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. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    The first consideration is whether the native clocks on the Singxer SU-1 are better than those on the Digi+ Pro. Going purely on the spec sheets, and assuming I'm not misplacing a decimal point in my sorrow-drowning-glass-of-The-Macallan, the Singxer is using raw clocks that are three orders of magnitude better than those on the Digi+ Pro (and that is based on it's WM8804 PLL managed output, not it's raw/native clocks).

    So the Singxer is very likely to have the superior raw I2S output (but I will test it at some point tonight or tomorrow(ish), once I have my raw, Digi+ Pro and custom implementations all working side-by-side).

    Also, it's incorrect to think of either the SU-1 or an Raspberry Pi/Digi+ Pro as "reclocking" anything ... they are not. In these cases they'd be THE master clock (USB Audio doesn't have an audio-related clock, per-se). No-reclocking required!
     
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  2. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    USB isn't really "required" in these cases, it's just that that's how the existing I2S-capable DDC products have elected to take their input. And that's mostly a product of it being the only broadly supported interface with enough bandwidth to handle multi-rate DSD.

    With the Holo Audio Spring DAC I found that the I2S input fed from 2015 Mac Pro -> USB -> Singxer SU-1 -> I2S was audibly superior, if only slightly, to ethernet (air-gapped or direct) into Auralic Aries OR RedNet 3 -> AES/EBU XLR.

    So even with USB in the chain, that particular DDC/DAC setup does out perform an AOIP/AES interface.

    Well, there's one sitting on my workbench in front of me ... ;)

    It's an NAI/AOOP device with Ethernet and WiFi (and USB and Bluetooth) inputs and has AES, COAX/TOSLINK, USB as well.

    No more hints there until I chat with the management though ...
     
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  3. Luckbad

    Luckbad Basshead - Friend

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    I have a decent short HDMI cable on the way, probably arriving Saturday, to compare the Singxer SU-1 using HDMI vs Lynx E22 using AES.

    Using my kinda long and old Belkin HDMI cable used for an old computer monitor, I'd say the Lynx is still slightly better than the Singxer. Gonna do some more listening tonight, but the real comparison will be this weekend.
     
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  4. songmic

    songmic Friend

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    Thanks. Looking forward to your comparison as well.
     
  5. Merrick

    Merrick Friend

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    Those are good points. Sadly the cost of adding a Singxer pushes the cost of the Holo well past a Yggy, especially for those of us who already use an Raspberry Pi solution that bypasses USB.

    I do look forward to hearing your I2S comparisons!
     
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  6. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    I'm going to guess, ahead of (in)formal testing, that native USB into the Holo Audio unit is going to beat I2S off a raw Raspberry Pi. With a Digi+ Pro in the mix, it's harder to say - I'd wager the RPi/Digi+ Pro/I2S would beat the raw USB input and fall just behind the Singxer. That's educated speculation, nothing more.

    The thing still sounds excellent via it's USB input; it's just clearly the weakest input it offers. That doesn't mean it IS a "weak" input as such, just the least-good it offers.

    I would look at it as a potential, future, upgrade, that'll get you an extra couple of percentage points, and not worry about it ahead of that.
     
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  7. Merrick

    Merrick Friend

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    I currently use a Digi+ (not Pro) to RCA coax. I've been waiting for Michael Kelly's hat for BNC and AES connections, but if it takes too much longer I'll just get a Digi+ Pro instead. I definitely don't send the signal out straight off the base Pi board.
     
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  8. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    Then unless you have an interest in multi-rate DSD, I wouldn't even worry about any other interfaces.

    Go for the Digi+ Pro or Mike's upcoming hat, when they're out of beta, with either COAX or AES and call it good.

    If I put it into performance percentages (I seem to do this more than I'd like, as I loathe the practice ...), I'd say that, if I2S was the 100% performance mark for the Holo Audio DAC, then AES would be 97.5-98%, and AES/COAX/TOSLINK were barely/rarely distinguishable for me, so let's say 97.5% to hedge on that.

    When I have an I2S based boot image for either the Digi+ Pro, Mike's board (I forget the name, SPDY2 or something?) or my own, I'll likely just post that for people to play with.
     
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  9. Merrick

    Merrick Friend

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    Thanks! I'm very tempted to get this given the current sale price and most of my experience is with Schiit DACs so it would be nice to have something else in the arsenal. I do wish there were comparisons between the Level 3 and the Level 1/2.
     
