pl | en



Manufacturer: DENAFRIPS
Price (when reviewed):
around 6300 USD (8698 S$)



Provided for test by: VINSHINE AUDIO


Translation: Marek Dyba
Images: Wojciech Pacuła

No 208

September 1, 2021

Established in 2012, the Singapore-based DENAFRIPS company is known primarily for its digital-to-analog converters, which use discrete D/A converters. It is a difficult solution to implement, but it offers excellent results. We can find them even in the cheapest devices of this company, and also in the top model tested by us - the TERMINATOR PLUS.

HEN ON AN OCCASION OF A TEST I ASKED Mr ZHAO BING RAN, the founder and chief designer of DENEFRIPS, about the biggest problems of modern systems converting digital audio signals to analog ones, he said that although modern converters have very good measurement results, nevertheless not all of those that measure well sound in a musical way. His way of getting around this pothole was to develop his own discrete D/A converter based on switched resistors, where there are always only two of them in the signal’s path - one in series and one in parallel; 'Discrete' in this case means a circuit composed of separate elements, not in the form of an integrated circuit.

As he said then, the R-2R DACs are "the best way to reproduce music with all its density and detail", and that "such systems draw the listener into the world of music". Based on these thoughts, he founded his company, the acronym of which stands for:


This year, this Singapore-based manufacturer, making its devices in neighboring China, celebrates its 10th anniversary (congratulations !!!). Its lineup currently includes as many as five D/A converters, four devices overclocking digital signal and jitter minimizing devices, two line preamplifiers, three power amplifiers, a headphone amplifier, and even an audio file player and a CD transport.

Digital-to-analog converters (I will use this term interchangeably with: DAC, and D/A converter) from this company are what the converters were at the beginning - only converters. There is no volume control, because that's what an external preamplifier is for, and they don't feature a file transport attached to their backs, or a Bluetooth connection. These are all useful functions, but force the designers to make various compromises, from power supply, through the grounding plan, to signal path. The Terminator Plus under the review is such a product, a pure DAC.


TERMINATOR PLUS IS THE DENAFRIPS' MOST EXPENSIVE D/A CONVERTER. I felt it already when unboxing the device - I was definitely not prepared for its weight neither by the "entry-level" ARES (3.5 kg), nor a full-size, second from top, model called VENUS MkII (8.5 kg). Weighing almost 20 kg, Terminator Plus is somewhat similar to Venus, both in terms of appearance and selected system solutions.

⸜ FEATURES I am talking about a large device measuring 430 x 380 x 105 mm (W x H x D) with a chassis made of precisely finished aluminum plates. On the front panel, which differs from that of the Terminator and Venus MkII models mainly by the horizontal cutter in its middle, we find a row of luminous micro-diodes and buttons - there is no display there.

The converter offers as many as eight (!) digital inputs, with the popular BNC, RCA and USB at the fore, plus two clock outputs, designed for cooperation with CD and file transports of this company. The USB supports signal up to 24 bit / 1536 kHz (PCM) and DSD up to DSD1024, and the other inputs support PCM 24/192 and DSD64.

In addition to digital inputs, we can also find professional AES/EBU and optical Toslink, used from time to time, but also three inputs accepting the I2S signal, i.e. the one that connects the transport of optical discs and DACs inside CD and SACD players. This is probably the best format for digital transfer from optical discs, but it has no specific format.

| I²S

I²S, ALSO WRITTEN AS IIS, it is an electrical serial link used to connect digital devices to each other. It was developed in 1986 by Philips Semiconductor and revised on June 5, 1996. The clock is excluded from the data stream, so that digital receivers can be much simpler in design, and thus more transparent to the sound.

Its problem is that it was not designed to send an audio signal outside the devices, but only inside them, from the transport to the DAC section, therefore problems with impedance matching may arise. Often times, simply changing the length of a cable can improve or degrade the stability of the link, and hence the sound.

As the audio link does not have a specific plug standard, manufacturers do it in their own way, mostly using RJ45 sockets, but with pins wired in various ways, and recently more and more often HDMI sockets. Devices using DIN sockets are also known, and the CEC company has its own version, with four BNC cables.

