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Denafrips Dacs

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by bever70, Nov 8, 2019.

  1. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine I'm All Ears

    Free Speech Land
    I can't believe it.
    The Pontus is KILLING what I thought was already the most lifelike DAC (AresII) I've yet to hear in my system.
    I'm not jumping the gun.
    I WILL wait two weeks and thrash the heck out of ALL the DACs I can put up against it.

    And I will have to settle down and take time to put my finger on exactly WHAT improvements are occurring, how significant they might be for different level systems (some might not get it!) and so on.

    What a ridiculously great improvement this is making to my streaming.
    Talk later.
    Going to listen for a long long while and then put some more words together.
    The Doc.
  2. OC Zed

    OC Zed Bludgeon Riffola

    Costa Mesa, CA
    Aside from the Ares II, I'll be curious to know what other DACs you are comparing against the Pontus.
  3. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine I'm All Ears

    Free Speech Land
    I fell for the hype over Topping D50 dacs at around $200 bucks.
    So I bought the D10 for USB conversion as it does USB conversion better than the Schiit EITR I bought for the same price.
    Then I bought a Topping D50 and then also a newer Topping D50s.

    The D50s sound cheap and thin.
    Very hard on the ears.
    Extremely CLEAR but.
    Very BOSE like.
    Cut off highs,
    Limited lows.
    No drama or harmonic information to speak of.
    Dull but clear as heck
    Great deal for $200 bucks but that is all they are.

    Bryston BDA1 with fully class A dual mono Cirrus Delta-Sigma chipsets and balanced outs and still similar to the current Bryston DAC---which costs over three grand new.
    The Bryston "house sound" is EXTREMELY good at placement in the soundfield.
    Instruments are incredibly well presented in the exact SPACE they occupy.
    It has no "life" to the sound however.
    So after a while it leave me feeling lonely, unloved and sad.
    But nice for a far away clear sounding DAC for sure.
    I will keep it because it does the Far Away thing better than anything I have ever heard so far.
    Maybe a Berkeley Alpha Dac could whip it but I will wait to find out as these are still way too expensive for their SQ IMO.

    Benchmark DAC1 which still sounds similar to their latest offering although the new ones are slightly more refined.
    In my set the Benchmark sounds nasty and rough and loud and unsophisticated,
    But very clear so it is fine in my rehearsal studio where it currently lives for jam sessions.

    Lucid 96/24.
    Still one of the most musical Delta-Sigma chip designed DACs I have heard under a grand.
    Great analog output section.
    But it tops out at 96/24 and I can hear the better quality of 24/192 so it is now obsolete.
    But still better than 99% of what is on the market sound wise IMO.
    Sounds extremely musical.
    But gets its butt whipped by the Denafrips offerings.
    Sounds a bit "canned" in comparison.
    The Denafrips are LOADED with harmonic information totally missing from the DS chip based DACs.

    Plus I have an extensive guitar collection, a complete recording studio full of Ludwig drums and some great basses as I used to play with major groups back in the day.
    I can hear the quality improvements as you go through different generations of Delta-
    sigma DACS.
    But the ladder type full 16 bit word decoding Denafrips are a revelation.
    Is that ENOUGH?
  4. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    South Bend, IN
    I definitely think it's worth a shot. Put it this way - Mac or PC - a Pi4 is *less noisy* than either, electrically and EMI-wise, and still benefits from a DDC sitting between it and my Venus II.

    I think until you get into stuff like Lumin, SotM, Innuous, and the really good Sonore products - a DDC is going to help just about any digital source.

    The good news is it'll still sound great without one! The DDC adds a little refinement and precision to everything though, plus I feel it helps even tonally, for the DAC to sound a bit more robust.
    Shangri-La likes this.
  5. Harris11235

    Harris11235 Forum Resident

    Minneapolis, MN
    I’m curious about this too. I’m considering the Pontus or Venus as a potential option to audition against the RME ADi-2 and Benchmark DAC3 L, both of which are being tested in my system now.
    inzite likes this.
  6. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    South Bend, IN
    In my own system I compared Ares II to DAC3L and preferred the musicality and imaging of the Ares II and being an HQPlayer user, DF DACs give me a ton more flexibility to play with high upsampling rates and complex filters that the Benchmark simply couldn't. So much so that I fairly quickly moved up the DF line.

