Take advantage of PS Audio & Benchmark's in-home trial.
I am presently evaluating these (and other) DACs in my system. Both DACs are very good. However, they present the music very differently.
My findings are that there is no answer as to which is better. It totally comes down to system synergy and your personal preference.
The ONLY way to get it right is to let your ears do the deciding.
Barrelchief, do you write suspense novels for a living? :-)
How about telling us how the two (PSA and Benchmark) are different? I have owned the Benchmark and found it a bit sterile although I would think it is an excellent unit for the professional music engineer.
The PSA is interesting and would like to know more about what users think. The amount of info available from users on this is minuscule compared to the Benchmark, which surely ranks as one of the most written about pieces on audio forums and 'zines.
Point taken about home trial... but honestly, I don't feel right doing that unless I have a high degree of confidence I will like the unit. Returned units cost the mfg and in the long run may raise prices for everyone.
Would like to hear from people using any of the three in an all-balanced system and their results.
With regard to the Benchmark (which I've never heard) are you aware that amoung the early advocates for this unit was a reviewer, as I recall it ws John Marks, in later review devalued his opinion some by a subsequent inforsement of the Grado DAC which was, he felt warmer and more musical than the Benchmark. Also a tad more expensive. FWIW. I've not heard the Grado either but I do respect Mark's ethics and would include this unit in my evaluation if I were in the market for DAC.
Nope...was actually threatened by English teacher that I may not graduate high school, bekuz Eye ka'nt rite.
PS Audio recommends to give the DAC 2 weeks of straight play for the unit to to fully cook...the most significant improvements are noticed within the 1st few days.
At the sound of the beep, my PS DAC will have been continuously playing for 42 hours, 28 minutes and 17 seconds. BEEEEP!
I will report back within a week with a more accurate comparrision. For now, I will hold off using descriptions like: warm, sterile, analytical etc.
Based on initial impressions, I will say that both the PS DL-III and Benchmark's DAC1 produce a lot of detail. The Benchmark seems to squeeze out a little more detail and "air." Whereas the PS Audio DAC has a more "refined" sound.
Simultaniously, I am trying some other system changes. With these changes, I feel that the Benchmark DAC is a better match. With other changes, I prefer the PS Audio DAC. So, as I previously stated, chosing the right DAC can be pretty system dependent.
Regarding the in-home trial, I did not suggest trying gear just because the offer to try it is there. I too only beleive in taking advantage of the offer if there is a genuine interest in the product that may result in its purchase. Besides, I barely have enough time to audition these 2 DACs. I certainly do not have the time to try gear, just because I can. However, considering how system dependent these componnets can be, you owe it to yourself to hear it in your home/system, before you plunk down the cabage.
I will report back. Also in the evaluation process is the Monarchy M24.
Virtually all of my evaluations are being conducted in fully balanced systems.
Barrelchief: Thanks for your posts. I am extremely curious to hear your comparison of the PS Audio and the Monarchy Audio DACs. When you are ready to post your observations, would you also include the associated gear and your personal listening preferences? Thanks in advance.
Are you using the USB connection?
Did you bypass the ASIO device driver?
for a little bit more you could get the Bel Canto 300iUSB Integrated with USB DAC and amplifier...Has anyone compared this or heard this unit?
Coax and Toslink only...I am not techy enough to go with a USB set up.
I guess I need to go back to the owner's manuals to familiarize myself with what an ASIO device driver is.
The only thing that I have bypassed is the DAC that is in my cdp.
Follow-ups on the DACs as time permits.
Any progess on this?
Also, are there NO Rega Saturn users out there with an opinion?
An unexpected family matter has put me behind schedule. Hoping to get in some listening/evaluating time over the wknd.
Bear w/me. I will report back.
Thanks for your patience.
I was able to spend some time comparing 2 of the 3 DACs. So far, I have compared the SS units (PS Audio DL-III & Benchmark DAC1.)
Both our very good sounding DACs and very good values, in he $1k range.
Ultimately, what I found is that these DACs are both good performers, but quite a bit different in their focus/strengths.
To my ears, the Benchmark DAC is all about squeezing out every last bit of detail. It did most things very well and overall sounded very good. The downside in my experience was with poor quality recordings. Being such a highly resolving DAC, it made the bad recordings sound thier worst...big time fatigue. On the flip side, good quality recordings were very enjoyable in all repsects.
