Banchmark DAC3B vs. Denafrips Pontus II (12th Aniv.)

So I'm considering one of these DACs. They're about the same price new. Any thoughts on which direction? My pre-amp and amp are both Benchmark and the speakers are Reference 3A NEFES II. I realize keeping it all Benchmark is appealing, but the Pontus looks very interesting.


Sorry, I forgot to mention the source to the DAC is an Auralic Aries G1 file player.

The Benchmark DAC is capable of studio level output (+22 dBu) that maximizes the performance (i.e., signal-to-noise ratio) of the Benchmark pre and amp. Off the top of my head, I think the RME ADI-2 Fs and the Okto Research DAC8 can also do the same.

I have the LA4 + AHB2 mono with KEF LS50 Meta + KC62 sub. I also have the DAC3B in the system but only use it with a tube headphone amp.

I would not recommend the DAC3B over a slightly warmer DAC such as the Pontus. Though that would depend on how bright your speaker is. With my neutral sounding LS50 Meta I liked a bit of warmth. I used a Musetec 005 DAC and it was excellent. I sold the Musetec to raise cash for a used Lumin X1 and that is the best match so far with the LA4 + AHB2 + LS50. The X1 is in-between the Musetec 005 and the DAC3B in tone.

If I cannot swing the $$ for an expensive DAC I am looking to buy in Sept, I will buy the Musetec 005 again for the Benchmark system and use the X1 on the new Livingroom system (my original plan).





please see the current thread on “Pontus II clicks or static” in the digital section.

What DAC are you using now, and sound characteristics/improvements are you looking for in the context of your system?



Interesting that the Pontus has significant problems with intersample overs. Benchmark has an application note that explains this scenario and what they did to fix it in their converters.


If using the DAC with a PC, a workaround is to reduce the output level a couple of steps in the music player or the OS volume control. Not ideal, but better than nothing.


That’s interesting. I don’t use a Pontus dac but was following the thread because I couldn’t believe they (mfg) would let that problem go on so long without a solution. I wonder if Pontus owners would have luck trying the same solution.

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I have heard them together ,the star not mentioned is the Gustard R2R26;dac which is better then the both especially in bass and dynamics 

the way the circuit layout is it takes a 2.5amp slow blow fuse you put in a respectable power cord which applies to all of them ,the Gustard has good size potted transformer the other 2 donot for lower noise ,it takes a bit more current draw ideally put in a Audiomagic -M1 fuse it removes any image density and adds detail .it’s actually a bit better rounded then the Synergistic Purple fuse which is 

still very good . If. You are willing to upgrade the fuse and use say a $200 Pangea  sig mk2 using Cardas best Copper it’s a excellent value for the money .in our audio club we are within 200 miles or less of 5 states I have heard more then most shows 

just doa search on the Gustard if you buy the fuse ,writing facing Up or 1 withthe notch on the 1 on top . Give it a solid 200 hours runin  and very hard to match at under $2k and has multiple filters you can play with. 

Sorry for dble post. Anyway, at these prices it would be hard to beat any Gustard. A, X or PRO, all with remote

I have the Pontus II with an ultraRendu streamer.  I love the combination and have never had the pops and clicks issue.  I use it with an Audio Research LS7 preamp, a Rogue Audio stereo 100 amp and Fritz Carrera BE speakers.  I am very happy with this setup and wish you well on your search.

Good for Benchmark. I bought a Jay's cdt2-mk3 from Alvin and I told him personally I couldn't consider any Denafrips dacs no matter how good they are since they offer no remote. Maybe one day that will change.

I had the Pontus and Hestia preamp and tired of their house sound, a personal thing. I moved to the DAC3B and LA4 and could not be happier. It is my endgame system.

Have not heard those, but the Gustard R26 is a very good sounding R2R that I thoroughly enjoy, especially for tracks that are more… “musical” rather than gut punching rock etc..  I find the fast delta sigma to sound better for 24/192 tracks of “busy” songs blasted at, probably too, high SPL.


Sorry if I don’t have all the jargon or terminology down pat.. just saying.. the R26 sounds better than the delta sigma(it is an smsl su-10)  for some music and the delta sigma sounds better for others.

You are comparing a DACs at uneven MSRPs.

If you buy an Ares 2-Had one for a week- you can resell

it for nearly what you paid.  Warranty transfers.

Out of curiosity, why is no remote a deal breaker? When I eventually purchase a standalone dac I want it to be a dac only, without any preamp and other extras, including remote, so it’s as simple and ‘pure’ as possible. 

