DAC better than Denafrips Pontus II

As I try to finish out my system, looking at user recommendations for DACs better than the Pontus II.  This is one area I have not spent a great deal of time on (the digital side) but I have not found anything negative against the Pontus II or the Ares II.My transport will likely be the Nuprime CDT-8 Pro.  I like the AES to AES ability between these two devices.  From what I've read, it's the best connection.All comments appreciated.

the denafrips dacs do best with i2s... their gaia connects most effectively that way, improves sq with many streamers and certainly with computers supplying the bit stream - though with other connections the pontus still sounds very good - in the 1800 to 2000 dollar price range the pontus is indeed hard to beat

two in the price range (roughly) worth mentioning are the mhdt tube units modded with better caps and resistors, and the better soekris models

i do have dacs that are notably better than the pontus to my ear, but they are more expensive... upper chords, weiss, audio note (will also soon be getting a mojo dac, which may well join this tier as well)

@jjss49 An interesting point about I2S in the Denafrips line, I just saw a review of the new Terminator2, it had 3 different i2S inputs to account for all the variations out there. Perhaps that will trickle down to other models in the future. Kinda crazy that there isn't one standard for I2S! Cheers,

Why not buy the iris or better still the Hermes dcc clock it totally cleans the stream coming in usb ,then the clean signal goes I2S to the pontus  well worth the effort if coming from a computer Big step up even the $650 iris , please remember it s shown in Singapore $$ about a 1/3 less .

I’ve the new SMSL VMV D2.  Solid, very nice performing dac.  In my setup, it just ‘breathes’ music.  Run direct, the transparency is amazing.  Musical as all get out, with lots of low end punch.  The new Sting lp will set you back in your seat.  The Giacomo Gates covers of Gil Scot Heron tunes is rich, robust and powerful, with nicely fleshed details.  Brian Wilson’s Pier Pressure is layered and tastefully nuanced and rhythmically propulsive in a harmonically boisterous and very beautiful manner.  There is more separation and smoothness than my Dac3, more refinement and focus.  Run thru the Denafrips Athena or Hestia is similar, just a tad richer, Athena offering a bit more spatial separation.  It’s a very poised dac with a confident presentation, it’s fast. I’ve had it a bit over a week now so it may still settle a bit.  Not much not to like.  Don’t have a way to try the I2S yet, but the Roon nuc usb and the Rotel Tribute digi seem well suited.  It’s got a couple Noratel transformers and some sort of hybrid output stage I believe.  It’s a nice dac with a sweet treble.  Sounds great thru the Hyperion or the Mystere amps pushing some ZU DWs or 1sc ProAcs with a T9i Rel.

I have a Pontus II, and, IMHO I think it is pretty hard to beat in the under 2k range.