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Denafrips Ares II vs Modi Multibit (A very subjective review)


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I had recently posted a question on this forum about upgrading my DAC to a Chord Qutest. Got a few great directions going, such as the Gieseler Kompakt, and the RME ADI-2. However, I went with the Denafrips (shout out to Stav TheDacMan in Melbourne for this). Thanks everyone for posting and your ideas!

 

This review is long and lengthy, but is pretty much the notes in verbatim that I made last night. I'm not really great with my "audiophile terminology" so the below is based on my reference points.

 

11:13PM (7 hours of ownership and having it switched on) - I listened to the all time raver tear-jerker, Glue by Bicep. Every memory of me playing it through my Modi Multibit, etched in my brain. My listening experience with the Ares II was, in two words, divine intervention. Like the heavens opened up. Like i just opened a Pandora's box of dynamics, transients and textures. The sound was no longer living on one single digital plane as bits turn into sound. Things weren't as literal. Every bit of the mix was revealed as, subjectively assuming, the artist intended. Things were in their place, sounds are all in their position. Sounds had shape, rather than mere existence.  I knew that this DAC was different. It had finally warmed up and was showing what a DAC at this price-range can offer as a step away from immediate entry-level.

 

Starting with the Modi Multibit (Roon max x2 upsampling) - I can describe it as a DAC that will show you music from the perspective of a VERY high-quality, experienced and unbiased music journalist with his full-fledged review of the finished master track/s complete with id3 metadata. It shows you everything on paper (cultural influences, style, genre, mastering, EVERYTRHING). Again, it's all on paper and it's not the real deal. It's not visceral and live. All the Modi Multibit offers is a great, almost Michelin-style, fish and chips with a cold drink on the side on a hot day at Balmoral Beach pre-COVID. It's great, and affordable. Always love a good fish and chips. Always does the job.

 

For the Denafrips Ares II (set in DAC as OS with slow filter with Roon max x2 upsampling) - It offers a 7 course degustation. It's raw, it's visceral, it's in studio. It's vulnerability of the artists/chefs in involved. It's artists at their 110%. It's a front row house seat. It's front row at a Defqon 1 smaller stage. Like the 2013 Defqon 1 Orange stage. That was a bloody good romper back in the day... sigh.

 

Track impressions:

I like testing the sub-bass response of all my gear so I went stright to Sunn O))). Frost (C) by Sunn O))) has never intimidated me as a track with such size when testing with the Ares II which I would have dismissed as, simply, a wall of sound with the Schiit Multibit. The Denafrips did not offer a wall... It offered gigantic cubic monoliths of Odin acting as an infinite statue-wall hybrid. It certainly was grand in nature and gave me that opportunity to connect the sound to the overall acoustic "lore" (for lack of a better word) of Sunn O))). Which, with the Multibit Modi, the overall connection to this SUNN O))) lore and thematics was in the presence of a digital, you-see-what-you-get sound.

 

The Ares II expressed this signature tonality as being fully fleshed out and integrated as part of the sound signature and incorporated the artistic choice of hardware and software processing to create stories and soundscapes. The Mimby, only tells the listener the existence of these elements of the track, but does not convey the complete visceral experience. I wish I had more knowledge on what SUNN O))) do to achieve their sound, because the Denafrips Ares II has definitely revealed those to me in their Pyroclasts work.

 

If a piece of hardware generates more curiosity for the artists you listen to, it's doing a fantastic job.

 

Testing a whole other array of tracks, James Blake, SOPHIE, Playboi Carti, Aphex Twin. There's airiness, and an almost like "zooming into an Aphid on a 100-year-old giant Oak tree" type of resolution to the mids and highs. Yes, that's me attempting to make a high-res photography reference point. Vordhosbn by Aphex Twin actually has a soundstage on my LCD-2C headphones (eq'd to Harman EQ OE/AE 2018 recommendations) run through a Vali 2 (Gold Lion ECC88). It's like travelling through an Interstellar-movie style black hole of swirling sound; multidimensional (in mastering and mixing, not psychedelically, just to clarify), a perfectly black background to give enough psychoacoustic information of positioning of tones and samples, even in an headphone environment.

 

Prototype by OutKast, listening to that track was like walking on clouds. The instrumentalists around Andre and Andre himself, gliding along as you walk on said clouds. This track on the Mimby only conveyed that this was just a "chill track that's nice to listen to". The Mimby lacks that other-worldliness that some tracks can take you on with the Ares II

 

Greaze Mode by Skepta, that repeating pan-pipe blowbottle synth actually has some hollowness and shape that you can sort of synaesthesially imagine the size and volume of that bottle/whatever they're using.

