Jump to content
IGNORED

Article: Holo Audio Spring Level 3 Kitsune Tuned Edition R2R DAC Review


Recommended Posts

Thanks for the review!

 

Unfortunately the most wanted information would be how this apparently great cost/performance ratio DAC compares to other DACs in the same great cost/performance category that are being considered for many as the reference these days:

- Playing PCM: Schiit Yggdrasil R2R DAC

- Playing DSD: T+A DAC 8 DSD when playing DSD512

 

I understand that reviews cannot please everyone but I bet that a comparison with these two DACs would be the real useful info that most of us would have loved to read.

 

Cheers

 

Unfortunately, also, the fact that I haven't heard either dac (and mentioned T+A just above). Chris has been getting the dacs lately, not me for some reason. If someone wants to send me any of the dacs discussed here, I will listen for a week or two and return, all at my cost.

 

I also consider comparing two or more musical dacs (easy to compare to poor ones) somewhat akin to comparing favorite foods or the beauty of Margot Robbie vs Kate Upton. It's possible, but more likely that personal preferences are the biggest factor.

 

If your library of great favorite music is mostly or all PCM, then I would investigate the Holo Audio, the Chord Hugo/2Qute or Mojo (yes, Mojo), and the Yggdrasil (based on other comments), or if you have the coin, the MSB Analog. If you prefer to upsample to DSD bit rates (or collect lots of music that is recorded or transferred in DSD), the exaSounds and the more expensive Fore Audio (I mentioned above) should be in your eval list. Clearly the T+A too. But to say one is empirically better than the other? Depends on need, budget, sonics (none sound absolutely identical, some or slightly warmer, some more dynamic, etc). And most importantly, some just jive better with your equipment. The Holo Audio ability to do DSD512 with the microRendu is a real value to me.

 

As Is aid in the review, this Holo Audio Spirng KitsuneHiFi Edition dac is the first one in my room that does PCM and DSD equally well and to my liking enough to buy it. Some of the dacs above do one or the other as well (Chords are ever so slightly warmer colors for PCM; exaSound Windows USB driver produces zero pops and clicks in DSD transitions).

 

If I could have one wish for the HSKE it would be to have an external power supply so I could roll my own with some of the fabulous ones out there. However, I found nothing lacking in the ps, per se (but how do I know). Just a wish, that's all.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I just added an edit in the review to announce the that Win 7/8 and Win 10 XMOS drivers are now official signed drivers, and available on the KitsuneHiFi site.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Good summary Ted. But a little confusing in that 'If your library of great favorite music is mostly or all PCM, then I would investigate the Holo Audio...The Holo Audio ability to do DSD512 with the microRendu is a real value to me...that does PCM and DSD equally well

 

So Holo is one of sev. DACs that are an exc choice for PCM only; yet does DSD just as well as PCM, but with other choices to consider given budget (T&A, Exasound, Fore).

 

Is this what you're saying Ted?

Ryzen 7 2700 PC Server, NUC7CJYH w. 4G Apacer RAM as Renderer/LPS 1.2 - IsoRegen/LPS-1/.2 - Singxer SU-1/LPS1.2 - Holo Spring Level 3 DAC - LTA MicroZOTL MZ2 - Modwright KWA 150 Signature Amp - Tidal Audio Piano's.  

.

Link to post
Share on other sites
There are excellent DAC choices for PCM and excellent choices for DSD. I feel the Holo falls into both camps.

 

Thanks Ted.

Ryzen 7 2700 PC Server, NUC7CJYH w. 4G Apacer RAM as Renderer/LPS 1.2 - IsoRegen/LPS-1/.2 - Singxer SU-1/LPS1.2 - Holo Spring Level 3 DAC - LTA MicroZOTL MZ2 - Modwright KWA 150 Signature Amp - Tidal Audio Piano's.  

.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello folks,

 

I'm new to this forum.. I find this dac interesting in terms of its multitude of features and competitive price point. Just a few questions for those who know some tech info on this dac, or for Kitsune's main representative..

