Holo Audio Spring 3 KTE impressions

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by bilboda, Aug 1, 2021.

  1. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    Thank you for the kind words, Josh. Funnily enough, I also ended up purchasing the Gungnir Multibit (the latest, slightly cheaper one, with the different VCO-based clock regeneration). I had a feeling, from reading impressions here, that it might offer the best combination of the traits I liked about the BF2/LiM and the Spring 3. And, for the most part, it has.


    Some tentative comparisons between Gungnir MB, BF2, LiM, and Spring 3:

    I had been concerned that the Gungnir would have a less black background than the other DACs. Marv’s DAC chart (here) suggested there could be a significant difference. From my memory of the Spring and a direct comparison with the Bifrost 2, the Gungnir MB is certainly less black. Fortunately, I’ve not found this to be an issue whatsoever; it’s noticeable if I’m comparing directly and listening for it specifically, but If I’m simply sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying music, it’s irrelevant.

    The Gungnir MB’s resolving qualities move it well ahead of the BF2, for me, and close to the LiM - how close I can’t say, from memory - but still a step back from the Spring 3 (but not so much that I feel as though I’m missing out too much). And it’s less warm sound signature makes it closer to the Spring 3. The bass is tighter than the BF2, and closer to the LiM in this respect, but the Gungnir MB’s bass has the advantage of not being as emphasized as that of the LiM, which suits my preferences better and makes the DAC more versatile, particularly when it comes to classical music, for which the low end could be too much with the BF2 and LiM.

    Additionally, the Gungnir MB is less gloopy or rich than the BF2 but slams as hard, and it’s faster-sounding. In terms of slam and speed - or what comes across as sounding faster (be it speed per se or the illusion of it from the lighter, less thick sound) - the Gungnir MB approaches, if not meets the Spring 3, again if my memory is reliable.

    I agree entirely about the Gungnir MB being wonderfully engaging. I’d like to think it’s superior to the Spring 3, although I’m happy to admit that this may simply be a function again of poor memory (or bias, by wanting to validate my purchase).

    But here’s the really outstanding thing about the Gungnir vs the other DACs: plankton. I’ve never used this word before. I’ve found it to be a quality that’s hard to discern and a concept that’s hard to grasp. (I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that it doesn’t exist and that the senior Friends here are having a laugh with us when using it, in a sort of emperor’s new clothes way). Well, I had something of a revelation the other day. I was doing some critical listening to my LCD-4 and a pair of Rosson Audio RAD-0, which a friend kindly lent me. This was the first time I’d paid close, serious attention to the LCD-4 with both the Gungnir MB (which I’ve had for only a few weeks) and my Stratus (I usually use the LAuX with the LCD-4). And I was astonished by the quality of the sound I heard. There was a complexity to it I’d not heard before, as though instruments had more reverberations and complex tones than I’d been aware of. I could hear more of what I’d like to call grain, but that’s not the right word. Grain implies a kind of roughness to the texture of sound; what I mean is that I’m getting the clear tone of an instrument but I'm also hearing a kind of underlying complexity and texture to the sound that I’d not heard before. This was most noticeable on Cannonbal Adderley’s album Somethin’ Else, especially with the trumpet and the alto sax passages on Autumn Leaves. Here’s where I’m going with this long detour; to circle back to the Spring 3, I didn’t hear this plankon - if that’s what it is - when paired with the Stratus and my LCD-4.

    I’d be interested to read others’ comparative impressions of the Spring 3 vs. the Gungnir MB. The latter seems to take much of the resolving quality of the former, as well as its speed, lighter touch and less tonally thick sound, as well as its tighter bass, while also retaining the engaging qualities of the other Schiit DACs. And the Gungnir also seems to offer the “plankton” that I’d never heard before.
     
