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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    The RME, with Auto-Ref (or +13 dBu output level) at 0 dB attenuation (so, showing 0 dBr on the screen), has a MUCH hotter output level than the CYAN unit. You shouldn't need a passive attenuator after it and should be able to run it at MAX (or fixed) output level without any problems.

    But, to answer your specific question, the RME's volume control is the best software/digital implementation I've come across absent things like DAVE or Hugo 2. Even so, I run the RME at 0 dB myself as doing otherwise, while improving some measurements, has a negative effect on my perception of micro-dynamics. The CYAN's implementation is as close to indistinguishable to the RME's performance as I can tell by listening, but it still sounds its best at max level.

    In other words it is not a concern at all with the CYAN when used as an DAC/amp (the CYAN is a more enjoyable unit in that role), but if just being used as a DAC I'd bypass it.

    Hard to say ... mostly because I haven't really spent any time with a Gungnir MB since October last year, and that unit was an April 2017 purchase. They have very different presentations, though. That Gungnir MB had more weight on the low-end, but otherwise delivers a drier, more neutral, performance than the CYAN does in PCM NOS mode. The blacker background and sweeter tone of the CYAN do stand out. Then vs. the CYAN in DSD OS mode ... well, there the CYAN probably winds up being the more neutral performer, and if running HQPlayer to feed it maybe more resolving as well.

    I would say that, if someone was able to stretch for a Gungnir MB of that era, and wasn't looking to use the CYAN as a DAC/amp (just as a DAC), then a better comparison would be between the Spring DAC L1 and the Gungnir MB.
     
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  2. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

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    @Torq , any thoughts on how it compares to Hugo 2, when either devices are used as a DAC feeding an external amp?
     
  3. geniekid

    geniekid Facebook Friend

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    @Torq - were the impressions in the Sound section primarily based off the built-in amp? I found the list of headphones used, but couldn't find anything regarding external amps used. Doesn't really change anything - just curious.

    Anyway, I found the comparison to other AIOs very useful. I also liked the description of the input/output options - with a normal DAC or amp you can pretty much figure out everything just by looking at the front/rear panels, but with AIOs I usually find myself having to supplement reviews with reading the manual. I didn't have to do that here. :)

    BTW, the first paragraph in the Summary section has a small typo ("CAYN" vs "CYAN").
     
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  4. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    I mentioned them here, briefly:

    [​IMG]

    The short version is that the Hugo 2 is a neutral, and technically more proficient DAC, across the board.

    The CYAN is a lovely listen, both as a DAC and a DAC/amp, particularly in PCM NOS mode and comes up at about 8/10 vs. the Spring DAC in terms of technicalities. If you want the tone/sweetness it delivers then I don't know how to get that out of a Hugo 2 or any other DAC that isn't something like the CYAN, Spring or Metrum units.

    If you want something stronger on raw technicalities, then stick with your Hugo 2 (or the Qutest if you want something more convenient on the desktop).
     
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  5. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Primarily, yes ... they're in the context of the built-in headphone amp.

    It's not a major factor though ... listening to the CYAN via the SPL Phonitor x (the most transparent and neutral solid-state headphone amp I've heard) didn't change the fundamental character of the CYAN. It did show that the CYAN is stronger as a DAC than as an amp, but it still has a much more convincing amp stage than any other DAC/amp I've heard to date.

    You do gain a little running the CYAN at 100 volume (MAX) output, which means using an external amp (or going deaf), but otherwise the only changes are down to the improved technical performance of an appropriate external amplifier. For example, micro-dynamics on the CYAN are better resolved by the DAC and it's the headphone stage that seems to be the weaker link there, since they're far more in evidence via an external amp.

    I expect I'll wind up trying it stacked with one of Holo Audio's form-factor matching amps at some point (the aesthetic is so nice on these units that I'd not want to mix/match it).

    Noted, flxed and thanks!
     
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  6. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

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    Thanks. I had read that post. I was curious to know, if the gap in technicalities between the 2 units became smaller, when bypassing Cyan’s internal amp and using the same external amp with both Cyan and H2. The above ^^ 2 posts answered my question.
     
  7. damaged-goods

    damaged-goods Acquaintance

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    Thanks for taking your time to answer all these questions!
    I had an ADI 2 DAC and was a bit dissapointed because I thought it sounded sterile and unengaging. It was actually very close to the Bifrost Uber I still have on the shelf, not identical but to close to justify the additional cost of the RME, which is just a slight bit cleaner and warmer (the Bifrost has more clarity and some grain). My audio system is usually pretty transparent with a raspi+i2s/spdif card, DAC, Phonitor e and HD650.

    My go to DAC since some time is a Meier Corda Daccord (Wolfson WM8741) which is much more engaging with more plankton (air around the instruments) than the RME unit and without loosing much in technicalities. The RME has slightly better seperation. The Dacoord sounds much more "real".

    VS the Modi Multibit the Daccord has better extention at both ends, better and tighter bass, more clarity and more details without loosing in the midrange sweetness. I think it's a nice step up from the Modi Multibit albeit without the Schiit multibit magic. (I liked the Modi Multibit but thought it was a bit soft and rolled in the treble.)

    These days I wonder how much I might gain if I try the popular Gungnir Multibit, Soekris 1421/1541 or Cyan as DACs, which are the limit of my budget. The Holo Audio gear is more expensive here in europe so the spring DAC is out of the question. Problem is I can't test any of these units here so I need to decide from reviews.
     
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    Last edited: Aug 14, 2018
  8. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    .

    I can generally be considered to be a fan of the WM8740 and WM8741. The 4490, in full "velvet sound" application, is probably the closest-sounding modern DAC chip - although the WM8741 doesn't suffer with the same sort of overdone bass-bloom that the 4490 does in it's reference implementation.

