Holo new Green/Cyan DAC+Headamp

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by VincentS, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    If your comments are based on actually listening to the unit in question, and are not just blind, glowing, praise with no point of comparison (either us knowing what your preferences are, or drawing a comparison to a known product), I don't think there's ever been an issue here.

    The people that run into trouble are the ones whose first posts are full of breathless superlatives for a product no one has asked about, is from a brand with an unknown rep (or a known one that hasn't been great), and that then double down on hyperbole when anyone asks a question.

    This is surprising, given that the dac1541 has about double the output power of the Holo Audio Cyan (this according to the manufacturer's own specs for both devices). It'd be interesting to measure them in this regard. I was personally surprised that the dac1541 seemed to run out of steam with my Abyss and LCD-4 given it's power specifications, so maybe something is up there.

    --

    Now, I've NOT heard the Holo Audio Cyan (in either incarnation). I could likely get one as a demo, as Holo Audio USA is just "up the street," but I've not done so so far. This is primarily because, having heard a number of DACs that use discrete R2R implementations without some kind of compensation*, parallel R2R modules*, forward correction* or that are not employing a sign-magnitude implementation*, they've all proven to be rather less than impressive.

    There are major challenges with using simple switches and resistors, not just in terms of ensuring linearity and monotonicity in a single channel (let alone matching two channels). And I'm not sure if the Holo Audio Cyan falls into this camp of a simple discrete implementation or if Jeff (the designer) has other things going on that help sidestep the issue with simple discrete resistor designs (mostly because pretty much all that's said on the sites about it is that it does NOT have the linear compensation of it's big brother).

    This is not to say I think the Cyan will sound bad. I'm just wary - based on experiences with other units with outwardly similar architectures (and it's possible there's stuff going on that's not disclosed that makes a big difference).

    --

    *Among well-known, high-performing, R2R DACs, with discrete converters, the Holo Audio Spring DAC employs "linear compensation", Metrum use multiple DAC modules with a segmented conversion architecture and feed-forward correction, totalDAC use overlapping DAC modules and Soekris use a sign-magnitude implementation.
     
  2. Jerry

    Jerry Friend

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    A shootout between Cyan and Soekris 1541 would be really nice.
     
  3. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    This is what my buddy said having owned both Cyan and 1541:
     
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  4. Jerry

    Jerry Friend

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    Very informative. Thanks a lot @cskippy.

    What does your friend think of the cyan vs Gungnir Multibit? :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019
  5. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    I don't think he cares for OS, he's a NOS guy. ;)
     
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  6. Jerry

    Jerry Friend

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    @cskippy One thing, when you friend said Cyan is 80% Spring, was he referring to the Level 1 or Level 3 Spring?
     
  7. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    Holo Spring Level 1.
     
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  8. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Despite earlier reservations, I finally decided I should spend the time to listen to the Holo Audio CYAN (with the kind indulgence of @bimmer100). I have both the PCM and DSD modules to play with.

    Timing of this is largely due to getting a ton of questions about all-in-one units of late, particularly the dac1541 and RME ADI-2 DAC. This is in the exact same ballpark, price wise, and my curiosity finally got the better of me. It'll get my usual 72 hours or so of power-on time before any serious listening is done.

    CYAN Oblique.jpg

    I don't need to warm it up to say that it is built just like the Spring DAC, which is to say it is both beautiful and very solid; I very much like the overall black/copper aesthetic. If it sounds as good as it looks, it'll be a lot of fun (better pictures when I do a proper write-up*).

    I should also say that, despite the published numbers, and my comment about available power, above, this unit does exhibit more raw grunt into the Abyss than the dac1541 managed.

    As with the Soekris and RME units, I'll test it both as an all-in-one unit via it's internal headphone amplifier (for the PCM version), as well as a DAC feeding an external amplifier (in balanced and single-ended modes).

    CYAN Back.jpg

    --
    *Greenish cast is due to reflections from a chroma-key backdrop behind me, which I had forgotten to take down. The unit is really a nice, sharp, deep black.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2018
  9. TomNC

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    @Torq
    To make it clearer to other readers, LO/HI on the front panel of Cyan indicates low or high impedance output for low or high impedance phones, rather than low or high gain. It is coincidental that the 1266 is a relatively low impedance load which may be driven in the LO mode. Your quote marks are noticed, but I’d like to point this out to others who are new to the Cyan.
     
