Auralic Vega G2 or Denafrips Pontus II 12th + streamer?

I'm looking to add digital to my system as a supplement to vinyl (my main listening avenue), but I've been debating whether to go with a very capable combo unit like the Vega G2 or separates for some time. My main concern is longer term support re: various streaming service apps, etc that might make built-in streaming capabilities outdated in a few years in combo units.

I had a thought that maybe investing in a great DAC separate that will outlast changes in streaming tech where I could just upgrade separate streamers in the future if necessary might be a better approach, but I don't know.

I like the idea of keeping it simple with a combo unit a la Vega G2 or Hifi Rose or something, but I'm also not interested in anything that might be a brick in a couple years. Not interested in having the 'smartphone' experience of needing to upgrade every few years, especially at a multi-thousand dollar price point.

Having an excellent control app is 100% required for any streaming solution I consider as it needs to be very simple to use (will be controlled by family occasionally as well via an iPad most likely, which is mostly why).

I'd like to stick to under $5k total (used is fine). A used Vega G2 tends to sit at about $4500-5k on the market from what I've seen, so this would be the tip top end of what I could consider.


Highly recommend keeping them separate for all the reasons you raised and more.  Put it this way — would you buy a turntable with the phono pre built in?  Why not?  Because they’re both critical components and just because you might like the turntable it doesn’t mean you’ll like the phono pre as much, right?  Same thing with a DAC and streamer.  They’re both critical and very different components, so what are the odds that a combo streamer/DAC is going to be optimized on both counts for your specific tastes?

As far as specific recommendations, that really depends on what sound characteristics you’re looking for because, just like in analog, the flavors are all over the map so we really need to know what you like.  Specify what sound characteristics are most important to you and you’ll get some great recommendations here, otherwise you’re gonna get blindfolded darts at a dartboard.  FWIW.

True. Ideally, close to analog sound. I prefer large soundstage, great midrange and vocals, tight bass.

I have seen suggestions to use something like a bluesound node as a streamer-only so the app experience is more robust, but I'm not sure if its outputs bypassing the built-in DAC are great. I tried looking on their website but it keeps glitching out on me when I try to look at specs - go figure. I see the Lumin U1 mini recommended a lot in other threads, so that may be an option on the used market. Looks like they can be had for about $1500 - not cheap, but not wild either.

I've been looking at these in particular:

1. Denafrips Pontus II (12th can be had new for a pretty fair price)
2. Lampizator Amber 3 (a bit pricey, but used it isn't too too bad)
3. MHDT Orchid (can't find too much info on this though)

Great info! Given what you’re looking for my first thought was an R2R DAC and was gonna recommend the Pontus but you beat me to it. With your budget, and to borrow a phrase from Emeril, you can kick it up several notches by adding a DDC (like the Denafrips Iris) so you can take advantage of the DAC’s i2S input, which gives a very significant performance bump. For the streamer I’d recommend the Innuos Pulse Mini because, in addition to being a very good streamer (and a good step up from the Node), it comes with their Sense app that gets excellent reviews for both usability and sound quality and is continually being upgraded. And Innuos offers top-notch customer support as well. If it’s in budget I’d get a linear power supply for the streamer (good ones can be had for $200 - $300) as a good LPS will significantly up its performance. I believe all this can be had within your budget even new, so if you can get some of it used you should come in well under and have a pretty killer streaming setup. So glad you’re getting into streaming — it’s literally life changing. One last thing — go with Qobuz for a streaming service.  Hope this helps, and best of luck.

Im comparing the Pontus 2 to my Orchid Dac right now. Pontus 2 needs alot of break in time. Been listening for a few days and needed to give my ears a break for a few days then go back and reevaluate. Both have there strengths amd weaknesses. Pontus 2 has alot of Clarity and no fatigue but the Orchid has great tone and not as clear. Will come down to which is more important to me

@evank - what does the rest of your gear look like? Do you use tube amplification or SS? I was a little concerned with the Orchid given I'm going to be running it through tubes. I feel like it might get a little too warm sounding overall.

@mmcgill829 im using a Schiit Freya + for a preamp.and the Orchard Audio Starkrimson Ultra for amplification

Do you use tube amplification or SS? I was a little concerned with the Orchid given I'm going to be running it through tubes. I feel like it might get a little too warm sounding overall.

