After several weeks of driving the Luxman L-590AX MKII in power amp mode with the Holo Audio Azure preamplifier, the time had come to start doing this with a preamplifier of the same caliber as the Luxman.
It took some patience (something I am short of), because this new preamplifier in the Holo Audio range took around 3 weeks to arrive. Finally the day arrived when it landed on the desk at Rapallo, I know 2 weeks is that all, but hey I don’t have any patience waiting for new Hi-Fi toys to play with.
The Holo Audio Serene is of the same size as the Holo Audio MAY DAC, only in this case it is one box. And it looks absolutely gorgeous on the rack too. So my initial thought was, if the sound from this box are equal or better than the Azure then we are in for a treat.
The Serene “晴” adopts a true and fully-balanced design from end to end, with 4 sets of channels, left and right channels each form a fully-discrete design, each channel has two fully-discrete and separate amplification modules to complete buffering and amplification (attenuation) functions. For a total of 8 amplification modules.
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. The finish is, as with most devices of this brand, is beautiful and the characteristic red copper colors of the buttons and the sides also give this device a premier appearance.
This preamplifier is so new our shipment are the first example that has ever been released in New Zealand. It’s a full balanced amp with two discrete amps per channel, one for buffering and one to amplify.
Designer Jeff Zhu has researched a way to get more detail and natural sound from a discrete transistor based amplifier. This is more comparable to the tube sound however with better detail. He uses specific transistors with very high performance. Each discrete amp module has about 50 transistors which ensures superior linearity. All components are premium grade for the best possible sound reproduction: specially 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, we let new equipment burn-in, we have learnt to always let the components burn in for a while this goes for speakers as well as electronics, you need to let the capacitors charge and for the signals to find their own natural pathways, and with speakers to let the woofers and drivers loosen up
Most times during burn-in of equipment we notice that the treble could be a bit glassy and bass is a little bloated and that this gets a lot better after a burn-in period.
With the 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 quiet background is constant but boy oh boy the air and space is incredible, there is clearly more life and body to the music.
In the days that followed, the sound image became more detailed, with at one point me and Bensan quoting at the same time “wow the music sounds slower” what we mean by this is that because the music is so clean and clear, the decay of instruments go on for what seems like forever, and this makes your brain feel like the track has slowed down
Superb holographic sound image with beautiful detailing and space. It all sounds so damn good.
Compared to many pre-amps, the calmness is one of the most striking similarities, but on characteristics such as dynamics and detail level, the Serene leaves so many preamplifiers quite far behind. Serene’s baby brother, The Holo Audio Azure is too incredible, but what the serene does is abundantly clear from the first 10 seconds of playing a track, everything is more controlled and well just….more musical
Another standout feature is the incredibly clean reproduction of voices and acoustic instruments, which gives it an exceptionally true to life sound and a very natural timbre.
LISTENING REVIEW | The Ozone from the album La Bamba
Track 10 – Jazz Variants from the percussion group The Ozone from the album La Bamba is an incredible piece of recording, most pre amplifiers and systems struggle with the decay from cymbals and the glockenspiel with the Serene in the mix, you hear everything and I mean everything, the sounds is nicely balanced and completely coherent, this is a track with a lot of detail, space and a very nice and full bass reproduction, highly recommended. Listening through the serene with the Luxman is outstanding and this recording comes to full maturity.
LISTENING REVIEW | Heartbeat from Antonio Forcione
Heartbeat from Antonio Forcione 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 amplifier. 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!
LISTENING REVIEW | Malia’s album Convergence
Malia’s album Convergence is the collaboration between Malia and Boris Blank from the epic band Yellow, so this album has been taken off the shelf once again and given the chance to show what a system is capable of, I have heard repeatedly played in other systems that make the mid-highs and highs sound quite fatiguing. But with the Serene none of these parameters are present, 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 album should sound
THE FINAL WORD
The Holo Audio Serene does what it has to do, that is receiving music from whichever source you love, streamer, vinyl or CD and transmits this signal to your amplifier.
Nothing special stands out with this preamplifier and that its biggest compliment, the Serene doesn’t add or take away anything from the signal. The Serene’s 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 magical
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