  2. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    having owned Spring3 KTE for awhile now, Yggdrasil A2 previously for years, and a Gungnir at some point way back when-
    Spring3 plankton has always been there for me, and want to remind that the Spring3 KTE highest delivery point likely requires using HQPlayer for high PCM or DSD upsampling and feeding this signal over Spring3 KTE usb.

    everyone's upstream Amp + cans will certainly matter and delineate whether this helps a lot, or not much, or that the blackness matters, etc.

    the quality and versatility of Spring3 KTE with builtin pre-amp is something that will likely not be pried away for years.
     
  3. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Thanks for reminding me to listen to this awesome track, perfect for Friday morning :) You are right that the track has a lot of fine detail in the horns, overtones, breath, that sense of material presence. I'm listening with HQPlayer (DSD256 via poly-sinc-gauss-xla, ASDM7ECv2) > Holo May KTE > DSHA-3F amorphous > Atrium LTD koa Universe lambskin perf pads. I never heard Spring 3, but interpolating from my extensive experience with both Spring 2 and May, I suspect that you hit upon the main weakness of the Holo DACs in pure NOS: they sound delightfully smooth, dense, notes floating above a deep blackground, but they miss some of that "plankton." I hear the same comparing my OG Yggdrasil with the Spring 2 or even the May. But when I use external HQPlayer upsampling+DSD modulation, the plankton surfaces without losing the other delights of the Holo DACs, so these days I rarely use the OG Yggdrasil. Of course, a good HQPlayer+Holo setup costs a lot more than Gungnir MB or even OG Yggdrasil.
     
  4. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    Initial impressions after about 50 hours of warmup and 1 hour of listening. The two different Spring 1 I heard in the past are pretty different from the two or three different Spring 2 that I've heard, including my own. The Spring 3 also has a different sound signature from the Spring 2, but it's less of a difference.

    Chain and Spring 2 / May usage: - Qobuz > Pi2aes I2S output > Spring 2 / Spring 3 > Stellaris > Utopia / Auteur / HD6xx. Not using my other amps first as they may not scale as well or may bottleneck the DAC to some degree. Not using HQ player for now because I find that it isn't a huge difference for me with HP, only when I heard the Holo DACs in NOS on 2ch. I also found May and Spring 2 only sounded good in NOS on 2ch whereas with HP I prefer NOS on the 2 only about 75% of the time and use the different OS modes the other 25% of the time.

    Disclaimer
    : I mention it in the loaner and my FS post, but I do have my Spring 2 listed for sale here right now as I want a May or Wavedream later. I got on this loaner with what is probably no intention of buying the Spring 3, but rather to compare contrast the two and to the May based on memory.

    Spring 1 (S1) to Spring 2 (S2) was a noticeable improvement in all aspects to me with pretty similar overall sound signatures. I didn't like the S1 as the sound was soft, a bit directionless, and sort of "mushy" to me (not unclear sounding though if that makes sense). To me, it only worked well for stuff like Chinese ballards (more popular / mainstream in China) and other similar genres of music. The S2 fixed most of the above, sounded better with almost anything I listen to, and had a more effortless and natural character while retaining a similar sound signature to the S1. I liked the S2 enough to buy it when one popped up here. Similarly, the May sounded like a much better S2 to me but also retained a somewhat similar sound.

    For the Spring 3 (S3), the S2 and S3 are more different than better / worse to me overall. Yes, the S3 is better in terms of technical performance and probably absolutely speaking / overall. I have to listen intentionally to hear the improved technical performance in the S3 vs it's easy to hear the level of technical performance in the S2 even if I just listen casually. But the gap between S2 and S3 is much smaller than S1 to S2 to me. So far I prefer the sound signature of the Spring 2 with the Stellaris and I think I may actually hold on to my Spring 2 for a while longer now. There is a truncated or otherwise sort of odd decay with the Spring 3 to me, beyond what I expect when going to NOS. There is actually a little bit less texture in the sound with the S3. The S3 also a bit warmer sounding that the S2 and my biggest complaint is that it loses the effortless ease that the S2 has (this effortless ease sounds amazing on the Stellaris). Oddly, the S2 also has a bit more direction in the sound to me whereas the direction is in the individual notes for the S3 (I don't know a better way to describe this). [[edit - after 1 more hour of listening, I think it's because the notes "come on" stronger but have a sort of truncated decay. ]] However, it does have a bit more umph, focus in the notes, and the bass thumps a touch more which some may appreciate.