 

In the photos above there's a small blue toroid (?) beside the silver o-core transformer. What does this toroid power in the dac?

 

How was the Opamp in the input stage for the 2-stage analog output circuit configured? Does it run in zero negative feedback? Some dac designs with Opamps are operated as Transimpedance circuits with zero negative feedback. Thanks for any info you may share.

 

FWIW, I am not an engineer and most of the maths involved in such engineering are beyond me, but finding out this dac has an opamp in the signal path made me curious, 'cause I've heard dacs with opamp transimpedance circuits for I/V (current to voltage) and output stages that sound really good.

 

http://waltjung.org/PDFs/High_Performance_Audio_Stages_Using_TransZ_Amps.pdf

Link to post
Share on other sites

Rick T,

Tim is showing the DAC at RMAF so he is unlikely online, so I forwarded your post to his email. I'm sure he or Jeff will respond. This, of course, tells you I have no idea. :)

Link to post
Share on other sites

No comparisons? I don't want to be harsh, but this is a very interesting DAC, and it's suposed to sound amazing.

I imagine that is an amazing DAC, specially via I2S, but...how good it is?

A review without comparisons with another high performance DACs like Yggdrasil, Pavane, Berkeley Alpha 2, etc is useless, we can't get the idea of how good this Holo Spring DAC is.

Please, do a comparison with this DAC via I2S vs other reference DACs with MicroRendu, this looks more like a Superbowl commercial than a review.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I didn't touch your comments. And I have already stated how it differs from a few, but I have no other I2S dac to compare it to, so when I do I'll let everyone know. A nice CA user has offered to send me his Yiggy. Thanks for the SuperBowl comment though. Nice touch. Welcome to CA.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Ted:

 

Nice review. I too was slightly confused, but about something that nobody else mentioned. You wrote: "This Spring DAC is the first DAC I've heard in my own system that excels at both PCM and DSD. Yet, I am not currently using any upsampling in HQPlayer as it does not seem to excel there."

 

Setting aside the fact that HQ Player's raison d'être is SRC/SDM, I do know what you mean about enjoying setting it to "Direct SDM" and just listening to DSD at its recorded rate (the fantastic Ryan Smith remastering of Nina Simone's debut on SACD sounds the most real at its native DSD64).

 

But with regards PCM, are you really suggesting that the HOLO Spring sounds best in NOS mode with just 16/44.1? Massive aliasing artifacts and all? (I love my filterless/NOS PCM1704K DAC, but these days I would not consider sending it straight Redbook; Poly-sinc-* from HQP at 352.8KHz rules for PCM.:))

 

Perhaps you just were referring to DSD source material, but in one of your first replies you recommend this DAC be well considered by folks (like me) with a library of mostly Redbook/PCM music. Yet I am entirely unclear as to what if any SRC you like best for it. Especially since you seem to dismiss the Spring's own filters.

 

On that note, and I don't mean to be critical, I do think that DACs ought to receive more than passing comments with regards the choices, methods, and performance of its internal sample rate conversion and filters. I say this for two reasons:

 

a) Not everyone is sending tracks to their DACs via top-flight SRC/SDM software such as HQ Player;

 

b) The architecture of a DAC and its internal interpolation/modulation/convolution techniques are frequently a large part of the product development--and often what separates one DAC from another.

 

I understand that many of us here at CA have come to embrace the concept of splitting the chores of upsampling and actual digital-to-analog conversion, giving the former to s/w on a powerful PC, and leaving the resource-constrain DAC to just handle the latter. And maybe we will (are?) begin to see more DACs offered that expect such and just focus on the DA and analog elements. But it will take a bold and confident manufacturer to put out a DAC which, while accepting very high rate PCM and DSD, completely omits all internal SRC/SDM (Like my personal old/custom NOS unit, and like PeterSt.'s Phasure NOS1a.)

