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shooter's picture
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Benchmark DAC1

I've been lucky enough to have borrowed the DAC1 last friday and have been listening to it when i can. Had an audio [nut] friend come with some goodies, including a Densen B420XS, Primare CD31, Transparent IC's, 3 Coax and the DAC1. Listening possition is 3 meters away and the speakers are 5 meteres apart and toe in though fire either side of the head instead in front of an i wont waffle on about the CDP's in this post but will concentrate on the DAC1, coax cables and IC's.

First off we got the units warm for half hour as we had a chat and a beer but had some background tunes on at the time. We used the Primare as a transport using the reference coax. [Unfortunately he has taken it home and i dont rememeber what it was but on his return will find out and update this lenghly passage] Straight off the CD31/DAC1 combo outperformed the CD31 and for me it was a very mediocre sounding spinner, rather flat sounding and uninvolving. That character stayed as it was being used as a transport but the DAC1 added a darker background and slightly starper image, defo better.

We listened for one song with the CD31/DAC1 combo and soon moved on the the XS/DAC1. I found this spinner much more upfront than the CD31, it had pretty good PRaT and the music raced along. And again using it as a transport kept it it character but added the darkr background and sharper imaging the DAC1 had. It also added some space around the image and made it more pronounced. Vocals were right out in front, probs a meter away from me, drums were set right back behind the speakers, the feeling was beyond the back wall and guitars, bells, bassspaced around the vocal and infront of the drums, pretty good. We listened for of couple of hours hour different tunes and genres and it was all pretty stable.

After that we changed the Transparent IC's he bought along (£600) for the my Cardas GR's but befor doing so played James Blakes To Care [Like You]. The difference wasclear to hear the background dropped to jet black, top end started to sparkle and the bass now had definition. He liked the combo as i did, it added some solidity to the music and was a really enjoyble listen.

We then dropped in the MSB Platinum CD III Transport. This really brought the sound on, it kept its PRaT but added a huge dollop of refinement. The whippet like pace the XS had was replaced with something more mellow, smoother, refined. Vocals mellowed and sounded more natural, instruments sounded impressive, strings on guitars sounded less 'stealy', drums chilled out and really 'feeling' the brush work on cymbals. Now we're cooking! The image was pretty similar to the XS?DAC1 but the vocals came forward a fraction more with real definition and texture around instruments. 

Since that night i've had the DAC1 in the system and had 2 other caox cables to play with, a Cambridge Audio and a DNM RESON. The DMN is like a aerial with no sheilding so could be prone to some RF pic up. TBH i find it detailed but rather brittle at the top so i've been listening to the Cambridge which is mellower but lacks 'real' detail and punch, i have no others so i'm stuck with them though i wouldn't use either. The Cambridge could be good in a very forward system but the other isn't much cop.

To sum it up then: The Benchmark DAC1 is a good DAC, maybe very good. It defo has a strong character of its own, it's detailed with black background, portrays a solid image and has good depth and width and the musicians are solid in their space. It does sound clean, and it lacks slight depth to the music, like something is slightly missing beyond the first string pluck or drum hit, i'm being picky though and for £800 new or better still £400 odd used i would have to consider it. Its totally transparen,t with cable changes easy to pick up and adding better depth and sharper imaging and darker backgrounds. It will take the character of a CDP but add some more, which is not a bad thing, at least you know what you will get.

I cant comment on a before and after with the MSB as i havent used it with any other DAC, so can olny tell you what i heard.

If i didnt recommend it, it would be sacrilege!

 

 

 

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RE: Benchmark DAC1

Jeez, forgot you couldn't edit fist posts!

Pics:

Though its butt ugly!

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RE: Benchmark DAC1

Very interesting, and shows how different CDPs acting as Transports can change the sound. It also shows how good Cardas cable is.

:beer: :beer:

Cno

"We should no more let numbers define audio quality than we should let chemical analysis be the arbiter of fine wines."  Nelson Pass

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RE: Benchmark DAC1

interesting.  the transports i've tried all sounded the same.  they probably would to you if you blind tested them.  but then i guess you already know that.  and it's totally transparent, but has a strong character of its own?  i don't get that, but i think you and i are probably at opposite ends of the spectrum.  sounds like you enjoyed the evening though.  one thing that does puzzle me is why you have your speakers so far apart?  i sit about 3 metre from mine and picturing them 5m apart seems, err, quite wide.

