Tracking FedEx, an 18:57 pickup in Guangzhou/China had the shipment at the Köln/Germany depot by 10:53 the next day. Barring customs delays, promised delivery two days later seemed entirely plausible. A day later, the package had passed Charles de Gaulle, touched down in Ireland's Shannon and generated an online request to prepay 23% VAT on declared value plus clearance fees. With that settled by phone, it was released and on the white van as scheduled. The infrastructure of modern airfreight can be brilliantly efficient.

Love thy enemy? If the enemy of sterling is ever more sterling, our domestic Terminator had to view the interloper with concern. To settle the matter with the shortest possible signal path, the skirmish took place upstairs.

Here each DAC saw an RCA input of our Bakoon AMP-13R via identical CrystalConnect Ultra cable. The amp's volume control sets its gain factor not attenuation by resistors. The inputs switch by remote and remember volume for instant A/B from the chair.

Speakers were Acelec Model One. They're Cees Ruijtenberg's take on an all-aluminium 2-way monitor executed with compound 1st-order filters, Mundorf ATM and rear ports. Omni super tweeters were by Franck Tchang, mechanical inline filters against UHF digital noise by Louis Motek of LessLoss.

Source was Soundaware's D100Pro SD transport. Whilst default hookup for most Gaia+Terminator-Plus owners will be this, for now I used no DDC. Each DAC received the same S/PDIF signal over my new 75Ω Audio Art cables. The only difference?

RCA/BNC adaptors on opposite ends due to the D100Pro's paralleled coax/BNC and the Plus' solitary RCA coax. Both Terminators saw signal at the same time. Switching amp inputs by remote toggled them as long as it took me to determine how 'Plus' would add up.

Once that was on the books, the Audio Art cables would connect the Terminator-Plus clock outputs to the transport's clock inputs. Now a Sommovigo 75Ω Tombo Trøn would handle the actual music signal.

"Take all the time you need. Denafrips DACs take a long time to reach their optimum performance."

Our own Terminator had cooked for years already. My friend's sample which I reviewed had arrived fully cooked. Now I didn't remember. How long had it taken our unit to stop changing? How much if any time had the newcomer on it? Since its arrival, I'd set the SD transport on endless loops, then turned the amp off whenever I wanted quiet. Unlike speakers, sources are fab because they can be run 24/7 without being heard. That accelerates the process and minimizes noise pollution, important when one needs the crib silent to conduct other reviews.

"We put on ~150 hours before shipping. But it's key to leave it on 24/7." That tracked with my own habit of never powering digital down, just analog.

"To activate the clock outputs, press mute. Press 'input -'. 'Clock out' lights up. Now presses on 'input -' toggle from coax (no clock) to AES1 (44.1/48kHz), AES2 (22.57/24.5MHz), OPT (45.15/49.15MHz), I²S (clock disabled, clock LED off). On Gaia's clock inputs, press setup once, press OPT twice. Clock light on. Press OPT again, clock light off. To confirm and exit selection, press setup again."

Hit hard over the head? Not! Switching DACs by switching amp inputs—icOn 4Pro and Townshend Allegri+ AVC volume controls sat idly by for another gig's bypass test—caused no skull fractures. The standard Terminator with current DSP board was already too advanced to be that dominated. However, after 75 non-stop hours over the factory's 150 hours, there were differences. In 3-tiered order of magnitude, first the midband fleshed out. This caused a parallel ramping up of soundstage density and layering. You might say that the 3 in 3D imaging grew some. Two, plucked upright and other bass makers gained insistence. Being more assertive by a few clicks, walking beats for example peeled out more. This collected extra tension points in the PRaT department. Lastly and finest, the top end seemed even smoother. Since on that score I'd never had Denafrips complaints, I thought of this as the most subtle difference even having top-shelf Mundorf AMT plus magnesium super tweeters on hand. That then was the apples-for-apples action in the seat. To upset that cart further meant exploiting the master clock option.

Speed stripe, rounded corners, receding ends, pin-prick LED below not above silk screen identifiers – these are subtle cosmetic differences of the Plus.

Crunch. Head-butt time? To my great surprise nearly shock, clock-slaving the SD card transport proved to be the hidden ace card. Though this played out different, it was actually more explicit. Clocking influenced articulation, definition and precision, so subjective resolution. In that it acted like detergent. Using only water to clean dirty dishes just spreads the grease around. Proper detergent cuts right through. It cleans by separating grease from what it sticks to. Reclocking did that. It caused greater clarity. It cut through the warmer/thicker aspects without diluting them. It just injected more space/air and greater precision especially for the beginnings of tones. Superior transient fidelity and separation. Though it's a cheap shot and very generic, we might say that what the Plus had over the standard operated in the analog domain. Reclocking worked in the digital domain. One had to do with tone and weight, the other with raw resolution. I still had to repeat this experiment in the bigger downstairs system. The takeaway of the first round was simply that not exploiting the clock-out feature of the Terminator-Plus will leave its more significant performance potential untapped. It's like having manual override on a car's automatic transmission. Not using it during takeovers to downshift as needed really slows you down.

That I'd not expected. My ignorance had been clocked!