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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    That can certainly be the case.

    But big/high-quality transformers, or any other expensive part, is only as good as the results you can get out of it. And if, at the end of the day, you've got a parts BoM (with, or without, other attendant boutique nonsense) that puts you in the $50K price bracket, but product performance that's barely discernible, possibly worse, than something in the ~$1K realm, then that's a really big problem.

    When I heard the Audio Note unit I was unimpressed before I knew a) what it was and b) what it cost.

    I'm all for advancing the "state of the art", in whatever manner is necessary - provided the "art" we're "advancing the state of" is not "how far can we can push prices without backing it up with performance"! ;)
     

  2. Luckbad

    Luckbad Basshead - Friend

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    Did I mention I'm a fool and bought one? Kitsune tuned of course.
     
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  3. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Facebook Friend

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    You caught the sickness. It won't be cured. Ever!
     
  4. Luckbad

    Luckbad Basshead - Friend

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    Time to find some really good DSD recordings. I dig acoustic guitar and orchestral music... Might pop into a different thread for recommendations.
     
  5. Senorx12562

    Senorx12562 Friend

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    You? Mr. N.O.S? Shocker.
     
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  6. mscott58

    mscott58 Almost "Made"

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    Welcome to the club!

    What was your estimated delivery?

    Cheers
     
  7. Luckbad

    Luckbad Basshead - Friend

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    Mid December. Tim was sneaky and knew I'd want the ultimate NOS DAC so I think it's part of the next batch.

    It'll be revelatory to live without it for a while (demo unit leaves Monday).
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2016
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  8. Luckbad

    Luckbad Basshead - Friend

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    Has anyone used a Pink Faun i2s card and compared it to the Singxer SU-1?

    That would avoid USB, but it would also require a longer HDMI cable than is ideal.
     
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  9. mscott58

    mscott58 Almost "Made"

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    Yeah, think I'm in the same batch. We'll have brother units! :D
     
  10. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    Can't comment on the I2S card, but do be careful with the length of cable you use for an I2S connection. The length limits that apply to HDMI signals over HDMI cables are very different from than for I2S. I plan to do a bit of experimenting here to see if there is audible degradation with longer cables via I2S before it just starts dropping out/stops working, but it'll be Tuesday before I can get to that.

    Nominally the original spec was, I think, for connections shorter than 100mm (4 inches).
     
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  11. MisterRogers

    MisterRogers Friend

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    Lots of good acoustic stuff at Stockfisch Records; pm me for more specific recommendations.
     
  12. Madaboutaudio

    Madaboutaudio Friend

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    Here's a review of the dac in russian, you need google chrome to do translation to english:
    http://www.dastereo.ru/t/holo-audio-spring-dac-r2r-dsd512/2075/1752


    Reviewer's opinion is that this Holo Spring is head of Aqua La Scala and Rockna Dacs:
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2016
  13. landroni

    landroni Friend

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    I'll just do the conclusion without Google translate:

    "Atypical for a Chinese product, and it is absolutely clear that they worked on it and gave it a certain voicing. [though this last bit is ambiguous in the original text] The result is an interesting mix of advantages and disadvantages, a per-genre machine, which---if it matches "your" music---can play it brilliantly and "jump above its head". [and I'll shamefully refrain from translating the rest, as it's... peculiar, and doesn't make much sense without more context.]"

    Well, and maybe the Rockna and Aqua paragraph:

    "The first thing that you notice is how musical it is, and how unrealistically long it delays the after-note [I can only assume it means: note decay]. On this aspect it comes ahead of all DACs I've tested, including top performers like Rockna and Aqua. And even though sometimes you get the feeling of a certain artificial and deliberate aspect of such a presentation, you must admit that the voicing/sounding is very effective. After the first listen you're almost guaranteed to experience a wow factor.

    The second obvious aspect is that there is a filling of the space with "air"; you can clearly sense the venue where the recording took place.

    The machine gives you a ton of details..."


    ````
    Again, some terms may be translated inaccurately, as I don't hang out all that much in Russian audio forums and sometimes I can't really say which words are used with which meanings... You may have noticed though, that reading reviews in English also requires, well, training. :)
     
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  14. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Facebook Friend

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    Well, genre DAC, who does not happen, under heavy music - do not even think it. But a Queen does not sound so great. But jazz, folk, classical malosostavnaya, something like Baroque or Renaissance's - well, it is.


    Is He saying heavy (rock) music like the band Queen isn't great with the DAC?
     
  15. Luckbad

    Luckbad Basshead - Friend

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    He's spot on that the DAC isn't 100% neutral. It's musical and artificially explodes the soundstage. It might not be the perfect DAC for speakers if your setup already does soundstage well, but it's the best I've ever heard for headphones.

    It's a perfect execution of musicality and detail. Usually, gaining in musicality means making allowances for loss of detail, but it doesn't happen with the Holo Spring.
     
  16. Luckbad

    Luckbad Basshead - Friend

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    Regarding Queen or heavy music, he's not entirely wrong on that count. I actually prefer the DAC in OS mode vs. NOS for certain genres (particularly heavy genres).

    The soundstage is too much in NOS for some songs.
     
  17. Madaboutaudio

    Madaboutaudio Friend

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    Another review,
    Looks like there will be a future higher tier "Plum" model in the works from Jeff(holo spring)

    http://www.mefashao.com.cn/blog/?recordId=488
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2016
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  18. landroni

    landroni Friend

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    The review says:
    "So a genre-dependent DAC, and if you listen to "heavy music" don't even think about it. For instance Queen just doesn't sound really well. But if you listen to jazz, folk, classical by chamber orchestra, something like Baroque or Renaissance --- it fully delivers."
     
