There are a couple of brands that appear to be more Euro-centric but are supposed to make excellent R2R DACs for PCM encoded content. Soekris is another one. Lots of chatter on other (Euro) forums about both. Look at Soekris dac1421 as well. I haven't heard any of their gear but I'd give a bit more edge to Soekris mainly because they also make computer network LAN gear so I expect their products to be more refined and better made.
So I have been reading about the R2Rs hitting the market and now the DACs with the new Sabre 9038 chips too. Consumers have a lot of new choices for sure. Which type is best probably depends on implantation and is surely subjective. If I were in the market, I'm not sure what direction I would be looking.
It's so confusing, right now. Especially if I think about a DAC/streamer combo. Thought it might be easier to just go with a DAC, first.
Kalali--that Soekris looks nice, but not sure if it's available in the US at US voltage, yet/still?
kclone--yeah, was possibly thinking an Oppo Sonica, too, but want to try an R2R in my systems.
4hannons--I just saw your other post. Ares survived, but a few others were eliminated?
I own Ares and Mimby (Modi MB) at the moment. Used to own Bimby (Bifrost Multibit) and to my ears it was not an improvement over Modi MB, so I kept Mimby instead. I actually owned bimby twice and sold two times.
Recently I've bought Chord Hugo to compare it to Mimby and Ares and I found Ares to be superior to both Mimby (by default to bimby as well) and Hugo. The difference, like with majority of DACs, is not day and night, but it is audible and noticeable, especially during longer listening sessions.
My chain is Laptop (tidal hi-fi) --> Singxer SU-1 -->coax to Denafrips Ares --> Schiit Jotunheim --> Forstex TH900
P.S. How do I post pictures here?
Singxer SU-1 is an audio bridge and it converts USB signal into multiple outputs like coax, optical, AES, i2s. It looks like USB input on DACs is the most crapy (noisy) one and many people prefer to feed their DACs through different than USB inputs. My system definitely sounds better with the bridge.
I have the KTE level 3. I believe it is the top level.
If you're needing ultimate performance the Holo has the edge.
If I hadn't heard the Holo I would have been very satisfied with the Ares; they sound very much the same. The Holo has more presence, more fullness, it seems to fill the room better. Both have very nice percussive, chest thumping bass, perhaps a slight edge to the Ares on bass as it punches hard. But honestly the difference between them is closer than it should be given the price difference.
For the money, the Ares represents an amazing bargain, I think you can build a high level system around it.
Like I've said before, I agree with all the good things written elsewhere about the Holo and all the good things written about the Ares. Both sound very good. Some have said the Ares competes with Level 1 Holo, I don't find that statement hard to believe.
For its asking price the Ares is a bargain, bought one just to try it. It has a few shortcomings in its interface, the red indicator LED's are only 1mm diameter and almost impossible to see, and the legend is dark gray printed on black. Re-did the Faceplate with 3mm blue LED's and a new White legend SilkScreen.
As far as its sound quality and overall build quality it is excellent.
@4hannons Thanks a lot. That's really helpful. Coming from Schiit's Multibits (Bifrost and Modi) I found Ares to sound even more natural and be overall a better DAC especially with Singxer SU-1 in place.
What really stands out is the fact that $600 DAC can bring such a performance to the table. I can say the same about Modi Multibit - an outstanding value at $250.
Here is a photo of my modest setup by the way. Headphones are Fostex TH900.
Alright. Thanks, everyone. Just pulled the trigger on the Ares and am waiting eagerly for the shipment. I'm not sure whether y'all talked me into buying something or actually SAVED me from spending more on something else!
Considered the Soekris and a Gumby, too, but the discussions on the Ares seem to be almost universally positive on the cost/performance. Not quite Double-Impact raving-madman positive, but positive.
Ok. Got the Ares. Shipping was quick. Very first impression is that it is a dense brick. Agree completely on the impossibly dim LEDs and "boring" utilitarian appearance. Seems to be reasonably well constructed, for the price, but there is no bling, billet aluminum, copper chassis, weighty buttons/switches, etc. Probably not going to impress anyone, if that's your thing.
Only have a few hours on it in a "test" environment (where I can most easily try stuff out), so, if it needs some burn in, all the better. Only running a Sonos Connect with Tidal Hifi and an Oppo 95 as a CD transport. Using digital coax and RCAs out.
So far, it is very quiet. Compared to the internal DACs in the Sonos and Oppo and to an Emotiva DAC, it is warm, organic, and full. The bass is strong and almost seems boosted in comparison. A big difference. Might even be enough to turn some folks off or require adjustments elsewhere in the chain.
