Aries-Cerat Helene Review

I have had this Helene for just a couple of days but I want to share my initial impressions before the newness wears off.  The thing about this hobby, we get something new with great sound but in a few days that new sound becomes normal.  Now, I'm not an equipment reviewer.  I don't have the prose or creative skills to assess and communicate as well as professional reviewers.  I'm a typical hobbyist who has gone over his head in high end equipment.  Reference photos on my system page.

I do not rotate through gear very often.  I used an Audio Research CD player for 15 years.  Then three years ago I bought an Ayon Stealth Xs DAC and the Ayon CD-TII transport.  Those devices rocked my world.  I had no idea CDs contained so much music, detail and richness until I heard the Ayon gear.  I enjoyed my Stealth DAC for almost 3 years until I did an upgrade to the Ayon Kronos DAC.  It is a very nice DAC as well.  It was a typical upgrade within the same brand/line- same basic sound but a little better in the bass and a little smoother highs.  I could have been very happy with this DAC but it had a tube related problem and I ended sending it back to the dealer.  R2R Ladder DACs had piqued my interest sometime back.  With R2R DACs in the back of my mind and after suffering much agony over spending that much money on a DAC, my dealer graciously accepted back the Kronos and sold me the Helene DAC.   

With little gear experience I can only compare the Helene to the Ayon gear and to my turntable- both of which are very fine.  The Helene is a beast.  It weighs some 85 lbs by itself.  The wooden crate said 95 lbs on the shipping label.  The UPS driver arrived none too happy about off loading this crate.  He commented that he didn't understand how it was accepted for shipment by UPS.  Oh well, it was finally in my hands.  With considerable effort and help from my son we hoisted this thing onto my equipment rack.  I installed the tubes, checked the bias and replaced the thick, very heavy steel lid with 10 screws.  No chance of that lid flying off- screws or no.

Listening impressions:  First, this DAC is dead quiet- total blackness. My previous DAC was quiet, or so I thought.  Typically, on my previous DAC when streaming I would hear the noise floor raise up as a sort of prelude to the music when I hit play.  With this DAC the noise floor is black as black and the music erupts from the black.  I keep thinking the music isn't going to start when I hit play on my iPad but then it startles me when the music starts.

Everything about the sound is better with this DAC.  Clarity, bass, the highs, the voices all sound better than before.  It is as big a change from the Ayon gear as the Ayon gear was from my past CD player.  It is musical with the right amount of detail so that it does not become so analytical.  The biggest things are Cellos sound right.  Piano is the best it has ever sounded on my system.  Cymbals are so smooth, rich and full bodied.  The Cymbals rival the best of the best of my vinyl on nearly every song.  I think for the first time ever I got chills listening to a classical piece.  Classical is so clear and spacious that it is the best ever that I have heard on my system.  I'm not a big classical person but I can really enjoy it now.

Another thing about the clarity.  Background vocals are so clear now that I can understand their words clearly where sometimes before they were not clear enough to understand.  The bass violin on a jazz recording was so good I just wanted to  hug myself.  I'm going through another age of discovery with my music.  Fun fun.

I believe this DAC has 16 channels of R2R Ladders.  It uses a SET tube output and has a built in voltmeter for adjusting the bias.  The DAC has just three inputs- USB, Coax and AES/EBU.  This DAC also only accepts straight PCM- no DSD, no oversampling.  That doesn't bother me because I found I used straight PCM into my other DAC 99% of the time.  The USB is double re-clocked and the AES and Coax ports have the option of re-clocking.  Output is either SE or XLR and it is a true balanced output.  A ground lift switch on the back can be turned on for SE mode.

I will update in a few weeks after further listening.  These are my initial impressions based on and compared to my previous DAC.



