- The Setup -
USB DDC: Singxer SU-1
DAC: DENAFRIPS Venus
Amp: Mjolnir Audio KGSSHV Carbon
Headphone: Stax SR-009
The Denafrips Venus represents a very impressive value in R2R DACs. Using trickled down technology from the flagship terminator, it comes in at under $3,000 and what you get for this price are some of the most precision matched resistor ladders in the business (one of the most crucial points for an R2R DAC), true balanced design with four R2R networks per channel and a monstrous dual mono PSU, tons of input options, and it makes the source much less important as the Venus converts other digital inputs into I2S via excellent hardware. For example, I used it with a Singxer SU-1 (converting USB to I2S) and also used USB directly from a fairly conventional Windows 10 PC, and they sounded the same. No noise floor with either setup.
To be competitive with the Venus, you really have to venture into the $5,000 range and beyond to find worthy competition in other R2R DACs (not counting the Denafrips Terminator of course). The Venus also supports both non-oversampling and oversampling modes; they each have a different treble character which is the difference I hear, and the treble sounds a bit more balanced and refined to me on non-oversampling mode.
Like other R2R DACs, the sound is best characterized as smooth and laid back. This is what most 'audiophiles' seem to go for. Is it more "analog" sounding? I cannot say, but the smoothness cannot be denied. Lots of people are put off by the upper mid range hump and forward treble of the Stax SR-009, but the Venus totally removes that. It's impressive how significant the Venus impacts the sound. Unlike other R2R DACs however, the Venus provides this smooth sound without sacrificing detail. The Venus provides a relaxing listen; it does seem to soften/blur the attack, and perhaps slow down the decay which is normally lightning fast on the SR-009. It reminds me of a tube DAC or preamp or amp in that regard, but is all solid state.
Keep in mind that the Venus has a long warm up time; it seems like hours to me. I recommend leaving it on when you're awake, and turning it off when you sleep.
Credit: Rhamnetin @ Head-fi