Benchmark Media Systems Inc. DAC1 DACs

DAC1

  • 2-channel, 24bit, 192-kHz D-to-A conversion
  • All sample rates playback with a 52-kHz analog bandwidth.
  • THD+N = -106 dB (0.0005%) measured at -0 dBFS, any sample rate, any test frequency, with any degree of input jitter!
  • 116 dB signal-to-noise ratio @52 kHz, A weighted
  • AES/EBU (XLR & Coax) and S/PDIF (XLR, Coax, & Toslink) inputs
  • Digital input source-selection switch
  • Balanced, low-Z XLR outputs
  • +29 dBu output level capability
  • Unbalanced RCA outputs
  • Variable or preset output level controls, switch selectable
  • Direct connection to powered monitors
  • Built-in Benchmark HPA-2, a high-output, ultra-clean headphone amplifier with dual outputs jacks
  • Total jitter immunity via UltraLockâ„¢ technology!
  • Phase Accurate D-to-A conversion across any number of channels
  • 1 power, 2 error indicating LEDs
  • Internal low-radiation toroidal power supply
  • International 115-230 input voltage range
  • Automatic De-emphasis for 44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96 kHz when Pre-emphasis bit is set
  • Milled aluminum front panel
  • 1/2 wide, 1RU chassis
  • Rack mount kit available
  • CE Compliant

  • User Reviews (20)

    Showing 1-10 of 20  
    Audiophilesque   AudioPhile [Jan 18, 2011]

    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.

    OVERALL
    RATING
    3
    VALUE
    RATING
    3
    Pierre Coach   AudioPhile [Feb 08, 2010]

    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.

    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    Rick Lee   AudioPhile [Jan 04, 2010]

    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?

    OVERALL
    RATING
    4
    VALUE
    RATING
    4
    Leghorn   Audio Enthusiast [Oct 30, 2009]

    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.

    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    3
    psyopwak   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 09, 2009]

    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)-
    1 Open
    2 Detailed
    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.

    Great deal

    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    Ajani   Audio Enthusiast [Dec 24, 2008]
    Strength:

    Versatility, Sound Quality, Build Quality, Price, Looks

    Weakness:

    Could use a remote (but that's really just nitpicking at this price).

    BENCHMARK ALONE

    The Benchmark DAC1 is pretty much the Swiss Army Knife of High End Audio... it is quite simply one of the most useful products to own (assuming you have a digital source ie CD, DVD Player or Computer)... DAC1 is primarily a high Quality DAC but it is also an excellent headphone amp (read my system review below for more details on that use), and a Digital Preamp (if you upgrade to the DAC1 Pre, then you also get an analog input). It has both RCA and balanced outputs, which makes connecting it to a high end setup more flexible.

    Build Quality is excellent, the unit looks and feels solid. The unit is small half width and and about half depth of regular audio components... which makes placement of the unit much easier... it is as comfortable on an audio rack as it is next to your computer.

    The sound is neutral and detailed... IMO, it easily avoids the traps of being either overly-analytical and harsh/bright or being too warm with rolled off Bass and Treble... Highs are clear and extended, while Bass is rhythmic and deep. Midrange just oozes nuance and detail. To say I'm impressed with the unit is a serious understatement.

    Below is a more detailed review of my full setup (as I feel that it is almost impossible to review a component in isolation, as it must interact with several other components in order to make music).

    ENTIRE SYSTEM

    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 Classic that I use to stream the music from my laptop. The Squeezebox is connected via coaxial digital input to my Benchmark DAC1 using an Audioquest G-Snake RCA cable...

    Finally, I have my AKG K701 Headphones connected to the left Headphone Output of the Benchmark....

    Volume on the Squeezebox is set to max and I use the Benchmark to control the volume.

    So to break it down:

    Computer & Hard-Drive = Storage Medium (like a CD)
    Squeezebox = Wireless Transport
    Benchmark = DAC & Headphone Amp
    AKG = Earspeakers

    See poor quality attached picture of my setup below:



    Total System Cost (excluding Computer and Glass Audio Stand) = Approximately $1,880.00 USD MSRP.

    So for almost USD 2K, I've gone from listening to music on my laptop with a $15 pair of Panasonic headphones to still listening to music on my laptop with a pair of headphones... No wonder so many people think Audiophiles are lunatics...



    OK now comes the hard part, describing the sound of my setup. A quote from Rob Reina in Stereophile, while reviewing the Monitor Audio RS6 Towers, best describes my experience with my system so far:

    Quote:
    after several weeks of listening to dozens of recordings through the Silver RS6, I could find not a single shortcoming—no deviation from neutrality, or any other compromise that I would normally expect to find in a cost-constrained design.