    Will post some more complete impressions after more listening. My conclusion so far is I still prefer the May over the S2 and S3.

    Edit: After a little more listening, I still prefer the S2 although listening has been minimal with the heat and power issues in CA right now. If I had to sum it up, S2 has an overall sound signature I like. S3 feels like someone did some market research on what they think a more international audience outside of China would want, wrote down a check list, checked all the boxes, checked the "objectively better" box, but didn't fill in any of the "space" between the check list type stuff. In other words, yes, it's good on paper, but it somehow doesn't come together for me in the way the May and S2 do (with the May more or less sounding like a better S2 to me).
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2022
  5. futbutts

    futbutts Friend

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    Thanks to Kitsune & Co and the Gearmasters for arranging this loaner tour.

    My impressions are primarily via the Jot 2 and Ampsandsound Kenzie 2, and for a few hours with the Lyr+, feeding the Atriums and VCs.

    Pros:
    Very robust build quality
    Easy connection via USB (instantaneous -- had one or two instances where I had to switch computer to a different output and back to re-establish connection)
    Great bass delivery and detail, lots of nuance in the low end

    Cons:
    'Okay' dynamics, bested by 2541 for example
    Dark treble -- doesn't achieve much shimmer or sparkle or airiness
    Drawn-in soundstage, almost congested (this got better over the course of the loaner so it may be a warm-up thing)
    Overly 'treated' timbre
    A bit of miscellaneous sound weirdness

    If someone ever implemented the AKM Velvet stuff into a "Big Boy" DAC, it probably would have sounded like the Spring 3. It's an overall dark and, indeed, velvety presentation -- smooth and rich and a bit subdued. It seems like it really likes warm-up as I'm not honestly sure the sound profile was done evolving -- it started off very stuffy-sounding, with some sort of harshness all through the mids, but all of those eased out to a stronger sense of space, and smoothed out said harshness, and it seemed to be getting sweeter little by little as the days wore on... so, I personally take these impressions with a slight grain of salt as I think that once it's finally settled down completely it may be ever slightly better than what my impressions are based on.

    My favorite aspect of the Spring 3 was the bass. It had excellent bass presentation, there was substantial rhythmic nuance to the interplay of bass guitar, bass drums, and the lower end of guitars. It's not so much a focus or overabundance of bass, rather the bass that's there is strong and solid and yet very articulate with lots of textural details churning around in that lower end. Really pleasing.

    Perhaps by merit of said bass, however, I found the treble a bit lacking. Cymbals don't have quite the typical shimmery/airy presentation that qualifies, in my mind, as 'natural'. They still maintain smoothness, they are not clipped or compressed away or anything (and maybe they were too smooth?), but they just don't emanate out in a way that, to my ear, seems realistic.

    Similarly, I found timbre to be slightly lacking. It's hard to pinpoint where the deficit lies, but it seems to me to lack some of the complexity of other DACs that handle this better. It feels like listening to music in a room that was overly acoustically treated -- everything but the bass seemed ever-so-slightly muted, absorbed. The reverb and decay of instruments vanishes just a touch too early, with the effect that it all seems slightly cottoned-over.

    I also encountered a weird thing where for the first few seconds of a specific song the sound was oddly muffled and compressed, which doesn't seem to happen on other sources. As far as I could tell it was just the one song ('Deep Sea Station' by Cloakroom -- not a great recording by any means but I like the song a lot), and I'm not sure what would be causing that.

