Country of Origin


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: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature 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
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; Fram Midi 150
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 that 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 flap tail even louder, Denafrips introduced their new plug'n'play DSP board. Besides promising better sound for standard files, it adds 24-bit/1'536kHz PCM and DSD 1'024. Naturally such ultra-rate files—or far more likely, far lower versions upsampled in software—require entry by USB or I²S. All other digital inputs do DSD64 DoP and 24/192 PCM. But the new board 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, whether the Terminator oversamples or not is user selectable. As a family affair, new boards for Pontus and Venus are forthcoming. To enable the new extreme sample rates, USB runs on a custom-coded STM32F446 processor. Windows user will need the special Thesycon driver to establish the secret handshake. Mac users go scott free as they always do on this score.

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. With a Terminator in our main system having replaced an Aqua Hifi Formula, the simple header/pin insertion of the new board meant that I could swap until my ears had a fix. I don't own one music file at the 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 focus on whether, for the six nines of Redbook files in our library, the new board had audible benefits. If Audirvana or PureMusic could power-of-two resample to 1'411.2kHz, I'd try it. I'd also try the Terminator's built-in upsampler. Better Redbook was my dream. But I knew why Denafrips had included those figures. Like sharks are said to, the digital domain stands never still. With their new board, Denafrips just future-proofed their lineup for a few years. Even if some of it caters to fashion at least on paper, lost sales from fashionistas demanding it as end users, dealers or distributors to cry "no MQA, no octa DSD, no 32 x upsampled PCM, no buy" can break a business.

So preparedness is key for our Moby Dick to continue to roam these streams.