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DACs: PS Audio vs. CI Audio vs. Benchmark

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
Okay. After reading the various replies in my What's Benefit of DAC? thread, I'm ready to buy a DAC.

The three I'm considering are:

* PS Audio Digital Link III
* CI Audio VDA-2
* Benchmark DAC-1

I believe all three companies sell direct with a 30-day test period, money-back and all that jive. So I could buy and test all three.

But that could be a bit of a PITA.

Among those three DACs, what are pros and cons?

I'll be using a Arcam CD-93 player as the transport (my current source).

All opinionated opinions and real-life experience are welcomed!

Dave, who also might connect an iPod using a USB jack so that's another consideration
post #2 of 40
I vote CI Audio VDA-2.

I couldn't compare against the other two but I do know the VDA-2 a fantastic DAC.
post #3 of 40
I second what Acoustic Chef has recommended--my VDA-2 is impressive. I am not certain what is in the output stage of the other two DACs, but, in my buying decision, I could not see replacing an op-amp with an op-amp. The VDA-2 is a rare find: it has a discrete, Class A output stage (no op-amps), and it sells for under $600.
post #4 of 40
I forgot to note: the VDA-2 is made in the US (rather than China).
post #5 of 40
i don't know if this will help any, but my next purchase will most likely be the Digital Link III with Cullen Circuits mods.

it has optical, coax and USB inputs and a Class A analog output stage (no opamps). the mods upgrade the resistors, capacitors, the RCA jacks and the clock, not to mention other tweaks.

i already own the PS Audio C-100 integrated, so i expect the matched components to play nicely together.

i have heard the stock DLIII and prefer it over the Benchmark, which i find to have a little too much going on in the treble. not to mention they charge a ridiculous premium for the USB version.

i haven't heard the CIA DAC, but i've heard good things about it. it only has two inputs, however, so that's a deal-breaker for me.
post #6 of 40
Get the DAC-1 just cause no real reason at all...
post #7 of 40
I was thinking that the DL III has a discrete, Class A output stage, but was not sure. We appreciate the commentary, VicAjax.
post #8 of 40
do a search, there are plenty of benchmark vda-2 comparisons. In short, the vda-2 is better.
post #9 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by gtortorella View Post
I forgot to note: the VDA-2 is made in the US (rather than China).


Made in the US? Does that mean it is inferior quality?
post #10 of 40
Take it for what it's worth, but one VDA-2 owner compared it to a DL III and heard no differences between them. It's posted in the CIAudio subforum in Audio Circle.
post #11 of 40
Just before you start spending the dosh, note that you haven't got a rubbish CDP. It's possible that none of the DACs mentioned will be better.
Having owned a host of DACs, I'm now of the opinion that avoiding the SPDIF link by having an integrated CDP is generally a good thing for performance.

So I'm going to suggest that you look at completely replacing you CDP with a better unit. Consider something like a Densen 400xs.
post #12 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by rodentmacbeastie View Post
Made in the US? Does that mean it is inferior quality?
No it just means that it costs twice as much as it would if it were made in China or Taiwan.

Just kidding
post #13 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by socrates63 View Post
Take it for what it's worth, but one VDA-2 owner compared it to a DL III and heard no differences between them. It's posted in the CIAudio subforum in Audio Circle.
Well they're different DAC's though...
post #14 of 40
DLIII has a spiky harsh upper midrange, I found it unbearable.
post #15 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr_Sukebe View Post
Having owned a host of DACs, I'm now of the opinion that avoiding the SPDIF link by having an integrated CDP is generally a good thing for performance.
I agree with you there, except for the following caveats:

-- By using a CD player instead of digital inputs you are sacrificing the extreme convenience of a digital media library.

-- Using a high-quality digital RCA cable between your transport and DAC will yield virtually the same sound quality.
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