It is one of the best buy in my audiophile journey
I have a very modest system consisting of the following:
Rega RP3 turntable (upgraded linear power supply) with Elys 2 cartridge
Schiit Mani Phono preamp
Sony XA7ES (used as transport)
Gigabyte BRIX PC (as streamer) with Teddy Pardo linear power supply connected to a NAS
Denafrips ARES II
Schiit Jotunheim ( for headphone)
ProAc Tablette III
SVS SB-3000 subwoofer
All interconnects are mostly XLO and Audioquest cables. I used to have an Audio-GD DAC which I enjoyed but always felt that my vinyl sounds better. On reading a lot of online reviews on the ARES II I took a leap of faith and ordered it from Vinshine. The transaction and shipping is much more smoother than I thought. When I turn it on the first time, my impression is "Wow, it's good". It's a lot more analog sounding than my Audio-GD. So I allow it to break in for a while. In the meantime, I started to experiment with my front end by upgrading the power supply to the BRIX (running OpenHome and Fidelizer). The Teddy Pardo supply although expensive is a worthy upgrade. I also added an optical link between my NAS and my BRIX. The background noise dropped dramatically.
Then I started to give the ARES a good serious listening and really liked it a lot. I tried various settings (NOS, OS) but always settled back to NOS. I think it is the most analog sounding mode for me, but I understand many reviewers rave the OS mode. I guess it is really personal taste and system dependent. The good thing is that you do have a choice.
At the time I was using the Schiit Eitr USB interface to feed the ARES. Then the Denafrips IRIS DDC caught my eyes. Happy with my ARES so I ordered the IRIS without much second thought. It was another WOW moment when I connected them together. The dynamics and the micro-details are simply amazing. After about a couple of months breaking in, I now hardly listen to my vinyls any more. The SQ is just so amazing that I can listen to it for hours, not to mention the convenience of controlling the tracks from your chair (for those who are interested, I use the Lumin control app on my iPad as a remote). BTW, I listen to mostly vocals, light rock and classical music and the SVS supplemented my Tablette very nicely. Also, all components are on IsoAcoustics OREA series feet, which I highly recommend.
Too bad the ARES does not have the I2S interface (which the IRIS has). Alvin has been nudging me to upgrade it to PONTUS. I have to say it is very tempting but the ARES is so enjoyable now that I may hang on to it for a little while. It is one of the best buy in my audiophile journey. Digital audio has really come a long way.
Credit: Jerry of Toronto, Canada
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