I have to admit I have an aversion to ‘flavour of the month’ products. Ones that suddenly appear, get gushing reviews and feedback and when audiophiles get them home, they are not what was promised and after a few months, many appear on the used market. And then they fade away and everyone is left with thinner wallets or purses. And there are too many of them. Because DACs are associated with the more ephemeral computer they seem to attract more than their fair share.

Also, the numbers game can get played with more and more bits and higher sampling rates with a super-duper DSD added to the mix

Having seen a few super-fabulous reviews of the Denafrips DAC with the Jays CD transport I became suspicious. However, as time progressed there were more and more reviewers saying the same thing, some from reviewers I respect. This was becoming interesting.

And then an audio friend had both in for review so I could get some real comments, from a real hifi critic. And he liked them. No, he REALLY liked them. OK, nothing left to do but contact Alvin Chee at Vinshine and ask for them. After some discussion, they were making their way to me and there were no hassles with customs or delivery times. I soon had (less than 12 days) two heavy boxes. In one was the Denafrips Terminator + and in the other a Jays Audio CD2 Mk III. Both of the boxes were double boxes to protect the precious audio on its long journey to the UK. Yes, both are designed and made in China.

Removing the Terminator + (T+) from its boxes, Denafrips had included a pair of white cotton gloves to protect the brushed aluminium cases from the oil in your hands. Watch out though, the Denafrips is a chunky 19kg (for a DAC!) and the gloves can make the DAC slippery. I put the Denafrips on the second shelf on my DBase rack.

The T+ looks the part and has a luxury feel, not super bling which impacted earlier Chinese audio products, but certainly very solid. I had the silver finish although the black design looks elegant and unlike other companies' products, the black version does not cost extra.


The T+ has a balanced R-2R ladder network made by Denafrips. The resistors have to be incredibly well matched to work well. The T+ uses laser-trimmed, high-precision thin-film resistors that are hand-selected. The resistors are matched with an accuracy of 0.005%. And as it is balanced there are four sets of them, all carefully matched. I am aware of only 2 other companies who make their own ladder DACs, as opposed to buying 16-bit DAC chips and one company, MSB, sells its ladder DACs to others. Only one other company, I am aware of, is trying to make a ladder DACs using large resistors. The T+ ladder DAC has a reported, very low thermal coefficient, of 10/15ppm.

The ladder network is controlled by a large programmable FGPA (Altera Max II) with one per channel.

The circuits have separate PCBs and work in balanced mode from the input to the output.

The main digital and analogue sections are completely isolated by an insulating barrier made of silicon dioxide (SiO2) with separate power supplies that effectively isolate the ground and block noise from entering the system,

The digital and analogue sections are physically linked by the Oven Controlled Crystal Oscillator, OCXO clock module. The clock module has a dual OCXO, operating at 45.1584Mhz and 49.152Mhz with 1024x oversampling of the base rates of 44.1kHz and 48kHz. The OCXO is encapsulated in a metal casing (oven) located at the centre of the DAC and has ultra-low phase noise and superb accuracy. The dual OCXO module is powered by separate power supplies that are encapsulated, shielded and placed underneath the mainboards in a separate case.

Two circuits accept the digital signal - one for S/PDIF input and the other for USB. I2S inputs are treated separately. The USB is supported by an STM32F446 chip, redesigned by Denafrips engineers. It supports signals up to 24 bits, 1536 kHz and DSD1024. This circuit is controlled by the THESYCON Windows driver.

The T+ deals with jitter by using FIFO BUFFER RECLOCKING. The FIFO buffer stores the digital audio data in memory. The data is then read from the memory using the OCXO clocks.


The power supply is contained in a shielded case beneath the main circuit board and uses two low-noise O-type toroids.


The company believes in using a lot of small capacitors as opposed to a few large ones, hence the rows upon rows of high-quality Wima MKS and Elna Silmic Mk2 capacitors on the main board.

TPlus Jpg (2).jpg
The inputs and outputs should satisfy even the most well-outfitted digital-phile. There is a SPDIF, 2x AES/EBU, a USB, 3xI2S with 2 of them allowing you to program individual pins. There are 2 outputs, one balanced and the other has RCAs. Denafrips recommend using balanced outputs. The T+ can also output two clock signals via two BNC sockets. The mains socket is made by Furutech. This great attention to detail also explains why the back of the T+ looks crowded.

All the technical details can be read on their web page at: https://www.denafrips.com/terminator-plus.