The PS Audio DL-III did not seem to have quite the detail & "air" that the Benchmark DAC had. However, the DL-III seemed to portray a more accurate naturalness with texture and timbre. You often hear people use the phrase "fleshed out." In comparrison to the Benchmark DAC, this is where the PS DL-III realy shines.
Though not as resolving as the Benchmark unit, I would not describe the DL-III as lacking in the detail department.
Because of its richer textures, I found the DL-III to be a bit more "musical."
I will report back in the near future, after I get a bit more familiar with the Monarch M24.
Basically, I would have to summarize by stating that there is no good or bad, in comparing these DACs. It truely comes down to system synergy & personal preference. I recommend that you audition these units in your system with your music, to let your ears decide.
While auditioning these DACs, I was also auditioning some different amplifications gear.
Speakers (Daedalus DA-1) and Cables (Kubala-Sosna) were consistent throughout the evaluation.
Pre amps were: MBL 5011, McIntosh C2200 & C200.
Power amps were: H20 Audio Signature Mono 250, McIntosh MC352.
Barrelchief: Thank you for your comments. I have been reading a lot about the PS Audio and the Monarchy DAC. I am looking forward to your comparison of these two. Just a thought - the Lite Audio DAC 62, modded by Pacific Valve, looks very similar to the Monarchy, but without the pre-amp section. However, I think they use different DAC chips. Pacific Valve (pacificvalve.us) has a 30-day trial period. If you're curious and want to save some money (the Lite Audio is a few hundred less than the Monarchy), you might want to look into it.
Ive heard everything your considering and in my rig with the exclusion of a Benchmark that I heard in two different systems. I wasnt particularly impressed with the PS Audio Digital Link III. I got it on loaned from a friend and we both had similar feelings; not something either of us would buy. I sold the Apollo to upgrade to the Saturn. IMO, the Saturn is the best sounding source on your list. I thought the Benchmark DAC was just OK and nothing really special. In fact, I liked the Apollo more.
Oneafter909: Interesting observations.
I was trying to buy a Data Link-III but PS Audio is backlogged until late May so I canceled.
Did you try the DL-III in balanced mode?
I've heard glowing reviews from the press and 'Gonners for both Benchmark and PS Audio units.
Maybe you and your friends are just very tough customers (a good thing).
I'd go for the Saturn, as I'm sure it's a marvelous player, but the $2000 price range kind of makes me dizzy at this point in time. I'm trying to tread water until the first HDMI 1.3 A/V players, which also upsample CD and have balanced outputs, hits the market (not too much to ask?).
Thanks for the input.
Rather interesting than boring ; )
Nope, I dont run balanced.
Glowing reviews Ive also read, but I am not easily influenced. Reviews dont necessarily mean much since way too many factors are at play. Comparing components back-to-back in your system is the way to go, but most rarely do. IMO, both PS Audio and Benchmark are great at marketing products. So they have the connections, get those few good reviews and in turn usually the public follows suit. Its extremely rare to see the press write negative or lack luster reviews especially if the manufacturer has a good relationship with the reviewer. Theyll usually send the component back and decline to write the review and the public is none the wiser.
In comparison with the others
PS Audio DAC: lacked detail, congested, small soundstage, digital, thin and a tad bit harsh. Otherwise an OK DAC if not for the others.
Benchmark: better detail, separation between instruments, less digital edge a bit smoother, but still sounded thin.
Apollo: even a bit more detailed and equaled the instrument separation with the Benchmark. The Apollo had more weigh and mass, which meant it didnt sound thin or harsh and analog/vinyl-like. However, lacking just a bit of sparkle in the higher register, which the Benchmark didnt suffer the same. The Apollo had better dynamics than the previous two. A bit more upfront than the Benchmark and the PS Audio.
Saturn: take the positive Apollo comments and push it even further with better detail, resolution, separation, and now refinement. The Saturn isnt as upfront as the Apollo and has the largest soundstage of the lot. Nothing really suffers at either end of the spectrum as the Apollo. Now, in fact, the bass is powerful, defined, and dynamic. This is an extremely addictive source and provides the most musical and analog/vinyl-like listening experience. I know a few dealers have sold Saturns around the $1,750 range.