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Holo Audio Spring R2R DAC

Discussion in 'Dedicated Source Components' started by mtoc, Jun 2, 2016.
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  1. aisnikkor
    Got the Spring 2 delivered on Friday, very happy with things so far. Been running it continuously since Friday at about 3 PM, so a little over 50 hours of use at this point. KTE SU-1 in the chain is also brand new. I don’t have a full-size DAC to compare to, I have been stuck with my AQ Dragonfly Red for the past month or so. Shouldn’t say ‘stuck with’ as that portable DAC has proved to be quite musical and enjoyable to listen to in the interim. It normally sees use in my car, and on my desktop at work paired with PSB Alpha speakers/sub. But I digress.

    My chain, running fully balanced at this point is:

    Windows 10 PC/Jriver>>Belkin Gold USB (3m)>>KTE Singxer SU-1>>Apollo 0.5m HDMI>>Holo Audio Spring 2 KTE>>Balanced XLR>>Ragnarok>>Cardas Clear Light XLR/Balanced>>HD800 (SDR mod)

    The Windows PC has an ELFidelity USB card with its own dedicated iFi external wall-wart 5V power supply. This was a cheap science experiment, the card was on sale at Kitsune for about $35, and allows for the external power supply to be used. All listening so far, except where noted, has been through the KTE SU-1.

    I have to preface my listening impressions with stating that I have never heard the original Spring, my previous decent quality DAC was an Oppo Sonica, which was sold to help pay for this upgrade. Prior to that I was using an Oppo BDP-83SE, which was a big step up to everything I had been using previous to that player. Going on memory, the Spring 2 has really opened up the Soundstage in complex orchestral and choral passages - big crescendos and the like seem to be more controlled, with less glare in the treble. This was a specific fault I had with the two older Oppo DAC’s.

    Comparing with the Dragonfly, which is not really fair based on price as well as application, the Spring 2 has a much bigger soundstage, and is more open/airy sounding. Instruments sound more 3 dimensional – not so much the spacing of things, as the three dimensionality of the sound-field itself around the instruments. There is just something ‘more’ there with the Spring 2 that has not been present with any of the other DAC’s I have listened to. There is also a nice smoothness/liquidity/"analog-ness" that has not been present with the other DAC’s either.

    With respect to DSD, I am noticing an improvement over previous DAC’s I had listened to with SACD’s or DSD files. With previous equipment, DSD usually sounded nicer for the most part, but specifically with orchestral string music, there was a funky resonance to the sound that just did not sound right. Not really sure how to pin down or describe what I was hearing before, but it is gone with the Spring 2 playing DSD files – there is a smoothness and naturalness to DSD files that is awesome with this DAC. I am really excited about this part of this new DAC’s performance.

    One last note is that with burn-in I am pretty sure I am seeing some changes for the better. During the first few hours of use on Friday, the coax-in, fed from my Oppo BDP-103, was slightly smoother than the KTE SU-1 path. But at the 50-hour point, the I2S input is clearly better now. Not sure how good my disc player is as a source for coax-in, but the I2S definitely appears to be opening up on soundstage and ‘ease’ of presentation, as burn-in progresses, and is the clearly preferable input.

    Overall, I am very happy with this DAC, I think I will be living with it for some time. I would be very interested to see a detailed listening comparison with the original Spring when someone is able to make one. I will also post some further impressions after I get at least another week or two of burn-in.

    Lastly, regarding the post above with the pics, I see even further upgrades to the Spring 2 - It will be interesting to see if they make an appreciable difference. Looks like it has many of the original Spring 1 upgrades that are not present in the Spring 2 KTE. I was wondering why these were not present in the new KTE Spring 2. I have not opened mine up yet to look inside. Kinda leaves room for a 'Level 4' build, but not sure how much improvement any of this would bring.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2019
  2. aisnikkor
    ~100 Hours in on Spring 2 burn in. Listening to Pink Floyd 'The Wall' (MFSL Gold CD). This is the first time I have really listened to this album in a while, but what I am hearing is really one of those ‘night and day’ differences. Wow. Imaging on some parts of this album is just holographic now – I do not remember this being the case at all before. Some credit must go to the HD800, and possibly to Ragnarok here, as these were not in my system last time I really dug in to this album. Clarity, detail and imaging are just so much cleaner than I remember them from before. This is very evident on the track “One of My Turns” where the woman walks into his apartment and is walking around talking. You can hear her moving precisely around the room now, not just talking in the background. The room has size and dimension now, that was not there before at all, very cool :).

    The other part I am enjoying is the bass detail, control, fullness and slam. HD800's are definitely not sounding thin on this album. All parts of the system are playing a part here, but the bottom end extension and detail on this setup has been very satisfying.

