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Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?

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RE: Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?

As a DAC1 owner I'm interested to see what the reviews are like for this one. Also, what features and prices the more stripped down versions will have. It is smart to see Benchmark go in the opposite direction this time (from flagship to base) assuming that is what they are doing. 

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RE: Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?

Great success!

AlmaataKZ's picture
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RE: Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?

I think:

- technically: likely to be state of the art, have top build quality and accurate sound

- some very useful features: HT bypass, 12V triggers, passthrough, plenty of inputs and outputs

- some not so useful features: like DSD

- looks: very debatable (black may look better?)

- price: a bit high

I wonder if they reduced the brightness of the LEDs - they are way too bright on the HDR.

SpursGator's picture
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RE: Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?

I have had my DAC1 since 2002, when nobody had heard of it. I absolutely love it - it's the only thing in my system that has not changed since 2002 (in fact I think everything else in my main system has changed at least twice).

So of course I am intrigued. Is it really possible, with my somewhat-high-end-but hardly-exotic system, that I would replace the DAC1 with the DAC2 and immediately notice a $1000 difference? Doesn't seem possible...but usually when reviewers test an ultra-high-end DAC they do get really excited. People always claimed that the Benchmark DAC1 was so good that you had to spend 10x its cost to do much better (not true, but 3x or 4x might well be true). So if the DAC1 indeed sounds like a $3000 DAC for $1000 (which is the root of the legend around this product), then what does their $2000 DAC sound like? A $10,000 Zanden that has made some reviewers actually wet themselves? That's not possible, right?

What is clear to me is that this product is very much targeted towards audiophiles. The DAC1 was already legendary among professional musicians even before audiophiles discovered it. BM later sold versions of it that were clearly designed for audiophiles (the DAC1 USB and Pre) but they were really just repackagings of the same basic DAC.

The DAC2 seems to be different. The professional market is already well-served by the super-accurate DAC1 and mostly will see no reason to pay double for the new one. On the other hand - and here's the proof that they are really going for it - they throw in that little American bit that says, "Discover the analog sound of the DAC2 HGC." I don't think that an 'analog' sound is designed to attract guys building pro rigs...we the audiophiles are now firmly in the sights of this company (finally).

After listening to the DAC1 for ten years, the only real criticism is that it's just a bit clinical. The turntable junkies are always stunned by how much better 'digital' can sound when they hear it, but it still doesn't flow with enough warmth to make them give up the game, especially with CDs - DVDs and high res are another story (note to turntable junkies: the scientific term for that warmth is called 'distortion' - but it's ok, I like it too). The tubes in my Pathos, speaking of distortion, smooth this out rather nicely actually...which brings me back to...

How much better can it really be? I suspect they just tinkered with it to sound warmer and more analogue, then slapped a bigger price on it for us fools to pay. But you never know. There are few products that have shaken up this market in the last 15 years like the 'accidental' success of the DAC1. Maybe they can do it again.

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Living Room: Mac Mini, Oppo BDP95EU disc player, Benchmark DAC1, Balanced Audio Technology VK-50 SE preamp, McIntosh MC150 power amp, DIY 22 litre standmounts based on Scan-Speak 18W/8542, DIY subwoofer based on 15" Dayton Reference HF and a Hypex DS4.0 amp.

Office: A bunch of computers, Cambridge DACMagic, Naim Nait 5, DIY 11L standmounts based on Scan-Speak 15W/8530K00

On hand, testing, or selling: Pathos Logos, ProAc Response D18, B&W PV1D subwoofer, Tripath 2020-based 'Class T' amp, Single-driver speakers based on Fostex FE103EN, PMC DB1i, Boston A25, Roth OLi RA2

Recently sold: KEF Q300 speakers, AudioEngine D1 DAC, Mini TL speakers based on Seas W15LY001

AlmaataKZ's picture
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RE: Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?

I think it will not be possible to hear any difference in sound and the update is mainly for some headline features like asynch usb, dsd etc and some practical features like HT bypass, i/o, triggers - which should inrease its appeal to audiophiles and those wanting better system integration and/or use it as the main preamp.

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RE: Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?
SpursGator's picture
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RE: Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?

 

The reviewer sais, in effect, that the answer to my question is yes - he swapped out the DAC1 and noticed a stunning difference.

Well f me.

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Living Room: Mac Mini, Oppo BDP95EU disc player, Benchmark DAC1, Balanced Audio Technology VK-50 SE preamp, McIntosh MC150 power amp, DIY 22 litre standmounts based on Scan-Speak 18W/8542, DIY subwoofer based on 15" Dayton Reference HF and a Hypex DS4.0 amp.

Office: A bunch of computers, Cambridge DACMagic, Naim Nait 5, DIY 11L standmounts based on Scan-Speak 15W/8530K00

On hand, testing, or selling: Pathos Logos, ProAc Response D18, B&W PV1D subwoofer, Tripath 2020-based 'Class T' amp, Single-driver speakers based on Fostex FE103EN, PMC DB1i, Boston A25, Roth OLi RA2

Recently sold: KEF Q300 speakers, AudioEngine D1 DAC, Mini TL speakers based on Seas W15LY001

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RE: Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?

