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How much of an upgrade is the benchmark 1 over the xonar essence stx?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
I have the senn 650 headphones and a xonar essence stx for a source and listen to lossless files on my computer. At first I was just plugging my senns into the computer and using the basic soundcard that came with it, then eventually upgraded to the xonar, which of course was a big upgrade. Now I am thinking about upgrading to a dac - the benchmark 1 and my question is: how big of an upgrade is this, meaning just how much of a difference will I notice - will it be as big of an upgrade as going from a basic soundcard to a xonar essence stx(or even bigger, or not as much)? Thanks.
post #2 of 21
I have the exact same setup as you - 650's powered by the STX. I know it doesn't answer you question specifically, but have you considered buying a dedicated headphone amp as an upgrade instead? The DAC on the STX is actually quite good, with the 'weak link' of the card being it's inbuilt amp. If you ran from your STX RCA outs to a quality amp, I think you would notice a vast improvement on what you are currently hearing through your 650's.
post #3 of 21
Thread Starter 
Actually I'm also planning on buying a headphone amp(looking at Woo's) not too long after upgrading to a DAC. The xonar is quite nice, but I would like to upgrade now hile I have some extra cash, otherwise it will be awhile before I'm able to again. Thanks for your response!
post #4 of 21
Put that money towards an even better dac.. the Audio-GD Ref1 ... it'll be an amazing source for your future speakers, headphones, whatever. It doesn't have a built in amp like the DAC1, but the Ref1 outclasses the DAC capabilities of DAC1 and the onboard amp of the DAC1 is nothing to write home about
post #5 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bojamijams View Post
Put that money towards an even better dac.. the Audio-GD Ref1 ... it'll be an amazing source for your future speakers, headphones, whatever. It doesn't have a built in amp like the DAC1, but the Ref1 outclasses the DAC capabilities of DAC1 and the onboard amp of the DAC1 is nothing to write home about
As much as the Reference 1 is a nice DAC...

Driving the HD650's sufficiently is more important than getting a better DAC, there's not much point in getting a good DAC and having a amp that is underpowering the HD650's.

I think a good amp would give a better performance increase in my own opinion.

Either way, a DAC19 and C2 combo would net most people more listening pleasure than running a Reference 1 with an STX's miniscule amplification.

Anyway, instead of a Benchmark, get seperates, better value for money in my opinion.
post #6 of 21
How could he run the reference1 with the stx headphone amp?

Anyways, The dac19 c2 combo sounds like a good idea to me.... it's what I would get if I had the money.
post #7 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikej327 View Post
I have the senn 650 headphones and a xonar essence stx for a source and listen to lossless files on my computer. At first I was just plugging my senns into the computer and using the basic soundcard that came with it, then eventually upgraded to the xonar, which of course was a big upgrade. Now I am thinking about upgrading to a dac - the benchmark 1 and my question is: how big of an upgrade is this, meaning just how much of a difference will I notice - will it be as big of an upgrade as going from a basic soundcard to a xonar essence stx(or even bigger, or not as much)? Thanks.
The best upgrade, would be a dedicated Headphone amplifier, because the HD 650 really need it, dont buy a dac+ampl combo unit, they dont suit the S,
Search Headphone section, there are hundreds of threads on the best ampl,

forget about changing the dac, it`s not as important as the amplifier, well if have the fuel go for it too..
post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by TrumpOrMonkey View Post
Either way, a DAC19 and C2 combo would net most people more listening pleasure than running a Reference 1 with an STX's miniscule amplification.

Anyway, instead of a Benchmark, get seperates, better value for money in my opinion.
This. The Benchmark is a DAC first, headamp second.
post #9 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zac.R View Post
I have the exact same setup as you - 650's powered by the STX. I know it doesn't answer you question specifically, but have you considered buying a dedicated headphone amp as an upgrade instead? The DAC on the STX is actually quite good, with the 'weak link' of the card being it's inbuilt amp. If you ran from your STX RCA outs to a quality amp, I think you would notice a vast improvement on what you are currently hearing through your 650's.
I consider the unmodded line out actually a downgrade from the headphone amp on the STX card. Specs are better but sound not as good. D.C. coupling the line out corrects this problem & the sound becomes full of life of the headphone amp but somewhat smoother. Everything is solidified with the mod. Soundstage, imaging & dynamics all improved over stock lineout & that is with the stock opamps even!
post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 
Well the plan was to get a seperate headphone amp as well. So wouldn't the dac1 be a good upgrade if I purchased a sperate headphone amp as well(something in the $800 dollar range)??
post #11 of 21
Mike, you should consider a system approach. Discussing one piece of gear over another may not get you there specially when you are looking at both amps and dacs. Perhaps you should listen to various items and attempt to pair them to get the best possible sound given your budget. Another approach would be to buy one item at a time spending the most on it and later as you get more money you buy the second component. This way you buy a really nice piece of gear and minimize the roller-coaster most of us go through ... ie. upgrades! To further get the biggest bang for the buck consider buying used.

You are currently using a sound card to function as both a dac and a headphone amp. Needless to say there are compromises but even w/ expensive gear there will be some kind of compromise. So I would suggest you go to a meet or vendor with various amps so you find an amp which you like with your current headphones. Ideally said amp would sound well with other brands so you have some flexibility.

Then later when you obtain more money you can buy a dac to further improve on the sound. Check out the offerings in the for sale forum here and in Audiogon. Some amps which sound good with Sennheiser's and do not cost a lot are: Musical Fidelity X-Can V2 or V3, Graham Slee Solo SRGII w/ PSU1, various from Woo Audio, Mapletree, etc. Good luck.
post #12 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the reply and you make a good point - a lot of factors can determine how a new part for your system will sound, but generally speaking, wouldnt a benchmark 1 be a pretty big upgrade over the xonar?
post #13 of 21
I cannot comment on the DAC1, but I would be getting a good amp like the Woo Audio 6 if I were you. You have a *decent* DAC, time to get a good amp The HD650 are going to benefit a lot more with a good amp like the WA6 over a new DAC.
post #14 of 21
You can run the HD650 balanced out of the benchmark XLR outs. A good in-between system while saving up for a separate headphone amp
post #15 of 21
I agree with stang, you'll most likely get a bigger improvement with a new amp. STX's DAC is actually quite decent, but I can't say the same with its HP out (I had the STX for awhile, and I was able to compare it with my WA2).
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