I'm somewhat surprised to hear that several listeners thought the Bel Canto and the Benchmark sounded very simliar. I wonder whether this is attributable to the source and amplifier being used in the test. I have not listened to the Benchmark before, but from what I have read on other posts, I thought the differences would be a little more noticeable, if not dramatic. I know that in my own setup I can tell a difference (albeit a subtle one) between transports, and I assume differences between DAC's would be even more noticeable.
In any event, partly as a result of this post and the other one on modding the Bel Canto, I started reading up on DAC's. By happenstance, I also found a used Electrocompniet ECD-1 for a very good price. Naturally, I jumped at it (suffering from the Head-Fi syndrome like many of you), and I am now conducting my own three-person shootout (involving me, myself, and I) between the Bel Canto and the Electrocompaniet. So far, I find the Elecompaniet to be noticeably diffferent than the Bel Canto in the midrange and HF, and the differences are not subtle in my view. I'll report more when I have had a chance to listen more.