Haven't heard the CI VDA2, but I do have the Monarchy M24 and the Benchmark DAC1 on hand. I used to have the Monarchy in my second system and now it has moved to my primary system. I think it may stay there.
It's just so sweet and musical. I believe the Benchmark sounds slightly clearer/cleaner (and a bit more clinical). The Monarchy provides a very satisfying presentation in that the highs are so silky, the vocals are focused and immediate, and the harmonic structure of many midrange instruments is spot on. The bass has plenty of power and slam and is only slightly less defined than the Benchmark.
I'm listening to Seal's Acoustic album at the moment, and it sounds wonderful. Also realize that the M24 includes a volume control and a very competent tube linestage preamp (in addition to the direct DAC output) so you can use it as a high-end tube preamp in conjunction with a phono stage or other source component. I'd call that a bargain any which way you slice it.
Plato, Thanks for the info. Do you run the Monarchy 24 directly in to your amp? I would be using it with an integrated so I wouldn't use the volume control. Have you tried it both ways?
The Benchmark is excellent and does many things well. It's a great value, but it's a tad clinical for me.
84audio, I'm actually running the M24's DAC stage directly into my preamp and then into my amps. I have tried it both ways and think that the M24 sounds a bit more palpable and immediate if you bypass its linestage and volume control. I put a pair of Siemens E88CC gold-pin tubes in the DAC stage and they sound fantastic -- especially in the highs. Some folks seem to like the NOS Mullards, as well.
Your comments on the Benchmark are well taken and understood.
Monarchy Audio today suggested using their DIP Upsampler in conjunction with the M24, especially if using a DVD player as a transport. Anyone using the DIP Upsampler, too?
I'm considering trying the M24 to use in conjunction with my Sony CDP77ES changer c. 1991. The Sony has an optical output.
BTW, I'd like to know the dimensions of the M24 if anyone has them. There is no info on the Monarchy website about the dimensions.
The Dagogo reviewer listed them as 17/14/4.
Recently, I was encouraged to listen to a new Benchmark Dac 1. A friend told me that while the company hasn't changed model numbers, newer units sound better. I've put about 300 hours on a new Benchmark, and I'm pleasantly surprised at how good it sounds. About 18 months ago I extensively auditioned a Dac 1. Since then Benchmark has begun using Texas Instrument op amps, and has made some other minor changes to the product. For whatever reason, I think the new units are much less sterile and much more listenable. It's the same impressive detail without the harshness. It sure isn't tubes, and I wouldn't call it warm, but if you have only heard an older version, it might be worth a listen to a newer unit.
I'm using the Monarchy M24 now and have also recently put in Siemens NOS goldpin tubes (after about 3 weeks of the stock Sylvania tubes). This DAC has surprised me and may stay in my system. I have not tried the linestage and probably won't as running it through my passive preamp is working well at this time.
While I find the build quality to be very good overall, I think the push buttons on the front have a cheezy feel to them. I also leave the blue light that illuminates the sampling rate off. The sound on the top end still appears to be ever so grainy and bright, especially versus my non-os DAC, but the Monarchy does quite a bit more things right that outweigh this very minor detail.
Hello , what means " a new benchmark Dac 1 "
I think they changed op amps in March of 2006.
I am very interested in this thread. Has no one heard the VAC2?
Also - and I've asked this before - the Pacific Valve modded Lite Audio DAC 62 is based on the same platform as the Monarchy M24. It uses a different DAC, but a well-regarded one. It omits the preamp section and volume control, and sells for $750. Unlike Monarchy Audio, both Channel Islands and Pacific Valve offer 30-day return options (100% from CI and through several of its mail order sellers, and 97% refund from Pacific Valve).
For me, the problem is that the Monarchy seems to be almost universally favored over other DACs in this price category, but I am afraid that I will be unhappy once I get it into my rig - something that has happened before. I kknow the resale value of the M24 is quite high, but still, it makes me more nervous than a good return policy (i.e., little or no restock fee).
Actually the M24 and Lite DAC 50 (no longer in production I believe) share more in common.
I was a bit hesitant to try the M24, as CC Poon indicated there was a 15% restocking fee if I returned it. However, I'm glad I did. This is an excellent DAC for the money and a steal used. The new version has both the tube and solid state output so you can switch between both.
I own both the M24 and I think a 2005 Benchmark DAC 1. The DAC 1 is more precise and clear in comparison to the M24. But I prefer the M24 to the DAC 1 because the M24 sounds more three dimensional in my system and seems to be easier to listen to for long periods of time. My system(Maggie 1.6's, Nuforce 9.02's, with the M24 running directly into the NUforces through a pair of EVS attenuators). I will say this, at first it was hard for me to say that I preferred one dac to the other UNTIL I put a pair of PAD's anniversary speaker cables into the system. Boy what a difference those cables made ...for the better. Hey get the M24 and have fun playing around with tubes and please put all of your equipment on Mapleshade platforms (no relationship to Mapleshade) the Mapleshade stuff really improved my whole system. And have fun! I also prefer Ei Elite 6dj8e tubes in the DAC section to the stock tubes. By the way I think I bought the M24 on Plato's recommendation and I am glad that I did! The DAC it has been a lot of fun tweaking.
bang for buck the Benchcmark dac 1 is a very good sounding dac. I've been using the old unit for quite sometime now and am pleased.
A lot has happened since I posted that question almost a year ago. I needed a dac for a second system and took a fly on the Benchmark. I had heard the product many times, and I've always considered it a great value. But while I loved it's clarity and resolution, it sounded a bit too clinical and somehow missed the soul of the music.
I read that the company had changed op amps which made the dac sound much smoother and less harsh, so having a 30 day return policy, I took a chance.
The current version (IMHO) is much better than the earlier production. I wouldn't call it warm or euphonic, but I wouldn't call it harsh either. It's incredibly resolving, and I'm amazed at how much you get for it's asking price. I think it's a great value! Your mileage may vary, but if you haven't heard the Benchmark in a couple of years, it might be worth another listen.
I'm now considering putting a small system in my bedroom. (I know--can you say obsessive?) I could go with another Benchmark but it would be more fun to try something else.
The Monarchy might be a great fit. Both the reviews and word of mouth are very strong, and it's on my short list, but I'd prefer not to risk a 15% restocking fee.
The new PS Audio Dac sounds like an interesting possibility, and I'm really curious about the modified Lite Audio Dac-60 from GR Research.
Does anyone have any experience listening too the PS or Lite, or comparing any of these dacs? Any other dac suggestions in that price range?