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The DENAFRIPS Terminator II is an excellent sounding R-2R DAC for a bargain

Product: Terminator II 12th Anniversary Edition

In your audio system, you most likely have a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) somewhere in the mix. It takes the digital signal (1s and 0s) from a streamer, cable, or Blu-ray player and converts it to a signal that your amplifer can understand. There are two popular types of DACs: Delta-Sigma or R-2R. I've read a lot about R-2R (also referred to as a resistor ladder), as they've become more prevalent recently.

There are many Chinese manufacturers that have entered the audio scene with high-quality products at very fair prices. With R-2R DACs being generally more expensive than the Delta-Sigma variety, Chinese manufacturers offer a compelling price point at which more people can access R-2R technology. The Denafrips Terminatior II 12th Anniversary Edition (herein referred to as the Terminator) is one of these examples.

I've had the Terminator in my system for a couple weeks now. I was previously using the DA2 DAC (Delta-Sigma) module built into my McIntosh C2700 pre-amplifer. I have also recently borrowed a highly regarded AURALiC VEGA (Delta-Sigma) DAC from a friend. Listening to the Terminator, it's a couple notches above the VEGA in every way and makes the C2700 DAC sound like an FM station.

The Terminator is very smooth-sounding, yet I don't feel I'm missing any detail. You would think a smoother-sounding DAC would smear the details, yet it remarkably doesn't. The soundstage is wide and has a sense of weight to the notes, including the lower registers. The VEGA wasn't quite as detailed, felt a bit thin in the upper mid-bass, and was lacking in deep bass in my setup. There is no contest with the C2700 so I won't even go into detail.

I don't have a lot of DACs on hand to test with to further the comparisons. The DA2 module in the C2700 appears to be more for convenience than anything else. The VEGA is about 10 years old. A lot has improved in DAC in the last decade, so you'd need to demo a handful of modern DACs for a relevant comparison that you can buy today. In the case of Denafrips, there is no return policy, so you'll have to take a blind plunge. If you do, you won't take too hard of a hit on the secondary market if you don't like it.

For the price-to-value ratio, it has significantly changed how well my system sounds. How can I confirm? My wife even noticed!


Wife approved too!