  10. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    Since the "need for patience" might be enforced due to current supply constraints, I am hoping to get at least my Level 3 and a Level 2 unit back-to-back around Thanksgiving (which it currently sounds like you'll be participating in anyway!).

    The Level 1 is a bit more challenging.

    I would suggest reaching out to Tim (@bimmer100) and asking what he thinks of the various levels. He's a straight-up guy and as far as I know he currently makes no additional profit on the Level 3 vs. the Level 1 - in other words, the Level 3 parts-upgrades are getting passed on at cost and NOT simply the same percentage.
     
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  11. Merrick

    Merrick Friend

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    Well shoot, if he's selling the upgrades at cost then I am inclined to believe that it's a labor of love and there actually is a sound difference, otherwise why bother?

    I guess the question becomes can I actually hear the differences between the levels, which isn't something I can know without hearing them in person.
     
  12. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Regarding I2S, I did a quick experiment using my Soundaware D100. I got the I2S Ethernet pinout on that, then hooked that up to an Audio-GD HDMI I2S output module with a cheap 3.5V wall wart PSU. HDMI cable to Spring from there.

    This was not at all optimal due to unshielded cables, module not in a case, crappy PSU, way too long HDMI cable, etc. etc. But it did technically work! I think with a lot of time and work into this solution, with really short, shielded, high quality cables and casing, as well as a very nice PSU, it could be good. Worth it over the simplicity and already-great AES? That I am not sure of.
     
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  13. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    Random FYI, but has some tenuously relevant contextual link to this ...

    I'm wrapping up my "Life after Yggdrasil?" thread. After almost a year of looking, the best I've been able to come up with is a combination of Yggdrasil and the Holo Audio Spring DAC. I'm entirely happy with that. Surprised, but happy. It's a HELL of a combination. Either DAC, in isolation, is superlative. Combined, I don't know what really competes (maybe one unit I got to hear recently, but it's many times the combined price of Yggdrasil and Spring).

    "Round Two" of that undertaking will happen here (SBAF), I just wanted to close out the original thread on Head-Fi in a sensible and clean manner, but that's a "next year" thing.
     
  14. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Almost "Made"

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    Sucks that the price gulf between the Yggy/Holo & the next step up (I assume something from dCS, APL, Audio Note, Goldmund) is such a huge gap.
     
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  15. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    The price difference is huge. The performance delta is MUCH less so.

    I never bothered formally auditioning the Audio Note stuff ... it didn't take much listening to get a reasonable grasp of just how colossal a piss-take in terms of price/performance that thing is. Maybe it'd be different if we were talking in terms of massively diminishing returns at the very extremes of performance, but it's just not competitive with stuff that's a tiny fraction of it's comically bloated asking price.

    $55,000 for some aging AD chips, questionable layout, "ooh look at what big caps you have" and "how many transformers can we fit in this big fucking box?"
    attitude, and complete opt-out of anything that might actually rescue it from mediocrity ... seriously ... buy a bloody MHDT Atlantis or Pagoda, save yourself $54,000 and get a more enjoyable end result.

    Sorry for the rant! ;)
     
  16. WNovizar

    WNovizar Facebook Friend

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    I think anything higher priced than yggy/spring is going to be slightly better, you'd rather get speaker at that price point.
     
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  17. mrflibble

    mrflibble Almost "Made"

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    Did you get to listen to the Metrum Adagio? I remember in your other thread that you auditioned the Pavane and liked it. IIRC you did not realize that the Adagio has further enhancements over the Pavane other than its built-in volume control.
     
  18. perkele

    perkele Facebook Friend

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    I'd appreciate if we keep this thread about Spring DAC rather than go all over the place.

    Luckbad: you seem to have better knowledge about those Spring DACs available in TaoBao - what would be the differences to Kitsune lvl3? Ebay has almost similar articles for sale (Deluxe & Standard). I suppose they would be lvl1&2.
     
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  19. lukeap69

    lukeap69 Pinoy Panther - Friend

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    I think Level 1 and Level 2 have the same specs from different sellers. Kitsune Tuned Edition has a few more upgrades compared to Level 3 from Taobao and Wildism HK. The 'Wild' Edition of Wildism HK has an Audionote transformer for the AES output in addition to Level 3 specs.
     
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  20. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Almost "Made"

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    I know transformer quality is a big factor. The silver transformers in the Holo Springs DAC probably makes one of the biggest differences in sound.

    Some of the higher priced DAC's weight as much as a monster power amp, just from the bigger transformers they use.
     

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