Review: Holo May (L2) DAC and the Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 DAC Compaired

Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 DAC and the Holo May (L2) DAC Compared

A comparison of these two DACs is something I wanted to do for months given the numerous stellar reviews of the May and the widely unknown, but highly praised, 005. Those of us who own the 005 believe it is an undiscovered gem. I bought the 005 initially because it was cheaper (approximately 3K) and because of the wonderful experience I had with it’s predecessor, the 004. After hearing and greatly enjoying the 005, I found it hard to believe any DAC could be significantly better. Eventually my curiosity got the best of me and I had to find out. There were no comparative reviews. After selling some equipment that I wasn’t using for a few thousand dollars, I coughed up the 5K to buy it, thinking I could always sell it if I didn’t love it more than the 005.

After about approximately 500 hours of break in, as recommended by the manufacturer, the May was ready to compare with the 005.

First, before I begin, the reader should know my perspective and preferences. I started out in my teens and early 20s, during the 60s and early 70s, as mostly a rock and roll fan with some rhythm and blues and folk music thrown in. Around 1971 I found a lack of good new rock music (the Beatles broke up, the Stones became inactive, and Dylan had a motorcycle accident). So I tried some classical. At first I found it boring but very gradually over the years I became addicted. When I moved to Manhattan, I went to classical music concerts frequently and eventually subscribed to the New York Philharmonic. I continued my subscription for over 20 years. In addition to orchestral music I attended chamber concerts and some opera.

My perspective favors live natural acoustic music, though I still love classic rock and oldies. To me the preferred audio sound is one that feels like a real event, a live, in the room, palpable presence. Natural resolution and detail is essential. (In physics lingo, my goal is to hear all the overtones, on top of the fundamental sine wave, which define the timbre of a real world instrument or voice.) I seek a sound that is accurate and clear, but slightly warm, conveying rich but realistic lower mid-range and upper bass much like what you would hear in Carnegie Hall or Symphony Hall in Boston.

Many music lovers are not into classical so the music referred to below may be unfamiliar. Nevertheless, the conclusions I’ve made as to sound should have relevance to all genres.


I fed both dacs via computers (an Asus mini and an Asus laptop) because I had two. Thus I could do quick comparisons by preamp input switching. I recently bought an Ifi Zen Stream network bridge/streamer which, after some frustration, I hooked up via ethernet cable. Since I only had one I could not use it to do quick comparisons between the two DACs.

For the record, the 005 fed by the Zen Stream via usb did improve the sound by lifting a slight veil of haze, which you might not know was present until it was removed. With the May a slight improvement might have also occurred, but the effect was less clear to me, because I didn’t have time to do much listening with and without the network bridge.

Both DACs were played through a Hegel P30 preamp to a McIntosh MC402 amp, then to Kef Reference 1 speakers and two SVS sb-3000 subwoofers crossed over at 46hz.


I began with critical listening focused on sound quality using a/b switching. Generally, I would listen for about a minute or less to one then switch to the other to hear the same passage.

I will report in the future on longer term impressions after living with these DACs for a few weeks.

I started with the following music tracks. I chose them to facilitate focusing on certain sonic elements listed in parenthesis below:

1. Solo piano: Beethoven Appassionata (transient attack and decay, timbre/overtones, micro detail, clarity)
2. Violin Sonata: No 1 Prokofiev (timbre/overtones)
3. Piano trio: Beethoven “Ghost” (imaging)
4. An aria from an Oratorio by Handel entitled Theodora (imaging, female voice, hall ambiance)
5. Large orchestra, soloists, chorus, and massed strings. Mahler Symphony no. 2, final movement. (congestion, hall ambience and depth, width, and imaging)
6. Light My Fire, Doors (energy, rhythm, male voice)
7. Sunshine of My Love, The Cream (drums, energy, rhythm, male voice)

Round 1
The Solo piano test. I choose Beethoven’s Appassionata played by Arthur Rubinstein. I think a solo piano reveals transient speed, attack (leading edge of the note), and decay like no other instrument.

It was almost a tie in these sonic qualities. Both were excellent. The 005 to my ear had slightly better definition and decay. The May had a slightly richer bass tone and was solid and very pleasing. The 005 was leaner but had more sparkle, capturing all the natural overtones on higher notes.

Round 2
Violin Sonata: No 1 Prokofiev performed by Vicktoria Mullova.

The results were similar to the piano test. The 005 clearly had better reproduction of the natural overtones of the violin. The May was bassier, with the music emerging from a blacker background.

Round 3
Beethoven’s “Ghost” Trio for piano violin and cello performed by Istomin, Stern, and Rose.

Imaging was about equal with each instrument appearing in space laterally where it should. The 005 placed the instruments more forward as if your were seated closer to the stage. The blacker background of the May made the separation of the instruments clearer, but the warmth made the musicians seem more recessed, as if your seat was well behind the 005 “seat”. The May sounded slightly soft but was solid, beautiful, and addictive, if not completely convincing on vivid violin timbre.

Round 4

Next, I played an aria from Handel’s Theodora, sung by the late and brilliant mezzo soprano Loraine Hunt Lieberson. It consists of the vocalist supported by a cello and harpsichord (basso continuo). I chose this because the recording contains only two instruments and a singer. It thus presents a good opportunity to clearly hear imaging and hall ambiance in addition to providing a well defined lower midrange and bass line, and a beautiful female voice.

Both the May and the 005 sounded completely convincing and beautiful, especially in realistic tonal balance, including rich bass and a clear cello, harpsichord, and voice. The sound field width had the same realism in both. Loraine’s voice image was more natural in space, clearer, with a touch more air on the 005. The May had a bit less clarity, as it sounded further away, but was a tad smoother in texture.

Round 5
Mahler Symphony no. 2, final movement. Bruno Walter, the New York Philharmonic. A large orchestra and chorus with soloists is a good test of dynamics, detail, sound stage/ability to retrieve hall ambiance, clarity, and imaging.

The two DACs were equal in dynamics but the 005 was superior in every other way. The 005 picked up more air in the hall, exhibited no congestion between instruments, produced a deeper more natural sound stage, not by virtue of more bass, but more air or hall ambiance. In this case better hall ambiance produced more vivid imaging. The 005 was vivid and conveyed more emotion. Chorus voices were not as distinct in the May. Vocal soloists were clearer in the Musetec.

Round 6
Light My Fire, Doors (energy, rhythm, male voice)
Very close in all aspects. The 005 seemed to articulate higher frequencies better and thus had appropriate edginess.

Round 7
Sunshine of My love, The Cream (Drums, energy, rhythm, male voice)
Again, very close in all aspects. I can’t tell the difference.

First and foremost these DACs were both excellent in every category. At times during the A/B listening I could not tell them apart. To be sure, they are different, but if a listener familiar with the sound of both walked into a room without knowing which DAC was playing, it would not be surprising if he or she guessed wrong. The take-away is, in my opinion, they are both in the same class. The point of this exercise though is primarily to determine their differences.

As I said earlier, the live realistic character of the sound wave comes, in large part, from capturing all the overtones. This gives accurate timbre and detail. The 005 has more than the May. Another component of realism, in my opinion, is solidity of texture and prominence of the sound emerging from the background (black or zero background noise). The May has more of this.

In fact, the May’s blacker background is like nothing I’ve ever heard. It has an uncanny realism, solidity, and ease. It sounds like the very best vinyl. Smooth always listenable and engaging. Overall it is sweeter and softer than the Musetec. Probably even more so than actual live music. I call this natural texture, for lack of a better term.

In sum: sound texture May wins; Realistic space, detail, micro dynamics, and high frequency energy, the 005 wins. Clearly the Musetec works best if listening to a large orchestra where details, hall ambience, and clarity (lack of congestion) are priorities.

