Modded Orchid MHDT vs. Holo Audio May DAC

I had the chance to do a shootout with the MHDT Orchid vs. the Holo Audio May DAC in a very high end system. Both R2R but the MHDT also has a tube. The Holo line does not. In the system, there was a linear power feeding a Pi with an Allo hat as the streamer, a modified Bent preamp, an external crossover controlling large well made two-way speakers with Beyma AMT tweeters run by Coincident monoblocks.

We went back and forth for over an hour with my Orchid (modded by Grannyring) vs. the Holo. The MHDT held its own pretty well but...the Holo Audio had better separation, more clarity of texture, wider soundstage, just a richer tonality overall. Bass was better.

The owner of the Holo Audio May DAC also fixes LampiZators and finds the Holo Audio May and Spring DACs to be superior in his system, at a fraction of the cost.

The May is more than the Spring, in part because it has a separate power supply. He owns both the May and the Spring, and he thinks the Spring takes him about 90-95% of the way to the May.

If I were to ever trade up from my MHDT DAC, I’d look very hard at the Spring. I’d be tempted to do a shootout between the Holo and the Audio Tubador III.

Do I now feel dissatisfied with my Orchid? Well, not exactly. I strongly suspect that in my far less resolving system, I’d not hear nearly the difference between it and the Holo line. That said, I have had a peek through the keyhole and have seen a lovely lady holding an apple.


Nice mini review. The Holo also costs about 3x the MHDT. So it should sound better. But even after you get the Holo Spring or May, there is still something better. My goal is to satisfy myself with the sound that is reproduced.

Being a lone "audiophile" in fly over country of TN, I won't get a chance to listen to the Holo May. I sometimes think that is a blessing since I don't get to look at the lovely lady's charms. I am but a sailor on Ulysses ship with my ear plugs to keep me from the Siren's song. Right now, you are Ulysses tied to the mast. Question is, how long can the ropes hold you? Hopefully, til the Siren's song is silenced. But is it ever silenced in our minds once it is heard? 😉😀

Has anyone done a comparison with a heavily  modded orchid versus the Pagoda balanced? Or pagoda against the may?  I have a pagoda and will one day be looking for an upgrade. 

@artemus_5 Good points!

I suppose if the Spring gets one 90% of the way to the May, and one sees the Spring at a good price -- take a look on Hifi Shark and you’ll see various levels of the Spring selling at $1k, $2k, $3k or thereabouts...

-- then one has very economically upgraded from the MHDT (modded, it’s about $1600 all added up) for perhaps no more money. The modded Orchids are selling recently from $1200-$1500. Virtually 90% of MSRP. 


Thanks for the comparison/review. I usually find these type of comparisons from actual users (not reviewers) to be the most helpful when zeroing in on a short list for component selection.

I took a chance on a L2 Holo May late last year and immediately felt guilty for dropping that much on a DAC, but it turned out to offer the single largest improvement I've had in my system over the years. DACs really do make a difference. I would have loved the chance to compare the May to the likes of the Mearson, Sonnet, and Mojo Audio units.


@yakbob  My pleasure. I was grateful to have a local audiophile with much more experience help set up the comparison -- and on a much better and revealing system.

He has been around the block for 40 years -- he builds stuff (amplifiers, preamps, crossovers, power supplies, etc.) and fixes stuff (including Dacs). Plus, he has a great ear. So, hearing that he was completely in love with the Holo Spring and May made me want to hear them. And, yes, I stuck my neck out by comparing my beloved Orchid with the Holo stuff. And, yes, it was objectively obvious that the May was different (and arguably better, depending on what one likes). After each song comparison, we discussed what we had just heard. We agreed, over and over again. DACs make a big difference -- which I knew -- but it's nice to get confirmation.

I also would like to hear the other ones you mention, the Mojo, in particular.


nice report, thanks, but as @artemus_5 says, holo may is 6 grand, a modded mhdt orchid about $1700-1800 (btw, what tube did you use in orchid?) -- may should indeed be a lot better... be a real problem if it weren’t

parenthetically -- i had a vlad’s audio mirror tubador dac... i would say it is quite close to the modded mhdt in flavor/quality/presentation, it was slightly sibilant though...

the may would play in a tier price wise with weiss 501, upper chords, bricasti, top denafrips, lampizators, audio note, mojo etc etc... am sure you have seen verdant’s nice long-running thread on dacs of that tier -- in that company the may should be fairly comparable i would imagine


can you provide a list of the songs music you listened to for comparison.

I have been struggling with pulling the trigger on a new dac snd have been close with the spring until I read a review that mentioned it did not play nice with heavier rock. The majority of my listening is electric guitar blues and rock with very little jazz thrown in. The reviewer just felt the spring was better at acoustic guitar and with metal there was just to much going on for it to separate out the individual instruments.

what does your comparison conclude from your music choices. Thank you for helping a brother making a wise choice that I can live with for a long time.


as @artemus_5 says, holo may is 6 grand, a modded mhdt orchid about $1700-1800 (btw, what tube did you use in orchid?) -- may should indeed be a lot better... be a real problem if it weren’t

Understood. But just to repeat the reasoning I put in a different post...

(a) the Holo Spring gets to about 90% of the way to the Holo May
(b) The Holo Spring can be found used for between $1 and $2k (check hifi Shark and you’ll see it can)
(c) One can jump to the next tier of DAC without spending $6k or even $3k. One might not even spend more than a new Orchid plus mods.

A lot depends on premise (a), the Holo Spring being nearly the level of the Holo May.

Tube in Orchid was a Tesla 6CC42.




Here's the listening list. No rock or heavy rock. Didn't listen to the Holo Spring, only the Holo May. Good luck!

Regula Muhlmann -- Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio (mozart, Kammerorchester basel)

Barb Jungr -- Who do you love (Walking in the Sun)

Count Basie -- Contractors Blues and 88 Basie Streen (88 Basie st.)

Gregory Porter -- Lonesome Lover (Liquid Spirit)



if you haven't seen this one, it is worth a watch - his is a good, credible reviewer, careful in his approach and what he says


@jjss49 The video was helpful. It put the Holo Audio craze into some perspective, especially insofar as the Schiit Iggy and the Chord Hugo TT2 dac comparisons. I'm happy to cool my jets a bit on Holo Audio Envy for a while.