Holo Audio Serene L1 [EN]

After several weeks of driving the Kinki Studio EX-B7 mono blocks with the Holo Audio Azure preamplifier, the time had come to start doing this with a preamplifier of the same caliber. It took some patience, because this new preamplifier in the Holo Audio range was supposed to be delivered in December, but has finally arrived.

The Serene is of the same size as the Holo Audio MAY DAC, only in this case it is one box. And it looks very sexy on the audio cabinet! If the audio qualities are also of the same level as the MAY then it will be a party.

The Holo Audio Serene has a fairly simple structure on the outside. On the front you will find an on / off button, an input selector button, a mute button and the volume control. At the rear it is a bit busier with the net entrance, 2 sets of RCA and 2 sets of XLR inputs, 2 sets of XLR outputs and 1 RCA input. These outputs are active at the same time and thus control the Kinki Studio EX-B7s and the Fusion amplifiers in the Xanadu HRS80.
The finish is, as with most devices of this brand, very nice and the characteristic red copper colors of the buttons and the sides also give this device a classy appearance.

This preamplifier is so new that it is the first example that has ever been released in Europe. It’s a full balanced amp with two discrete amps per channel, one for buffering and one to amplify . Developer Jeff Zhu has researched a way to get more detail and natural sound from a discrete transistor based amplifier. This is more comparable to tube sound however with better detail.
He uses specific transistors with very high performance. Each discrete amp module has about 50 transistors witch ensures superior linearity.
All components are premium grade for the best possible sound reproduction: special selected Holo Audio Caps are used. Also  a quality O-Type transformer is used for optimum audio performance and is properly shielded from surrounding components. Specific components are paired for optimal audio performance.

As usual, I let new equipment burn-in and with device one  the effect is more audible than with device two. I always like this process, because when you switch it on for the first time, you can hear what the device does in terms of sound.
Most times during burn-in of equipment I noticed that the sound could be a bit sharp and that this gets a lot better after a burn-in period. With this Holo Audio Serene it was the other way around and sounded very quiet, a bit subdued and flat. This did not last very long and was a lot better after a day, the peace remained but there was clearly more life and was a lot more spacious.

In the week that followed, the sound image revived enormously and resulted in a beautiful holographic sound image with beautiful detailing and space. It is striking that the peace in the sound had also remained and it all sounds damn good.
Compared to the Audio-GD Master 1, the calmness is one of the most striking similarities, but on characteristics such as dynamics and detail level, the Serene leaves the Master 1 quite far behind. The Holo Audio Azure was a lot spicier than the Audio-GD Master 1, but there was less calm in comparison. All in all, you can say that this Serene is the best of both worlds. A very pleasant and calm sound image, but with that also a wolf in sheep’s clothing, because if it has to be dynamic, he will go for it without the detailing suffering.
Another striking feature is the incredibly clean reproduction of voices and acoustic instruments, which gives it an exceptionally real sound and a very natural timbre.

The beginning of the song Cold Hard Town from Allan Taylor’s album Looking for You is characterized by a beautiful spaciousness. Especially the guitar string sound from the right speaker around 3 to 4 seconds is something I pay particular attention to with this song. I have heard sets where this sound was simply almost impossible to hear.
Now with the Serene in the set, this sounds nicely balanced in the whole to my taste.
In any case, this is a song with a lot of details, space and a very nice and full bass reproduction, highly recommended. Listening through the set in this composition, this is really enjoyable and this recording comes to full maturity.

Hartbeat from Antonio Forcioni’s album Live is characterized by a lot of detail, such as the applause at the beginning but also the detail of the guitar sounds. The ease with which the Serene passes all this on to the power amplifiers is a very pleasant experience. You can distinguish the clapping hands almost piece by piece in the width and depth of the room. The sounds of the guitar are smooth without sacrificing any power. The textures of the strings are also very easy to follow and distinguish!

The product of the collaboration between Malia and Boris Blank has also been taken off the shelf once again.
I have heard repeatedly that the mid-highs and highs would be quite tiring. Well, here in this set it sounds pretty tough but doable.
Anyway, it could just be that that now sounds too intense here, so it should be tried out.
In short, the result is the opposite, it simply sounds excellent. Yes, it is intense but never too much. The energetic song blasts into the room, full of energy, beautifully rhythmic. In my opinion, this is how this music should sound!

Guitarist Jack Lee’s album Botero, is a fruitful collaboration with Bob James (piano and keyboard), as well as Nathan East (bass) and Lewis Pragasam (drums).
The first song on the album is Sphere, very atmospheric and a great song to experience beautiful music on a beautiful set. I love the subtle structure at the beginning of the song, every instrument that comes with it gets its own place in the deep and wide soundstage that is put in front of you. The beautiful guitar and piano sounds sound very natural, really one of the striking features of the Serene, and together with the smooth-sounding bass and fine cymbals, wonderful music is made.

On Lee Ritenour’s album 6 String Theory, he performs with a variety of excellent musicians. His recordings are always very good. On the song Drifting he plays with Jimmy Johnson (bass), Andy McKee (guitar), John Beasley (keyboard) and Paulinho Da Costa (percussion).
The song starts wonderfully rhythmically with percussion and guitar to be expanded each time with more instruments. The rhythm is great and the fact that the song gets a bit busier at a certain point is only cool with this kind of quality of reproduction. Nice to hear that everything remains upright and the ensemble sounds as intended!

The Holo Audio Serene does what it has to do and that is receiving music from the Holo Audio MAY DAC and transmitting this amplified to the Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos. Actually, nothing special stands out with this preamplifier and that seems to me to be the biggest compliment to a device that has to do something with a music signal. The serene tranquility together with the most subtle micro-dynamics and ditto details, the suppleness and special natural character makes the reproduction as it is. The synergy with the rest of the set is great.

There is really only one wish and it is called Kitsune ……… Google it 😀


Equipment used:
Power cables Nanotec # 308 PC-Triple C copper with Iego copper-rhodium plugs (nanoPWR 308)
1 x Purecable nanoPWR 309 (used on the DAC)
Purecable 8-way Nano Block with iFi AC iPurifier
Synology DS212 + NAS
SOtM sNH-10G switch with sCLK-EX on sPS-500 power supply
Intel NUC8i7BEH with iFi DC iPurifier2 in the power supply
Purecable netHQ V2 network cables (3x)
SOtM sMS-200Ultra Neo with sPS-500 power supply
Tubulus Argentus USB V2 cable
Holo Audio MAY L2 DAC
Holo Audio Serene L1 pre-amplifier
Purecable linkMSTR XLR interlinks
Purecable linkMSTR RCA interlink
Kinki Studio EX-B7 mono power amplifiers

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