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Manufacturer: LAIV AUDIO Pte. Ltd.
Price (when reviewed):
2600 SGD (around 7650 PLN)

24 Sin Ming Lane
Singapore 573970


Provided for test by: LAIV


Images by „High Fidelity”, Laiv

No 242

July 1, 2024

LAIV, founded in 2023 and headquartered in Singapore, is the "brainchild" of Mr. WENG FAI HOHA, formerly a representative in the so-called West of several other companies specializing in DAC production. Educated in industrial automation, he gathered a group of engineers and together they designed their first product - as you might have guessed - a DAC from the HARMONY series.

THE MARKET FOR DIGITAL-ANALOG CONVERTERS is now one of the broadest, deepest and most saturated within not only perfectionist audio, but also in so-called "mass" home appliances. Portable and desktop ones, powered by USB, from built-in batteries, and having complex, multi-stage external power supplies, they serve a subservient role - helping streaming services to communicate with us, but also corporations offering so-called social media or simply manufacturers of cell phones in which headphone outputs have been discontinued.

This is a „popular” product, but nevertheless "aimed" at a specific audience. After all, the vast majority of users of the aforementioned content are satisfied with wireless headphones, whether supplied as an accessory with a smartphone, as in the case of Apple products, or bought as part of a starter "package". Indeed, an external DAC, whether portable or desktop one, implies use of wired headphones.

The situation is different in the group aspiring to something more. And we are talking about both "normals" and audiophiles. Here not only portable devices are involved, but also stationary ones. And this opens the field for system expansion. The DAC therein becomes the focal point of the system, to which, on the one hand, an audio file transport can be connected, whether in the form of a separate device or a computer, or a CD transport as well, and on the other, an amplifier and speakers. Harmony, the first product in the portfolio of Singapore-based Laiv, is just such a device.


SINGAPORE RESIDENT Weng Fai Hoh is known to "High Fidelity" readers as a representative of Soundaware. We tested its DAC DAM-1 & PA-1 REF in the October issue of the magazine last year (more → HERE). A little earlier, Mr. Weng launched his own project, the Laiv company. Its first product is a digital-to-analog converter called the Harmony DAC.

In an email that Mr. Weng sent to us, we read:

Harmony epitomizes our strive for excellence, combining advanced technology with meticulous craftsmanship to deliver an unparalleled sound experience (sub. - ed.). We have put our hearts and souls into creating a product that we believe sets a new standard in the industry.

Currently, the Laiv is in the "soft launch" phase and is being shared only with friends I trust the most. As someone whose judgment I rely on and who I know understands the intricacies of audio equipment and the importance of honest reviews, I would be honored if you would review the Harmony DAC. Your feedback is invaluable to us as we strive to continuously improve and enhance our products.

The device looks insanely good. Such well-designed and precisely made products in audio are known only from the best companies like Boulder, Soulution, Accuphase etc. The unit is small in size and available in black or silver with gold-colored manipulators. The DAC is made from a milled block of aluminum, using absolutely top-of-the-line components that cannot be found even in very expensive competitor products.


| A few simple words…

owner, designer

⸜ WENG FAI HOH (on the right) with Mentor Media's vice president helping the company with logistic

I'M AN ENGINEER with a decade of experience in industrial design, and I joined Beatechnik to pursue my passion for audio and turn a long-held dream into reality. It all started with a vision: to transform my wish list of features into groundbreaking products by merging my industrial engineering expertise with high-end audio design. This dream led to the creation of the LAIV brand, born from the opportunity to collaborate with a team of like-minded individuals who share a deep love for exceptional audio.

At LAIV, we're dedicated to pushing the boundaries of audio technology. I'm excited to bring my skills and enthusiasm to this innovative and dynamic field. Together, we're making waves in the audio industry, and I can't wait to see where this journey takes us.

Our goal was to stand out in a positive way and fulfill our wish list to provide users with an exceptional experience. We focused on:

• superior durability and aesthetics
• modular design,
• R-2R DAC,
• user-friendly and user-oriented control.

The modular design offers flexibility for future upgrades and convenience for maintenance, similar to having individual devices for each function in your audio system. It allows us to focus on each element and deliver the best of them. We emphasize enhancing user experience, believing in the elegance of simplicity.

