Holo Audio: one of the best dacs ever? J Atkinson, H Reichert, S Deckert, M Lavorgna, GoldenSound, D Abramson and the Stereophile reviewers think so. Stereophile A+ and POY 2020

How does the Holo Audio compare to the DSD mk1, and the modded DSD mk1 ?
Will the DSD mk2 be better ?
I will have a chance to try the DSD mk2, but there is no trial for the Holo Audio in Europe, as far as I know.

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I had a DS for 3 years and for ~4 months with the transformer upgrade and just a few days with a Farad3 power supply for the analog board.

I’ve had a Holo May for just a couple of weeks.

The stock DS is good but I found it can be a bit too nice, smoothing out poorly mastered songs (usually a good thing) but obscuring the finer details in better tracks. All subjective of course.

The modded DS is definitely next level but I wanted more. The May, or rather the music the May converts, has a natural presence I never achieved with the DS in either form.

I’m preferring HPQe upsampling to 1.536Mhz 20-bit PCM using Sinc-M filter and LSN15 shaper and the May in NOS, of course. I find that feeding the May DSD is a bit too smooth and somewhat artificially liquid sounding. Though to be fair I need to allow the DSD side of the May more time to settle by letting it play more DSD. It’s a completely separate network and apparently not a R-2R network.

The May gives whatever I send it. Nothing is sugar coated nor limited. Harsh recordings sound harsh but good/great recordings sound fantastic!

Hope this helps. It’s too bad the May is a blind purchase but otherwise it may cost 3x more.


Very tempting !
Dcs and msb dacs are also ladder dacs, if I am not mistaken.

I don’t know, they are above my preferred budget.

Same here, also way above my budget.
But they are also ladder dacs, I think.

Did you compare using the Matrix X- SPDIF 2 with premium LPS and cables and the transformer mod with the holo?
The DS is quite a different animal with the Matrix and mods.


Quite true !
Does the matrix work with the Holo Audio ?

I have, for a number of months, but preferred I2S direct from my streamer.

I don’t mean to discount the DS. It’s a fantastic dac. I’m simply more engaged with the music thru the May dac.


Sure it will work but will only serve to limit the input rate of the May and likely introduce another ground loop source of noise.

The Matrix is limited to 384PCM and 512DSD if I recall correctly. The May does 1.536Mhz PCM and 1024 DSD and in theory double those numbers but it’s very difficult to build a PC that can do 1024 DSD currently let alone 2048.


Here are my initial thoughts after the 2nd day. They still hold true and then some.

'My only other ‘real’ DAC has been the PS Audio Directstream for the past 3 years. In the last few months I owned it I replaced the transformers and analog power supply. Both opened my ears to better sound but both pale in comparison to the first few hours with the May DAC. No contest.

Initial thoughts and feelings. A natural sound that well sounds real to my brain. Dynamics are improved significantly. Decay is silly good, the DS has zero in comparison. Trailing notes or ambient space reflections seems to go on in a very natural way fading as they would in real life.

There is an increased feeling of ease despite the increase in dynamics as if the energy is delivered in time much more precisely vs. the DS. Time domain goodness. It just feels right. I don’t want to gush too much as I expect there will be some dark break in days to come but I’m confident we’ll come through those based on what I’ve heard already.’

If I was looking for a dac I would wait until the mk2 is available to eval for 30 days before committing, why not? I may try one too. Why do I suggest this simply because purchasing the May is a commitment in both lead time and money with no/expensive option to return. It would make more sense to sell on the used market.


@Phil This is a tough one. If you can’t listen/demo the Holo Dac are you prepared to purchase one without listening to it? If so I say go for it and at worst case sell it on the used market. The Holo Dac is a hot item so I don’t think you would take too bad of a beating reselling the unit if you decide to sell. Now with the DS MKII are you prepared to wait until it comes out?

If you move forward with the Holo you could still get the DS MKII when it is released and compare both in your system. Then keep whichever one you like best.

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Assuming you already own a DS Mk1 and assuming PSA have their normal fair upgrade/trade-in policy the DS Mk2 could be significantly cheaper than the Holo May.

In addition, the PSA DAC is more likely to remain top of it’s game with ongoing upgrades and support via PSA and @tedsmith


I think it’s important to consider the fundamental differences between a NOS and an upsampling dac like the DS/DSmk2.

While the May does operate in non-oversampling mode that doesn’t mean that the single it receives is not upsampled most of the time by most owners. The difference being one has nearly complete control over how the upsampling occurs, the filters and noise shapers and/or sigma-delta modulators. Some don’t want this control, and yes complexity, but I love it.

I think this ability is the true value of the May dac. Yes, the May has a AKM chip but only so one can compare how truly bad it sounds. I wish they left it out and the supporting circuits to save money, power and complexity.

While the May sounds fine in pure NOS mode with a raw PCM or DSD signal it really shines when combined with Signalyst HQPlayer.


Has anyone compared the May to a Denafrips Terminator?

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That’s a good question.

I’ve seen a few threads on other forums. Looks like people mostly compare the May to the Terminator Plus perhaps only because it’s newer, I don’t know.

Big improvements in digital sound quality are sure exciting. And of course it was critical to be able to do a side by side A/B test between the units in an otherwise static system to assess which was better for you. Thanks for the feedback. Will be interesting to see if the DS2 closes the gap or even exceeds the May in SQ


I have now sold my May DAC.
Every time I listen to it I miss my Gryphon Kalliope DAC.
Now it is the only one connected to my main system.
My DSD Sr, is in the rack still, and the DSD Jr. is still in my office system.

Bring on DSD MKII please.


First not sure the OP is looking for the cheapest option. But if he is he might consider selling the MK1 (assuming he has one) as they sell on the used market for around 3500 USD. A new Holo KTE May is 5K USD. So in reality he would be looking at a 1500 USD difference. Now this doesn’t solve the issue of him not being able to demo a Holo. And it doesn’t solve his issue of which one he likes better.

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Brett what preamp are you using? Have you tried the KTE Serene?


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