Chinese company Holo Audio probably needs no introduction. Anyone who knows anything about digital audio will certainly have heard of their d/a converters. The Holo Audio Spring and May are familiar names by now but it was their preamp, the Holo Audio Serene, that surprised us greatly. This preamp was more insightful and went out of its way even more than the Benchmark HPA4. A impressive performance. This time, however, not a dac or preamp but a colorful streamer with a twist. Meet the Holo Audio Red. Let’s check it out!
For many, the source is the most important component in a hi-fi system, and there is certainly something to be said for that. Then again, for others, a phone is enough to stream their music. It remains a fascinating discussion but one thing is certain. When you use a different source you immediately hear big differences. Whether it’s a record player, CD player, or streamer.
Alpha Audio has been paying a lot of attention to streaming since the very beginning and now goes pretty far in its research and measurements. Because for us it is by now clear that every part of the stream affects playback. The stream itself, the software package, the streamer, the switch, the cables and so on. It all does something.
The Holo Audio Red stands out not only because of its bright red color but also and especially because of its intriguing applications. Because in addition to being a streamer, this is also a DDC (digital to digital converter). We don’t often come across that combination. Right out of the box we see that this small device is incredibly solidly built. Especially the massive character, it seems to be made from one piece of aluminum, is striking. By the way, that red color is even nicer than in the photos but will of course contrast with most other devices on the market. The logo and name stylishly adorn the front and on the left there is another small LED light to indicate when the device is operational. So much for the plain front.
At the back, we see an awful lot of connection options. Here we go:
Optical, coax, aes/ebu, bnc, usb-a and i2s (hdmi).
None are missing. Of course, there is also an Ethernet connection and an opening for the power cord. Those who want to use the DDC do so via the usb-c output.
Streaming can be done in several ways. Via Roon but the Holo Audio Red is also compatible with Volumio, Ropiee, UPNP and Moodeaudio, among others. The basis of the Holo Audio Red is a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 that was optimized for this device. Wifi and bluetooth components are build in seperately. Holo Audio uses the Raspberry Pi only for data transfer and makes every effort to add as little jitter to the signal as possible. At the bottom are a number of dipswitches to choose an appropriate i2s connection because, after all, as you know, that connection is not universal.
The Holo Red plays hi-res files, both PMC and DSD, in just about any resolution possible.