Holo May KTE vs Meitner MA3

Anyone had a chance to compare the sonic qualities of these two dacs?


I'd expect these to sound quite different (have home demoed the Meitner, have not heard the May).

Curious why these are both on your audition list?

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I am doing so right now. Let me tell you, preliminarily it is quite close! Closer than I expected for sure given the significantly different DAC architectures/concepts. A/B’d via my headphone rig (with ALO studio six head amp/Senn HD600’s-- both DACs run single-ended into it, using a mac mini/audirvana or U1 mini/Quobuz as source with May vs. MA3 with internal streamer), There is really little between them at this time (havent spent many hours as yet...). Both superb tonally, both pacey, both spacious etc. This again was a bit shocking to me as a long time fan/owner of the May. Maybe- just maybe so far, the KTE May is a bit more ’watercolor’ and warm in NOS mode perhaps evident more in the mid-bass region (havent switched modes as yet) -- is the only thing that ’grabs’ me so far. Only thing I can report so far, is that if anyone says one of these ’smokes’ the other (and inevitably someone will;) , well they have some pretty impressively forthright preferences for what are (very preliminarily) minor differences, at least tonally. I’m not sure which I’ll keep by a long shot yet-- I love the KTE May! But the MA3 appeals with it’s all-in-oneness whereas the Holo is only the Holo with external sources connected etc. Of course, I can also use the MA3 as a preamp- which I’m doing right now and that’s a trick the May cant pull off. (Yet? :)

So the MA3 is a ’sleeker’ package and a beautiful/smooth thing to operate/engage with, with faster lock to sources and that pretty display. So I can maybe try more and with different headphone setups and report back... (I have a THX 887 head amp and some Shure headphones as well to try). We’ll see...

Wow, that's awesome that you can compare them like that...I'd use them for a headphone rig as well...You'd think sonic wise Meitner would come out on top slightly given the price difference but it may be just splitting hairs...Thank you for taking your time to write this...

Please do not flame me, this is only my thoughts formed over the last month and a half.

I was not like this before, but now I do think about things like the following: the Meitner audio gear is designed and manufactured by our Canadian brothers and sisters.  Many of the other DACs that are being discussed as fantastic are designed and manufactured in China and it would probably not be an exaggeration are one more thing ultimately funding the Communist Party.  

I realize that half of what we buy is from China, but maybe we need to start thinking differently when purchasing big ticket items from Communist countries.  I think we are seeing a vivid demonstration of ultimately what they would love to do to us.

If anyone objects to this post I will gladly delete it, maybe I am the only one who is thinking this way.

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Calling China a communist country is laughable. They are "communists" when it suits them but in reality they are one of the most capitalist countries in the world, raw unbridled capitalism.

Unfortunately the economic systems they choose are overshadowed by totalitarianism which is why I prefer to send my money elsewhere when I have a choice.

You’re welcome Branislav. I wanna stress these are really preliminary thoughts based on a couple of listening sessions so far with headphone set up only, so keep that in mind. As for the price differential, as you know the MA3 is a three-in-one unit-- dac/streamer/preamp, so I guess it isnt really a pure 9500 dollar dac against a pure 5600 dollar dac (though I recall reading the MA3 dac portion is heavily based on or very similar to their super pricey DV2 dac) but once you are playing in the league of the May and the MA3, I dont think there’s a bad choice-- probably just preferences for this or that tonality or synergy. I actually bought the MA3 at the behest of an audiophile friend (who loves his) to use as a preamp with my amp due to a scarcity on the used market of matching preamps for it, so that’s why I cant directly A/B the May against MA3 into my amp and speakers right now-- I dont currently have a preamp to hook up to the May!

So for now-- headphones will have to do. The ALO studio six is a great head amp for such testing, because it accepts like three (or is it 4?) sources and also isnt too ’tubey’ sonically-- pretty even handed with a bit of warmth. Wish the ALO were balanced also, but just single-ended.