Developing the DAC took about a year, but with each team member excelling in their role, the process was relatively smooth. The main challenge was fitting all the features into the compact size of the Harmony DAC without compromising on quality.

What’s next for us? Continuous improvement to deliver the best products and support to our customers. Upcoming products include:

• Harmony HP2A: An audiophile-grade preamplifier and headphone amplifier, delivering pristine sound quality and versatility in one sleek package,
• Harmony GaNM: A monoblock power amplifier using GaN technology to offer a small yet high-quality power amplifier,
• Harmony NET2: A network transport that everyone wants to have :) WFH


THE BASIS FOR HARMONY DAC is a discrete R-2R converter. This is a very popular way of decoding the signal in products from Singapore and China, although it is also used by other manufacturers such as MSB, TotalDAC, etc. The manufacturer writes about it:

We harness the power of uncompromising sound to elevate your audio experience. Utilizing state-of-the-art technology, including Balanced discrete R-2R architecture and quality components, to deliver unparalleled sound quality.

Harmony DAC, →, accessed: 16.05.2024.

The control of the resistors in the Harmony DAC is handled by an Intel Cyclone FPGA chip; the resistors are of high precision design, with a tolerance of just 0.05%. There is a choice of modes with oversampling (OS) or without it (NOS) - in the former, the signal is upsampled to 706.4 kHz, 24 bits. This is also something characteristic of high-end from Asia. Precision clocking is taken care of by two ultra-precise CCHD-957 FEMTO clocking clocks. Very expensive Audio Note Kaisei and Rubycon ZLH electrolytic capacitors are also used in the circuitry. The unit is also said to be ready for future changes and has a modular design.

FEATURES • The device is small, but impressive. This is influenced by the external design, precision manufacturing, but also by the large, monochrome OLED display of 3.83 diagonal with a resolution of 320 x 132 pixels and 16-bit gray depth. The information provided on it is clear and you don't have to stare at it while sitting on a chair or couch.

In addition to the input signal parameters, it will also read the output signal parameters and upsampling frequency, and even information regarding the time and track number(s) of the CD being played. This is because the device is compatible with a protocol that allows this information to be sent from the CD transport to the DAC via an S/PDIF link. Not all transports support it, but if they do, we finally get a decent display for the CD player. Why can't other manufacturers do that? As it turns out, my Ayon Audio can do it - wow!

We will send the digital signal through one of four digital inputs - – USB → PCM: 44.1 - 768 kHz & DSD: DSD64-DSD256, RCA (S/PDIF) → PCM: 44.1 - 192 kHz, XLR (AES/EBU) → PCM: 44.1 - 192 kHz or HDMI (I2S) → PCM: 44.1 - 768 kHz, and we get analog output from the RCA and XLR sockets. The device offers only a fixed output, or it's a "pure" DAC. And that's a good thing. I know from experience that it is better to leave this function to external devices.

On the side you can see a vertically embedded convenient knob. It is with it that we select the active input, navigate through the menu, and by pressing it we confirm our choices. On the left side there is a button for standby, and next to the display is another one, which we call up the menu with. And that's it. Operating this device is very simple, convenient and pleasant. And if we want, we can buy an optional remote control for it. It is made as perfectly as the DAC, made of milled aluminum and it features gold-plated buttons. It can control two of the company's devices.

One of the primary considerations in this design was the elimination of vibrations. That's why the device is small, compact, and its chassis is milled from a solid block of aluminum. The manufacturer pays special attention to this in its materials. Internally, it is divided into several chambers, but differently than usual, because the shielding elements - which minimize noise - are shaped to fit individual components, such as the transformer.

Vibrations are also supposed to be taken care of by the three, gold-plated, cones the DAC stands on. They feature matching pads that do not slip on the surface they stand on. What a relief. The feet and pads have the company's logo embedded in them, and there are brass, gold-plated inserts in the top panel of the DAC, which allow you to place another product from the company on top of the Harmony DAC. To make setting them up easy, the box included a template, which is not only simply very nice, but also very handy.

It is, by the way, a fantastic design, not only on the design and technical side, but also on the functionality side. The box in which the device comes is one of the best designed I've ever seen. And one of the prettiest.