    This album, specifically the MFSL version, has always been a favorite, but things are on a new level now.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2019
    Whitigir, aangen and bimmer100 like this.
  3. Whitigir

    Thank you very much for such Hardware Porn :wink: I love it !

    I heard the Brass pins connectors are replaced with Solid silver now ? Could you confirm it ?

    Could you tell me what connection you are using to feed DSD1024 into the Spring ? I am very interested

    I am a bit confused about the Delta-sigma on the last statement ? Could you clarify what you really meant by ?
  4. Baten
    No problem. It's very pretty in person, too :wink: What do you mean with brass pins to solid silver, what should I look for exactly?

    Only USB can receive PCM 1.5M(1536000Khz) / DSD1024 for now I think, because there is no DDC(digital to digital converter) on the market that goes above 768Khz/DSD512 (for now). Correct me if I'm wrong but only holo audio and latest X-Sabre DACs have it right now it seems, and only direct via USB. So that's how I'm using it, just USB.

    The USB is also much improved from Spring 1 spec-wise, lower latency and higher throughput. I don't think you need another digital converter with USB being this ridiculously good, while before it was recommended to go I2S/HDMI. Now I don't think you need that really, USB sounds insanely clean. And if you do get S/PDIF or I2S in, the power is filtered from every digital input in Spring 2 in the case you need those :) but I don't think one needs to spend additional money at all. The custom USB drivers by Holo audio are very impressive and better than any other XMOS/thesyscon driver I've had installed before...

    Delta-sigma is known to have better measurements than multibit/ladder DAC. Spring measurements however, show "delta-sigma like" performance while being ladder DAC. Good linearity and superb SNR. There's some recent measurements in the computeraudiophile Holo Spring DAC thread if you're interested in that.

    But above everything it just sounds damn clean with amazingly 'black' background!
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
    Alcophone likes this.
  5. Whitigir
    The Brass-Pins connectors are the Interconnect between R2R Digital-daughter boards to the main board as shown in pictures. If you could take a peek and see. I would guess that if the pins are similar to the wires on the AudioNote caps, then it is Silver.

    Good to know that the USB is now able to accept DSD1024 ! Excellent news. Are they using Xmos Xu-216 ? Can you give me a close up on the Module ?

    I see what you meant now about Delta-Sigma vs R2R. Measurements is one thing, listening and trusting our ears is another, don’t you agree ? To my ears, R2R done right and NOS is superior to Delta-Sigma and Over Sampling. However, a done right OverSampling is also very enjoyable , for example, a good PC that is capable of HQPlayer DSD512/1024 :D. They have different sound signatures though

  6. Baten
    -I'm away from home due to work for at least some days so I can't take a physical picture right now. I'll upload some pictures property of Wildism audio which might give you a clue:

    -The board is still XU-208. I'm actually fairly sure that besides power filtering upgrades on digital inputs, the board is the same with all of the improvements done software-firmware side, not hardware-side. XU-216 was not necessary, and looking at performance I would say they were right. I'm sure there is a reason they feel they did not need 216, maybe there were drawbacks involved. As a matter of fact, I'll ask the question on computeraudiophile to kitsune hifi direct :)

    -I for one am a big fan of NOS. You won't really find world-class NOS devices in the delta-sigma realm, it's just not the same. I mean the RME ADI-2 has a filterless mode as do the iFi Bitperfect DACs, but I feel they are not true NOS but software NOS, holding samples without interpolating. There's a difference in sound and boy the Holo Spring is true filterless NOS. If you're going to be oversampling to super high PCM or DSD though, I think similar performance can be reached especially looking at upcoming AK4499 chip and whatever Sabre will make to oppose it, but in general it's easier to go off-the-shelf and optimise it than go FPGA-corrected ladder DAC like the Spring, combine it with their ridiculous USB firmware/drivers and you reach a tier of performance that the competition off-the-shelf chip implementations just can't reach at this point of time.

    From computeraudiophile: Spring 2 can reach 0.00002% IMD, THD+N: 0.00080%. That is nothing short of insane performance. I'm not going to say 'R2R is so much better than Delta-Sigma' because if is the implementation and the passionate engineering that makes the Spring so crazy good. Not just the R2R tech. I mean, the massdrop Airist R2R can't even reach 12-bit linearity, and Schiit multibit designs only recently added dithering to their firmware to make the performance better. R2R does not necessarily mean good engineering nor good sound :)
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
  7. Whitigir

    Xmos XU-208 is capable of DSD1024 ? Very interesting. I saw it limitations with DSD512 on some filters from HQPlayer.

    I am also a big fan of NOS, and I totally agree with you about using Delta-Sigma but ....well...handi-cap it to be running NOS with firmware and even FPGA coding.

