Denafrips Terminator DAC Review

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by purr1n, May 8, 2019.

  1. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Folks, let's stop poo-pooing prices. In this forum, nobody thinks price is a predictor of performance (unless it's from proven designers and makers). High price is a show stopper for most people here and rather considered "value (performance-to-price ratio) sucks more likely". Educated consumers are not damaged at all, as long as product quality information is more transparently shared in the market. I'd hear more impressions from different ears (as opposed to a witch trial relying on one data point) and for now, want to pull more detailed opinions from Marv.

    @purr1n Can you share more impressions of that dac when headphones were used (via AF or other not-dragging quality head amps)?

    I know impressions via speakers and those via headphones are associated. But also often find that these transducers weigh perceptive values differently as their acoustic interactions differ. It is possible noticeable annoyance on speakers would transform into non-issue or to less extent, or vice versa. In my experience, headphones and speakers (if both are really well designed and implemented) differ mostly in (let alone viscerality) how small info is pulled and presented, and how spatial cues are conveyed. Needless to say, this -- at least to me -- affected my dac evaluations very often if not always.

    Also I kinda think you use too good speakers (I'm not saying prices for sure lol) to replicate. Majority of space-constraint members use (or have to use) class-D active speakers or small box speakers with small woofers (often placed sub-optimally). For this reason, I somewhat consider headphones a better reference point. Would like to hear your impressions via familiar cans.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2019
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  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Using the Elex / HD650 (K modded) and the EC 300B amp combo, I found the differences in microdynamics and microdetail even more obvious when compared to other DACs. The JBL 4698b are not as outright resolving as the Oris / Lowther or say a Vocativ, or any solid resolving headphone. Bass quality differences were also about the same too.

    Now with the modded HD6XX, I really couldn't discerne the difference in bass quality among any DAC which I would grade a B or higher, other than the Convert-2 and Yggdrasil seemingly having more slam than XSP and Terminator. From the JBL 4698b, I could however tell that the Terminator was just a little looser in bass than XSP, Convert-2, Gungnir A2 - and just a bit behind Yggdrasil A2 too.

    As for stage, to be honest, I don't pay attention much with headphones. But depth was as flat as XSP, but location of stage was closer, and width smaller. It didn't sound closed in to death at all with headphones for me, I can see headstage folks not liking this, at least in NOS mode. Again it's an NOS thing. I actually felt the MOS16 DAC stage location was further out than Terminator. Compared to other NOS DACs, the Terminator is in the middle of the pack in terms of headstage.

    Hope this helps.
     
  3. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    So, taking an actual track as an example, Rickie's voice (specifically in her debut album) sounds noticeably flat and her seductive/nuanced vocal techniques are almost lackluster with terminator. Right?

    ^ was particularly used because to my ears, this track has been really illustrating where multibits (or good r2r by extension? -- I am not sure whether sokeris did well this though..) easily outshine ds in general. And recent good ds dacs (convert-2, good 9038 pros, and cs solaris as aio) reduced such gap significantly. So your evaluation is making me put terminator behind everything I listed above.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2019
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Exactly. Particularly noticeable with voices or solo instruments. The little inflections, the little swings, the "digging" into the music. This is what I mean by microdynamics and emotional involvement. This yet-to-be-measurable aspect of sound reproduction is so crucial that I would be willing to trade off other aspects, e.g. poorer bass quality, uneven frequency response, etc. This is exactly why there are adherents to stuff like the Voxactiv wide-banders such as @Serious, @Hooncake, @sphinxvc, and that no frequency response or CSD plot will convince them otherwise (the Voaxctiv measures like shit by traditional metrics compared to even entry-level studio monitors).

    It's funny how more pointed questions get more out of me. I think you guys are figuring out how much I keep to myself and won't reveal unless asked. The Soekis DACs are not particularly strong in microdynamics. The lower end models I really do not care for because they do sound rather flat and boring. Compared the Soekris DAC1421, I'd dare say that the Terminator might be just a little bit worse in terms of the engagement factor.

