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Digital-to-analogue converter


Manufacturer: DENAFRIPS
Price (when reviewed): 2989 USD

Contact: VINSHINE AUDIO Pte. Ltd (Singapore)


Provided for test by: VINSHINE AUDIO

Established in 2012, the Singaporean company DENAFRIPS is known primarily from digital-to-analog converters featuring discrete R-2R D/A converters. This solution is difficult to implement, but it offers excellent results. We are testing their new advanced model called VENUS MkII.

hen testing the ARES model of the Chinese company DENAFRIPS, it was difficult not to notice that it is a producer who uses the opportunities offered by having its products made in China, which results in a low final price. In this case, however, it happens while preserving something much less palpable, which I could describe by the general concept of "compliance". It is about a compliance with the requirements of the art of the audio world, in the form developed in the West after the World War II.

After all, it is difficult to doubt the capabilities of Chinese factories, the skills of engineers from this country, or their access to the latest techniques and technologies - at present, knowledge is simply widely available. Not always, however, the combination of these elements creates something special, something that would be innovative in some way, or simply interesting. Those of you who have read the review of the Ares DAC already know that Denafrips has the keys to this world in their hands and do not hesitate to use it.


The VENUS Mk II is one of four digital-to-analog converters from this manufacturer and is also one of the most expensive ones – only the Terminator costs more. Despite this, it is only slightly smaller than the "flagship" model - it measures 320 x 330 x 80 mm and weighs a serious 8.5 kg. All "dacs" of this transducer manufacturer feature solid, rigid aluminum chassis, and their design is based on discrete R-2R D/A converters (i.e. the circuit is built of separate transistors). Instead of using ready-made integrated circuits, for example from Burr-Brown, AKM or ESS technology - to mention only the most popular brands - the company has prepared its own converter built from semiconductor-switched resistors.

Owner, designer

WOJCIECH PACUŁA: What was your product?
ZHAO BING RAN: The first product was a DAC, uses BB PCM1704K R2R DAC Chip. We sold dozens of them but realized the need to develop our own R2R technology as these R2R DAC chips were obsolete.

What was the goal of the young company?
To make high end but affordable audio products for everyone.

What are the main issues with modern DACs?
J Modern DACs often measured very well, but not all DACs that measure well sound musical.

What are the main technologies utilized by Denafrips?
Power supply, Digital Signal Processing, and DA converts. We believe R2R is the best way to reproduce music with density, details, and most importantly, draw the listener to the music.

Could you describe changes implemented in the Venus MkII compared to previous version?
The Venus exhibits a higher level of musicality due to the fact that the 0.005% hand-matched precise resistors and Femto clocks are used. The details, soundstage, and depth of the music are rendered better with the new Venus. Don't get me wrong, the Pontus (a less expensive model by Denafrips, ed.) is already a good DAC that can beat many competitors that cost tow, three times more. Yet Venus MkII is sound just more natural if you must compare the two. The upgraded DSP board includes also a new USB receiver, and supports signal up to DSD1024, PCM1536. The sonic improvements are evident. ♦

The Venus Mk II D/A converter looks really nice and features a well thought-out artistic design. The whole housing is made of fairly raw aluminum and is available in black and silver. In the middle there is a standby power switch that divides the front into two parts.

On its left side you can see small, red dots - these are micro LEDs, indicating the selected input, there are also two buttons for input selection, as well as an absolute phase switch. On the right side there are more micro LEDs, but these indicate the sampling frequency of the input signal. There are also three buttons there - to change the input filter, mute the signal on the analog outputs and the third to change the configuration of the I2S input. The filter switch changes the way the signal is treated before it is converted - it is either over-sampled, as in classic DACs, or there is no oversampling (NOS), as in old Philips TDA1541 chips. The LED lights up in NOS mode.

The rear is quite crowded. All inputs and outputs feature high quality, gold-plated sockets. There are both, balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (RCA) analog outputs. The circuit is fully balanced, including the R-2R converter. The only drawback I noticed is the fact, that output's RCA sockets and BNC digital input's are placed just above the IEC socket.

