Impression of the New DSP Upgrade
I didn't expect to find myself writing here this soon, but I have just received my new DSP today, like 10 hours ago. I actually thought I might "comment" on it in a couple of weeks or so, let things settle in. yet here I'm. OKAY... in this hobby I know that we (at least me if you are not!) always get excited when some new addition sounds REAL good, and immediately we feel like telling friends. so, with that in mind, I apologize in advance if I seem to be over excited. but I just couldn't hold it and needed to share.
The new DSP was relatively easy to install, just handle gently and be real careful about orientation as per the instructions. it might be slightly tricky as the pins underneath are exactly the same on both sides. but the black socket on top is in similar location on both DSPs AND traces on the boards are almost same. even with minimal logic I think its hard to make such a mistake a mount it in reverse. I closed DT top cover up, pushed the 19 kgs back into the rack - same sittings and connection: AES cable from N10, NOS mode, music streamed from Qobuz mixed with some WAV/DSD from my collection, pressed play.
Shuffling from one track to another, I was wondering non stop; what kind of sorcery was applied to this DSP board? how is it even possible it could change the sound/the presentation this much? it is really beyond me! fact; this is the same DAC i had for more than a year. same cables. same power supply and r2r ladder board, just a new "brains" of sort. simply put, it kind of unleashed the true potential of the terminator - all this performance was locked indeed. its still the terminator overall, but MUCH has changed for the better. the changes might feel kind of subtle at start, but its VERY obvious and detectable very quickly, waaaaay beyond placebo. and it grows on you as time passes and leaves you completely astonished! I didn't expect this when Alvin told me "SQ is improved" and kept it at that. asking him over chat after I heard what I heard, "HOW?", he told me its mainly the FPGA code that has been under development for 2 years, in addition to few other tweaks on the bored design of course. actually, it doesn't really matter - what does is, it works! congratulations to Denafrips. I salute the guy who voiced this update - its sensational and just right, at least to my ears. might be a huge statement, but it is indeed the best 220 USD I've ever spent on an upgrade. the magnitude of refinement it adds, makes you wonder if it is even fair to get such improvement for that kind of money? I'm actually thankful for providing this to us in a form of an upgrade instead of releasing terminator 2, for example! Denafrips loving people, kindly keep doing such updates in future. Please don't get any ideas from my rhetorical question!
With my terrible and lacking audiophile dictionary, I'm going to try to summarize what I have noticed from listening during the past few hours, going through all my favorite tracks, I do that every time a major good change takes place (don't we all?). please keep in mind, this is what I heard on my 2 channel system (which I explained a bit about in my previous posts). I do listen to it daily, and I know how it sounds and when that changes. your experience might vary depending on everything in your chain, including the type of connection. I didn't try using USB from PC, and I probably won't. but from reading about this update, it seemed focused on USB and extremely high rez files, so it might be even more noticeable in that case. Okay. imagine a rough diamond. I will use that analogy to describe the previous sound of the terminator which I did like regardless. it was dense while still transparent, feels coherent and unified yet full of details, tonality is emotional and musical in general. yet at the same time it was not totally perfect. it was more of flat sound than layered - not as 3D as some dac like chord Dave (I keep comparing DT to DAVE just cause I have been pushed non stop into that direction by audiophile friends who love Chord and believe its the best out there). so maybe "technically" DT was lacking a bit. well, that rough diamond has been cut and polished! first thing that jumped at me from the first minute is; transparency, perceived resolution and dynamics have all increased. the 2nd thing, its a lot quieter. noise floor seems to have dropped further down. then, Bass. it has more definition and extension to it which is a great addition. as powerful the DT bass was, it could have used more definition and here it is now. highs sounded better, more defined and extended YET sweet and comfy to the ears, more than before. vocals? Oh my! much more clarity/definition on that department, while retaining the seduction. much more of that feel he or she is right there. in general, separation level became absolutely mad. of course its not just the DT alone, as everything in a the system comes into play contributing to such sound, but DT in my setup SCALED with much more costly components and cables. its actually cheaper than both my amp, streamer and even some cables!! such a high value indeed. back to the sound; I couldn't help to notice there are now layers in the sound and depth has increased substantially, also slightly the height of the sound stage increased. my speakers disappeared even more (okay this particular observation I'm not sure its the new DSP cause my speakers were already sort of not there, but I believe its MORE of that effect). sitting at the sweet spot, if you close your eyes its truly difficult to locate the speaker! its just a cloud of heavenly sound that engulfs you, keeps you going without any well to stop in order to tend to other things in your life! instruments sounded more real and more clearly defined in space, even the tonality/timbre is more right to me, but we need someone who is an expert in musical instruments to confirm that... I repeat that I'm no expert in the accuracy of timbre subject. its just my ears liking the sound much more with the new DSP. certain tracks/ or portions of it that I used to feel doesn't get rendered by DT in an enjoyable manner, is perfectly fine now and even a joy to listen to all of a sudden! the sound became more lively and more open overall, but without losing that intimate connection to the music. also, live recordings gave better feel of the hall/venue. in short, the new DSP is a revelation to someone who lived with previous DT sound, which was not bad by any means!
I have tried OS out of curiosity, as now it goes really high to 1536 khz. earlier, I couldn't easily tell the difference between OS/NOS upon pressing the button instantly, but over some a brief period it was possible. now, it is more obvious for sure. OS sounded "Clean". actually way too clean still in a good way, it was rounded, with very fast and tight bass. but didn't sound as organic/natural as NOS. I believe maybe in a system which is mellow/soft, OS will sound better. in my own system, I still favor NOS. but what has been done to over sampling capabilities is noticeable. I also tried swapping between the two filters (seemed like there is only two sittings only available when you cycle through filters using mode button). one of those filters will tame the highs and its possible to hear instantly. I guess this slow filter will work great in an overly bright system. I'm going to sleep on it, see if my excitement remains the same in the upcoming weeks. I feel I'm at a point where I'm done with the itch of "upgrade", at least for some time. I have felt so lately even before the new DSP arrives. but now that I heard it, there is no going back. It makes you wonder that no matter how great your sound is, there is always a place for improvement. But i think I'm in good hands on DAC front at least!
I shall update this post if I notice anything else. do I recommend it to a friend? YES absolutely!! with relativity negligible cost, performance is elevated by a notch, probably 2, maybe even three notches depending on how much capable your chain is, how the terminator sound works with your other components. synergy is key for sure. the sound of DT has became truly delicate, more refined and much higher- end yet lively and dynamic. truly much more joyful with whatever kind of music you through at it. its somehow feels like a crime to sit on these findings and not report immediately, so there you go. I hope this has been of help. if you own a terminator and end up with the new DSP, please let me know if you observe the same or different results.. would be interesting to know! people who just bought terminator "upgraded" already wont realize the jump i guess.
P.S one of my curious, Chord- advocate friends came for an hour or so listening session after I told him what is going on. he also confirmed what I heard. "i like the sound much better now, first time I hear 3D sound in your system (!!). frankly, it doesn't sound the same DAC much". well, I know it doesn't, its much better, and I'm liking my improved DT, way, way much!