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Denafrips Pontus II FPGA firmware upgrade 2023

Discussion in 'audio' started by naka, Apr 2, 2023.

  1. Mike Hanson

    Mike Hanson Lovely!

    For similar money, the DAC upgrade makes more sense than adding the Iris.
    cporton likes this.
  2. davidjt

    davidjt pfm Member

    As the Ares doesn't have an HDMI input it's not a comparison I've done, but I'll dig out an optical, give it a listen and let you know what I think. I expect the difference will be marginal without very expensive amplification and speakers - I'm currently using Frugelhorns and a diyAudio lottery VFET; Focal Utopias and a class D amp would probably be more revealing.
    There's the added complication that the cleaner your particular source is the less perceived difference the Iris will make.

    I'll be putting the Ares on eBay in the next week or so - my initial reaction after the firmware upgrade was that if it had been available last year I probably wouldn't have gone for the Pontus. But sooner or later we all want that little bit more, don't we?
    cporton and Mike Hanson like this.
  3. cporton

    cporton pfm Member

    Thanks for that... look forward to hearing about your findings.

    Fair point... it's USB from a MacMini for me (with HQPlayer upsampling on the Mac first).

    How true :D

  4. davidjt

    davidjt pfm Member

    Right: using an HP laptop running Fidelizer on start-up and then Audirvana, and a Roksan Caspian M-series preamp, I'm listening to the Philippe Herreweghe stripped-down version of Das Lied and am missing nothing: I can hear every instrument and the vocals perfectly blended and any attempt at critical listening gets lost in the music almost immediately, which is all (!) I ask. I could happily live with this with no regrets.
    Switching back to the Pontus but without the Iris, the sound has a sharper clarity, which actually suits this particular piece rather well.
    Details and contrasts between textures are more pronounced. The ethereal raised-hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck element is there in spades. Trying something else, Holly Cole also sounds excellent but again noticably cool as well as detailed. Forced to choose, I'd plump for the Pontus for sheer immediacy but knowing there would be times when I'd prefer something more laid back. I hadn't realised before that the Iris has a subtle taming effect on the Pontus. Or perhaps it does now, with the new firmware.
    The two combined is my Goldilocks' choice - and I think it really will be my last. Job done, at least as far as the source goes.

    This probably doesn't help to answer your question - it's going to be partly system dependent, partly personal preference - as with any other component selection. :rolleyes:

    *Finished tweaking a valved pre-amp, swapped it for the Roksan and everything changed again - +10degC
    cporton and Mike Hanson like this.
  5. Mike Hanson

    Mike Hanson Lovely!

    I kind of got the Denafrips Iris working, although not 100% yet. I had to change the piCorePlayer Squeezelite Output setting. It's connected to the same USB port, but apparently it sees the Iris as a different device on the USB bus. (Makes sense in retrospect.)

    However, the HDMI cable pushing I²S to the Pontus seems to create lots of static. (Tested with all of the I²S input wiring modes to no avail.) I eventually switched to S/PDIF Coax, just to see if it would work, and that sounded much better. I've ordered another slightly more expensive HDMI cable. The first one was $11 and the next is $25. (There are people out there paying $300+ for a cable to connect a $1000 box, but apparently any good cable will work fine.)

    After switching to Coax, I still heard little clicks and pips, especially during the silent period between tracks. And the general sound seemed irritating. I had a hunch it was timing problems (dropped samples, etc.), making me question why the Iris permits input speeds higher than the output speeds. USB input can be up to 768KHz, but on the output I²S maxes out at 386KHz and the S/PDIF can be only 192KHz.

    As a test, I told Squeezelite to upsample only to 192KHz, matching the S/PDIF maximum output. Now all the clicks are gone, the the grating quality of the sound has disappeared.

    Of course, after all of the futzing and noise, I couldn't possibly tell you whether it sounds better than it did before. Once I get the new HDMI cable, I'll test it again, and try to rig up some type of A/B. Perhaps I'll bring my Pi3 from the Family Room, and feed it directly into the Pontus' USB input. And now I have to order the firmware upgrade for the Pontus II.

    Oh yeah, and I've ordered my firmware upgrade. :)
  6. cporton

    cporton pfm Member

    Funny how it's always the most expensive combination :D

    Thanks for sharing your experiences... much appreciated.

  7. radamel

    radamel Music Fiend

    Yesterday I updated my Pontus II's firmware.

    My first listening impressions are quite positive. A more detailed and articulate sound. Even textures appear to be richer/ more nuanced. And I certainly do not perceive bass to be thinner.

    Well worth bothering to go through the process IMO.
    Mike Hanson likes this.
  8. naka

    naka pfm Member

    Can I ask what is the chip inside your Pontus II?
    The model of the FPGA chip inside my Pontus II is the EP4CE22F
  9. radamel

    radamel Music Fiend

    @naka it's the same as yours, made in Korea. Pontus II shipped after October 2020.
  10. Mike Hanson

    Mike Hanson Lovely!

    Mine is also EP4CE22F. :) I'm still waiting on my firmware, expecting it will take them a few days to get it.
  11. BigBlue2020

    BigBlue2020 pfm Member

    It almost sounds like the update to the Pontus 2 removes any need to step up to the Venus 2 ?

    I'll upgrade my Pontus 2 when i find the time
  12. Mike Hanson

    Mike Hanson Lovely!

    From what I've read, it seems to push each level close to the next above. I've heard no direct reports about what happens to the Terminator Plus, other than "better".

    The interesting twist here is that it invalidates all former reviews. The water has been muddied, and steps must be retraced. ;)
  13. simonom

    simonom pfm Member

    Having initially said I could discern no difference, I am increasingly sure that the sound in the upper frequencies is glassier. Is it my imagination, or are the solo violin pieces I've been enjoying since owning this Dac now sharper and shriller, delta-sigma like? I'm hoping the recommended 300-hr "burn-in" is something real, but doubting it is. I rushed in headlessly.
  14. JTC

    JTC PFM Villager...

    Which filter do you use, or are you 'NOS' mode? Also, does anyone know whether this fixes the oft-reported micro-skip issue that some people (myself included) experienced with certain CD transports (CA CXC in my case)?
  15. simonom

    simonom pfm Member

    Yes, I use NOS (after the upgrade, you need to reselect it).
    Skips I don't know about.
  16. jamjar

    jamjar pfm Member

    Updated my Pontus yesterday. Pretty straightforward to do and very clear instructions from Alvin. It may be a placebo effect, but imaging appeared to have more delineation and the bass was better articulated and clearer. I didn't here any glassiness apart from when I played 'Music in similar motion'.
  17. Yank

    Yank Bulbous Also Tapered

    Copied from the Steve Hoffman board:

    Today in that Head-Fi thread another user shared a similar message that he got from Vinshine about the other Pontus II FPGA chip code (EP4CE22F). So it seems like there could be issues with both that they are trying to address.

    “We are aware that several customers who updated the Pontus II (EP4CE22F) commented that the treble energy is more prominent, less body and weight in the mid range and lower octave. Hence, there is a perceived loss in balance/neutrality.

    Our goal is to have the best of both worlds - New firmware with bugs fixed, as well as to preserve the sound quality that DENARIPS is known for - ability to reproduce music very much 'analog-like', and improve it further.

    We are working with DENARIPS on this. We aim to release a new firmware for Pontus II (EP4CE22F) to achieve that.

    I kindly ask for your kind patience in this regard. As soon as the new firmware is ready, we will keep you updated immediately.”

    So apparently there will be a revised Pontus II firmware update coming in a week or two.
  18. simonom

    simonom pfm Member

    Thanks for sharing that post, Yank. My FPGA chip is EP4CE6F, so not the same, although the perception of more energetic treble certainly is, and is not going away with the "burn-in". I'll contact Alvin about my chip, and see if I get a reply.

    Later: having now visited the Steve Hoffman board, I belatedly realise both FPGA chips are apparently going to get a revised firmware update. Thanks again to Yank for sharing this post, which does in fact clearly refer to both chips.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2023
  19. Mike Hanson

    Mike Hanson Lovely!

    Interesting. I received my firmware message yesterday, but haven't applied it yet. That message pointed to two versions, depending on when the unit was shipped. I'm not sure that this relates to your quote, or whether there would be yet another firmware version coming. I'll hold off for a while, just in case.

    At the moment I'm listening to my Pontus II (old firmware), fed by the new-to-me Iris DDC. I was rather skeptical that it would make any difference, so I'm quote astonished at the improvements. Everything seems more nuanced and real. It's almost magical at times. I'm very pleased!
  20. SeanX

    SeanX New Member

    There were separate responses from Denafrips stating that they were also working on new update for EP4CE6F chip that you have.
    simonom likes this.

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