    So anyway, yeah, Spring 3's not for me, but I could see it being a great first step in a chain that could use a smidge of dulling in the amp or headphone section. I'm still on the prowl for an upgrade to my trusty Bifrost MB, so the May is definitely on my radar now, though I'd definitely want to spend some time with it to let it settle in before reaching a verdict with my set-up.
     
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    Last edited: Sep 6, 2022
  6. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    cool that with differing chains and brains, we all hear differently.
    in the areas above (and I have heard 2541 a long while back with dynamic cans and EC Af IIRC)
    with a Ferrum Oor + Susvara - the comments above just don't hold true via my Spring3 KTE compared to what it replaced, Yggdrasil A2 much less the claim of velvet sound of AKM.

    granted, I use HQPlayer to upsample higher PCM/DSD to the Spring3 KTE over USB-
    but not-dynamic, dark treble, congested soundstage just don't happen in my Spring3 KTE config / perception of reality.
     
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  7. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    In my experience with Spring 2 KTE and May KTE, upsampling Redbook (even just 4x in PCM via Roon) makes a difference, in that non-upsampled NOS sounds to me engaging but somewhat smeared and dark-leaning. Going to DSD256 via HQPlayer makes an even bigger difference .The effects are bigger for Spring 2 than for May, but they are there even on May. I suspect Spring 3 KTE is somewhere in between.
     
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  8. winders

    winders boomer

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    Anyone testing the Spring 3 and not trying HQPlayer is really limiting their experience. Using NOS on 44.1/48 content is setting up the DAC to fail.
     
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  9. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    Quick question - for those of you using HQ player to upsample, does the license still work if you reinstall Windows, update macOS version, get a new computer, etc? I don't feel like paying $200+ every time the above happens and have to reinstall HQ player.

    Also, I'd like to say that the Spring 3 sounds noticibly better after staying on for 6x 24hr periods (50ish hours of warmup before).

    More updates later today or tomorrow.
     
  10. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    for the use case you describe, HQP now has the option to buy a usb key for tying the license code to the key. rather than to a specific machine or OS.
     
  11. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Alternatively, you can request a new code when you move HQPlayer to a new machine, but that will take a couple of days. In any case, I've updated the operating system on my two HQPlayer servers, one Ubuntu Server (HQPlayer Embedded), the other macOS (HQPlayer Desktop) and I did not need to change the key.
     
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  12. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    So... these updates are going to be underwhelming and based on memory. I had a few brief power losses earlier this week Monday (thx California) and the S3 does not automatically turn back on after a power loss - it will only go into stand by where as the S2 automatically turns back on. By the time I realized I had to turn the S3 back (from stand by), the DAC was cold already. 2 more days of warm up and it sounded how it sounded after about 50 hours of warm up in my initial impressions and not nearly as good as it did after 6+ days of warmup. I don't want to hold the loaner tour up for another week while it warms back up, especially with no ability to guarantee I won't have another power outage.

    Based on memory, after 6 days of warmup (with some days off between day 2 and day 6 to figuratively refresh the palate), it's still the same DAC with the same sound signature as I describe after 2 days, but with some improvements:
    - The sound is more cohesive overall
    - Transients are better - they're still going to be a bit truncated and come on a bit stronger, but it's less after 6 days.
    - Bass is cleaner and tighter while the thump bothered me less after a longer listening session (I suspect it's because the transients improved),
    - Technical performance can easily be heard in casual listening now (where as I had to focus to hear "how good" the S3 was before),
    - Texture was now better than S2 (where as S2 was better earlier),
    - Most importantly to me, it finally got a little bit of the effortless / get out of the way sound that I like about the S2 and May. However, it is still the same DAC as before that still seems to sound like it's trying to show you how it sounds instead of being mostly out of the way and effortless.
    - Other technicalities - it is on par with or beats the S2 in every way. As a matter of fact, listening to my S2 now, it sounds a bit loose vs my memory of how the S3 sounded after 6 days.
    - Blackground is already good after 2 days. I think I would actually need tubes with better blackground (or possibly the amp) to tell if it improved after 6 days.