So it’s easy to hook up, say, the May and the MA3, match the volumes with the MA3 volume knob, and play the same track through both and simply switch the input knob back and forth on the ALO. When I queued up some Mozart (the well recorded piano/violin Mozart Palatine sonatas on Quobuz and the Leif Ove Andsnes album titled ’1784’ on same), similar spaciousness, tonality, delicacy/decays and separation were in evidence via both the May and the MA3. Same goes for the Bill Evans trio stuff I tried.

I also preliminarily think the internal streamer in the MA3 may have a slightly warmer tonality than when I play the same tracks via AES input from my Lumin U1 mini streamer (a great streamer which I just sold after acquiring the MA3 in the hopes I could reduce the box count:) Of course, that could be down to the AES input on the MA3 or the nature of the Lumin itself-- not sure.

I’ll confess I have always loved Audirvana software via my mac mini sonically, and via USB into the May, with no cleaners/converters etc, it really does turn in a ’streamer level’ (or close to it) performance. Perhaps that owes to the May’s excellent jitter reduction/PLL circuitry and other such things beyond my comprehension. But nonetheless there it is sonically.

So Mac mini/May vs. MA3 (with internal streamer) doesn’t in my ear, handicap the May too much at all. Until I got the Lumin, that was my favorite setup.

It may still be-- hopefully will get a chance this week for a few more hours of headphone A/B’ing with different genres (ambient/jazz-- even Diana Krall!?? No! etc) and I can then report back if you like, either just how wrong my initial impressions were and what was I smoking -- or that I’ve confirmed them to myself ;)



Big ol +1 for understanding what DJT tried to do. Not many I know have a clue. And now we have a pedo friendly SCJ: SO SAD

I believe that many, if not all Teslas are made in China, as is Volvo.  For whatever it’s worth. Take from it what you will. 

An erstwhile reviewer in these parts, I just wanted to compliment the common sense approach in your carefully written posts.  I look forward to your next post when the weed wears off.😀

One quickly learns that the correlation between price and quality in DACs is very far from perfect.  This is especially so comparing DACs made in Asia to those made in the US and Europe.

Please save the politics for another forum. It is a downer. I'm tired of Americans fighting with each other without reason.

Who’s fighting DBB?


T1 and LordM both made a very validated thought. Truth is a dividing sword that separates light from darkness. Truth is a lost commodity in this day and age.

@glory you are more than welcome to discuss political matters by PM and thank you for your vote of confidence.

I have the very greatest respect for @dbb and if he doesn't want politics discussed here I comply and totally respect him as the hifi aficionado that he is.



Sorry, I don’t see anyone fighting. As a matter fact I don’t see any politics in any of these statements. 

Ok-- now having had the chance to go back and forth for the last few hours with 4 or 5 different albums on actual speakers instead of the headphone system... utilizing what seems to be the Meitner’s preferred method of music making, which is ethernet streaming (preferred over AES and USB to my ear) vs. the more input-agnostic Holo May KTE (I used my preferred method-- Audirvana studio via AQ Carbon USB from a mac mini), I have a bit better sense of what’s what-- at least in my own mind. I should note both DACs have been on/warmed up for days.

In sum-- a shocker-- the NOS R2R DAC is sounding more and more like... an excellent NOS R2R DAC. The KTE May is a bit warmer and more spacious all around. In contrast, immediately apparent upon switching is the slightly more lit up sound of the MA3.

It presents to my ear as more detailed and thus less ’homogeneous’ with instrumental sections/groups and the textures their instruments produce. Specifically, there seems to be more overall instrumental texture on offer and instruments in groups seem a bit more discernible as individual players with their own air and space around them.

The MA3 also seems somewhat pacier and more micro-dynamic. It’s quite the foot tapper! Even to Bach. There seems to be more contrast between instantly softer and louder/start and stop. The MA3 is on a hair trigger with this stuff. I think some youtube reviewer calls that ’alert’ sounding.