When you look at the manufacturer's website, you'll see that the DAC is the first of several devices, some of which will be available later this year. In the third quarter, manufacturer is expected to present a line preamplifier with headphone amplifier, a stereo power amplifier and monoblocks. An audio file transport is scheduled for 2025. All as part of the Harmony series.


HOW WE LISTENED • The Laiv Harmony DAC was tested in the HIGH FIDELITY reference system and compared to the D/A section of the Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition SACD player, which also worked as a CD transport. I was most interested in how the DAC handles CDs, since the advantages and disadvantages of DACs come into focus there, as if through a lens.

The Ayon's digital output was connected to the DAC's input via an RCA→RCA Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6100 II cable, and the DAC was powered by a Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version cable. The DAC stood on the top shelf of a Finite Elemente Master Reference Pagode Edition Mk II rack on its feet. The rubber half-spheres on which it stands prevent it from slipping, so I didn't have to put any pads under them. The DAC 1 Mk II was tested with RCA (unbalanced) outputs, since I use RCA cables in my system.

However, I did a separate listening with a Lumin T3 file player, working as a file transport.


⸜ SHABAKA, Perceive its Beauty, Acknowledge its Grace, Impulse!/Universal Music LLC, SHM-CD (2024)
⸜ MIKE OLDFIELD, Five Miles Out, Mercury/Universal Music LLC UICY-75879, 2 x SHM-CD + DVD (1982/2013).
⸜ DAVE GRUSIN, Discovered Again! Plus, Sheffield Lab/Lasting Impression Music LIM XR 002, XRCD24 (1976/2003).
⸜ MADELEINE PEYROUX, Showman Dan, Membran/Tidal, SP, FLAC 24/96 (2024).
⸜ SHELLY MANNE & HIS MEN, Jazz from The Pacific Northwest (Live), Cellar | Reel To Reel Recordings/Tidal, FLAC 24/96 (2024).
⸜ BILLIE EILISH, Hit Me Hard And Soft, Darkroom | Interscope Records/Tidal, FLAC 24/44,1 (2024).

» The tracks used in the test can be found in the TIDAL playlist → HERE


COMPARING ANY DIGITAL SOURCE to the Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition player I've been using for years is unfavorable to the absolute majority of these products, regardless of their price. There have been three occasions when something, in some respects, has played better, but never better enough for me to try to find the money to rush and buy some SACD player, CD player, or even file player.

The Harmony DAC is no exception in this regard, neither is this source equally good. On the other hand, however, it is, an exception, because it belongs to a group of products that seem to be part of the same group of sources as the Ayon, and that means - at least for me - that they play as a digital source should play. That is, in a full, somewhat warm, but also resolving way.

The volume of sound is slightly smaller with it than with the Ayon, but compared to most other D/A converters or complete players it is large and saturated. The flute played by SHABAKA in the opening track of the Perceive its Beauty, Acknowledge its Grace album ˻ 1 ˺ End of Innocence thus had a strong, dense sound, shown quite close to me. So did the melorecitation from ˻ 4 ˺ Managing My Breath, What Fear Had Become. But already the harp in this piece was shown much farther away, with a larger "halo" around the sound, which opened up the sound in depth.

This is because the tested DAC does an excellent job of laying out the layers on the stage. It's a dense sound, no doubt about that, but it's also resolving. I'm familiar with this kind of playing from other devices using discrete R-2R-type DACs, but here they managed to avoid the blurring of edges that is characteristic of them. Because all elements of the presentation, including percussion, had great definition with the Laiv, they were "characteristic", that is, their sound was inherent only to them.


LET ME TAKE A SHORT BREAK to say a few words about the use or not of an oversampling digital filter. And there is much to talk about. For the classic attitude of anachrophiles - a term for people of the vintage world coined by Art Dudley, sadly late editor of Stereophile magazine - is that of "NOS only". On the other hand, engineers who appreciate modern advances in technology say "OS only". And it is indeed the case that most often a given product plays clearly better one way or the other. Harmony DAC is different - both modes are equally interesting.

In NOS mode, it sounds warmer, deeper, lower. It also shows larger sound sources and is more three-dimensional at the same time. But these are not big changes. Because in OS mode, on the other hand, it plays in a more disciplined way, without hardening the attack or brightening the sound. The stereo panorama is deeper and better defined with it. NOS, on the other hand, is all about consonances, harmonies, etc. OS has the advantage of better definition of the lowest part of the band. So the choice depends on your system and needs. I chose NOS because timbres are most important to me, but it is not the only "right" choice, but a purely subjective and arbitrary one.

