• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Denafrips Ares II - is it really worth it?

tbrobison

Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2022
Messages
8
Likes
7
Location
Seattle, WA
tbrobison, welcome to ASR!
Amir's extensive testing has shown that there is little correlation between price and performance for DACs, so your decision is likely a "sound" one. You may want to check out the review index for a good place to start for your next purchase.
Thanks for the welcoming, dk! My next purchase has already been made. Just have to wait the 6-8 weeks for it now (Schiit Lokius). Other than that, I think my venture into the "rabbit hole" is coming to an end. I'm happy where I'm currently positioned, and music files will be my main purchases from here on.
 

Pdxwayne

Major Contributor
Joined
Sep 15, 2020
Messages
3,249
Likes
1,162
First post in this thread/forum. I have read most of this thread because I recently purchased the, Denafrips Ares II. I had heard so much praise for this dac, and I wanted to experience all of the good things I had heard/read about it.

After a week and a half, I can say that I am quite disappointed. I have A/B compared it with the onboard dac of my Peachtree Nova150, which is a, Reference 9018K2M SABRE32 DAC. My system is very basic. Peachtree Nova150; Bluesound Node 2i; Denafrips Ares II; Tekton Electron speakers.

My unscientific comparison was done in this method: Node 2i optical out to Nova150 optical in; AND, Node 2i coax out to Ares II, thence Ares II analog out to Nova150 Aux in. Also connected to the Node 2i is an SSD with lossless music files stored there. So, I can either stream from Amazon Music HD, or Radio Paradise in lossless format, or I can play lossless (FLAK & AIFF) files off the SSD.

I set the volume on the Nova150 to half of its volume. I then adjust the listening volume via the Bluesound app on a Macbook Air. This allows me to hear the same volume level while switching back and forth (via the Peachtree remote), on the Nova150, from optical (the Nova150's onboard dac), and Aux-in, which plays music through the Ares II.

I played mainly files with vocals, then a couple of instrumentals. My wife also helped me in this endeavor. She had no idea which dac she was listening to, and she would tell me when to switch from one to the other. When switching from optical (nova150's Sabre dac) to Aux-in (Ares II) there was no hint/digital click the switch had been made, though there was an imperceptible difference that something had changed, but it was so unbelievably tiny, that it really wasn't describable. When switching from Aux-in to Optical, there was a digital/audible "click", but still, no real noticeable difference in the audio output. My wife doesn't know the difference between a dac and a candle, but her hearing is very good. When she said which sound she liked better, it was always the sound coming through the Sabre dac on the Nova150.

Again, nothing scientific, but I was surprised in the end. I will probably put the Ares II up for sale as I really can't justify its cost versus performance. I'm sure it's a good dac, but so is the Sabre32. Probably use the funds to buy more music.
It is possible just slight volume differences. Using internal DAC route slightly louder than the RCA in route. Slightly louder typically means sounding better.

Are you able to check if the volume level matches using a sound meter?
 

tbrobison

Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2022
Messages
8
Likes
7
Location
Seattle, WA
It is possible just slight volume differences. Using internal DAC route slightly louder than the RCA in route. Slightly louder typically means sounding better.

Are you able to check if the volume level matches using a sound meter?
Hi PDX, there was no discernible difference in volume. I don't think a sound meter would provide any meaningful information at this stage.
 

SIY

Master Contributor
Technical Expert
Joined
Apr 6, 2018
Messages
8,405
Likes
18,907
Location
Alfred, NY
Hi PDX, there was no discernible difference in volume. I don't think a sound meter would provide any meaningful information at this stage.
On top of that. a "sound meter," by which I think he means an SPL meter or similar, is a bad way to match volumes. Chances are that if your levels were accurately matched (and that's best done electronically), that "incredibly tiny difference" would have vanished.

Delightful that you gave a try to doing a real comparison. And yes, when levels are matched and there's no peeking, differences between DACs drop to insignificance.
 

Pdxwayne

Major Contributor
Joined
Sep 15, 2020
Messages
3,249
Likes
1,162
Hi PDX, there was no discernible difference in volume. I don't think a sound meter would provide any meaningful information at this stage.
Yeah, unless one can actually compare voltages, it will be hard to tell, even with sound meter.

Although you can't really tell, sometimes a small difference, as small as 0.2 db, can be sensed by someone with sensitive hearing.

Also, note that there is no standard in how much voltage a DAC would produce when given the same signal.

This is what Topping engineer gave me a while back. As you can see, when sending same signal, just like your case using same node2i, DAC outputs varied. Bottom 2 are RCA, top 3 are xlr outputs.

voltages.png
 

tbrobison

Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2022
Messages
8
Likes
7
Location
Seattle, WA
Thanks for the graphic, PDX! I think the adage, "I listen with my ears, not with instruments" is more appropriate for me, in my case. I try my best to stay out of rabbit holes, but sometimes one needs the reality of personal exposure. Well, I've had my exposure, and am better off for it.

