Another great sounding DAC is the new Monarchy M24 tube DAC/linestage. It lists for $1490, but you may be able to get it for less. You can run another source through the tube linestage as well (like a phono stage or FM tuner).
The only drawback is that you might find that the tube linestage in the Monarchy sounds as good as the Modwright SWL 9.0 -- in which case you could sell the Modwright as well as the Benchmark and recoup some of your money. ;-)
It only has one coax input, but it also has a Toslink fiber-optic input, if that will work for you.
I wouldn't mind a tube DAC but I really want to stay in the $1,000 or under range. It would be really sweet though if that Monarchy sounded as good as my Modwright, that would be a deal & a half if it did!
Fishwater, I know it may sound unlikely, but I bet the Monarchy does equal the Modwright. It'a a super good and natural sounding piece. It handily beat my TAD-150 Signature and I ended up selling that piece... YMMV
But if you have the chance to try one, definitely go for it.
Plato, I would love to try one but I would really prefer a DAC with two coax inputs if possible. I have my transport & DAT deck. I don't know of a super high quality optical cable so I would need dual coax.
Hmmm, I'm not sure if it's possible, but you might want to give Mr. Poon at Monarchy a call and run that by him. He may be able to swap the optical input for second coaxial input. If so, that should work well for you. It would certainly be worth a phone call or an e-mail to find out...
Plato, I will give him an e-mail but what other choices are out there for a DAC in $1,000 range used that will sound better than the Benchmark, is there even one to be found in this price range?
Try a non-os DAC like the Audio Mirror or Audio Sector, perhaps a used Audio Note. I think you'll find that these DACs exhibit a much more analog flavor than the Benchmark, which I have heard in my system. I have the Audio Mirror ($500), which I have since had modified by TRL ($550) and if you want to know how it sounds you can read my review on it here. Vlad could give you an extra coaxial input if you needed it.
Fishwater, Bel Canto DAC2 surpassed Benchmark in my system. All Zen cables as well. It sounded smoother, much smoother than the Benchmark and went deeper in bass. Fuller sound overall as well. Needs a good digital cable(don't be cheap there) and a good power cord(Audience powerChord worked wonders on this dac). Never sounded bright with my B&W N803 speakers. Check out my system for components.
I find it interesting that all the other hi-fi sites claim that this or that flavor of the month off shore DAC far surpasses the Benchmark but most of us in Agon don't seem to feel that way. I am curious about this new generation of low cost DAC's but don't know if they do in fact pass the test.
My other question is regarding the non oversample or upsample DAC's. If I am not mistaken it seems they will play the source as it was recorded without up-sampling. So, does that mean it will play a 24/48 recording as such & a 16/44.1 recording as it was recorded or will they truncate everything down to 16 bits? I ned a DAC that will play 24 bits as 24 bits & 16 bits as 16 bits.
I just purchased an Electrocompaniet ECD-1 and am stunned with the results in my setup. I found the Benchmark to be Analytical and thin sounding.
I picked up my ECD-1 here on Audiogon for $1095.00. When used with an Audience PowerChord, this DAC is hard to beat. Good luck!
Why don't you just get a cable made up to go from RCA to XLR and use your XLR input. There are also adapters you can get for RCA to XLR. Keep the Benchmark.
Benie, I have been thinking that lately but I am also looking for a way to warm up the sound a little. The Benchmark sounds a little cold vs. the Onkyo but the Benchmark is certainly more dynamic with better impact. If I could get that but with a alittle tube sound I would be in heaven.
Fishwater, I know what you mean. I really like my Benchmark Dac but For 7 months ran it Direct to my amp as I found it much better than the preamps (ss,tube) I tried. But I found Magic with a New Tube Preamp from Space Tech.Labs. It put me way into the next level, can't say enough about this Preamp. Mine is pictured on his website it's the the one with the tube rectifier + bigger Power Suppy.http://www.space-tech-lab.com/SP-QA-111-BAL.html All his Models are handmade point to point wiring and I am just a happy custmer.
I love my pre-amp, a modwright 9.0, I am really looking to get the DAC up to the next level. Seems like it is pretty hard to beat this DAC at the price & slightly above.
The Lavry Black will overcome the thinness of the Benchmark, and improve the sound in general, but you will still need to use rca to xlr adaptors on the Lavry for a second coaxial SPDIF. The receiver used in both the Benchmark and the Lavry automatically decode SPDIF or AES/EBU through either connection. For the source you use adaptors on, it is important to keep the cables short - a meter is OK. FWIW I found that adaptors into the XLR input on a Lavry Blue was better than using a Canare 75 to 110 ohm transformer.
Fishwater If you want a little tube warmth maybe think about put a good tube buffer between the Dac + pre. same brand as my preamp. a friend back east has the 103 tube buffer on his CD player on said it was a 30% improvement in Sonics. Bal. or RCA in/outputs, there are afew models to choose from. Keep your Dac and get some warmth,30 day money back on the products
Great idea Benie, I will have to check into that!