Denafrips Ares ii

I am considering a Denafrips Ares ii dac and have a few questions that I am hoping owners of this dac can answer.

1 What is the cost of import taxes and/or fees?

2 Is it as dimensional as a tube dac?

3 Two reviews thought the highs were edgy. What has been your experience with the treble on this dac?

My system:
Unison Research Triode 25
Audio Physics Classic 10
Bluesound Node 2i
Cambridge Audio CXC
Paradigm Seismic 10
Black Ice Audio DSD


1) There are no import taxes or fees.  The Singapore dollar price at Vineshine is what you pay.  Right now that is about $808 USD.

2) No idea.  Never heard one.

3) Most people think the Ares II is a very natural sounding DAC.  I hear a tiny bit more detail in the highs than something like the SMSL SU-9 but certainly not edgy.

A few other comments.  It is easy to do A/B testing of DACs if you have a preamp with a remote control and all I can tell you is I really struggle to hear any difference between the Ares II, SMSL SU-9 or Topping D70.  I don't have golden ears but lots of other things in my system make more difference, sometimes for less money.

Also, I find the Ares II sometimes needs to be rebooted.  Some combination of file formats from Roon seems to cause it to start hicupping.  It doesn't happen frequently enough for me to spend time debugging it and I have never seen anybody else mention it but it is irritating to have to get up and turn the DAC on and off from time to time.

Finally, having a remote with a volume control turns out to be a much more important feature to me than any minor difference in sound quality the Ares II might offer.  You might feel differently.

I can't really answer your first 2 questions as I bought mine pre-owned from an auction site and haven't heard a tube DAC. 

I run my Ares II fed by the Bluesound Node 2021 and Audiolab 6000CDT, into a Naim Nait 5si and Quad S2 speakers; I can't honestly say I've found the highs to be edgy or overly bright or harsh. 

I have the Node connected simultaneously to a separate input on the Nait 5si for easy A/B testing as, as you will be aware, all Node outputs are live/active. 

I quite like the DAC in the Node, but the Ares II gives a different presentation. I wouldn't say it's hugely more resolving; for me it seems to inflate and open up the presentation of a track (recording dependant of course). 

I haven't heard the Ares II in any other system, but with my amp/speaker pairing, I find the Ares II compliments them nicely. More subdued, mellow tracks such as some mellow jazz, and female vocalists, the combination produces some really sweet highs. For example, on Joni Mitchell's Blue album, her voice never sounds brittle or on the point of harshness, even when she hits those insane high notes. 

I'm not familiar with the components in your system, but for me, in my set up the Ares II sounds great. I couldn't go back to just the Node DAC now, even though I think it's very good. 
Did an extended and direct comparison of this DAC vs. the Orchid MHDT tube DAC. The tube DAC was more dimensional and gentler in the treble, but the Denafrips sounded nice.
many sellers recently are stating the new price is $1098...but that is Singapore dollars, translating daily to a little over $800 US including shipping which takes a few weeks...I have not found the highs to be tube DAC is much more expensive and have not compared...I use mine currently with CXC

i have heard Joni Mitchell a number of times in concert and must say the Ares is the closest DAC i have heard in reproducing her voice.  it is also very dynamic sounding.  i can only imagine what their more expensive DAC's sound like.

I’ve never heard the Ares, but I own the Pontus II. I would say it’s every bit as dimensional as my previous MHDT Pagoda. Both are very fine dacs, but the Denafrips has slightly more detail and resolution while retaining the body of the Pagoda.

If pairing with the Node2i the Aries II using coax out has known issues

as stated by Alvin @ Denafrips and others.

I quite enjoy mine. Nice thing about Denafrips, you can almost always sell yours for what you paid, or more, if you should want to move up or try something else.

There are filter settings to take any ‘high frequency edge’ off. A couple different combinations that should suite most. One of the reasons I purchased the Denafrips was to get rid of that, as an ‘analog guy’, that was important. I think the Denafrips has no such issue, given the filter options you have.

I just picked up one used and it's sounding great.  Currently listening to it on NOS mode.

Curious if anyone has thoughts on the best input to use?

Given that the dig signal is stored in memory first b4 being processed , does it really matter if usb or coax is used?


does it really matter if usb or coax is used?

I use both; a digital RCA from my CD transport, and a USB from my streamer. Both sound very good to me, but are obviously different per the source.

Curious if you've tested digital RCA vs. USB going from your iFi Zen Stream to your Denafrips DAC?

