Denafrips Pontus 12th Anniversary


I’ve been considering moving up from my Ares ii to a Pontus ii and there have been a few of them coming up on the pre-owned market lately.

Now I’m seeing that Vinshine is offering the Pontus 12th version and there’s not a whole lot of info about what is improved on it.

Sounds like some power supply improvements and also some gold plated screws?

Has anyone heard the new Pontus 12th or know any specifics about how it compares to the Pontus ii?  What are the improvements, if any?

Pre-owned Pontus ii’s are selling for about $250 less than a brand new 12th. (At least in the U.S.) So not a huge savings.  Plus there’s shipping .., I can’t remember if Vinshine charges shipping.

Thanks in advance 




Unless they've changed their policy, I believe Vinshine includes shipping to the U.S. 

If the difference between new and used is truly only $250, it's a no-brainer:  Buy brand new from Vinshine and get the latest version, factory packaging, fully factory warranty, etc.

However, what used DACs are listed for and what they actually sell for may be two different things.  I love my Pontus II, but I'm not sure I could get $1600 for it.

My 0.02.


Thanks @tds3371 

You’re right , I had my conversion rate from Singaporean dollars to US dollars off a bit.

The current price for the Pontus 12th is S$2449 which translates to US $1853.
They seem to be listed at roughly $1500 on the used market give or take.

as you say they could be selling for less

So the difference is more like $350.

I’d still like to know how the units compare.


Understood.  I can't answer the question of comparability - but doubt you'll go wrong with either.  IMHO, the Pontus is the absolute sweet spot in the Denafrips R2R DAC line.

Good luck - please keep us updated!

yes be careful, many sellers of used Denafrips list the Singapore dollar price as the USD price, and Denafrips does include free shipping...

I've got it, letting it break in to eventually head to head it against a border patrol dac se, to see what I like better.


I've only had it for 2 days, so take this with a grain of salt.  1st day, it's completely unlistenable.  No extension in the bass, everything sounded flat and harsh.  2nd day, still sounded bad, then all the sudden, it didn't.  It sounded wonderful, and I was up listening to music all night.


I, as well, couldn't find any meaningful data on what, or if, anything was actually upgraded (gold screws inside maybe?).  I have no experience with the Pontus ii, but I had the original Pontus on a long term loan from a friend, and early impressions are that this 12th is better.  More top end air, and easily as pleasant sounding.


I can keep you updated once I break it in, if you like.  Don't know if this helps at all.

Do keep us posted as to your listening impressions of the Denafrips Pontus II 12th.

I just ordered one, and I am very interested in listener impressions, what mode (OS, NOS), what digital connection and cable, etc. System details.




I like OS with the slow filter.  Phase button set to on.  Nos sounds good, but less spacious.  


Balanced sounds considerably more open than single ended.

There is a tread over at in the Dac forum with thus title. 

I heard the Most 'Analog Sounding' DAC in my Life

The second page has a video explaining the differences,  check it out.

Sorry my link skill is lacking. 

backgroundblur:  Are you hearing any of the audible clicks and pops that have been mentioned in another thread here in the digital section regarding the Pontus?

Also, what are your impressions now that the break in is proceeding?

About 7 dats in, and the break in process is everything it was reported to be.  Through day 3-5, it swung from good to unlistenable.  Day 6 it stared to sound consistent, and this morning, now day 7, it sounds very coherent, with a rich but open sound from top to bottom, with only the slightest hardness in the upper treble.


No pops and clicks through usb.


I think it has finally found it’s final sound, at least I’m hoping it has, because it sounds really good now.  If I don’t notice any other changes, I plan on giving it another week so the unit has a chance to iron out the last of its wrinkles, and assuming (hopefully), no more big changes in sound occur, I just plan to spend that week listening for any issues the unit might have, but as of now, I haven’t discovered any.


After that, I plan on head to heading this unit against the Border Patrol SE, and I’ll keep the one I enjoy more.

@fastcat95 , i've been hesitant to give listening impressions, because I can not guarantee what I'm hearing now, is what the unit will sound like tomorrow, and I wouldn't want to be irresponsible toward any potential buyers, and give out bad information that is not representative toward the final product...


...but, I also acknowledge, that if I were on the other side, interested in a device, I would want to know what it sounded like, even if, and especially, if it changed over time.  So, let me do that.  I'll give a week in impression.


Like I said, day 6 was when I started to feel like the unit was sounding coherent.  Tonally, it changed ever so slightly that day and through the night, going from slightly emphasizing the leading edge, to having a mostly balanced sound, with a great balance of snap, space, and decay.