Pontus ll 12th here as well. Have never heard a pop or click and quite happy with the SQ. Can’t imagine why a remote would be needed. The only interface is when changing from one digital source (CDP) to another (streamer). Lots of great choices out there. 

I’m not sure where this thread went but I’ll chime in and also say take a look at the Gustard x26 pro.  Has dual chipset and extremely quiet in all aspects.  (Clicking being mentioned on others in this thread are non existent with the Gustard and personally don’t think should exist with any DAC at any price)

Where does the Gustard have to be sent to for repair? Both the Benchmark and Denafrips have US repair available. That is important to me as I've had more than 1 DAc crap out.

Good for Benchmark. I bought a Jay's cdt2-mk3 from Alvin and I told him personally I couldn't consider any Denafrips dacs no matter how good they are since they offer no remote. Maybe one day that will change.

What exactly would you want a remote for a dac to do? 

OK so I have added the Gustard R26 to my short list, but where does it get sent for repair if needed?

My scratching my head on the Gustard. It appears it has an ESS chip, not R2R. 

Have had a Pontus II DAC for over a year and still love the sound. NEVER heard a tic, or click, or any odd sound. Leans slightly warm or smooth, but still has all the resolution up high…..never fatiguing or harsh, and that large soundstage

I would go with the Benchmark.   It's a quality DAC from quality people....  don't take a chance on Chi Fi that still has bugs, and more importantly you can't demo it and there is no return policy.    Any credible outfit will let you demo their gear,  a no return policy is a huge red flag to me.  To buy something new and to sell it if you aren't happy is insane to me .   Support your local dealer....

I have owned both the Pontus II and the Benchmark Dac2 HGC and was able to compare them side-by side for as long as I needed to. My advice is this: If you’re going the Benchmark route (which I have done) there is great value in staying with Benchmark all the way through, from top to bottom – from Dac to Preamp to amplifier.  Benchmark gear is incredibly synergistic in how it works together. It’s almost self-defeating to use any other gear with a Benchmark setup. Other gear just seems to subtract from the whole somehow.

I had the Pontus II before I moved to the Benchmark gear (I was using Hegel and Primaluna amps). I really liked the Pontus and thought it was an endgame Dac for my system. But when I went to the Benchmark AHB2 and LA4, then compared the Pontus II with the Dac2, it was clear to me that in the Benchmark setup, the Dac2 sounded better. The Pontus now sounded colored and a bit flat sounding (less holographic) than the Dac2.

The Benchmark gear is very neutral in its sound. When you insert something that adds color in a Benchmark chain, the coloration is quickly revealed and feels out of place. With my other amps, the Pontus II was just as good, and in some ways even better than the Dac2, but not so in the Benchmark chain.

That’s my experience. YMMV. I’ve sold the Pontus II and haven’t looked back. So in your case, I wouldn’t rush to the seduction of rave reviews and worries that somehow you’re coming up short with the Dac3. You’re not. Not at all.

Looking at these two offerings one thing is common neither support 32 bit inputs.

While most folks don't care, for those that are curating 384 Khz 32 Bit Floating Point files to play would not be happy with these products.

Simply speaking IMHO everything sounds better at 32 bit, Jimi Hendrix especially LOL!

Everything; try it you'll like it too

I have Pontus II 12th and never heard any pops, tic or click. I would say system synergy as our members mentioned is the key for great sound. Best of luck!

I got a DAC3B on USAM. It arrives on Tuesday. It will be replacing an old Cambridge DAC Magic that actually did a pretty good job subbing in.

OP, please post an update. Considering DAC3 B myself, which would replace a PSA DS DAC MKII. Already have the HPA4 and AHB2 in my chain.

So the DAC3B has come and gone in the past 8 months. It was nice, but didn't wow me into loving it. I am currently using an Okto DAC8 Stereo and this one I like. While the Benchmark would allow a much higher output level thus allowing the AHB2 amp to be run in a lower input level, thereby reducing noise, I had found no difference in the sound, as overall distortion is way to low to hear anyway.

I owned the Denafrips Pontus II for a short time before swapping it out for a Benchmark DAC3 L.

I found the Pontus II to be very colored and it was a poor match with my Sudgen IA-4 integrated.  The Benchmark DAC3 L has been excellent.  Beautiful synergy.  I have no regrets.

FWIW I also owned a Denafrips Ares 2 which I liked very much, although I was running it through a Hegel H190 at the time.  It was a huge step up from the Hegel's onboard DAC.