Thought I’d share: Nicely done and practical DAC review



darko is one of my favorites on yt and on web print

he and his colleagues are mature, articulate, clearly states context and boundary conditions for his findings, minimal hype

Me too, but also check out reviews at — some of the best out there IMHO and he reviews lots of good, interesting stuff. That said, I thought Darko did a good job of explaining why product comparisons are so critical to creating a truly useful, effective, and more relatable review. Are you listening TAS???

Comparisons. In my humble opinion, they are critical in helping others understand the sound of a device under review. Comparisons give us context which other descriptions – as eloquent as they may be – lack the ability to convey in isolation. I certainly still want those descriptions, but the comparison is often the key metric by which I decode the opinion of a given reviewer.

Let’s walk through an example. When reading a review of a headphone I have yet to experience, it’s great if the author goes into detail about the sound signature. They tell me all about what they hear, using musical examples when appropriate, or whatever it takes to paint a vivid picture of the sonic landscape. Let’s say their ultimate conclusion is that the headphone has exceptional clarity but also sounds a bit thin and tipped up, and requires very powerful amplification to properly drive. That’s a reasonable conclusion, and it gives me a general idea of what to expect from the headphone being evaluated.

But in order to take things to the next level, it would help tremendously to understand where this headphone sits in comparison to other options. The well-known Sennheiser HD800, for example, is notorious for having just that sort of signature. How does the headphone under review compare to that established product? Moving on to amplification requirements, HiFiMAN’s Susvara is infamously the most demanding option on the market. Is the review headphone similarly challenging, or more/less so? These comparisons (and many others) give us vital context to help calibrate the author’s perspective against our own.

Amen!!! You getting any of this TAS, or are you just gonna keep spewing out basically useless reviews where you simply wax poetic about a product in a bubble with no comparisons and frequently not even disclosing what equipment is in the reviewer’s system?  Trash.  Absolute trash and lazy reviews that do nothing except get the reviewer paid without being pinned down or accountable for any of their assertions and conclusions.  What a joke in glossy print.  Argh!

Good write up. He missed at least one major difference - remote control of functions like inputs. For example Denafrips has none. After having this feature, I couldn’t live without it.

The review ends with "all good." They each do at least one thing better than the others do. Clearly it’s inappropriate to ask others "advice."

I like Darko a lot.

One problem with all reviews, for me, is that the products keep coming and they must say something about them. But while audio evolves, it doesn’t evolve that fast. Many products that don’t change much and are just echoes of other products.

Yet newness and excitement drive viewership.

Therefore, even the best reviewers are in a bind; they’re loved for their honesty and yet the constant influx of new products means that it is very hard to be truly honest. If they don’t skirt the truth, they have to come up with convincing patter, which can sound disingenuous at best.

This is one way in which a forum can be superior to a reviewer. People here are under fewer professional compunctions to praise things. They can say "meh" with impunity.

Count me as a fan as well. Sad that he’s going to slow way down soon for health reasons.

I find myself watching Darko reviews of products I’m not even remotely in the market for, like turntables. 


Good write up. He missed at least one major difference - remote control of functions like inputs. For example Denafrips has none. After having this feature, I couldn’t live without it.

I have the Pontus ll and I thought about it not having a remote, but once I set it up, I rarely change anything. I have a Hegel H390 and it offers a DAC Loop option, where everything runs through the DAC, so the Hegel’s remote does the changes from streamer to CD transport and back.



I have the Pontus ll and I thought about it not having a remote... I have a Hegel.

Good for you. So not everyone NEEDS remote info. You don't need to know about setting Benchmark jumpers either

I like being able to choose among 5 streamers, a non network player and a CD spinner without having to get up.

Always been a fan of Darko and I really enjoy his reviews, especially the video reviews (they have a high polish to them). I never understood the negative feedback by some here on A'gon in past threads. Some really don't like the man.

All the best,

Yep talked equally about all 3 and didn’t mention a preference or winner?? I find that hard to swallow. 

Not trying to be a dick but most people (me) have a pretty clear preference. I get it cause they are getting money they don’t want to say. Darkos probably big enough this is his full time job so I get it and can’t piss anyone off too much. But still. 

A very good review but it points out the elephant in the room... Speakers vs. Headphones. Headphones will reveal tiny things that speakers from 10 ft away will never or rarely reveal.  How I translate his nuances into my system seems a far reach. Same with review sites that emphasize measurements. That relevance kind of went out with Stereo Review. Not knocking the info but after 50 years as an audiophile it doesn't get any easier selecting new equipment. 


Differences were stated with different system combos which is a very useful way to do it….keeping personal preferences mostly out of it. That might help explain why different people will have different choices. I could care less about what someone else prefers. I want to choose based on what I am most likely to prefer given my setup. Others may well choose different based on the review.  That’s one of the reasons I thought the review was well done and useful…..does not assume everyone will have the same preferences…..good call!

I get it. There were comparisons I get it. I would rather hear someone go a step further, say one aligns more with my preferences cause I like….. this… and this is why? 

