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Denafrips Pontus - it’s all about the music

Denafrips Pontus - it’s all about the music

A year ago, I started a project and journey in upgrading the digital side of my audio equipment. My philosophy was to hold on to my aged analog components; Quad 405-2 amp (1985), Conrad Johnson PV-10 tube preamp (1989) and SoundLab Dynastat electrostatic/hybrid speakers (2000). Good quality analog components are capable of deliver far better sonically than most people imagine. Before starting my quest, I already had converted my entire CD collection to digital files, which I played through a Mac Mini (2012) using Audirvana+ player. I used upsampling on-the-fly, using iZotope SRC filter. I googled ways to optimise the Mini as endpoint player, delivering upsampled music files to the DAC. I soon came into contact with Alex Crespi and Uptone Audio. Very busy Alex was kind enough to guide me through the first steps, and during the winter I ended up with Uptone Audio’s IsoREGEN (USB regenerator) and later their excellent audio grade EtherREGEN switch. I also required the Sonore UltraRendu – and with the EtherREGEN it was a giant step in the right direction, leaving Mac Mini out of direct feed to the DAC.

Corona locked down the world early in 2020, and as a newly retiree I spent more time upgrading power supply’s, power cables and interlink cables. During spring and summer, I had a very fruitful collaboration with a British audiophile friend, who was in the same lock down situation as myself. We experimented especially with different network solutions, and I ended up using a new router with SFP-capabilities (optical) and another (Cisco) switch. With every single step of system change, it was relatively easy to identify as an improvement or the opposite. At this stage I experienced my existing DAC as a bottle neck, and started to search for alternatives, and I noticed the net was floated with exited reviews on the new R2R Denafrips Ares II. I read and re-read most of the articles and reviews and decided to order the Denafrips Ponus, which would match my humble audio system well. I contacted Mr. Alvin Chee at Vinshine Audio, and I got a place in the queue for the Pontus.

The Pontus arrived last week with FedEx. It had been on a long trip with stops in New Delhi, Dubai, Paris, Hannover and Oslo. Opened the box and WOW - all matt silver brushed aluminum and Denafrip's logo milled into the top lid. The DAC was freezing cold, so I plugged it in and left it on with power for an hour or so. I started playing, turned up, but quickly turned down again. It sounded like crap! OK, I’ve been warned about this from other reviewers, so I left it loop-play for two another hours. Turned up again and could hear that it had begun to wake up, but still not very impressive.

Armed with patience, I decided to give the Pontus the time it needed. So, after another 48 hours loop-playing, I turned off upsampling in Audirvana and let Pontus fix this, and engaged the “slow” filter setting. Put on my test songs and listened. The longer I sat and listened, the more I realised that I was actually relaxing. It was like having a body massage. At previous listening sessions I felt mostly tense, with shoulders up under my ears, and focused on frequencies and reproduction of recorded space. Now, the soundstage is wide, high and deep — and full of details. Voices are wonderfully well presented. Instruments have clearly defined areas, and you can choose to follow individual instruments through all genres of music. Cymbals sound like real metal alloys — not just sizzling noise. Small ensembles and choir is a real joy listening to. With eyes closed, it is as if the speakers are gone. Gradually the dynamics has improved, but without being overbearing. I sat with a feeling that this was not a digital product — the overall presentation sound like analog. Now it sound like real music!

Denafrips recommends a minimum of 100/200 hours of burn-in before Pontus' full potential is present. Can't wait for this, but already now I can confirm that this DAC is in a different league compared to my faithful Hegel DAC. I know that it is difficult to evaluate a single system component, because of the synergy from other components acting upon the overall sonic presentation. But with thousands of hours spent with the same equipment, you can easily identify the differences when new components are introduces.

The Denafrips Pontus really expose all the preparation and experimental stuff I had performed earlier. A long journey is finally over, I think, and maybe I’ve just been Denafripped!

Credit: Happy owner - Tom, Norway




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