Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by bilboda, Aug 1, 2021.
Updated my post ^
Very informative update. While I have not been able to sit down and compare as carefully the May KTE and Y. A2 I have side by side in my city place, my impressions match yours, except that (maybe May vs Spring 3?) I don't hear May NOS as sounding insufficiently "material" relative to Y, but rather that Y sounds now a bit exaggerated and tiring in that respect. May with HQPlayer preprocessing is something else, although I've not spent enough time with it to provide specific impressions.
If instead of a Utopia I was regularly listening my old ZMF VC I'm pretty sure I would be with you. Even with the Utopia, I still prefer the Holo with certain tracks, like the later Cowboy Junkies stuff that is mixed too phat and gooey in the bass. Is the Yggdrasil's sound a sin of commission, or is the Holo a sin of a omission, or does it matter? If I had a quality SS amp instead of the DNA, would the Holo's character trump the Yggdrasil's advantages?
All to say that I think with these two dacs it comes down almost completely to synergy. I was thinking today how My ideal DAC might be a 50/50 mix of the two
With ecp DSHA-3F, NOS May beats Y almost always. With EC Af, it's more of an even fight. When my in-process Stellaris arrives, or with HQPlayer+May, who knows... TBH, if it hadn't been for pandemic isolation/WFH, I'd probably would have stuck to Y, but I had too much listening time, stuck-at-home boredom, and none of my usual travel/ski/live music/eating out expenses, so the audio gear roster grew...
Final update. Will move it on to the next person by Monday.
If my experience with the May KTE is any guide, this is really worth trying. Maybe it's my (rather expensive) taste, but intriguingly, the two current winners in my DAC experience are both based on highly-crafted upsamplers and DSD modulators followed by high-precision discrete stages: HQPlayer->May KTE for headphones, and Linn Klimax Organik for speakers. With a good recording like the Bill Frisell "East/West" I mentioned before in my status, instruments pop out with a presence and identity that I never got at that level before. Maybe placebo (you paid, you believe) but HQPlayer can be tested for free and I recommend that those in the tour who have a beefy PC to run @winders recommended HQPlayer configuration give it a try.
I wholeheartedly agree. Using HQPlayer to upsample and noise shape makes an impressive difference in what I hear.
You don't need an expensive system to run what I recommended. I recently bought a refurbished M1 Mac mini (16GB/512GB) for less than a $1K that runs both Roon Server and HQPlayer Desktop. I added an external Thunderbolt 3 M.2 SSD setup for music storage. I could have saved almost $200 on the M1 Mac mini if I had selected 256GB of internalSSD storage instead.
I love the look of the Holo Spring 3, it has a cool mid-century modern vibe, pairs really well with the ECP T4 amp sitting in my rack. The LED display is also the perfect brightness for me, easy to read from the couch 8ft away and not so bright it burns your retinas or lights up the room. Minor quibble, the remote buttons rattle a bit too much.
Setup: pi2AES > Holo Spring (I2S)/ Yggdrasil A2 (AES) > Freya+ > Spatial M3 Sapphires
For the majority of my listening I used the I2S option out of the pi2AES but I did spend some time with HQPlayer feeding the USB input. It does sound better but my overall impressions didn’t change.
First thing I noticed is a bass emphasis. Coming from the Yggydrasil A2 which I don’t think is bass light, this was a little surprising. Listening to “B-Side” by Khraungbin and Leon Bridges, it’s just a little too much and overpowers the rest of the music. “Hell to the Liars” by London Grammar also showed a slight boomy bass with distant and hollow vocals. This was much more evident in NOS. Overall tone and timbre sounded good but I tend to hear spatial cues and staging more. There is great separation but staging on speakers was a little off for me. I also thought the sound was a little rounded and soft, similar to the Yggdrasil LIM but not as much. And like the LIM, the notes just seem to end too fast. It’s hard to describe but I was wishing for more decay.
NOS vs OS
For the most part I preferred OS via Roon or HQPlayer. NOS is interesting and works well for some music but it would be a small part of my listening. I found Roon set to 192k to work really well, creating better spatial imaging and a tighter overall sound.
I did love the texture and detail the Spring 3 has and it beats the Y A2. There is a small part on Echoes by Rodrigo y Gabriella where Rod drags his pick down the string and the first time I heard that on vinyl I was in awe. It had so much texture and life. My Gungnir A2 never made that sound. I’ve sort of been chasing that sound on DACs ever since. And the Spring 3 has come the closest.
Headphones - I did listen for a little while on my Startlett/Utopia chain and while I didn’t have any issue with the staging, in-fact I might prefer it over the YA2, it’s still not as engaging to me. It sounds really good, but it’s just a little more relaxed.
Norah Jones “Peace” (Live in NYC) - Spring 3 seemed to more weight, but vocal is slight off/recessed, piano sound really good.
Tash Saltana “Pink Moon” - Y A2 has much better attack/decay with the guitars and more edge/bite. The Spring sounds soft especially NOS.