Soundstage is gigantic.  Like bigger than anything I've heard through my system.  And that space is filled with precise locations of singers, drums, instruments in recorded space, and emanates from dead silence.


Energy wise, it's more relaxed than energetic, without sounding boring.


Tonally, it's pretty well balanced, top to bottom, probably more well balanced than any DAC I've listened to.  Bass has terrific weight without sounding bloated.  Midrange has begun to fill out, making instruments feel dense and material, and the highs are almost great.  There's a touch of hardness in the transition between upper mids to highs.  On tracks like Somebody, by Depeche Mode, atmosphere is lovely, piano is gorgeous, Martin Gore's voice, which sits right in that upper mid/high range, sounds a little out of joint.  I hope further run in sorts this out.


The overall sound is very spacious, slightly dark, but not fat, thick, or bloated.  There's plenty of extension and air in the highs, and the bass is full and tight.  Mids have gone from tidy but slightly withdrawn, to well balanced with excellent texture, just from day 6 to 7.


As it sounds, right now, it's one of the most listenable DAC's I've ever had.  More over, again based on how it sounds right now, it would be one of the easiest DAC's to recommend to anyone.  It ticks all the audiophile checkboxes, soundstage, depth, air, extension, a you are there experience with music, while having a tonal character that doesn't come with any noticable deficiencies.  It's dense without sounding fat or thick, pleasant without sounding boring, and sounds wide open whituout sounding thin or clinical.  The sound is very, very even, and very easy to listen to.


 I'll probably wait another week to give a listening impression, but if there are any dramatic changes in the coming days, I will note them.


I hope it simply continues to settle in at this point, because it is very good as I write this.  If that changes for any reason, I will let you know.


p.s.  I have settled on OS mode, sharp filter, phase set to on, via USB.  NOS sounds pretty good, but alot of soundstage magic dissapears while using it, while not adding enough to make up for that loss.  Slow filter initially sounded good, but made music sound a little indistinct, and off time.  No pops or clicks in any mode, NOS or OS.



Sounds encouraging!  Have you tried any of the other inputs?

Keep us posted.  I have a Pontus II 12th coming soon.

So, I have a Musician Pegasus that shares a lot of DNA with the Pontus ll.  I got a Denafrips Iris to be able to take advantage of the i2S input, and there was a vast improvement over using USB, and that was using a cheap 6” HDMI cable from Monoprice.  It’s not a cheap upgrade but totally worth it given the sonic improvements.  Just my $0.02 FWIW. 

I’ve bought two Denafrips DACs new (Venus 2 and Terminator plus) and they definitely settle in after some use, but certainly not a dramatic night and day. They have always sounded good out of the box.


I run mine on OS fast filter, very hard to tell a difference between fast and slow OS in my experience. NOS sounds more analog but loses detail and air. Lastly, I really like the AES output versus the others. Bass is more full, sounds more natural, and has just as much of everything else as USB.

@christianb5s4 I'd love to try the aes input, or any other actually, but lack a player with those outputs.


@ozzy62 I'm glad the DAC is moving in a consensual direction.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on break in, if you'd care to share them.


@soix The DDC route is interesting, if only to utilize the I2S input, honestly.  Some people swear that it's an improvement.  Some have said it makes things sound too clinical.  Since I'm not certain that I'm keeping the Pontus 12th, it's not a move I'd consider yet, but I'm glad you've had success with you, and would love to hear you detail what differences you notice using the Iris, in any detail you can afford.


I had the day off today, spending all day listening to it, and the sound has been changing still, but not as dramatically.  Mostly in treble emphasis.  But it mostly sounds good, and for moments, amazing.

would love to hear you detail what differences you notice using the Iris, in any detail you can afford.

Background became much clearer, and imaging separation and soundstage improved.  In general, clarity went up significantly and haze I didn’t know was there was removed.  It was not a small improvement.  This was compared to SPDIF BTW — I didn’t get to try AES/EBU. 

@backgroundblur Be patient, my Venus II took 500 hours at least until the magic happened. (It sounded edgy and highly detailed until it warmed in the midrange and the edginess disappeared, bass got much better too.) If getting a DDC I suggest the Hermes, more options for future inputs, better clock. I run a Venus II and Hermes with Intusik Argentus I2S.

Agree with @fthompson251 about the Hermes if it’s in the budget, or alternatively you could look at the Musician Leo that’s very similar but like $600 less expensive. Still, the Iris or Musician Pisces will still make big improvements if you don’t need the SPDIF input of the pricier options. 