That sounds like a very valid concern and may be a good argument for the Pontus, but in the end it’s all personal taste and system dependent.  If I had tubes downstream I’d go with the Pontus, but that’s just me.

 If I had tubes downstream I’d go with the Pontus, but that’s just me.

@soix Yeah, this is how I'm leaning myself. Likely going SET for my amplification, so it might be a little TOO much of a good thing going with a tube DAC as well.

@evank, you are not the only one. I have a bunch of customers with this combo, seem to work very well.

That’s funny “you don’t want a brick in a couple years” if so I would keep it separate. I’m where you are now. I got into streaming over a year ago and prefer my records but streaming is so easy. 

I’m using Auralic steamers, I started with Auralic femto clock added the s booster LPS then to G1. I like the app it’s wireless and never have drop outs, but it’s all I’ve ever known. I’m looking to upgrade now but don’t know where to go.


Dacs I started with RME/Teddy Pardo LPS and Chord Qutest but moved on to MHDT Orchird and Havana then to Pontus 2. 

If I could only keep one dac it would probably be the Pontus it’s very detailed and natural sounding for digital. The Orchid is even more natural but darker and rolled of highs vs the Pontus. I use 6922 and 6sn7 adapters on the Orchid and have a large stash of Amprex and Ken Rads plus many more. You can make that Orchid sound sweet. Changing out some critical film caps makes a nice different. Snip and solder, I didn’t even take out the board. Spending long periods of time with Pontus it’s nice to put the Orchid in it’s a breath of fresh air. Kind of like changing out cartridges. 

I’m using a Audio Hungary a50i class a tube amp and use different preamp tubes depending on which dac I use. The Orchid seems to like Telefunkens and RCA’s and the Pontus likes almost everything but sometime Telefunkens can be to much.

I'll second an Innuos streamer but to jump up to the Zen Mk3 or the Pulse. The Sense app is slick and sounds great. Paulcreed’s description of the Pontus II and Orchid is spot on as I’ve owned both too but I kept my Orchid. It has the upgraded parts and 6SN7/6DJ8 options. Used pieces of the above would meet your price point. Add LPS’s where applicable.  I was strictly vinyl spinner for years.

Thanks for the tips!

I think I have decided on going the Zen Mini mk3 + PSU and Denafrips Pontus II combo. I don’t want to dump a ton of $ into streaming setup at this time since I primarily listen on vinyl, but I think this will be a very solid start. If I want to upgrade in the future, having the separates will make it easier to just swap something out like, say if I wanted to get a Lampizator DAC or something. Just not really wanting to make that kind of investment into it unless I’m spending around 1/2 my listening time with streaming.

I should be able to track down a used Zen mini + PSU for ~$1500 I’d think - just have to wait for a pair to pop up. There's usually a few pontus examples on market used at any one time so that’ll be fairly simple too unless the 12th anniversary one is worth just shelling out the few hundred extra it would cost vs a used pontus II (non 12th).

You might consider this Zen Mk3 for $2k instead of the Mini as it’s better overall, you won’t need to buy the LPS, and you don’t need the Mini’s DAC. I think you’re making great choices with both the Innuos and the Pontus BTW and think you’ll be very happy with the pairing. Just fyi and FWIW, and best of luck.

@soix I considered that, but the form factor of the mini and ability to just stack it on its PSU is very helpful for me. Don’t have a ton of space to fit this stuff in on an already pretty full rack, so saving half the horizontal shelf space is a major benefit. Would allow me to have the streamer and DAC on the same shelf next to each other or could squeeze it next to something else if necessary. I haven’t seen or found another streamer solution that is this small form that offers the level of robust UX as this does. There are some more DIY solutions, I suppose, with something like a Pi, but I don’t want to mess with that or use a computer like that as a source.

But, if I somehow stumbled on a used Zen at the same price point as the mini + PSU, I'd probably strongly consider it anyway.


I own a Vega G2 as well as a Terminator Plus. I'm using a Sonore Signature Rendu SE into a Denafrips Gaia as my streamer for the T+. 

I would not be concerned with the steamer becoming obsolete.  I think every steamer on the market is software upgradable. 