  19. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Facebook Friend

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    Would you agree with that assessment Torq?

    Does it do Rock/Pop/Hip-Hop/EDM music worse than the Yggy?
     
  20. Luckbad

    Luckbad Basshead - Friend

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    Okay, I have a decent (and short) HDMI cable today.

    Test #1
    Option A) Lynx E22 via AES (correctly set to AES mode)
    Option B) Singxer SU-1 via i2s (using the aforementioned HDMI cable, a 14AWG Monoprice power cable, and AudioQuest Cinnamon USB).

    Both digital transports are completely broken in. I've been using the Lynx at home daily for months, and the Singxer at work daily for months.

    From reports in various reviews, including @Torq, i2s is the best input for the Holo Spring DAC, followed a few percent behind by AES et al.

    The test was conducted using 5 different songs, all in FLAC format, via JRiver. I have linked Zones in Jriver, so both the Lynx and Singxer are playing at exactly the same time. The songs vary from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz.

    I took off my headphones, closed my eyes, and pressed the Source button x number of times until I was completely unsure how many times I pressed the button. I then put my headphones back on and hit the button until I got sound. The nice thing about performing this blind test is that you press the button 3 times to get from AES to i2s and 3 times to get from i2s to AES, so there is no way to know which one you are switching to.

    I was able to pick out whether I was using AES or i2s 100% of the time, completely blind, zero errors. That made me think there was a volume mismatch, so I tweaked it by 0.5dB. Still 100% accuracy. Tweaked it by another 0.5dB, on down to -2.5dB, at which point I quit messing with it. It was clearly quieter at about -1dB, so I decided the volume level between the two is actually identical.

    The bad news: Lynx E22 via AES is clearly better every single time. The reason that news is bad is because 1) It costs twice as much as the Singxer and 2) It caps out at 192kHz and can't do DSD.

    I even preferred the Lynx at -1dB. It's clearer with better separation. The Singxer is slightly softer and less detailed in every case. I thought AES was louder because there was such a discernible gap in clarity. Even notching the volume down, the Lynx had better clarity, so it wasn't actually a volume difference causing it.

    Test #2
    Option A) Lynx E22 via AES (correctly set to AES mode)
    Option B) Singxer SU-1 via i2s (using the aforementioned HDMI cable, a 14AWG Monoprice power cable, and Belkin Gold USB cable)

    Same setup as before, same songs, same randomness.

    Swap around until I decide which I prefer for a particular song. This is much harder. Oh shit, sometimes it's i2s and other times it's AES.

    Am I getting fatigued by this testing and turning sound stupid?

    Swapped back to the AudioQuest Cinnamon cable.

    What a piece of trash.

    It's softer and clearly worse. I can pick out the AES 100% of the time as the superior option again.

    Switched back to the Belkin Gold.

    Having trouble telling them apart again.

    Gonna write down which one I prefer on the songs this time.

    Song 1: AES 3/5
    Song 2: AES 3/5
    Song 3: i2S 3/5
    Song 4: AES 3/5
    Song 5: AES 3/5

    Okay, I still might slightly prefer the AES, but it could easily be chalked up to coin flips half the time and I was having trouble deciding in most of the cases.

    I forgot to bring home my Schiit Pyst/Straightwire USB cable from work, which I decided I preferred with my Atlantis a while back over the Belkin and AudioQuest. So no Test #3. And I'm tired of testing, so no swapping from the MonoPrice power cable to something better.

    Summary
    Giving into audiophilia nervosa and buying a super nice HDMI cable, power cable, and USB cable might actually mean the Singxer SU-1 via i2s is better than the Lynx E22 via AES. That would end up costing at least as much as the Lynx, possibly more if you go too bonkers.

    Do I care about anything greater than 192kHz or DSD? There's the real question. Generally, no. Most of my music is FLAC format and 44.1kHz. I have a chunk of 192kHz, and only test files above that rate.

    Do I want to mess with different power cables, USB cables, and HDMI cables until I definitively think the Singxer SU-1 sounds better than the Lynx E22? That's another question I have to answer.

    If Torq was able to definitively state in blind testing that the Singxer SU-1 was better than the Focusrite Rednet 3, that is telling. I felt the Rednet 3 was better than the Lynx E22 when I was testing the two of them, but that was in S/PDIF format and not AES at the time, and the E22 is clearly better in AES than S/PDIF, so it could actually be better than the Rednet (which I haven't heard using AES).

    I'm deep into WTF territory now, eh?

    The conclusion is that I have no conclusion.

    I'll probably hang onto the Lynx and the Singxer for now. I ordered a second Singxer from Kitsune Hifi, so I'll probably sell my older unit and just keep that one for a while. I have a few months to really make a final decision because I used PayPal Credit and I can pay it off without interest.

    Hopefully someone else with a Lynx and Singxer gets their ears on it in the next month or so.

    @Marvey, if you need a Singxer SU-1 and HDMI cable to compare to the Lynx you have after getting the Holo Spring, please let me know and I'll send it your way and let you make my decisions for me. :)

    Quick Update: Curiously, I can tell the difference between the Singxer w/ Belkin Gold and Lynx in OS mode much more accurately than in NOS mode. The Singxer sounds slightly bloated and round, if that makes sense. It's minor, but it's discernible and I can hear the difference almost every time blindly.

    As I take a look at my notes between the AudioQuest Cinnamon, Belkin Gold, and Schiit Pyst/Straightwire months ago, that lines up 100% with my comments then. AudioQuest sounds soft, Belkin sounds slightly bloated, Schiit sounds a touch dry. I decided dry was the best because it could easily be made up for with tubes.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2016
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