I'm just getting into higher-end headphone listening and am trying to make a decision on purchasing an amp/DAC for my Audeze LCD-X headphones which I recently purchased. I'm coming from a pair of Grado MS1's.
The amount of information, number of reviews and opinions are a little overwhelming but I have been trying to do as much reading as possible to educate myself as quickly as possible prior to making premature posts and possibly wasting people's reading time.
My budget is <$2K and I would really like an "all in one" device to use primarily as my office desktop system which will be connected to my iMac (using iTunes, Audirvana and hi rez flac files). I listen to a lot of jazz, rock, electronica, and some pop. I also have a 2 channel system with a Rega Planet CD player and Squeeze Box touch, Apple TV, etc that I would like to have the option of using it with down the line.
I've read many great things about the Burson Conductor and Benchmark DAC2 HGC so have decided to focus on these two units however I'm sure others will have additional suggestions.
From what I understand the Burson's advantages are that it has a very discrete design, no op amps are used, the gain blocks are fully discrete circuits (like many other top end solid state gear), the power supplies use discrete regulation (not 3 terminal IC regulators) and it uses a stepped attenuator for the volume (however some people have criticized this design when adjusting the vol while listening). It's disadvantages are that it does not have balanced outputs, does not have word length/bit rate display, no remote, does not support DSD file formats and perhaps is slightly inferior in its implementation of the DAC chip (ESS 9018) compared to the Benchmark
With regard to Benchmark, the professional and audiophile reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. From a DAC perspective many have said that, at this price point, the BM is hard to beat from a sonic perspective. It has the same DAC chip as the Burson but I understand that the chip itself is only part of the performance story. The fact that it supports DSD, has balanced outputs, sample rate readouts, has a remote are all plusses in my book. The downsides are the design and build elements mentioned as the plusses of the Burson above.
I have been fortunate enough to try the Benchmark in my setup and I must say it sounds amazing! I was using a HRT MircoStreamer (which is great by the way) but the Benchmark was mind-blowing in comparison. I love the clarity and resolution, strong but efficient base and how dimensional my music sounds. I haven't, and likely won't be able to, try the Burson due to not having access to one prior to purchasing.
In the end what I really care about is the sound. I know the specs, design, build quality, materials, etc can be debated endlessly. The real rubber meets the road when the music hits your ears. That said I wanted to see if anyone here has had the opportunity to hear both with their own ears or has a more educated opinion that could help me better think through what might be the right decision?
I apologize in advance for my long-winded post but out of respect for the members here I wanted to do my homework, provide as much information as possible and and be specific in my questions.
Thank you in advance.