Denafrips ARES 12th/II R-2R DAC clock upgrade beat Spring3

Denafrips ARES 12th/II R-2R DAC clock upgrade beat Spring3

Denafrips ARES 12th/II is a decent R-2R DAC at a very good price. One of the biggest differences between Ares and higher grade DACs is the clock. For example, Puntus uses TCXO and Terminator uses OCXO. 

By default, the sound quality was good, typical R-2R sound signature, but just didn't impress me much.The middle range was pretty beautiful. But the high range sounds like behind a layer of fog.The 3D image was also not that solid. So I believe there will be a big potential to improve ARES sound quality if use better clocks. Because Denafrips DAC's clocks can not be disabled, the only way would be to replace the internal clocks. 

ARES 12th uses 45.1584/49.1520MHz low phase noise clocks as default. I performed a real phase noise measurement on them. The actual testing result was OK but still a bit far from the higher grade clocks. SC-Pure clock is 14dBc/Hz better at 10Hz offset and 17dBc/Hz better at 1kHz offset. So are the rest of the offset frequencies. That's the reason I designed this ARES clock upgrade KIT. After upgrading with two 45/49 SC-Pure clocks and keeping break-in for two weeks, I was surprised to find that the sound quality got a big improvement and the soundstage suddenly opened clearly. And the high range becomes really beautiful feels like there is a golden edge surround the 3D image. That's pretty impressed. It was upgraded at least by two levels, which makes ARES capable of challenging 5K or higher price high-end DACs.

ARES 12th clock upgrade KIT
Steps of upgrade
1. Remove the two default SMT clocks from PCB by a hot air soldering rework station. Please be very careful not to damage the PCB and other components.
2. Install the 7mm standoff to the position where the mounting screw was. Seat the clock upgrade KIT PCB to the connector, please make sure the position is just in the middle. Tighten the screw to mount the PCB at position.
3. Solder the three coaxial cables to the 6 pads of the Ares PCB, exactly as in the picture. Signal terminals first and then the ground wires. The pads are not strong. Please be very careful, not to add any force to the cables.
4. Turn on DAC power (at both back and front panels), make sure the blue LED on the KIT PCB is lit up. Turn off the power, Install the two clocks into the XO sockets. Please make sure the frequencies are corresponding to the XO positions. Please be very careful about the orientation of the clocks, wrong installation orientation can damage the clocks.
5. Turn on DAC power again, the green LED inside the two SC-Pure clocks (if SC-Pure were installed), enjoy the music and the sound quality improvement.
1. It would be a good idea to find a local cell phone repairing shop to help if you are not confident with the soldering and PCB rework jobs
2. Or, we can take care of upgrading your DAC if you check out the upgrade service and send your DAC to us.
3. Please don't send your unsuccessfully upgraded DAC to us, we are not responsible for repairing your DAC. 
4. After upgrading, please keep the DAC power up for at least 24 hours before serious listening. New clocks need  break-in time to reach the best phase noise performance
Listening test results
I performed listening tests to my ARES 12th before and after clock upgrading, and with my Spring 3
Listening test configurations:
B&W 802 D2 speakers
Pass XA 160.5 pure class A mono block
Pass XP-10 Pre-Amplifier XLR input/output
PS Audio P20 PowerPlant


After upgrading with SC-Pure clocks, my ARES 12th already beat my Spring3. Even the FemtoMck clocks make it at the same level as a Spring3. 
I have to say the ARES clock upgrade is really worth it
1. Again, the listening test is a subjective test, different people may have different results.
2. To eliminate psychological effect, when switch from clock A to clock B, repeat the test using the following sequence
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Amazing. Is it possible to mod an original Pontus (same clock with Ares II)?


Looks nice! I just ordered the new Ares 15th, looks like the layout around the wiring is changed. Im not sure tho. If it is will you make another upgrade kit? Thank you :)


Denafrips ARES 12th-1 R-2R DAC clocks can also be upgrade using the same KIT


ARES II can be upgraded to SC-Pure clocks using the same KIT. Please read my this Twitter


Would you have instructions for the original Ares II? Its layout is a bit different and I would be interested to try to upgrade the clocks.

Sergio Bravo

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