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.


willgolf, outstanding.  Looking forward to hearing more about you new system as it burns in.  Also, pictures.  Want to see pictures.


Even though I loved my Horizon, I do like the synergies from Aries Cerat.  

Makes perfect sense to me. Two superb DACs, one could hardly go wrong with either.


@tonywinga --Are you a member of What's Best Forum?  If so, there is an Aries Cerat forum that has many reviews of Aries Cerat equipment.  I will chronicle my journey on that forum under Aurora speakers.  I suspect I will get around to do that with lots of pictures this weekend.  

The last time I did a review of the Lampizator Horizon on Audiogon, I had to have the moderator take it down because I did not appreciate many comments referring to rich man's DAC and why would you spend that kind of money on a DAC?   It got nasty.   I can only imagine what would be said on Audiogon if I did a full Aries Cerat review.  BTW, I am not rich.  


Yes you’re much better off posting on WBF exactly for the reasons you cited. Definitely a wise decision. I look forward to following your listening impressions.


Before becoming an Aries Cerat Distributor for the Indonesian market, I invested significant time and resources in traveling across Asia and Europe to audition various amplifiers and attend different shows. This exploration has spanned several years as I searched for a product to sell—one that I would personally choose to keep rather than opting for items heavily endorsed by magazines but that I wouldn’t personally prefer. Despite the presence of many well-established companies producing high-quality audio equipment, I have encountered a common issue with products excessively praised in magazines: they are often overhyped by reviewers but ultimately lack in sound quality and authenticity.

During my visit to Aries Cerat, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in their amplifiers, including both Tube and their latest technology, TriodeFet, which they have been diligently developing over the past decade. Spending a week at the factory in Cyprus, I extended my stay after experiencing the entire system with the DAC. The emotional connection, musicality, dynamics, transparency, and other sought-after qualities were all present, compelling me to acquire these products for my region without hesitation.

A standout aspect of Aries Cerat’s equipment is that their amplifiers, preamps, and DACs, even the more affordable models, can rival high-priced gear from other manufacturers. This means that individuals on a budget can still access top-tier performance without needing to invest in the ultra-premium AC gear. For instance, the Helene serves as a prime example of this accessibility. Additionally, I must highlight that the Kassandra Reference DAC I own has outperformed (to my ears) both the DCS Vivaldi DAC and the Playback Design Dream Series. Despite common complaints about Aries Cerat’s pricing, many are unaware that even the lower-tier products in their lineup already deliver reference-level performance.