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DAC Shoot out: Benchmark DAC1, Bel Canto DAC2, & Grace m902 - Page 2

post #16 of 60

Nice Work, Fellas!

Quote:
They are, oh I think this instrument sounds a tad tighter, etc. typ differences. The DAC1 and DAC2 both sound great. The DAC1 has the advantage of offering far more connectivity and useability options for a lower (at least retail) price.
I agree completely, Peter (again). When I compared the Benchmark DAC1 and Bel Canto DAC2 the two sounded remarkably close to one another (their tonal characteristics are very similar). I do prefer the wider soundstage of the DAC2, but the DAC1 sounds faster to me and the treble certainly is less smeared. The fact that the DAC1 is far more versatile (balanced and single-ended output, built-in dual output headphone amp) and is also less expensive nudges the DAC1 beyond the DAC2 yet again. If I was searching for a simple, single-ended DAC for a speaker system than the DAC2 would be my choice but the DAC1 just fits the computer-as-transport/multi-headphone/monitor speakers arena so well. Nice shoot-out, guys!
post #17 of 60

Dang dang dang

This confirms my suspicions that the Grace is a mediocre DAC at best. I haven't been happy with the sound, even with upsampling the signal via a Monarchy DIP -- though a better power cord and swapping out interconnects has helped. And to think I passed up the MF Trivista and other DACs to get this...sigh.

I have been debating sending it back (for partial refund) or trying to sell it. Perhaps I should pick up the ACK DACK 2.0? And then I'd need to find another solid-state headphone amp. Yikes...
post #18 of 60
Thread Starter 
Yes, these DAC's, especially the Grace are prone to poorer performance when fed crappy power.

-Ed
post #19 of 60
Nice shoot out edwood, Iron_Dreamer, Jasper994.
I do wish you had included the music played in your write up. What was heard, with what, when.
Nice pictures as well.
Those itty bitty baby speakers had your neighbours complain?
"cranked"...that's funny.
post #20 of 60
The Grace DAC's get a lot of negative press around here. I have a Grace 901 and IMO the DAC level is easily competitive around $300. As far as measurements it does very well there as well probably beating most in that range and even higher. Given the price I got mine for, a ~300 DAC, a ~$180 stepped pot, the actual headphone amp part of it all, and overall design and footprint, I think it was well worth it. I probably wouldn't pay retail for it however.

This is just IMO, but if you pair up a LOT of DACs against the Benchmark, it will make a *lot* of DACs look worse in value. This is not just the Grace...the Grace is a common comparison because its also a headphone amp and this is a headphone forum. But in the sea of DACs out there I don't think the Grace is 'mediocre' at best, but that the Benchmark is truly a Benchmark class DAC at a terrific price. In anycase I think the negative press on Grace DAC is far overblown here because of its constant comparison to the Benchmark. If you care about measurements, I believe there is only like *TWO* other DACs/players out there that compete with the Benchmark and they cost like $15k+ (FYI the Grace 901 didn't measure as perfectly like the Benchmark, but its performance more than measured up to its price as far as stereophile was concerned). Not to mention the Grace is supposed to be a headphone amp with a DAC and not vice versa.

BTW Ed, I got a tip from an overseas head-fier that believed the Grace 902 to sound a bit cleaner with the LED display turned off.
post #21 of 60
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim D
The Grace DAC's get a lot of negative press around here. I have a Grace 901 and IMO the DAC level is easily competitive around $300. As far as measurements it does very well there as well probably beating most in that range and even higher. Given the price I got mine for, a ~300 DAC, a ~$180 stepped pot, the actual headphone amp part of it all, and overall design and footprint, I think it was well worth it. I probably wouldn't pay retail for it however.

This is just IMO, but if you pair up a LOT of DACs against the Benchmark, it will make a *lot* of DACs look worse in value. This is not just the Grace...the Grace is a common comparison because its also a headphone amp and this is a headphone forum. But in the sea of DACs out there I don't think the Grace is 'mediocre' at best, but that the Benchmark is truly a Benchmark class DAC at a terrific price. In anycase I think the negative press on Grace DAC is far overblown here because of its constant comparison to the Benchmark. If you care about measurements, I believe there is only like *TWO* other DACs/players out there that compete with the Benchmark and they cost like $15k+ (FYI the Grace 901 didn't measure as perfectly like the Benchmark, but its performance more than measured up to its price as far as stereophile was concerned). Not to mention the Grace is supposed to be a headphone amp with a DAC and not vice versa.

BTW Ed, I got a tip from an overseas head-fier that believed the Grace 902 to sound a bit cleaner with the LED display turned off.
Well to be fair, the m902 and 901 are designed with a sound engineer in mind. One thing you can't do with the Benchmark is have visual confirmation of SLock PLL circuitry working, what frequency sample rate actually is, etc.
Also, having analog inputs as well.

The Benchmark DAC1 is a one trick pony in comparison. But oh, what a trick it does.

-Ed
post #22 of 60
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.
post #23 of 60
Thread Starter 
Well, after I mod the Bel Canto, you want to have a five way DAC shoot out?

-Ed
post #24 of 60
When my dac finally gets here, would you guys be interested in hearing it? I'm itching to know just wth I'm paying for, cuz it's going to be a bundle, I'm sure. Price is in the ballpark of all the dacs here. It is a NOS dac with a discrete buffer for the output (no opamps) and some big blackgates and a big noble pot for the headamp portion. The cap values were calculated to be able to drive senns pretty well, but I don't know about grados etc. The k1000's are probably a no go. I'd love to make it a 6 way shootout, time permitting
post #25 of 60
Well I guess I'm the odd one out, but my wallet at least thanks me for reading this review. I never thought the Dac1 was very impressive at all (compared to nothing more than the Emu 0404 connected straight to the headphones, no less), and to hear that you guys think it's the best of the upper range dac's is, well, reassuring and dissapointing at the same time.
post #26 of 60
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Distroyed
Well I guess I'm the odd one out, but my wallet at least thanks me for reading this review. I never thought the Dac1 was very impressive at all (compared to nothing more than the Emu 0404 connected straight to the headphones, no less), and to hear that you guys think it's the best of the upper range dac's is, well, reassuring and dissapointing at the same time.

I wouldn't say any of these DAC's are the upper range by any stretch of the imagination. There are certainly way more expensive ones out there. But bang for the buck these certainly have a lot going for them.

Man, I hope these DAC's aren't the upper range. That would be depressing.

-Ed
post #27 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by Edwood
Man, I hope these DAC's aren't the upper range. That would be depressing.
I would say the DAC's in the comparison are very good DAC's, but not in the upper range. my CDP's DAC is better, and it's not even a fancy independent DAC but a DAC within the player.

there are lots of upgrades left for you to try Ed.
post #28 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by ayt999
my CDP's DAC is better, and it's not even a fancy independent DAC but a DAC within the player.
But a player that costs $15K retail, right?
post #29 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by ooheadsoo
When my dac finally gets here, would you guys be interested in hearing it?
That's generous of you. Let me PM you my address

Quote:
Originally Posted by Edwood
Man, I hope these DAC's aren't the upper range. That would be depressing.
Ever thought your systems are not up to par to deal with a better DACs
post #30 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by lan
That's generous of you. Let me PM you my address
Ah, wish I could visit NY again...Well, the socal guys seem to have no interest whatsoever, so who knows I haven't even gotten a single reply, yes or no, from them.
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