I have added a (Benchmark HGC 2 DAC) to run digital music to my Modwright KWA 150 SE. At first I was impressed with the detail but much of my music sounds more harsh than what my ears are used to. Apparently Benchmark DACS are known to be unforgiving. Should I look towards a different DAC or would adding a Tube Preamp be the best solution? Or change both? Recommendations welcomed!
Speakers : Dali Euphonia MS4 (#2) Rel 528 in stereo
You can try changing the wire from the source to the DAC. Upgrading it may help/ I have used a tube preamp to 'cover' for digital hash. A cheap tube buffer will NOT be much good for that purpose I highly suggest a preamp that uses 12AX7 as better than other tube based preamps for the purpose. Plenty of 70's 80's preamps around. It is true the initial increase in clarity gets crushed by too much of it, after awhile.
The Ayre Codex running XLR will easily outperform the Benchmark with far better micro detail, precision, and overall musicality. we ran it up against far more costly dacs and this unit is a benchmark. Best JohnnyR
A preamp tube will never remove the harshness even if you feel that at the beginning. Get Chord Qutest if you want absolute SQ but it does not have volume controls and you need to control the volume from the PC. Or ifi DSD pro for it multi features.
Jond why would the OP seek out dac’s that are nearly impossible to hear?
The Electro stuff is good but lacks many of the features people want and the Remiyo was very good but does not have the resolution of today’s more modern dacs we had one it was very good in 2008.
The Ifi DSD pro has both tubes and burr brown dac chips at $2500 including streaming and a heaphone jack seems like quite a bargain again we haven’t heard it but the reviews from six moons and stereophile pitt this little $2500 dac vs really expensive dacs and the OP can get a demo of the product it is currrent and can be demoed.
@audiotroy One of the advantages buying used is essentially an "in-house audition" if you are smart and buy right you can listen at your leisure then resell and move on, I did it for years. And frankly resolution is overrated. There are plenty of older dacs that have fine resolution and excellent musicality. My current DAC an original Audio Note Dac-3 Signature was built in 1995 and sounds great. Audiogon is at its heart a website for buying and selling used equipment I was offering the OP a few good looking used options from the listings.
Can i ask that we back this up? First describe the system more fully. transport, preamp, amp, speakers, etc. What material are you playing and complaining about? In my opinion there is great digital that i can only tell from analog by the absence of clicks and pops, and absolute crap digital that I can;t listen to. I cant listen to some of those in analog either to be honest.... An example of superb digital is "Ella and Louis" (Verve ~ 1960) Another is Pink Floyd’s "Wish you were here".
Next - before we suggest magic digital cables, let’s ask an important question - is this SPDIF? If so is it a proper 75 ohm cable? Not just a regular RCA?
Depending on the transport we could have a bunch of jitter. Improperly terminated cable (not 75 ohm) would ensure jitter and outright errors.
I don’t know the benchmark directly, but have heard that it’s kinda analytical. Not a fan overall. But apparently you liked it when you auditioned it, so i cant say for sure.
First, adding consonant harmonic distortion and rolling off the top (tubes) wont fix some of the digital harshness that can occur. That stuff is just non-harmonically related trash. So the tube preamp may soften it a bit, but is really not, IMO, an answer. You will wind up with tolerable mediocrity. not my goal.
So back up, and let’s first find the problem. Then, maybe we can fix it. Throwing a bunch id random ideas around is an expensive, ineffective solution.
If it comes down to a different DAC i would consider some oldies (Theta DSPro), The Chords, Schiit BiFrost or Gungdir multi-bits (,multi-bits tend to sound more laid back IMO). The Schiit BiFrost Multi i heard (out of the box) was fairly laid back. Yet none of these is relaxing on screechy, badly mastered rock - mid 80s being about the worst. As i have posted in other threads, jitter is a huge issue, and since SPDIF has the SOURCE as the mater clock, even a good DAC wont fix it unless they go to extreme lengths. For example, i thinjhte Gen* was the first Theta to completely re-clock.
Jond boy are you wrong, we have consistantly found that newer dacs invariably outperform older ones and in many times the newer units are less expensive.
The Remiyo dac was superb in its day it is very likely that a new Dac like the Ifi DSD would just blow it away in terms of all the performance traits like imaging, depth of sound field, clarity and musicality.
