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Denafrips ARES II USB R2R DAC Review

BDWoody

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For some reason these R2R DACS remind me of trying to optimize a 1936 Ford flathead pushrod v8 to compete with a 32 valve 4 cam Cobra..:)
When you can do it, it's damned impressive... It's not for me, but that doesn't mean it's not pretty well done.
 

solderdude

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R2R (in all its forms) and DS (in all its variations) as well as other conversion methods out there is just a way to convert a known sample value to a corresponding voltage level.
When proper filtering is done and post filtering is applied it is all moot. Just another method with similar result.
There isn't magic in any of the methods. Just math and electronics (which also do not possess magic).

Trickery and non compliance to the sampling theorem can make any box 'stand out from the crowd'.
Some prefer that others like to have the device put out the described output signal.
Filterless NOS (DS or R2R or whatever other method) at 44.1/48k certainly does not put out the correct waveform. That doesn't stop some people to liking it that way.
Has nothing to do with 'improved sound'.

With R2R, DS and other methods one can build excellent devices right down to utter crap.
It looks like the Ares II is much closer to excellent than utter crap.
 

beefkabob

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There's more to a DAC than just being a DAC. Do you want to be able to switch filters? Do you want balanced outputs? Do you use it with a remote control often? Do you need a good pre-out with volume control. At that point, comparing it with a D10 or a dongle seems unfair. The Topping D70 has a comparable setup though (the D30 still lacks balanced out). But the D70 goes for €499,-. Now that's a good comparison because you have a Chinese DAC and a DAC from Singapore, the Denafrips lacks behind in shear performance but at this point, the remaining ~$180,- can be easily justified if it matched your gear better, has better I/O for your use case, you like the look better, you feel more connected to one or either brand....
There's a lot that goes into choosing a DAC and @amirm 's measurements are a fantastic way to make a short-list. But then you could still find 10 products in your acceptable performance and price range. That's when the real comparisons and shopping begins.
What does matching gear mean? They all have silver cases? They all use RCA or XLR? The voltage out on the DAC allows the amp to work in low gain mode?

Or you mean they sound better together, magically?

This R2R does it the hard way and gets middling results. Why bother?
 

YSC

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R2R (in all its forms) and DS (in all its variations) as well as other conversion methods out there is just a way to convert a known sample value to a corresponding voltage level.
When proper filtering is done and post filtering is applied it is all moot. Just another method with similar result.
There isn't magic in any of the methods. Just math and electronics (which also do not possess magic).

Trickery and non compliance to the sampling theorem can make any box 'stand out from the crowd'.
Some prefer that others like to have the device put out the described output signal.
Filterless NOS (DS or R2R or whatever other method) at 44.1/48k certainly does not put out the correct waveform. That doesn't stop some people to liking it that way.
Has nothing to do with 'improved sound'.

With R2R, DS and other methods one can build excellent devices right down to utter crap.
It looks like the Ares II is much closer to excellent than utter crap.
Sorry for some question, for NOS filterless dacs, as for holo audio may or even the spring, it seems in that mode they are still having brilliant SINAD, won't that still be a more correct waveform than most DS filtered dacs?
 

solderdude

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Nope, alas the waveform above 5kHz is compromised in real time (see Archimago's plot below)


SINAD only says something of 1kHz tone and its harmonics + noise (including hum) and is not a sound quality measure.
One can have a device with excellent SINAD and still sound horrible because of a 20dB roll-off around 10kHz for instance (filterless NOS is less roll-off the number is just for arguments sake).

You need to look at many measurements before one can make an educated guess about its performance.
Measurements can only show electrical performance and will say nothing about how some people might perceive the device.
 
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YSC

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Nope, alas the waveform above 5kHz is compromised in real time (see Archimago's plot below)


SINAD only says something of 1kHz tone + noise and not a sound quality measure.
One can have a device with excellent SINAD and still sound horrible because of a 20dB roll-off around 10kHz for instance (filterless NOS is less roll-off the number is just for arguments sake).

