I have to ask "anti-Hifi for Life!" how the DAC2/Power amp matches up to his departed(?) (out of interest) NAD M2, as the new NAD M51 / 390DD also have a similar DAC and are very highly rated.
* Logitech Transporter * Project Xperience II * 2M Blue * Grado Phono * Micromega Stage 4 * Krell KAV-300i * Aerial Acoustics Model 6 * Brandname Inter's/Cables
To be honest, I thought I had an amp I could stick with in the M2. I loved the NAD M2. Best integrated I've ever owned. It was a bit on the smooth/dark side, but the clarity was still outstanding and you can crank the heck out of it and the sound never gets harsh. And the NAD M2 has the best bass I've ever experienced. The bass is to die for. So why'd I switch off the M2, well, I really hate to say anything negative about NAD since I really like their products but...I went through 3 different M2s. All 3 had serious operational defects. And none of the 3 had the same issue. 3 units, 3 different problems. And I'm not talking about nit picking issues, these were problems that rendered the amp non functional entirely. I finally gave up. And there was no way I could ask my dealer for a 4th unit. It was a miserable situation. I miss the M2. Wish I could have kept it.
Now, with that explained, regarding the DAC2 HGC, well, it's hard to say if it's an improvement over the DAC1 since I am using the DAC2 as a preamp and I never did with the DAC1. I can tell you that the DAC2 sounds very good to me. I can also tell you that the DAC2 acting as a preamp into my Belles amp is a more open, slightly more transparent sound than the M2. The bass is not as good, but I think that's the amp, not the DAC.
Music Server -> Micromega MyDAC -> Wyred4Sound Sti 1000 -> PMC IB2s -> Chord Cables
Well maybe another Class D poweramp is in your future: a Bel Canto, Wyred4Sound, AR or Roguee?
'Tis a pity as I was looking forward to seeing your M2 on A-gon and was considering it. Makes me a little hesitant on the other s/h ones out there; glad you went through a dealer.
I'm hoping W4S will put their DAC into their larger Integrated amps, I'm sure it's coming. I think the Benchmark has the perfect feature set though.
I am reminded of the review of the DAC1-HDR by The Audio Critic. Here's their summary:
I am adding this paragraph strictly for the sake of my newer readers. The old regulars know exactly my position regarding the stupidity of ascribing a “character” to the sound of an utterly neutral signal path. Oohing and aahing over the vast improvement in soundstaging, front-to-back depth, bass delineation, or treble sweetness obtainable with this or that electronic component may sell high-end magazines but is totally unscientific and delusional. What the Benchmark DAC1 HDR adds to or subtracts from its input signal is borderline unmeasurable, so the sonic character of its output is obviously the sonic character of its input. It’s as simple as that. It has no sound of its own. Furthermore, its measurements could be 20 or 30 dB worse and it would still sound the same. I have convinced myself of that over and over again in double-blind listening comparisons of all sorts of electronic components at matched levels. The 100% purity of the DAC1 HDR is of benefit mainly in professional systems, where the integrity of the equipment chain needs to be verified and guaranteed. To audiophiles it’s a somewhat abstract luxury—but not an excessively costly one.
All in all, the Benchmark DAC1 HDR is damn close to a perfect piece of equipment. Neither its digital performance nor its analog performance could be meaningfully improved. That’s really all that needs to be said. If I could change anything at all about it, it would be to add a couple more analog inputs. I realize that there is no room for that, so I use a small input switch box that sits on top of it. Most users won’t need it. There exist DACs and preamps at ten times the price of the Benchmark, but they aren’t any better. Let the high-end police come and take me away in handcuffs.
It is inconceivable to me that the DAC2 could be head and shoulders better sounding than the DAC1. If that was the case it would demonstrate that the DAC1 is a very poor DAC, which very clearly it is not.
The sound differences must be marginal at best, and probably in audible. Certainly I expect I would not be able to hear any difference. There comes a point when - unless you have limitless money - something is actually "good enough", and I think the DAC1 already reached that point. That said, if I did not already own a DAC1, I would likely buy a DAC2 in preference to a DAC1 as the marginal price hike does seem worth it for the extra features.