    Again, this is my personal pet peeve, and if you are running something like a NuForce class D or Benchmark AHB amp, none of this "microdynamics" stuff will be discernable because these insipid sounding amps will be the constraining factor. A lot of audiophiles run extremely shitty un-resolving gear or setups. I like simple signal chains and am only willing to go so far to use expensive gear as tone and timbre EQ.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2019
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  5. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I think it was the Pontus we had on loan briefly that I tested? The one where the PSU died, they shipped me a replacement PSU to install myself, and then asked for it back after I poo-pooed on it...

    I mean, that one was kind of rough around the edges, uncoordinated, dull (in terms of micro-dynamics, and macro to some extent), etc.

    So, no surprises what I'm reading about their TOTL model.
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Yeah. I missed out on that one. For reference here: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/denafrips-pontus-dac-impressions.5086/

    I had forgotten how much you slammed the Pontus. It is interesting though because what you mentioned about the differences between OS and NOS mode on the Pontus was also exhibited on the Terminator.

    Instead of brittle, hard, and glarey on OS and overly smooth on NOS (your Pontus experience). I got quite sharp on OS and just a bit teeny sharp on NOS. So the effect seems similar; but as I mentioned, the Terminator is on the slightly macro-detailed side, and incrementally refined, so this makes sense.

    OS on the Terminator just sounded disjointed between the highs and the lows. The soundstage was also unimpressive too with little depth to the stage. NOS was like this too, but least the individual images were more 3D rather than cut-out. This is why I found NOS mode much more pleasurable.

    Looking back at it, I'm glad I was completely out of the loop back then because otherwise I would feel obligated to be nice and maybe pull some punches here.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2019
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  7. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Friend

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    I will add this, in terms of resolution & detail I felt the Terminator smoked the Gungnir Multibit, Yggdrasil, Dangerous Convert-2 & PS Audio Directstream, but this was only apparent on a modded SU-1 with a expensive external power supply via either i2s or AES.
    Going back to a stock SU-1 & another DDC, the Terminator sounded closer to the aforementioned DACs. I clearly heard less of a veil over all those other DACs & not by a little with my best setup.

    I should also point out, while I never tested the coax input & a reviewer that tested all of them, said he thought it didn't perform as well as the other inputs.
     
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    That conclusion seems a bit nonsensical. That reviewer arrived that coaxial sucked while using a CHORD USB to SPDIF coaxial converter. For all we know, it's the CHORD implementation of the USB to coaxial converter that sucked.

    I don't consider this "coaxial". I still consider this USB since USB is still in the loop. And even if it were pure coaxial, the transport itself makes a big difference.

    Did you use A2 stuff? And what transports / transmission protocols with each of the DACs mentioned? Balanced out I assume? And what's the rest of the chain? Were the chains consistent during your evaluations of all these aforementioned DACs?

    I know what i2s can do (been down that road), but I have a hard time believing that the Terminator does the retrieval of low level detail thing better than even a Gungnir A1. Better than Convert-2 is believable, but not the Schiit DACs (assuming they were fed properly).

    Would be have interesting to compare these DACs with the best source using their best transports. TBH, I doubt my modded CDP is that far behind the SU1 i2s input with the uber power supply. As a transport, I bet it's probably the same or even better. Not to mention what the Unison stuff is gonna do.

    In any event, resolution (plankton) of the Terminator was still rather good and not the showstopper issue for me.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2019
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  9. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Friend

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    It was the A1 & I would agree the retrieval of low level detail were better on those. I think the Terminator excelled on the top end, even though at times it could be a bit much.

    My chain was both DACs connected to the same wall outlet, with the exact same power cords, with one pair of XLR interconnects & a AES cable that I quickly switch between them. It takes me 4+ seconds to switch the cables.

    Connected to the modded SU-1/powered by a LPS, which is also connected directly to a different wall outlet, & connected to my PC with a Oyaide USB cable.

    All the DACs I tested showed the improvements when I added the linear power supply, but it had a much bigger impact on the Terminator than any of them.
     