While, as i say, the MA3 seems to separate instrumentalists on the stage a bit more and gives them their own air, the Holo seems to paint more abstractly with a bit broader brush, The MA3 also seems to have a bit more ’scale’ for me i.e. the proceedings seems slightly grander in terms of the size of the players and stage. MA3 bass seems a bit more defined and possibly a bit deeper (though my system sure wont plumb any depths).

It also does a nice thing I don’t think I’ve heard my prior DACs do to this degree (mostly NOS R2R to be fair) which is pressurization-- like the sense that the bow is digging into the strings and there’s pressure/corporeality/weight (it was striking with a great violin recording like the complete Schubert Sonatas played by Naaman Sluchin and Piet Kuijikenor) and with strings en masse like in ’Simon Rattle conducts Haydn’, on which album the lower strings -- cellos/basses-- seem with the MA3 to be moving more air than with the Holo while seeming a bit less plump and one notey as well. In other words,with the MA3, it hits you a bit more that there’s a big lot of people out there (albeit individuals) bowing away furiously.

You get this sense of weight/pressure- of air moving- with the MA3 on lots of recordings though- not just with strings.

The MA3 is indeed an extremely interesting listen (I kept thinking ’interesting’/ ’engaging’ as I listened) mainly down to the textures and ’air movement’ and detail it has on offer. But also due to its obvious speed-- yep. It’s an engaging listen.

The Holo KTE for me so far is perhaps the more ’relaxing’ listen of the two, albeit at the expense of less ’stuff out there to see’ and fewer textural gradations. These are of course all relatively minor distinctions I discerned on the basis of 3-4 (5?) hours listening to 4 or 5 different (mostly classical - one Charles Mingus) albums and switching between them so far, so certainly subject to change but at least I think i have the Gestalt of the differences.

And let me tell you, upon switching off, they are easy to hear-- but not monumental. I could listen (and have) to either at length and if you dont switch back and forth to refresh your mind every so often, you might settle happily into the couch with either one playing. Maybe these ’subtle’ distinctions though could be important if one, say, feels their system lacks a little detail and is a bit warm or vice versa... Perhaps it's the nature of some of these distinctions (weight/separation etc) that made them easier for me to hear via loudspeakers than headphones- or perhaps it's the nature of my headphone system (tubes and older Senn HD600s). Dunno.

So for me-- still preliminary and still have no idea which I’d sell if forced (and if anyone around here gets clued in and finds out I have two relatively pricey things here that do more or less the exact same thing-- I might be).

I really love both of these DACs so far and it has been really instructive having them together, at least in so far as I previously thought my KTE May was it-- over and done. But now I see by contrast it actually may have it’s own sound (perish the thought) and the MA3 is certainly a different, though perhaps equally valid take on things.

Hopefully these (preliminary!) words are helpful for those considering either of these great DACs. Lets see what else I can discover about them through further listening.

@abramsmatch  Thank you for your comparison but it is completely meaningless due the fact it is not a controlled experiment.

What that means is both units have to be tested in the same manner using exactly the same periphery equipment.

You have already said the Meitner preferred streaming, well doesn't that show that the May is the better DAC?

BTW an AQ Carbon is a trash cable not suitable here.

The Meitner is obviously a better streamer than the May because the May isn't a streamer.

Utter nonsense.

Ok, thanks Lord. I sorta thought I’d compare a ’best use case’ (for me anyway) of how I felt each was optimized/at its relative best sonically (having tried various inputs with both with the Mac mini and previously a Lumin streamer - now sold). Fwiw, I did have a slight preference for the MA3 ethernet over its USB/AES input from Lumin/Mac; but not major. Its USB/AES inputs were almost as good and my conclusions would likely be- in general-  the same. I did listen ta while to those, I just mostly used ethernet to really optimize it (since that's how I'd mostly use it). And the May’s USB input is absolutely superb and that's how I use it. But if you feel it’s utter nonsense then so it is and that’s that. Cant win ’em all. Have a good weekend.

