Denafrips DAC decoding oddities

I recently bought a slightly used Denafrips Ares II DAC and connected it via coax S/PDIF cable to my Cambridge Audio CXU universal disc player. I have not heard any striking sonic improvement so far, but that’s not the point of this post.

Denafrips support acknowledged that the Denafrips DAC does not decode SACDs! I had not heard of this in any discussions or reviews of any Denafrips DAC! Thankfully, I own only a handful of SACDs, and I can keep the CXU’s analog outputs connected to my preamp to listen to those. I haven’t really been impressed with SACD sound quality, to be honest.

The other oddity is that when I play a Blu Ray that is supposed to be 24/192, the LEDs on the Ares II only indicate it’s receiving a 48kHz signal and just 1x oversampling. (I have the Ares II in OS mode, so it should indicate 48kHz and 4x oversampling, it seems to me.) I have the CXU set up so it outputs 24/192, and supposedly it automatically upsamples all audio to 24/192 anyway.

When I use the Ares II with my Bluesound Node, it does seem to illuminate the correct LEDs for the signal it’s receiving.

Have any of you with Denafrips DACs encountered this latter issue? I’m wondering if it’s an issue with my CXU.

So far, I haven’t identified any difference between the direct sound from the CXU’s DAC vs. the Ares II when playing a Blu Ray. However, I’m using a new coax cable that may not have been fully broken in when I listened. Also, there is a slight volume difference between the output of each unit, so I need to carefully adjust the volume to make A/B comparisons. I will try doing that while wearing some headphones and IEMs, since I can’t adjust my preamp volume from my listening spot when listening to my speakers.

I’m relatively new to Audiogon and appreciate the collective wisdom, experience, and even humor displayed on this forum. This is where I first learned about the Denafrips DACs, since I had not been paying much attention to upgrading audio gear in recent years. But I was given some copies of TAS, and I had wanted to find a better way to stream hi-res digital music, so I have been upgrading my system recently.


There is no DAC that decodes SACD. It is decoded in an SACD player only. It’s how it’s always been. If you can not hear the difference of SACD from a normal CD, it just points to a sonic bottleneck in your system. 
I’m sure someone else can address your other issues… Good luck.


If you want to listen SACD and Blu-ray Audio in its full glory, you need to invest in D.BOB,

And I agree with @jriggy, if you cannot hear the difference of SACD from a normal CD, it just points to a sonic bottleneck elsewhere in your system.

Thanks to both of you for your suggestions.  I have ordered a D.BOB.

To clarify, I can hear a mild difference between an SACD and the CD of the same performance; I just haven't heard a significant-enough improvement for the one performance (a DG recording of "The Planets") to be that impressed, and with other SACDs I haven't found them to be as realistic as the best-sounding CDs and LPs I have. 

I have been more impressed with DVDs and Blu-rays; but maybe my equipment has not yet brought out the best sound possible from an SACD.