That said, if I did not already own a DAC1, I would likely buy a DAC2 in preference to a DAC1 as the marginal price hike does seem worth it for the extra features.
+1. I wouldn't mind some extra optical inputs. And thankyou for bringing The Audio Critic to my attention, they have this on their home page: Until early 2005, this was a print publication. Our migration to the Internet has not changed our basic approach to audio reviewing. Determining the accuracy of audio reproduction is a completely objective process. Evaluating aesthetic satisfaction derived from audio reproduction is, on the other hand, totally subjective. Critics who confuse or conflate the two are doing the consumer a great disservice and are responsible for most of the grotesque misinformation that blights today's audio journalism. We believe in measuring and we believe in listening but we don't believe in measuring with our ears. I think I'm in love! I almost wish I was in the market for some new kit.
Synology NAS + ATV2 > ADM9RS
if you don't mind i'll quote another opinion from Stereophile, where a top Bel Canto Dac 3.5VB is reviewed and compared to Benchmark Dac1 HDR.
" The Sound of Silence The e.One DAC3.5VB didn't sound like anything. Tonally, it had no sonic character of its own. Bass was very extended and full, yet had nice slam. The bass-drum machines in Kraftwerk's nicely remastered Trans Europe Express (CD, Kling Klang 5099930830325) were delivered with both speed and weight. (It frightens me that this album was made when I was still in diapers.) The DAC3.5VB's midrange was fleshy, even, and full of texture. Gidon Kremer's violin in Vladimir Martynov's exquisite Come In! (CD, Nonesuch 79582-2) offered the right balance of the instrument's wooden body, steel strings, and rosined bow. The DAC3.5VB's treble was among the cleanest, clearest, and most extended I've heard, and imposed no emphasis or grain on any recording I played. For me, the differences between the good and the best digital sound can be most easily heard in the top octaves. Good digital gear gets the tonal balance in the top octaves right, but smears and smooshes treble sounds into slightly homogenized information. The best digital gear delineates each treble sound in space and with a distinct timbre—sibilants sound like sibilants, shakers like shakers, cymbals like cymbals—each surrounded by the proper halo of acoustic. In this regard, the DAC3.5VB produced among the best digital sound I've heard."
"It's now 2011, and I thought I'd set up a shoot-out between each company's latest models, the e.One DAC3.5VB and the DAC1 HDR ($1895). I matched the volume levels between the DACs with a RadioShack SPL meter and the test tones on Editor's Choice (CD, Stereophile STPH015-2), then played some tunes, beginning with a track from that same disc: pianist Robert Silverman's reading of Liszt's Liebestraum. There was very little tonal difference between the DACs. Each presented a very neutral and revealing picture of this piano playing in this hall, the Bel Canto letting me more easily "see" the piano's outline in relief against its acoustic surroundings. It was when I turned to music with more complicated mixes and more information at the frequency extremes that the Bel Canto outshone the Benchmark. The DAC3.5VB had deeper bass, a sweeter, more extended, more grain-free treble, a more liquid midrange, and a bigger, more layered soundstage. Don't get me wrong, the Benchmark DAC1 HDR is a fantastic product, but I feel that the DAC3.5VB's clearly superior performance entirely justifies its significantly higher price. In fact, I think the Bel Canto e.One DAC3.5VB is in a league altogether different from the still-impressive Benchmark DAC1 HDR."
So if the Benchmark has already reached perfection 10 years ago, why there is still room for improvement?
this race will never end..
Tellurium Q black XLR
AKG K702 Anniversary
That reads as a rather flowery and typically vague hifi review to me and doesn't really tell anyone anything of any real worth, only that the reviewer prefers the Bel Canto.
The race is already over as far as audibility goes. Once you reach audible transparency, where else is left to go?
The advancements for the latest Benchmark DAC are mainly of functionality, the unit measures better, but as I've said, the DAC1 was already transparent so the new better measurements are basically only for bragging rights in a home audio situation.
