Tag Archives: denafrips

Denafrips Terminator DAC

Located in Guangzhou, China’s third-largest city and the birthplace of Cantonese culture and language, Denafrips is focused on developing high-end-audio equipment at competitive price points. Since its inception in 2012, the company has grown to over 40 employees. The owner and founder, Mr. Zhao, has managed to assemble a team with deep knowledge of both analog and digital circuits. Almost everything is done in-house with full control over product quality and manufacturing costs. Global sales and marketing are handled by Alvin Chee of Vinshine Audio in Singapore, who also provides direction regarding specifications and quality control. Denafrips is best known for its own line of R-2R DACs, in which the $4498 Terminator currently sits second from the top, eclipsed only by the Terminator-plus. 

For PCM digital-to-analog conversion, the choice of an R-2R design fits perfectly with Denafrips’ philosophy of emphasizing sound quality over measurements. According to Mr. Zhao, total harmonic distortion at levels lower than 0.003% has almost no perceptible effect; indeed, excessive pursuit of low distortion levels per se may have an adverse effect on sound quality. Therefore, his first priority is to minimize digital-conversion artifacts without exceeding this distortion guideline. The end result sought is smooth, analog-like sound quality. 

The R-2R resistor ladders are discrete and contain about five hundred 0.005% precision resistors per channel for 26-bit resolution. The Terminator is capable of reproducing PCM up to 1.536MHz and DSD up to 45.2MHz (DSD1024) in native mode. The PCM digital-to-analog conversion scheme is based on sign-magnitude technology, which was introduced in the early 1990s by Burr-Brown in chip form. Such designs have also been referred to as “push-pull,” since there are two identical DAC sections per channel, with negative and positive polarity digital words being handled by separate sections. The net effect is to add and subtract voltage from the resistor ladder starting from the zero-crossing point, thereby resulting in smaller steps as bit switches are turned on and off. On average, the smaller step sizes result in less transient-induced noise and greater precision at low-levels. Execution is critical, so no expense was spared in the Terminator, as in deploying Crystek FEMTO clock oscillators designed specifically for high-resolution audio applications to ensure that the DAC clock is independent of the input signal. 

Denafrips Terminator DAC Rear Panel

Native DSD decoding is performed via a programmable FPGA and represents a complete break from the constraints imposed by traditional chip-based DSD bitstream decoding. All of the advanced number crunching, including oversampling and filter functions, is performed by a STMicroelectronics microcontroller running an ARM computer processor. The microcontroller is also used to implement a proprietary USB decoder, which, based on my listening tests, is far superior to the industry-standard XMOS solution. And that is great news, since the bulk of my digital files stream off my laptop through the USB input.

This is one beefy DAC, weighing in at 42 pounds. Essentially, all the weight is due to a massive linear power supply, featuring dual toroidal power transformers and ultra-low-ESR capacitors. The power supply is enclosed in a thick metal-alloy enclosure located underneath the DAC board, with an additional steel-plate divider between supply and DAC. There is a full gamut of digital inputs on the back panel, including USB, I2S, and every SPDIF type known to man. Both RCA and balanced XLR analog outputs are provided

The front panel is logically laid out. Selections are made via a series of pushbuttons. In addition to input source selection, mute, and phase reversal, oversampling (OS) or non-oversampling (NOS)modes can be toggled on and off.  In OS mode, oversampling takes place up to 1.536MHz. DSD is converted in its native resolution with no upsampling. One of two digital filters (slow and sharp) may be selected for PCM playback via the mode button, though the initial default selection is the slow filter. There is no volume control or remote control. I didn’t object to having to change settings on the front panel manually, but with my limited vision, I found the status-indicator LEDs way too small and faint for comfort.

