Nice review....I have the Dac1 HDR and I love the
Yeah they pose a big challenge.
I have some excellent solo cello recordings by Gabriel Lipkind, and many Bach and Pachelbel recordings. And Debussy's La Mer. I can say I wholeheartedly enjoy them. I get geometric staging from well recorded orchestra pieces. And the musicality is astounding.
I haven't done comparisons with stuff like Bel Canto and such though. But truly can't imagine needing much more.
I should also state that -imo- the Banchmark DAC2 provides so little coloration and such a degree of resolution that it is the rest of the chain you will be hearing - your power amp and your speakers will be the gatekeepers.
I was just hearing the Casals Quartet's recent Schubert album -a recommended 24/96 recording- and you can hear every single instrument placed in front of you. Super-detailed imaging can get tiring because you may lose yourself in irrelevant details ("oh some spittle in the sax") rather than take in the whole performance, but one good thing I can say about my current (and reasonable) chain is that it all comes together. You *can* go for the detail but you'd rather listen to the whole. I credit mostly the KEF with that, the Benchmark and the amp do what good solid state electronics do - they stay out of the picture.
Since the topic is violins and strings, I may add my favorite rendition of Pachelbel's Canon is by Karl Munchinger (Polygram Records ASIN: B0000041PK), and it is old, and by all means not a stellar recording. You get staging, but it is a bit congested and sports some analog hiss. You'd think it is the type of recording you would not want to listen to through the Benchmark and KEF, because the flaws would be brutally exposed. But lo and behold, I have never enjoyed it more. :)
Disclaimer: I do agree that solid state stuff -like the DA and the Amp- can be so neutral that they seem lean in the middle compared to the creamier, sugary serving of middles you get with tubes. I think that's where the preference for analog comes with strings and I get it. But then again, anyone that's attended a concert with heavy strings knows they can have attitude and be harsh. Vivaldi's storm is the antithesis of the adagio... that's the beauty of strings. I don't think the Benchmark colors them any harsher than they are intended to be by the conductor...
Long time benchmark fan here. I positively loved my years with the DAC1 pre. However, having tried the DAC2 twice now, I have to say that I think they lost some of their mojo with the DAC2. The thing that made the DAC1 a true "benchmark" for all DACs was the utter transparency. The DAC2 sounds less transparent to me, not more. It's definitely way smoother sounding. I know a lot of people claim to like that because it sounds "less digital" but I also think it sounds less open. Just my opinion.
I too owned the DAC1-Pre, I was always impressed with how well the DAC1 could improve my FLAC files coming from my Macbook via Audirvana 184.108.40.206.
I've recently obtained a DAC2-HGC, simply put...wow!! The difference is nothing short of staggering, considerably and obviously more transparent, blacker background allowing each individual instrument to be heard as if the musicians have now stepped out of my speakers and begun entertaining me in my listening room live.
I can hardly begin to praise the DAC2 HGC enough, playing 24/192 flac or DSD files have brought my audio system to a whole new level of realism, its as if I've upgraded every component in my audio system!
Love it! My hats off to Benchmark for designing such a beautiful piece for such an affordable price.