Now a somewhat sensitive subject and a bit of conjecture. The T+ uses a large number of capacitors and it is known that capacitors can take time to form. Denafrips care about their QC so they run the T+ for the first 100 hours of its life and make sure it is performing as designed. They also recommend that the DAC is given an additional 200 hours to stabilise. I was advised by others that it needs even more than that. To avoid any issues, I left the T+ playing 24/7 for a few weeks. Yes, I did listen before that and its sound quality did vary early on, but it started to settle down with the mid-range filling out and the sound becoming more natural and less thin. If you get a T+, try to contain yourself and let the DAC fully settle in. If it sounds at all bright or forward then give it more time. A pain I know but you will be rewarded.

Speaking of sound quality, I put the Denafrips into my system with the T+ fed by my Audionote CD4T and a Melco feeding a dCS Bridge. The Denafrips was initially connected to my Vitus RI101Mk2 and then my ARC Ref 5 and a REF 110. Topping off the system was a pair of Audionote Es silvers with external crossovers. And cables galore of which more later and a bonus extra review.

I played my music test lists through the dCS.

WOW……this DAC is no slouch and has a great mix of details and naturalness. I find that some DACs can have enormous amounts of detail, but they tend to fire it at you. For me, this tends to be more a characteristic of Bitstream DACs, especially the earlier ESS converters. Later ones were better. At the other extreme of the spectrum are the less detailed, but more natural-sounding DACs. Invariably they are ladder DACs and have valve preamplifiers or discrete SS outputs in them. The reason I liked the Chord Qutest is it is one of the few DACs that has the detail and the naturalness of real music. It also has a great 3D soundstage but does not quite have the organic nature of an Audionote DAC. But the Denafrips was a great mix of both. Detail and naturalness with great 3D.

I was not expecting that.

I heard more detail, such as the fading echo in a large church hall playing music that seemed to go on for ages, without distracting you away from the music. This was not done by the emphasis of certain parts of the frequency response. I started with a Mike Valentine CD in the AN CD4T transport. The first thing I noticed was the natural, 3D soundstage. It was larger than I had heard before, but not super-large and unreal. Spread out in the soundstage was Interpreti Veneziani playing Concerto To RV 419. Live. It was easy to separate the various instruments and hear the details of the individual instruments playing or just relax and enjoy the whole chamber orchestra. Or hear the individual voices of the Darbourne Ensemble singing Nolo Morten Peccatoris sung superbly in a large church. Dynamics? Listening to the Sid Lawrence Orchestra letting rip with the Hawaiian War Chant proved there was no problem. The brass instruments had a natural (not digital) edge to them, they are brass instruments after all. But when they all let rip, it is a war chant with the sheer power of the Orchestra that needed the power of my Vitus. My 211-valve amplifier did find this a little taxing but then I am a >95db man. This track was recorded with just 2 microphones and gave a realistic image of the Orchestra. Not the usual super-precise image created in a studio or classical music recorded with tons of spot microphones, but a very natural and realistic sound. Closer to what I hear live. This CD was really showing what the Denafrips could do with high-quality material.

But which one’s pink?

Yes, a Floyd session was needed. I have a nice playlist from Qobuz with a lot of the music in hires. Nothing for it, try out the big crash and bash music from Comfortably Numb, Another Brick in the Wall Pt 2 and Get Your Filthy Hands off My Desert. Good job the Vitus with its 600w/channel was wired up. Things were being moved by the bass and the drama of the music. I had to add the Roger Waters, One of These Days from US + Them, with its amazing bass guitar intro. Really rocking the room with no concerns, bar the sound pressure levels. But then it is nice to let go and have no worries about the treble/mid becoming forward and preventing me from listening for hours. The Qobuz list lasts for nearly 5 hours.

How about some bass? Hans Zimmer’s The Dark Night Orchestra Suite. This recording took place at the famous concert hall Wiener Konzerthaus featuring the renowned ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and choir Neue Wiener. This track and Inception have a great mix of an orchestra and sound effects, with ultra-deep and powerful bass. It was great to hear the subtlety of the orchestra and feel the impact of the special effects, which helped to give the music an unnerving feeling. After all, it was about a dark hero? Inception also had an unnerving feel, in this disturbing view of a future world. No wonder it was nominated for an academy award. And for the purist in me? Jean Guillou playing, I Gnomus, from Stravinsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, with those incredibly deep bass pedal notes. As well as playing with some real power the Denafrips also allowed me to hear the subtlety of a massive organ being expertly played in a very large church.

Enough of this audiophile stuff. How about some fun? Kermit Ruffins and the Rebirth Brass Band on the Throwback album.

