To break the cardinal rule? DAC most expensive piece in the chain- Ares II

So I’ve been selling off some of my gear that’s underused to MAYBE fund the purchase of a new DAC. Right now I have a G111 being fed by a Zen. If I’m going R2R, and I think I’m going to, I don’t feel like waiting for Soekris to come out with the new entry level DAC, and I really want something that can put out at least 3.3V so regardless of how good it is, unless its balanced or a SE that can do that (is that possible or realistic?) I’ve sort of ended up at the Ares II, and from how people describe it it sounds like it’s perfect for me. This being said, my headphones of use are DT 880 600 Ohms, and the Grado Hemps. And for those of you who haven’t seen me gush on the Hemps, don’t get me started, cause I’ll gush. They’re just the tits and the way they just make your music sound better and somehow more real is exactly what I want from a headphone. So for me to add another can, I’d need it to be noticeably better- haven’t heard them but we’re talking Auteurs or Clear MGs. The problem there is, $1000 CAD for something right now is feasible, but $2K? Not really, and even then, if they’re a lot better at doing what the hemps do, i.e. just making you bop your head to music- any music, not even stuff you usually listen to, or some combo of that and making even poorly recorded music sound good with amazing imaging, I’m really at peace with my headphones right now.

So, either I live with my Zen, which I love, for potentially years to come, just so the DAC isn’t the most expensive component in my chain, or just say fuck it and go for the Ares. Delta DACs around the $3-400 price point interest me, but given I like using my Zen as a pre, utilizing Bass Boost and the volume knob, the sound quality improvement, if even noticeable to me, on those DACs would need to be pretty significant and I’ve just got a hunch they won’t be. At least with R2R it’s a different tech so the placebo of that may make me at least pretend there’s a difference. I don’t know- guide me.

Well my opinion is controveral but i feel that after the headphone the next in the chain to endgame is the dac as it informs alot of the “sujective” colouring such as noteweight, attack/decay properties,pace and rythem and soundstage and imaging.

Since you already have a G111 i would say your amp needs are more then satified unless you want to start playing with tubes.

Although R2R does sound quite different and will never have the “artificial” cleaness and saperation delta sigma dacs have. If possible try to buy from a place that allows returns or if possible demo it yourself.

There is nothing wrong with dac being the most expensive piece in the chain. Hell, at totl, its even expected to be that way. Te thing is, at this price braket, imo, you are wasting your money by not upgrading cans and amp. Upgrading dac here makes sense if you have imminent plans to do the rest of the chain, but if you dont I would do cans

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Will this be your first big step in DAC upgrades?
My current favorite dac amp combo is the Lake people RS-08 with the Ares II. Great combo where the ares ii adds body, control, better separation, more forwardness in the sound and warmth with very good punch to the low end. I’d assume it’ll add these qualities to the neutral leaning g111. I love that body with the dt880’s. They sound more full and adding that to the airy quality of the dt880s really did it for me.

I think comparing it to your Zen would def give you a bigger picture of the differences if you can pick up on the differences in equipment and etc. I did this with the ifi micro bl and e30 and it led me to keeping all of them because they added different qualities to the sound presentation which I found enjoyable on all 3 dacs but the ares II being the best of the bunch for what it does and what I want in the sound presentation.

I’ve been running the ares II with the rs-08 but currently went back on the topping e30 tonight and the difference is noticeable but still subtle enough to miss if your not really looking for more body, warmth, and dynamics from your amps. Switching to the e30 made me feel like something was missing mainly because the e30 is a bit more laid back, not as forward, and not as full bodied as the ares ii. E30 was also lacking the dynamics and punch the ares ii could provide. E30 is still enjoyable but not as exciting or fun as the ares II in sound presentation.

Hope to read your thoughts if you decide to make the change.

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Well the G111 just came in a couple weeks ago, so no plans to upgrade that, and see that’s the thing- at around $800 USD how much is really out there that’s gonna best my Hemps for enjoyment? I feel like even though the DAC is usually considered the least important part of the chain because the differences are generally less noticeable between DACs compared to headphones or amps, going from an entry level DAC like a ZEN to an Ares will give me a bigger jump than just than going from say a Hemp to a LCD2C or something like that, and the further I go up the headphone chain the more reason I have to upgrade the DAC, which I’d no longer have money for

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I mean did you want our opinion or for us to just reaffirm the decision you’ve already made? Because I gave you my opinion on the topic as someone with low to high end source and low to high end cans. If that’s not what you were looking for im sorry I misunderstood

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I’m going to go straight to the snark and say: “It won’t be for long”.

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Not looking for affirmation- more something along the lines of “Well even though they’re not that much more expensive- try “X”. They’re like the Hemps just with better bass response” or " As much as people say the Ares makes a difference, it’s not gonna be that much different than the Zen, and rather choose between better headphones or a better DAC, you’re better off with where you’re at cause quite frankly either way for $1000 you’re barely gonna see any difference".

