DAC >> Accustic Arts Power 1 int amp >> Sonus Faber Guaneri Evolution speakers + REL T/5i sub (x2)

 

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Sorry for jumping into this thread. I had to since I didn't realize some of these emails made it onto the thread before I was able to update my site. (kitsunehifi)

 

But we will have most of them sold within the week the way things are looking. But i've been asked by one to do a review. I have my personal Level 3 Spring Dac that i'm happy to loan out and have a proper review done. I"m actually quite excited for what may be said about it!

 

I'm a NOS guy, so this particular Dac is the holy grail for me personally. I'll be comparing it to my NOS11 (audio-gd) and also my dual Soekris Dam1021.

 

I am looking forward to your comparison.

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I have a "KitsuneTuned Edition Spring Dac".

From Tim:

"It has our exclusive KitsuneTuned O-Type Transformer that is 99.99% silver! We have it made specifically to our specification with a sourced wire from the netherlands. Also we have added Jensen Caps which are also found on the Level 2 model. These caps make a drastic difference in sound quality. As the silver transformer makes ever more of a percentage increase of performance."

 

And yes, Jeff insists the XLRs sound better than RCA, but my go-to preamp is single ended. I am going to have my Bent TAP (passive but balanced) back from a buddy soon and will test that, but my Perla preamp is much better and my go-to. The Bent will simply allow me to a/b single ended and balanced.

 

Any more pre-"official review" feedback on the Spring to share?


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I receive mine from Tim at Kitsune next week however I'm in Australia :). I like many are just waiting for more reviews to surface, in my case however it's partly impatience, excitement and justification of my unheard purchase. From what I have been able to garner from Tim, Ted, Google and Google translate, I have done the right thing.

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To refresh information on R2R versus Sigma Delta DACs, here are two links at CA that are of interest:

Were R2R ladder DACs really that good ?

 

Multi Bit DACs vs. Delta Sigma DACs

Head-fi Post

 

Reading between the lines from those threads, there's implementation issue at hand as to whether the SQ is right for your ears, whether SDM or R2R. Everyone is keen on a DAC that has a reasonable price, and the Holo falls right into the equation, so expectations are that this DAC should equal higher priced DACs since it uses R2R techniques and some other special techniques. Optimism is strong here, but let's take a step back and look, there's a May DAC in the wings, when the Spring has hardly reached a stage where feedback or a review is yet to arrive. Such rapid change in models really needs some caution in buying and one should wait for the dust to settle.

 

At Lampizator for instance, where the model count is out of control, including the options causing further confusion, there's a new model every few weeks now. Crazy. That's an extreme of course, but for a new player like Holo, i fear for it falling into the same path. Buyers don't need to be told their old DAC is obsolete and it's not even a year that's gone by.

Edited by One and a half

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Analog output stage is discrete class A output.

 

input has opamp

 

The output stage contains I/V conversion and LPF. These two parts use similar structure but different specs.

The opamp is used for input stage and class A discrete buffer component is for output stage. That discrete output stage is working in class a. So when you touch the PCB, you will find it’s very hot. The output voltage is 2.5Vrms for single ended output and 5Vrms for balanced output. The single ended is RCA. Balanced is XLR. They all use the same output stage. Yet XLR output is highly recommended if you plan to listen to DSD512 native.

 

4.5V is already too hot from my existing DAC, and 5V is just one volt away from the maximum limit. There will be a need to reduce the output level in HQPlayer to -6db++ to match. Please consider to add a fixed-stepped attenuation.


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... but let's take a step back and look, there's a May DAC in the wings, when the Spring has hardly reached a stage where feedback or a review is yet to arrive. Such rapid change in models really needs some caution in buying and one should wait for the dust to settle.

FYI - I asked Tim about their planned "May DAC" and he responded that it's expected to be another 1 - 1.5 years before release.

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To refresh information on R2R versus Sigma Delta DACs, here are two links at CA that are of interest:

Were R2R ladder DACs really that good ?

 

Multi Bit DACs vs. Delta Sigma DACs

Head-fi Post

 

Reading between the lines from those threads, there's implementation issue at hand as to whether the SQ is right for your ears, whether SDM or R2R. Everyone is keen on a DAC that has a reasonable price, and the Holo falls right into the equation, so expectations are that this DAC should equal higher priced DACs since it uses R2R techniques and some other special techniques. Optimism is strong here, but let's take a step back and look, there's a May DAC in the wings, when the Spring has hardly reached a stage where feedback or a review is yet to arrive. Such rapid change in models really needs some caution in buying and one should wait for the dust to settle.

 

At Lampizator for instance, where the model count is out of control, including the options causing further confusion, there's a new model every few weeks now. Crazy. That's an extreme of course, but for a new player like Holo, i fear for it falling into the same path. Buyers don't need to be told their old DAC is obsolete and it's not even a year that's gone by.

