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A nice new DAC2 from Benchmark showing at RMAF - Page 6

post #76 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by StudioSound View Post

It's too bad you can't just buy a replacement faceplate for $100 or whatever it costs, remove the set screw from the gain control, undo the four hex cap screws, and swap them over...

 

Can you not do that?  I would have thought Benchmark would sell you a face plate, but maybe it's more difficult than that?

 

And by the way, I think it looks much better in silver.  I bought a black one because every single piece of hifi kit (if you exclude my AppleTV V1 and Mac Mini) is black.  But silver looks better imho.  I kindof regret not getting a silver one.


Edited by Chippy99 - 5/20/13 at 12:59am

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post #77 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chippy99 View Post

Can you not do that? I would have thought Benchmark would sell you a face plate, but maybe it's more difficult than that?

And by the way, I think it looks much better in silver. I bought a black one because every single piece of hifi kit (if you exclude my AppleTV V1 and Mac Mini) is black. But silver looks better imho. I kindof regret not getting a silver one.
If you get in touch with Benchmark and ask them nicely, it seems this is a service they can provide for a minimal fee.
So if you are unhappy with the black DAC2, maybe get in touch with them.

I ended up buying the silver one, and it looks nicer than I thought when you see the actual hardware.


So far, I am very impressed with the performance of it. The unit itself is absolutely silent with anything plugged in. No hiss or noise at any volume level.
It has made a big difference to how my headphones sound, and has given me a new appreciation of my music collection. I really don't see how it could get any better than this.

That being said, I can't comment on whether it's a significant improvement over other external DACs or headphone amplifiers.
Perhaps I could have bought an O2+ODAC and heard the same level of improvement, or maybe I would have gone through a huge list of DACs before settling on the DAC2-HGC, as CybDev did.
The extra cost adds a lot of features, measurable improvements (audible or not) better build quality, reliability, and peace of mind though.
It also seems to be an "end game" product - now I never have to think about DACs, headphone amplifiers, or pre-amps again.

One thing I really appreciate about it is that the USB port is active at all times, which prevents the device disappearing from the computer when you change inputs or turn it off.
I'm using the ASIO driver on Windows with JRiver Media Center as my player of choice and there are no pops or clicks of any kind during gapless playback, or when switching sample rates. Switching between PCM and DSD is sometimes silent, but other times there is a quiet pop through the headphones. I think this is something that could be resolved via software though, as it doesn't happen consistently.

While you can hear relays clicking inside the device as you switch inputs, there are no audible pops or clicks through the headphones or analogue outputs.


However, even though it is silent in normal operation, there is a small pop when turning the unit off, and a very loud pop when turning it on with headphones connected. (also through the analogue outputs)
Benchmark have said that the reason this is so loud, is because my headphones are very sensitive - but I don't like it at all. I don't expect a $2000 piece of equipment to be doing this.

I don't know how it compares to something like the original Schiit Asgard destroying headphones - I don't have the ability to measure it.
I did look at the drivers, which don't seem to be deforming like the K702s were when connected to the Asgard, though my headphones are rated up to 4000mW compared to the K702's 200mW maximum input power.
So it's probably fine, but I still don't like it, and I doubt that people using power amplifiers will like it either.

If the DAC is already on though, there's no sound when connecting or removing headphones, or when turning the unit on from standby - and leaving the unit in standby rather than turning it off seems to be the solution.
As I understand it, none of the DAC1 units were ever off - they only went into standby, which is why they didn't do this.

My only issue with that, is that the idle power consumption listed in the manual is not standby power consumption. The unit is still measuring 12W at the wall for me when it's in standby, and only drops to 0.5W when I turn it off. I wish that had been made clearer.


I have found the LEDs on the front to be surprisingly useful when setting up the DAC, so while it's not a feature I cared about, I think I would miss them if they weren't there.
It's also really interesting to me that the status LEDs seem to be based on analysis of the audio being played, rather than simply displaying what the DAC is "told" the signal is.

That said... they are super-bright blue LEDs. frown.gif

OK, the camera does exaggerate it a little. But I hate them.

I wish they were all the nice amber LEDs used for the Polarity/HT indicators, or preferably even dimmer than that.
And I would like the option to either disable the LEDs entirely, or have them turn off if there have been no changes for say 10 seconds.

But it does at least make them clearly visible in daylight, which can be a problem on other devices. I just wish I didn't have those blue LEDs in my eye-line.


General build quality and fit & finish seems good, with only a couple of minor issues: the feet aren't quite level on mine, and there are some slight spots on the knurling that are showing the metal underneath. The feet aren't really an issue for me though - as the unit is front-heavy, it sits flat anyway, and doesn't move about when I connect or disconnect headphones.
I am not sure what it is about their images that made me think this, but I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the top casing of the unit is metal - for some reason I was expecting it to be plastic.