    Anyways, there are 2 DAC that do NOS very very well, and that is AudioGD R2R7 and no doubt about the HoloSpring. I heard the MkI

    On another hand, I also like Delta Sigma with DSD when done right :wink:....and that is my LkS004 with ES9038Pro X2
  8. Baten
    Yes I don't understand how they did it. Pure magic and/or perseverance & passion from their side I'm sure !

    I won't disagree with that. If I'm paying this much for a DAC or any device though, I think something custom-made like the Spring is more worth the cost than something pre-built and optimised :) just my thoughts! DAC chips might reach this performance one day too, though, in which case the equal level field might bring down the price of performance for all of us.

    But like I said, you won't find any other NOS device pulling these performance numbers.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
  9. neogeosnk
    I have an Yggy A2 but want to compliment it with another dac. Would a Holo Audio Spring 2 be a good fit or do they sound similar? I use 2 dacs for different headphones and sold off my hugo 2 cause it was just ok.
    HoloSpice likes this.
  10. aisnikkor
    Now at a little over 270 hours burn-in time on the KTE Spring 2, things still seem to be improving. I will do some more serious comparitive listening this weekend against my other sources to see if I can pin down the changes a little better.

    Listened to Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna, Los Angeles Master Chorale, redbook @ 44.1K, and was hearing some separation of voices on the smaller ensemble pieces on this album that was a very nice improvement over previous sessions listening to this material on my earlier equipment. "Dirait-On" and some of the other smaller pieces on this album (maybe 20 or 30 singers, instead of full choir) sounded fantastic on the Spring 2. You can almost pick out and follow the individual singers now, and you definitely notice that it is many individual singers, not just a mass of voices blended together as one sound.

    Also listened to Jesus Lopez Cobos, Cincinnati Symphony, 'Bolero' (Telarc redbook @ 44.1K). I am noticing very clean, extremely dynamic sound on this CD. The opening of 'Bolero' has a very quiet snare drum that is remarkably distinct, you can even sense the quiet but sharp impacts/percussion hits of the drum. Hard to explain, but this was not something I had heard before. Start to finish in the Bolero piece it was fun to follow different instrumental lines, VERY easy to pick them out of the mix. I have new appreciation for this particular recording now, good stuff.

    One thing I am noticing with this DAC is that some of my 'reference' recordings are not so reference anymore. I was straining trying to hear new details that were just not there. Yet other recordings, like the 'Bolero' noted above are very, very good and are showning me things I had never noticed before. A number of DG classical recordings I have sounded different, and better, with this setup - I had not noticed the recording quality on these particular albums in the past, but it really stands out now.

    Another thing I am noticing is that I am turning down the volume, more than turning it up, with this DAC. The low level detail is distict and clear, so no need to have the volume at excessive levels to hear details, or on the other end of the scale, to enjoy the impact of large scale dynamic stuff.

    I plan on continuing the burn in process to at least the 500 hour point. Will post more later.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2019
    Alcophone and rocky500 like this.
  11. aisnikkor
    There is a really good comparison of the original Spring and the original Yggy by 'Torq' that may answer some of your questions. I don't remember if it was on Head-Fi or one of the other forums, but it was a very detailed review and comparison of these two DACs. At the time of that comparison, he ended up keeping and using both of those DACs as complimentary to each other. Suggest tracking down that review.
  12. joseph69
    In the end he preferred the Yggdrasil and parts with the Spring.
  13. aisnikkor
    Understood that, but for a time he was using both. Point was that he found them complimentary to each other (at that time), and I thought that was useful info to the original question. Granted, this was original Spring and original Yggdrasil, so this may not apply to current products. Not much in the way of comparison info available on the Holo Spring 2 yet.
    joseph69 likes this.
  14. bflat
    I think it's safe to assume the Spring 2 is better than Spring 1. By how much is purely subjective (unless you must have the new features of the Spring 2). What Spring business folks should think about is this - if Spring 1 owners are contemplating selling to fund an upgrade to Spring 2, that also opens the possibility that Spring 1 owners will consider other DACs like Yggy. I would advise Spring business folks to come up with a compelling upgrade offer that keeps Spring owners as long term owners. Schiit already figured this out. As the very well known business saying goes - getting new customers (or getting back lost customers) is far more expensive than keeping your existing customers.
  15. joseph69
    Below is a quote from Tim Connor of Kitsune Hi-Fi.

    "The overall spring1 vs spring2 comparisons are marginal and was not released to be considered an upgrade of the spring1 but rather a continuance or an already great dac with a few improvements. Personally I would not strongly recommend anyone to “upgrade” from spring1 to spring2 since it’s a somewhat small difference imho."
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