FWIW, I don't have a "listening room". I only have the living room where my main stereo is located. WAF does not allow special room treatments. We have furniture, an area carpet, various other obstacle for sound waves to either bounce off of, or be diffused. Overall, the sound our speakers put out is pleasing.
 

Pdxwayne

Major Contributor
Joined
Sep 15, 2020
Messages
3,249
Likes
1,162
Thanks for the graphic, PDX! I think the adage, "I listen with my ears, not with instruments" is more appropriate for me, in my case. I try my best to stay out of rabbit holes, but sometimes one needs the reality of personal exposure. Well, I've had my exposure, and am better off for it.

FWIW, I don't have a "listening room". I only have the living room where my main stereo is located. WAF does not allow special room treatments. We have furniture, an area carpet, various other obstacle for sound waves to either bounce off of, or be diffused. Overall, the sound our speakers put out is pleasing.
Yup, just continue to enjoy what you already have.
: )
 

Danddd

Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2021
Messages
58
Likes
41
Thanks for the graphic, PDX! I think the adage, "I listen with my ears, not with instruments" is more appropriate for me, in my case. I try my best to stay out of rabbit holes, but sometimes one needs the reality of personal exposure. Well, I've had my exposure, and am better off for it.

FWIW, I don't have a "listening room". I only have the living room where my main stereo is located. WAF does not allow special room treatments. We have furniture, an area carpet, various other obstacle for sound waves to either bounce off of, or be diffused. Overall, the sound our speakers put out is pleasing.
I have the same situation for the listening room. Which is fine for me as I try to get the best oprimized sound based on a wall of windows on one side and an open staircase down on the other side. Aside from that I enjoy the music and it is a hobby. As a hobby, I enjoy the ARES II in this situation.
 

sjeesjie

Active Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2020
Messages
216
Likes
103
Well people, I was thinking of maybe getting a Ares II but this thread has put my feet back on the ground. Thanks for that.

By the way, I’ve never read such a funny thread! From anal probes to putting bananas on electronics to jumping off buildings.
 

tbrobison

Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2022
Messages
8
Likes
7
Location
Seattle, WA
Well people, I was thinking of maybe getting a Ares II but this thread has put my feet back on the ground. Thanks for that.

By the way, I’ve never read such a funny thread! From anal probes to putting bananas on electronics to jumping off buildings.
Yeah, I've learned about diminishing returns without have lost a lot of $$. I took a $100 hit in reselling the Ares II because I didn't want to wait too long to get rid of it. Lesson learned. The shear absurdity of the pursuit of audiophile-dom has run its course with me, anyways. I've got a great system, for me, and love listening to it. It doesn't get any better than that.
 

sjeesjie

Active Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2020
Messages
216
Likes
103
I’ve just watched the review of this youtube reviewer Cheapaudioman. He says it’s the most important component in his setup because it makes every other component sound better! Wow maybe I do have to buy one of these magical things!

Note to self: if reviewers describe stuff as magical, it probably belongs in a fairytale forest and not in my home.
 

tbrobison

Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2022
Messages
8
Likes
7
Location
Seattle, WA
I’ve just watched the review of this youtube reviewer Cheapaudioman. He says it’s the most important component in his setup because it makes every other component sound better! Wow maybe I do have to buy one of these magical things!

Note to self: if reviewers describe stuff as magical, it probably belongs in a fairytale forest and not in my home.
Yeah, I know what you mean. I do enjoy watching Randy, aka Cheapaudioman, and maybe I should have used the Ares II with a set of headphones, but I didn't, so I can't say for sure, but there just wasn't an audible difference that I, or my wife, could discern. I'm guessing that although I have very good hearing (always passed my aviation physical auditory test with flying colors), I'm glad I don't seem to have an "audiophile's ear" for micro nuances that are hard to satisfy, and entail the endless game of upgrades.
 

Snoopy

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Jul 19, 2021
Messages
624
Likes
312
Yeah, I know what you mean. I do enjoy watching Randy, aka Cheapaudioman, and maybe I should have used the Ares II with a set of headphones, but I didn't, so I can't say for sure, but there just wasn't an audible difference that I, or my wife, could discern. I'm guessing that although I have very good hearing (always passed my aviation physical auditory test with flying colors), I'm glad I don't seem to have an "audiophile's ear" for micro nuances that are hard to satisfy, and entail the endless game of upgrades.
There are reviewers that add damping material for Cars and heavy machinery into DACs and streamers and claim the "background" got darker..