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Denafrips Pontus II DAC | REVIEW

I’ve been on a hot streak lately with getting components to review that have sounded excellent despite the current difficulties in hearing something beforehand. For a reviewer, it’s one of the many great things about hi-fi shows. So when our fearless PTA leader Scot Hull put out the word amongst the troops for who wanted to take a shot and review an affordably-priced DAC from the Chinese electronics firm Denafrips (website), I thought sure! Why not? And then something strange happened during my time with the most excellent Denafrips Pontus II DAC.  I started listening to a lot of music in digital form, not because I had to turn in a review on the DAC, no. I WANTED to listen to digital. Whuuut?To my way of thinking, DACs are the most stealthy of source components. There are no knobs to turn, no stylus to clean or arm to drop on a record, and a dearth of switches or buttons to press. Certainly no choice of regular bias or chrome tape–remember those? You might get a selection of anti-aliasing filters if you’re lucky. There is not much romance in Ye Olde DACs. They sit there quietly waiting to be asked out [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Audiovector R 6 Arreté Loudspeaker | REVIEW

“We Come From The Land Of The Ice And Snow…” Denmark may not be Iceland (or wherever Mr. Plant was wailing about in that song) but latitude-wise, it’s good enough for my literary purposes. Seriously, what is going on in those northern European (and Canadian) climes to produce such amazing speakers? With the Audiovector R 6 Arreté (website), these Danish loudspeaker veterans have produced yet another ultra-performer to add to the Legends of Scandinavian Speaker Craft. The Audiovector story begins with figurehead Ole Klifoth, who founded the company in 1979. Ole set out to make the kind of natural-sounding speaker for music lovers that he felt was missing in the marketplace, a speaker that he wanted to listen to. With the debut success of Audiovector’s first model, the Trapez, Ole’s ears and design concepts found an audience and the rest is history. Today, Ole’s son Mads Klifoth is the Audiovector CEO and carries on the tradition (with continued R&D input from the Old Man) while taking Ole’s original design objectives to new heights. As a Dad myself, this story warms my heart. So did listening to the Audiovector R 6 Arreté. Description Unless I am particularly fascinated by some aspect [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Chario Constellation Cygnus Loudspeakers | REVIEW

Hi-Fi reviewers like reviewing products that sound good to them. I’m no exception. If I can’t hear a component before actually getting it, I’m always a bit leery. So it was a welcome and pleasant surprise when I fired up a pair of Chario Constellation Cygnus speakers (website) in my listening room. After the hit parade of excellent loudspeakers I’ve recently had the pleasure of reviewing, it was a relief to find out that the relatively unknown (in the US) and modestly priced Cygnus ($3,700/pair) is no exception. Ciao mio adorabile amico The Cygnus is a mid-level offering in Chario’s entry-level Constellation line of speakers. The gente at Chario have been using fine Italian craftsmanship to make a LOT of different speaker models, and they’ve been doing so since 1975. There are four separate lines including Academy S, Aviator, Constellation II, and a limited edition Belong series. Within the Constellation line alone there are four different models named Lynx, Delphinus, Cygnus, and Pegasus. Must be some frequent espresso breaks happening at the Chario factory to get all those speakers ready to ship. Words and Photos by Dave McNair The Chario Constellation Cygnus is a three-way comprised of a 1.5” soft [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Charisma Audio Signature One Moving Coil Phono Cartridge | REVIEW

Let’s talk about the Passion Of St. Bernard. No, not the dog. No, not Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), the Benedictine monk–although he was no doubt passionate about his stuff. I’m talking about the founder, and head of Charisma Audio (website), Mr. Bernard Li.THIS Bernard is deeply passionate about high fidelity home playback with a special focus on cartridges and all things analog. You’d also need to have the patience of a saint to go to the lengths that Mr. Li has in producing the supremely musical sounding Charisma Audio Signature One moving coil phono cartridge. At this point, it’s no surprise to me when I hear about the back stories of these passionately driven hi-fi industry folks. It usually starts with a deep connection to music and a fortuitous way into the industry. Bernard is no exception. From his 40 plus years as an audiophile, reviewer, dealer and distributor, Mr. Li’s knowledge and experience in this industry is deep. Actually, that would be an understatement. About eight years ago, Mr. Li began working with an experienced phono cartridge artisan whose identity must remain secret. The partnership produced a line of cartridges, adding to an already impressive lineup of brands that [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile