Denafrips Sub-Brand or Rip-off? The case of Musician Audio's Pegasus R2R DAC
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m-i-c-k-e-y

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I don't know where to place this. Since it concerns on a R2R DAC so I decided to place in this section.

This concerns on Musician Audio's Pegasus R2R DAC:
LINK: http://www.musician-audio.com/en/col.jsp?id=103

I came across this DAC as Chris, founder of Audiophile Style (ex Computer Audiophile) posted in their forum about 2 months ago that it is in for a review.
LINK: https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/59435-musician-pegasus-r2r-dac/

Few days ago Sandu (of Soundnews) posted his review stating "The best sounding DAC he ever heard under 2K". That it bested his Matix Element X.
LINK: https://soundnews.net/sources/dacs/musician-audio-pegasus-r2r-dac-review/

HOWEVER, (as you will see in the product pictures and specs) its seems to be either a Denafrips sub-brand, or a blatant rip-off of Denafrips.

More disturbing informations coming from editors of various fora:
Srajan Ebaen (of 6 moons): https://darko.audio/2020/06/kih-77-chinese-chimera/
Chris of AudiophileStyle had this to say: https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/...gasus-r2r-dac/?do=findComment&comment=1063248

Posting this as a informed consumer.

Leaving you with the pictures.






Technical Highlights:
Proprietary R2R + DSD Architecture
True balanced 24BIT R2R + 6BIT DSD (32 steps FIR Filters)
Low Noise Power Supply
FIFO Buffer
Digital Signal Processing via FPGA
DSD1024, PCM1536 Supports On USB & I2S Input (the audio source needs to be compatible with the native interface)
Proprietary USB Audio Solution via STM32F446 Advanced AMR Based MCU
Licensed Thesycon USB Driver For Windows Platform
Driverless On Mac & Linux
DSD
DSD64-DoP On All Input
DSD1024 On USB & I2S Input
PCM
24bits / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192KHz On All Input
1536kHz On USB & I2S Input

Sampling Mode: Non-Oversampling NOS / Oversampling OS

Digital Input:
Coaxial * 1 via RCA
Optical * 1
USB * 1
AES/EBU * 1
I2S via HDMI LVDS * 1

Analog Output:
RCA为2.2Vrms,625Ω
XLR为4.4Vrms,1250Ω

Technical parameters
Frequency Response: 10Hz~60KHz
THD+N: 0.002%
S/N Ratio: 123dB(A-weighted)
Dynamic Range: >120dB
AC Power Requirement: 110-240VAC, 50/60Hz (Worldwide Voltage)
Power Consumption: ≤20W
Dimension: 280 x 250x 50 mm
Package Dim: 375 x 330 x 115 mm
Package Content: DAC + AC power cable, No remote control.
Weight:3.9 Kg
Color: Silver / Black

Distributed and sold by AOSHDIA AUDIO on Amazon, Aliexpress and Ebay.
Price: $1099.99
 
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Chodi

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Clearly this new company made an oem deal with Denafrips and these products are all produced in the same factory. In China this is not uncommon. They do not think like Westerners. They believe a factory exists to turn out as much volume as possible in whatever way possible. It is obvious that this product is a modified version of the Ares II with some upgrades and at a slightly higher retail. Since this is their first product under this brand they have an uphill, but not impossible, struggle to get international recognition. Your post clearly includes all the evidence you need to see that these products are related and even sanctioned by Denafrips. Will they damage their brand by doing this? Not really Chinese thinking. Did some of the designers present or past from Denafrips have a hand in this new product? It would appear that they did. Not exactly a scandal in China.

I should have mentioned one of the most obvious examples of this Chinese approach the Weiliang Audio factory. They have some products with their own brand but design and produce similar products under several oem agreements with other brand names. In their case the prices of the same and similar gear vary wildly. This is common in China.
 
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Chodi

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Thank you for your input. I am aware of ODMs for computers and its periperals/accessories. Seen these also on low priced audio products. First time on a $1K product.

Or maybe not..

Remembered and forgot Armature (a French audio company).
They've been selling rebranded Holo Audio products for sometime..
Link: http://armature.audio/asterion-dac-24bit-384khz-i2s-r2r-dsd/
Now saw a rebranded Aries II also..
Link: http://armature.audio/cronos-dac-r2r-symetrique-xlr-xmos/
Yes they have very limited distribution so this is how they get around their agreement with the guy in Singapore. Nothing unusual here.
 
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]eep

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So this looks like typical Chinese businesses practice, only not in a good way. It is clearly more targeted on boasting cnc machined exterior and the use of imported Wima caps, and of course snobbish Aes ebu i2s inputs where the Ares has much more practical 2 coax and 2 optical. So, hands up on who has a cd/BD-player and a TV with optical out? And how many have Aes out? Or i2s? And no, the hdmi cable from the BD doesn't count. If you want to pay 400 more for a trendy silver fascia and less sound quality (that array of power elcos is not for show), be my guest. If you really have an i2s output, you'll probably want a Terminator. This is like putting ketchup on gourmet food and asking for an extra tip.
 
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motberg

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So this looks like typical Chinese businesses practice, only not in a good way. It is clearly more targeted on boasting cnc machined exterior and the use of imported Wima caps, and of course snobbish Aes ebu i2s inputs where the Ares has much more practical 2 coax and 2 optical. So, hands up on who has a cd/BD-player and a TV with optical out? And how many have Aes out? Or i2s? And no, the hdmi cable from the BD doesn't count. If you want to pay 400 more for a trendy silver fascia and less sound quality (that array of power elcos is not for show), be my guest. If you really have an i2s output, you'll probably want a Terminator. This is like putting ketchup on gourmet food and asking for an extra tip.
Have you heard this DAC.... or even read the review ? Quote: "Oh, before you ask me, it beats the hell out of Denafrips Ares!"

The reviewers neighbor also joined in with positive comments over at AS. " After listening to it for a few days I decided to sell my European DAC, which is 2 1/2 times more expensive and I bought the sample Musician DAC from Sandu "

I have had snobbish DDC's and DAC's using i2s for over 5 years. (Those snobbish folks at Topping, Gustard, Audio-GD, etc also offer i2s in DAC's under 1000 USD).
I would not consider a Terminator due to cost... and sorry - but no TV here, no CD/BD player either... 10 years ago said bye bye to optical for music...

My stereo room looks pretty crappy and no one else visits anyways, but I read that for a lot of people aesthetics is an important attribute. It seems the CNC and anodizing are done in-house so probably not as much a cost burden to the BOM compared to outsourcing the process.
 
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]eep

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Have you heard this DAC.... or even read the review ? Quote: "Oh, before you ask me, it beats the hell out of Denafrips Ares!"

The reviewers neighbor also joined in with positive comments over at AS. " After listening to it for a few days I decided to sell my European DAC, which is 2 1/2 times more expensive and I bought the sample Musician DAC from Sandu "

I have had snobbish DDC's and DAC's using i2s for over 5 years. (Those snobbish folks at Topping, Gustard, Audio-GD, etc also offer i2s in DAC's under 1000 USD).
I would not consider a Terminator due to cost... and sorry - but no TV here, no CD/BD player either... 10 years ago said bye bye to optical for music...

My stereo room looks pretty crappy and no one else visits anyways, but I read that for a lot of people aesthetics is an important attribute. It seems the CNC and anodizing are done in-house so probably not as much a cost burden to the BOM compared to outsourcing the process.
Why would I? And how? Or where can I compare them? Overmore; anything that I have beats the hell out of the original because I know how to modify myself. Especially dac's. Easy money. And I have compared a lot of dac's against my own nos R2R. I have some grasp on what does what. Those red Wimas aren't the best there is (by far).

Just what I see here makes all sorts of alarmbells ring based on my 15y experience with Chinese engineering. So does the wording of the review based on my 40y of reading audio reviews. It makes me very suspicious that he doesn't spend 1 word on the Ares that he reviewed before where it's an obvious derivative. Legal precaution? It's like the elephant in the room holding a wad of cash.

That quote/lose remark really doesn't impress me. Don't believe anything they tell you and only half of what you see. But don't argue with me. If it's better for you... buy it! I won't laugh. Really, I won't...
 
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]eep

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I just read that review again, since I'm still curious on the differences (these aren't always clear on first read). I must say l like the aluminium fascia and the simpler and more intuitive buttons and tiny holes for the white leds (très chic).

But here's what alarms me: from Soundnews
They used a smaller quantity of electrolytic capacitors compared to other brands, meaning the transient response should be unaffected compared to say Denafrips offerings which are using hundreds of caps that are slowing down the signal path, hence the smoother and slower transient response of those units.

The output stage is a very strong one, it is a bit unusual seeing such a high number of 8 output transistors, but that is a must if you are into fast energetic music.
Why does he say this? It is a lie. 'Other brands' use big elcos. Denafrips goes out of its way to use a large array of smaller caps just because it delivers a large energy reserve faster. You don't see that every day. So why does he say that unless... there's a big elephant in the room. That is called negative advertising, saying what your competitor (whom you stole the design from?) does it wrong and you do it better (because it's cheaper and you can take away more money). *loud alarm bell ringing*

Also, on the output stage: this is where I've witnessed many Dac makers go wrong, making it all too LOUD (I can name names, names you wouldn't believe, but I won't, I'm not perfect either). Yes, boohoo, it won't go as loud as the competition so they'll have the (false) advantage. Loudness war v0.1... *alarmbel no2*
Louder does NOT mean better. A loud output make them trip and go faceplant (saturate) on loud passages like pianoloops and female voices, very ugly. Yes it sounds more 'dynamic' and 'ballsy', but it's fake. Please let your amplifier do the work, just feed it 2V at the right impedance. Don't go 'amplify - attenuate - amplify - attenuate - amplify - attenuate' times x like the Chinese are so fond of doing. It is hurting signal integrity, the purity of the signal meaning you lose information. It's 'louder' but you lose information. And that's exactly why I want R2R instead of DS. I want a pure signal that is natural, no temporal obfuscation or hocus pocus. No pre-ringing and no jacked up dynamics (steeper slope and clipped top is not just amplitude but also phase).

