Holo May KTE vs Meitner MA3

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


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.