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  10. Alaarx

    Alaarx Facebook Friend

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    I would like Holo to release a NOS DAC like the Green but without all the bells and whistles. I dont even want a screen, just need a couple of inputs, balanced out and a power button. A bit smaller would be lovely, dont worry about amps or volume control.
     
  11. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    My reference to "gain" was down to me making assumptions about what that setting did ... as I had not yes read up on the controls when I posted. I figured it had to do with output level and wasn't sure if it was actually a "gain" control, or an attenuator ... and of course it is neither ... so I removed that reference from the post.
     
  12. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    Are you saying this because you actually heard the Green or are you presuming you will like it (with a pinch of hype)?
     
  13. Alaarx

    Alaarx Facebook Friend

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    I have not heard it but enjoy the Metrum NOS units and would like to try the Holo. It has many things I don't need however and is accordingly priced out of my range.
     
  14. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Initial impressions of the CYAN (with the PCM module installed), on about 36 hours of warm-up, are quite pleasing. While I'm not intending to do this stream-of-consciousness style (there would be big gaps between switching modules, another warm-up round, etc.) - a few things stand out already.

    First, it sounds pretty damn nice - a lot more so than I was expecting, both as a DAC and as DAC/amp.

    It is, in broad characteristic terms, and in NOS mode, surprisingly similar to the Spring DAC. It's not quite as technically proficient, but the same traits that made me enjoy the Spring so much are clearly in evidence here.

    Like the RME ADI-2 DAC and the Soekris dac1421/dac1541 the DAC section seems to be the more competent part of the implementation. In other words, the built-in headphone output doesn't fully do the DAC justice. However, the CYAN does have a rather more convincing headphone stage than either of the RME or Soekris units - and that makes it potentially more interesting in an all-in-one role than the ADI-2 DAC or the dac1541.

    OS mode has the expected effects - though is also more convincing than the same mode on the Spring DAC. Whether this is down to the OS mode being implemented differently on the CYAN, or just that the Spring DAC was sufficiently more proficient in NOS mode that it's just not as noticeable here. With the Spring DAC I would not have bought it to listen in OS mode (useful to have it, but I never used it that way beyond evaluating it), it was just too far removed from what I liked about it in NOS mode to have that make sense. The CYAN I could, and would, use in either mode, though so far would likely run it in NOS configuration the majority of the time.
     
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  15. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    Good Reading, as usual, but i do wonder why don't they offer a DAC only piece. Since many don't need the amp part. Maybe it the money difference would be minimal?!

    I am sure that this will be an interesting review.

    PS: I do wonder though @Torq, and I understand it may be a "asking 2 much" but if you have time and still remember how the Gungnir Multibit v1 sounds like, what would be your preferred DAC between the 2?
     
  16. Arun Kumar

    Arun Kumar Friend

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    They have a dac only piece.
     
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  17. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    Totally missed it. Thanks for the correction.
     
  18. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Far too early to say.

    Won't be surprised if comes down to whether you want NOS or OS, though.

    You can have the unit with the DSD module and no headphone amp (though the display and volume dial remain - even though the dial won't be active). The PCM module does not seem to be available without the headphone amp.

    Price difference is about $100.

    Note that either module can play both PCM and DSD content. Their respective non-native format is handled via on-board format conversion, but only one format is processed "natively" for each module type.
     
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  19. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    Thanks for the info. I got the same from a EU distribuitor but unfortunately the difference was more 200 euros than 100 dollars...

    I do want NOS this time around i guess but it was long ago since i last tried it and it was with a much less (theory) capable DAC. I will wait for your review and analyze my options taking that into consideration.
     
  20. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    PCM module listening completed.

    Primary impression is still that this is more Spring DAC-like than I would have expected, and in a good way, especially in NOS mode. And I still think it loses less in OS mode than the Spring DAC does.

    If I was looking at an all-in-one DAC/amp solution this would be a strong contender.

    DSD module installed and getting the same 72-hour warm up consideration. Will be trying this both with native DSD feeds and with a heavily oversampled/filtered DSD stream from HQPlayer and with PCM content processed in the same way (since there's fuck all native DSD content that I actually care about).
     
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