Denafrips Terminator vs other dacs

Hey everyone I have owned the denafrips Terminator in my system for approximately one year and am enjoying it. However I have not compared it to many other Dacs. the only one really being the Burson conductor SL 9018 and the hdv 820 and both of these were with headphones not speakers.
Initially when I was buying I was looking to spend around 4,000 and was deciding between the PS audio directstream and the Terminator and after lots of reading eventually settled on The Terminator.

So in this thread my aim is to get all the people who've either owned the Terminator or heard it to chime in on there impressions of it specifically compared to other dacs. Some of the other dacs I'm thinking of are the chord Hugo 2, tt2, Dave. The bricasti M1 SE. PS direct stream. Metrum pavane. Holo spring l3. And any other dacs that you heard that you have compared to the Terminator.

I realize that there are other threads that discuss the Terminator but I have not seen any that focus on comparing it to other dacs which is what I want this thread to be focused on.
Thank you so much.
Is the Terminator almost always better than the PS Audio Directstream DAC?  Or is it just system dependent?
I am guessing its system and taste dependent. Never heard PSDS but it has the advantage of constantly improving its sound  through firmware updates. Its usually said that its a smoother more analog sounding dac whereas terminator is more incisive and maybe more detailed. I don't think one is necessarily superior.
I have owned s lotof dacs the denafripps, Schitt , Yaggs, Belcanto
ps Audio Best,Meitner, ,just to name a few 
 none are perfect, or fit in well with allsystems ,they all have 
their own strong points the best resolution guaranteeyou Nothing .
personally I would rather give up a bit of ultimate resolution 
if it was more in part and natural sounding. Everyone had their own 
preferences,as in Loudspeakers.
Holo spring l3
I had the Holo Spring Level 2 on loan in my system for 2 weeks and I was very taken with it, even in OS mode, but it was when it was switched to NOS mode that really got me listening, more extension and harmonic detail at both ends and richness to the mids in NOS mode.

Cheers George  
the DS DAC has been said to be smoother (softer / rounded off transients) and the Termi having more ‘pop’ but that doesn’t equate the DS being more analog. The Termi is very natural. I’ve read to many times the opposite re the DS. So some must find it at least a little...what? Synthetic? I don’t know. I learned a while ago that there are audiophiles that don’t actually know natural timbre.
System dependent but I love the Termi. Great blend of natural musicality and resolution, with good presence too. And of course that natural timbre. For the price 
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the DS DAC has been said to be smoother (softer / rounded off transients) and the Termi having more ‘pop’ but that doesn’t equate the DS being more analog.

So true jr, the discrete R2R Multibit dacs like the Terminator the Holo, MSB, Total ect ect have a life and a boogie factor to the music that DS dacs lack, and yes they do show up bad recordings.
The good DS (delta sigma) dacs that aren’t hard or harsh, are a bit of a yawn, and lack bringing out the life (boogie factor) of the music, but in a good way are kinder to those bad recordings.

Cheers George
Thanks a lot guys for the great comparisons. Anyone have thoughts on how it compares to Bricasti M1 SE?
We would have you also look at the T+A DAC 8 DSD which is one of Audiostreams top recommendations.

The DAC 8 DSD when fed with Quad Rate DSD files was found to compete with the Total Dac and DCS Rossini Dacs which are both 4-5 times the price of the DAC 8.

There are several great dacs to look at in a similar price point, that are all top performers in that price range.

Aqua Hif La Voice.

Lumin T2

T+A Dac 8 DSD.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ

@audiotroy thanks going to read more

@firstnot Bricasti's can be had used for  5-6k range. Also I do want to know how terminator competes against more pricey dacs.
I think that unless you critically listen to all of what's out there, you'll be chasing your tail looking for greener pastures. If what you have pleases you, then by all means, listen for the pleasure of it, unless you have loads of disposable income. 

I haven't heard the Denafrips Terminator but I have heard the Holo Springs DAC (can't say which model) and it was paired with the HeadAmp and a pair of Audeze cans and the sound was simply captivating, sublime, and just right, from the very first note. 

That was more than two years ago and if I were in the market for a great DAC, I would have stopped right there and be done with it. It could have been any other DAC that could have floated my boat and that's the point: the potential to satisfy is a lot closer than you think.

All the best,
^ Speaking of listening for pleasure... That equals Lampizator for me, which I’ve gone back to. I tried the other rout but ultimately returned to my Lampi going direct to amp, as that brings me closer into the recording and totally connected to the musical intent of the artists.
There is a difference to me between best sonics and best connection to the music. In digital it’s easy to get steered astray searching for the best in frequency extensions, soundstage size, linearity etc...only to find over time that the emotional connection is diminished... Like choosing left-brained over right-brained listening.
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If you like R2R DACs, MSB is best out there. Period. I used to own the Holo Spring KTE (Kitsune Tuned Edition Level 3), and my MSB Discrete DAC is in a total different league. Sublime!
@thyname, fair enough but its also a $100k dac. Its more than 10x the cash for the dacs we are discussing.
I just picked up a Lampizator Amber 2.2 (2019 edition) a few weeks ago on a launch special.  It retails for around $2,400 in the USA.  I’ve heard other Lampizators at various audio shows and have been impressed with their very natural, cohesive, (dare I say) analogue-like presentation to music.  The Amber 2.2 incorporates their newest digital engine from their TOTL Pacific DAC.  So far so good.  It works seamlessly with my Sony HAP Z1ES and Rega Planet 2000 CDP as sources.

