In Japanese folklore, the fox is a mythical creature that can turn into a human or live in symbiosis with humans. A lot of manga comics and cartoons use this theme and Kitsune Audio also bases its logo on this illustrious animal. Kitsune Audio is the U.S. distributor of the Chinese Holo Audio from engineer Jeff Zhu who is best known for his extraordinary R2R d/a converters. Tim Conner, owner of Kitsune Audio, creates a special ‘Kitsune Edition’ for each Holo Audio device. Now, however, Jeff Zhu has added a preamplifier to his range for the first time. The Holo Audio Serene Level 1. Let’s check it out!
If you like a little bling bling, you’re in the right place with Holo Audio . The Holo Audio Serene Level 1 features a number of distinctive copper accents. This copper is mainly seen on the sides, but the buttons, the feet and the beautiful logo on top of the device are also colored orange-red. All in all a daring look and probably not for everyone. We love it even though the Serene doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the system. Optically that is. On the other hand: aren’t there enough boring black and gray boxes on the market already? A little color and bling would be nice.
The build quality ‘an sich’ is first class. Everything is very well put together. We can hardly notice any screws. There are only a couple of visible allen screws at the back. We see a clearly readable oled screen (white lights) where input and volume appear (the screen can be turned off). On the right is the volume knob which, like our Benchmark Media Systems HPA4, makes a clicking sound with every turn. On the Serene the volume goes up each time with 1 db. Our HPA4 takes smapler steps with 0,5 dB. Three push buttons for on/off, input and mute complete the front of this striking preamp.
The rear is well stocked with no less than three outputs. Two balanced and one single-ended. Remarkably, the XLR 1 output can be used to connect headphones. Instead of a normal impedance of 40 Ohms, as on the XLR 2 output, there is only 3 Ohms on the XLR 1 so you can directly connect headphones to it. With the right cable you can use this preamplifier as a completely discrete class A headphone amplifier
Besides the three outputs we see five inputs. Three times RCA and two times XLR. So a nice selection and probably enough to connect all your sources, we think. The power cord connection completes the clear rear panel.
There is a small remote control with the Serene with the same copper-colored buttons. These buttons are a bit loose, that is intended, but there are sufficient functions such as volume, mute and input selection. It is a pity that you cannot immediately go to the right input but that you have to click through.
The Holo Audio Serene Level 1 is an analog preamplifier with dual mono construction where the left and right channel are completely separated. Each channel also receives its own buffering and amplification. Inside, only discrete components were used, with the most striking element being a whole series of resistors (volume control) that should provide superior linearity. Each module, eight in number, is equipped with no less than fifty transistors.
The total weight of the Serene is partly due to the power supplies at almost 10kg. A lot of time and effort has gone into making this preamp as transparent as possible. And although we received the standard version we find this version, spoiler alert, already very impressive. Those who choose the ‘Kitsune Edition’ get some nice Mundorf, Nichicon, Elna and Audio-Note sweetness as well.