    But, DAC3L made me a believer that ESS chips can sound stunning compared to other implementations. All around a very cool device, and great sound.
    Shangri-La and Harris11235 like this.
  7. Harris11235

    Harris11235 Forum Resident

    Minneapolis, MN
    Thanks, that’s helpful. It aligns with what I’ve heard from others too. Low, Joe Strummer and Dr. Lonnie Smith are sounding pretty damn good through the Benchmark tonight. I’m only about two hours in to my listening on it.
    toddrhodes likes this.
  8. Shangri-La

    Shangri-La Well-Known Member

    Yeah totally agree. Worse source (PC in this case) would benefit more from a DDC IMO. From what I know, some DAC (Benchmark DAC3 for example) have internal re-clocker. But probably not as good as dedicated ones I assume. The question is now Iris or Hermes... man this thread is killing it.
    toddrhodes likes this.
  9. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    South Bend, IN
    Hah! I know right. We're all bad influences.

    And to be clear - Pontus II and up (and possibly Ares, but not sure there) have reclocking in place on everything but i2S input. The difference is just that the reclocking and isolation that occurs within the DDC is that much better.
    Shangri-La likes this.
  10. rtsusc83

    rtsusc83 Well-Known Member

    My first impression after about 10 hours of listening comparing Bluesound Node 2i and the Pontus II. Both are connected to my integrated valve amp using single ended RCAs (Decware DSR ICs). Pontus II was connected to the streamer (bluesound) using a coax cable I bought from Amazon. Right off the start, the Pontus was sounding better though I can't assess the quality of the coax cable. But then I connected an IPAD via USB cable (again bought from Amazon) and wow! I can't yet put descriptive words but I can only say what a huge difference! I can say that the source going into the Pontus II is the weakest link whether it via coax from the bluesound or just plain using an IPAD via USB. When my PI2AES arrives, then I can play with mulitple inputs (Balanced, Coax, I2s). I will keep my fingers crossed and hope will only get better! As an aside, I bought some third party power cables for both the Pontus II and my valve amp and they are still burning in.
  11. Harris11235

    Harris11235 Forum Resident

    Minneapolis, MN
    It's interesting that you heard a bump in sound quality from the iPad > USB > Pontus compared to the Node > Coax > Pontus. I would have assumed the Node would have sounded better than the iPad, which is a significantly noisier device.
    adamos and bever70 like this.
  12. rtsusc83

    rtsusc83 Well-Known Member

    I agree. An iPad connection would not be my first choice but experimented with anyway. I was pleasantly surprised. In the few hours I was listening, I did not experience any jitter or noise. It is likely the lower quality coax cable. My supposition is that the Pontus ii can only get better with a better connection via a pi4 bridge. That is my hope at least.
    Harris11235 likes this.
  13. Calvin_and_Hobbes

    Calvin_and_Hobbes Well-Known Member

    Seattle, WA
    Pretty cool, huh? Actually hearing the Pontus' combination of being detailed and lifelike is something I've rarely if ever heard via digital. The only other time I've gotten that feeling when listening to digital was via a Linn CD12 in a $150,000 Linn system a long time ago. I just remember that system sounding "right" as the Pontus does in my much cheaper system today.

    The feeling that I get when listening to a lot of digital sources is that of a more intellectual experience of listening to the detail, placement of instruments, soundstage, etc. Listening to the Pontus is much more of an emotional experience of being transported by the music and consciously thinking about the details that make up the music...not unlike the experience of listening to records.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2021
    adamos, YtseJammer, bever70 and 2 others like this.
  14. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine I'm All Ears

    Free Speech Land
    Nailed it.
    Calvin_and_Hobbes likes this.
  15. Silverwolf