@fthompson251 yeah, I was geared up for a long break in.  I figured on 300 hours, but what’s another week and a half? :)


I’m at about 200 hours, and today it sounds really good.  Better than yesterday.  Bringing back memories of the original Pontus I heard, but with better top end, and firmer bass.  We’ll see what it sounds like tomorrow.


@fthompson251 ​​​​@soix   what I’m curious about with DDC’s, is did either of you notice a change in tonality?  Did music get brighter, darker, lose or gain density?  I’ve read from users that they unanimously agree that seperation and staging improve, but does this improvement come at any cost to density, tone, or overall balance?

It (Hermes) just makes it better, no detriment at all. Better bass, deeper, wider soundstage.

IME there was no downside to using i2S, only big upside.  No loss of tonality, etc., just a big increase in overall transparency and clarity. 

That's encouraging to hear you guys.  Until has taken a turn for the better over the last couple days.  The treble has been mellowing out and mids have become more full at about 200+ hours.  Hoping the improvements continue. 

Well, 350 hours in, so figured I’d give another update.


it sounds really good.  The ‘continuity’ of the original Pontus (I hesitate to call it analogue) is in full effect with the Pontus 12th, but with significantly better extension up top, and tighter, more defined bass.


Tonally, it’s a slightly dark sounding DAC, but open at the same time.  Nothing lean here.  Tones have richness and texture, and are, mostly, well balanced.


Spacially, the soundstage is very well defined, and the decay of instruments fills the soundstage between speakers admirably.


In terms of speed, it sits at nearly a perfect balance between fast and slow.  The timing is very precise.  Almost metronome in its accuracy, through I’d say ever so slightly dragging, mostly because of a touch of midbass bloat in the tonality.


in most systems, mine included, the extra bit of midbass helps.  It gives a bit of extra fullness and weight, without really affecting midrange transparency, or weighing down the overall tonality, which is mostly neutral.


In terms of presentation, I can confidentially say that the Pontus 12th does a great job of untangling dense mixes, allowing instruments to exist in their own space, and creating a large space between them, front to back, left to right and up and down, that they occupy a believable size without competing with each other, sonically or spacially.  Again, gigantic soundstage, occupied by very believable sounds, both in size and tone.


I contend, at this price point, it would be hard to find a DAC that can tick so many audiophile checkboxes, while being very pleasant to listen to.


If I were to criticize anything, it’s that the extreme top end, can sound a little hard, as though it’s slightly closed in.  There’s plenty of shimmer and sparkle.  And it’s only in comparison to my previous Wadia 321 and the Border Patrol that I notice it, but it lacks that last bit of extension that allows it to really soar.  Perhaps this is where the Venus Ii, or a better clock, would improve things.


I’ve tried it with three different interconnects.  The acoustic zen matrix ii, the audience au24 se, and the more expensive than the DAC Nordost Tyr 2 xlr.  Of the three, the Audience seem to emphasize more of the Pontus 12s weaknesses, while contributing little to its strengths.  The Matrix ii add a ton of full and lively midrange energy and are fun, if a little indistinct in the soundstage, and the Tyr 2 really allow the DAC to sound open, holographic, and energetic, with a steady beat, tight and present bass, and a gigantic soundstage.


I might give another update in a week, at which point, the Pontus will cross the 500 hour mark, but the sound has not changed much in the last 3 days.  Overall, I purchased this DAC mostly because there was so much I loved about the original Pontus, but it fell short in top end extension.  This one doesn’t, as there’s now ample air and excitement up top that the soundstage no longer sounds vertically challenged, and can breathe in all three dimensions, maybe better than any DAC I’ve heard.  I’ll now be spending this next week, deciding if I like it more than my Border Patrol SE.


Hope this helps anyone looking at this dac.  Unless there are any other changes in the DAC to report, I’ll probably leave it here.  Though, I’m happy to answer anything else I can if someone @me or wants to PM, OTHERWISE, I think that’s all I got.


Thanks to everyone who contributed.  I’ve enjoyed the input immensely.


Thanks for these listening notes @backgroundblur.  Really appreciate.

Wondering how your comparison to the Border Patrol fared?  

Very interested in this DAC, I've owned an Orchid for several years. It's a great piece of gear but with it's processor, you're still getting 16/44 no matter what you feed it, so more detail is intriguing if you don't give up the "analogness" of it's presentation. I very much appreciate Mr. Blur's reports and look forward to hearing the verdict of the Pontus/Border Patrol contest. Any mention of "hardness" in the treble sends me scurrying. I have spent considerable time and money tuning that out of my system.