Holo Audio CYAN DAC/Amp - Official Thread

Were you able to compare to the r-2r from massdrop? I’m curious how it faired. I still have a lot of audio gear I need to try/experience.

If you mean the Massdrop x Airist Audio R-2R DAC (which, oddly enough, just started another drop), then yes I did!

Tonally they’re quite similar - including a general sense of “sweetness” to their delivery. The CYAN is definitely the more technically capable of the two units, across the board, however; and is best compared to units like the RME ADI-2 DAC, the Soekris dac1421.

I did like the comparison with the ADI-2 DAC, when you posted this I was on the fence between it and the ADI-2, but I obviously went with the one I’ve been eyeballing for longer. But I now have this company on my radar, and I like what they are doing, based on aesthetics, research on them and your review of course. I’m only familiar with limited DACs and the Mass drop X Airist will be my first R-2R DAC when it ships.

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I was asked, privately, about synergy between the CYAN and the HD650, so figured I’d share those thoughts here as well …

The CYAN is a very enjoyable pairing with the HD650. The smooth top-end of the CYAN yields a very satisfying and consistently grain-free delivery. There’s still a little mid-bass bloom. Otherwise the tonal presentation is quite pure, excepting some early roll-off in NOS mode and the general sense of sweetness that this also imbues to music. They deliver pretty much as hard a punch as you’re going to get out of them (outside serious tube stuff). Detail retrieval is excellent and the overall presentation is a lot more open than one might expect with the HD650.

If you have original HD650 (2003 to about 2015, I think), and hear any “veil” with them, that’ll get exacerbated slightly - and that will be noticeable more in NOS mode. Not a concern with newer units, nor for those that have performed the more common modifications and/or are running with the latest pads. And putting it in OS mode will help there too.

I also found it works really nicely with the HD660S … where my preference was very definitely to run it in NOS mode. Though that’s something of a redundant statement as that was my generally preferred way to run the unit anyway.


The product site says there’s a brightness control. Is there a way to turn off the display altogether (“blackout mode”) while the unit remains operational?


The dimmest setting is completely off. Then it cycles back to the brightest setting.

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Hi Thanks for your very insightful review. Read your comment re I2S and USB. Interested to know what grade of USB cable you were using? Also how did coax fare in comparison to USB in your listening?


I’m not 100% sure what you mean by “grade” in reference to a USB cable. Are you talking about which USB specification they’re compliant with, or some other, arbitrary audiophile “grade” designation?

Either way, my standard USB cable for DAC reviews is currently the AudioQuest Diamond.

If you have a suitable transport with a COAX output, and you don’t need support for high-bit-rate source material (more than 24/192 for PCM or single-rate DSD/DSD 64 for DSD), then there’s no reason not to use it - especially if using the built-in headphone output.

You might hear a difference in a super-resolving chain (external amp, TOTL cans), but otherwise it’s doubtful you’d notice, and you’d have to be listening for specific differences even then.

A bit of a related teaser for a full review in the very near future (things are a bit backlogged now …) …


I’ll be happy to pick up some of your backlog :wink: I kid, new job time crunch. Looking forward to reading your review on these as a combo.

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Oops I think I’ve just wet myself. :grin:. Really looking forward to this too.


Nice one, these are realy nice looking units. With the positive review of the Cyan I’m looking forward to learn if the new amp is a worthwhile upgrade.

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Me too. It’s always a pleasure to read his reviews.


Oh my good golly gorsh.

Thanks for the review. How does the Cyan compare overall say with the new Metrum NOS DACs (Flint DAC only or Amethyst as DAC or all-in-one)?

I haven’t heard the Flint, so can’t comment on that.

And I have not done a direct comparison between the Cyan and the Amethyst, though I’ve done an extensive review of the Cyan and I’ve spent a little time with the Amethyst - which was a nice enough sounding unit but not something that I was tempted by. Where as with the Cyan if I had been looking for an all-in-one (or a NOS DAC) in that price range I’d not have hesitated to buy one.

I like the Metrum DACs … but until you get to the Pavane I do not find them compelling from a value perspective.

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Gotcha. Thanks for insight on it. I’ll keep this DAC on my shortlist. :+1:

@Torq, in your review of the DSD version you seem to use this exclusively with a native DSD stream from HDplayer. How well does the DSD Cyan handle a PCM stream compared to native DSD from your HQplayer setup?
Reading the review I get the impression that the DSD Cyan is mainly worthwhile when combined a native DVD stream.
(I hope I didn’t get the technicalities wrong, audio can be complicated)

I’m using the HD600/HD650 and wonder at when I might reach a point of diminishing return playing with DACs like the Cyan. I consider getting the fan edition with both modules.

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The short version is, If it were me, I would not buy the DSD version of the Cyan unless I was going to use it with HQPlayer.

Not because it doesn’t sound good doing internal DSD conversion from PCM - it does. But with PCM source material the PCM module (in NOS mode) is more to my preference, and the next best result I got was feeding the DSD module from HQPlayer for PCM content.

There just isn’t enough native DSD content available, let alone in my own collection, for me to want a primarily DSD DAC. Which means feeding it a much larger diet of PCM source material - and the best way to listen to that with the DSD module in the Cyan is via HQPlayer.

Upsampling native DSD content further, and applying the more sophisticated filtering and noise-shaping available in HQPlayer also works better than just having the Cyan play it natively.

The following table ranks the various combinations of source, conversion and module, from “best” (i.e. that I enjoyed the most) to “worst”. None of them sound bad at all. But there are differences and this is how I personally rank them:

Source Format Conversion/Upsampling Module

I had a similar question, but was waiting for your answer on this one. I may keep an eye out for a sale on the PCM model of the Cyan…they have the DSD one on sale currently.