DAVE v MAY, only one will survive

This is as good a place as any for this post:

I have a Chord DAVE with M Scaler, which I love - really gorgeous, deep and clean. Very musical. The best I’ve experienced, even in mastering studios and mix stages. I have on order, arriving in week or so, a shiny new Holo Audio May, KTE (lev. 3) edition. I am very excited about this box (es) and looking forward to a lot of listening. I will play many hours to break it in, and will of course be doing a deep and long course of comparisons between the two DACs once the May has broken in a bit. I think this will be fun and educational, and my intention at the end of some period of major listening is to sell the box that I can live without, and keep the other.

I love the differing approach to d/a that each of these boxes takes (very exciting time to be a DAC!) and respect the engineering behind both–much admiration for both companies (Well, Watts and Zhu). Basically, enough talk/reading/musing… now it’s down to the ears. And that will be that. :smiley:

I have my work cut out for me: I will test PCM, which is what I normally listen to across many areas in my life, including work and travel, but I also want to test DSD through these, with which I am much less familiar. The DAVE will do DSD256 and the May will do 1024; DAVE will do PCM768kHz, May will do 1.5MHz (doh…); my Lumin streamer will be the bottleneck as it caps out at DSD256 and PCM384kHz, so those are the encoding rates I will test.

I do not run HQP and don’t intend to at this point, but open to it in the future. I will use MScaler to up-rez PCM going into the DAVE, and May’s internal OS circuit for that box, and then also A/B non-OS for both – but for DSD… MScaler converts to PCM, so will likely pull that from the chain and do DSD source (Lumin) direct to DAVE and May with no OS on the May, and both boxes in DSD native mode. And may do other combos as well (I’m actually not this anal… so I doubt I’ll do some uber-thorough test of all apples and oranges, but I’ll do enough to learn things and make some decisions :slight_smile: ).

[TL;DR] I do not regularly listen to DSD and my question is: what albums would you all recommend I listen to? Planning to download DSD11.2 (and lower obv.) from Prostudiomasters; I listen to most genres, including classical and jazz, so open to anything you want to recommend. Also, any particular label/mastering studio you would suggest?


For the love of God and all that is holy:

Please don’t use the internal oversampling in the May for anything. It’s … Not what that unit is for :joy:

Just stick the May (I have a Lvl 2) in NOS mode and leave it there. Send HQP upsampled into it? Please do. Unregistered, the software still works for 30 minutes stints.

I’m not familiar enough with the Mscaler to intelligently ask, but is there a limitation to it feeding upsampled content into the May? Don’t tell me it’s that double SPDIF! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Looking forward to your impressions!


Well, yes, was going to for the sake of thoroughness, but aware it’s not the mode I’m interested in on this unit.

This is why I mentioned it, maybe I will use this to upsample into the May, yes. Copy that about trial timeperiods. Helpful.

You can get 1.5M over USB into the May I believe, but in this case it will be PCM768k, cause that’s what the Scaler does. In any case my streamer maxes at DSD256.

Thanks for good thoughts… any about music? I’ve got some albums from 2xHDFusion. Will start with those… Haydn, Bartok, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans… looking for some female voice and classical guitar recos!

Why upssmple in HQplayer when you have an mscaler isn’t it designed to do the same thing from a hardware perspective seems to be a wasted device if you already using hq player to upssmple.

thanks. i don’t currently use hqp, i use mscaler, which only works in pcm. for upscaling dsd i may use hqp. but for the moment, i will stick with hardware and upscale PCM, and dsd will leave at native rez. for listening tests maybe just compare 96/24 (not uprezzed) to DSD256, also not uprezzed. probably where i will start.

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You need to try DSD source to M Scaler to DAVE in PCM mode vs DSD source to DAVE in DSD mode, see which you prefer.

Free DSD256 music from here:

That’s not an issue for those who are not doing upsampling. Outside of tests I don’t think there are music recorded in DSD512 (not counting upmodulated / upsampled music).


Not recorded but created by mastering engineers like Grammy winning Tom Caulfield using HQPlayer Pro version : Signalyst


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Yes, sure will.

Oh, cool, thanks Peter.

Yes, it’s not an issue for me at all. Just being thorough in my explanations! :smiley:

Thanks Peter, good points.

An example of an album recorded in DSD256 and available in DSD512

Ad Illam (For Her) (Pure DSD) - NativeDSD Music

I’m really interested in this. There is a difference in price with these two, which makes the comparison very interesting.