The Venus MkII is a digital-to-analog converter with a theoretical resolution of 26 bits for the PCM signal and a separate 6-bit path for DSD signal (FIR filters with 32 "taps"). The FIR filters are stored in a DSP circuit. As we read in the company materials, the converter section uses hand-selected high precision resistors (0.005%). This is one of the changes compared to the original basic version of this DAC.

I have already discussed the R-2R converter. Let me add that it occupies almost the entire upper PCB - the lower one is actually a power supply. The DAC is clocked using one of the best currently commercially available oscillators, the Crystek CCHD-957 Femto Clock. The signal is filtered in the DSP FPGA circuit with an improved algorithm compared to the MkI version. All signals from digital inputs are re-clocked in a FIFO buffer (First In, First Out) and forwarded in the I2S form. There are as many as seven inputs . These are: RCA, BNC, TOSlink (all S/PDIF), two XLR (AES/EBU), which can operate in a Dual-AES system, and HDMI for audio I²S signal.

The latter is intended for connecting external transports. From what I remember, this type of output was featured in OPPO Blu-ray players, and now by PS Audio transports. This input supports the DSD signal to the breathtaking DSD1024 resolution, and the PCM to the equally surprising PCM1536. These are the values that only the very few of the very best systems on the market achieve. The most famous are 32-bit X-Saber Pro ES9038PRO. But even it decodes a PCM signal with half the clock speed. Of course, one can say that numbers are not everything, but in good hands they are important and count.


It was an A/B comparison and it resembled how we tested the ARES model of this manufacturer. The reference devices were: Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition SACD player, Lumïn T1 audio files player and Mytek Brooklyn Bridge digital-to-analogue converter. The source of the signal was also my laptop, HP Pavilion dv7 (8 GB RAM, 500 GB SSD + 1 Tb HDD, Windows 10, JPLAY). For the test I used CDs, files from the SSD disk and files streamed from the Tidal.

Signal to DAC was send via Acoustic Revive RCA1.0 Triple-C FM (1.8 x 1.4 mm) digital cable from digital outputs of Ayon and Lumin. The reviewed DAC was powered using the 聖 Hijiri SM2R „Sound Matter”. It stood on its own feet but on top I placed the Verictum X Block passive EMI/RFI filter.

DENAFRIPS in "High Fidelity”
  • TEST: Denafrips ARES | digital-to-analogue converter

  • Recordings used for the test (a selec- tion)

    Compact Disc |
    • Henry Purcell, O God, the King of Glory, Eufoda 1329, Super Bit Mapping CD (2002)
    • Madeleine Peyroux, Careless Love, Rounder Records 9836601, CD (2004)
    • Pat Metheny, What’s It All About, Nonesuch Records/Warner Music Japan WPCR-14176, CD (2011);
    • Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio, Midnight Sugar, Three Blind Mice/Impex Records IMP8308, Gold HDCD (1974/2004)
    Tidal |
    • Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Darkroom | Interscope Records/Tidal Master, MQA 24/44,1 (2019)
    • George Michael, This Is How (We Want You To Get High), Virgin | EMI Records/Tidal Master, SP, MQA 24/96 (2019)
    • Hootie & The Blowfish, Imperfect Cyrcle, Capitol Records/Tidal Master, MQA 24/96 (2019)
    • John Coltrane, Blue World, Impulse!/Tidal Master, MQA 24/192 (2019)
    • Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Colorado, Reprise Records/Tidal Master, MQA 24/192 (2019)

    Listening to the Venus MkII it's hard not to notice that it has some features in common with other R-2R DACs, that I know, such as, for example, TotalDAC and MSB. It's their warmth and vividness, which are more important here than precise rendering of bodies and details. Each of these companies "encapsulates" these features in their own way, these are ultimately different devices, but the core is common.

    It's a DAC, which is an ideal, I mean really ideal device for all those who listen to classical music, small bands jazz, as well as vocal music for example by Frank Sinatra, Madeleine Peyroux etc. It offers a large picture with a warm color. One of the commentators on the internet pointed out that above 2 kHz the device rolls off the sound, which is why it is not a DAC for him. Based on my experience, I can say that the tested DAC does not roll off anything, but yes, subjectively everything above - say - 2 kHz is softer and less direct than with devices by, say, Arcam, Accuphase, Naim.