Mac mini > AVI ADM9Ts
Just to highlight one small part of that review, "The DAC3.5VB had deeper bass...". This is quite clearly completely untrue. The Benchmark is flat to below 10hz! How on earth can it have 'deeper bass' when the Benchmark goes lower than can be heard? Subjective reviews are unreliable and worthless.
Sorry to butt in on this debate, but if i was to buy a Dac1 could i connect my CD-T80 up to it and what would be the best way? I noticed the balanced outputs which is grande as i have balance inputs on my pwr amp...... also are all units universal 115/240v?
Thanks in advance
Shanling CD-T80, Jolida JD1501P Hybrid, Morel 602's (Hand built & modified)
LESS IS MORE!
100% agree. This is a view I have held for many years but to be honest I don't air it much because usually - on hifi forums at least - there are so many people who take offence and who get quite aggressive. That someone might dare suggest, or imply, they are actually deluded if they think their expensive mains leads / mains fuse / hifi rack or whatever other nonsense makes any difference to their hifi's sound. When patently it does not, can not and never will.
This is just silly. People said this after the CD was invented too, and now 30 years later a sizeable set of people still think their LPs are better, clicks, pops and all. I can give you measurements proving that they are wrong - but it doesn't prove anything. The 'science of being an audiophile' is not accoustics, but rather psychoaccoustics. It's all a big trick really - to give your brain the best possible illusion of sound - music - that isn't actually there. Given that science has only a very rudimentary understanding of how your ears work, and almost zero understanding of how this sensation is transmitted to and perceived by your brain, it is absurd to claim that no perceived differences in sound are possible unless they can be measured with the equipment currently available to, say, John Atkinson.
How can anyone say that with such confidence? The greatest scientist in the world can't cure most forms of deafness, but there are people on this forum with a complete understanding of how our ears work. Amazing!
People who compare a DAC with a digital cable or hifi stand are not to be taken seriously. A DAC is a source, which is essentially creating the analogue music you hear. You can't reasonably claim that any DAC has 'already reached transparency' and thus, any superior DAC will sound exactly the same. You can make this claim with an all-digital component - an HDMI cable, say - since if the 1s and 0s that come out of one end are exactly the same as those that emerge from the other end, the cable can no longer be improved, by definition. This is hard science, no psychoaccoustics needed.
But a DAC creates analogue music from data. It is like a turntable or CD player in that it must have some kind of sonic character, since an analogue stream cannot be 'proven' to be 'perfect.' As we have seen from countless other source components, there is always a character, even if at some point it becomes just different instead of better.
Do you really think that the WHF reviewers who wet themselves over the dcs Debussy were faking it? Why? Or how about the Naim NDS - six grand, and WHF agrees it's fabulous. But they also say that it gets much better when you add the 555 power supply for another six grand. OK - so WHF does a lot of cheerleading for Naim, despite only giving them one award this year, for a pre-amp for which few are in the market. But if that DAC was just as good with the cheaper power supply (still a seven grand combo), surely they either would have said so, or maybe just said nothing. But the better PS does make a difference, as it almost always does with almost any audio component.
So what would the Benchmark sound like with a six-grand power supply? If it's already acheived 'perfect transparency,' and thus cannot be improved, then it would not make any difference. But it would, and in fact there exists a cottage industry built around audiophile modifications for the Benchmark DAC1.
The truth is, any part of your system that carries an analogue signal will make a difference, subtle or otherwise, to what reaches your brain. People who think amps are important but not speaker cables (for example) are saying that the wires and components on one side of a speaker terminal are important, but the ones on the other side are not - when in fact they are part of the same electrical circuit. An electron is not aware of the fact that you bought your amp at one shop and your cable at another. The only real 'component' in your system, electrically speaking, is your system! Every choice, every capacitor, every wire has a effect, big or miniscule, on the totality sound that reaches your ears from that circuit.