If the price were the same then take your pick, they are in the same class. Choose the May if you like two teaspoons of sugar and a little extra cream in your half caf coffee, the 005 if you like your coffee “regular”, as New Yorkers say. But for a $2K difference in price the 005 wins. Even if you lean toward the analog sound of the May you can take the $2,000 saved to tweak the 005 to sound more like the May by adding a nice tube preamp or warmer/smoother sounding cables. If you outright prefer the 005, you have an extra $2,000 in your pocket.
Melm, thank you for the detailed comments.  I will definitely check out that thread.    It just happens that my MacMini server and Sonore ultraRendu seems to have crapped out and needs to be addressed.  Before getting the new DAC I want to make sure that I fix my network and have the ability to use HQP.

That gets to the question of how to allocate funds between the server and DAC.  There is no right or wrong answer to that question.
Just got my 005 and my jaw hit the floor upon first listen. Only got about an hour worth of listening, but immediately I knew it was something special after the first test track. Big step up from my Gustard X26 Pro.

Thanks for the review @dbb
@ja_kub_sz Do you like the 005 more than the Gustard X26 Pro because it is more detailed? I also have the Gustard X26 Pro and I like it a lot but I do realize it is not as detailed as my Benchmark DAC3B and Topping D90SE, though the X26 Pro is warmer.
Wonderful post. A few qualifications to the comparison (and sorry if these are obvious or were already noted):

(1) The source(s) could be a meaningful limiting factor. A regular laptop --> USB cable --> DAC is not a great digital source. So it's possible that one of the DACs has a significantly higher ceiling than the other, but it wasn't heard because the source(s) limited what could be heard.

(2) In my experience, living with a product for at least a month is more meaningful than quick A/B comparisons on the fly. Exit "reviewer comparison" mode and let a product speak on its own terms. Settle into the music. How happy does the new product make you, considered on its own terms? It appears that this was just quick A/B comparisons on the fly. Not nothing, but not the whole story.

(3) Hometown advantage. The reviewer appears to be a long-time Musetec/LKS user and presumably likes the "house sound" and has a system that synergizes well with it. A new product is dropped into the system, with no other adjustments made to synergize with the new product. A necessary evil of doing (close to) an apples to apples comparison, but this is a (perhaps inevitable) weakness of the approach.

Again, I do not want to detract from the review, which I enjoyed. Just want to point out the perhaps necessary limitations of a review of this kind. It should go without saying, but in the audiophile conversations I have in real life from time to time, it seems these types of limitations are easily forgotten (even by folks -- like dealers... --- who should know better).

For what it's worth, I don't have a DAC in this race and haven't heard either. But this review makes me want to listen to both. That's the sign of a good review.
@metaldetektor "(1) The source(s) could be a meaningful limiting factor. A regular laptop --> USB cable --> DAC is not a great digital source. So it’s possible that one of the DACs has a significantly higher ceiling than the other, but it wasn’t heard because the source(s) limited what could be heard."

Yes it’s possible. I don’t have two network bridges to make that comparison, as I said in the review. You point is a theoretical possibility.

"(2) In my experience, living with a product for at least a month is more meaningful than quick A/B comparisons on the fly. Exit "reviewer comparison" mode and let a product speak on its own terms. Settle into the music. How happy does the new product make you, considered on its own terms? It appears that this was just quick A/B comparisons on the fly. Not nothing, but not the whole story."

Yes. I said in the review I would report back after a few weeks. I hesitated to do that because the more I listened the more it confirmed my initial impressions stated in the review. I would not change my basic conclusions. I have very little to add. I would add this. Over time I felt I was missing musical information when I listened to the May. At times the May seemed to allow more space between instruments or musicians which at first I believed to be a good thing. I came to realize that this was because the May was omitting sound to get this effect. Much like an artist using charcoal shade to create a 3d effect. I decided to sell the May. Not because it is objectively inferior, but it does not satisfy my preference for realism which comes from concert going experience. Different strokes for different folks.

You last point on pro-Mustec bias is well taken. Who doesn’t like to root for the underdog? Yes, I have been happy with their "objective" house sound. In my case, at least, there was a countervailing bias, which was to get my money’s worth on a $5,000 purchase. Since I spent the money on the May, I truly was hoping I would obtain $2,000 worth of improvement. I would have gladly sold the Mustec. Didn’t happen. Now I’m likely to take a financial loss on the purchase of the May.

