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

I emphatize with Ted on this one.

He makes himself so available for questions directly; you never see other manufacturers do this – provides dozens of updates for his products, again no one else matches this level – explained ad infinitum in many other threads the same answers

And of course he gets lectured when he’s explained the explained.

Someone on the PS Audio side should really take a couple weeks to gather all the facts into a FAQ here so the many facts on this forum aren’t asked by the next person who wasn’t lucky enough to come across the needle in the haystack.


Probably a good idea.

I have always been a huge DS, Ted Smith and PSA fan. I have the DS, DMP, P20 and stellar phono, and I was considering the PST and DS mk2.

But answers like « as I thought I said clearly » are not ok. This not the way to interact with potential customers.

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We should be careful to not read too much into written words, as we can trick ourselves in assuming a tone, that is just not there and maybe was intended in another way. I can say these word (“as I thought I said clearly”) loud to you in may different ways and they would all mean a different thing (aka have another intention, e.g. funny, sad, disappointed, angry, asking, forgiving, aggressive and so on).


With all due respect, it is my opinion that you are over reacting.

I’ll let Ted speak for himself but, given the lack of body language, tone and volume in short, written posts such as this, I think you are jumping to conclusions and no offense was intended.

I can count on one finger the number of times Ted has been “short” with some Ass on this forum.



This is certainly one of those “there is no right answer” sort of topics. I can share my personal journey thus far. Owned the DSJ for several years, it’s an excellent DAC. I’ve sort of come to a place where I prefer to leave PCM as PCM, and DSD and DSD. I use HQPlayer, but do not cross pollinate between the formats. It’s my subjective belief that music sounds best when it remains in its original format. At first I enjoyed having everything thing upsampled to DS in the DSJ, but over time realized it made things a bit too homogenized for my tastes. And there’s no option to not upsample to DSD in the DirectStream line (that I know of), it’s DSD or bust.

Yet DeltaSigma dacs are a bit too lively (in general) for my tastes. My Goldilocks spot has become R2R, in my case the Border Patrol SE-i. It just works for me by providing a type of smoothness that’s not overly homogenous (if that makes sense). Granted, it doesn’t do DSD at all. But that’s ok as the vast majority of my library is not DSD, and Quboz has zero DSD, so it’s not a major loss. One day I would like to try a R2R Dac that does legit DSD, as in not converted to PCM along the way.

I’ve not tried the May, but can say that the R2R arena is an interesting one and absolutely worth exploring. And certainly you could not go wrong with a DirectStream DAC. It’s less about right or wrong, and more about which sort of French gourmet cheese you prefer.


Can you call it a ladder if it has only one step?

“R2R” is short-hand for a circuit design based on using a pairs of resistors, one twice the resistance of the other, and one of these pairs for each bit of resolution you want your output stage to have. In circuit diagrams this looks like a ladder, hence the name.

For DSD you have one bit of resolution, and it’s basically like switching all your R2R bits on or off together. You can collapse it to a single bit, with a single transistor, losing the R and the 2R resistors, and get the same result (or better). The DS DAC uses ultra high speed op-amps from the video signalling world to switch the voltage rail on or off up to 11 million times a second.

There’s nothing beneficial that an R2R circuit can bring to the table when it comes to outputting DSD, especially with your caveat that you wanted it to occur without converting to PCM at any stage.

I think Ted can claim to have the best DSD playback architecture in the world. The actual DirectStream DAC Mk I might not always win on spec or audition against every competitor, but any such shortcomings seem to be a matter of implementation or cost constraint. I anticipate that the Mk II and the TSS will be extremely competitive in absolute terms. Looking forward to hearing that play out.


You can call it whatever you like, just don’t call me Shirley :joy:

In terms of Sonics, there are no absolutes here. The DS is a fine DAC. R2R DACs are also great, just different. Take your pick and be happy.

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Unless you want your playback architecture to be in software.

I agree that the DS is (and undoubtedly the mk2 and TSS will be) fabulous but what if I don’t want to upsample everything to 11 million times a second DSD? It precludes processing 44.1k PCM to 1.536Mhz PCM or double once the supporting hardware can manage it. Same for DSD, the HW can do DSD2048. The GHz of a single core isn’t fast enough to process DSD to this level in a general purpose x86 or A1 processor, yet.

…or choosing how to shape the noise and select the filter and/or modulator for DSD.

It dawns on me that to debate these two DACs is similar to debating the differences between a sedan and a truck. They are different tools for the job. The both do very well at the job they just go about it in very different ways. It’s not a great analogy but it’s the best I could come up with at the moment.

In favor of the one-step ladder is also this:

Thus, the output impedance of the R-2R resistor network is always equal to R, regardless of the size (number of bits) of the network. This simplifies the design of any filtering, amplification or additional analog signal conditioning circuitry that may follow the network. Holo seems to have taken the output stage under careful consideration…or so I’ve read a couple times by those that understand more of the electronics choices made.


This is one of my main knocks on the DS, no option to not upsample to DSD. Would be nice to have a button to toggle upsampling on and off. Especially given that native DSD recordings are extraordinarily rare, and where they do exist, obscure at best.

No question, the DSJ sounded amazing with DSD recordings. But it’s just not a DSD world in which we live.

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17 are DSD out of 6514 for me. How about you?

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Yes, a R2R DAC playing DSD would not be a ladder DAC, but rather a step stool DAC.

An R2R DAC is not of any benefit playing DSD.

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Counting Quboz, I have about 350 DSD albums out of around 6 million :rofl:

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"Holo Audio is the world’s first to support DSD natively on Resistor Ladder DAC. This is not the DSD converted to PCM before digital-analog converter, but directly by the discrete components of the DSD digital to analog converter. "

At least according to Holo Audio’s website. Not sure if that equates to good sound or not.

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Wishful thinking… In reality maybe 2800 or so.

They continue, acknowledging they do not use R2R for DSD:

The DSD Dac module resistor network of May Dac does not use R2R architecture for the DSD, more specifically it uses a very specific architecture which is optimized to perform DSD data to analog. So to be entirely accurate the DSD part of May Dac is using resistor ladders, not R2R…

Lol. I didn’t count Tidal. And your point? :wink:

Yes but it apparently it is still a resister network, just not a R-2R network.

As the months go by I’ll spend more time with that side of the May, not the AKM (terrible) but I’m just so enthralled with the PCM step stool for now and sinc-M with NSD15 at 20 bit. Compares very favorably to the Chord DAVE with MScaler.

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Close enough for me!

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No point intended. Just lots of smirks…

I gotcha - where is the sarcasm emoticon? (rhetorical)

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