Until that time, I do think DAC reviews should include some detail on the unit's included filter choices.

 

Just my $0.02.

 

It does look like an innovative DAC, and I intend to read a bit more on its "compensated-ladder" networks. I wonder if the R2R design is a sign-magnitude ala the Soekris, or if it is more along the lines of what Metrum is doing these days with the modules in their new Musette/Menuet/Pavane series. And I am always interested in how DACs do DSD with ladder networks.

Exciting times for DAC makers and buyers!

 

Hope you enjoy RMAF if you are going.

 

--Alex C.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Alex,

Hi. I suppose I should have called this review "part one" in that I did not do all the OCD-like testing yet that I have done with other dacs. But yes, so far I prefer to leave redbook as redbook ( in true NOS mode), but as I said earlier, I will do a lot more testing with PCM upsampled rates too. So far, though, my HQPlayer does little if anything with this dac. Yes, weird.

 

Missed RMAF this year, but will have CES and Axpona for sure.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the "part 1", Ted. I'm looking forward to reading the updates you share vs. the other guy's inbound Yggdrasil.

 

And if Chris is getting the T+A DAC 8 DSD, you don't think he could toss it your way for a week do you? I'd be happy to PayPal you for shipping to help it happen :-)

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Yiggy ships on Monday. :) ( I will not thank the CA poster publicly if he doesn't want to be known as someone who loans his equipment out, but feel free to post). Thanks regardless.

 

Yes, both Chris and my audio budyy Howie have the T+A. I may reach out to them.

 

It's funny, though, many folks are asking me privately to add more info on the SRC abaiulities of this dac. I really don;t want to spend my time there, cuz I didn't write this review to be a guide to "how to get suboptimal sound from the Holo Audio Spring Kistune Edition". Nor did I assume head-fiers and can enthusiasts want to spend time with a pair of headphones that has an average quality (or less) set of cables; instead they want to know how the damn things sound optimally with their fave 3rd party etc. Same with AES or coax. I don't use them; I don;t have a source that uses them optimally. I don;t think it is my responsibility to report on them. You wouldn't accept my findings anyway, cuz I have nothing to compare them to. But USB or I2S, yes I do, well well.

 

So, net/net, use NOS mode and do any upsampling outside the dac; I truly am continuing to investigate those results; the new much more stable Windows driver has shed some light that maybe the dac has multiple sweetspots. Stay tuned.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to add something that just happened to me: I got an email from a reader who:

1) complained that I am insisting the dac sounds its best with a $350 Singxer add-on and a decentt HDMi cable investment.

2) asked me to compare it to the T+A (which I hope to do someday).

 

Does anyone see the irony or lack of consistent logic here? (Note: This is not a dig on your post, lotriwer, you did not complain about the $350 add-on).

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you @ted_b. Not to get too off topic but did you find out anything more about why you couldn't play native DSD through the SU-1? I am thinking of getting the SU-1 as well as the Holo DAC, fed from HQP playing DSD256.

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)

 

Other components:

UpTone Audio LPS1.2/IsoRegen, Fiber Switch and FMC, Windows Server 2016 OS, Audiophile Optimizer 3.0, Fidelizer Pro 6, HQ Player, Roonserver, PS Audio P3 AC regenerator, HDPlex 400W ATX & 200W Linear PSU, Light Harmonic Lightspeed Split USB cable, Synergistic Research Tungsten AC power cords, Tara Labs The One speaker cables, Tara Labs The Two Extended with HFX Station IC, Oyaide R1 outlets, Stillpoints Ultra Mini footers, Hi-Fi Tuning fuses, Vicoustic/RealTraps/GIK room treatments

Link to post
Share on other sites
Thank you @ted_b. Not to get too off topic but did you find out anything more about why you couldn't play native DSD through the SU-1? I am thinking of getting the SU-1 as well as the Holo DAC, fed from HQP playing DSD256.