@dbb Appreciate the thoughtful follow-up. Your note about the charcoal-shading effect of the May is especially interesting. Not about the May specifically as far as I'm aware, but I think that's what reviewers mean when they refer to a given piece of gear as "sculpting" music a certain way. Sculpted music can still feel real and alive, maybe even more so, just as there can be more truth in a novel than in a documentary. Stephen Crane didn't fight in the Civil War, but his novel punched me like the truth. But that's a broader conversation about what we want from a stereo system. 

As-new Denafrips DACs (where folks buy for review purposes) seem to trade with minimal loss, so I expect you'll sell the May in relatively short order. The May has gotten so much attention in the hifi press, it's understandable that you had to know for yourself what it could do in your system. I'd love to know what the "real" price of the May is (minus the distributor mark-up) -- I expect it's fairly close to the Musetec's factory-direct price.

Can anyone weigh about the presence or absence of higher frequency digital glare in the 005, in a tube-based system?

I am following this thread, and others about this DAC. I’m considering an upgrade from a Holo Spring 1 KTE Dac. It’s paired with Audio Research Ref75 amp and an LS 28 pre; feeding ProAc 30 DR speakers. I like the combo a lot because of its black background, sound stage and holographic quality. Nonetheless, I am considering upgrading.

I’ve owned Delta-Sigma and ES chipset DACs and while I liked the higher resolution, the digital glare killed my ears because I’ve developed sensitivities to higher frequencies as I have aged.

Thoughts? It will be much appreciated.

@wharfy. I agree with sns as he stated in the 005 thread.. I find the 005 to have no glare or high frequency irritation. You will hear the truth. No sugar coated gloss.

That being said, listening is highly personal. Sometimes a violin, for example, can sound harsh in real life to some. I think the answer could be high quality tone controls, but the dilemma is that you might lose resolution.

My new Musetec 005 arrived last night and is up and running.   After getting 100 to 200 hours on it I will report back on my impressions.

i am planning to replace the fuse.  Based on the head-fi thread, I understand that it has a short 3.15 amp slow blow fuse.  For those owners on this thread, is that correct and would you recommend using the same amperage for a new fuse?

I believe that's correct amperage. I've been running with 5a Synergistic Orange that I had as spare. I'd replace with stock, although keep in mind this dac uses supercapcitors in power supply, may have enough inrush current to blow  equivalent amp boutique fuse.


Well documented over the years boutique tubes blow in certain equipment due to inrush current. Current thread on Acme fuse hits on this a bit. Having said that, the only blown boutique fuse failures I've experienced are with 2 845 SET amps, these are extremely high current, high voltage amps. Over many years, much equipment, boutique fuses never a problem.

Thanks for the note. That seems like a high amperage fuse for a DAC but I am not going to go down to a lower number.   I am looking forward to hearing this.  After listening to the Holo Spring for  two years, it will be interesting to go back to a Sabre DAC and compare.

Seems like we're getting a lot of comparisons to Holo dacs, interesting that R2R users want to try 005 and/or Sabre chip dac, reportedly very different sound qualities, at least up to now. Could it be different dac topologies are converging? Reportedly, latest R2R dacs increasingly resolving, ESS dacs more organic, natural, at least in case of 005.


In any case, all new users please report back on your impressions, a quality dac should perform well in a wide variety of systems.  

"That being said, the Musetec does a much finer job than the LKS on all the digital configurations so any sonic improvement may be more subtle than on the LKS."

I thought Mustec and LKS were the same company?


You quoted my post.  The company is Musheng Audio ( 沐声音频 ).

Just as Holo makes the Spring DAC and the May DAC, they make the LKS DACs and the Musetec DAC. The Musetec is their current statement DAC.

I sometimes call the company Musetec as it is close to their actual name.

They also make other related products.

It would be interesting to do the comparison with a quality level streamer.  I would think differences between the two units would become even more apparent.


