Interested in hearing from those who have gone to a standalone DAC. Particularly those models from Benchmark. Would like info as to (1) what component you are using to feed the DAC (2) the component to which you have the output of the DAC connected (3) the type of connection (4) what setup you were using before going to the DAC, and (5) your take on the benefits experienced from the change.
imac-usb (kimber Kable) benchmark-bent audio tvc-parasound jc 1- soundlab a3 with balanced connections. The jury is still out on the tvc as I need to upgrade my xlr cables... The biggest improvement I have had was switching to a server as opposed to using transports.
Esoteric SA-60 via a reimyo digital cable to a reimyo 999 Dac. The 999 is reimyo's newest Dac and it blows everything else out. (and yeah the dealer had the benckmark new Dac which is ok but nothing close to the 999 of course list on the 999 is $8900 v/ $1299 for the benchmark and no the 999 does not have a usb out. Before this I was using the SA-60 balanced outs. The benefit- the 999 is better than any digital I have heard. Period. No money aside.
I was using a 1995 Teac VRDS-25 CDP in my second system with Meitner preamp/power amp and Tannoy System 12 DMT speakers. Added a Benchmark DAC1 with unsurprising improvements in every audio parameter, except bass weight. Then I optimized the Teac as a transport with new parts (power supply caps, master clock, digital output board) from ASE-Audiotuning in Germany). Further improvements in bass weight, "presence" and overall resolution.
I have to say, though, the new Bryston BCD-1 CD player has replaced this combo: it is superior in every way.
My main digital source remains superior to both: Teac P-70/Universal Audio 2192, but it retailed at more than 4 times the Bryston BCD-1.
I also had the Benchmark dac-1 in my system. Then I auditioned the Bryston BCD-1 and sold the Dac-1. The BCD-1 has excellent bottom end,air ect.She's alot closer to the analog sound which I like alot.I am using the analog outs of the BCD-1 into my AV-8(stereo direct)no processing. I even took out my DD-15 for music as the BCD-1 gives me more refined bottom end weight.I hope this is my last cdp,she's very satisfying.
I replaced a Cary 303/300 with a QSonix server into a DAC-1. The Benchmark is a "leaner" sounding unit than the Cary (even with the Cary's ss output stage) in the loop. The DAC-1's sound polarizes opinion like so many other compnents with this tonal quality (IMHO Quads, the original Merlin VSM, and some of the ARC electronics also share this sound). Some say "transparent" other say "dry or analytical".
IMHO, the DAC-1 requires an audition even more than most components. It is also more likely to be system dependant than most components. The rest of this system is a Joule pre into either PrimaLuna monos or TAD Hibachi monos into either Verity Parsifal Encores or Merlin VSMs. The speakers and amps are the primary options in current rotation. FWIW, in this system (particularly with the Veritys) I like my DAC-1 a lot.
I chose to stay out of the 'debated sonic signature of the Benchmark' altogether... without auditioning it first. the feeling I got about it by reading posts and reviews indicated to me it might not be for me. eg., above... "transparent or dry and analytical"...
Transparency is fine, especially with sources, and in fact, throughout a system, yet without the emotive infulence of nuances and subtleties true music reveals, I'll not be enjoying it for long. Been there and done that and won't do it again.
I did opt for another popular brand, the BC DAC3. It's attributes in my system, were very positive, and I enjoy immensely what it allows the system to become. I did try several power cords on it, and several digital & analog cables, along with various isolation devices, and power filters.
What works best in my rig is having the BC D3 power fed by a RSA Haley, using a Shunyata taipan Helix feed cord, and placing a Voodoo tesla II pc as the BC D3's immediate pc... the best digital cable I found was a Stereovox XV2. Under $500-$600 used, it's hard to beat!
Analog ics for it IMHO are either Synergistic Research tesla series, Acoustic Refs, Nirvana SX Ltd., or at times HT Magic IIs... pretty much in that order as well.
The analog outs feed via SE a Thor TA 1000 MK II. Usually. Which in turn drives either an Odyssey Stratos sE SS amp, or a pair of Dodd 120 MK II tube amps... I say usually as the BC D3 does a very good job as a preamp, negating the Thor.... though the influence of the Thor is hard to stay away from for long.
Source/drives for the BC D3, range in audio excellence from the SCD XA 777es, Dell PC via USB, and then whatever, thereafter. Oppo, carosel, etc.
(1) what component you are using to feed the DAC -- a trusty original Rega Planet CD player
(2) the component to which you have the output of the DAC connected -- Naim Nait 5i
(3) the type of connection -- RCA out from Planet to BNC in on Benchmark (via Canare RCA-to-BNC cable), Kimber PBJ from DAC to amp
(4) what setup you were using before going to the DAC -- the Rega Planet
(5) your take on the benefits experienced from the change -- a significant improvement worth the investment -- greater transparency, better defined bass, high end both smoother and more extended, more precise sense of lateral and front-to-back positioning of musicians in the soundstage, less "digit-itis" therefore easier to listen to for extended periods
In short, from this listener, thumbs up for the Benchmark DAC-1.
Have used standalone DAC since adding an Apogee DA-1000E-20 to my Shanling T100.
Have discovered digital interconnect cable matters and that Steve Nugent (Audioengnr) is right when he says most setups need 1.5m length. Have used Wireworld Gold Starlight, Zu Ash, Apogee Wyde Eye, Ensemble Gigaflux, VH cryo Pulsar and now Atlas Opus.
Have also discovered transport matters and have gone from T100 to TEAC T1 to Esoteric P-10.
Apogee DA-1000 died, not fixable, replaced by Apogee Mini-DAC and battery power, now using Stellavox ST2.
On the way tried Benchmark DAC-1, found it extraordinary but as a tool for detail resolution more than a music player. Still worth a try.
System 1) Audio Analogue Paganini CD to April Music Stello DA220 Dac to either SoundQuest SQ 88 tube integrated orPlinius 8200 Mk2 integrated - Virtual Dynamic Testament Digital RCa. Previously using just Paganini
System 2) Arcam CD72 to PS Audio Digi Link 3 to either Consonnace Cyber Sig 100 integrated, or Portal Panache integrated - IXOS digital RCA. Previously used Lite Audio Dac Am Modified
I have used various mid-priced CDPs including Classe, Jolida, Ah!, others. I am now feeding the PS Audio Digital Link III from the Jolida. I tried the Oppo 980 as a transport and it was missing something. The PSA DLIII is warm, detailed and very natural. I am using Signal Cable ICs and digital RCA. The DAC goes through a tubed pre-amp to Class D amps. I highly recommend using a stand-alone DAC for most people. I am sure the very high-end CDPs, such a Bryston, are even better, if you can afford them, but I have not heard them.