What about Benchmark ? They've come up with the DAC2 HGC, and are claiming it to be their best DAC to date, even outperforming the DAC1.
Edited by proton007 - 1/13/13 at 9:42pm
All modern DAC chips for the last 10 years at least have been neutral. Unless they have been deliberately designed not to be or the manufacturers have not followed the supplied reference support circuit.
Some measure in a lab better than others but any differences are well below the level that can be detected by the human ear. You should regard a DAC in the same way you look at patch bays or cables. If it's not transparent and neutral it's broken. What you pay for is facilities, support, longevity and 'shinyness'.
I'll recommend Benchmark's DAC1 or DAC2. Both measure so incredibly well that it's difficult for me to imagine any other product being more neutral and detailed to any listener other than an analysis machine.
An old DAC1 can be often be found used for $550, too, so it's a good deal.
As said though, all DACs advertised as being for reference or studio use are going to be incredibly neutral. As long as you stay away from obviously colored units from audiophile companies (those units that have distinctly warm or bright sound signatures and are designed with listener pleasure as a higher priority than perfect measurements), you will do fine with any studio dac for audio mastering.