If you give more detailed experience of  MSB Discrete DAC, it will help a lot.

With basic price under 10K, it is a very interesting product.

@smodractical base price of the Discrete DAC starts just under $10K. Not sure how you came up with ten times that
As noted above, the MBS Discrete DAC is priced at $9,950 and this includes one external power supply. The recommended optional 2nd power supply is priced at $1,450. The DAC comes equipped with a single power supply, but can be augmented with a second discrete power supply to enable optimized power isolation between all major components.  One power supply is for the laddered DAC section and the 2nd power supply is for the analog section.

Another option is the T+A DAC 8 DSD priced at $4,400.  Audiotroy recommended it in one of the above posts. 

@thyname sorry I thought you were talking about Select dac.

For discrete dac wouldn't people necessarily recommend the separate power base? In which case it would be $20k. 

Without the power base is the discrete dac better than all other options in his price category?
No @smodtactical --- the second power supply is less than $1,500. It already comes with one. if you add (let's say) the Renderer module for Ethernet streaming, it will add another $1995 to the price. So about $13K to $14K tops MSRP give or take. 

There is obviously the power base, for those who want it, but I did not get it. For me and my budget, the dual discrete power supplies are good enough

DAC is dependent on system and personal taste.

The author implied that Ayre QX-5 Twenty sounds better than Terminator.

Comparison with the Ayre QX-5 Twenty


I still had this puppy on loan, so had to do this comparison. Well, there's a reason the QX-5 Twenty costs north of $9k. In many ways, the QX-5 was the amalgam of the strengths of the Terminator and the QX-8! It was even more refined and resolving than the QX-8, but with dynamics and low end oomph to match the Terminator.


Pay, and ye shall receive!

It seems that you owned Ayre QX-5 Twenty.

Could you give comparison between Ayre QX-5 Twenty and MSB Discrete Dac?

thanks in advance


I have the Ayre QX-5 Twenty up for sale now @shkong78 . That says a lot. Ayre was my favorite DAC for over a year, and I have tried many DACs.

The MSB does something to the music that I have a hard time to explain. It has a kind of "liquid" presentation, so musical, that I enjoy a lot. Without losing any of the "sparkle". Ayre is very detailed and high resolution, quite a good body, and dynamic, but for me, MSB is more enjoyable, with no "digital character" of any kind, that does not fatigue you, and yet, it does not lose any of the presentation.

Truth be told, when you get to that level, it's all a matter of personal preferences. I am pretty sure I could have been happy with QX-5 ever after, but again, the upgrade itch hit me pretty hard when I listened to the MSB at the dealer. I hope this helps, and I am sorry I cannot explain this better. It's hard for me to put words on how I hear
Oh, and as an owner of the Holo Spring KTE Level 3, which is also r2r tech like Denafpris and MSB, I can tell you that Ayre QX-5 Twenty was much better. So, it's not just matter of technology. It is more a matter of implementation of the technology
Thanks a lot for your valuable opinion on MSB Discrete Dac.

I will start a new thread on MSB Discrete Dac
I have the dual Discrete Power supplies. It comes with one, included in base price. I paid $1,450 for the second. Well worth it.

Have only heard DAVE at local headphones meet ups. Never owned one. I know it needs the M-Scaler to really shine. Two friends of mine have that combo and are very happy with it. They both said adding the M-Scaler made a noticeable difference in SQ
Look up LampizatorNA and contact Rob or Fred. They are the NA distributor for Lampi. Or go over to their circle on Audio Circle and ask or hit them up over there. They’ll take care of ya.. 
Based on the above posts, the T+A DSD 8 DAC seems to be a recommended DAC. I like that the DAC 8 has separate power supplies for its digital and analog circuits, and uses galvanic isolation to further limit any unwanted interaction between the two sections. And, also its Double-Differential-Quadruple-Converter with 4 D/A-Converters per channel is a plus.

I hope to be able to hear this DAC at The Home Entertainment Show this coming weekend (June 7-9). Its above technical features are interesting but I am more interested in hearing how it sounds. What has been your experience when you heard the T+A DSD 8 DAC? Does anyone have any thoughts on the T+A DSD 8 DAC?
To get back on topic. Whats with SBAF trashing Denafrips terminator? Purrr1n basically said the Soekris 1421 is better ? Its the only corner of the internet where I've seen denafrips held in extremely low regard.
I read those comments.  I think that for some reason, he has a bias against Denafrips.  I recently purchased a new one from Alvin with the new board.  It is a superb dac.  I am entirely pleased.  It's sound is far better than described in SBAF IMHO.
I agree with earlier posts that how a DAC sounds depends on the listener's personal audio taste and system.

Having said that, if you like Ladder DACs, try to find  a used Theta ProBasic III before shelling out $5 or 10 grand. You might be surprised what you can do for less than $1000.

My system is a Perfect Wave transport, the Theta, CJ 17LS-2, McCormack DNA 500, and Thiel CS5 speakers. All of these components were purchased on the used market over the last five years.

Thanks for listening,


I know if PS Audio stuff gets outperformed it has to be something wrong with the system it can’t be PS Audio . Lol 
Thanks for the insights guys.

Anyone compare terminator to Rockna wavedream signature? From what I heard from a few friend the wavedream is nearly as good as the MSB Select 2 !
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I've owned a Resolution Audio Cantata 3..0 ladder DAC and thought it was very good.  I didn't notice any dCS products above, like Bartok or Rossini, although the latter is 28k.