Holo Audio May KTE Dac

tpsully99

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A Holo Audio May KTE arrives tomorrow, so I will finally be able to hear it with the Rockna Wavedream NET.

In the meantime, I have been listening to an EMM Labs DV2 on loan from my dealer. It’s connected to the Wavedream NET via USB, which I understand is the preferred input. The DV2 is without question the finest DAC I have heard in my system. Unfortunately, it’s out of my reach.
Any update on comparing the May to the DV2?
Thanks!
Tom
 

tvad

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Aug 22, 2021
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Any update on comparing the May to the DV2?
Thanks!
Tom
Yes. The DV2 digs a little deeper into the resolution realm and is a touch smoother and refined. Bass and lower mids are cleaner from the DV2, which results in increased clarity and definition in busy/complex passages.The differences between the DACs are small, but small differences add quickly to a DAC’s price when one gets to this level.

Interestingly to me, I could not discern any sonic differences between the May KTE via USB or i2s, and my Bricasti M3 via LAN. Same applied to AES input on both. Frankly, the May KTE and Bricasti M3 with network option are incredible values in my opinion. Like the DV2, the Bricasti M3 has volume control so can be connected directly to an amplifier.

As a point of reference, all these DACs were fed by a Rockna Wavedream NET and connected to an SMc Audio VRE-1C preamp via balanced outputs. The DACs were level matched using a 350kHz test tone and dB Meter Pro (C weighted).
 
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audioarcher

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Yes. The DV2 digs a little deeper into the resolution realm and is a touch smoother and refined. Bass and lower mids are cleaner from the DV2, which results in increased clarity and definition in busy/complex passages.The differences between the DACs are small, but small differences add quickly to a DAC’s price when one gets to this level.

Interestingly to me, I could not discern any sonic differences between the May KTE via USB or i2s, and my Bricasti M3 via LAN. Same applied to AES input on both. Frankly, the May KTE and Bricasti M3 with network option are incredible values in my opinion. Like the DV2, the Bricasti M3 has volume control so can be connected directly to an amplifier.

As a point of reference, all these DACs were fed by a Rockna Wavedream NET and connected to an SMc Audio VRE-1C preamp via balanced outputs. The DACs were level matched using a 350kHz test tone and dB Meter Pro (C weighted).
Interesting. Thanks for your observations. The DV2 must be a nice improvement over the DA-2 version 1 I auditioned in my system, before I got the May. At the time I had the Holo Audio Spring 2, and though the DA-2 v1 was nice, I did not feel the it was worth the investment at the time.

I find it strange you did not hear a difference between USB, and I2S when fed from the WD Net, to the May.

Are you listening to a fully broken in review sample of the May, or is it a new one?
 

tvad

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Aug 22, 2021
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Interesting. Thanks for your observations. The DV2 must be a nice improvement over the DA-2 version 1 I auditioned in my system, before I got the May. At the time I had the Holo Audio Spring 2, and though the DA-2 v1 was nice, I did not feel the it was worth the investment at the time.

I find it strange you did not hear a difference between USB, and I2S when fed from the WD Net, to the May.

Are you listening to a fully broken in review sample of the May, or is it a new one?
Professional and user reviews of the DA2 V2 state it’s a solid improvement over V1. I’ve not heard a DA2 of either iteration. There’s a thread in these forums about the V2 upgrade. I’m very curious to hear a Meitner MA3.

The May KTE is fully broken in.
 
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KeithR

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Professional and user reviews of the DA2 V2 state it’s a solid improvement over V1. I’ve not heard a DA2 of either iteration. There’s a thread in these forums about the V2 upgrade. I’m very curious to hear a Meitner MA3.

The May KTE is fully broken in.
tvad, what were your final thoughts on the May?
 

tvad

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Aug 22, 2021
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tvad, what were your final thoughts on the May?
After comparing the May KTE (via i2s, USB and AES) to my Bricasti M3 (via LAN and USB) over a couple weeks, I concluded that I could discern no difference between them.

They were level matched using a 3kHz test tone, and using Qobuz/Roon I could play the same track through both DACs. A/B'ing them, I thought they sounded identical, and so did my wife. In fact, I would switch from one to the other, and she would ask if I had changed anything.

Since the Bricasti M3 w/network card had the advantage of not requiring a separate streaming device, I elected to keep it and sell the May KTE.

The May KTE is a terrific DAC, and I can recommend it without hesitation.
 
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KeithR

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After comparing the May KTE (via i2s, USB and AES) to my Bricasti M3 (via LAN and USB) over a couple weeks, I concluded that I could discern no difference between them.

They were level matched using a 3kHz test tone, and using Qobuz/Roon I could play the same track through both DACs. A/B'ing them, I thought they sounded identical, and so did my wife. In fact, I would switch from one to the other, and she would ask if I had changed anything.

Since the Bricasti M3 w/network card had the advantage of not requiring a separate streaming device, I elected to keep it and sell the May KTE.

The May KTE is a terrific DAC, and I can recommend it without hesitation.
very interesting results - and the M3 has analog DSD which may be useful at some point correct?

also simplifies your system as you note, fewer boxes and cables!
 
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tvad

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very interesting results - and the M3 has analog DSD which may be useful at some point correct?

also simplifies your system as you note, fewer boxes and cables!
The Bricasti M3 and M1SE both play DSD256 via USB.

Yes, they simplify things considerably, although I still haven't given it over to a streamer-deviceless system. LOL.

I find myself easily swayed by comments like "X destroyed/demolished/embarrassed the Bricasti", even though thus far in my system it has not translated to what I'm hearing.
 
