How to compare Azur 640C V2 and Benchmark DAC 1?

Last week I purchased the Azur 640C V2 to replace my dead D500. But then I thought maybe I should look into the Benchmark DAC 1 and use it with my Phillips 963SA which I am using only for 2 Channel SACD playback.
So this afternoon I got the DAC 1 today for the weekend.

I've done some preliminary listening already with some of my favourite discs, but the differences appear to be marginal. The DAC 1 seems to be slighltly better in bass and the top end (have to listen more carefully), but I don't sense any differences in soundstage etc. Certainly not the difference I had imagined (which seems to always be the case).

What is the best way to evaluate these two units and what should I be concentrating on listening? I would appreciate any tips or advice.

To make it easier to switch back and forth I've hooked the DAC 1 to the coax out on the Azur 640C for now. I'm running it in calibrated mode and hooked into my MF A3.2CR preamp which is hooked to my Anthem Amp 1 (tube amp). The speakers are Monitor Audio Silver S6.

Or am I just expecting the DAC 1 to perform miracles? Maybe the Azur 640C really is very good? I just keep thinking the external DAC should give me a significant improvement.


-- Sanjay
Your experience reflects mine with digital components -- they are all very close today. Solid state electronics in general are quite good these days. Excellent sound does not have to cost a fortune.

I, too, own the CA D500SE. Picked it over a Rega Planet 2000 several years ago, but they were very close and I chose it due to 1/2 the price. I now use an Arcam FMJ CD23 in my main system and except when playing HDCD the difference in sound does not justify the difference in price.

My only suggestion is to try to match the levels between the two so that your comparisons are meaningful. The output voltage could vary enough between them to skew the results.

Personally, I'd save the money or consider spending it on the speaker system.

Good luck,
Sanjay, first of all, I'd say you need to chill and let the components settle down and burn in for at least 50-100 hrs before you start making comparisons. Second, once you do, forget the frenetic switching back and forth of sources as a means of evaluation. I would listen to the player/dac combo for a week or so, then go back to the single box. Often, once you begin to climb higher in the audio realm, the superiority of something is only apparent in it's absence. Third, what is the rest of your audio system comprised of? Is it resolving enough to let you discern increasingly subtle improvements? Now I haven't heard either the version two of your Cambridge or the Benchmark. If lived close this would make for an interesting comparison. FWIW, When I switch from the one box Cambridge 640 version one to using my Assemblage dac, there is a quite substantial improvement to my ears. It is possible that the internal dacs in the new version Cambridge are within spitting distance of the Benchmark.
I have a Benchmark DAC and recently bought a $150 Lite DAC Ah to use in a friend's system. While I had both at my house I did a fair bit of swapping back and forth because I was curious, of course, about whether I could hear differences between the $1,000 Benchmark and the $150 DAC Ah.

I could, but it was very dependent on the rest of the system, in particular the speakers. With a pair of $400 Usher S-520's the differences were pretty subtle, much like what you're describing. I could hear a difference but not a difference that would justify the price difference to most people.

With a pair of DeVore Gibbons, which cost seven times as much as the Ushers, the differences were much more obvious, enough that the higher cost of the Benchmark makes sense, to me.

It may just be that a DAC that costs as much as the speakers you have doesn't make sense to your ears in terms of bang for the buck. Factor in the high value of the 640C and the Benchmark simply may be somewhere north of the point of diminishing returns for you. That's a good thing as far as your wallet is concerned, enjoy the 640C.
Thanks for the replies. The CDP is burned in for over a hundred hours and probably the DAC is burned in as well being a demo unit. Unforunately, I only have this weekend with the DAC and so don't have time to atune myself ot its sonic signature.

Ultimately, I now feel that one box CDPs even budget units have perhaps really become very good over the years and there is little to pick between them.

So far after about 8 hours of listening both the DAC and the Azur seem to be equally enjoyable though there is a slight difference. Not enough for the price difference though.