AS YOU CAN SEE, THIS IS AN IMPORTANT SUBJECT IN ASIA, because the manufacturer offers three currently used formats of this type of connections in the tested converter - one HDMI and two RJ45 (Ethernet type) sockets - the latter two with different pin configurations. Both will be used to send signal from the announced but not yet available CD transport called AVATAR CDT. But there is one more "something" with the digital inputs in the tested converter - there are two separate AES/EBU inputs, i.e. with a balanced S/PDIF signal. You can use them together, as a Dual-AES/EBU link, for cooperation with one of the SACD/CD transports of the British company dCS.

And there is yet another cool, perhaps even a key feature of this converter - the oversampling option. In normal mode (OS = OverSampling), all PCM signals are clocked to the maximum speed allowed by the D/A chip, which is 1411.2kHz for a 44.1kHz signal or 1536kHz for a 48kHz signal. However, you can turn this feature off and let the circuit work without oversampling in NOS (Non OverSampling) mode; DSD signal is converted without oversampling.

⸜ TECHNICAL ASPECTS Among the most important technical features of the new Denafrips converter, its designers mention the following:

  • complete separation of circuit boards with digital signal processing and R-2R (analog) boards,
  • quartz oscillators with thermal stabilization ("oven") replace Crystek Femto clocks,
  • digital signal isolation - an insulating barrier made of silicon dioxide (SiO2) with a separate power supply effectively isolates the ground and blocks noise from entering the system,
  • redesigned power supply (placed under the DAC boards),
  • supercapacitors for digital and analog circuits that store large amounts of energy to provide constant current to the circuits.

The most important information is the use of a proprietary digital-to-analog converter system, consisting of resistors and switches. It is controlled by a large programmable FGPA Altera Max II, one per channel. These circuits have separate PCBs and work in a balanced mode from input to output.

As it reads in the company materials, they use precise surface mount resistors with low ppm, i.e. with low sensitivity to temperature changes. As you know from physics lessons, a change in temperature causes a change in the resistance of materials, and this relationship is given in units of ppm - the resistors in the tested DAC have values of 10/15 ppm, which is extremely small.

The second important feature of this device is the excellent Oven-Controlled Crystal Oscillator - OCXO, actually two of them, one for the 44.1 and another for 48 kHz signal families. These clocks physically connect the two DAC channels, thus minimizing noise and crosstalk.

Two circuits accept the digital signal - one for S/PDIF inputs and the other for USB; IIS inputs are treated separately. The USB is supported by the superb STM32F446 (Advanced AMR Based MCU) chip, redesigned by Denafrips engineers. Thanks to their changes it supports signal up to 24 bits, 1536 kHz and natively DSD1024. This circuit is controlled by the THESYCON (USB Driver for Windows Platform) driver.

The S/PDIF inputs are just as sophisticated. The company abandoned the use of standard digital receivers (integrated circuits) and wrote its own algorithm, which it saved in the FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) chip - it is located in the input section. Let me add that all digital signals are saved in memory and overclocked (to get rid of jitter) in the FIFO Buffer Reclocking circuit, similar in principle to the one used by Chord Electronics in their devices (e.g. in DAVE DAC).

The device looks impressive and is very solidly made. It lacks a bit of finesse in finish and artistic design, but on the other hand, many high-end devices look much worse.


⸤ HOW WE LISTENED The Terminator Plus digital-to-analog converter was tested in the "High Fidelity" reference system and compared to the D/A section of the Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition, which also worked as a CD transport, and to the D/A section of the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge file player.

The DIGITAL signal from the Ayon Audio player was sent via the ACROLINK MEXCEL 7N-DA6100 RCA RCA (S/PDIF) digital interconnect, and the USB signal from the HP Pavilion dv7 computer, on which I launched the Tidal service, via the USB ACOUSTIC REVIVE USB-5.0PL cable. The ANALOG signal from the RCA outputs was sent to the Ayon Audio Spheris III preamplifier with the RCA CRYSTAL CABLE ABSOLUTE DREAM interconnects. The most important thing for me was its behavior with CDs.

The device stood on its own feet and was powered by the Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version cable.