Oh, what great fun. A real New Orleans Band with lots of big brass instruments played with great joy and fun. Foot tapping, jumping about and good-time music. If you do not feel really happy and joyful after hearing some of these tracks then you ain’t got no soul. It is not audiophile but still a reasonable recording. Yes, the drums played fast and realistic, and the brass had the right amount of blatt to sound like real brass instruments. But this is not a traditional brass band, they are funky and have a real feel for the fun in music. Despite all the details being integrated into the music it did not have a slow beat or lose the interesting timing of the band. They swung.

And for something a little slower and considered. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers singing Angel Dream. This album is a remix, a remaster and a reimagined version of the group’s ‘Songs And Music from The Motion Picture 'She’s The One’. Its sound quality is very good and a fitting tribute to Tom Petty. The whole feel of the album is more reflective with quiet music. The Denafrips dug all that detail out but not at the expense of real people playing music. Lovely.

I had mainly used the T+ in NOS mode but wanted to explore oversampling. Switching to oversampling altered the character of the sound but not by an enormous amount. The music became tighter and sharper in its timing but it lost some of the flow of the music. At least you can choose, and I did, depending on whether the music was natural and reflective or just great fun.

I also tried a few DSD recordings. Now, this was different. The music became a lot more natural, easier to listen to and very much in the room. I enjoyed these recordings and went on a hunt for more DSD music. I ended up with DSD music from 2L, Blue Coast Records and Audiophile Inventory. The recording quality was superb in all of these tracks but I could only compare a few against the 24/192 versions. And there was a degree of consistency in the improvements but I had only a few tracks for comparison between DSD and hi-res. The real pity is that there is not much music I like in DSD but I will need to keep an eye on that format.

I normally try to place review items in the market place and for me, this was difficult for the T+. It was easily better than the Chord Qutest and my Audionote DAC2.1x, but they cost much less. Despite that, the Qutest and DAC2.1x have seen off all-comers below £3.5K.

Was it as good as my Audionote DAC4.1x? Yes and no. If you like what the AN DAC4.1x does then the T+ may not suit, it is different. I would say the quality is similar or in an audiophile sense the T+ is slightly better but I could well imagine people preferring the AN DAC4.1x. That for me is a big achievement as nothing has approached my AN DAC 4.1x and the T+ is considerably cheaper.

I tried altering items in my system including cables and the differences were easy to hear. The T+ is a detail hound and I will describe the cable differences in my review of the Jays CD2 Mk III.

As you can guess I was impressed by this DAC. For me, it makes a big statement in having all the right audiophile components, measures superbly well and has a sound quality that makes it exceptional with great detail and superb naturalness. At the price……er…..a bit of a bargain. If you want the best, this could be it.

And then I added the Jays CD2 Mk III…..to be continued…..

R-2R DACProprietary R2R + DSD Architecture
True balanced 26BIT R2R + 6BIT DSD (32 steps FIR Filters)
Matched Precision Thin Film 0.005% R-2R Network Arrays
HighlightEncapsulated Ultra Low Noise Power Supply
High-end Oven Controlled Crystals OCXO
Total isolation of Digital and R-2R Boards
Adaptive FIFO Buffer and Reclocking
DSD1024, PCM1536 Supports On USB & I²S Input
Proprietary USB Audio Solution via STM32F446 Advanced AMR Based MCU
Licensed Thesycon USB Driver For Windows Platform
Driverless On Mac & Linux
Dual AES/EBU Input Supports
Sharp/Slow Filters Option
I²S Pinout Configuration
I²S DSD Channel Swap Configuration
DSDDSD64-DoP On All Input
DSD1024* On USB & I²S Input Only
PCM24bits / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192KHz On All Input
1536kHz* On USB & I²S Input
NOTE*USB Firmware V3.4.1 - PCM1536 / DSD1024 supports disabled for compatibility with macOS
Digital InputCoax via RCA
TOSLink x 1
AES/EBU x 2 (Dual AES/EBU L/R Channel Input Supported)
I²S via RJ45 LVDS
Analog OutputRCA at 2.2Vrms, 625 Ω
XLR at 4.4Vrms, 1250 Ω
Sampling ModeNon-Oversampling NOS
Oversampling OS
AC Power Requirement100-240VAC, 50/60Hz (Worldwide Voltage)
Power Consumption≤20W
Frequency Response20-40KHz -0.2dB
S/N Ratio127dB
Dynamic Range>132dB
Stereo Crosstalk-110dB
Dimension430 x 380 x 105 mm
Weight19 Kg
ColorSilver / Black
Warranty36 Months