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I mean, 1k will get you a big difference. You just won’t get the exact presentation of hemps. No 2 cans present exactly the same. Not even within the same lineup.

Well I know the feeling of finding headphones that bring the most joy. To me, they are the dt880. I read the ares ii is a dac that could be relied upon with amps past the 1k mark and still have great results so i feel future proofed which is why i bought it and for its qualities it imparts to my current amps. It improved my other amps and brought the rs-08 up to a level where i can say i found my favorite amp under $1k and dont need an upgrade unless i start getting really curious. The level of improvements the ares ii provided to the rs-08 just hits the spot.

If you found your favorites, id say upgrading the dac to the ares ii would set you up for future amp upgrades past the 1k mark from what ive read and maybe hope to experience eventually. No experience of any other headphones that can compare to the hemps personally.

Running the ares ii/rs-08 combo with the grado hemps currently. I feel with this combo i get better separation, smoother presentation where the highs dont bite as much which is where i find grados fatiguing for me and maybe a bit better clarity. The low end hits a lot tighter and cleaner. Feels more refined?

Either way, id buy used and if you dont like it, the demand for the dac is high enough where you wont lose much if selling it off due to not liking it as much as your zen.

Thanks for the thoughtful response. It’s funny we’re both running Lakepeople amps with Hemps and 880s. If I get the Ares I guess we won’t be identical twins, but fraternal maybe?

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Lol yeah. I read that the g111 and rs-08 share a similiar neutral sound signature so ive been wondering just how different they are.

I always like having a pair of grado to accompany the dt880s. The hemps replaced the sr80e for me and ive been choosing audio equipment based on how much better they will make the dt880s sound.

Should you buy the ares please do a summary of your findings cause I too have a g111 and the zen DAC and I’m thinking to upgrade to an ares or bf2

So your experience would help me make up my mind :stuck_out_tongue:


It seems a few of us are headed down a similar path. I have been pretty happy with SMSL products to date and was looking at the M400 but they have made the commitment to have MQA embedded in all of their new stuff, which sucks because it’s a feature I will never use and it is driving up the cost so I’m out. I don’t want to even see that stank MQA logo on any of my gear, so BF2 or Ares II it will be. I was lookin at the Soekris 2541 as well but that is just a little too much for me to spend.

There is certainly nothing wrong with buying the Ares 2.
A good Dac is just as important.
It’s certainly not a bad pairing with the G111, if not interesting.
With the Ares you won’t have the bonus that Ify offers.
Which can be difficult in the beginning if you have been spoiled with it.
Because I think the Ares will be a little lower in bass, but will do a lot better in other areas.

But the same will be the case when the Ify is replaced by another Dac.
Because none of the dacs offer anything like the Ify.
The True Bass function is and can be something nice.
It’s also a matter of taste if you’re the type who likes gadgets, that’s okay, then the Rme Adi 2 Dac Fs would come into question, which has even more gadgets.
The sound is very neutral, I personally didn’t like it.
It lacked a bit of musicality for me.
If you are more the musical type, then the Ares 2 is probably the better choice.
However, you should probably give it a try.
You certainly won’t do badly with the G111 in this combination.
With the Ares 2, think of the 10 days burn in time where it is supposed to remain connected to the power supply in order to be able to evaluate the situation properly.

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I was looking at the BF2, and I’m sure there will be a million people jump to their defense, but it might have been on these forums, actually, that I read that there’s some QC stuff, the same stuff across reports, people have been running into and that they’re not gonna win an award for their customer service, which has sort of put my off the BF2- especially when it sounds like the Ares II is more my speed. I think once I unload my Argons I’m gonna bite the bullet and buy the Ares

even if I could afford it, the endless options of the RME would drive me insane. I’d be dead before finishing all the custom EQs I could set, and I don’t even EQ, because I feel like if I didn’t use ALL of the features, I’d be spending money on something I can’t afford and not even utilizing it- a slap in the face of the people that made it

For what it’s worth, I’ve had good interactions with Schiit’s customer service, though note that I live in California and so I have the benefits of same time zone, fast shipping, etc. (It’s not especially relevant if you think the Ares is going to be more in your wheelhouse anyway, but thought I’d mention it.)

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would probaply already brought an ares if it hadnt the problem with using xlr and rca at the same time :confused:

maybe ill make a cable to only use the hot and ground of the xlr but not shure if all my amps can handle a hot 4V input into the rca without distorting ?

Yeah that does suck, but in reality, unless you’re looking to A/B amps, which hey, I get. I’ve done it- it’s fun, at the end of the day is it gonna stop me? No. If I had to leave the RCA cables plugged into the back of my 2nd amp, and unplug the XLR and plug in the RCA into the back of the Ares, well, life would go on… If the DACs were essentially identical would it be the difference maker? Heck yes, but regardless of what you think about R2R vs DS or two DS DACs against each other, what everyone seems to agree on is that for better or worse, the Ares sounds different from all other DACs. At least at its price point and lower