 

tboooe, not off topic at all! Good news. The newly released Windows XMOS driver 3.4 does double duty, acting as both the much more stable driver for the USB input (i.e Spring) and also doubles as the XMOS input (i.e Singxer), the latter not being directly intended, according to Tim, but he is over the moon that I report it works.. And to add to that, it provides SDM none (i.e direct/native/raw) I2S DSD playback up to DSD256. :) With this new cleaner capability I am currently re-examining my "no need to upsample" comments in HQPlayer. Stay tuned.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Great to hear @ted_b. I'm pulling the trigger on the SU-1 today! I definitely want to take advantage of direct DSD playback without having to rely on USB input of the DAC.

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)

 

Other components:

UpTone Audio LPS1.2/IsoRegen, Fiber Switch and FMC, Windows Server 2016 OS, Audiophile Optimizer 3.0, Fidelizer Pro 6, HQ Player, Roonserver, PS Audio P3 AC regenerator, HDPlex 400W ATX & 200W Linear PSU, Light Harmonic Lightspeed Split USB cable, Synergistic Research Tungsten AC power cords, Tara Labs The One speaker cables, Tara Labs The Two Extended with HFX Station IC, Oyaide R1 outlets, Stillpoints Ultra Mini footers, Hi-Fi Tuning fuses, Vicoustic/RealTraps/GIK room treatments

Link to post
Share on other sites

Btw @ted_b, where did you download version 3.4 of the driver from?

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)

 

Other components:

UpTone Audio LPS1.2/IsoRegen, Fiber Switch and FMC, Windows Server 2016 OS, Audiophile Optimizer 3.0, Fidelizer Pro 6, HQ Player, Roonserver, PS Audio P3 AC regenerator, HDPlex 400W ATX & 200W Linear PSU, Light Harmonic Lightspeed Split USB cable, Synergistic Research Tungsten AC power cords, Tara Labs The One speaker cables, Tara Labs The Two Extended with HFX Station IC, Oyaide R1 outlets, Stillpoints Ultra Mini footers, Hi-Fi Tuning fuses, Vicoustic/RealTraps/GIK room treatments

Link to post
Share on other sites

The T+A was reviewed on Stereophile and they are my go-to. Wasn't all that convincing and JA spoke of filters in the end. I do want to read the bench results instead of trusting entirely some journalist's ears. Even worse would be many of the Head-Fi crowd who can be cheerleaders (I too have suffered others with my "opinion" there). What I'm dubious about is the whole ladder DAC and why many others haven't implemented this(debate reigns on the Schiit Yggdrasil). This DAC surely looks nice and the guts as well (Stax Mafia feel free to give the real info) but ultimately we need to know how it benches against others.

Furutech GTX-D, GTX Wall Plate,106-D Cover > NCF Clearline >J River 27 > Curious Cable Evolved USB > Chord Hugo TT 2 > Empyrean Copper PCUHD Cable > Meze Empyrean > my ears > audiophile brain

Link to post
Share on other sites
Btw @ted_b, where did you download version 3.4 of the driver from?

 

The KitsuneHiFi site

https://kitsunehifi.com/product/springdacgreen/

a third of the way down

Link to post
Share on other sites

Tim and Dawn were kind enough to bring the Holo DAC up to our room at RMAF for the day after Fed Ex lost our Veracity Audio - Chrysalis DAC. The Connors are extremely knowledgeable, passionate about their gear, and a pleasure to hang out with too! The Spring DAC checks all of the boxes that I feel are important when it comes to DACS - compatibility with all the formats, ease of setup, good looks and great sound. The Spring Level 3 is at a fantastic price point, punching well above its weight and doing so in a very sexy package. The copper accents are fantastic looking, and the attention to detail - silver transformer, great chips and components, etc., make this a very compelling device. Definitely a system worth taking a look at.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've added a PART TWO section that I will edit in real-time, rather than adding my additional listening experiences in pieces in this response thread. FYI. This doesn't mean I won't respond here, but any further findings will be summarized there.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×
×
  • Create New...