The Denafrips is a touch smoother with a deeper, wider soundstage, but the Auralic is no slouch. The Auralic is the more reliable steamer - never falters - while the Sonore has occasional pauses and sometimes just stops playing. 

I bought the Auralic for my bedroom system because I wanted high quality but a minimum of boxes. The one big advantage of the Auralic is that it combines a built in preamp with a high quality relay-stepped-attenuator. 

The Denafrips DACs have fairly high output impedance, so you will almost certainly need a preamp after the DAC. If you already have one (which I'm assuming you do), and don't mind the multiple boxes, then the Innuos + Pontus is probably the slightly better choice, particularly since you can further improve performance with a DDC. 

@soix I pulled the trigger on the Zen 3 and it should arrive later this week. I should be gearing up to pick up a DAC shortly as well, but I'm still on the fence a bit.

Right now, I think I'm torn between either:

Denafrips Pontus II 12th + Denafrips Iris DDC


Lampizator Amber 3 (I could get one used in about the same price range as the denafrips combo).

I'm leaning toward the Denafrips though, I think.

Congrats on the Zen!  From what I’ve read it sounds like the DAC choice comes down to whether you want a warmer tube-like sound with maybe less upper octave detail versus the R2R sound that more falls between tubes and delta-sigma DACs with more treble detail than the Lampi but with a bit less warmth. Both great DACs fer sure, but the choice could really be that simple depending on what sound characteristics you’re looking for in the context of your system/tastes. 

@soix Thanks! That makes sense. I hesitate since regardless of the choice, they'll be getting amplified by SET amplification and going through both a tube pre-amplifier and the tube amp. I also will be listening to more lively music versus vinyl where I focus mostly on Jazz, so having a bit more detail might be a good idea to balance out the tube amplification.

Worst comes to worst, I can always sell whichever one I go with and get the other down the line. They both seem to have fairly good resale value and sell fairly quickly.

mmcgill829 - How are you liking your new digital gear?  I am leaning toward a Innuos Zen/Denafrips Pontus combination.  Without hearing them yet, it appears they would be a nice combination.

@olyaudio I forgot to follow up here!

I did end up going with the pontus/iris combo for the dac/ddc to pair with the Zen. They sound great, but definitely invest in a high quality HDMI and USB to use with them. The HDMI is best if kept very short (ideally less than 1m if possible. Mine is 0.5m). I got mine on sale from DH Labs. The cheap amazon cables I had did not sound great - in fact, connecting the DDC to the DAC with this cheap amazon HDMI actually made it sound worse, oddly enough. Like a veil was over the music. Replacing the cables eliminated this issue though.

Everything was fairly straight forward and easy to set up. The pontus was a little more annoying to set up, but they have a video walkthrough on youtube for it that was helpful. The pontus if buying new does NOT come with a power cord, so keep that in mind. I missed it when reading the listing details and was surprised when I received it. I had some spares laying around though.

The Zen is nice and the app is fairly simple to use, though I do have some annoyances with it. In order to navigate to qobuz to see my playlists, it's a fair amount of clicks, all of which have some slight delay, and the app likes to boot back out to the screen to select the device fairly often - which means clicking back on the device, then the music tab, then scrolling all the way down and clicking on qobuz, then scrolling down to get to playlists, etc. It's a minor thing, but it is a little irritating. I think once I get an ipad to use as a controller instead of trying to use it on my phone, it might be a bit less of an issue due to the larger screen.

Otherwise, easy to use, easy to drag and drop music files onto the device via shared network folder, etc. Spotify connection can be a little bit finicky if you use it or anyone else in your household does, but can connect multiple accounts to be able to use it for spotify as well, if you so desire.

Sound wise, I'm quite pleased. While it's not 1:1 vinyl equivalent, I wasn't expecting that at this price point. It's pretty close though, which is saying something. Significantly better than any of the more 'budget' solutions I've tried in the past.

Since I primarily listen to vinyl on my system, this works really nicely for me. If I ever choose to upgrade down the line, would likely just stick with these two brands and move up to their top of the line offerings most likely. I would consider demoing a Lampizator DAC at some point possibly, but the price points on those are a different ball game.

Anyway, long winded but hope that is helpful!