Holo Audio - Spring DAC - Level 3 - "Kitsune Tuned Edition" - Impressions & Reviews

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by Torq, Nov 7, 2016.

  1. mscott58

    mscott58 Almost "Made"

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    Shipping information received! Now let's see how long it take for my L3 to make it from HK to Philly. Cheers
     

  2. Pill-B

    Pill-B Rando

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    Could someone compare Holo Spring vs AGD Nos7 (or Nos11) or Master7 (or Master11) ?
     
  3. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    From memory, most immediate difference is that Audio-GD Master 7 has slower almost syrupy sounding murky bass and lusher mids. The Holo has more incisive sound throughout the audio band than the M7. Treble is very similar between the two with the M7 actually being a bit rolled compared compared to the NOS Holo. The NOS has a surprisingly unrolled sound for NOS. Holo kills the M7 in terms of clarity and blackness of background. Hard to say in terms of micro stuff. Too much time has passed and M7 micro is very dependent upon how it is fed. M7 USB implementation was pure suckage, but I understand it's better now, but the Force tells me it's probably more suckage than awesome. Soundstage of M7 was far away, you are sitting back in the hall, but lacked depth and front to back layering. Even less depth than Holo. Holo stage was upfront with decent depth. Holo might have a slight advantage in macro / slam.

    Considering the historical poor USB implementations (and that serious people use converters to SPDIF), I find the Master 7 un-competitive, especially given its significant price increases over the years. If you like that warmer lusher kind of old school sound, get a Sonic Frontiers SFD-1 or SFD-2 DAC. They are still being serviced by Parts ConneXion / Chris Johnson, who was the Sonic Frontiers guy.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2016
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  4. kevnin

    kevnin #facetweeting - Friend

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    I was fortunate to be able to try the Holo Spring Kitsune level 3 loaner. Overall it is a good dac subject to certain conditions, but not quite as good as Gumby. It needs 3-4 days to warm up. A high quality source like rednet is necessary to get any soundstage depth (to my ears, though I don't have much success hearing headphone soundstage depth in general). The main sonic differences I heard vs Gumby were a more forward sound, less sub-bass, slightly less smooth, and slightly less resolution (mainly micro-dynamics).

    Longer chronological version of events:

    I received the unit and then went out of town for two days, leaving it on to warm up during that time. My chain has had some big upgrades recently and is now rednet d16(spdif)->gumby(xlr)->jensen isomax(rca)->445->utopia. I first inserted the holo spring in the chain directly replacing gumby without changing any cabling.

    It sucked. Vocals sounded rough and forced compared to the more smooth effortless presentation I'm used to. Resolution was clearly inferior. Basically it sounded like everthing I had gained when I got the 445 was lost. I was about to box it up right then, but I figured I have an SU-1 so I should at least try the I2S input.

    I got a 1-foot HDMI cable two days later, so the holo spring has been on for 4 days. I connected it though the SU-1 I2S, and surprisingly it was much better. It didn't sound forced, the roughness was nearly gone, and resolution was close enough to gumby that it was hard to tell a difference. The main issue was there was basically no depth to the soundstage. Now I've never heard what I'd consider to be good soundstage depth from any headphone system, but at least with gumby I get a little bit of 3D/layering effect. With the holo spring on i2s everything was in a 2D plane.

    Then I switched back to the rednet and it sounded even better. There was actually some depth. So I guess it was the fact that it had been on for 4 days that made it sound better and not the i2s. It is still a more forward sound than gumby, think first row vs 5-10th row. It makes vocals more forward in the mix, which is not necessarily bad, but they still do not quite have the silky smooth sound I am used to with Gumby. It was hard to tell the difference in resolution, but after listening for awhile I felt like I was still missing some of the microdynamics that I had gained with the 445. So while much closer than at first, overall I'd still have to say its not as good as gumby.

    I pretty much only used it in NOS mode as everyone says that's the only mode that's any good. I did briefly switch it to OS, and the main difference I noticed is the soundstage was squished in towards the center. I've never heard a NOS dac before, and based on this one I have to say I don't get the whole NOS=nonfatiguing thing. If anything it seemed like the holo spring would be more likely to get fatiguing than gumby. It comes off as slightly bright due to the relative lack of sub-bass and slightly sharper sound.
     
  5. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Insanity and nervosa alert: So, this might be a bit blasphemous, but when I did a comparison against the AHPR fuse (in the current KTE Level 3) and the super basic fuse that came in my unit...I actually preferred the basic fuse. More body, more low end extension, seemed to have more air and a more 3D sound. I did this over a few days and felt the level of differences hit some mental stability over time, i.e. became more subtle once I moved through as much placebo as possible, and were somewhere in the realm of subtle differences you could get between, say, cap swapping. However, I won't rule out that I went off the mental deep end. Mine also still had mostly copper wiring inside, a different cap at the IEC inlet, and one or two other minor differences.

    Seeing as I've turned to the dark side of audiophoolism and am now considering fuses could matter in some pieces of gear (makes me feel icky), it wouldn't be a stretch for me to assume those components differences affected what I heard with my unit. When I heard mine against a well-used Gumby, both which had only been on for a couple hours at the time (hundreds of hours on each prior, though), mind you, the Gumby sounded relatively lean, rough, and quite bright in comparison to both the Spring and Pavane, for example. However, I had heard a well-warmed Pavane and Yggy back-to-back, felt similarly there in that case, and found the Spring to sound more akin to the Pavane than not. I dunno...maybe the small tweaks sway things one way or the other in the Spring's case, for better or worse depending on one's tastes. Maybe I'm imaging things, which I won't rule out.

