Denafrips is a Chinese brand that has released some highly regarded R2R DACS over the last few years. They get spectacular reviews from well respected head fi forum admin, members, and reviewers. Many people consider the top of the line Terminator as the ultimate DAC that bests Days costing twice as much. The Terminator sells for about $4300 USD, which is quite expensive in my book, but they offer other R2R DACS costing much less. The entry level Aries II Dac costs around $750 USD. The next level up is the Pontus, which costs $1650 USD. The Venus is the next step up from the Pontus and is one step below the Terminator and it costs $2450 USD.

If you live in the United States, the way to purchase one is from Vinshine Audio, in Singapore. This is where it gets tricky for me. They do not allow returns unless your item is broken. So if you decide you do not like the sound, you are out of luck. So, I was hoping people that own a Denafrips Dac can share their impressions. I, for one, an very interested in purchasing one of their Dacs, but am having trouble justifying dropping $1-4k on something I have not heard and cannot return. I am sure others feel this way as well.

Any and all information, listening impressions and experiences welcome!


I reviewed the original Ares here, and the Pontus here. And I’ve since spent time with the latest iteration of the Terminator (DSP update), and the Ares II.

I don’t get the hype over the Terminator. It’s not awful, by any means, but there are better options for much less money (including chip-based D/S designs) No, they won’t be so over-built, but you’ll get better sound for your money. Definitely no giant-killer. If you want to spend ~$4K on a NOS DAC, buy a Holo Audio May DAC.

The new Ares II didn’t sound notably different from the original, per my notes, but I didn’t compare them back to back.


Unless they dramatically improved the Aries USB input, fixed all of the resolution and detail issues, and cleaned up the usability issues (the useless front LEDs), you’re better off buying a Modi 3. There isn’t a single aspect of the origial Aries that wasn’t bested by $99 Schiit Dacs when I had the Aries on loan.

Just my 2 cents.


Hey Torq,

Thanks for replying. I have yet to come across that " Life after Yggdrasil: Watering the Ash" thread on my own, so thanks for sharing that. It is really helpful. To be clear, I DON’T want to spend $4k on a DAC if I don’t have to :money_mouth_face:, I am really just after a great sounding R2R dac. I am not in the mind setting that think something is better just because it costs more. But I am willing to spend more if absolutely necessary up to a reasonable point. I really like the Schiit Yaggy, and currently own a Bitfrost 2, but there are so many newer options that I wanted to see if there was something I enjoyed better. It also does not need to be exclusively NOS or OS, just whatever sounds better to me in the end (which means listening to a few different options). I would actually prefer to have both NOS and OS modes if possible because, why not?

If you are willing to share your thoughts, what DACs do you think will give me better sound for the money? I don’t need something as overbuilt as the Terminator, which is why I am also interested in the Venus and Pontus. If I can get 95% of the sound quality and spend only 1/2 as much, that is a win in my book.

Thanks again!

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That is really interesting! Thanks for sharing your opinion on that. People’s “2 cents” are what I am looking for and I think other people are as well. All anyone can do is give their honest opinion about a piece of gear. The more honest people are, the better informed others will be.


Go for the Holo Audio Spring 2 Level 3 KTE DAC, it’s $2,698. It’s probably a better buy than the Denafrips Pontus. However, if you’re after a really great sounding R2R DAC without obliterating your bank account, the Holo Audio May DAC is the way to go.


I went all American or considered uk. This stuff is too expensive and time consuming imo to deal with some of those issues imo.

This is an excellent suggestion. Another is the Sonnet Morpheus.

I’ve heard both briefly with my amps/headphones, and I think either would be far better than the Denefrips stuff.

They both have amazing texture and spatial capabilities, that touch of R2R magic. If i were in your shoes, I would be looking (almost) exclusively at those two and deciding which feature set fit me best.

The Holo May is another consideration, but I haven’t heard it. Given its heritage, I would be extremely surprised if it was not amazing.


I have seen the Sonnet morpheus and was looking at the Metrum Acoustics line until their website disappeared couple of weeks ago talking about the owner jumping ship and stealing tech or whatever. I read on a forum that the owner then started Sonnet. Is this correct? Just curious if anyone knows what actually happened. Would you, or anyone else, consider the Metrum DACS if they were still around? Or is the Sonnet Morpheus going to just be better?