 

 

 

The may dac is about 1.5+, maybe 2 years out? this isn't rapid change at all? It's preparing for the next product. It takes years to make a product like this. The spring is FINISHED, so on to the next project. We must make use of this time. Otherwise watching the Spring do it's thing is like watching paint dry. Why not keep painting? :D

 

Anyhow, our company motto is "Time will tell..."

 

so in time the Spring will fall into the hands of the people and more word will get out on how it is rated/compared/measured or whatever. We are confident it will do well. Next project is in the works because we know it will take longer than our estimated time frame anyhow. The spring was delayed about 6months or so past it's original date estimated for release. It took a very very long time to produce. :D care implementation and planning will deliver a product like the spring. :)

 

 

also wanted to share this letter from Jeff about those who want to know where the KitsuneTuned Edition Dac comes from. It's actually supported by HOLO Audio direct, and a USA specific model, or was the intent.

 

here is an email Jeff Sent to me as a statement he wants to be known.

 

"I have tried silver o-type transformer when designing Spring. It's better than the 7N OFC of cause, but for cost reason I choose the 7N OFC o-type transformer as standard configuration.

The Jensen cap is an official option, not mod. For the fuse, audiophiles always like to changed it. It’s a replaceable part, they can do whatever they want. About other modifications. Maybe those are not so cost effective, but they will not make things worse. Silver wire/Silver connectors can be an improvement. Mods in the Level 3 make smaller difference but will not hinder the original design, more likely improve performance slightly. Holo Audio and Holo Audio USA work together to bring you Spring Dac in the USA in three versions.

 

 

Best Regards

Jeff Zhu"

 

 

And though Jeff approves the mods we have done, we have done most of our listening testing without him involved. I like that he is very conservative in saying they are slight improvements. To me and our tuner, they are significant. But that's our opinion. We want to setup a reviewer with two dacs. One level 2 and one KitsuneTuned Edition so they can do a comparison. That's only fair to let the Dac speak/sing for itself. I hope this puts everyone at ease knowing that we are not just randomly tweaking or tuning. These are all carefully selected components added to the dac that present a level of HiFi performance we are proud to offer the USA market.


Tim Connor

KitsuneHifi.com / HoloAudio USA

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In July at the beginning of this post, there was no DSD512. A little later came DSD512 over HDMI i2s, or perhaps a USB to HDMI i2S.

Further developments rendered a Windows certified driver for DSD512. So does the Spring DAC have the correct firmware to accept DSD512 now, or will that be a few months down the track, or is there something different again? I'm just trying to understand, with clarity, what the Spring DAC is capable of as a firm line in the sand, what it is now, and by say, 2nd Qtr 2017. Not even thinking about the Kitsune mods, just the raw basic product.

 

Understand about the May DAC, now this timeline is clearly explained, steeped in unknowns beforehand. Talk of which should not have been mentioned until that DAC is committed and ready for production.


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In July at the beginning of this post, there was no DSD512. A little later came DSD512 over HDMI i2s, or perhaps a USB to HDMI i2S.

Further developments rendered a Windows certified driver for DSD512. So does the Spring DAC have the correct firmware to accept DSD512 now, or will that be a few months down the track, or is there something different again? I'm just trying to understand, with clarity, what the Spring DAC is capable of as a firm line in the sand, what it is now, and by say, 2nd Qtr 2017. Not even thinking about the Kitsune mods, just the raw basic product.

 

Understand about the May DAC, now this timeline is clearly explained, steeped in unknowns beforehand. Talk of which should not have been mentioned until that DAC is committed and ready for production.

 

 

TWO things have changed since release about two months ago....

1. Firmware update to support DSD512 native with i2s or USB input only(by request of the users on this very forum) You're welcome

2. We offer a 240V model for Australia. :D

The specs have been final, the only thing we are waiting on is the Windows 10 Signed driver, which is out of our control on release date. But we finally firmed up the date as microsoft gave us their blessing and we will have the final driver for windows available early October. Otherwise we have offered DSD512 native in windows with an evaluation driver from now until this date the Signed drivers are released. So Linux/Mac/Windows all support up to DSD512 native and DSD256 over DOP. Nothing is written in sand, this has been officially announced several weeks ago.

 

The May dac was announced as our next project. Many companies do this so we can collect information about what we should put into the next product. What features etc. It's a common thing actually. So we choose to listen to the people and what they want in the product rather than to create something random without careful planning and thought going into it. We do things differently than you'd like. But most of our customers appreciate the way we keep things open and transparent. They appreciate knowing what is going on without any fluff or mess.

 

We will consider your thoughts about "keeping quiet" next time we have a release, but it's likely we will still choose to keep our customers in the loop on what we are planning. For instance, we have some ideas floating around to release and entry level product for our company that will bring DSD512 to a market in a smaller package. But this is just on the drawing board still. We are happy to share this information, and love to get feedback along the way. The unknowns is the exciting part where the customers have an opportunity to shape the next product. We are completely capable of producing a product with any features, it's up to our customers to let us know what the next release will be. So far the May will likely have more features than the spring, potentially have a pre-amp integrated, remote control, and price is roughly stated to be 3-4Kish. but likely under 4K is the goal. The details will be released as they come out. On and a Half, sorry for ruining the surprise, but the May Dac is in the works, and it is on the drawing board right now. We never will stand still when it comes to designing products. Thank you for your understanding and patience. And I hope things are clear as can be for you now. Things are written in stone from here on out for the spring dac. And for those who want to know the specs of the KitsuneTuned Edition you can stop by our booth at RMAF2016 that we'll be sharing/co-exhibiting with Headamp. We will go over the specs of our Tuned Edition model. Otherwise, spec's will be posted shortly after.

 

"Time will tell..."


Tim Connor

KitsuneHifi.com / HoloAudio USA

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We are completely capable of producing a product with any features, it's up to our customers to let us know what the next release will be. So far the May will likely have more features than the spring, potentially have a pre-amp integrated, remote control, and price is roughly stated to be 3-4Kish.

 

Please consider the following features:

 

>Remote to control integrated pre-amp/stepped attenuator

 

>Balanced circuitry with XLR outs

 

>State of the art USB input that filters out all the noises these scores of add on boxes have been designed to address, so one needs not acquire a new DAC and a box to fix its shortcomings

 

>Incorporate a true digital audio input like FireWire, still in use in the studios

 

Thanks and good luck with your products.


Tone with Soul

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bit of a junior borderline nubee question here

 

Does anyone know if this DACs I2s would be compatible with the Audiobyte Hydra Z I2s.....I have not used I2s and am also curious which cable would be recommended if the two are compatible.....

 

this looks like a really good dac to try out with out selling the proverbial farm...I currently use a Calyx Femto using the Hydra Z D-D converter to AES


 

 

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TWO things have changed since release about two months ago....

1. Firmware update to support DSD512 native with i2s or USB input only(by request of the users on this very forum) You're welcome

2. We offer a 240V model for Australia. :D

The specs have been final, the only thing we are waiting on is the Windows 10 Signed driver, which is out of our control on release date. But we finally firmed up the date as microsoft gave us their blessing and we will have the final driver for windows available early October. Otherwise we have offered DSD512 native in windows with an evaluation driver from now until this date the Signed drivers are released. So Linux/Mac/Windows all support up to DSD512 native and DSD256 over DOP. Nothing is written in sand, this has been officially announced several weeks ago.

 

I'm admittedly a newbie when it comes to DSD (my current DAC is PCM only) so I could well be wrong but from what I had read Mac OSX didn't support Native DSD, only DoP. With the exception of certain DACs such as Exasound who have their own Mac drivers. So I'm wondering how this DAC manages DSD512 support on Mac.


Mac Mini > RME ADI-2 DAC > Hypex Ncore monoblocks > ATC SCM-11 speakers & C1 subwoofer

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I'm admittedly a newbie when it comes to DSD (my current DAC is PCM only) so I could well be wrong but from what I had read Mac OSX didn't support Native DSD, only DoP. With the exception of certain DACs such as Exasound who have their own Mac drivers. So I'm wondering how this DAC manages DSD512 support on Mac.

 

I wonder too.


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I'm admittedly a newbie when it comes to DSD (my current DAC is PCM only) so I could well be wrong but from what I had read Mac OSX didn't support Native DSD, only DoP. With the exception of certain DACs such as Exasound who have their own Mac drivers. So I'm wondering how this DAC manages DSD512 support on Mac.

 

 

Sorry about that, I'm not a Mac guy and overlooked that, thanks for the catch! But the dsd data for mac can be done over DOP. I will reconfirm with Jeff. I need to get my hands on a Mac. Thanks for catching that.

 

I know it's been confirmed that DSD512 native works with Linux and Windows.


Tim Connor

KitsuneHifi.com / HoloAudio USA

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Please consider the following features:

 

>Remote to control integrated pre-amp/stepped attenuator

 

>Balanced circuitry with XLR outs

 

>State of the art USB input that filters out all the noises these scores of add on boxes have been designed to address, so one needs not acquire a new DAC and a box to fix its shortcomings

 

>Incorporate a true digital audio input like FireWire, still in use in the studios

 

Thanks and good luck with your products.

 

 

Awesome! thanks for the good ideas.

 

We have the idea of adding a pre-amp to the May Dac, and will spend a bit of time with this to do it right. and the remote controller is confirmed. very likely to be similar to the one we have for our Mammoth/sabertooth products.

 

Balanced circuitry is definite, as it's already carefully implemented in our Spring dac.

 

The usb is a great point, and I know we intend to use the newer XU208 or XU216 xmos. And discussing with Jeff what we can do about adding high end clocks and potentially a cicuit similar to intona or something. This I will discuss with Jeff, and think it's a great point to make.

 

i'm not sure about firewire, but will ask Jeff about it. i2s will likely be a given, I'm curious about doing something with ethernet. but again, it's so early and on the drawing board. Jeff has the technical ability. I'll run these ideas by him.

 

and thank you for you suggestions! they are truly helpful!


Tim Connor

KitsuneHifi.com / HoloAudio USA

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