Used to sell the Audio Note Dacs and they were impressively musical, howerver, when you hear really good digital you have both the musicallity and the resolution that makes music sound more realistic.
Then you miss the ability to actually go into a store or order a few different pieces and then see which one of these products sounds good
The used world means you are always chasing ghosts of what was good years ago, when newer value oriented dacs like Schitt, and Denefrips and IFI and T+A dacs would probably embarrass some very expensive dinosaur products.
Caveat Emptor, If we could afford it a brand new car would always outperfom the older model, sure the older car is older and cheaper but is it as good of course not in everything the world evolves.
Audio Doctor I will live with my being wrong then. :) Your car analogy however is not a very apt one. Modern cars are in some ways built to a lower standard than older cars. One of the reasons I've stuck with my current car, a 2003 VW Passat, is for the way it was built. A very sophisticated suspension, a powerful and reliable engine and it just handles in a way new cars don't. But enough of that, you have new Dacs to sell and as we know I am wrong. Cheers!
Leave your DAC on for several days playing something on a loop to get it up to snuff. Then listen again and see if that doesn't help. Call the maker and see what they have to say. My Yggdrasil continued to improve past 200 hours and is remarkable now. Try tweeking with cables, careful research is your friend here if you desire to keep your new DAC. Changing cables may get the relief you are looking for. If all else fails....tubes are always good in my opinion.
I use Dac ,for streaming ,of the Luxman sacd D-06, as preamp:Audio Note M5 (tube),combinated with Gamut D200. My best friend, use Dac,preamp,poweramp Ear 868.Beautiful !! We use as streamer:Logitech. Cables are here very important!
I think Apple TV is 48KHz 16 bit. This means it must sample rate convert everything that is in an audio format (48KHz isn’t used for audio alone) and many think the conversion is poorly done. This is definitely the weak link in your setup.
Audio Note Kits. DAC 3.1. I am surprised AN has not been mentioned. Its crazy how good it sounds. I speak from experience as I have one and have gone through several 2500.00 Dig DAC's. I had it paired to a Bryston pre until I got the AN 3M line pre. The DAC was the biggest improvement made to my system. Even more than the AN tube pre.
I think the high sampling or low sampling is not the issue in other words bits so bits,in my own opinion the best digital format is 16bit 44.1khz cd standard but in other hand digital lossless w high bits high sampling is better sound because is lossless no high compress information or moving parts, compare 1cd album vs 1 digital lossless album and you can hear the results.
My advice to you would be to use more than one dac. I’m sure the Benchmark is superb for good recordings. And there are a few out there. With Tidal it’s rather easy to find them. Use another dac, maybe one with tubes in the output stage, for all the trash recordings we also like to listen to. And, music is fatiguing (at louder levels). Why try to remove that? Why would you want a fine recording to sound mellow?
Using a good eq. you could also take down the 3-4 khz freq. a little. I believe the harshness is often found there.
Any thoughts on the Moon 280D with MiND2 streamer? I’m about to make an investment.
Just discovered Colter Wall "Songs of the plains". Absolute reference acoustical recording. Deep double bass. 3D. 2018. Wouldn’t sound harsh on anything. They didn’t do recordings like this in the past.... Perfect for the Benchmark :-)
The Border Patrol DAC is the answer for listeners put off by digital harshness. To my ears it comes closer to analog than any others I have heard. You may have the ongoing debate in recent issues of Stereophile magazine. Opinions about Border Patrol VS. Benchmark are sharply divided, but those who don’t care for the Benchmark sound quality love the Border Patrol. It is limited to 24/96 if that is a concern for you. I use mine for playback of my ripped CD collection.
I ended up buying a Modwright LS 100 tube preamplifier. This willl allow me to try out a variety of stand alone DACs as currently I am dependent on the Benchmark as my preamplifier (no preamp) which limited my dac options. I should have it hooked up by end of weekend. Hopefully the preamplifier tubes will have some sort of desirable effect. Maybe the clarity of the Benchmark Dac and Tubes of the Modwright pre will be a winning combination.
I have been following your thread and thought I had responded some time back. Must not have push the post button. My thoughts much agreed with what you have decided. I also use a tube preamp with a Bryston DAC which some think leans to the analytical side, maybe not to the extent of the Benchmark, of this I am not sure. As you stated you can always search for a less analytical DAC if you choose. The tube pre most certainly take your system in the right direction IMHO.