HoloAudio Spring "Kitsuné Tuned Edition" Level 3 D/A processor Associated Equipment

Sidebar 2: Associated Equipment

Digital Sources: Mytek HiFi Brooklyn & Manhattan II, Schiit Audio Yggdrasil DACs; Kitsuné Tuned Edition Singxer SU-1 USB Audio Bridge; Integra DPS-7.2 DVD-A player (as transport), Mac mini computer running Audirvana + 3.2.
Analog Sources: AMG Giro G9 LP player, Linn Sondek LP12 Valhalla turntable with SME M-2 tonearm; Dynavector DV20X2, EMT TSD 75SFL, Koetsu Rosewood Standard, Miyajima Laboratory Saboten cartridges.
Preamplifiers: Pass Laboratories HPA-1, Rogue Audio RH-5.
Power Amplifiers: Pass Laboratories XA25, PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium, Rogers High Fidelity 65V-1.
Integrated Amplifier: Schiit Audio Ragnarok.
Loudspeakers: Falcon Acoustics LS3/5a, Harbeth Monitor 30.2, Stirling Broadcast LS3/5a V2.
Headphones: Abyss AB-1266 Phi, Focal Utopia, HiFiMan Susvara, Sony MDR-Z1R.
Cables: Digital: AudioQuest Cinnamon (USB), Kimber Kable D 60 Data Flex Studio (coaxial), Wireworld Starlight 0.3 (HDMI). Interconnect: AudioQuest Mackenzie, Auditorium 23, Kimber Kable Silver Streak, TriodeWire Spirit, Wireworld Silver Eclipse 7. Speaker: Auditorium 23, TriodeWire American Series. AC: TriodeWire Digital–American Series.
Accessories: Harmonic Resolution Systems M3X-1719, PS Audio PerfectWave PowerBase isolation platforms; Sound Anchor, TonTräger Reference speaker stands.—Herb Reichert

COMMENTS
tonykaz's picture

It's nearly 2020 now and I remember saying "only just begun" since the 1950s with an LP recording of a Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto ( in Mono ) after living with 78s.

Sheffield Labs brought another "only just begun" , LINN LP-12 brought another, Electrocomaniet brought another, Brisson MIT speaker cable brought another, Koetsu brought another, Gordon Rankin another, Ken Smith of PS Audio brought another.

We've lived thru a lifetime of "only just beguns" , haven't we ?

I'm ready for more of em, they're exciting.

Of course R2R isn't new or respected by Audio Professionals ( for the most part ). Still, I anticipate R2R architecture will be in the mother boards of many smart phones, the Phone people have "only just begun" !

An Audiophile grade R2R DAC for well under MSB price points is both wonderful that it exists and scary that it's coming from the Uttr side of the Voild. for gods sake

Tony in Michigan

ps. can someone ( without Orange hair ) take me back to 1910's Isolationist practices?

spacehound's picture

If I didn't already have a considerably more expensive (but not necessarily better), DAC I would buy one.

I purchased my last 'regular chip' DAC a long time ago and no longer use it. It's R2R, dCS (discrete components) or Chord (FPGA) for me, they are so much better.

brw's picture

This is the best DAC review I have ever read. Especially the comparisons with Yggdrasil (which I’ve long been tempted to buy). Thoughtful impressions, differences discerned with specific tracks, tongue-in-cheek humor (“LSD vs. DSD”). Super-helpful observations that will undoubtedly influence, if not motivate my next purchase. This is why I read Stereophile. Well done, Herb.

Herb Reichert's picture

this review was the most difficult review I've written so far. To effectively characterize the Holo Spring while putting its low price and original engineering into the proper historical perspective was a real challenge . . . . thanks again - I am glad you enjoyed it

Greg121986's picture

What digital input on the Spring did you use? Sorry if I may have missed this detail from the article. I've owned the Spring KTE L3 for awhile, and it is customary to use its I2S input with a digital-digital converter. This method yields substantially better sound than the USB input alone. Unfortunately the USB input on the Spring is not as much of a high quality piece as the rest of the DAC. I have heard of users being satisfied with the AES/EBU balanced input as well but I have no personal experience with this. For I2S I use the Singxer SU-1 DDC which is pretty much the go-to piece of equipment for the Spring. The improvement to the Spring when using its I2S input is corroborated many times over by other owners as well.

Herb Reichert's picture

the I2S + Singxer and the USB with an AudioQuest Cinnamon cable. I cut the DDC out of this story because the Singxer is a seperate product not yet reviewed in Steriophile.

ednazarko's picture

Seems to me from reviews that R2R has a lot of real advantages over the most widespread approach to DACs today.

So why did R2R phase out? Does it not hold up as well as a fully chip system? Is it trickier to get right?

Curious to hear this bit of audiophile history...

DriverTube's picture

I enjoyed your review of the Holo Spring DAC (and your column in general)! I have been happily using the Holo Spring (Level 1) for about 7 months and it really has had an impact in terms of my ability to enjoy listening to digital music. I have had significantly more expensive DACs and while they always sounded very impressive in many ways, there was a strange disconnect between their sonic abilities and their ability to let me enjoy my music. Not so with the Holo Spring. One thing that you might try, early versions (pre 2018?) of the Holo Spring used a U208 XMOS USB module while later versions switched to the newer, improved UX208 XMOS USB module. Jeff at Kitsune can supply the newer USB board which is a 2-bolt, drop-in replacement swap. At first, I thought the UX208 provided a VERY slight increase in transparency and perceived detail. However, as I have become more familiar with it, I think it is a real if subtle improvement. Maybe a good option for anyone wanting a simple USB connection without extra boxes/I2S converters? Looking forward to hearing from you in the future about more fun stuff!

georgehifi's picture

Because it didn't do DSD and the main reason it was so expensive to manufacture, because of the laser trimming of all the R2R resistors. Up to 50 x the cost of Delta Sigma dac chips.