I have also been considering the Holo Spring 2 DACs as the main contender against the Denafrips stuff. It is looking that the Holo Audio DACs are the way to go…

Getting back on track, has anyone purchased or heard any of Denafrips’ other gear, like their headphone AMP or their new pre-amp? 2K for the Artemis does not seem to bad if it holds up to its claims.

The way I hear it, the guy who started the company kept getting screwed over and was butting heads with sleazy business partners, and the simplest way to get them out (assuming they had ownership stakes) was to desolve Metrum and start Sonnet. Same tech without the screwed up distributor shenanigans and overblown pricing.

Compare MSRP of Metrum Morpheus and Sonnet Morpheus.

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AAhhh, that makes sense. The Sonnet Morpheus looks like it should definitely be a contender so thanks for that suggestion!

Everything on this list, which is really three of the last four items if we’re staying under the asking price of the Terminator.

And then things like the Soekris dac1541, any of the Holo Audio units (including the original Spring DAC L1), a litany of ugly, sometimes awkward, pro/studio DACs/DAC-amps, Bifrost 2, Gungnir MB A2, used Metrum Pavane (any level).


Cool, thank you! If I had enough money, I would just buy all of those amazing DACs to audition. I would keep the one or two that I like best and then give the others away. It is kind of funny that only 3 or 4 of them are under 5k, which is already up there :laughing: While I have heard about a little over 1/2 that list, I am very jealous that you got to hear (or borrow for a while) the MSB Select DAC. That MSB DAC with the matching balanced headphone amp is my dream set up (assuming it sounds as good as I think it does). Thanks again for the info!


Hi everyone!

It seems like there isn’t a lot of love for Denafrips here but I just wanted to share my experience.

I’ve been in the hobby for a long time but haven’t really tried dacs in the thousands of dollars. I’ve tried various different dacs like the PS Audio Digital Link III Cullen modded stage 3, Calyx Dac, Reconnessonce Concero, etc. I had my eye on upgrading to something else before leaving the hobby for a good so kept the concero for a good while. The ares kind of caught my eye due to the hype when it first came out and I finally got to try one this year.

The Ares II was a nice improvement to me and in my own comparisons, the USB was about the same or slightly worse than the COAX input so I just used the USB input for convenience. I was pretty happy with what the little unit could do for the amount of money that I paid. The music was smooth and detailed. The mids were fuller and bass was nice and punchy. Compared to my concero I was using before, it was a worthy upgrade. The LEDs were a little hard to see but at least it didn’t light up the room and I rarely needed to change anything. The USB would shut off when my computer went to sleep which made it a minor annoyance. However, my experience with the Ares II was nice enough for me definitely consider going up the Denafrips lineup.

After the Ares II, I was able to snag a Ygg for not a lot more so I compared the two. The Ygg probably provided that extra 5%-10% of realism in my system so I felt like since I could tell a difference between the two and the price difference was something I could swing, I kept the Ygg.

This however doesn’t prevent me from keeping my eye out for a terminator or higher end denafrips. I’m curious to see how their sound changes as you go up the lineup. Generally the people selling the Ares II is looking to upgrade to the terminator after having it which I think speaks a lot to how good the Ares II is. If you were to give me the options of purchasing an Ares II at retail and Ygg at retail, I would have a much tougher time swallowing the price difference and might just stick with the Ares II.


Amp to go with the ares 2? currenty im using it with the 789 amp, headphones i use are the aeolus, clear and arya


I would possibly get rid of the 789 amp and get something with a bit more refinement. A tube amp like an echo would do well with your Aeolus and Clear. You would need a more powerful tube amp for an Arya or a different SS amp. Maybe something like a Cayin iha-6 would be a good all rounder for all three of those? I think that with the ares II would be a pretty good stack (even though they don’t really stack).

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In other news, I’ve decided to take a leap of faith and order a denafrips DDC. Hopefully it does something and isn’t just snake oil. :crossed_fingers:

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Anybody here owns or has heard/compared Pontus II and is happy to share some impressions, thoughts vs the other usual suspects? There is one used very close to me and I’m carefully considering. It would replace an RME Adi-2 and play with an a DDC from a Macbook, Cayin HA-6a, ZMF VC, HD800

thanx & cheers