 

Cross You Out by Charli XCX, the synths had huge heft but I wouldn't say the Ares II is a hefty DAC in terms of sound overall (despite my monolithic claims on SUNN O))) previously), but rather it's able to bring all frequencies to the table to deliver the hefty sound if the track demands it. I'd describe the Ares II as more transparent and the heft is as a result of the sum of all its parts being revealed more in the Ares II.

 

I also reviewed the above tracks on my Triangle BR03's through my Muzishare X7. It has all of the above, except the soundstage is wider. There's more weight on the center stereo mix, but that centered-ness also helps emphasise everything on the extreme sides of the soundstage. It was as if more things were being heard outside of the speakers. Everything was wider, while at the same time cranking up the dynamics of the dead-center presence 

 

Conclusions:

Basically to sum it all up. The Denafrips Ares soundstage puts sounds at realistic status with distinct positioning and sound. Textures and transients are given shape and being. If the Modi Multibit was a video game's graphical performance, I'd say the it is Crysis at 75fps on max settings in its hey-day on a 1080p monitor. The Ares II is Doom Eternal at 200fps on max settings and RTX fully enabled on a 3090 on an ultrawide. 

 

Anyways, I feel the Modi Multibit will give you that WOW factor you need if you're moving into hi-fi as a hobby and genuine interest. It'll give you some memorable moments. It's holographic, it's engaging, it's forward, and very good at doing its job. It will make you appreciate music in a new way. However, the ARES II just does such a better job at everything. To upgrade to the performance band of the ARES II with the likes of the Qutest, the RME ADI-2, Gungnir, and all DACs within this very vague price bracket. It is another world and worth every dollar. In general, it's just such a worth upgrade to go from Modi Multibit to the ARES II, even if hypothetically the ARES II was $2000, I would still go for it. IT's another WOW factor that I feel most will be happy to be at end-game status with.

Edited by mindustries
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6 hours ago, anandpkumar said:

Excellent review and comparison!

 

Seems like you're in love with the Ares II. Congratulations on a great buy

Cheers mate. Now reaching hour 31 with this device (according to some people, the Ares II does have an initial 48 hour burn-in period). The soundscape size has stopped expanding at hour 24. However, instead we get this airy sheen to reverberations that were once missing on the Mimby. This is especially noticeable in King Krule's Easy Easy and Borderline.

 

One thing I wonder, does putting the Ares II on standby keep certain components running? Especially those that required the burn-in? Noticed R2R DACs in general will have to warm somewhat when switching back on after a period of complete power shut off.

Edited by mindustries
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Never turn off the Ares II or any Denafrips DAC. Always keep it running. The caps need to be fully charged for the DAC to sound its best. 

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4 hours ago, BrownMagic said:

Never turn off the Ares II or any Denafrips DAC. Always keep it running. The caps need to be fully charged for the DAC to sound its best. 

+ 1 for sure

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11 hours ago, mindustries said:

One thing I wonder, does putting the Ares II on standby keep certain components running? Especially those that required the burn-in? Noticed R2R DACs in general will have to warm somewhat when switching back on after a period of complete power shut off.

 

Yes, you are right about that. I also have an R2R DAC from Audio-GD for my Headphones and do find that it sounds better after a bit of warm up (similar to tubes).

 

Love the R2R sound - though yet to hear the range from Denafrips.

 

Cheers!

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I wish R2Rs like the Ares/denafrips or Holo spring/May had volume control for direct preamp operation. 
 

One of the main reasons I’m yet to make the switch.
 

Edited by Grizaudio
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They want to put all the dollars on the sound quality. And I hope it stays that way. From my experience, even the likes of Mytek which can act as a preamp are better of being just a stand alone dac. 

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1 hour ago, BrownMagic said:

They want to put all the dollars on the sound quality. And I hope it stays that way. From my experience, even the likes of Mytek which can act as a preamp are better of being just a stand alone dac. 


I prefer the simplicity. 
I currently use the RME adi 2 as a pre. 
 

Sounds  excellent to me. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm the proud owner of an Ares II which I really enjoyed for a few months .  I liked it so much I now have a Pontus.  Definitely a step up but, of course, for the price difference it should be. 

 

Can't go wrong with Denafrips.

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13 hours ago, chinook9 said:

liked it so much I now have a Pontus.

Pontus seems to offer the best price to performance in the Denafrips Range. No wonder its

in high demand and always sold out.  Which do you find to be warmer? The Ares or the Pontus?

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11 hours ago, BrownMagic said:

 Which do you find to be warmer? The Ares or the Pontus?

They are pretty close, but  if I had to choose one it would be the Ares.  I expect the slightly more detail of the Pontus reduces the illusion of warmth.

 

The amplifier probably has the greater effect on this.   In a tube amp, I expect the tube selection can vary this.

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