The only ones left are not made for the audio industry but military, that the Schiit Yaggy uses.

So what's happening to the manufacturers that still believe R2R multibit is still the better way, is their "doing their own discrete (not chip) version of it", and that's very hard to do in discrete components with all the matching of those resistors. Here are a list that are now doing R2R Multibit, and it's growing.

Up to $3k: Border Patrol, Monarchy, Denafrips, Audio-gd, MHDT, Holo, Soeskris, Metrum, Schiit

$5-$15K: Audio Note, MSB, Metrum, Computer Audio Design, Aqua, LessLoss, Totaldac, Lampizator

$15K+: CH Precision, Aries Cerat, Light Harmonic, Audio Note, MSB, Totaldac, Lampizator

**Special mention to MSB, Monarchy and Audio Note, who never gave up R2R. Even after the takeover of delta-sigma.

Cheers George

dce22's picture

Or you can bypass that junk and get the best R2R DAC

LavryGold DA924

The R2R DAC that is used in mastering studios to transfer the music from the PC to Analog compressors and EQ's then to PC again with LavryGold AD122-96 that is R2R based ADC

This Lavry DAC to ADC chain is probably on people's favorite recording without they even know it

Cheers

SNI's picture

That would probably be one of the reasons for R2R DAC chips deminish, but there are a few more reasons.
The most important is, that it is possible to obtain somewhat better performance with sigma delta DACs, and in many cases the implementation is also simpler.
Of the six OEM (Now five) about half of them early chose the sigma delta technology over the R2R principle.
Philips was probably the company, that drove the devellopment fastest and furthest of all. They later sold their patents to Crystal Semi, which now is Cirrus Logic.
Anyways R2R DACs are always I out DACs which needs an ekstra step for I/V convertion. This step is pretty critical, and complicates the implementation of the R2R chips.
Sigma Delta DACs with Switced Capacitor Outputstages and filtering dosn´t need I/V conversion, hence the implementation is both simpler and cheaper. This also can lead to better sound quality in the end.
Especially Cirrus Logic and AKM have adopted this principle, and today their DAC chips are absolutely top notch.

vsrwiz's picture

The combination of Holo Spring Wild edtion DAC, UIP, SU1 with Xsymphony USB cable created a magic to ears. The music had a relaxed, natural sound that was never stressful to listen to, it was like more and more analogue and lacked any trace of the digital grit which i have heard from other company DACs. Listening to music over long stretches of time was comfortable and inviting.

My favorite “Girl from Ipanema" (DSD) and Spanish Harlem(24-bit/96kHz Flac) sounded very realistic, with well-fleshed-out harmonic structural reproduction of the instruments (or reproductions thereof).
The combination of Spring Wild Modded, UIP, SU1 threw a wide, dense sound stage with instruments distributed across the space between the speakers. The deep bass on this recording descends to between 20 and 30Hz, and was reproduced with deep extension and powerful impact on tight bass. I was really impressed by the the combination handling of both micro and macro dynamics, which provided a sense of liveliness and energy.

While listening to the Jorge Bolet "Liszt Piano Works", I could always distinguish the percussion instruments clattering in the background (through some other instruments, they merge into a background mush). Leading-edge lows, mids & highs was really well defined: not peaky or edgy, just sharp and clear.

By Connectiing Xsymphony AES Cable, the combination of Spring Wild Modded, UIP and SU1 was more better, it was really very musical and good, even before the burn-in time and reproduced with great realism and sharp transients -- not at all peaky, just natural and the bass was so deep and powerful.

Stings's picture

Has anyone listened to both the Holo Spring and the ifi Pro IDSD dac? I am debating whether to buy the Holo Spring or ifi Pro iDSD. I like the fact that the ifi pro iDSD has a Ethernet and upsamples to dsd1024 but it doesnt have a i2s connector.
Which DAC is better realistic imagery?

Thanks
Stings

Herb Reichert's picture

Reviewed both and found them both to play like a $20K DAC. The sound character of each is very different though. To my subjective view, the Holo Spring is the most natural and least (digitally) affected but the iDSD delivers a force of 'energy' and transparency very much like the Mytek Manhattan II DAC. I could live happily with either.

Thanks for reading my prattles.

herb

highdesertdog's picture

Herb,

Thank you for a thoughtful and useful comparison review. Have you heard another R2R DAC, the Mojo Audio Mystique v3?

DetroitVinylRob's picture

Herb, you guys are the best, truly!

Thoroughly enjoyed the read, and the observations by both you and Art. I trust your ears. Thank you. I am perhaps less experienced with DSD than some other things as well... Yet this Holo Audio Spring Kitsuné Tuned Edition Level 3 sounds like a real digital sweetheart. It may just prove to be my entry to home streaming.

By the way, you and I sat next to one another a year ago at RMAF while listening to Joyce DiDonato performing La Vestale, act.2 Se Fino Al Cielo Ascendere on Raidho loudspeakers. I shared the meta data with you off the Shazam app on my iPhone.

Thank again, Rob [|;^)>

X