    The Bifrost Uber uses an AK4399, and was my preferred version of the D/S Bifrost units. It isn't afflicted with "velvet sound" to the same degree as the 4490.

    Results from the RME unit, which is one of the best 4490 implementations I've heard, vary quite a bit based on the filter you select. The differences between the linear and minimum phase sharp settings, as well as the "NOS" mode are sufficiently different that they're worth exploring ... and the unit avoids the "velvet sound" effect to the greatest degree I've heard in an affordable converter. Combine that with the unit's on-board PEQ and I'm a bit surprised you weren't able to dial the thing into avoid any semblance of sterility. Though I get that some people just don't like the concept of having any EQ in play.

    But, if you found the RME unit to be sterile - the Soekris units might not be the way to go. They have an overtly "pristine" sound to them and while I would describe them as being more "clinical/analytical" than the ADI-2 DAC (and MUCH more so than either Gungnir MB or the CYAN) I wouldn't call them "sterile" at all.

    Which is all a very long winded way of saying that if you found the RME to be sterile, then either the Gungnir MB or the CYAN with PCM module is probably the way to go. But, again, I can't really comment on anything but the original Gungnir MB and if what I read is true, the alleged "new" unit sounds closer to the original Yggdrasil (which I think is fantastic, of course, but it's drier than the Gungnir MB units I've heard/owned).
     
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  9. damaged-goods

    damaged-goods Acquaintance

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    All the settings the RME offers are amazing and it's a great DAC no question. The option to use an EQ distracts me from listening to music sometimes, it's to temption to tweak little things here and there all the time. ;-)

    The Corda Daccord/ Phonitor setup might well be my personal endgame, I'm mainly driven by the curiosity to hear what's possible these days and not the need to step up, luckily.

    Thanks again for your expertise!
     
  10. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Teaser for a proper review sometime in the next three or four days ...

    Azure - Cyan - Eikon (1024).jpg
     
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  11. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    There aren’t enough like buttons for this!
     
  12. Baten

    Baten Friend

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    That is one pretty stack.
     
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  13. gaspasser

    gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    I wanted to add a little here about my experiences over the last month with the Cyan PCM All-in-one version. I am using this in my office setup. The balanced headphone out feeds HD800SDR, HD650K and HD58X using USB input JRMC24 with mainly redbook rips and WAV Bandcamp downloads.

    To save time, @Torq review was dead-on accurate; read that if you want to know everything. If you want an amateur's perspective, then keep reading.

    This is my first experience with an NOS DAC and I love the sound, especially the sweetness in the mids and the non-fatiguing nature of the treble. I do a lot of school work while listening to music and I can now go several albums without any issues.
    My previous office setup was JRMC24/IVS/Bifrost Multibit gen5 -> MCTH (LPS) -> Focal Clear/HD650K.

    The most interesting thing I find after using Cyan is I don't need to use Atomicbob's IVS to get a great soundstage. I don't even need to use Sonarworks or any DSP at all.

    I was concerned about the reported treble roll-off since I do consider myself a treble junkie especially cymbal work in Jazz. The slight roll off is there, but the tone is more interesting along with the decay of notes in the recording space. There are many aspects of well-known albums that somehow now seem a little different or fresh and this is intriguing and exciting to experience. For instance there is a lot of percussion and drumming going on in albums I listen to a lot that just was never brought forward with Bifrost Multibit or Gungnir Multibit the way the Cyan does. In fact, the whole rhythm section is more prominently rendered with the Cyan. I haven't had this many "wow" moments with a piece of gear in a long while. The album Sangam by Charles Lloyd is straight-up ridiculous through this DAC especially the track Guman. I mainly listen to Jazz while working and the Cyan seems a natural match for this genre.

    In terms of the headphone out, I liked it better than the MCTH at least with the Senns I own (see above).

    Now for the gripes.
    The volume knob steps are too small and it takes too long to go up or down, so I need to use the (awesome) remote even though the knob is less than a foot away to change the volume quickly. Using the knob to change anything is a PITA. The display is great and easy to read, but it blinks whenever any changes are made. The blinking is annoying and I wish I could turn it off.

    The Cyan is definitely a keeper for me and I am excited to hear other examples of NOS DACS.

    I also wanted to give a shout out and thanks to @sheldaze for all of his excellent advice concerning the Cyan and other gear in the forums and over PMs. He is a real mensch and I'm surprised he hasn't been made a Friend yet.

    Holo Cyan.jpeg
     
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  14. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    I’ve still been eying this. I think our preferences and gear are incredibly similar. Now I really want to try this!
     
  15. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    I agree, this is a must hear for me. I've been dying to sample a good NOS DAC, from everything I've read, it's right up my alley.
    Not an easy piece to demo though.
     
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  16. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    What about compared to a Spring L1?
     
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  17. gaspasser

    gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    See below...


    Below is from Torq's review on Headphone.com
    "Overall, while there are some differences in the nature of the delivery of the CYAN vs. its bigger, more advanced, stablemate, the Holo Audio Spring DAC, they’re more alike than different, especially in PCM NOS mode. If you took a Spring DAC and dialed its raw technical performance down to an eight, from a ten, then you’d be in about the right ball park. That’s pretty impressive for a unit costing 2/3rds the price AND including a capable headphone amplifier to boot."
     
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  18. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    @Torq ... you haven't just left that Azure unattended have you?
     
  19. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Nope.

    Review is done - it should post on Friday.
     
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  20. Tachikoma

    Tachikoma Facebook Friend

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    Just wondering, how much hiss does the Cyan have with IEMs?
     
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