Well, it's the DAC's job to take the 1's and 0's being read off of the CD by the Transport and translate it into the music. Whatcha think?
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Winchell,yes a DAC can make a tremendous difference in the sound of your system. The Benchmark will sound much better than the Adcom. For around the same price I would suggest you try to Audition a Bel Canto DAC II. I believe it is better sounding then the Benchmark and also is very immune to jitter so you still get great sound with just an ok transport. Either a demo or used one should be in your $ bracket.Hope this helps. There has been posts on DACS in this price range recently here on the GON,look them up I think they would be helpful to you.
If you're really serious about this, or find yourself getting more serious as the quality of your listening grows, you're going to find out that EVERYTHING is important.
Not wanting to scare you off, but you're going to find that your system is a whole unit that's only as good as the weakest link. The world's best amp can only amplify the signal coming into it, and then pass it to your speakers. It's like that with every piece, including your albums and CD's, power being fed into your equipment, and even your room and how the music bounces and/or is absorbed.
You'll have to decide how important this is and how much you want spend. The bottom line is that the only thing that's important is "Can you sit back and smile when you are listening to your music?". If you can, that's great!
I think Krell Man hit the nail on the head. In this hobby everything makes a difference. I've been an Audiophile for a long while and owned many Dacs and always tried to get the best sounding, I could afford. This way when upgrading another part of your system, the dac will hopefully not have to be upgraded at that time. Most of us have slowly over the years have upgraded to really incredible systems. In fact, I have two Dacs in my AUDIO system, Levinson and Reimyo. In my video system I have a Krell Studio. All of them different sounding, and I like them all.
I have just gone through this process and looked at many DACs: Ack, Benchmark, MSB, Bel Canto, Scott Nixon, Audio Note, 47 Labs and more. I finally settled on an Audio Mirror D1 DAC for $499. It's available on Audiogon brand new from Audio Mirror. They build tube amps but this is a solid state non-oversampling unit. One thing you may want to do is some research on oversampling versus non-oversampling. There is a good thread in the forums you can check out, plus read about the Audio NOte and 47 lab philosophies on their websites. So far I like the sound of the unit, very analogue. I think the Benchmark would have been my other choice had I gone the oversampling route.
I just read Sundance45's answer, and then looked at his 'for sale' items. If you could afford to buy his Krell KRC-3 pre-amp, it would be a piece that would probably last you the rest of your life.
I had a KRC-3 for 10 years before trading it, and I just traded it because I wanted something new. This pre-amp is a classic. I've seen articles on the Internet about 'stereo pieces to keep for life', and the KRC-3 usually shows up on them, just like the Levinson 36 and 37 Cd and DAC combo. It's that good!
Sundance is asking $1250.00 obo for it, which is what the dealer gave me when I traded mine in. It's list price was $3200.00. Pieces like this could be a cornerstone for your ultimate stereo. And I'm not blowing smoke here, in fact, it may help your stereo more than the DAC.
Again, I think Krell Man has nailed it. My Krell KRC-3 up for sale and is in sale pending status. I had this pre for six years and it is still in perfect condition and still one of the best pres I've owned. I recently replaced the KRC-3 with a Classe CP-65 which in my opinion the Classe is a more refined pre, but certainly does not embarass the KRC-3. And a perfect match for the Krell KSA-150, which I have a modded 150 in my system for six years. If Winchel modded his 150 with Blackgates, even if it's only in the power supply, IMHO he would not need a tube amp for the top end. As Krell Man eluded to, if you don't have Amp and pre right, what ever comes after really does not matter.