Which cables did you use? Did you notice any difference?



initially I was only using digital rca (blue jeans cable) and I was quite happy with it .

the ZS has some filtering or purifying circuitry on the spdif output

after I got the Iris ddc I changed my setup

now I go into the Iris out of the Zen Stream via USB (Curious cable) and then out of the Iris into 2 dacs connected to 2 different amps. In one case I go out optical to my Ares ii with a nice glass cable … I also simultaneously output coax into my Border Patrol dac which feds my set amp

i feel the output of the zen stream (usb or spdif) made less of a difference in my system than the input of the Ares ii did.
I felt that the coax input into the Ares had a bit more weight than the glass input.

but now that’s a moot point since I’m using the Iris to feed both dacs as described above

Post removed 

@j_andrews  Interesting!

And would you say that

1. iFi ZS > USB > Iris DDC > SPIDF > Ares DAC
sounds noticeably better than
2. iFi ZS > SPIDF > Ares DAC?

Since the iFi ZS has both USB and SPIDF outputs, my thinking was to use option 2, since using the SPIDF would completely avoid the jitter issues inherent to USB (as far as I understand).

I’d be super curious to learn if you get better results from your iFi ZS and Ares by removing the USB and Iris DDC and simply using a good SPIDF cable. I suspect you will!

I believe there is a perceptible difference in sq when using a reclocker like the Iris but that difference is small and subtle ... and the rest of the gear down the line would need to be able to display the differences as well

I think most people would be happy with ZS into the Ares via spdif

It’s a good sounding coax output on its own.

There are two other side benefits of using the Iris beyond any perceived quality differences :

1) I can run two systems off my Zen stream

Was harder to do that before … it required going into the ifi app and turning on or off the correct output 

2) the buffering of the fpga in the Iris has eliminated all wifi signal glitches 

they weren’t happening often but every now and then there would be an audible click or a dropout before.  That hasn't happened since adding the Iris (it could also be the result of the high quality usb cable though, so unclear about the root cause of that benefit)

Contrary to the many people here, I don't like the SQ of Ares II.


I had one loan home and it sounded nasal and compressed vs my McIntosh C47.


Best input is via USB.  I encountered some buggy signal dropout using coax, need to toggle the inputs to kind of "reset" the bug.  SQ is ok-ish for coax.


Personal preference is OS mode, NOS mode sounded a bit rough to my ears.


Recently I bought a little toy to play and I find it beats the hell out of Ares II, SMSL D1, Gustard X26 and Topping D90.  I can highly recommend it, and it is much cheaper.  If you can access into this is a good buy.


I tried to insert image but this forum doesn't allow, implementation is strange, can only insert URL where the pic is.


Anyway, this Yiniu WD6 runs on 4 x PCM1794, comes with XLR output and RCA,  and you can roll opamp with it.  Max out at 24/192, basic DAC with no MQA/Roon/ etc.  I'm having lots of fun trying out different opamps ATM.  LM49990 (single converted to dual opamp config) and OPA1656 are very good. 😄

Honestly this review and comparison makes me think you heard a damaged Ares or had problems elsewhere in your system.

Honestly if such comment is true, then all low end dacs compared to higher end dacs are damaged, and higher end system are problematic. Hahahaha


On a serious note, for the money of the Ares II, personally, I’ll be willing give this one a shot instead. Dual WM8741, comes with AES digital input and XLR/RCA outputs.



Or alternatively, this one from Dual 9038 Pro, XLR/RCA outputs, BT capable. Options to select femto clock version or femto clock with II2S input. At half the price of Ares II.


So if anyone here understand Chinese, Taobao offers a very big range of brands and configs to choose from, and range of prices too.

One question I have for you Denafrips DAC owners, from top to bottom.

I have heard it said numerous times about lengthy break in-burn in.

Have any of you noticed any such additional need of "waking up", if for say you unplugged this unit for a day or week?

Does the degree of the quality of sound depend on being powered, or in standby continuously?

Like it's a Krell FPB-600 or Tube Gear-etc?


Does the degree of the quality of sound depend on being powered, or in standby continuously?

I used to put mine in stand-by, but recently have just left it on. Nothing really to go bad by doing so unused.

I spin mostly vinyl, but can’t say I’ve realized any real ‘warm up’ time when awakening it from stand-by.

I leave mine on all the time, the lights are so small, can barely tell they are on...

Mine is on 24/7 with the only exception, a loss of power. I can listen to it all day. My cd player feeds the dac via SPDIF, and the Zen Stream feeds the dac via usb. The output of the dac feeds my Mac via XLR. Love my ladder dac!