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Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L (Read 2633 times)
beowulf
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Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L
03/16/14 at 02:35:43
 
Hey guys, well the higher end DACs such as the upcoming PS Audio DSD and AURALiC Vega are out of my reach pricewise ... I was wondering if anybody has gotten the chance to hear or demo the Benchmark DAC2 HGC or one if its derivatives such as the "L" or "D" versions?.

It uses the ES9018 Sabre chipset that is used in a lot of the "hot" DACs including the Anedio D2, AURALiC Vega and Wyred4Sound (among many others) and has a similar features list to the above DACs including native DSD (DSD 64), etc. (although it doesn't do DSD 128 or DXD at this time, but it is possible through a firmware upgrade).

But an important feature to me is that it has an "all analog stage" (for us vinyl guys), so IMO it is a "true preamp" rather than just a "digital preamp" as what falls short on many others.  And the price in comparison to it's features (DAC2 L is $1795) is where this particular DAC really stands out to me.  For that price you get a DAC using one of the most prominent 32 bit chips, a full analog stage (that is not ran through any digital processing) and a remote (for us lazy guys Grin).

I know all designs using the ES9018 are not created equal, but so far the reviews that I've read are pretty positive. Not to mention it's made in the USA so come cool points are scored.

Stereophile Review

Audiostream Review

TAS Review (starts at bottom of page)

So has anybody here ever got the chance to hear one?

Thanks!

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Fireblade
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Re: Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L
Reply #1 - 03/16/14 at 05:29:38
 
Just so you also get a non-professional but real user perspective review, check poster 'Gary in MD' by the middle of the page:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/689783/december-2013-mid-level-dac-comparison/1170
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« Last Edit: 03/16/14 at 06:20:46 by Fireblade »  

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beowulf
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Re: Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L
Reply #2 - 03/16/14 at 06:52:02
 
Hi FB, thanks for that link.  After reading ... it seems like it is on a sound level with other DACs in it's league including the Yulong.  That's a plus, and considering it can do native DSD and an analog stage puts it in a best buy (the reviewer of the link said it was expensive in comparison, but I don't want headphone stage, so the DAC2 L is $200 cheaper than the HGC, so to me it's a good bang for the buck.
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Fireblade
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Re: Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L
Reply #3 - 03/16/14 at 13:26:45
 
Well, even with the "L" model, I think you are paying about $ 1K just for the DSD capability on an American made model (compare to EMO DC-1 if you don't care for Headphones, as these are not good), or $500 for the analog plus American made (compare to Yulong DA8).

Therefore, you should decide if those price/feature ratios are convenient for you. I am merely pointing out a different perspective on the typical reviews out there. Thanks.

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beowulf
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Re: Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L
Reply #4 - 03/16/14 at 22:38:42
 
Yes, I see your point.  But trying to find it all for $1500 - $1800 has been tough.  I think it comes down to the MYTEK Stereo 192, the Benchmark DAC2, or Yulong DA8 (the DA8 doesn't have an analog volume though).  Considering I don't want or need a headphone amp as I have the Taboo MK II it really comes down to the analog stage and DAC performance, but there is no perfect solution out there in my price range.

It's like the Yulong probably has the best DAC implementation, however the volume is digital and I've heard it isn't that good.  The Mytek's analog stage is not as good as the Benchmark, however it can do all the higher res formats such as DSD 128 and DXD.  So it's a tough call.

Keeping an all analog stage the whole way through the chain and an analog volume with a remote is even harder to find for that price amount.
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Fireblade
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Re: Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L
Reply #5 - 03/17/14 at 12:32:43
 
I think you are right. I believe the Benchmark DAC 2 L is a nice piece of kit if you really need the DSD and analog features (certainly better than MyTek). Since I don't care for DSD (yet), my choice is the DC-1 (great analog preamp and excellent  DAC, according to real users), American made and only $500.
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beowulf
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Re: Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L
Reply #6 - 03/17/14 at 21:14:30
 
Quote:
FB said,
I think you are right. I believe the Benchmark DAC 2 L is a nice piece of kit if you really need the DSD and analog features (certainly better than MyTek). Since I don't care for DSD (yet), my choice is the DC-1 (great analog preamp and excellent  DAC, according to real users), American made and only $500.


The DC-1 is impressive and for the money it looks quite good.  It's probably just a matter of time before they eventually update it to do DSD.  And now since Sony is onboard (and they have the biggest catalog) I think this format has a fighting chance and at least for me ... I would not consider getting a DAC that doesn't at least do DSD in native format (x64) at this time.  The other formats are not as important to me at this time such as x128 and DXD because DXD and x128 material is barely in existence (if the DAC can do them it's a plus though) ... however their are tons of SACDs and master tapes just ready to be implemented into DSD files.

I've heard some good DSD recordings and IMO they are on par with what a lot of the reviewers have been saying so I think it's good to have the ability to play back these files now rather than having to upgrade your hardware again sometime in the near future.  Of course it comes down to the actual recording and the way it was mastered, but in my experience this far ~ if an equal playing field exists the DSD will be the more analog and better sounding of the two.

p.s. the Emotiva XSP-1 Gen 2 balanced preamplifier looks like quite the piece of kit for the bucks!  It's almost for sure better than the analog stage in the benchmark and then someone could add a DSD DAC for $600 you would have a nice front end setup. Hmmm too many choices.  Although I do like the simplicity of the Benchmark still.
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« Last Edit: 03/17/14 at 21:20:04 by beowulf »  
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Fireblade
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Re: Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L
Reply #7 - 03/18/14 at 01:55:59
 
The way I see it, these DACs are evolving so fast, by the time DSD recordings catch up with the pent-up demand we'll all be looking for DAC upgrades anyway. I figure take the best out of PCM now (24/192) and invest in DSD when (if) the DSD supply is ripe.

