First off brilliant thread to Gary for his massive “December 2013 Mid-Level DAC Comparison”. Massive kudos to Gary. Before the holidays that thread was a mere 20 or so pages, wow it’s grown. I was going to post my below findings there but decided against it, so here goes for anyone interested.
I’ve been reading Gary’s thread with great interest as I also have been evaluating different dacs armed with my ‘holiday’ bonus $$ in tow. My original dac was moved to my main speaker system replacing the limping HRT streamer ii red dac. My workhorse dac would be a modded music hall dac25.3. So far I’ve gone through only three dacs in the past month. First on my list was the Rega dac. I found the Rega very musical, very analog, almost to a fault. The soundstage is wide and deep, but almost seems artificial, depending on the recording. The mids are musical and liquid, bass is strong and the highs very clean, but in the end the Rega wasn’t for me. The soundstage seemed …. ‘artificial’, as if one tries a bit too hard to be, I’m a vinyl guy so I was a bit annoyed. As if a given background guitar strumming, on say a recording that was meant to be a background backup ensemble, is recorded as such. Then it is dragged to the front stage by its chin, that artificial ‘fondling’ is what I found annoying.
Next up was the Benchmark Dac2 HGC. This was almost like a maddening intrusion into a quiet chess match. The sound was brilliant, but again to a fault it would seem to me. The resolution was just incredible, detail impeccable, again to a fault. The sound was epically flat, almost too flat, as if to defy the curvature of the earth mockingly and extend out further grinning. There are no artificial additions to the sound like the Rega, what you put in is what you get out, MP3 files are just offensive I have found. Depending on the quality of the recording, the Benchmark is either ungodly offensive or epically brilliant, mids can be either too forward and intrusive or clean and blindingly flat depending on what you feed it. The bass is not as forward but very well defined. I’ve worked at a radio station before with a recording studio on the premises, this would be perfectly at home there.
My current demo is the Resonessence Concerno HD. Of the three I like this one the most. It isn’t as ‘analog’ sounding as the Rega, nor as hardcore as the Benchmark, it sounds just right to my ears. Not inhumanly flat defying the curvature of the earth, but more like embracing it with all its faults and smoothing out the canyons and ditches, petting the giraffes along the way. The Rega and the Concero were more alike than different, the differences were subtle but there were differences. The Benchmark is a beast with large teeth. My comments are specific to my setup which includes a Grommes tube headamp, a Win7 pc and an assortment of cans, so your mileage may vary. I do have an M2Tech Young coming next week. Cheers gents.