When Just Any DAC Won’t Do
My new DENAFRIPS Terminator is the best sounding, most capable DAC I have ever heard in my audio system, which exists for one sole purpose: to accurately and faithfully reproduce the recorded sound of pipe organs. Allow me to explain.
I use a very sophisticated computer program called Hauptwerk, which stores and manages high definition digital sound samples of pipe organs from around the world. Each organ sample set contains stereo digital recordings (typically 24-bit 48 kHz) of each and every pipe of that organ, together with the mechanical sounds of the organ and the reverberation of the cathedral or hall in which the organ resides. Using Hauptwerk, a MIDI-equipped organ console and a competent audio system, the sound of the organ can be recreated by playing the virtual organ in real time in the same manner the organ is played in the actual cathedral or hall.
Recreating the majestic sound of a large pipe organ is a challenge for any audio playback system. Recreating the sound realistically and convincingly raises the bar even higher. Pipe organs have thousands of pipes of varying materials, shapes and sizes ranging from tiny to huge, with different intonations and frequencies extending to the lower and upper limits of human hearing. To be successful, the system must be able to handle the dynamic range from a lone, delicately voiced pipe to a sustained full-organ, knock-your-socks-off fortissimo in which thousands of pipes sound simultaneously. To be convincing, the system must be able to cleanly sort out the multitude of pipes and reverb tails that define the sound field that gives the pipe organ its distinctive character and strength.
Every component in the audio chain—from source to loudspeaker—is critical to achieving the “it is real, you are there” effect. That is why I am delighted with the DENAFRIPS Terminator. Previous DACs in my system could not quite cut it. They were not powerful enough, and/or did not do a good job of resolving the complex sound of the individual pipes and associated reverberations. The Terminator works synergistically with the rest of my system to render with precision the timbres and locations of the various pipes in the sound field without slurring, audible distortion or false colorations. It is as though I am hearing the actual instrument “live” in the three-dimensional acoustic of the hall. It is really that good.
One feature that drew me to the Terminator is its I2S input connectivity. My Hauptwerk output is I2S HDMI LVDS via an externally powered Pink Faun I2S bridge. The I2S connection to the Terminator works flawlessly. I2S is arguably the cleanest way to send digital audio signal from a computer streamer to a DAC. Other things I like about the Terminator is its power. It never sounds congested, distorted or strained, even when I “pull out all the stops” at high volume. In my system the Terminator outputs through XLR balanced analog interconnects to a high-quality preamplifier which feeds my vintage BAT VK-60 stereo tube amplifier, which I modified with Dueland CAST PIO copper capacitors and Sylvania 1952 “Bad Boy” N.O.S. input tubes to enhance the clarity, detail resolution and frequency response. The loudspeakers are Harbeth 40.1s, which are full-bodied, warm and detailed—an excellent match up with the Terminator. With the addition of the Terminator, the audio chain is now first rate, from start to finish. The only thing the Harbeth loudspeakers cannot do is reach down to 16Hz for the lowest pedal bass (something few speakers can do), so I employ a special 9-foot tall, 2-foot diameter subwoofer with its own amplifier for that limited purpose.
I cannot praise the Terminator enough for its performance in my digital pipe organ system. Having passed the pipe organ torture test with flying colors, I have no doubt it would be a stellar performer in virtually any competent audio system. Based on my own experience, I can attest that it plays very well with highly resolving tube equipment and full-range loudspeakers with a neutral to warm balance.
I thank Alvin at VINSHINE AUDIO for his advice and personal attention during the procurement of the Terminator. After researching other people’s reviews, I knew in advance the Terminator would be a good fit in my system. To me, there is no such thing as too much detail and resolution, especially when the sound I want to hear is that of the real instrument in the real venue. In purchasing the Terminator the only hard decision for me was which color to buy: silver or black! Either way, I would not have gone wrong.
Review by: Joseph LG
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