Review: Denafrips Ares II

I recently picked up a used Denafrips Ares II DAC and thought that I’d pass along my initial impressions.

I have not compared it to any other similarly priced DAC, so cannot make any meaningful comparisons on that front. It was, however, a clear step up from my Maverick Audio TubeMagic D2 DAC that I had upgraded with Sparkos Labs op amps along with rolling in a Western Electric 396A tube. Based on price point an improvement in sound quality is expected, but I wasn’t sure how much the op amp upgrade might be worth.

What finally sold me on the Denafrips Ares II DAC was its purpose built design. I like that it doesn’t have any preamp capability, headphone output, or even a remote. Their focus was on the sole function that I was looking for which is the digital to analog conversion.

Recognizing that it doesn’t automatically correspond to quality, I love that it weighs 3.5kg (7.7 lbs) and feels almost industrial in construction. The buttons have a solid quality feel as well. The LEDs are known to be small and hard to see from above (i.e. it’s hard to know if it’s on or off when standing above it), but from across the room you can seem them just fine and they are far less intrusive than the LEDs on any of my other electronics in the room.

Internally, the large transformer and field of capacitors (power supply) and resistors (DAC) really give the appearance of attention to detail.

I don’t have any particular experience to say that an R2R ladder DAC is superior, but I do like the concept of a discrete approach over a chip solution.

As a side note, I did try a Schiit Modi Multibit DAC and found it to be essentially indistinguishable from the tube output on my Maverick Audio DAC prior to the op amp upgrade.

If you’re looking for a purpose built DAC that screams of attention to detail and build quality, I’d suggest taking a look at the Denafrips Ares II.

I’ve really enjoyed the sound so far, but who doesn’t enjoy the sound of a new component that yields an improvement!


Congratulations, on the puchase of your Aries II. Good that you like it.

Now a word of caution, stay away from all DAC threads.

@pmm - I like the way you think.  I tend to be a satisfied customer once I make a purchase, it's a rare trait.  I know that it's very possible that another similarly priced DAC could sound better and most certainly would sound different.  I've not found anything that I don't like about the Denafrips as a product and it sounds good to my ears.

I actually don't go to the local audio shops very often because it leads to dissatisfaction and I prefer to feed the contentment.

You are an example. 

I had an excellent chance to buy an Aries.  Instead, I decided on Yggdrasil at a good price.  Have to hold myself back, because  there is always something better.


What is your point? Nobody in this thread mention NOS nor OS, OP is very happy with his new toy, as I was at one point and Golden Sound praised its performance. So, what is your point?

@knock1  I mentioned it because people go on forums to do some research on products that they're interested in. If Denafrips advertises a product as NOS capable, and it doesn't measure that way, then they are putting out wrong information. Someone shopping for a DAC with that capability would be misled. That's the only reason I mentioned it.

I'm aware of this issues and "cool" with it being mentioned on this thread.  My favorite review was actually the one by Golden Sound.

Just yesterday I rolled back to the first firmware upgrade (V1.6) because I found that the latest one resulted in a lot more skips with my Bluesound Node 2i and I never noticed a distinct sonic difference from the latest firmware upgrade like I did with the first one.

I'm currently messing with some "inferior' Electro-Harmonix tubes in my Pathos amplifier, so I will never notice an sonic loss from the firmware rollback because it all sounds inferior at this point compared to my Mullard tubes.