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  10. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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  11. DEATHxMACHINE

    DEATHxMACHINE Friend

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    Has anyone had the opportunity to compare it to other Denafrips offerings like the Ares? Just wondering how much of a step up it is.
     
  12. Elnrik

    Elnrik Super Friendly

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    We had a loaner of the Aries come through here. I felt the original Bifrost MB was better in every way. That's not an exaggeration. Every single way we try to quantify sound reproduction was head and shoulders better on the Bifrost Multibit. Which means, by extension, the Modi Multibit also runs laps around it without breaking a sweat.
     
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  13. DEATHxMACHINE

    DEATHxMACHINE Friend

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    Not surprised. I have not heard the Schiit's multibit offering but I did own the Ares and was surprised of its veil and lack of soundstage and dynamics. Has made me wary of multibit/r2r dacs in general. Was wondering if it was the same case for other Denafrips products or if the Terminator is a significant improvement. And it doesnt appear it is so its better to avoid this 5,000 dollar paper weight.
     
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I was on the list to eventually hear the Aries and Pontus, but the DACs got pulled from SBAF by the distributor because @Hands didn't like one of them and @Torq did an English sidestep without raining praise.

    Take that for what it's worth.

    Curious, which Bifrost MB? Later production silent upgrade?
     
  15. Elnrik

    Elnrik Super Friendly

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    Pre USB gen5 era one. Original ver, as far as I know. @Lyer25 could tell you if the serial number started with an A or a C.
     
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  16. Maxx134

    Maxx134 no one will touch his boy parts without $$$

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    The Terminator replaced a yggy2 on friends system and it was quite apparent the Terminator had a larger stage and almost sparkling(!), delicate, and effortless quality to its soundstage. So if you consider the yggy2 a "reference point", then the Terminator would be "skewed" as having more detailing, focus and size (depth&width)..
    An analogy would be like how an HD800 is a more detailed and larger stage image..
    Regardless, if you can afford it, my observation is that it is above a yggy2.
    I still have respect for Yggdrasil as a "reference point", as it is still in my pic.
    I myself changed preference for the holo Spring signature. at this level it is always a preference.


    If @Hands didnt like them, then those other lower models are nothing like their Terminator, which is unfortunate.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
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  17. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    Just saw this! Notifications all bollixed I think cuz I drop in on random threads, haha.

    It starts with... neither? Must be hella old then, but the fact that it's a 230V sticker makes me think the sticker was replaced by Schiit when it was sent in for a conversion. All I have is an IG post from way back, original photo was deleted, so pardon the square crop.

    [​IMG]
     
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  18. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Using my Jedi Force Powers, I have determined that because the Pontus was poo, throwing more brute force at the same design does not, and will not, equate to a device better enough to be considered "nothing like" the ones below.

    Calling a soundstage sparkling, delicate, and effortless in and of itself is a big vague and meaningless. Need a full analysis and comparison to better understand what you mean by that.

    Plus that's just one element to listen for. And one man's "bigger" stage could be another man's "diffuse, unfocused" stage.
     
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  19. Argopo

    Argopo Acquaintance

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    Ok, I'm going to be "that guy":

    If you are interested in these kinds of DACs, it would be worth it to set up a nice computer-based system feeding upsampled DSD512 via USB or i2S. And not just hookup some CDP to its SPDIF input. It may change the results.

    I know, I know... upsampled DSD via some piece of software is a royal pain in the ass to implement. And you have to deal with the USB bullshit.

    If you want straight up great sounding PCM, then just buy a Yggdrasil and be done with it.

    My Yggdrasil A2 is better than the PCM side of my T+A DAC8, but the DSD side of the T+A is something else. Not, in a "1 to1" sense, but that it opens up more options for me with HQPlayer's various filters.

    If I wanted to buy a Terminator, I would test it as a DSD only DAC first.
     
  20. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Friend

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    It should be noted that Denafrips is offering a user replaceable $200+ DSP board upgrade that offers new slow & fast filters, along with new USB implementations.

    The slow filter seem like something that people would want.
     

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