The Denafrips entry-level DDC is Iris, the flagship Gaia. At press time the middle Hermes remained TBA. Iris does USB exclusively. Gaia adds coax, Toslink and AES/EBU inputs to become an all-in-one DDC.

Iris outputs to AES/EBU and I²S over HDMI/RJ45, Toslink and coax. Gaia adds a second AES/EBU output.

Either way, their ticking heart is an FPGA-based DSP engine. It buffers and reclocks the optically isolated incoming data before outputting them up to 768kHz on I²S (S/PDIF's native limit is 192kHz).

Both machines accept 45.158/49.152MHz external master clocks. With standard clocks like the Antelope 10MX, Esoteric G-01X, Jay's Audio RC-Premium, SOtM sCLK-OCX10 or Teac CG-10M outputting at 10MHz, this indicated a future Denafrips model with the corresponding clock outputs. As it turned out, the new Terminator-Plus was that one.

Gaia steps up the Iris femto oscillator to a premium temperature-compensated crystal oscillator aka TXCO and adds a buffer. Both use Denafrips' own USB code written to an STM32F446 MCU. The small unit weighs 3kg and comes only in black. The full-size one weighs 6kg and adds silver skins. As is Denafrips tradition, both use voltage-sensing linear power supplies which auto-adapt to 115V or 230V.

Iris is a lens aperture. It focuses down on USB as the most common wired digital source protocol so we don't pay for what we won't use. Gaia is the world. Her children are many. So it accommodates all main digital source formats to aim at more complex systems of even higher ambitions. Consider the material footprint of these components. They wouldn't fit into existing Denafrips converters which already max out their internal space. Perhaps the double trouble of DDC+DAC really is mandatory if it takes so much stuff to improve over what's in the main converters? In the case of our Terminator, that's flagship Crystek ultra-low phase noise femto clocks with FIFO buffer.

Having reportedly spent 3 years of R&D on these models, Denafrips certainly agree. Likewise for the Koreans of JAVS/Soundcat, Romania's Audiobyte, Portugal's Innuos and more. This component sector is beginning to proliferate. But what other brands have two models in it soon three like Denafrips? To set the table for today, my JAVS X7-DDC Femto review contains useful sonic descriptions on what—and not—to expect from this type device. For another perspective in the same vein, John Darko's review of the Innuous Phoenix (USB in, USB out) has the works.