June
2019

Country of Origin

China

Terminator upgrade

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, COS Engineering D1, Denafrips Terminator, Soundaware D300Ref as USB bridge/SD transport, Jay's Audio CDT2 MkII 
Preamplifier: Nagra Classic, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, COS Engineering D1, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module)
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, SIT3, F5, F6, F7; Goldmund/Job 225; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos; LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos; Bakoon AMP-13R; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Gold Note PA-1175 MkII x 2 [on review]
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Kroma Audio Mimí; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V, VI & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL 3000 & 5000; Zu Event; KingRex uArt double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps/sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: $298 Singaporean [~€194 at press time]

It's a whale. 

Okay, if you're shopping the dCS or MSB leagues, perhaps only a tuna.

But below €10'000, the flagship DAC in the Denafrips range called Terminator is a very big fish within the relatively small sea of discrete R2R converters which can do native DSD and accept I²S signal over pin-configurable HDMI and two forms of RJ45.

Undo two retaining screws on back panel, lift out lid; pull out old board; insert new board insuring proper orientation [inverted position will damage the board].

To make their whale wail even louder, Denafrips now introduce their plug'n'play new DSP board which, amongst promising better sound for standard files, adds 24-bit/1536kHz PCM and DSD 1024 to the lineup. Obviously such ultra-rate files—or far more likely, software-upsampled far lower versions—require entry by USB or I²S. All other digital inputs do DSD64 DoP and 24/192 PCM. But the new board now enables dual-wire AES/EBU for up to 384kHz PCM or DSD 128; sharp/slow filter options; I²S channel swap for DSD; and I²S pin-out assignment.

As before, non-oversampled or oversampled playback is user selectable. And as a family affair, the new board will also retro-fit to the Pontus and Venus models. To enable the new extreme sample rates, USB runs on a custom-coded STM32F446 processor; and Windows user will need the special Thesycon driver to establish the secret handshake. Mac users go scott free.

Check proper pin alignment, then press down. Refasten lid. Done.

At press time, the fee to Vinshine Audio as global Denafrips reseller was sub €200 at the exchange rate against their Singaporean currency. Owning a Terminator for our main system where it replaced an Aqua Hifi Formula, the simple header/pin insertion of the new board meant that I could swap at will until my ears had a proper fix on sonics. I don't own one music file at those new rates. Nor am I a proponent for ever escalating sample rates. Properly executed CD like the Tonian Labs efforts show far higher sonic rewards.

My investigation would thus only focus on whether, for the 99.9% Redbook files in our library, the new board had any audible benefits. If Audirvana or PureMusic could power-of-two resample to 1411.2kHz, I'd obviously try that. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If not, no loss. But better Redbook without endless multipliers? That surely merited my undivided attention. Still, I knew why Denafrips had included their latest math-war feature. Like sharks are said to, the digital domain stands never still. With their new board, Denafrips had just future-proofed their lineup for a few years. Even if some of it just caters to fashion, lost sales from end users and dealers demanding it—"no MQA, no octa DSD, no 32 x upsampled PCM, no buy"—can break a business.

So preparedness is key and Moby Dick continues to roam these seas.

… to be continued…