HARMONY DAC IN NOS MODE thus plays in a slightly softer way, but without softening the edges and without smearing the bodies of instruments. In fact, for me, it's not that it plays softer, it's that in OS mode it plays in a slightly more contoured way. The reason I choose NOS is that I didn't miss anything in it, and I was getting things that weren't there in OS.

So even the strong double bass in ˻ 6 ˺ Body To Inhabit was not lacking in terms of transparency. Instead, it had a big body, was massive and energetic. So was the percussion in ˻ 5 ˺ Five Miles Out, a track from MIKE OLDFIELD's album of the same title. It's not a very selective recording, yet Laiv showed the complex harmonies captured on it, as well as the dense arrangements. The multiple instruments, Maggie Reily's angelic voice, guitars, etc., all came through clearly.

And also, importantly, I could hear an excellent rendering of dynamic shifts - extremely strong in this track. From the quiet ones, just with Reily's vocals, to the pile-ups of sounds, a kind of tutti, in which probably all the tracks recorded by the sound engineers played and when on the mixing console all faders were open to the max. Listening to this track, I noticed something else that was clear with the Shabaki album, and which I took for granted without thinking about it. The point is that the Singapore DAC presents the treble in a really good manner.

What does it mean? Well, that it doesn't lighten it up, it doesn't emphasize it, and yet everything is open and clear. The percussion instruments from the album cited at the beginning had very nice timbre, weight and selectivity. On the other hand, with heavily compressed material, like that from the Oldfield album, I didn't have the impression that the sound was attacking me - which is often the case with it. The tested device arranged everything in space and tonality, focusing on clarity and saturation.

The Harmony DAC, that's what came to my mind, plays like a full-size, large device, perhaps even a tube device. Which shows how far digital technology has come, and how great things can be achieved with the knowledge we have, the solutions we have, and the components we have at our disposal. Its sound is big, that's one thing, but also very well controlled. The foreground is on the line connecting the speakers, including where it is close to us, whether with Shabaka's flute or Lee Ritenour's guitar from ˻ 2 ˺ Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow, the second track from DAVE GRUSIN's Discover Again! XRCD version from Lasting Impression Music.

As is well known, this recording was recorded using the direct-to-disc technique by Bill Shnee for Sheffield Labs. However, at the same time as the LP lacquer was cut, the sound was recorded on tape - this is where CDs and later reissues of this material came from. But even the tape shows the dynamics, the springiness of the sound and its fantastic energy that I know from the LP coming from the first release. And it is these elements that the Harmony DAC showed more than well.

Knowing the price of this DAC, I was surprised at how well it could be done, how cool it could all come together. The presentation with this device with the material sent from the CD transport was simply pleasant, nice. But it was a pleasure that came not from softness, but from knowing that I was getting everything I should be getting. That is, an open treble, and low, meaty bass. And above all a saturated, dense, slightly warm midrange.

It is very important that a device so close to the classic "tube" sound does not blur the presentation. Even with the latest track, from MADELEINE PEYROUX's forthcoming June 28th album ˻ 3 ˺ Let’s Walk. The previously revealed track Showman Dan, available on Tidal as 24/96 FLAC files, is quite dark and very "vintage". This is a hallmark of this American artist's recordings.

That's why Mobile Fidelity's reissue of her 2004 album Careless Love, which made her famous, on LP was not to my liking and I preferred the "regular" CD straight from Empik (Polish kind of Saturn / Tower Records shop). The new CD is exactly as it should be. But to appreciate what its producers have done you have to play it with the highest possible resolution and at the same time with the best possible tonal saturation. And that's exactly how the Harmony DAC sounded like with this piece. I heard and characteristic tube sound, that is, a slightly quenched lower midrange and a stronger upper one, but also great continuity, which comes from the "compatibility" of harmonics.

When, on the other hand, I played the ˻ 1 ˺ Funny, a track from SHELLY MANNE & HIS MEN's wonderful live album Jazz From The Pacific Northwest (Live), I got a brighter sound, without the lower bass, but equally musically satisfying. This is a mono recording, which is why Laiv's ability to differentiate between layers was so important, a skill it mastered. I had strong, dynamic snare drum beat, and Stu Williamson's trumpet, set quite far away from the foreground, sounded clear, pure and dynamic.