It's really ridiculous what they claim to advertise this stuff.

I was already concerned when I couldn't tell a difference between 3 different DACs while for these reviewers it made a world of a difference
 

tbrobison

Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2022
Messages
8
Likes
7
Location
Seattle, WA
I’m so glad I learned a lesson regarding DAC’s. Though it did cost just under $100 for that lesson, that’s a bargain compared with the costs of other life lessons.
 

noise17

New Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2022
Messages
2
Likes
4
Do you have anything relevant to add Chrispy? I'm just trying to offer my experience to the OP and to the thread.
Bear in mind the people mostly populating this forum have two things in common. First, they're listening to music at a computer through near field speakers or headphones. Second, they care more about measurements than music itself. At some point, someone here will start judging music through scientific measurement. As in, judging art with numbers. I shouldn't need to spell out the absurdity of that.

You'll also find they don't have the same room as you, let alone same equipment, speaker placement, even power supplies or wiring (which will likely set someone off here.) Or, most importantly, your ears or your brain perceiving what comes through your ears. They're random people on the internet and have no more claim to authority on the subject than you.

I see it very sort of like this (bear in mind all analogies fall apart, and someone will pull at it, but there's a reason we use analogies): I come from the car world, and review cars for a living. You get the nerds that judge everything by the stats - horsepower, torque, lateral G, etc etc. By the definition of the stats nerds, a current Toyota Camry is a better car than a Mazda MX-5. It's more powerful, it has more grip, yada yada yada. Yet, I will tell you that if you love driving you will enjoy the MX-5 more. It feels better to drive, it's more responsive and better balanced - things you and I can't physically measure with instruments. Yet, if anyone that has experience driving fast took both cars to the track, they would go around the track faster because they can feel what the car is doing, it feedback to the driver, and it has a better chassis.

Anyone here laughing at the idea of soundstage etc is someone that's only driven a Camry in a city. They couldn't handle a Ferrari - they would drive it around town and declare it crap because the suspension is too hard and that it scrapes over speed bumps and slopes out of parking lots. You simply can't understand a car like that, though, unless you have a place to let it free and truly enjoy it.

Science has its place, but until the people here can measure what their ears hear and measure the music for perfection, they on't be happy. So, they won't be happy. Enjoy your gear, and more importantly, enjoy your music. Let the science nerds that can't lift their heads and take in some art do their thing. It has a use. Hence, I stop by when I'm looking at new equipment. Measurements are just one piece of the puzzle though, and not always as relevant as measurers like to think.
 

Doodski

Grand Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Dec 9, 2019
Messages
12,058
Likes
11,805
Location
Canada
Bear in mind the people mostly populating this forum have two things in common. First, they're listening to music at a computer through near field speakers or headphones. Second, they care more about measurements than music itself. At some point, someone here will start judging music through scientific measurement. As in, judging art.

I see it like this: I come from the car world, and review cars for a living. You get the nerds that judge everything by the stats - horsepower, torque, lateral G, etc etc. By the definition of the stats nerds, a current Toyota Camry is a better car than a Mazda MX-5. It's more powerful, it has more grip, yada yada yada. Yet, I will tell you that if you love driving you will enjoy the MX-5 more. It feels better to drive, it's more responsive and better balanced - things you and I can't physically measure with instruments. Yet, if anyone that has experience driving fast took both cars to the track, they would go around the track faster because they can feel what the car is doing, it feedback to the driver, and it has a better chassis.

Anyone here laughing at the idea of soundstage etc is someone that's only driven a Camry in a city. They couldn't handle a Ferrari - they would drive it around town and declare it crap because the suspension is too hard and that it scrapes over speed bumps and slopes out of parking lots. You simply can't understand a car like that, though, unless you have a place to let it free and truly enjoy it.

Science has its place, but until the people here can measure what their ears hear and measure the music for perfection, they on't be happy. So, they won't be happy. Enjoy your gear, and more importantly, enjoy your music. Let the science nerds that can't lift their heads and take in some art do their thing. It has a use. Hence, I stop by when I'm looking at new equipment. Measurements are just one piece of the puzzle though, and not always as relevant as measurers like to think.
Rolling eyes... :rolleyes: :facepalm:
 

auronthas

Active Member
Joined
May 14, 2019
Messages
144
Likes
89
At some point, someone here will start judging music through scientific measurement. As in, judging art with numbers. I shouldn't need to spell out the absurdity of that.
I will use this product review forum as a measurement reference for my potential audio gears. On subjective sound impression matters and thought, I will avoid to share it here. *blush*

This site is digital (yes or no, there's no in between).

For analog site, please visit audiophile section.

Oh... one more thing , I bought Ares II last month.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Mat
Top Bottom