I have better uses for the $1K difference and those prices would probably come down with more technology and competition. Anyway, is good to have all these choices in the immediate horizon and I'm sure the Benchmark is a keeper.
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« Last Edit: 03/18/14 at 01:59:03 by Fireblade »  

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deucekazoo
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Re: Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L
Reply #8 - 03/18/14 at 16:13:09
 
Beowulf,
Did you ever check out the Schiit Loki? Its a DSD add on dac.
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beowulf
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Re: Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L
Reply #9 - 03/19/14 at 08:37:31
 
Quote:
deucekazoo said,
Beowulf,
Did you ever check out the Schiit Loki? Its a DSD add on dac.


Hi deucekazoo, you know, this is something I've been pondering for the last few days since I've started this thread.  At first I didn't care for the idea as it goes between the PC and DAC and then having to get up to switch the DSD on and off.  But what I wasn't thinking about is JRiver can output everything to DSD and that could be fun to play with and then if I don't want that I can go back to native PCM resolutions with my current DAC.  This would also allow me the budget for a better preamp too.

I always do this to myself ... I think I want something and then after analyzing it I end up thinking in another direction Grin
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deucekazoo
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Re: Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L
Reply #10 - 03/19/14 at 16:12:26
 
I do the same thing. Overthink and second guess myself.
What is very tempting about the Loki is that it is stand alone and the price. For the price you really can't go wrong trying DSD. If you don't like it or don't like that you have to switch it manualy then sell it and you will probably get most of your money back on it. This one is a future purchase for me. I do have some free DSD downloads I like to try and see what the fuss is about.
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Lonely Raven
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Re: Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L
Reply #11 - 03/19/14 at 16:23:53
 
jriver is supposed to be pretty good at DSD conversion. I'm not sure what's the best, but that one is good.

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Fireblade
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Re: Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L
Reply #12 - 05/16/14 at 13:16:32
 
Ok, after a long review research experience, trying to choose the best bang-for-the buck DAC for my tastes and system, I finally went with a product that is sold directly from China, Audio Gd NFB 3 (2014).

Because I have no use for balanced outputs, this is the best current single-ended, dedicated DAC in the Audio-Gd line. Audio Gd has a remarkable reputation world-wide and their products not only sound great but are very well built and supported (which is not necessarily the rule for Chinese suppliers).

I'll provide some pointers on its performance as I get it (still in customs) and go through the important burn-in stage.
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« Last Edit: 05/16/14 at 13:17:49 by Fireblade »  

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beowulf
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Re: Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L
Reply #13 - 05/17/14 at 00:17:37
 
Quote:
Fireblade said,
Ok, after a long review research experience, trying to choose the best bang-for-the buck DAC for my tastes and system, I finally went with a product that is sold directly from China, Audio Gd NFB 3 (2014).


Nice pick up and lots of great reviews on this over at head-fi!  I was actually contacting Kingwa recently as well and he recommeded the NFB 1 or NFB 3 as well.  Please post your comments on this when you get the chance!
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Fireblade
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Re: Benchmark DAC2 HGC & L
Reply #14 - 05/19/14 at 13:40:26
 
I spent this weekend listening to the NFB 3 (2014) and even though it is too early to have definitive conclusions, I'm quite happy with it!

Petemac110 (Head-Fi) has been spot on in his descriptions of this unit, and I agree fully with his assessments (BTW, thanks for being instrumental in my choice).

The only thing I'm hoping the burn-in process will finally refine is the timbre in some instruments, like sax and piano. Not bad right now, but less natural sounding than I expected.

I know the 9018 chip tends to emphazise frequency extremes at the cost of a somewhat subdued midrange. Nevertheless, I found vocals excellent with this DAC.

Sometimes, depending on the recording, higher frequency sounds may be a bit aggressive to my ears, especially with bad recorded, loud selections. If the source is right, though, it really shines. The level of detail and soundstage presentation are better than I've ever heard from my now humble HRT MSII+, my only reference (and no slouch).

Just a question for those on the know: What are the differences between some of the available choices on Foobar,

ASIO Via Direct,

Audio-Gd direct,

ASIO Via my map

In my case, no ASIO version would work with 24/192 recordings, only WASAPI and Audio-Gd direct (which I don't know what it is).

Another nice feature is the DAC has two output voltaje options: 2.5 V and 1.25 V, so with my Mini-Torii (extra gain sensitivity) I usually use the 1.25 V output which allows a fuller volumen pot range ... When the recording is very low-level (i.e., Diana Krall concert in Paris), I use the 2.5 V output and it just sounds excellent. Evidently, this feature is more appreciated in my case due to the Mini-Torii's higher gain sensitivity.

More as the unit gets settled, but I'm really excited about the unit so far, especially for its detail-retrieving, soundstage dimensions and overall bass and dynamics.
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« Last Edit: 05/19/14 at 13:56:35 by Fireblade »  

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