You need to look at many measurements before one can make an educated guess about its performance.
Measurements will say nothing about how some people perceive the device.
so in the standard measurement suite WolfX or amirm does can we see those defects? maybe in multitone plots?
 

solderdude

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Sometimes some more measurements are needed but in most cases the important parameters are covered.
There are more measurements that can clarify things about the performance that might add some info.

One would have to understand perception limits and have experience with correlating measurements and actual music signals to get a grasp of how it sounds.

To show NOS performance and its errors compared to the 'described' signal one also needs waveform pictures at various freq. (like above) to get a more complete picture.

One should use the Ares in standard (OS) mode to get the correct waveform out of it. It works very well in that mode and to me will be audibly transparent when tested level matched and blind compared to a similar performance DS DAC.

The fact that some folks hear it as 'better' is more related to their brains than the device.

In NOS mode all bets are off as the output signal, and this is guaranteed, does NOT resemble the original analog waveform that was recorded.
It does sound a LOT like it and some may even prefer it, but fidelity is poorer.
Above 88.2kHz NOS will sound equally good even though the waveform will not be perfect it will be the same as filtered.
 
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Excellent point. The only way to get good performance out of a discrete R2R DAC is through individual calibration and heavy digital processing, probably at a high sample rate, to compensate. And then you still have thermal issues to contend with. All that can be done much better, simpler, and cheaper with a delta-sigma approach.
Again, look at waveform of good DS and r2r at something like 20 khz @-80 db and we'll talk again about "good perfomance"
 

solderdude

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Again, look at waveform of good DS and r2r at something like 20 khz @-80 db and we'll talk again about "good perfomance"
Can you post them ? It appears as though you have seen them and find the R2R to be better somehow ?
Do note that at -80dB the DS will look very noisy and R2R looks cleaner.
To really compare one would have to bandwidth limit the output of the DS and then compare.
US noise is not audible nor contributing to 'lesser' sound quality but very visible on a scope.
Distortion of 20kHz also is not a problem because the first harmonic is at 40kHz. That could only be a problem when poor filtering and aliasing comes into play.
Also I hope you don't mean filterless NOS R2R because that will look horrendous on a scope but suspect you meand properly filtered and oversampled R2R DAC.
 

solderdude

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looks interesting, I know DS dacs usually perform well in this regard, but can anyone with a holo audio or this denafrips ares II in NOS mode can shine some light onto how it performs in NOS?
In 16 or 24 bits ?
44.1, 48, 88, 96 or higher sample rate ?
filtered or filterless ?
Dithered or not ?
Which dither (when dithered) ?
 

YSC

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In 16 or 24 bits ?
44.1, 48, 88, 96 or higher sample rate ?
filtered or filterless ?
Dithered or not ?
Which dither (when dithered) ?
16 and 24 bit NOS mode, just to see if these new products have shaping filter but not cut off filter or oversampling
 

solderdude

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It makes a LOT of difference whether or not it is in 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192kHz when looking at a scope shot.
Dither is usually applied in the recording itself so even when -80dB looks horrid in 16 bit format an actual 20kHz signal may well 'look' much better (but noisier).

Looking at the filter plots of the May it is quite certain the NOS mode is filterless and with a 16 bit test signal will look horrific.
We will only know about the Ares when the filter is measured in slow and NOS mode.
I suspect the NOS mode will have no filter (is by far the easiest to make) so will look equally horrendous.
In 24 bit it won't be better at 44.1 and 48 but at higher bitrates you can recognise a 'stepped' coarse waveform with slightly rounded off edges.
Much worse than the Archimago plot at 16kHz.
 
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There are some interesting components including that toroidal transformer.
I don't like it, even though those caps are 105°C rated LX Nippon-Chemicon caps, they are so cramped inside without any airflow that I worry about the longevity of those.
 
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