    Silverwolf Occasional Esoteric Freak

    God dammit I’ve been following this thread since the start - I need some spare cash soon! Keep the reviewing coming, from the bottom to the top of the range.. I’ll be honest I didn’t think a specific brand R2R Dac thread would go for on for nearly 50 pages! Very happy it has..
    bever70 and Doctor Fine like this.
  16. Harris11235

    Harris11235 Forum Resident

    Minneapolis, MN
    I suspect you're right about that.
  17. Calvin_and_Hobbes

    Calvin_and_Hobbes Well-Known Member

    Seattle, WA
    For a comparison to another DAC, I listened to a $7k Naim NDX 2 Network Music Player last November at a dealer. Ancillaries were a Supernait 3 connected to a LS3/5 design standmount speaker. It sounded good from an "audiophile" perspective of detail, pace, smoothness. But, I didn't feel the sense of engagement from that system feeling that it lacked a sense of naturalness of how the music flowed. The music itself felt a bit flat in emotion to me. Intellectually, it sounded good, but seemed to not be able to impart the sense of emotion from the music which the $1700 Pontus amazingly seems able to do. I don't think what I heard was due to the speakers, but perhaps the Supernait amplifier had something to do with impression. Crazy as it sounds, I would take my $1700 Pontus any day over that $7k Naim NDX if both were offered to me at no cost.

    I know all of this stuff that I listen for in music is can be so abstract and esoteric in nature. I would have no answer to the "Objectivists" that want to know how to measure what I hear in one DAC versus another. My intuition is that this effect comes from the resolution of detail, the tone quality, the sense of flow, but it's difficult to point to any one factor that results in the beauty of the music that I'm hearing.
    RockAddict, Melvin, adamos and 2 others like this.
  18. iluzun

    iluzun Forum Resident

    Anybody here have experience running any of the Denafrips amps, Hyperion, Thallo, direct from a Benchmark Dac3 or a Logitech Transporter?
    I’m really not interested in purchasing another dac, cause I use the Dac3 as a preamp for turntable and cassette, besides I like the sound. But I am interested in the Denafrips amps and find it hard to believe people have not been matching these up. They seem like good values and the type of sound signature that could satisfy over the long run. Opinions?
  19. inzite

    inzite Forum Resident

    just FYI for those who ordered recently I just got an email that my pontus ii ordered 10 days ago will be shipped soon!
    Salparadise, rtsusc83 and bever70 like this.
  20. sojer2005

    sojer2005 Member

    Hi @Calvin_and_Hobbes
    Hi, how would you describe bass reproduction difference between Ares II and Pontus II. I am currently using / testing Ares II, but I find it too much bass heavy for my taste... I am thinking about returning Ares for this reason.
  21. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine I'm All Ears

    Free Speech Land
    The ARESII is the cheapest version of Denafrips Ladder Dacs.
    It does sound a bit loose and a bit "boomy" while in NOS Mode in comparison to the Pontus which is "tighter " irrespective of what mode you select.
    I own both.
    However if you spend $800 bucks and can find a more engaging tonal TECHNICOLOR DAC than the ARESII I would personally like to hear about it.
    The ARESII is an outstanding entry into the "life" that R2R DACs can provide.
    It is NOT the best DAC in the world.
    It is an entry level priced DAC
    For better designed circuits you simply HAVE to spend a little MORE.
    I hear an immediately tighter bass line with the Pontus compared to the little ARES.
    That is exactly what one would expect unless you think an entry level DAC is all you need.
    Sorry. It's NOT.
    My two cents. The Doc.
    But for the money it is amazing IMO.
    How's that?
    Salparadise and jazzsurfer like this.
  22. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine I'm All Ears

    Free Speech Land
    By the way I am now officially done with testing bith the ARESII and the Pontus II.
    It is now time for me to just sit back and go mad being entertained by the best SOUND my particular two systems have managed so far.
    I put the Denafrips offering up against a Bryston DAC which was heralded as having the most precise soundstage ever heard by testers at Stereophile and others.

    The Bryston held its own for sure.
    It is DRY and PRECISE and DULL in a way only Delta-Sigma Dacs seem to do with their extreme oversampling and over the top filtering.
    In short the Bryston WORKS well because it exemplifies one of the most advanced scientific approaches to Dacs I have enjoyed so far in my own system.
    It doesn't sound particularly like real INSTRUMENTS but boy oh boy is it PRECISE.

