The Ares II DAC
I have been on a long journey to get to this point. Up until the last few years I would have never entertained Chinese hifi, simply because they rarely feature in What Hi-Fi and the like, so if you don’t see it you don’t know about it. The internet and YouTube has changed all that.
A few years ago I decided to buy a Little Dot MKii headphone amp, I wanted a cheap way to try “tubes”.
I loved it and that’s where my interest in so called “Chi-Fi” started.
Since then I’ve added a Yaqin MC-10T and a Yaqin MS-23B that has the “Lesbox” conversion.
The rest of my system is considered “vintage” these days, with the exception of the loudspeakers.
My journey to the Ares II DAC has been roughly a 3 year one, yes, 3 years of ploughing through tons of reviews and videos. I have used several cheap DAC’s In the past and wanted this to be my “endgame” given my budget. After all those reviews one particular unit kept sticking in my mind, the Denafrips Ares II. Could it really be that good for the money? Does it sound as if it’s a four figure DAC? If it sounds too good to be true then it usually is, right?
Wrong! This thing is amazing!
Not just given it’s competitive price, just amazing regardless of its price point. You know, as soon as you take it out of the box, you are dealing with a serious piece of kit. Given it’s size it’s carrying some weight, the RCA sockets are excellent quality, everything is put together very nicely indeed. The advice is, let the unit warm up before use, not an issue if you are used to tube amplifiers. Some may not like the small LED lights on the front, personally I prefer it, it’s in keeping with the discreet nature of the unit.
“You sit down and enjoy the music, I’ll take care of this” Says the Ares II.
There are a few that may not like the fact there’s no remote, which is more important, convenience or sound quality? Changing oversampling settings might be a bit of an issue but to be honest I have not changed anything as yet, I’m still enjoying the music.
Later on I shall experiment.
The first thing I tried was using Spotify on a PS4 connected optically. Before you start saying “Spotify is crap” etc, I know it’s only low bit rate especially the free version, but that’s exactly the point of the exercise, to see how it deals with things that are less than CD quality.
The Ares II improves things greatly, and if you are a Spotify user who may be thinking there’s no point in upgrading my DAC, I would urge you to think again. Next up, my trusty Technics SL-PS900 an early 90’s bomb proof gem that’s still going strong. Again, connected optically.
All I can say is wow!
What a difference, it’s amazing how the sound quality has improved and changed. As a fan of vinyl, the Ares II seems to give the analogue sound that I like and also improve soundstage and instrument separation. It just makes you want to sit and actually “listen “ and enjoy what ever music you want to feed the Ares II.
So after approximately a month I have not changed the oversampling or changed anything, I have not used DSD or hi-res because I don’t use it at the moment. All my listening is CD or Spotify with the occasional FLAC file. I can also say the USB stage is excellent and does not appear to be a weak point, holding its own against the optical connection.
I can honestly say the Ares II DAC has been a worthwhile purchase, money well spent.
It has also made me want to rediscover my CD collection. Would all this praise have been thrown around if it wasn’t an R2R DAC, and just a standard chipset?
All I know is, after a 3 year journey I have found my digital Valhalla. Thanks you everyone involved with Denafrips, I cannot recommend the Ares II highly enough.
My current system is as follows:
Denafrips Ares II DAC
Pink Triangle LPT with RB300 and Ortofon 2M Blue with “Lesbox” phono stage
Neat Acoustics Iota
Little Dot MKii
Credit: David S. York @ U.K.