That's why the key to great hifi is component matching. Three different high-end DACs or CD players, in which different choices were made by their designers, will sound three different ways. They will not all sound the same, and one will not be 'best.' Surely they will all be quite transparent but their analogue side will have a tonal character which - combined with the tonal character of the rest of your system - will almost certainly make for significant differences in how you perceive the final sound. This is certainly true of any other hifi source; any claim that DACs are somehow different is illogical, and people ought to know better.
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
Recently sold: KEF Q300 speakers, AudioEngine D1 DAC, Mini TL speakers based on Seas W15LY001
2. Coaxial connection (a simple RCA cable)
3. No, but they can be switched between 115 and 240v by turning around the fuse holder - it's easy and explained in the manual
SpursGator - great post! Really enjoyed reading it - finally, a post that made sense to me. Good stuff.
This is just silly.
It has been possible for a long time* to insert an ADC > DAC into an analogue loop and it make no difference to the sound. There are documented blind listening tests where this has been done.
*The earliest I've seen an audibly transparent digital loop (ADC and then into a DAC) inserted into an analogue playback system is 1984.
You miss the point entirely. Just because it is technically possible to prove this in a double-blind test does not mean that every DAC above a certain level sounds the same, especially when it is connected to an abnormally high-resolution amp and speakers.
Look, I am wiling to concede that there are many things I value in hifi that if you isolated them and put me in a double-blind test, I probably would fail. But beware of the myth of the fairness of the double-blind test. There are differences that such a test does not reveal - for example, there may be minor distortion that is hidden by the greater distortion present in many power amps. But hooking it up to an amp with a lower noise floor may reveal differences. Or perhaps both A and B sound identical to every listener in the test, but keep both systems for a week and you might discover that one is quite fatiguing to listen to after an hour or so, but the other you can listen to all night. In both of these examples, the amp used for the test, and the duration of the test, respectively, have a far greater influence on the outcome of the test that what you think we're testing for does.
Speaker builders have a similar argument about capacitor quality in crossovers. Some people think you can't hear the difference, some people know that you can. If someone asked me what I thought, I would say that it depends on the quality of your source and amplification.
But more to the point: all of these quality elements might be inaudible if you isolate them for an A v B test. The speaker cables, the DAC's output stage, the brand of tubes, the capacitors in the speakers, impendence correction in the amp, power supply isolation, etc. - I'd be hard pressed to tell the difference on an A/B test with any of them alone.
But I am not hard-pressed at all to tell you that the key to great sound is paying attention to ALL of it. Maybe one of these elements doesn't make a huge difference, but attention to all of them, collectively, is the difference between high-end and average. You can pay almost any price for a 100-watt amp - the difference in price and quality is all in the details.
I think the restaurant analogy is valid - cooking is a similar fusion of science and human sensation. Could Michelin reviewers tell the difference between two identical main courses, in which one used a few tablespoons of fine wine as a sauce ingredient, and another used plonk? If there were no other differences I am thinking probably not. Or maybe the 'golden tongue' Michelin reviewers would say they could taste it, and some would scoff and them and that whole snobby culture. Well, maybe they taste it, or maybe they don't, but I do know that a restaurant that uses fine quality ingredients across the board, and pays attention to every detail, cooks one level of food, and other restaurants, who maybe start with the same cut of meat but are not as obsessive about the details (because they just know it's a waste, in a double-blind who could tell?) - they cook at another, less star-annointed level. Because at that point, the end result, EVERYONE can tell the difference.
It is certainly a valid debate as to how much of a difference each element makes relative to the others. I happen to think that the source is very important, and in an all-digital system such as mine, the DAC is the source and whatever it is outputting is going straight into my amplifier. But that is open to debate - would I benefit more from upgrading the amp or upgrading the DAC? But anyone who tells you that a certain element doesn't matter at all - careful of them. If there is an analog signal running though it, it matters. If you lavish the finest attention on your entire signal path, your system will sound better, just as when you cook with the finest ingredients, the dish will taste better. It is really quite obvious.
© 2013 Haymarket Publishing