Iron Wine “Resurrection Fern” - When the bass come in 1:30ish, the Y A2 sounds boomy while the Spring sounds bigger/more extended. This was one of the rare cases I liked the bass on the Spring more.
I really wanted to like this DAC but it came down to a few issues for me. In my main audio room, I listen to speakers 90% of the time and the Spring 3 has odd staging with my system. The center image is back further than with the YA2 but the problem is the left/right sounds seem to come forward and almost wrap around. The other issue is I just don’t find it as engaging. It’s lacking the macrodynamics and edge/bite that I enjoy.
Thanks to SBAF for the loaner and @rhythmdevils for working out all the logistics.
---- Reposted from the May thread, sorry mods..
Usual System: Roon/Qobuz/Pi2AES-> Yggdrasil A2 (AES input, Balanced output)->Freya S-> Aegir-> Boston Acoustics A150, PAP Trio 15 w/ Heil AMT.
I started off using the BA A150s only because I had completed new foams and had a couple of days before a friend picked them up. I could tell right away that the Holo presentation was a bit more vivid. The presentation from front to back seemed deeper even with acoustic suspension speakers and then was more apparent when I later switched to the PAPs. I always thought the Yggdrasil A2 did a good job unravelling passages that could get congested. I think the Spring 3 does this even a little bit better. It has really good detail without beeing too much. Compared to the Yggdrasil, the bass was diminished on most of what I normally play. (Which is a lot of 70s-80's Punk, New Wave, some Prog) Not usually to the point of sounding thin, -except with Motorhead, that didn't sound right. Balls were neutered - On other material the Spring 3 bass was probably closer to accurate, but I sorta missed the Yggdrasil slam on the low end.
I noticed what @StageOne mentioned about the image being deep but sort of wrapping around to the sides. I couldnt really describe it until I read it and that pretty much nails it regardless of the speakers I used. With popular music this can work out but was a little off with acoustic jazz.
I like the Spring 3 a lot. Its cool that it displays the sampling rate. When listening to Qobuz and Roon, I never really know what the rate is unless I dig a little. The Yggdrasil is usually far enough away that I cant really tell when the indicator lights change. Despite liking the DAC I don't feel compelled to get rid of the Yggdrasil, but really appreciate being able to listen to the Spring 3 for a few days.
using Quboz. Speakers Fonken Prime dave enabled f127, comparing to Gungir MB A2 with gen 5 usb. listening in NOS mode
The dac wows at first, wider sound stage and blacker background. Very pleasing and enticing. The Gungnir not as wide a presentation, less separation of instruments.
Biggest difference for me. the Holo,s notes do not sound right to me they are flatter, single dimension. They lacked the depth to here a wood instrument, the inner qualitys of the drums hit. The Holo is brighter more demanding of my attention, maybe sharper leading edge. The Gungir's notes have depth and the quality of the instrument being played, it can be a little more congested on some music passage's. Less demanding of my attention while definitely a toe tapper
I noticed all of the above most with the Utopias, Correction with my speakers it is also clearer and a wider sound hear the difference in the notes only slightly
I do not understand how to change to different upsampling modes, do not know what PLL is and ALT 1,2,2 can anyone explain how to do this and what that all means unable to find clear directions on the web.
IDK about ALT 1,2,2 but a PLL is a phase locked loop, simple explanation is it makes it take longer to lock onto an incoming signal and is used to reduce jitter/phase noise from the source. Maybe you were asking how to toggle it with the spring, in which case I have no idea...
From experience with multiple resistor array DACs (Schiit Y, Holo Spring 1, 2 & May, Metrum Onyx, Soekris dac1541, Sonnet Morpheus): they take a while (hours to days) to sound their best after being turned on. I keep mine on all the time for that reason.
yes I agree, I also keep my dacs on all of the time
The Spring 3 did not sound competitive to me until day 6 of being left on.
In my HP rig, this "wrap around" staging held true as well, so it's not just speakers.
if that's the case, then we won't hear the full effect until our time with the loaner is over...
Well, it's an R2R.
You can always request a little more time though. I feel like R2R sort of demands it.
According to the loaner thread it's 5-10 days per person. And I guess a day or two more won't disturb either.
I didn't notice much of a change and ran it 6 days until boxing it back up. On day 5 had a buddy over and ran it for another couple of hours of serious listening to get another set of ears on it. His comment was "Man that presentation is way different than my system" He has some homebrew CornScalas on Luxman gear with my old OG Bifrost MB. I had loaned him my Yggdrasil A2 for a month last year so he knows what that sounds like.
I did swap speakers on day 2 from Boston A150s to PAP Trio15. The Bostons aren't nearly as revealing so maybe if there was a change in the DAC it happened before I switched out the speakers.
YMMV... it didn't sound horrible before day 6, but for me it was too aggressive and unrefined and quite flat imaging/staging-wise. Some people may not notice or care enough about the subtleties of DAC changes, but it's worth noting. For reference, I had to completely rewrite my review of it around/after day 6 because I was going to trash it.
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