Have you considered Audiophileo or the BADA Alpha USB USB > SPDIF converters ? Both are considerably cheaper ($550 for the Audiophileo and $1600 for the BADA) and both will perform considerably better than Benchmark's own USB input.
I own the Diverter HR. It is worth every single penny. I compared it to the M2Tech EVO and Hiface as well as the Kingrex UC 192 and it is far better than all of them. From what I understand the Berkley is simply the licensed wavelength implementation. I have not heard either the Berkley or the Audiophileo but I can say that I have not looked back.
I may be picking up the Audiophileo to perform a side by side comaprison to my Diverter.
The Sonicweld Diverter HR is fantastic and has - as one reviewer put it - more of everything than anything else. It is quite revealing of USB cables = I tried 3 and each readily, distinctly different. But even with these differences, the overall increase in realism/ low noise floor/clarity/dynamics/emotional involvement just blew me away. I found 2 well regarded soundcards and a popular USB/SPDIF converter to have their plus sides but the Diverter is every penny better. I have no regrets whatsoever.
I have a Sonicweld Diverter HR and an Audiophilleo 1. The Diverter is by far better and that's saying something, because the Audiophilleo is excellent; but the Diverter is superior. I don't know about the BADA USB (and I have a Berkeley DAC), but it's true that it uses the same asynchronous algorithm as the Wavelength, which I have heard in the Ayre QB-9 and found lacking. If you have the funds, I would recommend going with the Diverter.
The Diverter HR, the Synergistic and the Off-Ramp 5 are USB converters in a class of their own. It is the most important part of any digital audio system, so dont spare the change on this.
You DAC however needs work IMO. To waste a $2-3K converter with this DAC is not a good idea. you dont need to spend a fortune either. The converter is more important than the DAC.
Here are some better alternatives:
1) Off-Ramp 5 -> 1.5m HDMI I2S cable -> Wired For Sound DAC2 (world-class combo)
2) Any of the converters above driving S/PDIF through a 1.5m good quality cable to Metrum Octave DAC
Dont spare the change on the I2S or S/PDIF coax cable either. Expect to spend at least $500. BNC on both ends is best, but on one end is good too.
Likewise, the USB cable should be the best you can find.
Steve, Can you please recommend your favourite S/PDIF cable at the moment?
Find an original FIM gold or Silver and never look back! Nothing and I mean NOTHING I ever tried regardless of cost was able to beat that thing. I will say that the top of the line Synergistic digital cables are VERY VERY good as well.
Andrew - I have audioned a few and compared them against my reference, which I do not make anymore. The only one that I have found that is as good is the Ridge Street Audio Poiema. Problem is that the guy has fallen off the face of the earth. Does not answer the phone or emails....
Andrew - I got a reliable report that the DH Labs cable is stellar. They make good cables. I can recommend this one.
I am currently using a Kimber Select 2020 0.75m BNC-BNC between offramp 4 and ARC DAC8. I have since read your advice that a1.5m cable is recommended. The same Kimber cable would be very expensive, so I am looking for alternatives that have equal or better performance, but more reasonable cost. I would be prepared to pay $500-$600.
I don't know about the BADA USB (and I have a Berkeley DAC), but it's true that it uses the same asynchronous algorithm as the Wavelength
It is not true, and algorithm used (as long as it is asynchronous) has very little effect on sound quality anyway.
What matters is a quality of clocks used and level of isolation from computer gremlins riding on USB interface converter can provide.
The alogorythm does in fact make a huge difference and the BADA USB does is in fact re-packaged Streamlength tech which Wavelength purchased from the original developer of the code (not that there is anything wrong with that). This whole "as long as it is Asynch thing" has gone on for too long. I have owned a good number of these units and the best BY FAR is the Diverter HR and number 2? it was a Kingrex UC192 running the Synchronous version of there firmware. The whole Asynch thing was a marketing ploy and judging by the way people have taken to it.., a successful ploy at that. All I am saying is that regardless of synch or asynch if it is done correctly it can sound very very good indeed. If you really want to up the ante, add the ifi iUSBPower interface between your computer and USB/SPDIF converter of choice. You will be shocked!
Audiofun - the Async thing like any other marketing is carried too far, I agree. However, given that I have done 5 generations of USB interfaces (some Adaptive and some Async), more than any other manufacturer, I can guarantee you that you can NEVER achieve the same level of jitter with Adaptive that you can with Async, given the same designer and clock quality. This is simple physics. Free-running clocks will always be a better solution.
Async is a breakthrough technology for USB, there is no doubt.
Steve I do not disagree with you. What you have stated in no disagrees with anything I wrote (or vice versa). I did not discuss jitter (too many people blame bad sound on jitter anyway). I simply stated that one of the best sounding USB/SPDIF converters I have been privy too just happens to be adaptive (synchronous).
Audiofun - My older Off-Ramp 3 actually crushed a number of early async converters as well, but async opens up totally new doors. You are missing it if you dont try one. Adaptive is ancient technology now.
Not missing anything :) as i've previously mentioned that I owned the Sonicweld Diverter HR which is asynchronous; as well as other asynch converters. The HR with the Octave was some of the best sound to which I've been exposed.
My AMR Dac currently contains a state of the art in-house designed asynch self powered USB converter :)
Again their is no argument here, I made a point, you made a point and I pretty much agree with you. I don't have much more to say on this matter :) as I think we are at a consensus.