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For my tastes, this defines “Musical”

Equipment list:

  • Streamer- Mac Mini

  • DDC- Denafrips Iris (USB in/ I2s)

  • DAC- Denafrips Venus II

  • Preamp- Denafrips Hestia

  • Amp- Denafrips Thallo

  • Power conditioner- Isotek

  • Speakers- Tekton Lores w/ upgrades

About the system:

As stated in my primary system review I started out with all of this gear in my dedicated 2

channel room. After the performance exceeded my expectations I began testing out the top

shelf Denafrips gear in the dedicated room and moved my original purchases downstairs which

is where I spend a good amount of time, working from home, cooking, eating, etc.

System 2 is like a 1/2 scale model of my dedicated room system so that it did not take over my

living room.

The sound:

Having spent months listening to the gear listed above in 2 rooms and with multiple speakers I

can say that the character is retained regardless. All of the Denafrips components have a very

natural sound that really finds the balance of transparency and warmth but not at the expense

of uncontrolled bass or extension in either end of the spectrum. For my tastes this defines

“Musical” and is what I look for as it is much easier to make a complete system sound


Thallo power amp - Seriously impressive especially for the size and price. Incredibly full

midrange with some meat on the bone that really benefits in vocals to prevent them from

sounding thin. The bass is outstanding and much better than other amps that I have tested

anywhere near this price range. Treble is smooth but not rolled off. If your speakers dip in high frequency, you might think the amp is rolled off however I would say that it is likely your

frequency response in room (think off-axis) or just the room is over dampened.

Hestia pre-amp - Very similar to the Thallo with a full bodied sound that makes music just

seem very realistic vs. analytical. Coming from a DAC with volume control to this preamp made

a world of difference for me and I would never go back. Keep in mind I only have 1 digital


Venus II DAC - One can easily write a lot about this DAC but I will say that everything that you

read or see on YouTube from reviewers is true. One reviewer said “my jaw about dropped”.

Well if the rest of your system is up to par and your speakers are properly placed that pretty

much sums it up. Yes the Terminator II is better but the Venus II probably bests most other

DACs out there regardless of price.

Iris DDC - I will start by saying that I am not a fan of a Mac Mini as a streamer. By itself it

sounds a little flat compared to my Aurender N100h. The Iris gets the Mac close to a dedicated

streamer when running USB in/ I2s out to DAC. The sound is much more holographic while

bass and dynamics improve substantially. It dawned on me that reading reviews of speakers

online there are polarizing views of dynamics and bass. Well I would venture to guess that

those who are lacking have not addressed the issue at the literal source of the problem. That

said if you are running a source that provides USB Audio output to a DAC with I2s I

recommend a DDC and since I own the Iris and Hermes I would say that either will make a

noticeable improvement.

Credit: Bryan I. @ North Carolina USA





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