Holo Spring 3 Kitsune Tuned Edition (KTE) First Day Impressions

Today, this big and hefty box arrived at my door step, and inside was a DAC that I've had my eyes on for quite some time. I finally decided it was time recently, and went online shopping for an upgrade from my Chord Qutest, and more recently, Musician Pegasus DACs. After shopping new and also the used market, I was able to find a deal that satisfied me, and now it's here!

Holo Audio is the brainchild of Jeff Zhu and is an audio equipment manufacturer out of China. They've made their name for making high quality, highly capable and well-measuring R-2R Ladder DACs (Spring and May) over the past few years. They've also released headphone amplifier/DAC combo units (such as the Cyan and Azure) and, more recently, a Pre-Amplifier (Serene), and an upcoming stand-alone headphone amplifier (Bliss).

Last year, Holo released their flagship May DAC with very good reception from both the subjectivist and objectivist camps and all in-between. This year, they trickled down several of May's technologies and innovations into the 3rd Generation Spring DAC, which starts at $2195 and can get up to $3695 depending on configurations and optional pre-amp module.

In my case, I picked up a used unit that was fully-loaded with the Kitsune-Tuned Edition (KTE) and the pre-amp module installed. Kitsune is the North American distributor of Holo Audio and are also based near me. I've met, talked to and even borrowed gear from Tim, the owner of Kitsune, on a few occasions in the past, and he helped me make sure this was the product for me, as well as warranty concerns. Holo products WILL TRANSFER to the 2nd owner of products!

Anyway, after getting this thing set-up in my stereo rack, I let it warm up while calling into my normal set of meetings, and finally when my work day wrapped up, I was able to plug in my Hifiman Susvara to the Bakoon AMP-13R, which was sourced by the Spring 3 and get music going in Roon.

The Spring 3 is a NOS only DAC. NOS stands for Non-Oversampling, which means unlike most conventional DACs these days, the input source sample rate remains the same throughout. In other DACs, there are typically over-sampling steps that can raise the sample rate anywhere from 2 to 32 times the original input. 

This mode is quite handy for those like me who use HQ Player to oversample, and apply custom audio filters and noise shapers to our music. Depending on the setup, this has provided me at times better depth and layering, and sometimes a different soundstage and maybe a little more improved dynamics. It varies of course with the filter choices and the original music choice

Anyway, I switched to Bill Laurence's Live at Ronnie Scott's recording to test out my first impressions of the Spring DAC. I've listened to this piano-trio live set a billion times now, and it's on constant rotation for me. I love how Laurence decided to do a piano (instead of keyboards), and no effects: a so-called "unplugged" version of his normal live shows. It really sounds great and I enjoy it immensely, and so it was the perfect record to try out something new for me.

I started with NOS only and no added effects. I quickly felt the Spring 3 had a small amount more detail that popped up. Little things in the crowd were more discernible, like whispers or coughs. Little movements seemed to show up that I didn't notice before. There was also a little bit more of a lively overall atmosphere, but one thing I did notice with NOS mode is that some of the transients were a little sharper than I would have expected, give my small amount or R-2R DAC usage. It was perhaps even more edgy than the Chord Qutest at times.

When I flipped over to using HQ Player, enabled with upscaling to 32FS (PCM1536), Sinc-L filter, with LNS-15 noise shaper, I was immediately stunned. I seriously had a smile on my face listening to this record some more. There was a bigger sense of space. The music sounded even more lively, and even more grand. The sharp edges softened a bit, but not to the point where they were dull and blunted, but just right. It sounded all-natural, organic, and grain-free. (this is only partially a joke)

I ended up listening to a lot more jazz music the rest of the night and was equally impressed and happy with my purchase so far. It's only the first day, so there's going to be a honeymoon phase. We'll see how long it last!

Now, with that all said, here's some things I did not like:

The Remote Control is really attractive. It is all machined metal, with copper metal buttons that stand-out and look great! But, they rattle, and they rattle a lot. They also make a loud click when pressed, which I do find quite annoying. For such a nice looking product, I wished these little things were taken care of.

The display looks great. It really does from afar. But if you look closely at the glass panel, there is a noticeable difference in color and even an easily visible band where the OLED display ends, and where there is no display. I think it would have been better if Holo made the cut-out narrower to cover up this visual oddity, which is mostly visible when the display is off.

And that's really about the biggest gripes I've had so far. I'll try to come back with a full review when I have more time with this unit.


  1. Yes, Tim does give warranty to the second owner and that is very rare in this industry so kudos to Kitsune.

    I didn't mind the remote control clicky buttons (but then my unit didn't have the preamp feature) and appreciated the heft and solidity of the unit.

    The sound is sublime coming off USB directly to my mac mini (Roon).

    The only quirk is that my unit hums just a tiny bit after an hour or so; it's really no biggie and I only notice it after I fall asleep and wake up!


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