DENAFRIPS Athena - is the best stereo component which I had in my audio life. (point!)
I ordered DENAFRIPS Hestia preamp at VINSHINE AUDIO a good year ago. The quality of this product more than convinced me that the DENAFRIPS brand is worth its reputation. So I ordered two more pieces this summer, Athena preamplifier and the Ares II DAC. I was hardly waiting for the shipment and when they arrived I was not disappointed. All components are heavy, have thick aluminum front panels and well-visible white graphics. I chose them in black. The smallest Ares II DAC does not show his hefty 3.5 kg. Both preamps have beautiful laser printed graphics on the upper aluminum plates. The preamps screens in red (thanks to the designer they are not blue) are large with dimming options. My only complaint is the raw edge of the LCD screen seen on the outside of the Hestia preamp front panel.
There were a lot of professional reviews and different opinions from dedicated audiophiles on the nets and tubes of DENAFRIPS audio products. Ares II DAC and Hestia preamp are often reviewed. But I could not find any review or at least opinion about DENAFRIPS Athena preamp. So I decided to forward my observations and listening impressions mostly about DENAFRIPS Athena preamplifier.
DENAFRIPS Athena preamp is a great designed modern classic audio component. Firm and heavy, top functionality design with properly inserted LCD display. Not eye-catching but longrun, nice and user friendly. If I try to describe the sound of DENAFRIPS Hestia preamp I can say that it is dynamic, just a little warmish side, easy listening with clearly separated layers of music and a properly deep and wide sound picture between the outer sides of my loudspeakers. Neither of that I can say about Athena preamp, it does not live a describable life. It is simply melting with other components and lifting them to another level. With the best possible source and best recorded music material, Athena preamp ensures the other components to show the place where the event was recorded. No matter if the place is a studio, concert hall, philharmony, opera, church, open space... Loudspeakers have no inner or outer side, there is no feeling about distance between speakers or distance to the listener. There are no side walls, no wall behind the speakers. Sound is deployed in space and music is depicted in time and place where it is recorded. It is not "like being there" at a musical event. For that music events are too complex and electricity is too rough for transmission of acoustic sound energy. But in recreation of music events with stereo systems Athena preamp disables many limiting factors. Second thing which is worth mentioning about Athena is how it represents the timber of the instrument. When I first connected Athena in stereo and turned the power on I heard a random separate acoustic instrument playing. My ear was near one loudspeaker and volume was on one of the first few points. I thought it was something wrong because I have never heard an instrument played like that on stereo. And I thought that many times after.
With Ares II DAC and Hestia preamp all terminology used in audio is usable again. Loudspeakers still somehow exist in the listening place. Ares II DAC is an all life partner for Hestia preamp and I listen to them in my second system with a big German horn lautsprecher (Loudspeakers). I like Ares II engagement and dynamic energy. I listen to it on OS mode and slow filter. But it is not in pair with Athena preamp.
I don't know which DENAFRIPS DAC could be in pair with Athena. I must break my piggy bank again and see what is left. For Pontus, Venus, Terminator? I do not know yet. For now, the main source for my Athena preamp is a good old record player with a dedicated phono preamp. With that Athena can do the best for now. Disappearing. Creating space. Restore place. Moving time.
That good is DENAFRIPS Athena preamp.
Credit: Viljem, Slovenia
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