I chose the latter and am very pleased with the result.
I had moved from a Benchmark Media DAC2 to the original Terminator (T1) and would occasionally re-insert the Benchmark and felt (in my system) it provided greater upper-midrange energy that created a sense of increased transparency. But the T1 remained my primary DAC.
So, I was torn on whether to upgrade to the Benchmark DAC3 or the Terminator 2 (T2) with the Iris DDC. I chose the latter and am very pleased with the result. The T2 sounds more open and forceful on my system, and there is an impressive separation of different instruments and voice.
I then added Iris without clock sync. My aging ears did not immediately notice a sonic difference, but when I played “Beat the Champ” by the Mountain Goats, all the lyrics were clearly heard for the first time without any sense of shrillness or glare, or straining by me. I’ve always loved the Irish squeezebox/accordionist Sharon Shannon, and the T2/Iris places the instrument in the room where even the mechanical noises are “there.” Euphoric. On Nils Lofgren Live, the guitar is more resonant.
I then slaved Iris to the T2 clock.
If I simply stood in front of a speaker and toggled the clock synch on/off, the sound seems slightly fuller when using the T2 clock.
It's difficult to attribute the sound of a system to a single component, but on my system with the T2 there is a great sense of realness. On most recordings, bass and drums are rendered as separate instruments that can be easily tracked with your ear, which increases the enjoyment of music for me. Instead of thump-thump-thump bass, you notice the differences between bass instruments. Percussive sounds hang in the soundstage from specific locations and reveal the material being struck. It actually changes my experience of listening to familiar music, and you have a definite sense that you have crossed over into something of higher quality that conveys instrument timbre and performance accessibility.
I’ve always been rather neutral on burn-in, but after month there is a solidness and musicalty that ends analysis and is replaced by the love of listening to all forms of music. I’d say my listening time has doubled since moving to the T2/Iris with clock sync.
Curious USB cable from HP laptop to Iris DDC, very short Blue Jeans HDMI cable to I2s on Terminator 2.
Clock cables from Sweetwater back from T2 to Iris.
Purist XLR from T2 to Modwright 36.5 tube line stage, Benchmark XLR to VAC 200 IQ tube amplifier.
Fairly old Wireworld Eclipse to Sonist Concerto 4 Gen2 Speakers.
Furman AC-215A line conditioner feeding Terminator 2 and Modwright 36.5.
Credit: Bill C. @ Alabama, United States
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