A comparison between two DACs, one R-2R, the other ES 9038-based.

This is an item from the FWIW Department, I guess.

Recently I set up an A/B comparison between a Denafrips Pontus and an OPPO Sonica…. Both DACs fed from a Nuprime CDT-8, via the XLR inputs on the same preamp, and everything else constant through the two signal paths to the speakers.

The result when I repeatedly toggled back and forth from the preamp’s input one [Denafrips] to its input two [OPPO]?---- To my surprise [and disappointment], the sounds from the two DACs were utterly indistinguishable, across all kinds of music, after repeated trials … impossible to tell apart… impossible.

The moral of the story? I don’t really know, but it does suggest to me that those who say that DACs of comparable quality cannot be told apart just might have a point.

I bought both the Pontus and the Sonica because I thought that it would be nice to have on hand DACs of “different flavours,” one based on an R-2R ladder, the other based on a delta-sigma chip. 

I did want the expected difference to be real… just for the fun of it… else why spend the extra money? So, my “confirmation bias” was, if anything, stacked in favour of there being a detectable difference.  

However, the results of a reasonably well controlled comparison [sadly?] did not bear out that expectation. Differently based DACs, 2-R2 vs delta-sigma, may not offer such different flavours as many suggest. Is that claim all much ado about nothing?

Thoughts from members of the Forum?




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Good to hear from you, wtf.
Maybe the Sonica.... I'm still absorbing the insights offered in response to the OP.  
Stay in touch. 
DSPeaker Antimode 2.0 is a (full range) room correction unit with built-in dac. I'm sure you can correct the sound according to your preferences much more with this than any dac on the market. Very useful for me.
Very interesting post.

I actually spent some quality time with both of the said DACs and I found them to have some similarities but different at the same time. 

In the case of the Pontus, changing between the sampling and non oversampling mode should yield quite a bit of difference. For what it is worth, I think the Pontus has better sonic quality, while the Sonica has better bang for the buck given it's streaming capabilities and richer feature set.