    Yes, now that I've killed all my audiophile credibility (assuming I had any) by quoting Rob Reina, let me use my own words... The two words that constantly pop into my head when I hear my system are “Neutral” & “Detailed”.

    I find that all the music I loved before I still love and and the stuff I didn't like... well I still don't like... but everything sounds better, clearer, more defined... from the way the system conveys the 80s rhythmic funk of Prince's 'Kiss' to the silky smooth vocals of a young Michael Jackson singing 'I want You back' with his 4 brothers in the Jackson 5... Through the heartfelt passion of Mariah Carey's 'We Belong Together' and the ultra smooth Saxophone of Kenny G's 'Havana'... From the sappy depressing vocals of Kenny Rogers 'She believes in me' to the Psychotic, Vengeful, Murderous delusions of Tupac's 'Hit Em Up'... The system is as comfortable with Bob Marley as it with the London Symphony Orchestra... I have wide and varied tastes in music, so no one trick pony is going to work with all or even most of my albums... I've certainly heard more romantic, beat intense or vocal specialized systems and while each would make specific songs in my collection sound better, they would also totally ruin the remainder of my songs... This system has done a better job than any other I've heard so far of getting everything right....

    When I first ordered the Benchmark/AKG (BA) setup I was hoping for a sound like my previous all time favorite setup of Monitor Audio Gold Series 20 Towers with Musical Fidelity X-Series V8 Amp & CD, but was really expecting the bright and overly analytical sound of a B&W 805S, Rotel Combo I'd auditioned a few times... Surprisingly, I got neither... what I got was much more Revel than either Monitor Audio or B&W... just plain neutral and smooth...

    So the sound: Vocals are extend and airy without sounding bright or edgy... The mids are full and detailed... I'm hearing so many little sounds and effects that I've never heard before, in songs I've played hundreds of times... Bass is tight, deep and most importantly fast (the speed is like the difference between a pair of aluminum 6.5 inch woofers versus a large 12 or 15 inch bass driver)... Rap and Rock music have the appropriate low-end authority to get your head moving and your toes tapping... But speaking of rhythm, my standard test of any system must include how it performs with the 80s pop classic 'Billie Jean' by Michael Jackson (did I really have to say who sang Billie Jean?)... The BA setup had me breaking out into moonwalks and fondling my crotch obscenely... After the opening drum sequence there's a little 'chicu uhh' effect at the beginning of Billie Jean that I had previously enjoyed most on tubed setups... shockingly, after a week of break-in the BA setup is doing a great job of getting that effect right, while still maintaining the overall rhythm and pace of the song (generally done by solid state gear)... The soundstage is excellent for a pair of headphones, the music sounds more like it's floating around your head, with the lead vocals coming from somewhere in your forehead, rather than in your ear canal... sadly, this is the one letdown of a headphone setup for me, it generally sounds more like you are surrounded rather intimately by the band, instead of sitting a few rows back at a concert.... But once in a while, I'll hear a sound or voice pop out of nowhere, from a distance and I'll spin my head around, thinking someone has entered the room.. just to realize that it was part of the song... At those times I think I understand what E-Stat said about his system being able to fool the senses (not that I'm comparing the overall sound quality of his system with mine... I'm not that delusional)...


    Verdict:

    For a normal person $2K for a headphone setup is a total rip-off (since, to be quite honest, the $15 Panasonics connected to the laptop, do an ok job of portraying the essentials of the music)... but by Audiophile standards, the BA setup is an amazing bargain.. especially when you consider that a $500 pair of headphones will easily rival the sound quality of a $5K floorstander...

    If you are an audiophile on a tight budget and/or with a tight space, you really should consider a Headphone setup... Even if you are a planar lover, you can get a nice pair of Electrostatic Earspeakers for less the $500... Just try getting a pair of new Electrostatic Towers for anywhere near that price! In fact, even if you already have an expensive reference system, I'd suggest auditioning several Headphone/Amp combos... as you might be shocked at how good they can sound...

    Customer Service

    Excellent. I had trouble ordering online, as the UPS shipping calculation for my country wasn't working... so I sent an e-mail to customer service and got a phone call from the Sales Manager the next day. He processed my order immediately and I received the Benchmark viz UPS in about 2 days.

    Similar Products Used: Multiple CD and DVD players from Arcam, Rotel, Marantz, NAD, Cambridge Audio etc...
    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    Jan55   AudioPhile [Dec 19, 2008]
    Strength:

    Sound quality, tone, dynamics, sound stage....
    DAC outputs with volume control allow it to be used without a preamp (direct connect to amps)
    Headphone outputs are a bonus.

    Weakness:

    My model does not have multiple line level inputs like the newer preeamp version.

    I have owned the Benchmark DAC for over 3 years and in this time have upgraded much of my audio system in search of better sound. For most of that time I have been very satisfied with the sound quality of the DAC.