The Ageto is outstanding and thanks for asking.  I was 100% convinced after going three years without a Preamp that I did not need one.  I was wrong.  The major difference is that I can now listen to music at really low sound levels and still get all of the detail that I crave.  The music is way more lush, soulful and live.  My Kassandra 2 Reference DAC is coming Tuesday.  My Aries Cerat Aurora speakers are in my garage in 6 very large crates totaling 2000 lbs.  The sad news is I need help to set them up so I have to wait until March 24.  


Don't defend the indefensible...The guy is over the top and you KNOW it. Spend about 5 minutes on the phone with Bob and everything you know and have experienced in your audio journey is WRONG and only what he has experienced, and coincidentally sells, is the correct thing to own. 

I am in agreement with @audition__audio. AC is great gear, but the distributor chosen to sell it isn't the best face for such a wonderful brand. 


So as not to derail your thread, it would be great to hear an update on your Helene.

I don’t mind at all. I love the open discussion. I have only interacted with my dealer, Scott and he has been great to work with. As for an update- it is a cozy, rainy Saturday morning here and I have been listening to music guilt free. Sure, I could go to the gym but sometimes it is great to just savor the moment.

I have had the Hele’ne for just over three months now and the Antipodes K50 music server/player just shy of two months. First thing to note is that I have not played a record in three months. It has been strictly digital listening and that has never, ever happened before. I keep telling myself that I need to turn on the phono preamp to at least keep the capacitors formed and to also get a fresh frame of reference. I just can’t stop listening to this DAC and Server combo.

Foremost in my mind listening to this combo is the clarity and the rhythm and pace of the music. For me, the last bastion of vinyl was rhythm and pace. It took me a few years some decades back to get that right with my vinyl rig. I could hear a difference in rhythm and pace back in the 80s and 90s with different stereo systems and turntables but I didn’t know what it was until a hifi buddy came over in the mid 90s to hear my system. He told me my system lacked rhythm and pace. I felt like telling him his mother was ugly but he was my friend and I was about to learn something. Only it took me about 7 years to finally figure it out. I was thrilled when my system started to click. I think that is why I could never listen to a CD for very long. In addition to the rhythm and pace, the clarity of this combo is remarkable. It can be a large concert or an intimate setting where it feels like the musicians are just a couple of yards away. But the clarity comes with no penalties such as harshness, glare or sibilance. That is the most amazing thing listening to this system now. One of my favorite things right now is hearing guitars. I can feel the pressure of the fingers pulling on the strings. The plucks of the strings are so delicate and at the same time can be so powerful, full and rich. The imaging feels so real. The guitar has a body to it. And in many cases the singer’s voice is a couple of feet above the guitar. I don’t know how my system does that. This detail applies to other instruments too but I just have never heard guitars in so many songs feel so real.

The Hele’ne and the Antipodes K50 are a great team- a fantastic musical team. One can’t excel without the other- for streaming. My CD transport combined with the Hele’ne also has that magic- the rhythm and pace that can make the music spellbinding. Another interesting thing is that the Hele’ne lacks DSD. It is strictly a PCM DAC but can operate at all of the sampling rates when using a USB cable. My previous DAC had DSD256 capability. Do I miss that? Not at all. I am still using Roon on the K50 server side and so Roon converts my DSD files to a high rate PCM. My DSD files have never sounded better. (I am using Squeeze on the player side of the K50).

This digital combo still thrills and astonishes me after three months. Streaming, CD or FLAC all sound amazing. My listening sessions always last several hours. It is hard to pull myself away. I’m done with worrying over network switches, ethernet power supplies and modems. I’m still using audio grade network switches but I doubt they impact the K50 as much as they did my previous NUC based music server. The K50 has a double isolated ethernet plug.

It’s like I found an oasis in the desert. This oasis has everything I need; a pool of sparkling clear water, shade, dates to eat, etc. Perhaps an even better oasis lies over the next hill of the desert. I’m too happy right now to care about that.


It is gratifying to read your update and appreciate how happy you are. It would be very interesting to do a comparison with your vinyl set up and hear how things contrast/differ.🌝