Hello NEW Blog!

I changed the site!

A friend decided to ditch social media and is moving to RSS and Atom feeds, and my old blog was broken in terms of feeds. I didn't ever know how pelican worked, so I figured there wasn't a good reason to fight it if I could try something new, and here we are. The site is being generated by zola now, which has been an interesting transition. Once I got used to things being different, it seems to work a fair bit better, though I haven't noticed the speed aspect. I am on some decently fast hardware, and it's a small site, but features like broken link checking is a nice bonus. I'll open source the site soon and make sure to link to it, but you can see all of my projects on gitea now conveniently linked at the top with the new atom feed. I'm tired of staring at text, so I'm going to keep this one short, but wanted to christen the site with a new post at least. ✌️

Update: The site is fully open source here and will hopefully continue to beb updated there as my old blog was.

(Mutable) computers suck

I'm beyond tired of computers failing

I've been on a quest lately to get computers to just "go away"™. When I've least expected it, they have alwasy broken. Taken an update, or just decided one day that it didn't want to boot, or acted in a strange way such as no audio, out of date configs, the list goes on. These days, I am not in the mood to deal with breakage at the most random of times. Things like my laptop get booted at most a few times a year, and I really don't want it to be broken on that rare time that I need it. This hasn't just applied to the laptop, but servers as well. For a long while, I was able to just avoid 99% of it by not using SystemD, but it's now even hitting my Artix systems, both the laptop, and a server that I thought I could be too lazy to switch away from because there was no SystemD. That was a mistake it turns out, and has lead me to where I am now.

Computers suck. Now what?

Let's take a step back from rage and consider that tooling has existed for years to solve a ton of this, and I'd even been using some of it for this reason. Docker. Docker has taken the almost everything that I serve, and made it trivial. It basically doesn't break unless someone stops maintaining containers, and is a voodoo box of magic that works. There's two sides of code. The side that is dirty and impure that can break, but that's quite minimal. Writing files, touching the network, ect, can't be clean and have a safe promise that it will work, but the code that actually runs the logic, it mostly can. No more operating system to worry about. There's two things that make Docker (and other OCI containers) great.


Because systems aren't mutable, you limit the cruft to only known directories that are shared into the container. When you update it, you aren't ugrading a bunch of old packages, worrying about cruft left behind like old libraries, old programs you forgot to remove, config files that may be out of date, ect. All of it is just... Gone. When you "update", you throw everyhing away, except your limited scope that you share inside the container, meaning that the only data that can go bad, is that little data. If your image is broken, just roll back. If you want to run a completely different image based on another container, go for it. The service still runs, and can be rolled back or forward almost seamlessly, and when things do finally go wrong with your shared data, there's not much to look at to update or debug.


One could argue that declaring the outcome as opposed to the input directly is a better solution. Docker does this. You state what you want the container to do, but never tell it how to get there. Obviously someone has to create that at one point or another, but the useful bit is what comes out. Many of the best package managers for *nix systems are this way. Portage on Gentoo, Apk on Alpine. The work on the world file and decide "how to get there", but the user controls only the world file. Directly or indirectly. That only covers packages, and not configurations, but it makes rollbacks more possible, but it doesn't completely solve the problem, and why we need both declaritive and immutable together.

So how do we get there?

Many teams have been working to solve this problem for years. Each have their own drawbacks, but I'm giving some of them a test drive to see how they do for my use. Fedora Silverblue is an immutable OS that uses ostree to build in layers, much like docker. Very limited parts of the system are mutable. This leaves almost nothing to damage when you take updates, or add/remove software as you are intended to use containers such as a toolbox or distrobox which are likewise using OCI containers that can also be rolled back if there are problems. If you somehow take a broken host system update, you can roll that back, even if unbootable as the old state is stored and can be loaded from your bootloader menu as if the update never happened. This allows for easy playing with your system with almost no chance that damage can actually happen, and you throw away whatever you don't want knowing you can easily get it back, almost never even needing a recovery disk unless the bootloader gets damaged. I've started messing with Fedora, including making my own spin on Silverblue, but running Sway that matches my dotfiles at the time it was pushed to git at least. Feel free to give it a look here if you would like to see how it works. It took me a long time to get it running, and only managed to use examples from others like Fale's Desktop work, which my work is based on.

Another option that I'm messing with is Nix and NixOS . Nix is able to run on most platforms, such as Mac/Linux and even Windows. Where as my tool pmm was able to integrate with other package managers to emulate world files, Nix can accomplish similar effect, but keeping everything within a container of sorts, exposing things to the outside system. I've started porting most of my packages out of homebrew on my Mac, and into Nix. This allows me to make it portable through Mac/Linux and, even useless to me but it can, Window. On my servers, I need to do misc tasks to manage the server, but almost none of my tooling that's nice for me to use has any bearing on the system, and only adds more cruft that can prevent the machine from working properly. If I can't use exa instead of ls on my shell, it doesn't matter. I need the host to stay stable, and running as intended. Keeping everything contained in Nix also allows me to seperate the "me" from "the system" which leaves everything more porable. You can see my progress, as well as how I'm using that here. I'm using home-manager to keep my personal configuration and tooling away from the system, while also using NixOS on my laptop to declare "how the system is supposed to look" ignoring what my user intends to use on the system. I haven't gone the full Nix route, rewriting all of my configs, docker containers, ect all in their format as I want to keep things portable, but we'll see if that becomes a solution to problems that I hope won't happen yet.


I don't have all the answers, and I don't know what will go wrong next, but staying stagnant was going to leave me not wanting to remember that computers even exist. Immutable and declaritive systems are not what people are used to. It's analogous to someone that's only written procedural code and going to a fuctional language. It's a complete differet mindset. Problems have to be solved in new ways, and things that didn't used to be a problem, may now be one, but at least it should act consistent with this model. We'll see if it's consistently bad, or good, but I'll take consistency at this point over anything.

Denafrips Ares II

Stepping up the audio ladder


I've finally decided to venture away from Schiit DACs into something truly R2R. The Ares II is well regarded as a true endgame DAC for most people, and the price tag is certainly higher than anything else I've owned, costing about 3x what the current price of my Hifiman Sundara are going for, and this is just a DAC. That said, I was looking to up my audio experience, heard amazing things about it, and I'll let you know what I found with my equipment.

Initial impressions

The Ares II is an R2R DAC. This has the unfortunate downside of meaning that it needs to warm up. The day it showed up, I knew this, but ignored common sense and listened to it anyways. It's hard to describe the transition it went through, but the best I can say is that it lacked much detail when totally cold. A lot of things were missing, everything sounded compressed, and it had a haze over everything. It took about 2-3 days to really come to life, but it was at least not a massive step down from an Apple dongle after probably 6-8 hours, and at least on par with that.

Actually performing as advertised now.

This is the first DAC head to head I've had to attempt, so I'll do some back and fourths between songs to give comparisons. I can't note every last difference in them, but I'll try to get anything I feel is worth talking about in this section.

Testing methodology

Where possible, balanced connections will be used, but if only single ended is supported, that is what will be used. All mentions of any differences should be considered a composite of all of the amps unless one is specifically mentioned. All tracks are of CD quality or higher, and streamed from an Airsonic server to Sonixd connected to an M1 Mac Mini via USB.

Equipment used for testing

  • DACs
    • Schiit Modi 2 Uber
    • Denafrips Ares II
  • Amps
    • Asgard 3
    • Jotunheim 2 (modded)
    • Valhalla 2
  • Headphones
    • Hifiman Sundara
    • ZMF Auteur

Said the Sky - Faith EP - Disciple

Link to song

Starting right at the beginning of the song, it's noticeable that there is slightly less haze over this highly complex song on the Ares. The bass throughout the track is much more well defined. It's all there on the Modi, but it's not nearly as distinct. Impact and layer separation on the Ares is quite a lot better. The sound goes from sounding busy and becomes much easier to pick out the instruments from the layers of what sounded like a pleasant, but complex blob of sound on the Modi. This becomes very obvious around the drop at 3:30 in the song. The Ares seems to have much more detail, and when it fades to nothing, right before the drop, and right into it, it becomes much more impactful.

Nier Automata - Amusement Park

Link to song

Acoustic instruments is where the Ares really starts to stretch it's legs. All acoustic instruments seem to sound much more real to life. This applies to not only the stringed instruments, but the drums having a more real to life timbre. On the modi, the stringed instruments have a tendency to fall into the background. Thanks to the extra resolution, echos come through much more clear that were boarder line inaudible on the Modi. Right at the intro of the song, the bells have an unnatural timbre that makes them seem more in the distance or clouded on the modi, but the extra resolution on the Ares really makes them sound a lot more true to life.

Jay-Z - Tom Ford

Link to song

For something totally different, this seemed to be a different kind of test. I was proven instantly that all DAC's don't sound the same, and sometimes it doesn't go the way you expect. Right at the beginning of the song, the bass line backs vocals, and the Modi clearly has an advantage here in that regard. At first I thought the ZMF Auteur needed to be upgraded to Classics as the bass seemed to distort the vocals. There is some truth to that, but even on the Sundara, when the volume is pushed up to a nice loud, but still listenable, level, the vocals distorted. This seems to be part of the recording to some degree as no matter the amp or DAC I throw at it, it never goes away completely, but it happens noticeably less on the Modi with the Sundara than any other pair. After letting it go on loop for a while, as I listen to the tracks many times, I did find the track to fatigue much more with the Modi and the Jot combo, but feeding with the Ares or either into the Asgard 3, it calmed down, even at higher volumes. The track is simple, and produced enough that I don't find any major areas that I can point to the Ares being better here other than being less fatiguing, which to me, is a plus, but the lack of control on the bass in this specific instance may be a deal breaker for some.

Purity Ring - Bodyache

Link to song

This is quite the simple song at first glance. Not much going on in terms of layering, but a nice strong bass line, and contrasting female vocals. This really stresses control of at least bass, as opposed to sub bass from Tom Ford, and here, the Ares really shines again. There's a lot of details in the background here that seem to be flat out missing on the Modi. The air seems to be much more thin on the Modi and really open up switching back and fourth. Echos, trailing notes, fading sounds all extend much farther.

Unorganized thoughts

Over all, I feel that acoustic instruments have a much more natural timbre on the Ares II than the Modi. It also comes off as much "smoother" in terms of fatigue, but not rounded off. The detail is clearly all there, but less "in your face" than any Delta Sigma I've heard personally. The older AKM Modi is still far better than the ESS chips I have given a critical listen to, but it's not as pleasant as the Ares. Some albums or tracks left me feeling fatigued quickly, notably 'Til The End - MitiS would leave me unable to listen to music for reasons I still can't explain, and only after a few tracks of the album. This is gone on the Ares completely. Another thing that wasn't insanely apparent in the tracks that were listed above, but are easy to notice is that the sound stage is much wider on the Ares, especially when mixed with the Valhalla. The Sundara are known to be intimate headptones, and those also gained some sound stage on the Ares, which was quite the surprise. The Auteur gained the most in this regard, and it's enjoyable to listen to well produced music. Tool - Lateralus comes to mind here, as the drums sound like they are being played exactly where they are in space, as opposed to sounding less defined and just a blob of in your head on the Modi.


These are different architectures at VERY different price points. It seems stupid to compare them, but I have them both, and it gave an interesting look at "what a DAC sounds like". If you have headphones reaching into the $1000 price tag, and are looking for more out of them, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Ares II to almost anyone. With rare exception, it has performed leagues above the Modi as it should, with only Tom Ford being the exception, and for all I know, that's just how the recording actually is, and it's just being revealed better. If electronic music is your primary option, there is likely to be a delta sigma DAC that can give you more in this price range, but if you want all of the detail there, but not as in your face, I can say this is the top pick from me. It's still no slouch for electronic, and that's one of my primary genres, but I had to leave something bad. For acoustic, orchestral, anything naturally produces, this is a flawless device, and I don't know what could possibly beat it until you get into the many thousands of dollars.

Asgard 3

Stepping up the game from the Magni


Why not the Magni?

I gave the Magni 3 a glowing review, and said that everyone getting into audio should own one. I stand by that. Moving up from the Magni there's 2 direct options. The Magnius, and the Asgard 3. These both have substantial power overhead compared the the poor little magni with it's wall wart of a power brick. The big feature difference between these in terms of physical features is that the Magnius is pretty much 2 magni in one box, and balanced, where the Asgard does away with balanced in favour of raw power through single ended output.

Balanced is a meme, but it's also not

Balanced audio is quite common in microphones because it's power level is very low, and wire runs are long. This allows for EMI to be picked up in the wires, and balanced audio is able to completely cancel that out in hardware. Headphone amps probably aren't running 30 meter cables to your headphones. There are other reasons to run balanced such as if it offers both, it is built with balanced in mind. This means that something like the Magnius will have much less power out of it's single ended output than the balanced XLR. The Asgard is only single ended, and puts out full power from single ended. If you have only single ended headphones, then the Asgard makes more sense.

Why not moved to balanced?

Balanced does have other advantages, however small. Once you start spending multiple thousands on headphones, start picking out every micro detail at insanely loud volume through a high end Delta Sigma DAC's, ect, it can make a difference. The Asgard 3 is about one thing. Make things sound like music, and give you and enjoyable presentation. It's integrated power supply offers a much better source than the Magnius' PSU, which is still a wall wart. Schiit has done an amazing job with their wall warts, but to get the price that far down on balanced architecture, corners had to be cut. The Asgard 3 has access to up to 500mW of class A bias on it's power supply before finally smoothly transitioning to class A/B, which is what the Magni/Magnius are always stuck on. If you haven't heard half a watt strapped to your head, that's amazing, because you'd be at least partially deaf. Most in the audio industry agree that class A sounds smoother and more pleasing than class A/B, and the Asgard 3 will stay in that range during any sane levels of listening. If you need balanced and all of this, move up to the Jotunheim, but the price goes up as well for access to balanced.

Tested on ZMF Auteur (300 ohm), and Sundara (Planar magnetic)

Where will I hear the difference?

I'm not going to bother breaking this into low/mid/high. Across the board, the sound comes out smoother sounding. Not less resolving, not less detailed. Just more correct in ways that I had to hear to understand. Other than this, the presence of the bass, especially sub bass, comes through with much more impact, clarity and force. Punch and slam becomes headphone dependent at this point. On tracks like Bracelet - Fat Jon, the sub bass track is much more lively, and audible. Even Heaven - Aimer is weighty and has so much presence in the bass that I had to turn the volume down from what I was used to on the Magni. The high end was still as clear as day, even with a 3dB boost to the bass shelf at 50Hz on the Sundara, unlike on the Magni which started to show it's limits when I wanted to push that sub bass out, and it started to obviously struggle to push out any volume down there.

Not required, but nice to have

Moving directly from the Magni to the Asgard, the biggest things I noticed at first weren't even the sound. The Asgard on the desk is much more substantial in size and weight. The Alps pot for volume control is leagues better than that found on the Magni or Magnius as well. Their volume pots were small, not insanely smooth when turned, and a bit scratchy. This doesn't impact the sound they make once you aren't looking at or touching them, but it is something I noticed in use, and it does feel more premium. Not features I'd tell someone that you must buy this device for, but absolutely something I notice in real use, and had to note that I do actively appreciate these things. If none of that matters to you, just ignore this section.


If you love your sub bass, and have anything that is current demanding like a set of Hifiman Planar headphones or similar, this is a no brainer if you can make the budget allow it. If headphones in the $300 and under such as the HD6XX and Sundara are where you plan to stop, and you don't mind a bit of sub bass loss, it's hard to justify the extra cost coming from the Magni, but I'd recommend at least considering it if you want the extra headroom to hear other headphones above that price point. If you are ever near one of Schiit's physical stores, you can hear them both for yourself and decide. I personally wouldn't go back as the extra last bit of audible difference, as well as tactile feel of the device is just that much nicer.

Topping d90se

A whole lot of detail, even to a fault


Where to even start on this DAC. Features... All of the features... This is a balanced DAC, so expect to want a balanced AMP with this one. Inputs galore. USB, coax digital, optical, AES, and even bluetooth. If you have a thing that you want to make sound, this can probably do it. It can output both to balanced, or single ended, so this will work with pretty much any amp or powered monitors. It is built as a balanced architecture and will sound best as such, but it's nice that it offers both.

Running through the Asgard 3/Topping A90D


Compared to Schiit's offerings like the Modi, or Bifrost 2, this DAC handles bass respectably. I'm not sure which is more correct, but the body of the bass is not nearly as big or strong on the Topping. That's not to say that it doesn't sound great, because it's crystal clear. I'd put bass down to a preference on which presentation you prefer personally, but both sound great. The bass is... There, and it's fine. Nothing to complain about, nothing to rave about.


Where to even start here. Unlike the Modi that I'm directly comparing this to, there are different filter modes. Out of the box, it comes in "Mode 3", which seems to be a "Fast roll off minimum", which sounded brilliantly detailed, but very painful to listen to, almost like the audio was boosted to clipping range, regardless of volume. I quickly started playing with settings to make that go away as it was hard to listen to, especially on tracks with low dynamic range especially, which most modern music is. I tried several modes, but seemed to settle on "Mode 5", which is "Fast roll off linear". This had an impact on perceived detail, but made it much more enjoyable to listen to. Almost all of the clipping sound was instantly just gone. For very busy sections of tracks, or insanely fast notes, it did seem to blur the audio a bit, but it was fairly minimal, and at least not painful.


The highs on this DAC excede anything that I heard from Schiit's offerings. Cymbals, stringed instruments, the breathing of singers, and anything in the airy space is much more audible. I wouldn't say that it's louder, but there is just much more information that got lost on other DACs I've tried. Female vocals that extend well into the high range shine here in terms of details as well.


After many hours of listening to this DAC, I can say that I'm quite impressed with the level of detail that I've never heard out of my Schiit Modi, but subjectively, it is not as fun to listen to. If you want to suck some fun out of your music for the sake of finding details in there, this is great at that. It's what I would call an analytical DAC. It doesn't try to colour the audio, it doesn't try to hide flaws in recordings, or bad masters. It shows you every flaw in it's glory. It's default PCM filter of "Mode 3" absolutely was the worst part of this DAC. Once that was changed, it became at least listenable without physical ear pain for me. I personally wouldn't want this DAC in my collection most likely as it's too much detail and presented harshly. For the price and feature set, if you need the features, and don't mind a harsh presentation, I can recommend it, but I'll be looking into other solutions for my listening.