Recordings used for the test | a selection

⸜ CAL TJADER-STAN GETZ SEXTET, Cal Tjader-Stan Getz Sextet, Fantasy/First Impression Music LIM UHD 061, „Limited Edition | First 2000 Pressings”, „UltraHD 32-Bit PureFlection”, CD (1958/2008).
⸜ KING CRIMSON, In The Court of the Crimson King, Atlantic/WOWOW Entertainment [Japan] IEDG-01, 7” Platinum SHM-CD + DVD-Audio (1969/2016).
⸜ KYLIE, Step Back In Time (The Definitive Collection), Parlophone | BMG BMGCAT385DCDX/4050538484182, 2 x CD (2019).
⸜ LOUIS-CLAUDE DAQUIN, Les Douze Noëls, dyr. John Wallace, wyk. RSAM, Linn Records CKD 254, HDCD (2004).
⸜ MADELEINE PEYROUX, Dreamland, Atlantic 7567-82946-2, HDCD (1996).
⸜ PET SHOP BOYS, Hotspot, X2 Recordings/Sony Music labels SICX-148, CD (2020).
⸜ THE CURE, Wish, Fiction Records/Sound-Pol SPB CD 015, CD (1992).
⸜ YO-YO MA, CHRIS THILE, EDGAR MEYER, Bach Trios, Nonesuch Records 558933-1/Warner Music Japan WPCS-13681, CD (2017).


THIS IS TRUISM, but the D/A converters based on the R-2R architecture, i.e. built of discrete resistors, have more in common than those featuring classic, integrated circuits. If someone would like to confirm this thesis, they should listen, even if only for a moment, to the Terminator Plus, and they will hear a smooth, warm, extremely "analog" sound - analog in the sense that it is polished, devoid of sharpness and artifacts that a "digital" sound is associated with. Both stereotypes are untrue, but still common, so I decided to use them.

Therefore, the Wish album by THE CURE, that I had not listened to for a long time, and once had listened to all the time on repeat, sounded low, sounded warm and smooth. Robert Smith's vocals were deep and silky at the same time. It was shown further away from me than with the reference player, because the whole presentation was presented from a larger perspective. This does not happen very often when the sound is warmed up, as it usually pushes the vocals towards the listener. In this case, however, nothing like that happened, and it was quite the opposite.

The perspective from which the music is shown has a depth dimension going way into the stage which in turn is a bit narrower - we see "further in", so its edges are also more distant from us. This could be heard especially well on in the vocal track with the whisper of the frontman accompanying the main vocal in front of me - the whisper is distributed in the left-right plane. The Singapore converter showed the whole thing very nice, really smooth and full, but it also moved both vocal layers away from me and narrowed them a bit.

However, this is not a device that would flatten the perspective or extinguish the stereo effect. To confirm that all I had to do was to listen to the I Talk To The Wind from the In The Court of the Crimson King by KING CRIMSON to hear a lot of things happening in the panorama, with reverbs running to the left and right, with the mellotron sound coming from the side, etc. The Terminator Plus shows spatial relations very well, but shows them further away from us, so they may seem narrower than with other devices of this type - yet they are not.

With the King Crimson album, I also heard the tendency of the tested DAC to warm up the presentation. This is something that occurs in it both when oversampling is turned on (weaker) and when it is turned off (stronger). The bass in this interpretation is a bit soft and has no clear attack, which is a characteristic feature of most R-2R circuits. This is not particularly problematic, but it is worth knowing that the kick drum will be fatter than with fast digital devices and will be less "attacking".

In return, we get an extremely vivid presentation that is not slowed down. This is another characteristic of good systems of this type - they are extremely resolving, so the warm, slightly rounded sound they propose does not blend in and is not blurred. I would even say that after the ear accommodation, after getting rid of the habits acquired in dealing with classic D/A converters, we will say that the Terminator Plus sounds more open, and that it provides more information.

Which, however, does not change the first and probably the most important feature of the tested device - its warm and vivid sound regardless of the type of music, production class and release type. To verify this, I reached for two albums with compression reaching the zenith and which are digitally distorted from time to time, but still sound great: KYLIE MINOGUE’s Step Back In Time (The Definitive Collection) and Hotspot by PET SHOP BOYS.

One of my personal songs of summer 2019, Kylie Minogue’s I Can't Get You Out of My Head, sounded smooth, warm, simply nice with the Singapore device. It was difficult to talk about dynamics, because it is not actually present in this production, and yet the pulse of the percussion background had a good attack, there was a "push" and holiday slack. The song sounded warm and the high treble was clearly withdrawn.

Listening to the Spinning Around confirmed what I had said before about space - the sounds surrounding the listener at the beginning were shown around me, at a good distance, in a separate, “discreet” way. This is how devices with good resolution and above-average phase relations sound like, which is quite difficult to achieve with "digital" sound, due to the digital filters used in DACs, which cause the signal to "ring". But in the R-2R systems there are no such filters, which was audible.