I dunno just seems by the books to me for a reviewer . Not saying Darko is a bad one. 

As a Denafrips Pontus II owner, his review is pretty darn close to my experience.....though adding a DDC (Denafrips Iris) took the soundstage and texture to an extra level

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I like Darko’s reviews as well. He comes across as a very thoughtful and professional individual. However, our tastes in music are are as far apart as the north and south poles 😞

I like Darko's reviews too but I won't put all eggs in one basket when it comes to the purchase decision.  I will cross reference with other reviews by the reviewers I thrust.

Like the kid. He’s really trying and the production of some of his videos are simply fantastic. His eval on the Schitt Modi for $99 is one and the RME-ADI-2 are superb  

I bought both and his efforts were spot on  




Everyone is commenting on Darko, but this review is by John Grandberg.  Or am I missing something?

@abnerjack good catch. It really didn’t read like it was written by Darko. But I agree with @mapman’s original point, it’s a very helpful and well written review.

One comment involving the headphones focus of this review, it’s great for that application.  But the sound from these dacs might be experienced very differently played through speakers in a room.  Headphones take all those variables out and leave only the gear and your ears.  One of the attributes of better dacs is the kind of soundstage presented versus lesser engined and spec’d products.  A frequent comment by reviewers of the Denafrips PontusII is the realistic way music occupies space in the listening room for a dac at that price point.  Not sure you can fully get a sense of what these three dacs can do in that area from listening through cans.


@knownothing My impression was both a HeadFi and home system were used to evaluate the DACs, but I agree totally that headphones in general cannot reveal the finer points of imaging/soundstage like a big rig can.  Not even close. 

agree with both comments 

headphones cannot be used to judge how soundstaging/imaging would be presented in an actual listening room, properly set up

denafrips pontus' significant strength is its imaging ability, along with providing a nice dose of midrange/midbass warmth

I will never buy anything from Denafrips as the name bothers me. What the hell is a Denafrips? Schiit doesn't bother me and I do buy their stuff including a Bifrost 2/64 (got the upgrade) that some feel sounds pretty much like the YGGDRASIL+ which I have not heard. Why? The name...I refuse to compromise my name issues.

John Grandberg is the best. I read his reviews with great interest and appreciation. Not only does he write well, hear well and think well, but he often comes into the review with a novel approach or idea that makes it more than the usual "beauty contest" recitation that many audio reviews are.

IMO John Grandberg and Herb Reichert (Stereophile) are the best audio reviewers working today. I met Herb at an audio show and talked to him a bit (fascinating person). Would love to meet John.

wolf garcia, I'm with you on this one. I was annoyed by the name Denafrips the first time I heard it. Every time someone says it out loud, someone should walk over and give that person a wedgie.

@wolf_garcia Soooo, Denafrips bothers you but Schiit seems more acceptable? Also, fyi from the Denafrips website…

”Fun fact:The name, Denafrips, stand for D-ynamic, E-xquisite, N-atural, A-ttractive, F-idelity, R-efined, I-ntoxicating, P-ure, S-ophisticated - This means a lot to the team, and it is the house sound of Denafrips products.”

No idea what Schiit stands for.  Stereo Component Hifi Invented In Toilet maybe?

Sorry man, but questioning my personal esthetic won't harsh my mellow...and no, Schiit seems sort of hilarious especially when you see Jason Stoddard guzzling wine during an entire interview (who, by the way, was part of Sumo, a GREAT name for an amp company), and Mike Moffat seeming like King Curmudgeon. Denafrips sounds like a tooth remedy and even hurts my brain a little to simply THINK the word. I'll continue to bask in the glow of my Freya while others can wince along to whatever can no longer even write the word...Also, what it stands for doesn't make it better, but it does remind me how hip Schiit is.

@wolf_garcia I suppose they coulda just spelled it backwards as Spirfaned.  Would that be better?  Sounds like a decongestant to me.  How about Fanispred?   (Not that there’s anything wrong with that).  Full disclosure — not a fan of Dena….. either, which is why I bought a Musician Pegasus instead of a Pontus ll.  Or maybe it was cause it was $500 cheaper.  Can’t remember, but a win win either way I spose. 

Another happy Pontus II owner here.  I agree with the review, although I don't use cans, only speakers.  The review makes me want to try balanced cables from the Denafrips to my pre.  Even though the pre goes to my amp via unbalanced cables, maybe it will give me more of what the review talks about.  


FWIW, I tried a Schitt Gungnir before the Pontus II.  I only had it for a day.  The relay clicking and cutting off of the very first note or two of individual tracks drive me nuts.  I took the restocking hit and returned it.  If the Yggy does the same thing, consider how you will use it.  If you listen only to complete albums, you're good.  But if you like to mix tracks on playlists, be prepared for lots of clicks and missing the first note or two of most tracks.



@mapman, thanks for the post, I enjoyed reading it and I probably would have not been aware of it on my own.