I mention in my original review that I would report back after listening to music from the May for a few days. This time the listening was in a normal manner without labored A/B comparisons. My original conclusions did not change. 

Since, in my case, the sound of a live concert is a priority, I preferred the realistic detail of the Mustec. The May still had a more natural texture with a black background which is a huge achievement. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help feeling I was missing some of the life of the music when I was listening to the May.

I also felt that the May was manipulating the sound in a generally pleasant way, but not in a way that enhanced the illusion of live music. 

I will explain. One of observations I made in my original review was that, on some tracks, the May was providing more separation between instruments and voices in chamber and small ensembles, but yet gave the illusion that the seat was further back because it captured less detail. This is the opposite of reality where moving closer to the performers increases detail and separation. Also the May seemed to create a 3-d effect to some degree, by putting black silence between the instruments and thus blotting out some detail, much as an artist would use charcoal to create depth in a drawing.


Goldensound in his YouTube review of the May commented that the input/receiver hardware was of such high quality that it didn’t matter what source was used, even a gaming computer. He aparently did not formally test this.

I found the Musetec improved with my Ifi Zen streamer/network bridge, but couldn’t tell with the May. I’ve since sold the May so I can’t explore it further.

Great review!  I still love my May KTE but am always interested in reading what others think about the May and comparable gear.  To me it feels like we are in a golden age of DAC development.  

My 005 was scheduled for delivery today, then last week they said Dec 1st. However, I received it today as originally scheduled. This is the second time this type of shipping happened. The first was with the Gustard X26 Pro from the same seller.

Unit seems rather substantial, with the heavy weight and startup sequence. Sounds good on first listen and the unit is still chilly cold from shipping.

I was wondering if anyone can tell me exactly what the 15 DPLL Modes do?


The 005 now has 150 hours on it and has a SR purple fuse inserted.  I won’t go into a long review but will happily say that I don’t  regret my decision to buy this DAC.  Soundstage, detail, and a palpable presence to the music make this a big winner.  

 I am coming from the Holo Spring 2 KTE which is also a wonderful DAC.  In comparison, the  005 has more meat on the bones and presents a fuller sonic picture.  I would love to hear both the 005 and the May but at a difference of $2k, I am more than content to stick with the 005.

Nice to hear you are happy with the 005. From what I have heard, the Spring sounds like the May. Odds are since you prefer the 005 to the Spring, you would prefer it to the May too. The 005 at around 3k, is beginning to look like a giant killer, especially for the price.

Thanks so much for the wonderful review.  I've been reading this thread and others about the Musetec extensively in recent days.  All of the excitement from the owners is enticing.  But I wonder if you or anyone could comment on whether the difference between the L2 and KTE versions of the May might play some role in this comparison.  Didn't the Goldensound reviewer have the KTE version?  Has anyone directly compared L2 to KTE to know whether KTE is more refined/detailed, and by how much? 

DBB, can you comment on your reasoning for going with the L2 vs the KTE?  I thought I read somewhere that you based it on some Youtube reviews, but you didn't explain what in those reviews led you to choose the L2.  Is there something suspect about the KTE version in your eyes?  Or was it just price/value?  


I purchased the L2 version instead of the KTE because Goldensound in his YouTube review compared them and, in substance, said there was not a significant difference.  


If he said there was a big difference, I would have bought the KTE version for comparison purposes.

Thanks for clarifying!  I guess I must have skipped that part when I skimmed his video.

@dbb Thanks again for such fabulous reviews of the May and 005. My main playlist comprises of 60s and 70s rock so I was glad you included Cream and The Doors in your review.

The 005 strongly pulls me because I don't want a two box system so I was considering the Spring 3 KTE with pre-amp, but after re-reading your reviews many times I guess it's got to be the 005.

However there's just one thing before I pull the trigger and that's the DSD capabilities of the 005. I've gone through the DSD specs as published online but they  don't seem very complete. The May and Spring 3 both have separate DSD DACs.

Your reply is highly appreciated.