    The O God, the King of Glory CD with pieces by Henry Purcell showed this fantastically. It was recorded on probably the best commercial digital media, i.e. a magneto-optical disk on a 20-bit recorder the Sony PCM 9000, with the Super Bit Mapping process, which allowed to shorten 20-bit words to 16 bits ones, and it was done perfectly. I bought the album in September this year at the Sacré-Cœur church in Paris, where I witness a mass with the vocal participation of Benedictines who take care of this place. With Venus MkII in my system, I had a similar sense of participation in something mystical.

    First of all, because of the softness of this sound, I said it was warm and it's true. But it is warm not by rolling off the treble, but by a natural attack that can be perceived as soft. Especially if we were previously exposed to sound with a much harder, more clearly defined attack. I am not saying that one presentation or the other is better. But if I had to, I would say that this one is more natural.

    In a very similar way, I perceived the sound from the Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio's Midnight Sugar disc, released on gold by Impex. With it I could hear that there was a lot of treble, because the cymbals were shiny, and that the sound attack was perfect, because the leader's piano was strong and dynamic. It was really something! At the same time, however, I heard more clearly something that was audible at Purcell, but which did not bother me at that time at all. Now it wasn't a problem for me either, but the effect was clearer - it is a converter that does not focus on the acoustics of the interior in which the recording was made.

    Its main goal seems to be the most naturally capture the events of the foreground and what's happening right behind it. The instruments have a large volume and mass, which is usually, even in very expensive devices, slimmed. And here - wow! The double bass body is hardly ever shown so nicely, the piano is rarely so well marked. It's a DAC that loves vocals. First those in classical music, but then others, like Madeleine Peyroux from the Careless Love album. This is a disc produced, perfectly, by Larry Klein, who - for example - played the fretless bass in Mercy Street by Peter Gabriel (So) and who won several Grammy Awards.

    With all these discs I got beautiful colors, wonderfully palpable sound and unforced energy. It was a very effortless presentation. But this is not a sound for everyone. I have already written about it, but now I will add another argument to it. All the recalled recordings featured a fantastic bass. It was low, meaty, saturated. You could even say that it was slightly emphasized, especially in the medium range. However, the deviation was small and, in truth, gave the music the right weight.

    However, this is a soft rather than a precise bass. If someone likes attack, excitement, unrestrained energy, they should look for something different, the Venus MkII is not for them. This is a DAC that celebrates playing music rather than tries to capture the moment when the sound is born in one act of creation. This was the case with Isoo Fukui's double bass, it was also the case with the, already mentioned, Klein's bass. I would like to add that I listened to this track from Tidal, because Gabriel's discography, encoded in MQA at 24/96 resolution, is available there.

    The sound of this recording was beautiful, but it wasn't very “rock” sound, so to speak. Listen to, for example, the new Hottie & The Blowfish album titled Imperfect Cyrcle, also available in Tidal in MQA 24/96, and you'll see what I'm talking about. This is music that should push forward, excite, set the rhythm of the posts by the road moving behind the truck window. The tested DAC will not do that.

    It is simply intended for something else. For example, for jazz music - the ECM releases sounded absolutely great with it! - and any other that does not has to be "invigorated" to sound energetic. For example I loved the Michael Kiwanuka album entitled Kiwanuka (MQA 24/96), followed by Coltrane from Blue World (MQA 24/192). It was firm, saturated sound.


    Like any specialized product, the Venus MkII D/A converter has some distinct, characteristic features. Although it is said that the more expensive the device, the less “present” it should be in the system, the reality is often little different. Indeed, the better the product, the more faithful it is. But this does not mean that it is "less present" in the sound, but that the sound is shown from its perspective. If the device is "transparent", i.e. does not add anything from itself, it is often not very enjoyable because it also takes too much.