    BTW, I got some spare Schurter SMD-SPT fuses if anyone wants to try it in the Spring loaner or in their own Spring for shits and giggles. Cost of fuse and shipping is on me!
     
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  6. 7Ryder

    7Ryder Friend

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    You must have had the $100+ fuse in upside down, there is no way the basic fuse could sound better! ;-)
     
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  7. mscott58

    mscott58 Almost "Made"

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    I find my fuses work and sound better when I wrap them in foil first. I think it keeps cosmic radiation from contaminating the internal electronics of these high tech devices...

    ;)
     
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  8. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    If I have to flip the direction of a fuse one more time in my life, I will end myself.
     
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  9. kevnin

    kevnin #facetweeting - Friend

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    Could well be the case. The overall magnitude of the differences I heard vs gumby is not large.

    Interestingly, I had to unplug my gumby for a while today due to power issues. When I listened after it had only been back on for an hour or so, I felt like it had some of the same issues I had with the holo spring - lack of stage depth, roughness in vocals. I wonder if the holo spring needs more than 4 days to fully stabilize.
     
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  10. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    I have no stance on fuses other than they are like cables:
    1. They tend to sound more "different" than "better". System synergy should be the final determiner.
    2. Effects are subtle if any. We need to be wary of the neurotic myopic zoom-in mode effects of audiophilia. I would not bet my life on being able to hear the difference blind. (I am not against blind tests.)
    3. Might get more noticeable results by inserting rubber, kevinsorbothane, or cardboard under trannies, or piece of Dynamat on the crystal.
    ---

    @kevnin: Looks like you've built yourself a fantastic setup. I know each of those components you've chosen and how they work together. I would have done the same thing.

    I thought the soundstage depth of the Holo increased and became less flat after the three day point of leaving it on.
     
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  11. Enigmatic

    Enigmatic Friend

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    I should be in bed now, but I'll give a quick chime to back you up (just to prove you are not crazy :p) - The stock fuse did sound better in at least one off my applications. Off the top of my head, had that with an Audio Analogue amplifier once.

    With power related tweaks I personally tend to avoid (those which makes a significant difference may cause issues with my housing/fire insurance policies, and power cables, fuses, power boxes/filters tend to be too neurotic or just gives me more problems to solve), but I am fortunate in the sense that I live in a relatively new building without wiring/dirty power line issues.
     
  12. Greg121986

    Greg121986 Rando

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    Very interesting discussion going on here! I was content with my early run Vinshine Audio DAC-R2R-REF (0.02% resistors) but reading all of this hooplah on the Holo Spring Level 3 made me jump on a pre-order earlier this week. I'm expecting to hear great things from the Holo Spring L3. My setup is for stereo so I'm interested to see how my experience compares to what I'm reading here.
     
  13. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Facebook Friend

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    Could it be the mythical 500 hours of burn in time myth, that I see being thrown around at various places, as the cause for the Spring DAC not lining up with Torq's impressions?
    Especially with all the silver used in the the DAC, maybe a few weeks of burn in will change the sound signature for the better?
     
  14. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    Isn't it more stuff getting up to temperature, and the accuracy being somewhat dependant on that, rather than magic?
     
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  15. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    Or maybe @kevnin running a chain that is similar to mine. We are both running similar sounding SPDIF transports. My amp is a simply an uber version of his (exact same topology, different trannies and PS). Fast dynamic transducers (Utopia / Cicada).
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2016
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  16. rab

    rab Rando

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    The Holo uses LVDS signals to transmit the I2S data, so the original spec is irrelevant. You also need to get the LVDS / PSaudio spec version of the Pink Faun card.
     
  17. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    The I2S spec is concerned with more than just wire line characteristics; the reduced susceptibility to common mode noise that differential signaling provides doesn't change that.

    I don't think I "need" to do that at all.

    It would do me absolutely no good. I don't run Windows, I don't use a PC or other computer as a directly connected source (outside of occasional testing, but that's never my actual source when listening for pleasure) and the computers I do use, outside of my lab/workshop don't have card slots.

    ...

    Interesting first post; hope you didn't sign-up just to "make corrections" that are based on faulty assumptions.
     
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  18. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    Tim would tell you that most of the burn-in time is for the Jensen caps.

    I'm not a big believer in burn-in for the most part (outside of transducers and tubes, both of which have readily observable, if minor, changes over time), I find it to be, mostly, a too-convenient excuse that probably results more in conditioning of the listener than it does the gear - usually over a long enough period that either return periods have expired or the user stops caring.

    Caps can settle to a certain degree with use, but if it was that big a factor I'd expect manufacturers to have big racks of them cycling under load to address that. And they still operate within spec during this period.

    This is more likely what happens for "burn in" with DACs, at least in my opinion.

    And this is more than likely what's actually going on. Particularly as can't say I noticed any particular difference going from the loaner DAC to my own new copy. Nor can I say I've observed any obvious change in the performance of my unit beyond the initial warm-up period.
     
  19. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Rando

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    I've been looking at/listening to various DACS for ages now, trying to sort out what is what, and what I'm looking for sound wise. I was/am really interested by the Aqua Acoustics models, but even the La Voce (their "entry" level offering) will be 3 grand USD + import fees. The spring DAC would be 1700 USD if I went for the base model. Might as well save some money, especially if the level 1 sounds good.

    I know this thread is about the Level 3 model, but if anyone has experience with the Level 1 model and could chime in with how it sounds, especially in comparison to the Level 3, that would be awesome.
     
  20. Greg121986

    Greg121986 Rando

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    @ufospls2 I cannot offer you any advice on the Holo Level 1, but I do want to comment on the AQUA DAC. I am going to re-post a lengthy impression in the La Scala thread so I don't sully up this Holo Spring thread. You can see the post here.
     

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