I have a few dozen native DSD (dsf) files. I feel that the Musetec does a beautiful job with them. I believed from the beginning that DSD sounded better than PCM but given the advances in dacs over the last 5 to 10 years, I’m no longer sure I still believe that. I don’t know if I could tell the difference between the PCM layer and the DSD layer of a hybrid recording in a blind test with the Musetec. I didn’t think I could make useful comments on the DSD sound.

I can say the May, as I recall, did sound a little different when playing DSD compared to it’s PCM playback. Again, not so to my ear with the 005. My recollection was that the difference was discernable but not particularly better or noteworthy with the May. I can’t describe it now and I’m not sure I could when I heard it. I just didn’t spend enough time trying to figure it out.

I had the most trouble distinguishing the difference with the rock tracks I compared in PCM (Musetec versus May) 0so if your hearing is similar it probably won’t be an issue with DSD either. All bets are off if you can hear a significant difference with DSD on the 005.

I hope this helps.

@dbb  Well its got to be the 005. It makes the most sense for me anyway I don't want a two box unit.

I'll post some reviews once I get it.

Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and time.

@genjamon , I went with the L2 May as well.It seemed to be the best bang for the buck. The same Goldensound review helped with my decision. I don't regret a thing.


fyi, I was having difficulty contacting Shenzhen Audio when I used their website but was able to get through when I emailed directly at

They were responsive very quickly when I emailed them this way.  The live "chat" was not working either.

Very interesting thread and a great review, thank you for that.


1) I would like to show us impressions with some ethnic music, especially with African and Eastern musical organs. Dynamics of Natascha Atlas too. Also with male voices like John Campbell. Also recording from Mayo Nakano trio, which are DSD

2) To my opinion DSD has darker background, very quiet but has problem at high frequencies. PCM is better at high frequencies but lacks the dark background. When I first listened to DSD, I was impressed by the low distortion but as time goes by I finally prefer PCM, even if PCM seems more "blurry". Simple CD has the worst distortion of all but if the recording is really good, in the end I prefer better than all the other formats... :(( And I have bought A LOT of music in HD format.... What do you think?


3) I have a topping D90SE because it measured so well.... Total disappointment although I would like very much not to invest to higher price, "neutral" to death, lifeless, dull, no dynamics and yes it lacks detail and I don't know how the hell measurement is that good.... Only good thing it is that it has really good bass with excellent control. Anyway I am in search of new DAC since I hate topping (imagine i now play my old SMSL500). Do you think the 005 will be much better than topping?


When something measures "well" and sounds bad, it doesn’t "really" measure well, it’s just that the wrong thing is being measured. The audio literature is full of measurements that do not translate into sound quality. It’s been going on for generations. Old timers will remember Julian Hirsch in High Fidelity magazine. He submitted meaningless measurements for years, in part because advertisers would not tolerate listening appraisals. They could not argue against measurements. The latest manifestation is represented by Amir’s tests in To him all cables, for example, are the same because he measures them to be the same. Amir either doesn’t listen, or he doesn’t hear very well. Such people sell themselves and others on measurement.

Not to say that the Musetec does not measure well; it does.

As for ethnic music and the like, I play a lot of Balkan ethnic music and a lot of pre-Baroque music with much percussion. Also organ music, and the low frequency response of the Musetec is thrilling if your speakers are up to the task. But if you want to know how it will respond to your precise library, you’ll have to try it for yourself. @dbb used classical music, the most difficult to reproduce properly. Harry Pearson, the dean of audio reviewers, did the same thing. He wrote that if it gets classical music right, it will get everything right.

As for better than the Topping? It has been shown to be better than several others that are better than the Topping. And better than the Topping: read what @yyzsantabarbara has written in the other Musetec thread.

When something measures "well" and sounds bad, it doesn’t "really" measure well, it’s just that the wrong thing is being measured. The audio literature is full of measurements that do not translate into sound quality. It’s been going on for generations. Old timers will remember Julian Hirsch in High Fidelity magazine. He submitted meaningless measurements for years, in part because advertisers would not tolerate listening appraisals. They could not argue against measurements. The latest manifestation is represented by Amir’s tests in To him all cables, for example, are the same because he measures them to be the same. Amir either doesn’t listen, or he doesn’t hear very well. Such people sell themselves and others on measurement.


I think audiophiles are stuck in the 1970’s. They cling to an incident in the history of audio, namely very low THD at a single low frequency that sounded bad, and have used that tired argument for almost 50 years. The issue was understood and most amplifiers today would address this. Those amplifiers had a good measurement at 1 test point, however, if you tested across the full frequency range, if you tested IMD, if you tested at various power levels they did not measure well at all. Check the calendar, it is not 1975 any more. Today whether Stereophile or Amir or whoever, test amplifiers, etc. at 20-20KHz, they test single tone, IMD with a few tones, IMD with many tones (good music simulator), and across frequency and power, and usually at a few different loads.


However, the statement, "If it sounds good, but measures bad, you are measuring the wrong thing", was also from pre-1975. It was wrong then. It is wrong now. Many things that measure bad, are bad. Some things that measure bad, sound good to some people, even a lot of people. These are preference things, and while they have group characteristics, they are also different individual to individual. You can only estimate whether a group of people will prefer them. There is a significant aspect of conditioning in that, but conditioning can be broken.


What measurements are good at is indicating if two things are highly likely to sound exactly the same when the listener does not know what they are listening to. If one is upset by what Amir claims, prove him wrong. I don’t agree with everything Amir does. Some of his tests ignore system issues, and the AP tester is far better designed than most of the audio equipment it tests so it is more immune to system issues. But that is more about system noise, not any number of other claims. I have shown his results to be incorrect at a system level. If you disagree with him, then I suggest doing the same. Prove him wrong.


Very good points by melm and cindyment with one consideration. If it doesn't measure very good but it sounds good (at least to many people) it might be because the other things we don't measure are the ones which matter, maybe on the specific setup. 

I bought the topping because I had to start somewhere and unfortunately in my country, no possibility for tests.... I had the SMSL so it was "reasonable" assumption that D90SE would sound better (and to be honest SMSL sounds extremely good for the price in my system). Anyway, I don't want to persuade any Amir or ASR, I don't care. I only want to make improvements in my system when possible and enjoy the journey I do for 30 years.   


Appreciate all the hard word. As others have noted, way more effort, detail, and process then what we see in professional reviews.

I am slightly worried about the use of two sources, and Windows sources. My first concern is noise from the PCB over USB, and this could be why you noticed a difference changing away from USB on the 005, but not on the May which appears to be a very competent product. The second issue is ensuring the setting were exactly the same on both computer to ensure bit-perfect playback. I missed what you used for S/W, but from experience, it is not hard, but there are some steps to ensuring you are cutting Windows processing out of the audio.

Last question, how did you ensure the two DACs played at the same volume level. Volume plays a big part in tonal balance.

The Topping D90SE sounds very good on my ultra-neutral system, Topping pre90 | Topping D90SE | Benchmark AHB2 x 2 | KEF LS50s. This is in my boy's playroom / livingroom where it is used for background music. I have not found this DAC having very strong bass as mentioned above. For the price I paid it does the job I need.

The Musetec 005 is at another level. I have written previously how much I like this DAC. It has gotten even better as it has played more hours. The bass seems stronger and "juicy" now, for a lack of better description. I seem to like my music even more with the 005. I listened to Jethro Tull's Aqualung last night, and normally I just like the few famous songs on it. However, last night on the 005 each song sounded as good as the others. I was in another room and I heard a WHO song via ROON and I could hear John Entwistle's bass that I never knew was that pronounced on the recording.

I did some apples-to-apples comparisons 2 days agio with my Benchmark DAC3B and the 005 and it was a big win for the 005. I have decided to remove my DAC3B from my office system and move it to my bedroom because there will be no cases where I will listen to the DAC3B over the 005 in my office system. This is the same thing I did when I bought the RAAL SR1a headphones. I sold the Meze Empy headphones afterwards along with a preamp for the headphones (Benchmark HPA4) because I knew given the 2 choices the Empy would never get played again.

@cindyment  I can compare 2 DACs by matching the gain on 2 XLR source inputs on my CODA 07x preamp. I then go to ROON and GROUP the stream for the 2 DACs. I have 2 identical streamers (Sonore OpticalRendu) that is connected to the 2 SFP (Fibre) outputs on my Ubiquiti network switch. So ROON is able to stream 1 song to each DAC at the same time. I can easily switch preamp inputs to instantaneously hear the differences between the 2 DACs. I should really do this with my Benchmark LA4 preamp because it is more revealing but the 07x was able to show me what I wanted to know.


"I am slightly worried about the use of two sources, and Windows sources. My first concern is noise from the PCB over USB, and this could be why you noticed a difference changing away from USB on the 005, but not on the May which appears to be a very competent product. " Possibly, but fIn any case this would give the May an advantage when fed by a computer if it is superior at removing noise.

Both computers were running JRiver. Equal burdens on each. I don’t have the resources to maximize each dac separately with a different setup.

The volume was adjusted manually on the preamp as needed.

That is interesting about the volume drop. Some DACs will insert a processing drop in the volume 3-6db. This is to prevent what are called inter-sample overs. It comes from flawed creation of the digital material. Even though no sample value is beyond the maximum, it can represent a waveform that exceeds the maximum value. This will normally occur in the upsampling filters. A value > maximum is calculated. Reducing the digital values before processing stops this from happening. There is a small reduction in THD+N/SNR, but it is worth the loss.

What I wonder is why it does it from the iFi and not the other source. There could be some handshaking going on with USB.

Please don't be insulted if I ask a dumb question, but was WASAPI selected as the output device on both computers?



D90SE showed to me to have more bass compared to SMSL. It seems more precise but I am not interested much in bass, since I have enormous right now, kicking the couch, so I don’t need more.

I don’t know if my system is neutral, my amps are (designed and measured by me) my room sure isn’t but I do have 140W real pure class A, so bass and detail is tremendous.

But I will for sure I will look at 005 (only thing I don’t see it easily available in Europe)

I'd like to see 005 reviewed on ASR, suspect it will be top notch if not best ever tested. I owned Okto Dac8 stereo concurrently with 005  At the time I owned Okto, it topped measurement hierarchy at ASR, so quite confident 005 would measure at least as good as Okto.


Okto has also received many positive subjective reviews as well, to the point can no longer keep up with orders. Atkinson comparison reviewed against Weiss dac, something like ten times price, did pretty damn well against that dac, 005 better than Okto by fair margin, how it would do directly against Weiss?


My take on measurements is good measurements illustrate good engineering, now as to whether those measurements insure engaging sound quality, who knows? I presume there is much we need to learn, don't have measurement regime that replicates human brain/mind/perceptions. And what about dacs that measure relatively poorly, such as AudioGD?  Many seem to love their dacs. Does this negate validity of ASR measurements?



ASIO was used on both May and 005 for testing. The slight difference between the two dacs in volume via single ended outputs is probably explained by differences in output voltage. The May's output voltage is slightly higher than the 005's.

I don't understand you comment on "volume drop".


I don't understand you comment on "volume drop".

Right now I don't either. I may have confused two threads. I though you had mentioned 1 had some reduced volume when connected to the Zen stream, but I may have misread, confused the threads, or you meant less than the other DAC, not less than on USB direct.

Oh. I get it now. I did make a comment that the may volume was low when I tried it with the Zen Stream. I then removed the comment after a couple of minutes because I thought it was irrelevant to the comparison of two dacs using computers setup in the same way with the same software player and a usb feed.

The answer to why the May had a lower volume using the Zen Stream than computer usb input is a good academic question for the Holo May thread. I have since sold the Holo May.

I know there was volume difference between pcm and dsd and or in general and had to do with the volume setting was not set to 100% at the computer or endpoint.  E.g. you had to go into the Win volume/control panel and set to 100% or in Linux there was an equiv. 

I'm not explaining it exactly as I don't recall the thread, but once it was corrected the vol levels we normal.