    And the Denafrips converter is perfect in what it does. It offers beautiful colors and great resolution. However, it is not very selective and has no clearly defined bass attack. Space for it is only a background for instruments that are large, firm and tangible. So it's a specialized product. Powerful rock, country, rap, hip-hop - all these recordings will be smoothed and sound "polite". But all the rest will sound great. Even such demanding, dense productions as George Michael's new digital single This Is How (We Want You To Get High) ( MQA 24/96).

    All Denafrips converters undergo initial break-in in factory - this process takes about 100 hours. After that they are measured and only then packed and shipped. This is just an example, but it shows well how responsible manufacturer we are dealing with. This can also be seen in the mechanical and electrical design.

    Mechanics | The mechanical part is very impressive because the chassis was made of thick aluminum plates. Inside, there is an additional steel element that shields the power supply from the audio circuits, but also adds even more rigidity to the chassis. The device features three plastic cone-shaped feet - one in the back and two in the front. I would like to add that I like the choice of red LEDs – color makes it a classic, size makes it look modern. An interesting fact - the button to change the absolute phase is signed "RESERVAL". This is a mistake, and the company honestly explained: "Yes, it is a mistake, but we can do nothing with it now, because more than a hundred fronts are already in our factory."/p>

    Electronics | While the mechanical design is already impressive, the electronic design is something very unusual at this price level. It is divided into two parts - a converter and a power supply, separated by a thick steel screen, which was additionally damped with a piece of material that looks like bitumen. The converter is placed on top. It's a row of semiconductor switches with precision resistors - all SMD assembly. There are four such rows because each channel has a separate one and in addition it is a balanced circuit, so there are two rows per each channel.

    From the side there are lots of small capacitors. If I understand it correctly, it's part of the power supply. There are about 150 of them! And there are even more the actual power supply. This is one of those manufacturers who believes that it is better to use small capacitors than large ones, in which it resembles the German company ASR. There are two large DSPs on the PCB that control the switching of resistors. The board with USB input and DSP system that includes digital filters is screwed on top of the one with the "dac"; it comes from Amanero. Signal from other inputs goes to the AKM AK4118 digital receiver.

    Jitter | As it reads in the company materials, the USB circuit is turned on only when this input is selected – when we select a different one the USB is turned off, which results in lower noise and jitter. And the jitter is very low, because the AKM chip is a champion in this aspect, and the FIFO rule in the input allows to get rid of it. One of the best clocks on the market, the CRYSTEK Flagship CCHD-957 Femto Clocks, ensures timing precision. In fact, there are two clocks and they are placed right next to the DSP circuits controlling the converter.

    Power supply | But the power supply is equally important in this context. We have already talked about capacitors, but the actual power supply is placed on the other side of the 1.5 mm thick, mechanically dampened screen. In its heart one finds two, very large, capable of driving an integrated amplifier, toroidal transformers - the analog section of the DAC uses one of the, the digital section uses the other. There are even more capacitors here, much larger ones - there are about 60 of them. For the standby mode there is a separate, integrated switching power supply.

    It is a beautiful example of solid engineering in service of high quality sound.

    Technical specifications (according to manufacturer)

    Supported formats:
    • RCA/Toslink: PCM up to 26/192 | DSD up to DSD64
    • USB: PCM up to 24/1536 | DSD up to DSD1024

    Frequency range: 0 Hz-70 kHz (-3dB)
    THD+N: ≤0.002% (1 kHz, A-weighted)
    Nominal output signal:
    • RCA: 2.2 V RMS (1 kHz, +/-10%)
    • XLR: 4.4 V RMS (1 kHz, +/-10%)
    Nominal output impedance:
    RCA – 625 Ω | XLR – 1250 Ω
    S/N: 120 dB
    Dynamics: >121 dB
    Crosstalk: <-110 dB
    Power consumption: < 20 W
    Dimensions (W x H x D): 320 x 330 x 80 mm
    Weight: 8.5 kg


    Reference system 2018

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    2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
    3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
    4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
    5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
    6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
    7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


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    Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
    Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

    AC Power

    Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
    Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
    Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
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    Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
    Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
    Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
    Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
    Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
    Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
    Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


    Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
    Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
    Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

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    Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

    Record mats:


    Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

    Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC