The Benchmark DAC-1 USB. Used with: Sennhieser HD-650, AKG K-701.
I use headphones a lot. Maybe by using them, I don't qualify as a "true" audiophile, but oh well. In 2007 I was getting tired of my Arcam CD-82 cd player and moved into computer audio. I ripped all my cds with DB Poweramp into Aiff files. I have used both a Windows PC and a Mac Mini, alternating between USB and SPDIF outputs. Initially, the Benchmark sounded, fresh, powerfull and exciting. Fast forwarding a few months, I became less interested in listening to music. I changed headphones, tried different software...experimented for hours. The music was just blah. I took a break for a few weeks, then tried a few more tweaks. The result was the same: My music lacked body and was edgy, causing listening fatigue. I ended up selling it.
To all users of DAC1 & DAC1 USB; after reading Mr. Lee's post of being modestly impressed by the DAC's performance, I would recommend the following which is not mentionned clearly in the owner's manual. Open the unit and set the switch to 0 Db gain, then listen again. This DAc is the deal of deals since it will perform as well or nearly as well as DACs in 10K + CD players.
Not a bad sounding unit and it can also do duty as your preamp in a stripped down three digital input environment as you can hook it up directly to a power amp and have a baby high end rig for not much dough. However I tried using it as the main DAC in my big system and it sounded pretty thin and uninvolving although it was clean enough for the money.
So I would put this one in the "bargain" lower to mid price DACs out there. Mine is just wonderful as a small system front end upstairs in a secondary listening room powering some BBC LS3/5 type Spendor monitors with a beefy poweramp I bought to feed them. I could imagine the Benchmark would be all you would need if you kept it in systems costing under ten grand. Just don't expect it to be too usefull once you hit 20 large as it lacks the punch and the information you would want once your system gets better and you can hear more.
I mean if you were asking what I think you need for a system costing 20k I would answer: Bryston BDA-1. It will reveal much more of the complete picture instead of stripped down outlines. And timbre is much better and highs are more musical. And you will suddenly see the whole room the recording was made in instead of left right and center... But this is not a review of the Bryston. Or the even more expensive Berkeley Audio DAC which at $5000 is frequently mentioned at the one above the Bryston at $2000.
I would conclude that at $1000 the Benchmark is a heck of a lot of kit for the money. If the layout and features fit your needs and the budget says "yes" on this one then I would recommend it without hesitation. It is miles ahead of what you get in the typical consumer CD player until you hit the units costing twice its price. And it has minimum three inputs or more depending on model. So for the money what's not to like?
This is a great DAC! I bought it because it has a volume control and a USB input, so you can hook it up to your computer and have a complete audio front end. It also has balanced outputs, which are nice if you have an amplifier with balanced inputs, as I do (Monarchy SE-70s). This DAC is very accurate and musical. It reportedly measures well too (i.e., immune to "jitter"). There are certainly cheaper DACs out there, but they don't have the Benchmark's combination of features, musicality, and accuracy. The headphone outputs are handy when you don't want to wake the kids, but I rarely use them. It was easy to hook up to my MAc computer and iTunes.
This has been the single best sounding component I have purchased and used in my system. It has REALLY opened up the sound of all my audio pieces.
I have a decent CD player, a Rega Apollo. This CD player has a unique top loading design, memory buffer, and the beam will initialize to scan the CD and choose the appropriate tracking for EACH CD to ensure the best sound. It also uses WOLFSON dacs. Although it sounded very good, by itself, outpacing my Arcam CD 72, it's sound was enhanced two or three notches with the optical connection to the Benchmarrk USBDAC1
The CD sound I have now is (has)-
3 Wide soundsatge
4 Smooth midrange
5 Crisp not shrill treble highs
6 Rythymic bass
7 Tight bass
8 Articulate vocals
9 Ability to seperate each instrument apart from another by reproducing it's sound accuratley.
What's crackin fellow audio addicts,
I am planning a pretty major upgrade to my 2 channel system. On the table are a couple of different options, namely; an RME ADI-2 or Benchmark DAC1 for my DAC. I would be coming out of my pc with an optical cable to the new DAC, then to my future Vincent Aud ... Read More »
Yesterday I upgraded from some generic speaker cable to a pair of 6' unterminated Anti-Cables ($60).... For the record this is the first time I'm truly convinced that I've heard a difference in cables, which is an impressive feat on it's own...
Anyway, the success of the Anti-Cables in my system l ... Read More »
FINALLY!!!! Benchmark is launching a remote controlled DAC:
It follows the usual Benchmark rules of adding another feature to their last DAC and $300 to the price:
The DAC1 HDR retails for $1900 (seems to be ... Read More »
OK, time to turn off 'When Doves Cry' long enough to write a review of my new system.
First a brief description of my setup:
I have my entire CD collection ripped (apple lossless compression) to a Western Digital external hard drive attached via USB to my HP laptop.
Next is a Squeezebox Cl ... Read More »
Okay, so Big Brother's Birthday is coming up. Being the audiophile he is, the parents and I want to get him something really nice. He's got a nice speaker system (Maggies 1.3s or 3.6s) so I suggested getting him a DAC and SB3. However, I went on the slimdevices website and I saw the Transporter whic ... Read More »