While this is probably a limitation of the rack unit format, I do wish there was something that covered up some of the cabling at the back similar to Linn hardware, perhaps. But that is a much larger unit, and aimed at a completely different market. Having a shell like that is probably a bad thing when rack-mounted or in many setups. I wouldn't mind paying extra for a "home theatre" shell like that though.


Having a remote control is very useful - while it's not the end of the world having to adjust volume manually with a headphone amplifier, I do use it a lot, and it will be especially convenient when used as a pre-amp rather than just a headphone amplifier. (now that my headphone setup is sorted, I will be looking at speakers next)
The build quality of the aluminium remote is excellent, but I don't like their choice of buttons - it feels like a cheap remote that has been crafted out of aluminium rather than a high-end remote, if that makes sense. So the remote feels solid, but functionally it's poor. There's no way of identifying the buttons without looking at the remote, and the action on them is awful.


Something I'm surprised that I haven't seen anyone complaining about is the gain on the headphone outputs - not because they don't supply enough power, but because they supply too much!

By default, the headphone outputs are set to -10dB, but even after opening it up and changing the jumpers to the -20dB position, there's still far more gain than I need.
I wouldn't mind a -30dB option, because I never go above 9 o'clock on the volume control, and normally between 7 and 8 for music - the manual recommends adjusting the gain so that you are above 11 o'clock for the optimal SNR. Maybe I just have really sensitive hearing.



I realize that this may seem like a lot of complaining about the device, but I am actually very happy with it - just because I am happy with someone doesn't mean it can't be better though.
The problem is that I don't know where to begin when trying to describe how it sounds, other than it exceeding my expectations and sounding better than anything I've ever heard.
From an audio standpoint, I can't praise it enough, and I am very glad that I bought one.
post #78 of 229

Nice review.  One of these days I'll do a review of the DAC2 also.  But for the time being, I'll just say that I've got a DAC2 and, while I don't have any other current dacs to compare it with (I've had some older ones), I can compare it with the prior Benchmark DAC1, which I had for many years.  Actually, I had several iterations of the DAC1, the most recent being the DAC1 HDR, Benchmark's prior top of the line model, which I had awhile at the same time as the new DAC2.

 

In terms of sound, the DAC2 is significantly different, and much improved, from the DAC1.  While the DAC1 was incredibly clean, detailed and transparent, it was also sometimes criticized for being lean - though this was also dependent on other components in the system.  I personally didn't find it too lean.  But, the DAC2 is a different animal.  

 

Amazingly, the DAC2 actually provides even more detail and transparency - yes, more detail and transparency - but at the same time it provides a fuller sound and more clearly defined bass and midrange.  Normally, clean and full don't go together since they can be polar opposites, but here Benchmark is able to do it somehow!  Highs are also smoother than in the DAC1.  The DAC1 was no slouch with bass but with the DAC2 bass is further improved with more delineation and snap.  With the DAC1 I was thinking of getting a subwoofer for my big system but the DAC2 made such an improvement that I'm happy as things are. 

 

Overall,the DAC2 has been a revelation, dramatically improving my system to the point where sometimes I think how can it get any better? (I know, I know)  

 

For headphone users, the tonality of the DAC2 will, I think, be more in line with what headphone users want, versus the leaner DAC1.  The DAC2 will also please lovers of tube headphone amps.  The DAC2 is a better fit with my HD800s than was the DAC1.

 

Since it's only been out a bit more than 6 months, there haven't been many professional reviews of the DAC2

 (there have been one or two, which have been raves), but I understand that both The Absolute Sound and Stereophile will have reviews in the next few months.

post #79 of 229

Based on the initial professional reviews and user impressions, I ordered the DAC2 D and should arrive in 4 days.  I have always wanted to try a Benchmark product, but because of reviews saying it is lean and/or clinical drove me away.  Now it seems like the DAC2 corrected those "problems."  I went to The Home Entertainment (T.H.E) Show today and got a chance to listen to the DAC2 HGC.  It has a nice and smooth sound, and not lean at all.  I also compared the silver and black version side by side, and I like the silver better.  Looking forward to the print magazine reviews, particularly Stereophile's measurements.  

 

A few questions: 

Do you guys use the DAC2 with an external USB converter?  How does it sound compared to the build-in USB connection, for non-DSD materials? 

Given the amount of effort that Benchmark put into the power supply, will an after-market power cord make much difference compared to a standard (included) power cord?  

post #80 of 229

Today for the first time I tried benchmark DAC2D with senn hd650 at newport hi-fo show and I thought it was too bright/harsh compared to my Centrace dacmini. My favorite all-in one at the show was Mytek 192 dac. Excellent dac and headphone amp with very full sound and smooth highs!

post #81 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by aras View Post

Today for the first time I tried benchmark DAC2D with senn hd650 at newport hi-fo show and I thought it was too bright/harsh compared to my Centrace dacmini. My favorite all-in one at the show was Mytek 192 dac. Excellent dac and headphone amp with very full sound and smooth highs!


