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High end DAC/preamp, what am I missing here?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
So a local audiophile friend is selling off some, actually most, of his gear. He asked if I was interested in demoing any of it, so earlier today I went by and borrowed his McIntosh C48. Okay, it's nice, very nice. The fit and finish are typical Mac and it's a real eye-catcher.

263

It has tons and tons of connections, great interface, has an amazing pedigree... but I really can't tell much, if any, difference in SQ between it and my Xonar Essence One. I use the same coax connection from my Xonar card in my PC, connect to my SLI-80 F1 w/ HE-6s, and... I'm not hearing it. Same goes for my SRM-717/O2 setup, they sound pretty much the same. The Essence may be very slightly more analytical, but that's it.

I'd like to get it, I'm a big fan of their vintage gear, but if it makes no difference I'd rather just keep the cash. What am I missing?
post #2 of 19
Thread Starter 
Still no major differences, unless I tinker with the preamp adjustments. I did compare it to my CUBE and it is a noticeable improvement over that, but the Essence is proving to be a tough nut to crack.

BTW, the HP amp section on the McIntosh is really damned good. It doesn't drive my HE-6s very well, but it's otherwise superb.
Edited by Magick Man - 4/13/12 at 2:33am
post #3 of 19
Trust your ears, IMO.
post #4 of 19

Quote:

Originally Posted by Magick Man View Post

BTW, the HP amp section on the McIntosh is really damned good. It doesn't drive my HE-6s very well, but it's otherwise superb.

 

The C48 is a preamp, right?  If so, it definitely wouldn't be able to drive the HE-6 with authority.

post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sridhar3 View Post

Quote:

The C48 is a preamp, right?  If so, it definitely wouldn't be able to drive the HE-6 with authority.

Oh, I know. It's probably a stretch to say it puts out more than 1W. However, it is incredibly rich and musical for SS. For that reason I really hate to give it up. As a DAC it isn't much better than my Essence One, in fact the USB portion is worse, but strictly as a preamp/HP amp it's almost worth the price. I guess I'll be giving it back.

Now I'm thinking I'm going to try out the Musical Fidelity M1 CLiC. It just looks so damned cool and is supposedly an incredible bargain at $2k.
post #6 of 19

Quote:

Originally Posted by Magick Man View Post

incredible bargain at $2k.

 

Lol, a year ago, that phrase would've sounded absurd to me.

post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sridhar3 View Post

Quote:

Lol, a year ago, that phrase would've sounded absurd to me.

True that. Now I'm being told to stop being stupid and get a Benchmark DAC and be done with it. It does look like pretty good. Maybe I'll just grab both from Amazon and keep the one I like most. That sounds like a plan.
post #8 of 19

I'd agree with passing on this in lieu of something else, unless you need it's pre-amp abilities (but doesn't the Asus even do that? I remember reading about the Asus when it was announced, and thinking "man, this looks like an m902"). 

 

Just because it's super expensive, and McIntosh, doesn't mean it's always going to be the best, or the best option. Looks purdy though. 

 

 

post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 
I've decided I'm doing one more comparo. I ordered a Benchmark DAC 1 w/ USB and I'm going to throw it against the Essence One. Two will go in, but only one comes out.
post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
Okay, got in the Benchmark DAC1 PRE and have been running it through its paces. I wasn't extremely impressed at first, it's kind of an unassuming piece of gear, but after a couple hours it is growing on me. It has an amazing number of inputs and the amp portion is quite good.
post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magick Man View Post

Okay, got in the Benchmark DAC1 PRE and have been running it through its paces. I wasn't extremely impressed at first, it's kind of an unassuming piece of gear, but after a couple hours it is growing on me. It has an amazing number of inputs and the amp portion is quite good.

 

Looking forward to hearing more.  Keep us posted!

post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 
The Benchmark, and this is pretty early on, seems to have less grain and more cohesion while maintaining all the precision and transparency. It's a more mature and polished product. I can see why this is commonly held as the DAC standard.
post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magick Man View Post

The Benchmark, and this is pretty early on, seems to have less grain and more cohesion while maintaining all the precision and transparency. It's a more mature and polished product. I can see why this is commonly held as the DAC standard.

 

And this is in comparison to the Essence One?  You plan on keeping the Benchmark?

post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sridhar3 View Post


And this is in comparison to the Essence One?  You plan on keeping the Benchmark?

Yeah, that's in comparison with the Asus. The Essence is a great value, for many would be a better value, but the Benchmark is the better and more flexible piece of gear. I still have a few days to compare and decide, but I may be returning the Asus.
post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
Yep, gonna keep the Benchmark and send back the Essence. The DAC1 is so neutral and colorless, yet the amp section seems to really energize mids and highs giving them some extra zip. Along with getting a great new DAC, I'm also getting a kinda funky yet thoroughly enjoyable amp.
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