Denafrips Ares 2 Measurements and Review

If you’d like to watch my review you can do so here:

The denafrips ares 2 is an absolutely fantastic dac for the money and at the $700 pricepoint it’s one of my two current favourites, alongside the SMSL VMV D1SE.

Measurements:

Full reports can be downloaded here, these contain additional measurements and full details of test setup configuration:

Test Setup:
– Audio Precision APx555 B-Series Analyzer with 200kOhm input impedance
– Van Damme Star-Quad shielded SPC XLR cables with Amphenol Connectors
– USB Source: AMD PC via ifi iGalvanic 3.0
– Audioquest Carbon USB and SPDIF cables
– All measurements shown in this post are taken with USB input, 44.1khz sample rate and ‘sharp’ filter unless otherwise noted
– Device was turned on and left to warm up for 24 hours before testing
– Full reports containing additional data and test configurations are attached
– Exact analyzer/filter configurations for each measurement are detailed in the full reports
– APx Project is included in the reports folder should anyone wish to repeat this set of measurements or use it for another DAC

This DAC is an odd one. Subjectively whilst it’s too soft sounding for me to want it as an ‘only’ dac, mostly cause I listen to a fair amount of synthetic and electronic music, I do quite like it for many genres and it’d suit many people’s tastes brilliantly.
For an R2R dac especially at this pricepoint it seems to do very well. BUT, the claim that it is a NOS dac is absolutely untrue. The ‘NOS’ mode on this dac is simply linear interpolation at 768khz/705.6khz. It is not NOS.

Additionally, whilst measuring this DAC there have been some….oddities which haven’t occurred on other devices. It seems that Denafrips is doing a fair amount of DSP on this DAC which hinders some measurements.
John Atkinson of stereophile found that he was completely unable to even do a linearity test as the transfer function made it present a strange stepped zigzag result.
Whilst testing this device I found that swept sine tests behaved unusually, with frequency response results often looking either outright wrong or with a strange ‘rippling’ toward the end which differed in appearance dependent on the length of the sweep.

Additionally the THD+N and IMD values change depending on the level, which whilst not necessarily intentional, might help to ‘inflate’ this device’s Dynamic range test results by about 10dB.

If there are any other measurements you’d like to see they’re most likely in the reports. But if not, let me know and I’ll add them to my sequence for future tests.

If anyone sees any issues with any measurements or configs please let me know and they’ll be addressed.

1khz 0dBfs:

1khz -3dBfs

THD+N / Frequency:

upload_2021-7-12_15-55-1.png

Linearity:

upload_2021-7-12_15-56-10.png
Interesting to note that on the Ares 2, Linearity without a bandpass filter (shown below) looks almost the same, which is unusual, most dacs the linearity without bandpass filter veers upwards due to noise.
upload_2021-7-12_15-56-54.png

SINAD(THD+N) / Output Level:

Strange behaviour here with a couple ‘jumps’ leading up to -60dB.
This is a little concerning as it could imply that the AES17 dynamic range measurement, which uses a -60dB sine, may not give a fully realistic result here.
It implies that this is not a ‘true’ R2R design and is instead using two ladders with different reference voltages stuck together. This is a little concerning given as the jump is right at -40dB, which is where a LOT of music content is.

upload_2021-7-12_15-57-34.png
upload_2021-7-12_15-57-43.png
upload_2021-7-12_15-59-32.png

IMD (SMPTE) vs Output Level:

upload_2021-7-12_15-59-59.png
upload_2021-7-12_16-0-6.png

Dynamic Range (AES17):

upload_2021-7-12_16-6-1.png

SNR:

upload_2021-7-12_16-6-15.png

Crosstalk:

-90.31dBfs Sine (Recorded with 192khz ADC sample rate):

upload_2021-7-12_16-7-50.png

Filter Ultrasonic attenuation:

upload_2021-7-12_16-8-10.png

Impulse Response:

cSepz4e7Mj.png
sharp
slow
“NOS”
“NOS” close in view.

Idle Noise Spectrum upto 1.2Mhz:

44.1khz Jitter (On USB):

upload_2021-7-12_16-11-55.png

Jitter measurements were the same on both SPDIF and USB, suggesting that the buffering system is in place on both input methods and that the performance of the source device is unlikely to impact things much.

48khz Jitter (On USB):

upload_2021-7-12_16-12-10.png

Multitone:

upload_2021-7-12_16-12-22.png

8 thoughts on “Denafrips Ares 2 Measurements and Review”

  1. “Jitter measurements were the same on both SPDIF and USB.” This is hard to understand. The USB implantation is used because the device has control of both ends of the connection. Musical Fidelity was among the first to do this well and managed to extract bits very well. I assumed the Denafrips version would be about as good, and it may be.

    The SPIDIF input is not controlled and takes the bits as they are delivered. One reason many went to USB is to avoid the awful Realtek stuff in most computers. the SPIDIF is quite bad from a computer normally.

    I take my USB input and use it for computer audio, I did use for music until I got the Pi2AES working, and now I use it to deliver my bits through SPIDIF RCA for my music, as Mike points out, the best measuring output on the device. As this is head and shoulders above the USB, and certainly should be … this is hard to understand.

    Reply
    • Normally with an SPDIF connection yes, the source device is the master clock.
      Some devices use a PLL system to attenuate jitter from an SPDIF/AES source to varying degrees, but in this instance itโ€™s because the DAC is using an extensive buffering system, the SPDIF input is actually running effectively asynchronously.
      This is also the reason the denafrips dacs have an exceptionally large delay on all inputs (upto 200ms).

      As a result, input from both USB and SPDIF is seemingly being buffered in the same manner, and the same internal clock is being used for conversion thereafter. Meaning jitter performance is identical on both.

      Reply
      • Why is the audio difference between my USB input and the input from my Pi2AES so pronounced then? Keep in mind I have been doing this for a very long time, and conformation bias is not a problem I have.

        Reply
        • EVERYONE is susceptible to placebo and expectation bias, regardless of listening experience, quality of hearing etc. It’s not something that anyone no matter who they are is immune to.

          Reply
          • I expected a small improvement. I got a big one.

            I remember the first time i got a difference from fooling with audio. My not bad CD player feeding my new Sonic Frontiers SFL1 Sig in around 1994 or so. I swapped out the crap cables that came with the player for Kimber Cable. Astounded, I got every one I knew to listen to the, not huge but definite, improvement. No one disagreed. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            So have you done what I did? Or are we just looking at the numbers?

            Reply
  2. Hi Golden One

    For HQPlayer enthusiasts can you share same measurements but this time with the DAC fed with DSD256 with EC modulator ?

    To see if there is measurement improvements ? This should bypass the internet DSP

    Reply
  3. I am using Benchmark AHB2 without a volume button+ the RME ADI-2 DAC with a volume button. Recently I want to upgrade my DAC, maybe a Denafrips.

    Now, the problem comes…There is no volume dial/button in the whole chain. It feels scary if I have to FULLY trust the Microsoft Windows software volume button.

    Is there anyone with this problem too? How did you solve it? Or is there any solid workaround available?

    Reply
  4. Hello,

    want to pair this DAC with Singxer SA-1 AMP with jumpers bypassing the DC protection of the Singxer. I cannot measure any DC offset of the ARES2. Am I doing something wrong? Does it mean that this DAC is the perfect pair, if the DC offset is nearly 0?

    regards

    Duri

    Reply

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