It takes a lot of the metallic edge off what the Oppo and Sonos have. It adds a depth and richness the Emotiva lacked. I'd say the Ares may not have the last word in leading edges, ultimate detail retrieval, or crispness in the highs, but certainly too early to tell. I'd hesitate to call it "dark," yet.
But, so far, loving it for the price. There is an analog-ey realness. It is different enough that, when I move it to its intended spot, I'm anticipating having to have to roll out some warmer tubes.
Hopefully, I'll have some time, this weekend, to put it up against a Cary DAC and the Bluesound internal DAC, and to pair it with the "better" gear it was intended for. I have Salk HT3s there, and I think this might be what the doctor ordered.
Really quick. It was actually here, Monday. I think it was five days from click to front door.
Two digital coax inputs.
I just picked up the Vault 2 a week or so ago...been burning discs and not actually listening much. Ended up going with the Vault 2, because it's an easy and idiot-proof upgrade over Sonos, doesn't require monkeying with computers, and functions as a NAS. Should buy me a little WAF latitude, too, because the only discs to lug around from room to room, now, will be the occasional SACD, DVDA, or BRA. :)
Only listened through the Bluesound for an hour or so. Sounded surprisingly good. Played some Tidal MQA through it. Sounded really good, at least compared to the Sonos, but haven't spent enough time with it to make any real comment about MQA or its DAC. I'm guessing the Node 2 sounds the same as the Vault 2. If it works out, might eventually get Nodes to replace Connects.
Will try to get some time this weekend to run the Bluesound on its own and through the Ares.
Update on the Ares. It's been running almost non-stop. I like it very much for the money. It's my first go-round with r2r. Probably about two-three hours, each, head-to-head with an Oppo 95, Sonos Connect, Bluesound Vault 2, and Cary 200ts. Also spent a couple hours playing with a new amp. Fun weekend.
To my ears, the Ares has a natural, more analog-ey sound than the Oppo and Sonos and on par with a much more expensive Cary DAC in solid state mode. I think the Cary has the edge in detail and in the highs. I didn't compare the tube mode.
There is a huge different in the bass--much more than I would have ever guessed from a DAC. It is more full than the Oppo, Sonos, Bluesound, and Cary. It sounds a tick looser than the Cary, but not objectionably flabby. About the same bass flavor as the Bluesound, just more of it.
I think it actually sounds more similar to the Bluesound than to the others, but it is a definite improvement. The Bluesound is impressive and much better than I thought it would be, but the Ares has the edge. It just sounds more "real" (where's Bo?) with a little bit more clarity. Still getting a feel for Tidal MQA, so, for now, will run MQA through the Bluesound (Node 2 on order for the room with the Ares), and Tidal Hifi and ripped CDs through the Ares.
In the end, the Ares is easy to listen to. I was surprised at how different it sounds from other DACs. Maybe it's to individual taste and maybe just a function of the r2r, but it is a very different flavor. Funny thing--it just sounds right with Joe Satriani. Hard to explain. Tried the Ares for a 15-20 minutes in the primary system just to listen to Satch, and it did whatever it did, there, too.
Opinion could change with more swapping room to room, but, by dumb luck, it is a good fit for the system where I've been trying to boost the bass and tame the mids/highs on Salk HT3s (pre-RAAL) in a small room (they do better in a bigger room), primarily with tube rolling and minor room treatment. It's a big step in getting that setup right.
So, how much better is the Pontus? Haha.
According to Alvin @ Vinshine Audio.
Pontus should sound about 3x better than Ares
Venus should sound about 2x better than Pontus
Terminator should sound about 2x better than Venus
I’ve been listening to the Terminator for the last 80 hours and this DAC is compelling. The sound quality is very good, better than all the DACs I’ve listen too so far. The Terminator picks up a lot of details (especially at lower volumes), the sound stage and imaging is excellent - wide and large. The DAC is very natural sounding. The the high and lows sound like they should, with no added coloration. The bass is deep and tight and the highs are detailed and clean. In terms of clarity, it was as if a veil was lifted, very different from the smooth sounding delta-sigma DACs. I took a big risk buying this DAC unheard, but I don’t regret it at all. One of my best buys in audio.
Btw, I did some A/B tested against with my analog rig and this is the first DAC, I’ve owned and heard that sounds like analog (maybe even better). I use a Jelco 750 tonearm with a Ortofon 2M Bronze cart.
If PCM and Redbox is your primary listening format, I highly recommend trying a Denafrips dac. DSD sounds very good as well.