Holo May kte 3: Measurements It's been some time since I've sat down to review anything. That was until last week when my friend Hugo from indiehifi called me to tell me he is bringing me Holo May kte3, Raal sr1a, requisite, the meze elite and some streamers for me to listen too. Hugo is cool and just wants to know my thoughts with no pressure to buy. So May KTE 3 vs Rockna WD signature balanced. Both are the latest firmware/hardware as of Oct 2021. Testing conditions: Rockna was tested using a mix of usb/aes. I run usb from musicbee or cd-t via aes to the DAC. Linear filter, Dither off Using old faithful EC studio/hd800sdr and SCA-2>ATC SCM150ASLT May was tested mostly using NOS with HQ player via usb using golden ones recommended settings which push 44.1khz to 1.411mhz and 48khz to 1.5mhz doing the OS upstream of the DAC. I tried May for a few days without the HQ settings and it lacked top end air, it was a tad harsh in the upper octaves and becomes fatiguing (with headphones/XLR*), bass is also a bit looser, everything is just not as polished as the HQplayer version which is just a much more pleasant and technically impressive experience. *The midrange harshness was most evident with the EC studio with balanced XLR, not sure why because it is within spec of the input transformers of the studio but I get that slight hot upper midrange on some tracks. As soon as I switched to SE the problem vanished, but then the SE of the May is like a diluted May experience. You have to run HQ player though a computer or through something running ROON, HQ player is a POS on desktop, it's clunky, has a terrible GUI but sounds significantly better than the OS options on the May or the NOS without the filters. So you are kinda stuck with it. For those of you using cd-t or who just like to stream over tidal/spotify from a non ROON device probably don't consider May. The May KTE 3 is very good. For starters, it's the first time I've heard a NOS dac that has normal staging. With both speakers and headphones staging was normal. The USB input is ridiculously good, as solid and stable and one of the best usb implementations i've heard. With HQ player it's a contender for my step above everything else DACs, if I had to nitpick I would say it lacks the last bit of air (as does all NOS in my experience), and sometimes I feel the immense blackground is achieved through some level of omission. There is something unnatural about the transient response with the DAC, I don't think there was even once where I got goose bumps or turned my head suddenly at a sound or really even got lost in a song. Something the Rockna has an uncanny ability to do. I guess the May is fairly quick with transients, but it lacks edge and weight with transient response that leaves you feeling like some of the texture and engagement with instruments like kick drums isn't as present and forward as I prefer. I guess coming from the sfd-1, convert-2, rockna I have a love of impressive dynamics and perhaps these dacs enhance that beyond 'neutral' but I feel this is the crux of my experience with May, in that I just didn't get that engaged with the sound. It's technically impressive but doesn't get the foot tapping or drag you from reality. May certainly doesn't sound like typical NOS, it can at times be a bit hot in the upper mids (with headphones and XLRw/studio*) even with HQ player, clarity is exceptional and as such macro/micro information feels enhanced however although these 'detail' sounds are enhanced they can seem a bit cold and dry texturally. On the flip side some information is just not rendered on the May, in Max Richter's Vivaldi you can hear the room and some background instrument handling noises etc on the Rockna and other dacs I've owned, but this is pushed right down below audible ranges on the May. Definitely not the rich NOS sounds I was expecting. May would pair wonderfully with most headphone systems but as soon as you move to speakers that lack of textural microdetail, lack of transient suddenness and engagement factor make it not that nice to listen to. Overall it's a solid DAC, but we are here to deconstruct this thing and pick it apart and see if we can still live with it. For me the Rockna is hands down a better product, it only loses to May in clarity and that's because I feel May is omitting or pushing down some stuff to enhance that. In NOS without HQ player it drops down to slightly better than mid tier sort of performance in my book. With HQ it is elevated significantly but still unengaging, but performs solidly. May was the 5th best DAC I've auditioned, and the best NOS DAC by miles.