Best DAC

Hey Audiogon,

This is my first post here.  I've been doing quite a bit of research and am looking for a DAC for my system.

My laptop will be the source.  I already have an Audio Research pre-amp that I find to be the best for my listening preferences.  So, I really don't need the DAC to do anything besides convert... no pre-amp or headphone amp needed.

I would like the most neutral DAC possible, and am tempted to check out the Benchmark DAC1 USB or DAC2.  I also like the Bel Canto DAC2 for its simplicity.  I will probably be looking on the used market at anything under $1000.  Of course, the greater the value, the better.

Overall, I am looking for the most neutral DAC possible because I believe that my pre-amp, amp and speakers should be the components coloring the music.  I see people mentioning that the benchmarks are too "harsh" or "revealing" but I think that may be cleared up by the pre-amp.  We won't know until its in the system, but I want to make an educated purchase.

Any input is greatly appreciated.  Thank you
I'd stay clear of BelCanto.  I have a pair of BC amps and have had problems with them.  Called Bel Canto and left three VM's and sent numerous emails to arrange a fix - no response.  Went back to the dealer where I got them and the dealer dropped the BC line for ther same reason: they build but they don't support.
I second the vote on a Bryston DAC. My BDA-1 outclassed my Arcam FMJ23 player. And the  support from Bryston is outstanding! 
@reggy you should be fine.

I had the Amenero USB in my lampizator.

Since I posted this years ago, the biggest change is the performance of the server. I actually think the server/software is equal or more important than the DAC (assuming you start with a decent one).

The Regen has had some updates that now include galvanic isolation and better power supply, so those could be worthwhile depending on the weaknesses of the server, but it's hard to say.  I think they sell them with a money back guarantee, so it's something you can try.


Great thanks for the feedback, much appreciated I may consider it since there is the money back guarantee. 

I play PCM content from an external harddrive to laptop through foobar using SoX mod 2 resampler as an available DSP. I am new to getting involved with the chain but I look and ask around and get curious once and a bit.

I once tried feeding the Ares native DSD via HQ player but found it wasn't worth it as my Razer fans were spinning hard. 

I am not sure if I am missing out on something with my setup on the server/computer side assuming I don't change the upline components. 

I will probably just wait and save money down the road to purchase the Yggdrasil Analog 2 and call it a day but we'll see, I am very patient in enjoying what I have for now and becoming acquainted with my system before upgrading. I have studio monitors for now (Genelec 8040B 's) fed XLR to a simple passive POT.