Country of Origin


Harmony DAC

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac late 2020 with Ventura 13.4, 40GB RAM, Audirvana Origin, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-6 & SW-8 network switches, Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Active filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box at 100Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos & EX-M7 stereo; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Qualio Audio IQ w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Vibra 68 footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Kinki Studio Earth; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Shanling M3 Ultra, Soundaware D300Ref; DAC: Sonnet Pasithea; Preamp/filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box at 60Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Amplifier: Crayon Audio CFA-1.2 Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini, Dynaudio S18 sub on sound|kaos Vibra 68 footers; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF + Akiko Audio Corelli; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: iFi iDSD Pro Signature; Masterclock: LHY OCK-2; Headphones: Final D-8000; Headfi/speaker amp: Enleum AMP-23R; Loudspeakers: EnigmAcoustics Mythology M1
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: $2'700

March 13th, 2024. "This is Weng Fai Hoh. It's been a while since last we spoke. I hope this email finds you well. It's been a busy year filled with preparations. Now I'm happy to introduce you to Laiv, my new venture dedicated to crafting exceptional audio experiences. At Laiv we're passionate about pushing the boundaries of sound quality and design and are excited to share our first product, the Harmony DAC. Many more are to come. Currently we are in the soft launch phase. As someone whom I trust to understand the intricacies of audio equipment and the importance of honest reviews, I would be honoured to have you review the Harmony DAC. A sample can be ready by the end of this week. Please let me know your interest. I plan to hard launch by end of April."

I'd first e-met Weng as one of Alvin Chee's lieutenants at Singapore's Vinshine Audio. Now he'd flown the coop to sing his own tune atop his very own heap. Without knowing how to properly pronounce his new brand, might Live be our English approximation? In which case, clever. Though I didn't as yet know its meaning, I figured it wasn't short for Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine though perhaps it might act as a vaccine against bad sound? With a claimed 50+ years of collective high-end audio experience behind it, Laiv's maiden model is a modular build inside a machined-from-solid case available in black or silver with gold accents either way and a 3.8" diagonal 320 x 132px grey-scale display on black.

The DAC's core architecture is balanced discrete R2R controlled by an Intel Cyclone FPGA. The parts list name checks Crystek CCHD-957-25 clocks, Audio Note Kasei, Rubycon ZHL and Wima caps, Schurter filter and 0.05% tolerance resistors for the converter ladders. The stylish system remote in black or silver has two assignable function buttons. An S/PDIF connection to a CD transport can auto-retrieve track ID and playtime data to display on this DAC. There's I²S and an option to choose between its clock and the internal clock. There's upsampling to 705.6/768kHz, processing of native hi-rez PCM and DSD256. There are spike receivers on top for scratch-free stacking. There's free worldwide delivery with a 30-day return privilege for select countries. There are warehouses in the EU and US to shorten delivery times. This team plays serious hardball right out of the gate. Past that gate for later this year the road map shows a matching pre/headfi amp, an upgraded external power supply for that, a network streamer with built-in tall display and GaNFet monos.

Whilst the soft launch just then still reflected in a dearth of specs, twinned ground posts on the rear were an unexpected novel detail. Expected of course were the USB, coax, Toslink and I²S over HDMI inputs plus RCA/XLR outputs. AES/EBU is likely MIA for space reasons. All of it looked impeccably crafted and rather compact. No wonder I was quick to yes Weng Fai's request.

Given his past association with Vinshine who handle global sales for PRC brands Denafrips, Jay's/LHY, Kinki and Soundaware plus Laiv's own Singapore address, I asked whether their circuit design was outsourced to one of the Vinshine houses on an OEM basis. There's a lot of brain power between those brands after all. The industrial design of course differs from anything we've seen from Vinshine before. So it was likely an all-new electrical engineering team as well. But to cover all bases and nip quick assumptions in the bud, I did have to ask.

"You nailed the pronunciation. It's 'live'. The name and meaning describes our mission to bring sound as close to live as possible. Right now we've set a fixed worldwide retail of US$2'700. Import taxes and duties aren't included except for the US and Singapore yet but we're actively looking into options especially for the EU. For the time being, our products are only available direct from us until I can find trusted dealers especially in the EU. Laiv Audio operates as a completely separate entity and the product isn't outsourced to any of the Vinshine houses you're familiar with. I'll introduce you to some of my team members in due time."