Goldensound did a piece on both, they may have fed the M-Scaler into the May, but I might be misremembering. Sorry, I’m on the move or I’d dig out the YouTube link for you.

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I think he opted not to feed the May with the M Scaler, but I may be misremembering, too!

Yes, all in all pretty big price difference, and I guess arguably the M Scaler should be taken out of the loop if I am to ignore the onboard upscaling capabilities of the May (understandably). Which I will do as part of the listening I’m sure.

In any case I’m really interested in the basic sound difference and not really what the maxed out, pedal to the floor, resolution capabilities are of each box, that is not really of interest to me. I would like to come away with a good feeling for FPGA v R2R as a basic approach to d/a operations. In my mind it’s almost a digital versus analog approach to DAC construction, and one requires years of research and math genius and the other requires years of discipline and focus in design and component matching… really an east versus west thing almost. Not to put too fine a point on it. But that’s my real interest, because as we all know, they both sound pretty excellent and one could be happy going forward with either (IMO) and live many years with deeply enjoyable music playback. I’m not a fan of redbook, I am pretty happy with 96/24, and the little I’ve sampled of DSD128+, pretty happy with that. So… I’m not a rez queen, to coin a phrase, but I know what I like. Much more interested in the basic qualities of these boxes almost separate from resolution. More to come! Thanks for posting!

I think you will find yourself confused, or misled, if you don’t do apples-to-apples comparison. You have to view Dave without Mscaler ~= May and adding the MScaler to the Dave ~= adding HQPlayer to the May.

The two baseline tests are:
a. non-upsampled data into Dave (without MScaler) and into May NOS mode.
b. upsampled data via MScaler into Dave and via HQPlayer into May NOS mode. At the same rates. (You could also try Roon upsampling if you don’t want to do HQPlayer for now but it will likely not win).

For DSD things get more complicated as the Dave actually converts DSD to PCM internally whereas the May has a native DSD path. What the May + HQPlayer combination provides is versatility - you can tweak the upsampling filters. You can also upsample PCM to DSD, which many like, and is not really possible in the Chord equation. And also go to higher rates in both PCM/DSD as you previously mentioned.

But if it were me, I would do some baseline apples-to-apples comparisons before you start trying things that have no equivalent on both sides.

(fyi, I run a Holo May and have never tried the Chord devices).

i think i’m doing exactly as you say actually. so, good! thanks.

several comments have come and gone with different parts of the testing plan noted… but yes, i’m good at apples to apples. i don’t have a worry about that. honestly, I’m trying to decide if i should wire in an analog xlr switcher to more easily a/b… anyone have a thought about that?

i mean, this is really not rocket science, nor is it curing cancer. i’m not trying to get all side-tracked with process. i just want to listen to nice music! and not have my tech ocd prevent said enjoyment… i don’t need the absolute best in every area, i can’t afford it for one thing, but if something could be better fairly painlessly… ugh. i have to do it. we all know the deal. so… yeah. thanks for thoughts. i am not concerned with testing method, it will be sufficient and appropriately revealing, there will be some apples to oranges in there but with full awareness… cause sometimes you just want to see what an apple tastes like after an orange. and not another apple.

edit: also, i’d be interested in your May impressions and whatever comparisons you have done if you care to post… thx. since there’s not a Holo Audio section in the Gear area… yet. :smiley:

I recently had this same decision to make and I went the Holo May KTE + HQ Player route. Significant cost savings and a number of trusted reviewers felt the May + HQP surpassed the Chord solution in sound quality. You DO have to add a PC-type device to run HQP to the overall cost but it is still a huge savings. I chose to go with a new M1 Mac Mini as my HQP upscale. Only added $700 to the total price.

already run roon core on a mac mini server, (with hqp on it as a matter of fact, just not running) it would be no issue to add. thx for posting!

HQP upscaling is very processing intensive. So you might just confirm that running both Roon and HQP on same MM won’t impact Roon’s ability to stream effectively.

@Michael_Grant what do you run it on?

I run my Roon Core on an i7-based Intel NUC. Fast, quiet, and has been stable for over two years. No issues. Using M1 Mac mini for HQP because the mini I believe brings the most CPU power to a small form factor - way better than the NUC. And HQP needs way more CPU than Roon does.

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:apple: vs :tangerine:

how is that apples vs oranges? isn’t that seeing each dac performs with raw PCM in it’s most basic/native mode?? what would you suggest as a good baseline test?

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