It’s been almost three weeks now since I have received my Denafrips Terminator in black, from the awesome Alvin at Vinshine Audio, Singapore. They are the sole distributer of Denafrips, in order to keep the prices lower for us, consumers.
My experience started with Extreme care from Alvin the moment I started asking him questions about the DAC and the lineup. I read almost everything related on the web, but I had few questions still. he was very responsive, and extremely helpful. With a product that has such amazing reviews, he didn’t need to be, But he was! Even after I made the purchase and he has got the money, he kept checking with me till the Denafrips was at my door step, delivered by DHL in two days! (the cost of which is included in the price, and I bet you it ain’t cheap at 22kg that this monster of a DAC and its double thick cartoon box measure up to.
With some struggle as I was alone at home, I managed to place the 19 kg Terminator on my rack. Connected my Aurender N10 to it via AES 1 input (the terminator actually has two AES inputs, but unfortunately, they can’t work together for higher bandwidth when connected to a streamer like Aurender W20 by multiple AES cable, one for each channel, enabling DSD128 over DoP. Maybe a future update Denafrips? ).
My setup/chain in case you were curious, consist of an Aurender N10 – AES – DAC (previously questyle CMA600i with built in balanced Preamp and now Denafrips Terminator) – XLR - temporary preamp –XLR - fully balanced custom monoblocks - acoustic zen satori speaker cables to a pair of Wilson Sabrinas on isoacoustics gaia ii isolation feet, powering all this a custom power conditioner.
Being frankly honest, the way it sounded straight out of box, I was not impressed. It was confined, a bit harsh. it didn’t sound that great, Especially the bass. It was boomy and accentuated. But I didn’t panic at all. A friend of mine does have its little brother (not so little!), the Venus which I was impressed by it performance and tonality. He told me such true R2R DACs require hundreds of play hours to break in and shine. I’ve also read multiple threads about this as well. so, I listened for an hour, let it play then came back to it next day. In 24 hours, that slight harshness was gone, and the sound has quiet improved to an “okay” listenable level of SQ! Excuse me as I’m no expert in Audiophile terms, I’m not a reviewer by any means. I’m just someone who enjoys High end audio. The better things sound the more joy I get. That makes me an audiophile minus the knowledge of describing in words how things sound. I will try my best but I can’t promise you much!
Over the coming days/weeks, the DAC was on with a signal passing through all the time. At night, I will just power off my monoblocks and keep a long list on repeat. By about 300 hours, I could say the SQ became of a jaw dropping level!!! Mids are the best I have ever heard, tube like mids. Highs are so detailed but never harsh. Bass has tightened up and its just of the right amount, Never covering up lower mids as it was slightly doing so earlier. I have many friends who had a listen when it was a day or two in. coming again after a couple of weeks, not listening to it in between, knowing that nothing has been added or removed from my system, they could not believe it’s the same DAC! We did compare to many other DACs (not R2R, but what we had in hand. And none did cost as much to be honest) but none was able to keep up. What are my observations about the sound at this point? Well;
it sounded so rich and detailed even at low volume which is a first to me. I used to crank my system up to hear all the little details. Well, No more!! The sound stage also doesn’t collapse at lower volume. Vocals are warm, magical, focused and floating at the same height in the middle of my expanded sound stage. instruments are layered across with unbelievable separation. I can also say this DAC tonality is slightly on the Dark/Warm side but just a notch. The PERFECT amount. If a recording was bright, it will still sound bright anyway but slightly less. So its not an extremely warm and “boring” kind of sound. And with this slight warmth, there is a ton of details and dynamics! How could these opposites be found together is mind blowing. The person who has calibrated the sound on this beast is certainly someone who knows what to do exactly. A true expert.
I have been told the Denafrips Terminator really shines and “opens up” by 1000 hours. That would be towards the end of September 2018 for my unit. I truly can’t believe anything could sound better that how it sounds now!! I look forward to witnessing further improvements which I will write again about, if proved to be true and worth noting.
I have done a fair amount of research before I pulled the trigger on this one. Some reviews claimed that other 20k USD DACs are slightly better. But I ain’t crazy nor I have the money to buy a DAC that cost as much, just cause its better by a little. The Denafrips Terminator at its price point is probably the highest Value ever for an End game DAC without totally wrecking your bank account. Its not cheap yes, but its Priced fairly for a flag ship in a world where audio companies put on crazy margin just cause audiophiles are willing to pay. I personally believe in the law of diminishing returns. And I never aim for that last 2-3% improvement that would cost me an arm and a leg. With this DAC I was convinced that I’ve got the most bang of my hard-earned bucks. But that is my own opinion for you to consider.
I have never wrote a review before, like ever, and I don’t dare to call this write up a review – even a mini one. Its just a shout out to anyone out there who is interested, curious but still skeptical. I’m still more skeptical than you. I do not believe many of the audiophile myths and I’m extremely careful of snake oil while exploring the horizons of this costly hobby. If you are searching for an end game DAC, then search no more. Buy a Denafrips terminator today. then have a some faith until it breaks in at least initially for 300 hours. You can thank me after for this recommendation
P.S. I do also highly recommend Aurender N10 server. This is thing is Magic, Provided you take its output via AES (Coax is fine but AES is way better). Forget all about USB cables even the N10 has one. You need your signal to pass through the N10’s OCXO clock, USB out doesn’t as it has a different protocol. Your jaws will drop of how heavenly this combination sound. I initially thought the N10 is way expensive compared to the N100h. but that clock inside does wonders and its worth every penny. A friend of mine who bought the N100h at the same time, is currently trading it in for an N10 himself. Truly, A combo of Aurender N10 and Denafrips Terminator is the best thing I have heard to date, and I have lots of audiophile friends who has been in this hobby for years, I did listen to all of their setups. If you thought Tidal doesn’t sound okay vs CDs or CD reps, even DSD, such a setup will make you rethink everything totally. I can tell you with extreme confidence, it’s your laptop and USB cable that is hindering your “computer” based audio listening experience. You need a good source, the N10 (or equal), a great analog sounding DAC, the Denafrips Terminator. I have been happily terminated myself! Maybe its your time next
Happy listening everybody!