I was very surprised as well that the HD650 from all headphones sounded bright with the Benchmark. The HD650 is normally more bass rich and treble poor.

I shudder to think what it would have sounded like on my K701.

post #82 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by lmf22 View Post

A few questions: 

Do you guys use the DAC2 with an external USB converter?  How does it sound compared to the build-in USB connection, for non-DSD materials? 

Given the amount of effort that Benchmark put into the power supply, will an after-market power cord make much difference compared to a standard (included) power cord?  

 

I think when you buy a Benchmark product, you take a valuable first step away from the snake-oil nonsense of different sounding USB cables and power cords.  Try not to resist - it will feel strange at first, but once you have kicked that nasty habit, you will feel all the better for it ;-)

 

(Short answer, no, of course not)

post #83 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by Baxide View Post

I was very surprised as well that the HD650 from all headphones sounded bright with the Benchmark. The HD650 is normally more bass rich and treble poor.
I shudder to think what it would have sounded like on my K701.
It's the first time I've seen anyone call the DAC2 "bright" - it's as neutral as it gets. It must have been the source material or something else which gave that impression.
Quote:
Originally Posted by lmf22 View Post

A few questions:
Do you guys use the DAC2 with an external USB converter? How does it sound compared to the build-in USB connection, for non-DSD materials?
Given the amount of effort that Benchmark put into the power supply, will an after-market power cord make much difference compared to a standard (included) power cord?
Power cords and fancy cables shouldn't make any difference with the DAC2. (or anything that is properly designed)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chippy99 View Post

I think when you buy a Benchmark product, you take a valuable first step away from the snake-oil nonsense of different sounding USB cables and power cords. Try not to resist - it will feel strange at first, but once you have kicked that nasty habit, you will feel all the better for it ;-)
I appreciated that it came with a monoprice USB cable in the box.
post #84 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by aras View Post

Today for the first time I tried benchmark DAC2D with senn hd650 at newport hi-fo show and I thought it was too bright/harsh compared to my Centrace dacmini. My favorite all-in one at the show was Mytek 192 dac. Excellent dac and headphone amp with very full sound and smooth highs!

You compared the DAC2 directly to a MyTek Stereo192 and favour the mytek?
Curious.

Care to share some details on how you did the comparasion and what you feel their differences were?
post #85 of 229

No I did not compare benchmark with mytek side by side. However I listened to the same flac song (I know it quite well) with the same hd650 headphones on the same day with both DACs. Benchmark dac2 was significnatly brighter/harsher. I did like mytek better.

post #86 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by aras View Post

No I did not compare benchmark with mytek side by side. However I listened to the same flac song (I know it quite well) with the same hd650 headphones on the same day with both DACs. Benchmark dac2 was significnatly brighter/harsher. I did like mytek better.

Which version of the MyTek was it? The DAC2 was the "D" version right? (not that it should matter, the DAC part and headamp should be the same...)

Can I ask which track you used?
post #87 of 229

Mytek Stereo 192 and DAC2 D. HGC and D are the same thing as far as dac and headphone amp are concerned. Melody Gardot - Our love is easy.  I think both units are fine after all. Maybe hd650 was not a good match with DAC2D. Also, DAC2D looks like a higher quality device if that makes any difference to you. 

post #88 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by aras View Post

Mytek Stereo 192 and DAC2 D. HGC and D are the same thing as far as dac and headphone amp are concerned. Melody Gardot - Our love is easy.  I think both units are fine after all. Maybe hd650 was not a good match with DAC2D. Also, DAC2D looks like a higher quality device if that makes any difference to you. 

Nah, the sound and functionality is what matters imo smily_headphones1.gif

But I have a dac2-hgc, and I spent some time directly comparing it to a few dacs before I bought it, amoung them a mytek stereo 192 (preamp version).
Just interesting to hear others opinions, especially if they're not the same as mine smily_headphones1.gif
post #89 of 229
Comparisons aside, it's surprising to me because I have heard a lot of people saying that they only like the Mytek units as a DSD DAC, and don't think much of it with PCM content.

I do like that they just use the Apple Remote IR codes though - that's a much nicer remote than the Benchmark one - though you do give up having direct access to inputs, and discrete on/off codes, and of course it can become a problem in a HTPC environment where you are using that remote to access your music library...

It would be nice if you had the option of using one of them with the DAC2 though. In fact, it would be even better if you could have the DAC "learn" codes and work with any remote. While I like that it has a remote, I hate having multiple remotes now.
post #90 of 229

I think you guys must have much more critical tastes and exceptional hearing compared to me ;-)

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