Special thanks to SBAF and loaning this unit out. I’m very thankful for the opportunities to try gear out by loaner programs. 

This shoot-out was done with only the following gear. More revealing headphones and amps may do a better job. At this time I am in between gear and am using what I have while waiting for other gear to arrive. But due to loaner rules and  restrictions I must be respectful of my time with the unit and make do with what I have. 

Imac/Audirvana Plus/Ethernet/Rednet 3/AES/PAVANE AND HOLO/Pioneer RM-07s/Modified HD6XXs/Pioneer HRM-07

The Holo was used in NOS mode only. 


Fleet Foxes – The Shrine/ An Argument 24/96

The stringed instrument starts off and resonates a little harder on the Holo as well as his voice

The consonant “I” is stronger on Holo but sounds a little more forced and clipped.

“And I wonder” Is more smooth on the Pavane and more laid back. It swells in volume more politely.

On the Pavane the instruments are better separated from his voice also the voice is a little further on the Pavane. The instruments sound more crowded on the Holo.

On the Holo the echoes resonate richer and more intensely making the individual plucks a little less distinguishable but also more vibrant

The Pavane has a little bit better micro dynamics on this song it seems. @0:59 seconds the strumming is more detailed and less blended.

The end of the song at about 7:19 sounds a little more messy on the Holo. While the definition region of 6-10 khz sounds more full, the instruments mash together. The tones are enjoyable on the Holo but that segment is purposefully messy. The Pavane sounds like it organizes the mess better and makes it sound sweet while the Holo makes it sound like it is forcing the mess to sound good.

The Pavane does make that segment sound a little more compressed though. If I could have the intensity of the Holo and the micro dynamics and separation of the Pavane that would make it ideal. Yet the Pavane overall does better in this segment of the song to me.


Alabama Shakes – Sound and Color 24/44.1

Micro dynamics, details, and separation confirmed in the favor of the Pavane

The Snare thwack though is more punchy and vibrant on the Holo

The bass kick when the rhythm drops @1:01 seconds is more vigorous on the Holo and more engaging.

Bass drop is a bit more forceful and makes me want to level match better. Even so the Holo hits slightly harder it seems. The Pavane still sounds punchy with this song but just a little less snappy on the drum work.

The harmonies of the vocals are less blended on the Pavane but more tangible on the Holo. The Pavane makes the voices sound a little more flat and muffled on this song. The Holo makes them cut through the recording. Both are clear but the Pavane doesn’t present the energy of this song as good as the Holo. A song like this sounds better on the Holo to me. This song is all about strong tones, round instruments and snappy drum kicks with hard bass and I give the nod to the Holo here.


Bob Moses – Nothing At All

More vibrant on the Holo and more flat sounding and lifeless on the Pavane.

More peakiness on the Holo

I use this song to test the bass and both sound full and deep but the Holo is ever slightly more engaging.


Angelique Kidio – Fifa 24/88.2

Her voice is more bold and assertive on the Holo but also a little more in your face. I love the tone of her voice on the Holo. It is strong and realistic. The strings around her voice really swell up with good energy on the holo when she sings louder. The intent of the recording is very well captured because the holo makes the energy of the song a little more tangible than the Pavane.

The Pavane is a little softer but still does really well. However her voice is pushed back slightly and the background vocals are better separated from her. The softs are softer on the Pavane and even further back but when the song gets loud it offers more contrast of intensity as the Holo kind of squelches the change of volume and keeps everything a little more intense when compared to the Pavane. That’s not to say that the holo doesn’t reveal the contrasts but I personally feel like I am hearing the differences of intensities better on the Pavane.

The timbre of her voice has a consistent focus on from 1-4 khz that can become a little bit too persistent now that I know it’s there. It does add make the emotion of the song more convincing but it keeps sounding forced as I continue listening to her album.

The Pavane draws less attention to any specific part of the frequency range but again is a little soft sometimes.


Kailin Ellis – Chow Mein 16/44.1 flac

There is a little bit of ouch from the Holo on the treble. It’s a little much on this song with the Holo (my amp is definitely not helping here) but I blame the recording because I know the Holo isn’t bright.

The Pavane seems a lot more spacious on this song. If you go to listen to it you may not consider it a good test song but that’s fine. I’m a hip hop head. What I grew up around sounds a lot more grungy and low fi than this and I play lot’s of it.

The Pavane is more holographic for sure though just a little softer as is consistently mentioned throughout these notes.

Bass sounds equal as far as tone and texture goes as well as control. Even when I try my best at level matching though the Pavane is slightly less punchy but is as controlled with these headphones. Maybe a higher tier can show differences better. My 650 is modded and the bass sounds a lot tighter than stock so it hits harder now but even so they sound the same as far as quality goes.