These are very good live recordings, made by Cellar Music Group as part of the Reel to Real Recordings sub-label for this year's Record Store Day. It sounds light and on the lighter side of tonal balance, but with both my Lumin T3 and the tested Laiv Harmony DAC it was tidied up and subordinated to the performance. In the sense that I didn't pay special attention to these elements, because I was focused on listening.

It is not, of course, that one can completely forget about the sound, as it is part of the performance and a kind of "afterburner", allowing one to take even more emotion from the music, to go deeper and stronger into it. However, the tested DAC does this very nicely, smoothly, seamlessly. Also with electronic music, as with BILLIE EILISH's latest, just-revealed album Hit Me Hard And Soft.

The bass with it was powerful, low, dense, but also lively. This time the production is not as warm and as "underwater" as it was before, despite what the cover would indicate. BDW, it's worth reading the article in which the artist talks about how she had to submerge herself in water for hours on end, despite her associated phobias, just to take this one photo (more in The Rolling Stone magazine article → HERE, accessed May 17th 2024).

Anyway, it's a more open sound, although the bass is still devoid of higher harmonics and "set" to the midrange of the instrument. The openness of the sound lies in the stronger "release" of Eilish's vocals upwards the range and in the presence of many sounds perceived as high. Also the guitars, as in ˻ 3 ˺ Chihiro, delicate, quiet, set to the extremes in two channels, had a similar role to play. And that's how they were shown, that's how they were interpreted by the device under test.


AND THAT'S BECAUSE THE HARMONY DAC is a device with a wonderful personality, if I may say so. When played in NOS mode, whether from a CD or file transport, it produces a sound that is saturated, soft and selective. It combines the warmth of tubes and the speed of semiconductors. In blind listening it can be mistaken for products with tubes in the output stage. But it's not too warm. I like such sounding devices, but they can be boring in the long run. Laiv never gets boring.

It is a resolving, superbly differentiating dynamic and timbre device that plays as if it were the size of my SACD player. And it's also wonderfully made and fabulously easy to use. Well, and that display - I envy it! A beautiful product! It deserves our ˻ RED FINGERPRINT ˺.


LAIV HARMONY DAC belongs to the group of "new school" devices, if I may say so. The point is that it is perfectly made, it is based on proprietary developments, it uses expensive selected components, and the whole thing came in a wonderfully prepared package. All three of these elements were also present in the past, but together, especially taking into account the last point, very rarely, if at all. It is a high-end for discerning young people.

Its chassis is made of aluminum components - the main body milled from a single block of aluminum, and an aluminum bottom plate. Shields were left inside, when milled on CNC machines, to protect individual modules from interference. The unit has a square outline, but its design is truly sophisticated. It is formed by details such as the beveled one side, gold buttons and knob, and the large OLED display. The DAC stands on three gold-plated cones - two at the front and one at the back. The feet are placed on stands; both they and the cones have the Laiv logo applied. The connection sockets come from Neutrik, a company specializing in professional products.

The device has a modular design and consists of four main blocks: two power supplies, the input section and the DAC proper, and with an additional display board and its power supply. The base of the power supply is a sizable toroidal transformer with separate taps for the display, digital inputs and the DAC.

The input section is based on two highly integrated programmable circuits - one is dedicated for the USB input, and the other "carries" the digital filters. The DAC consists of two boards for left and right channel, enclosed in gold-plated aluminum shielding. They are built using precision resistors with a tolerance of 0.05%, with solid-state switching. The circuits are fully balanced.

The entire device uses expensive, selected passive components, which we have already written about above. Such elements as connections, including voltage ones, have also been taken care of. They are routed with thick, shielded cables. The digital link between the input board and the DAC section is additionally shielded with a gold-plated plate. Everything in this device has been refined.

THIS TEST HAS BEEN DESIGNED ACCORDING TO THE GUIDELINES adopted by the Association of International Audiophile Publications, an international audio press association concerned with ethical and professional standards in our industry, of which HIGH FIDELITY is a founding member. More about the association and its constituent titles → HERE.


Reference system 2022

1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC