There have been rumors that the China-based Denafrips Terminator is the Genghis Khan of DACs – conquering all other DACs placed before its path. At first blush, this R-2R behemoth is making a statement just on sheer mass.
As far as origins go, Denafrip’s lead designer is Mr. Zhao. His goal was to build a DAC that will compete with others many times its price ($4,299). His core strategy? He believes the original R-2R architecture is still the most appropriate technology for DACs. And thus for the reproduction of digital music. This resulted in their flagship DAC – the Denafrips Terminator.
DENAFRIPS = Dynamic. Exquisite. Natural. Attractive. Fidelity. Refined. Intoxicating. Pure. Sophisticated.
“The Terminator will be our True Reference Master Class DAC for the next 10 years.”
I first heard Denafrip’s line of DACs at AXPONA 2018. Gingko Audio had their entire line of DACs for blind testing. During my session, I (and a few others) actually preferred their entry-level DACs (Ares and Pontus) for their tonal character. But couldn’t deny how resolute and quiet the Terminator sounded. I had to take a closer look.
Although all the other DACs are named after Greek gods, the Terminator is an indestructible cyborg. It turns out the movies themselves were heavily influenced by Greek mythology.
And so, I shot Mike an email and he was kind enough to test and break in the review unit before sending it off. A few days later, a massive box arrived at Audio Bacon’s porch.
I was fortunate enough to spend a few months with the venerable Denafrips Terminator. As usual, in order to thoroughly evaluate this DAC, I’ve tried a few setups with different preamps, amplifiers, cables, and even speakers. Sources were a mixture of local DSD, Redbook, and Spotify, Qobuz, and Tidal streams.
Build & Features
- Proprietary R-2R and DSD architecture
- Dual FPGAs handle resistor switching logic.
- True balanced 26-bit R-2R (PCM) with 6-bit DSD (32-step FIR filters)
- Each channel with more than 500 pieces of 0.005% high precision, 10 ppm low thermal effect precision resistors. Quadruple the amount of most competitors.
- Encapsulated ultra-low noise, multi-stage linear power supplies
- A 250VA and 60VA toroidal o-core transformer for analog and digital sections respectively.
- Box within a box: Thick metal alloy enclosure with additional steel divider for additional shielding.
- Ultra-low ESR reservoir capacitors
- WALK Jung Super regulators
- Amanero Combo384 USB interface
- Ultra low jitter AK4118 digital receiver
- The lowest clock jitter digital receiver in the market today.
- CRYSTEK Flagship CCHD-957 Femto Clocks
- First In First Out (FIFO) using high-speed RAM
- Thick metal alloy enclosure (solid aluminum plates)
- Weight: 42 lbs – The last time I carried a DAC this heavy was probably the Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC Reference.
- Tiny red, inconspicuous LEDs
- Comes in silver or black.
- 3 Year Warranty
- Up to native DSD256 (USB and I2S inputs only)
- PCM 384 kHz / 24-bit (USB and I2S)
- Up to PCM 192 kHz / 24-bits on the remaining inputs.
- Upsampling mode to PCM 384 kHz and DSD 256
- Mute and Phase buttons (red LEDs on the left will flash sequentially)
- Mode button allows for configurable HDMI I2S pin-outs for source compatibility (there isn’t an industry standard for I2S).
- 2 x Coaxial: RCA and BNC (75 ohms)
- 1 x TOSLink
- 1 x SUB
- 2 x AES/EBU
- 3 x I2S: HDMI (LVDS), RJ45 (LVDS), RJ45 (VLCMOS)
- RCA – 2.3 Vrms, 625 ohms
- Fully Balanced XLR – 4.6 Vrms, 1,250 ohms
- PS Audio BHK Signature Preamplifier
- PS Audio Sprout100
- Digital Cables
- Analog Cables
- Power Cables
InnuosZENith SE Mk.2 with local files
- Spotify, Tidal, and Qobuz