    The along comes the ARESII.
    It sounds way closer to the band.
    Like unlike the Bryston which sounds like row 38---the ARESII puts you REAL close to the band.
    Like row THREE!
    And the little ARESII is LOADED with harmonic details.
    It reveals stuff going on WAAAAAY in the background of recordings.
    And the tonality of this thing is ridiculous.
    So much RICHER than you are used to unless you are fortunate enough to have a classic over achiever from days gone by.
    In short.
    A DEAL..
    Then onward to the Pontus.

    Which can not be expected to improve much on what was so exciting in the ARESII.

    And YET.
    The Pontus KILLS THE ARESII!!!!!!
    Not by a little.
    By so much as to make you shake your head and wonder if somehow lower quality has so ruined your tastebuds you can't hear ANYTHING correctly anymore.
    I mean---the Pontus is from a higher level ALTOGETHER.
    Like moving up from a cheap Pioneer receiver to a McIntosh C22 preamp with twin MC275 power amps in tow.

    OK. Disclaimer.
    I have not heard every competitor in its exact price range.
    But I have heard good sound.
    Let me sum it all up- for you guys:
    Harris11235, bever70 and RockAddict like this.
  23. sojer2005

    sojer2005 Member

    Yes, my thoughts exactly, a bit "boomy", but mine was in OS mode. Thanks, I might give the Pontus II a try in my system. Qutest is next on my list... on delivery tomorrow.
  24. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine I'm All Ears

    Free Speech Land

    I must add that "boomy" is an adjective that goes all over the place.
    What the ARESII exhibits is NOT a deal breaker.
    Just that IF you spend more your audio will tighten up with the higher priced spreads.

    Some audio (headphones or nearfields) may even PREFER the presentation of being so extremely "close."
    My own ARESII is going into my nearfield 'LAB" where I judge audio.
    I wouldn't put it there if I wasn't trusting it to perform great as a DAC!

    It is going to replace a Topping D50s that is driving me nuts.
    Because the Topping sounds so CHEAP it is bringing down the quality of my entire system.
    The ARESII is GUARANTEED to raise the bar with all my digital sources and make them all sound richer!
  25. WildPhydeaux

    WildPhydeaux Picture withheld by The Authorities

    A Parade in Dallas
    I appreciate the Doctors diagnosis, I really do. I say this up front before I throw out a bit of devil's advocate here. And, to be clear, I do not own and haven't heard a Denefrips DAC.

    A few posts back the good Doctor says his comparisons of Denefrips DACs blew away everything else he had heard (paraphrasing). But on examination the ones he compared to were either cheap & cheerful, like entry level Topping, or high quality but very dated models by Bryston and Lucid. Hey, older doesn't automatically mean not as good as current, but it is clear that strides have been made in both Delta Sigma and R2R camps. And Denefrips clearly do make great product. So is there a surprise that the Aries and Pontus would "kill" given that competition?

    The recent post reiterates how much better the Denefrips are over the much lauded Bryston, apparently the previous world champ according to Stereophile, at soundstage accuracy. Ok, the BDA-1 referred to previously was certainly highly praised by Stereophile, and others - a dozen years ago. What has it done for us lately?

    Again, I appreciate @Doctor Fine and his efforts here. I'm certainly intrigued by posts here from him and from others and may well pony up the funds to treat my own ears to R2R goodness. But how about some comparisons to similar priced and current offerings?

    To be fair, I had a current Bryston BDA-3 and, although I can't compare to a BDA-1 which I've never heard, I will say that Stereophile's description could easily fit the newer version - and it's probably just a bit better than a dozen year old v1. And, like Doc Fine, I would say that the v3 was fantastically accurate, clear and soundstage very well... but was not exciting in a "you are there" way. But it would be a better comparison to the Denefrips than the 12 year old BDA-1. Some part of "apples to apples" comparison in a changing technology must be age.

    timind and inzite like this.

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