    I was suprised at the difference in sound that different CD players (using their rca SPDIF output) made with the DAC considering that the DAC has jitter correction etc.... I did find that a basic model Sony DVD player did a very good job.

    Recently I switched to using my PC with an M-Audio Audiophile 2496 sound card (under $100) with SPDIF output to the DAC with EXCELLENT results. The bass is tightened up and the dynamics are awesome, as well as the sound stage. The one downside with using a PC is it is difficult to totally eliminate the noise that the PC fan and harddrive make. The Soundcard also allows the use of 24/96 high definition sound files that are available from a few sites.

    Highly Recommended! (I have never given 5 stars to any of the other audio products that I have reviewed on this site)

    Customer Service

    Have not required

    Similar Products Used: My Audio System as a reference to sound quality:

    Basic PC with M-Audiophile 2496 sound card using Exact Audio Copy software to rip CDs to lossless FLAC files and Foobar 2000 software to play files.

    Benchmark DAC with SPDIF input from soundcard.

    Bottlehead Paramount 300B Monoblock Amps

    Klipsch LaScala Speakers
    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    rqf1263   AudioPhile [Feb 04, 2008]
    Strength:

    Detail,warm, huge and transparent sounstage, deep bass you could follow, dynamic music, affordable relative to its musicality as compared to megabucks units.

    Weakness:

    It made some of my favorite MoFi gold cds too bloomy and a a bit wet for my musical taste.

    I just recently inserted this Benchmark unit into my system and so far I have to agree with all the postive reviews of this superb DAC posted here and in other forums. I am not going to repeat what have already been positively expressed by others but nonetheless I would like to share my experience with this unit.
    I connected the digital out of my Sony SCD777ES to the dac's coaxial input using silver digital cable from Signal Cable, dvd digital out to the dac's optical input using glass optical cable. From the dac's xlr output to my preamps xlr cd input, the cables I tried here are AP Solo Crystal, Cardas Golden Refs, and Signal Cable Silver ref. Holding Signal cable silver refs xlrs between the preamp amp krell amp constant, I seemed to like the signal cable between the dac and preamp because of a better and deeper bass. I also tried Nordost rca, AP solos and other lesser known rca copper cables between the preamp and dac but the xlr connection sounded a lot more musical and it is worth mentioning here that the musicality of the dac is brought to a much higher fi level when the xlr attenuation jumpers inside the dac are moved from the default settings of -20db to the 0 db settings. To me this is a must do if you could use xlr output of the dac. This is very easy to do, just removed the cover and use a small long nosed plier to slide out the socket jumpers frrom the default settings and into the 0 db settings (4 jumpers in all and no soldering involved). I left the nordost rca between the SCD777es analog out to the preamp aux1 input to be able to play sacd discs.

    In summar, using the Benchmark Dac1 with very good cd transport and quality xlr cables as well as moving the dacs xlr attenuation jumpers to the 0 db position, you will have a front end that can rival the musical sweetness of $10 - 20K front ends. Also putting a 3 inch thick of acoustical foam under the dac as cushion seemed to add a degree of sweeteness to the music. I know it stop any longing and desires I have for tube based units including vinyl sound. It is that good. Bass is deep and well delineated. Excellent trebel without any hint of glare. Soundstaging is very much improved. Intruments sound is airy and have smooth decay and proper overtones. Above all I no longer limit myself to playing just reference quality cds.

    Similar Products Used: Auditioned many megabucks set ups in dealer showrooms
    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    Terry   AudioPhile [Sep 21, 2007]
    Strength:

    In this area none

    Weakness:

    The worst customer sevice ever encountered

    This is a review on Benchmarks customer service which I must say is horrible I started having problems with the DAC locking onto a signal so I contacted customer service twice and still have not got a response thankfully Audio Advisor has some of the best customer service I have ever experienced and they handled the problem right away I can't recommend enough but beware of Benchmark once they have your money they're done with you

    Customer Service

    As said previously the worst

    Similar Products Used: Audio Alchemy Ultra DAC
    OVERALL
    RATING
    1
    VALUE
    RATING
    1
    Terry   AudioPhile [Sep 21, 2007]
    Strength:

    Great Sound

    Weakness:

    Some of the worst customer sevice I've ever experienced

    This is more of warning than it is a review I love the sound of this DAC but started having problems with it locking onto a signal I've contacted the company twice and still haven't gotten a response and its been three weeks thank god that Audio Advisor stepped up to the plate and handled the matter they have excellent customer service and I can't recommend them enough but if you ever have to go through Benchmarks Customer Service beware very disappointing

    OVERALL
    RATING
    1
    VALUE
    RATING
    1
    Showing 1-10 of 20  

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