Quote... 

 The DAC2‘s audio performance is stunning — in that it projects a smoother texture, with increased accuracy in the bass and mid-frequency soundstage. But the top-end is full of energy and detail. Usually, a DAC’s subjective improvements are subtle, but the DAC2 HGC’s audible improvements are obvious on first listen. 

 

This says it all. The thing is most people in this budget range will expect better looks, although there is no questioning the build.

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RE: Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?

this review is meaningless (apart from listing and interpreting the features). 

On sound quality, as any subjective review, it is nothing more than a set of comments that are impossible to take into account in any way. Just a positive subjective review.

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RE: Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?

AlmaataKZ wrote:

this review is meaningless (apart from listing and interpreting the features). 

On sound quality, as any subjective review, it is nothing more than a set of comments that are impossible to take into account in any way. Just a positive subjective review.

 

Well, he does an A/B comparison with the DAC1, and reports that not only is there a difference, but it was instantly obvious on first listen, even before doing A/B testing. So he's heard the machine and is offering a subjective, but hardly meaningless, answer to my question. Yes, he hears a difference, and no, it is not subtle. Others may disagree but the fact that the first guy who heard it has this opinion is not meaningless at all. It's what I was asking.

Book reviews are subjective too - and books do not have technical specs or measurements. Are they meaningless too? Movie reviews - the plot summary matters but the rest is impossible to take into account in any way? Of course you may disagree with a reviewer sometimes or often, and some reviewers may be biased (how did this guy get the first review unit when according to WHF they have never received a review unit from Benchmark even as it became one of the biggest stories in hifi in the last 12 years?).

But opinions are not meaningless just because they are opinions. Our civilisation rests on this not being true.

 

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Living Room: Mac Mini, Oppo BDP95EU disc player, Benchmark DAC1, Balanced Audio Technology VK-50 SE preamp, McIntosh MC150 power amp, DIY 22 litre standmounts based on Scan-Speak 18W/8542, DIY subwoofer based on 15" Dayton Reference HF and a Hypex DS4.0 amp.

Office: A bunch of computers, Cambridge DACMagic, Naim Nait 5, DIY 11L standmounts based on Scan-Speak 15W/8530K00

On hand, testing, or selling: Pathos Logos, ProAc Response D18, B&W PV1D subwoofer, Tripath 2020-based 'Class T' amp, Single-driver speakers based on Fostex FE103EN, PMC DB1i, Boston A25, Roth OLi RA2

Recently sold: KEF Q300 speakers, AudioEngine D1 DAC, Mini TL speakers based on Seas W15LY001

Craig M.'s picture
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RE: Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?

I agree with Alma.  Subjective reviews give us differences in optical cables...

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RE: Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?

SpursGator wrote:

AlmaataKZ wrote:

this review is meaningless (apart from listing and interpreting the features). 

On sound quality, as any subjective review, it is nothing more than a set of comments that are impossible to take into account in any way. Just a positive subjective review.

 

Well, he does an A/B comparison with the DAC1, and reports that not only is there a difference, but it was instantly obvious on first listen, even before doing A/B testing. So he's heard the machine and is offering a subjective, but hardly meaningless, answer to my question. Yes, he hears a difference, and no, it is not subtle. Others may disagree but the fact that the first guy who heard it has this opinion is not meaningless at all. It's what I was asking.

Book reviews are subjective too - and books do not have technical specs or measurements. Are they meaningless too? Movie reviews - the plot summary matters but the rest is impossible to take into account in any way? Of course you may disagree with a reviewer sometimes or often, and some reviewers may be biased (how did this guy get the first review unit when according to WHF they have never received a review unit from Benchmark even as it became one of the biggest stories in hifi in the last 12 years?).

But opinions are not meaningless just because they are opinions. Our civilisation rests on this not being true.

 

Nothing wrong with subjective reviews, they are just low on useful, usable info for comparing and making decisions. This is especially true for gear, where (also, if not principally) objective performance is in question and not just subjective opinion, like e.g. with wines, books, movies etc. 

Re A/B comparisons - I do not take any notice of them unless done blind and statistically valid.

I highly doubt that there is any audible difference between the sound of Dac1 and dac2 (even if there are measureable improvements in some performance parameters like distortion and s/n ratio). As mentioned above, I think dac2 is about introducing audiophile (async, dsd) and practical (i/o, triggers, HT bypass) features in response to the market and maybe user requests. Which I think is fantastic, btw.

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RE: Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?

AlmaataKZ wrote:

- technically: likely to be state of the art, have top build quality and accurate sound

how can a device which exhibits pre and post ringing have accurate sound at the same time puzzled

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AlmaataKZ's picture
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RE: Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?

Not everything that is measurable is audible.

jaxwired's picture
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RE: Benchmark DAC2 HGC - A new reference?

I like how long it took benchmark to update the original DAC1.  They had a very long run with no meaningful changes.  This implies they waited until they really had something worth changing.

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