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RE: Benchmark DAC1

Thanks for the write up, every little helps in my search for a new DAC and this one looks good. Is it the USB version?

I was also wondering if, instead of beers before listening tests proceed, I might be better off with some cider? Wink

:cheers:

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RE: Benchmark DAC1
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RE: Benchmark DAC1

Craig M. wrote:
......  and it's totally transparent, but has a strong character of its own?  i don't get that, but i think you and i are probably at opposite ends of the spectrum.  

It does comes across as an oxymoron! It defo has no coloration i can detect as it is very sensitive to anything different which shows on cable changes. The character comes from its very defined soundstage/imaging that it shows regardless of material. Sounds weird, does to me too, but i've never heard anything like it. Every CDP or TT i've had shows the image as it was engineered, be it wide, shallow, grouped or whatever and thats always seemed reasonable? The DAC1 doesn't do that, it portrays an image but its the same image over and over which to me doesnt fall into the natural cagagory but the character one. So yes its totally transparent and those measurements that AlmaataKZ linked to show that but it defo has a something else that i quite put my finger on. 

Craig M. wrote:
......one thing that does puzzle me is why you have your speakers so far apart?  i sit about 3 metre from mine and picturing them 5m apart seems, err, quite wide.

Well i told a porky, their 4.5 meters apart (just measured) but that is the possition they have to be in, i have no other choice, i have a woodburner and the audio bench in-between them, its a comproise but it doesn't take anything away in that possition as the Mani's are omni-directional in design , plus they look better than toed in to much Smile

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RE: Benchmark DAC1

CnoEvil wrote:

Very interesting, and shows how different CDPs acting as Transports can change the sound. It also shows how good Cardas cable is. :beer: :beer: Cno

 

Agreed :beer:

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RE: Benchmark DAC1

Overdose wrote:

Thanks for the write up, every little helps in my search for a new DAC and this one looks good. Is it the USB version?

I was also wondering if, instead of beers before listening tests proceed, I might be better off with some cider? Wink

:cheers:

 

Not USB version and it would of been good to have at least a hi-face to use the Mac as a transport but he didn't have one. I bought this up and he said the USB Benchmark is better than this version. I didn't dig any deeper than that, but if its true then it would be a great DAC.

If you can make it Oxon OD, bring some cider, haven't had one in a while!

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RE: Benchmark DAC1

Listening to this DAC's headphone out with a pair of Grado SR60's at the moment, nice clear sound and would easily host some better quality earphones as it exposes these Grado's as they are, forward and a tad thin but liking the DAC1, it's a good package.

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RE: Benchmark DAC1

AlmaataKZ wrote:

Here is a thorough review/test

http://kenrockwell.com/audio/benchmark/dac1-hdr.htm#intro

Oh stop with the Ken Rockwell, will you?  He's a EDITED

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RE: Benchmark DAC1

John Duncan wrote:

AlmaataKZ wrote:

Here is a thorough review/test

http://kenrockwell.com/audio/benchmark/dac1-hdr.htm#intro

Oh stop with the Ken Rockwell, will you?  He's a EDITED

Hehe, it's not just me that feels that way then Smile
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RE: Benchmark DAC1

Just had to Google Ken Rockwell as i'd never heard of him. Blimey he splits opinon, mainly one way!

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RE: Benchmark DAC1

shooter69 wrote:

as the Mani's are omni-directional in design

:?

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RE: Benchmark DAC1

There is a huge thread about the DAC1 with USB on another forum (running since 2007, 3019 replies) and one of the Benchmark engineers contributes to it, Elias Gwinn. He stated it does not matter what cable is used with the DAC.

Just thought I would throw that one into the discussion. :grin:

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RE: Benchmark DAC1

:grin: That doesn't supprise me idc, its fairly common for manafactures to do that as cables are such a personnel choice towards a preferred sound with those subtle differences makeing your system personnel. 

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