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Comparisation between Benchmark DAC 1 usb and Weiss Minerva


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Thanks David for the answer.

I'm an owner of Benchamark DAC1 from more then 1 year. I'm really happy about it, but, you know, as an audiophile listener I'm always serching about something better, reasonable better I mean... also because in my experience differences of price don't mean "reasonable" differences of sound. I know very well about Weiss prices, but I have not occasion to hear it.

If you heard it, can you tell me about your opinion?

Thanks again...

 

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Realduke58,

I have a Benchmark DAC1 also. I have just placed an order for the The Weiss DAC2. I have had no opportunity to test this also. However having read various people's review in Com'phile, or the word's in between, I can optimistically say that the DAC2 should be a progressively better. I am hoping that this would be enough to justify the X price.....But that is high end audio. You live and you learn through your mistakes.

I could confirm the changes in another week.

 

If it helps, I did read the following ....

 

I have auditioned the DAC2 and the Benchmark at the Exhibition Hall 7 this afternoon.

My initial comment is that DAC2 won by quite a big margin in terms of sound quality. Benchmark (at half of the price of DAC) did a fairly decent job. However, I found it a bit soft and restrictive. On the other hand, the DAC2 is more expressive and capable of creating a much wider sound stage.

 

In doing the comparison, the amp and the speakers are identical. The DAC2 is partnered with a MacBook using iTune whereas the Benchmark is connected to a eePC using Foobar.

 

This was in http://review33.com/avforum/ under Weiss minerva

 

 

 

Synology NAS (LPS) >UA ETHER REGEN (BG7TBL Master Clock) > MACMINI (Uptone MMK JS-2) > Auralic Aries 2.1 > (LPS-2) > AUDIO-GD DI20HE (BG7TBL Master Clock) (I2S OUT)LampizatOr GG /Meridian 808.3> Wavac PRT1 / Wavac EC300B >Tannoy Canterbury SE

 

HP Rig ++ >Woo WES/ > Stax SR-009, Audeze LCD2

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  • 4 months later...
  • 6 months later...

The same here, was looking forward to a direct comparison. I trawled the net but invariably found very little information. With the Minerva phasing out, there are some dealers clearing stock making this an option now for those of us looking to upgrade from the benchmark (i'm using the dac-1 pre myself).

 

While Minerva received such praise, I can't help but wonder how much hype is there. The issue is most of us are unable to test the Minerva at home via firewire so a lot of comparisons are done by spdif in showrooms.

 

My personal view from my showroom audition is that the Minerva follows benchmark's relative neutrality and pace so we won't feel too way out. It does give a richer and thicker tone especially in the mids and I feel conveys more depth, rather than the benchmark's 'straight in/out' feel. The character of the Minerva made me feel the soundstage was more expansive, but I personally felt the benchmark had abit more ambient detail although the Minerva was more airy in general. I think this contributes to the overall saying that the Minerva is more musical than the benchmark.

 

One thing that really surprised me though - my gf and myself noted the Minerva had less detail in the particular setup we heard, vs the benchmark dac-1 pre. Now, it could be just due to various other factors or even the slight leanness of the benchmark vs the minerva which affected our perception, but either way, this was a very surprising result as I came prepared to hear more. I primarily use classical orchestra pieces, and my gf said the 'piano was drowned' in some instances. This could possibly be cured by tweaking but it is a risk.

 

Both DACs were honestly very enjoyable to me, and I do like the Minerva, but the gf stayed my hand just because of the detail issue, till I can get a home trial. Basically she did not quite think it was worth double the money, and with less features.

 

Of course, the Minerva could be made to shine mainly through its firewire input which could be very much more superior to the benchmark's usb.. so I will reserve some comments about this till later as my audition might not have been conclusive. But meanwhile I think its worth waiting for the DAC202 to make the decision.

 

Came across another review which stated this.. "On a very close A/B, the Benchmark appears to have a tiny bit more ambience than the Weiss and a hair more of a U shape field, but the Weiss has a tetch more "clarity" and definition." - I guess some similar comments to me.

