Best native DSD DACs for use with HQPlayer?

I currently use an RME ADI-2 DAC and like it, but I have fairly neutral and forward amplifier (NC500 with Sonic Imagery op-amp) and Volent speakers, so a little smoother and more organic sound from the DAC would probably be a good thing. Note that I don’t want full “mumble mumble” tube sound, just a little step towards it.

I also plan to let HQPlayer up-sample everything to DSD, so native DSD is a must.

With this in mind, what would be a good DAC to select, budget up to around $2000? @jussi_laako you have tested a bunch of DACs with HQPlayer I am sure, any suggestions?

Holo Spring lvl 3. Used T+A DSD DAC 8.

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Cheers, I looked at Holo earlier at that seems to fit my requirements very well.

Read this in a review about the T+A DSD DAC 8 :slight_smile:

And did you know
Several DAC 8 DSD users have reported that the way to go for the best sound, assuming you have a PC with the computing power, is to use Signalyst’s HQPlayer upsampling multichannel audio player, by itself or with Roon, to upsample everything to DSD512 and then output that to the T+A.



It can be confusing to understand the numbering associated with the Holo Spring, apologies if I am telling you things you already know.

The Spring has been released in two models. The current model II improved on model I by adding:

  • a remote control;
  • a 48kHz family DSD oscillator (means you can run closed form and other integer filters in HQP on all source material);
  • a better USB input.

Each model has been marketed by Katsune and other distributors with three levels of tinkering:

  • level 1 - stock;
  • level 2 - Jensen capacitors in power supply;
  • level 3 - silver internal wiring and transformer winding.

I have a model I level 2 and have been very pleased with it. I exclusively use the NOS (non-oversampling) setting which bypasses all the internal filtering, leaving that role exclusively to HQP. The Spring has 4 resistor ladder boards (R/2R), one each for PCM and DSD with a twin to control linearity. The native DSD board means that a DSD signal from HQP is never converted back to PCM.

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Your current DAC has ‘DSD Direct’ feature. In this mode, incoming DSD by-passes all the DSP of the AKM chip, as AKM show on the block diagram of the DAC chip’s datasheet. Jussi warmly recommends this DAC in this mode.

You just need a separate analogue pre-amp for volume control in this mode.

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Funny, I have the T+A 8 DSD dac, anf I have extensively tried a HOLO Spring level 2 (version 1). Sold the HOLO, kept the T+A.

Given that it is class-D amplifier, I’d pay special attention that the DAC has minimal amount of ultrasonic leakage, since such amplifiers have aliasing down to audio range, so they need especially clean input. This and the budget in mind, your ADI-2 running at DSD256 in DSD Direct mode and DSD filter set to 50 kHz is good choice. Another very good choice is Holo Audio Spring 2 DAC which may be exactly what you are looking for.


Yes but that’s another headache, yet another box, another pair of XLR cables, and another thing in the chain that will affect the sound in some ways.

You will have the same issue with Holo and T+A DACs I believe…

An option is to use HQP’s own digital volume control.

I assume they have analog volume controls, which of course also affects the sound but then its at least part of the package (fine-tuned, measured etc).

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If you don’t want to add another analogue box, best not to assume - best to check.

I know for the Holo you will have the same issue as ADI-2 in DSD Direct mode.

I Haven’t looked at T+A manual in a while though

The T+A 8 DSD dac has a variable (/fixed) output, and volume can easily be adjusted with the provided remote.


Look at Atoll Dacs great value for the price.

They are made in France not China

Even for DSD? That would mean a motorized analog volume (unless I am missing something)

Even for DSD, but not motorised.
The T+A has 2 seperate dacs for PCM and DSD.

I listen DSD exclusively, using HQplayer, but with fixed output to my preamplifier.
I use the variable output when using headphones.

But it has to be analog right? DSP volume (or any DSP) don’t work with DSD

Yes analogue for T+A.

“For setting output level, the signal is finally sent to a preci- sion resistor ladder—a fully symmetrical, balanced design. T+A notes that, unlike the “far more expensive” gold- contact relays used in their megabuck products, high-quality electronic switches are used in the DAC 8 DSD. Also, the resistors in the DAC 8 DSD’s volume control are from Vishay’s MMU series of surface-mount devices (SMDs)”

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iFi Pro iDSD is another.

Features direct DSD conversion and variable analogue output.

Also their newer Neo iDSD

@Magnus why not use your AD-2 DAC in DSD direct mode and use HQPlayer’s digital volume control?

Roon can directly control HQP’s volume.

You can set a max and min in HQPlayer.