Bel Canto DAC2.5 and DAC3.5VB have balance control.
Disclosure: I am a Bel Canto dealer
Disclosure: I am a Bel Canto dealer
Of course, Benchmark makes a DAC now that has volume and balance, so if you like your Benchmark, that would be my suggestion. Rwwear-- Re why anyone would want a balance control--any small differences in speaker efficiency (between two speakers of same model etc), any differences in room layout--asymmetries--any slight channel inbalance in the electronics--these all contribute to the need for a balance control "even" in a "high end system". Not to mention mismatched or poorly balanced software selections.
I certainly understand that the balance could be slightly off in a system but it's so easy to move your listening position or adjust your speakers til correct. Even the best balance controls add distortion to your system unless done in the digital domain and then only when done with high resolution devices.
Why balance controls? I think this is summed up nicely by Anthony H. Cordesman in an old Stereophile review from 1987.
"No serious audiophile is going to be so much of a purist as to eliminate the balance control, simply because so many recordings have slightly unbalanced channels. Since the balance control acts as the "imaging control," and minor adjustments are essential to getting the proper spread and depth of instruments from right to left, no halfway decent system can do without one. Only an audiophile content with a system that never had proper musical focus could bear to listen to music without at least occasionally adjusting system balance." - Anthony H. Cordesman, from an old Stereophile review from 1987.
I think this is still true in our digital age.
Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2 has both volume control and balance control implemented in the digital domain.
Don't be afraid of its volume control in digital domain, it's a DAC that internally works on 32 bit and that makes its volume control work without bit-loss.
Being implemented digitally, means no extra circuitry in the signal path.
I know because I have one and it's excellent.
Theta Gen VIII has balance control, and is an excellent DAC as well (it is what I am using now), and there are a bunch of them for sale now. It operates in the analog domain. It is basically a function of the volume control; it is as if there were 2 separate volume controls, one for each channel, so there is no sonic degradation caused by it - no extra pot. The volume control works by switching resistors in and out, with one discreet resistor for each volume step, so all you ever go through is one resistor and one switching device (I believe a solid state relay, although I'm not sure). I apologize for any typos; I just got in from shovelling the driveway yet again, and had a nice big martini to kill the pain.
I have been trying to get by without traditional volume and balance functions for to long to remember. I like to be able to compensate for program variations, room acoustic differences, and different listener positions. As well as the amount of people in the space. What is worse is the volume controls, where you turn them around and around, and you cannot get the sound to drop down a notch.
Hay, I blast it, and when I need to turn it down I want to reach for that rotary volume control and go from three oclock, to eight oclock and shut that thing down, in one simple turn. I do not have time to look for a remote to hit the mute. I know where the volume control is every time, and I want to do it with one twist. The same thing when I want it loud, I want to twist that thing until it sounds right to me at that moment. Or when someone enters a room. I want to decide by touch like we use to, how loud I can keep it and still hear as much as I want instantaneously.
I do not know what these manufactures are thinking with remotes that let you move, but do not let you change the balance. If you are the only person in the room it should follow you anyway.
I guess when the old lady has you chained to the bed frame, a system that you listen to with your head in one stationary spot might work out until she gets back. But, if you happen to be able to move around, nothing beats a balance control for hearing the same volume from both ears from anyplace within ear shot of your speakers. Even if the source is mono.
One thing I liked about the volume control on my old rig was that it had no notch. No notch on the knob, how could it have a notch, only your ears knows where the center is?
Sumflow, I agree wiht you 100%. I think the reason for the encoder type volume ocntrols is that they are easy and cheap to implement with a remote control. An other option is a motorized pot, which when used directly without the remote, is a direct position correlates with volume knob. When used with the remote, there is a button for up and a button for down, at whatever speed the motor feels like turning. They can overshoot due to momentum. I suppose the perfect solution would have a knob on the remote and a motor on the preamp that slved the 2 together. You would then need a motor on the remote to move its knob if you turned the knob on the preamp. This would be very difficult to implement. I hate detents too.