Similarly, I perceived the Dreamland, a track from the Pet Shop Boys’s Hotspot album. It had muted treble and emphasized mid bass. Both of these elements are other features of the tested converter. And yet I turned up the volume knob, because it's a great song, and I've been a Pet Shop Boys fan since I heard Suburbia in the late 1980s - for years as a Depeche Mode fan I had to hide it, but with age comes freedom in these matters ...

Based on the example of these two albums it was clear that with the compressed signal the converter does sort of a "remastering", cutting out the irritating coloration and sharpness. This results in a heavier and less transparent sound, but also one that can be listened to for a long time without fatigue.

| Our albums

Cal Tjader-Stan Getz Sextet

Fantasy/First Impression Music LIM UHD 061
„Limited Edition | First 2000 Pressings”
„UltraHD 32-Bit PureFlection”, CD (1958/2008)

ALBUM BY VIBRAPONIST CAL TJADER, fascinated at that time with Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythms, and saxophonist STAN GETZ was recorded during three hours, on February 8, 1958 in San Francisco and released in the same year by FANTASY RECORDS. Legend has it that the musicians played so well that no re-takes were needed, which could explain the fact that no additional versions of the songs were preserved from the session. Indeed, only two tracks have been recorded twice. Let's add that the band also included the pianist Vince Guaraldi, guitarist Eddie Duran, bassist Scott La Faro and drummer Billy Higgins - this recording was one of the first which both La Faro and Higgins took part in.

The material was recorded at Circle Record Studios. It was a small area on Treat Street that many wouldn't even call a studio. Founded by the Weiss brothers as a pressing plant, it became the site of many recordings - the brothers co-owned The Blackhawk club, where many jazz stars played, and from which they brought them to their studio - this was the case with Dave Brubeck, among others. Unfortunately, nothing is known about the equipment used there, only that when it rained heavily, the roof leaked and water dripped straight onto the piano ...

The re-edition prepared by Mr. Winston Ma as part of his sub-label Lasting Impression Music contains the original composition of the tracks. And for a long time the album was re-released with the opening track Ginza Samba. This was due to the bossa nova madness in the US in the 1960s. Originally the song was titled Ginza and "samba" was added for promotional purposes. Interestingly, it was Stan Getz, not Tjader, who became the American symbol of bossa nova.

The sound of the album is perfect in its naturalness. The small room required close arrangement of the musicians, and thus the microphones. The sound from the microphones of adjacent instruments was also picked up by other microphones, which recorded natural reverbs and time delays (so-called leaking).

The version that I would like to recommend to you was pressed in the PureFlection process, which minimizes pressing errors and thus reading errors. As you can see in the test certificate in the booklet, this disc has negligibly low errors of this type. The material for it was remastered in 32 bits from the original ¼ ”analog master tape by the Four/Five team, founded by former Telarc engineers, under the direction of MICHAEL BISHOP, who was the chief engineer in Telarc. Unfortunately, Bishop died on March 21st this year.

Cal Tjader-Stan Getz Sextet is a fantastic album, filled with great melodies and played at ease, characteristic for the "smooth jazz" of the West Coast of this period. In the version that I am talking about, especially with the "Limited Edition First 2000 Pressings" badge, it is worth every penny.

With HIGH-CLASS RECORDINGS, this tendency towards warming and smoothing remains, but we get a huge amount of information, which makes the presentation extremely open and communicative. This was the case, for example, with the Carl Tjader and Stan Getz’s album mentioned above. The PureFlection technique in which it was released was originally developed by the owner of the First Impression Music company and, apart from FIM discs, was also used in Sony Music releases in Hong Kong - today we know it as Blu-spec and it is owned by this publisher.

Anyway, the sound of the album was amazing in its naturalness. I have not used this term so far, so as not to anticipate the facts - but it is precisely with recordings of acoustic music that you hear it best. Carl Tjader's vibraphone had exceptional sonority, although it did not exceed the limits of good taste. It was also audible that Stan Getz's saxophone positioned on the right was further away from the microphone, because along with its sound, you can also hear a lot of studio sound, and the drums, although also located in the right channel, "penetrate" into the left channel, which gives an extremely natural - although it is an artificial situation - perspective.