    My final conclusion is still the same - the S3 on paper is better than the S2 but with a different sound signature. I still personally prefer the S2 (and May) with the Stellaris. I suspect I would like the S3 more than the S2 with some other amps though.

    Thank you again to Holo, SBAF, and @rhythmdevils for making this loaner happen.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2022
  13. Baten

    Baten Friend

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    I think my Spring 2 Wildism edition was probably the best textured (although not the hardest hitting) DAC I've had in my system. I don't think I'd even prefer S3 or May over it but it depends on what one is looking for, I suppose.
     
  14. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    I have a Spring 2 KTE here and a May KTE in my other place. I've used both with HQPlayer preprocessing into EC Af, DSHA-3F, and Stellaris Special. Overall, Spring 2 is a bit more lush in the mids, but the May has extra detail and edge precision. I don't feel a big urge to replace the Spring 2, especially now that it is paired more-or-less permanently with the Stellaris Special.
     
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  15. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    I’m about the same way - I know and hear what’s missing with the Spring 2 vs the May each time I listen, but the s2 just works well with the stellaris for me.
     
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    Last edited: Sep 15, 2022
  16. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    With 3F, S2 is more enclosed, less depth than May (same HQPlayer settings, Atrium LTD koa with universe perf lambskin pads). With Stellaris, S2 widens and deepens. The difference between the two amps is not as evident with May.
     
  17. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    Yes. No problem on multiple machines either.
     
  18. Grattle

    Grattle Friend

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    I purposefully have not read any reviews or any other posts on this thread - yet.

    My listening space was in transition from an upstairs man-cave to a downstairs spare bedroom, so I didn't get to take notes like I had hoped.

    Headphones Used: PS500, until a driver died, Focal Elear w/Clear pads, Sennheiser HD58X Jubilee

    Amplifiers: Schiit Asgard 2, EC ZDT Jr.

    I used the USB input on the dac.

    The music I listened to was mainly: Tool, Radiohead, Jack White, The Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Cake, Lil Jon, A Perfect Circle, and the first two Star Trek Movie soundtracks.

    One thing I have always disliked about Foo Fighter recordings, is that the cymbals sound so badly. I always blamed the recording engineer and the band for it. I think the Spring 3 improved this in general - I do not know if it was the quality of the dac in general or the NOS, but the cymbals did sound better. In general, I feel like I could discern between different cymbals better, and that it was not necessarily better overall, but better for the way some records seem to be recorded. Treble in general was to me - non-offensive and not detracting.

    The overall impression I got from the Spring 3 was that the music was fuller. It reminded me of seeing color gradients. Some are smooth, and some can show some banding. The gradients (for lack of a better word) on the Spring 3 were very smooth. I included a couple of orchestral albums to see what the instrument placement on such as dac was like, and the soundstage. While I really enjoyed them on the KTE, the staging and placement didn't stand out to me as being much different than my Bifrost 2.

    I didn't get to listen on my speaker system, I imagine that the staging would have been immensely better had I had the opportunity.

    Overall, I think the Spring 3 is a fantastic piece of hardware. It appears to be very well built and of very high quality. I highly recommend it, but my opinion is of little value as it's the only really high-end dac I've heard.

    I appreciate the opportunity to audition it.

    Now I'm going to read the rest of this thread! :)
     
  19. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    @Grattle , it seems like you never upsampled your 16/44 content with this dac - you only used it as a NOS source correct?
     
  20. Grattle

    Grattle Friend

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    Some of the music was 96KHz, but no, I did not upsample. I wanted to hear the NOS sound, and I thought that upsampling in software would be pretty much the same as hardware upsampling. I acknowledge that this is an assumption on my part however. I believe my copy of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is high-res (supposedly...).
     

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