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213Cobra

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To more thoroughly grok what Bricasti is doing with DSD, it's worth noting the manual for the M3 (the Bricasti guys are engineers, not writers...emphasis mine):

"...DSD playback and the M3

"DSD playback with the M3 is done via DoP when using the AES or SPDIF inputs, and Native or DoP for USB. DoP is DSD over PCM and for DSD 64 is the 1 data bit stream embedded in a 176.4k 16 bit PCM data stream with the extra 8 bits out of the 24 bits used for identifying that it is DSD not PCM. This is true DSD and not PCM conversion. When using a computer audio setup and USB, the media player can be set to send out the DSD as native or DoP but only native will function for DSD 256 rates.

"The M3 features 2 digital audio conversion paths, 1 for PCM which utilizes a sigma delta type, and <one> for DSD <which> is a true one bit modulator of our own design and unique to the industry. This DSD conversion is a true 1 bit analog converter followed by an analog post noise filter. The result is a true a pure DSD playback unlike any other converter in the market. It is recommended that this feature be selected in the status menu labeled NDSD, setting to DSD PCM will use the ADI 1955 as the multi-bit converter which will impart a different sound character.

"To use it all you need is DFF or DSF files, the M3 can accept them as DoP and Native data streams to play them with any input. When DSD is received for playback the status and filter displays will read DSD, and when it next plays a PCM file it will revert to your last used PCM filter and display will update accordingly. Playback is seamless as any other PCM sample rate change. If the M3 does not display DSD when playing back DSD source then check your media player settings for DSD and insure that it is being sent as DoP if using the AES or native if attempting to play DSD256 with USB. When using USB and the LAN the M3 supports DSD 64, one bit at 64 times 44.1k sample rate, and DSD 128 or double that rate and DSD 256. DSD 64 is the SACD standard and 99% of all content is released and mastered at this rate. When selecting NDSD DSD setting, the DSD post noise filtering is done in the analog domain so there are no DSD filter settings. An artifact of DSD processing is the buildup of ultrasonic noise and with DSD 64; this noise starts at 24 kHz and rises to peak level at -50 dB at 50k and beyond. In the M3 set to NDSD DSD this filter is implemented with a simple low order low pass analog filter for the very best sonic performance."

After many DAC trials, face-offs, etc. over the past 10 years, I too decided to move both of my systems up from mhdt Pagoda Balanced R2R DACs to Bricasti -- M21 on the primary system and an M1LE Gold in the secondary system. The M21 has three paths: 1/ PCM via the AD1955 chipset, 2/ R2R ladder DAC, 3, Native DSD in analog. I have to get organized to try the DSD in analog. On streaming from 6000 ripped CDs, from Qobuz and Tidal HiFi, I listen 80% of the time via R2R on this DAC, 20% Sigma-Delta. For Bricasti skeptics, I'll note that Ron Resnick, a perennial digital doubter, was at my house yesterday to listen to my system with the new Absolare Altius 845 PSET amps. At his request we listened primarily to vinyl but when I streamed some same-cuts from Qobuz in R2R through the Bricasti M21, Ron's reaction was "...I have to admit this is very, very good..." Not that he still doesn't prefer vinyl though. The Bricasti has made me closer to neutral on the enjoyment and engagement scale in the question of vinyl v. digital instead of analog-biased. The M1LE Gold is Sigma-Delta only and has 15 filters. The M3 is derived from the essential design of the M1, but is not dual-mono, and includes just two filter choices, one minimum phase, one linear. On my M1LE Gold SE with 15 filters, I use one minimum phase most of the time and one linear, occasionally. The Bricasti M3 and M1 variants are the most analog-like (or R2R-like) Sigma-Delta-only DACs I've heard.

I have a Holo Spring v3 KTE in for evaluation for someone else. Holo asked me to give it 500 hours of burn-in before evaluating. I'll start that burn time later this week.

Note, my Bricasti M21 is fed by an Auralic Aries G2.1 streamer, and the M1LE Gold by an Auralic Aries G1 streamer.

Phil
 
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tvad

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I’m presently comparing a Bricasti M1SE (just returned from the factory with updated USB and MDx 1.09), and Rockna Wavedream Edition Balanced. Both fed by a Rockna Wavedream NET. Wavedream Edition DAC via i2s, and Bricasti M1SE via USB (because it plays DSD256 over USB).

The Rockna is r2r. Bricasti is delta-sigma.

Later, when I’m not playing DSD files, I will compare using the Bricasti‘s LAN input.

Edit 6/21/22: I've now spent a little more time with the Bricasti M1SE and Rockna Wavedream Edition Balanced listening to PCM files. There are some subtle differences that I note.

First, as I mentioned previously, the Bricasti M1SE is a little plumper in the lower mids. It's subtle. Do you prefer 1% milk, 2% milk, or whole milk in your coffee? At this point, I cannot say which DAC I prefer regarding the lower mids. A certain plumpness can be nice depending on the rest of one's system, and one's goals. However, there's also something to be said about tonal transparency or tonal balance (or what I perceive to be more transparent tonal balance). Without hearing the recording in the mastering lab as the engineer heard it, I think it's nearly impossible to determine what is true to the source material.

The second thing I notice, and something I seem to recall with the Holo May KTE, is a certain purity to the Rockna Wavedream Edition's sound. Clarity without edge. This may be a characteristic of R2R, but I don't have much experience with R2R DACs. I did spend time listening to 213Cobra's Bricasti M21, during which we switched between R2R and delta sigma. I can't say I noticed a difference in purity, but it was an unfamiliar system in virtually all respects, and my ears were processing lots of new information. I do recall leaning toward preferring the delta sigma sound from the M21.

More to follow as time in the listening chair accumulates with these DACs.

Complicating things a little will be the addition of new amplifiers in the next couple of weeks, and possible resulting switch to a different preamplifier. The new amplifiers are balanced, and offer the option to run these DACs direct without a preamplifier.
 
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