It's the equivalent of holding your thumb on the scale.

Why not do a proper review DAC to DAC using the same sources USB/SPDIF.

It's all in the interests of science.

Have a great Easter Weekend.

Attempting to fairly compare Meitner against most other dacs problematic in that Meitner has much proprietary engineering, built in streamer and preamp function. Meitner is really all in one component, hook it up to server, good to go. The Holo requires preamp, streamer, associated cables to play on level playing field. Add in the cost of the associated needs and the Meitner probably comes out as the value leader here. On the other hand, if one already has nice pre and streamer, Holo may be way to go.


Abramsmatch's setup certainly favored the Meitner, but does not automatically preclude some valid insights. The review illuminates the need for all the added equipment needed for Holo, also that the Meitner is more resolving. Whether that due to Holo less optimal setup is up in air. I only know that Ed Meitner is well respected designer and engineer, if the Ma3 is indeed as resolving as I think it may be, it actually is good value at $9500.

@lordmelton I believe if you reread @abramsmatch comments, he did try the MA3 utilizing the exact spdif connection utilized by his Holo May. Do you own one or the other of these dacs? It seems @abramsmatch might slightly prefer the MA3 across the board. Is that somehow upsetting you? If he ends up preferring the May is that going to be of some relief? Give him a break, you seem to imply he should have two complete and identical setups in order to properly evauluate two $10,000 digital setups. That would indeed be “utter nonsense”. Thanks for posting @abramsmatch 

Do you own one or the other of these dacs? It seems @abramsmatch might slightly prefer the MA3 across the board. Is that somehow upsetting you? If he ends up preferring the May is that going to be of some relief?

Of late this seems to be the trend for a few people in this forum. The moment someone chooses a component that they do not agree with, these posters feel offended and start cussing. I experienced this on another thread too. Not sure why they take this personally.

@milpai +1 well said. Its almost like they buy a component and then anything they read that doessn’t proclaim their choice as revolutionary, they slam the review. Keep it up @abramsmatch because your impressions, which happen to be exactly what the OP was asking for, matter more than the occasional sniper.



@abramsmatch has indicated that these two dacs are both exceptional, sound very close with the May sounding a touch warmer. To some “warmer” is a desired trait, to others it may not be. Horses for courses. Are you showing the photos of the inside because you believe more stuff inside means something or less stuff inside means something? Of course a resistor ladder takes up alot of space as does the power supply topology. These two terrific dacs accomplish the goal of reproducing great music in different ways. I’m also certain both companies pay talented people fair wages and that service after the sale is both accessable, professional and easy to obtain.


Full disclosure: I own two MA3’s and one Totaldac. Love both for different reasons…


"Calling China a communist country is laughable. They are "communists" when it suits them but in reality they are one of the most capitalist countries in the world, raw unbridled capitalism.

Unfortunately the economic systems they choose are overshadowed by totalitarianism which is why I prefer to send my money elsewhere when I have a choice."

Spot on!!!

Im not familiar with the Meitner MA3 though I’ve listened to the Meitner MA 1 V2 dac recently using a Korean manufactured server brand Rose Audio 150B  astounding , what I experienced its been constantly on my mind I’m seriously considering this combination.
There is much to like , the sound quality is exceptionally good and with some of the options and flexibility of the Rose server like 4K video feed to a 4K enabled TV is something to experience however the Meitner dac took the overall enjoyment up a couple levels.

Has anyone any newer comparisons to share about the difference between the May and the MA3 sonically?  I've had a May KTE for 2 years, and thinking of the MA3. 

I’ve owned both now, the Meitner is superior in every sense. Of course, it costs more but the inclusion of volume control and streaming capabilities more than makes up for difference in price. That’s not to say the Holo is a slouch, it’s very good, the Meitner is just in another class in my opinion.