⸜ OS vs NOS Terminator Plus can overclock the input signal to high values. However, this oversampling can be turned off. The comparison of these two modes is quite simple, although it must be said that the spirit of this device hovers over both of them - its "own sound" is more important than the mode in which it works. But also the differences between OS and NOS are clear and it's easy to point out your own "winner". For me it was, without a doubt, the NOS mode, at least with CDs. With files that I auditioned separately, I preferred the OS mode.

In the NOS mode, the sound is warmer and denser. OS causes it to open in the middle of the band and bring the performers closer. As for me, the presentation was a bit too simplistic then. Not that it was bland - Terminator Plus is a great product. However, when I listened to a few albums in the NOS mode, I felt like I was listening to a warm tube amplifier, which was about showing the most natural sound, even at the expense of selectivity and sound attack.


No matter what album I listened to, the basic features of the tested converter were absolutely clear to me. It offers a warm sound with a smooth treble and an emphasized mid-bass. The attack of the sound is not strong, but it does not affect the clarity of the presentation. It is warm, yes, it is also "directed in" in the sense that it draws you deeper into the sound, and not spread it out in our room.

Terminator Plus by Denafrips sounds as if its creators wanted "analog" sound of a LP release (let me remind you that the "master" tape sounds quite different than most vinyls). So the attack was smoothed, the low midrange was boosted up and the high treble was withdrawn. But also vividness and great stereo effect were added. The latter is unimpressive in a short listening session, and we will appreciate its class after some time.

This converter is therefore something like a "bridge" between both worlds. You had to sacrifice this or that, nothing is for free. However, the effect is very interesting and simply addictive. The device will not appeal to those who look for openness and selectivity in the sound, fans of heavy music genres will probably not be fully satisfied either. But, who knows ... Once listened to, it leaves its an "imprint" in one’s mind, which one later looks for in every other device.

A truly high-end DAC for reasonable price, therefore it receives our RED Fingerprint.


DENAFRIPS TERMINATOR PLUS is a classic digital-to-analog converter, featuring eight inputs in various formats. The active input is selected with two buttons on the large front panel, where there are also buttons for changing the absolute phase, activating the connection of clocks to an external device, and also oversampling. The changes are signaled by red illuminating micro-diodes, just like the frequency of the input signal and its type.

The housing of the device is made of thick aluminum plates and they are placed on self-made feet - two at the front and one at the back. The feet consist of two elements - a cone screwed to the DAC and a separate base made of aluminum, and POM, the material often used in turntables. The converter does not feature a remote control. All sockets are solid, gold plated and were bought from the Swiss company NEUTRIK. The exception is the excellent IEC power socket by FURUTECH, the FI-05 model with gold-plated contacts.

⸜ INSIDE The device looks great inside, like a purebred DAC. The circuits are divided into two sections - power transformers and the actual power supply and signal processing, separated with a thick plate shielding them from each other.

At the top there is an audio PCB, or actually two, so that they do not stimulate vibrations. The most space is occupied by the R-2R decoder circuit with rows of SMD resistors and transistors switching them. They are controlled by the large ALTERA Max II FPGAs, one per channel. In front of them there is a thermally controlled clock of company’s own design, closed in a solid, aluminum housing. The clock is mounted on a board that is screwed to the main board.

Next to it, you can see some of the filtering and voltage stabilizing systems. Instead of a few large capacitors, manufacturer chose to use a lot of smaller ones, saying that they re-load faster and have a lower internal impedance when connected in parallel. These are nice capacitors from the Japanese company ELNA from the audiophile Silmic II series, shunted with polypropylene WIMA capacitors, which minimize the noise generated during switching. This section of the power supply is dedicated to the D/A converter stage.

The proper power supply, with many stabilizing circuits and local chokes, was placed on a PCB that was separated from the main one. Also here there are rows of capacitors, but also stabilizing circuits based not on integrated circuits, but on transistors. This section is used to power the digital stage, including the digital receiver circuits and the controlling circuits of the converter.

Good job!

Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer)

Supported formats:
RCA/Toslink: PCM up to 24/192 | DSD up to DSD64 (DoP)
USB/I2S: PCM up to 24/1536 | DSD up to DSD1024

Frequency range: 20 Hz-40 kHz (-0.2 dB)
THD+N: ≤0.001% (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: 127 dB
Dynamics: >132 dB
Crosstalk: -110 dB
Power consumption: ≤20 W
Dimensions (W x H x D): 430 x 105 x 380 mm
Weight: 19 kg


Reference system 2021

1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
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|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
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
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
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|

  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

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