A lot of repetition from above but laid out easier by aspect. 


BASS: The bass slams a little bit harder on the Holo DAC. The Pavane is just as tight and controlled so the basically have identical quality, just slightly less quantity on the Pavane. Both have very good focus, texture and balance but the Holo is more engaging by a little bit.

LOWER MIDRANGE: The lower mids of the Holo sound balanced as well as the Pavane. They are not thick on either. Actually the Pavane’s balance makes it seem as if its a little more warm here but that is only when isolating this range and honing in on it.

MIDRANGE PROPER: The Holo is more rich and in your face from here up but here you can tell that the Holo is more physical. It is more pronounced and emboldened than the Pavane.

UPPER MIDRANGE:  The Pavane is a lot more even handed and serene in comparison to the Holo. It is not with drawn but I feel that the Pavane actually is relatively flat and neutral instead of withdrawn. The Holo is more assertive and aggressive in the upper midrange. It kind of sounds a little unnaturally forceful here to me, yet and still the Pavane is a little soft to me as well. Reality lies in between the two but closer to the Pavane to me. If the Pavane was more expressive in energy it would sound more realistic than the Holo to my ears. As pointed out in the above, the Holo places a magnifying glass on this section.

TREBLE: The treble is a little more snappy sounding to me on the Holo. Body and density seem very similar here. They both have good focus but the Pavane is more nimble in how it handles snares and high hats. And the Holo is slightly more lit and animated. The Pavane makes cymbals sound more graceful but the Holo sounds a little more casual and frantic. Neither are dark or glaring and both sound natural to me so please DO apply the words slightly to most aspects in this comparison, especially here of all places.

SOUNDSTAGE: At first take I thought the Holo had more dimension because the way it would make instruments pop out better than the Pavane does but here is the no contest area. The Pavane is deeper and wider than the Holo DAC. The Pavane places the center image a little further away and with better precision than the Holo does

IMAGING/SEPARATION: Placements are better on the Pavane but seem a little taller on the Level 3 DAC. The separation and placement of those images though are easier to hone in on with the PAVANE. The Holo sounds more congealed and blended in comparison. I find it the Holo to have adequate soundstage and separation but the Pavane is better here.


BLACKNESS OF BACKGROUND: Really tough to tell with the gear I have now because I do not consider the Cayin iHA6, The Trafomatic, or 650 super clean. The modded 650 I don’t think hinders anything but the amps do. What I can say is that sounds seem to come out from the background with better individuality on the Pavane.

RESOLUTION OF TEXTURES: The Holo is good with textures. The Pavane is more soft and while I hear the textures just as well, the energy of the Holo seems to make those textures more readily available. Both of them sound a little smoother than what I imagine the information of the recording really has inside of it.

MACRODYNAMICS: This is a tough one. Yeah the Holo has more energy and makes the instruments hit harder. I had to keep turning the Pavane up to double check the differences but even so, while the Pavane didn’t have as strong of a Macro Peak, it had a deeper trough than the Holo. So the soft to loud contrasts seemed more apparent on the on the Pavane. I think that may call for a diagram(see below).


MICRODYNAMICS: This is an area of certainty. The Pavane has more micro dynamics. Not only can I hear the micro dynamics better on the Pavane, there is less blending of details so it’s easier to hear the softs in a multitude of strokes on a background guitar. The little hand percussion’s and background clicks sound not only less crowded on the Pavane but are also more traceable with better nuance.



Overall I would love to own both DACs but for the things the HOLO does better than the PAVANE I would just skip NOS all together and pick up a yggy or something so I can have a totally different set of aspects to counter the Pavane. I like my Pavane though and I know that the areas the Holo focuses on will only make certain gear sound worse and for that the Pavane is the better all arounder to me. For example If I had the ifi Pro it would help its upper midrange sound more balanced but the soundstage would close in more than it already did with my Pavane. 

The Pavane is a little smooth though. After comparing both DACs I had a the feeling that I wanted the transients to have better edge to them on both dacs. The Pavane’s sound makes me want this a little more than if I were to have the Holo. I think the Pavane would work well with some edgy planars. If I had the Ether Flow, the Holo, and my Cayin I believe that would be too much shoutiness going on there but I can only guess having heard them individually but not together. 

Which is the better DAC? I think the Pavane is but being technically better doesn’t tell the whole story. The holo being more lively but just as clear can offer more fun. Fun is worth paying for. I think they are both built very well but I like the more modern aesthetics of the Holo. Would I sell the Pavane and get a Holo so I can pocket the change and get more gear? NOPE. I feel like the Pavane is better balanced and those nuances are special to me. 

PAVANE for me but these differences may be exaggerated when laid out like this. The amps sound similar enough to be satisfied with either. 



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