That does not mean the' Musician' is necessarily bad, I'm just explaining why my alarmbels were ringing. Caveat emptor and the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
 
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]eep, thank you for the information on the electrolytic capacitors. I don't currently understand the science behind this and will be good to learn.
 
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]eep

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in speaker filters some designers prefer multiple caps too. I'm not that familiar about the science behind it either, but the argument from the article that with bigger caps the lines are shorter and thus the power is delivered faster is nonsense. As if the length of a few cm wire makes any difference. What I do know is that a capacitor has a rise-time like an s-curve. A big capacitor means the slow foothill is longer, many small capacitors means it reaches the steep part sooner, and many small caps will give power faster.
 
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I just read that review again, since I'm still curious on the differences (these aren't always clear on first read). I must say l like the aluminium fascia and the simpler and more intuitive buttons and tiny holes for the white leds (très chic).

But here's what alarms me: from Soundnews


Why does he say this? It is a lie. 'Other brands' use big elcos. Denafrips goes out of its way to use a large array of smaller caps just because it delivers a large energy reserve faster. You don't see that every day. So why does he say that unless... there's a big elephant in the room. That is called negative advertising, saying what your competitor (whom you stole the design from?) does it wrong and you do it better (because it's cheaper and you can take away more money). *loud alarm bell ringing*

Also, on the output stage: this is where I've witnessed many Dac makers go wrong, making it all too LOUD (I can name names, names you wouldn't believe, but I won't, I'm not perfect either). Yes, boohoo, it won't go as loud as the competition so they'll have the (false) advantage. Loudness war v0.1... *alarmbel no2*
Louder does NOT mean better. A loud output make them trip and go faceplant (saturate) on loud passages like pianoloops and female voices, very ugly. Yes it sounds more 'dynamic' and 'ballsy', but it's fake. Please let your amplifier do the work, just feed it 2V at the right impedance. Don't go 'amplify - attenuate - amplify - attenuate - amplify - attenuate' times x like the Chinese are so fond of doing. It is hurting signal integrity, the purity of the signal meaning you lose information. It's 'louder' but you lose information. And that's exactly why I want R2R instead of DS. I want a pure signal that is natural, no temporal obfuscation or hocus pocus. No pre-ringing and no jacked up dynamics (steeper slope and clipped top is not just amplitude but also phase).

That does not mean the' Musician' is necessarily bad, I'm just explaining why my alarmbels were ringing. Caveat emptor and the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
I already own the Ares II and ordered a Musician Pegasus based on the review. You're right. My spider sense was tingly because it certainly does feel like it is based off of the Denafrips line of DACs. It's more expensive though, probably some tweaks made to it to have it sit between Ares II and the Pontus.

I still think this is a pretty common practice in the audio industry. Look at how those B&O class D ice modules are used in so many amps as well as every implementation of an AK or Sabre DAC.

If its an upgrade over the Ares II I'll be happy.
 
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I already own the Ares II and ordered a Musician Pegasus based on the review. You're right. My spider sense was tingly because it certainly does feel like it is based off of the Denafrips line of DACs. It's more expensive though, probably some tweaks made to it to have it sit between Ares II and the Pontus.

I still think this is a pretty common practice in the audio industry. Look at how those B&O class D ice modules are used in so many amps as well as every implementation of an AK or Sabre DAC.

If its an upgrade over the Ares II I'll be happy.
Great! looking forward to your observations :beerchug:

From my extensive direct experience working in China, (not directly related to high-end audio but includes some electronics), my guess is that the factory engineers contribute significantly to some aspects of the design, and especially production engineering. Most factory managers place high value on their engineering staff (these kids are sharp!), even if the managers themselves do not have extensive command of the technology involved. The managers/owners I have worked with (hundreds) protect and hold their design and engineering teams in high esteem, many time sharing in social events alongside important customers. So I would not be surprised if many of the noticed shared characteristics actually originated from the factories' capabilities and resources.

They put this Pegasus at a popular price-point, and any relationship with another well designed successful brand imho compliments the integrity of both brands.
 
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@VintageAudio , I look forward to your comparison as well.
The other thing I like to know is if Pegasus can connect both rca and xlr output to
Amps at same time.
It is said that Ares2 sq degrade if one does connect both outputs.
 
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@VintageAudio , I look forward to your comparison as well.
The other thing I like to know is if Pegasus can connect both rca and xlr output to
Amps at same time.
It is said that Ares2 sq degrade if one does connect both outputs.
Judging from the output impedance it is a direct output from a ladder. In other words, I do expect the same problem.

More sales for Audio GD...

[Edit]: Posting PID_/VID_ numbers for Ares and Pegasus would help identify origin of TheSyscon licencing.
 
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