 

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I don't think it is a good idea to make your decision based in other's experience as it is entirely subjective, as well accompanying equipment, musical taste, degree of expertise are all different. So I would take other layman's view with a large grain of salt.

 

So please take below my experience with a big caveat. I am no where near an expert listener.

 

In chronological order, I have owned the Benchmark DAC1 (No USB), Lavry DA10, Logitech Transporter, Weiss DAC2 and currently the Naim DAC with TeddyXPS.

 

My other equipment are Naim 202 preamp with Hicap/NAPSC, 200 poweramp, Macbook + M2Tech HiFace and speakers are Harbeth Monitor 30s.

 

I never believed in A/B comparison so all the equipment were sold right after the new equipment is bought so all impression is based on extended home listening but no direct comparison.

 

The Benchmark was used mainly with a Squeezebox 2 and a Pioneer Universal player via SPDIF. The Benchmark was an improvement over the SB2 giving more details. But I have to say overall it was bland as still water, it was as if it was not even there.

 

The Lavry improved on things in the sense that it added more warmth and flash and blood to the music. Overall a more satisfying musical experience than the DAC1.

 

The Transporter brought everything up another level in my opinion, with more details and yet very musical, I recall the best thing was it did not any sign of fatigue even after long listening. It is one of the best source I have ever had, in fact, even after my migration into CAS and selling the Transporter in exchange for the Weiss DAC2 and now the Naim DAC, I just placed an order for another one to use as a front end to the DAC.

 

I bought the Weiss DAC2 together with a Macbook pro with a long (5M) generic Firewire cable connected directly to it. The Weiss actually sounded similar to the Transporter but turned one notch up, with more "blackness" in the background and more details especially with hires materials. Overall the Weiss DAC2 is a very satisfying machine. I personally think that a Benchmark DAC1 owner upgrading to a DAC2 would likely to be very satisfied. Much more musical enjoyment overall. The Benchmark always left me wanting

 

If so why did I switched to the Naim DAC? Mostly because I am a Naim sucker and because I did not have to lose much money selling it. Being a Naim person I thought the Naim DAC would be on par with the Weiss DAC except more "Naimness" when installed in a Naim system.

 

To my surprise the Naim DAC is a lot more flat earth than I expected. Naim was never strong in the 3D soundstage department but this DAC is even more 3D and more detailed than the Weiss DAC. And when connected with TOSLINK from the Macbook it sounded very satisfying. With the M2Tech HiFace USB-SPDIF converted it is very satisfying to listen to. Too bad this machine is most likely not to be noticed by anyone outside of the Naim world. It gives the Weiss DAC2 a good run for its money, except for the fact that it does not have a direct PC interface.

 

Again, please take the above as one layman's experience, I think all the DACs above are very good, you should listen and judge for yourself.

 

Macbook Pro/MacMini/dCS Debussy/Cambridge 650BD[br]Vitus Audio SS-010/Living Voice OBX-R2 Speakers/Ultrasone Edition 8 phones[br]Airport Express/Meridian AD88[br]

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agentsmith, unfortunately since you never did an A/B, you can't really answer the question in this thread either.. :) I do think you were comparing benchmark with SB2 versus the weiss minerva with macbook. i did own a sb3 myself and do say that while it was good for the price, it has its limitations. let's leave it as that.

 

The issue here is that hardly anyone has an opinion on the weiss firewire versus the benchmark usb, myself included too!

 

In any case, no surprises you prefer the weiss over the benchmark if you also liked the lavry over it. They are quite different in presentation. As for Naim, they currently have a new DAC that has 2 usb inputs, and that looks very promising to me. I'll give that a listen, but that is for another thread.. :) I currently am auditioning a Chord QBD76 at home now.

 

I have also personally tried the m2tech to test the benefits of async usb and while i find it is good, its benefits are not as apparent if you have a good PC and have run through it a regenerator and decent power cord.

 

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>> unfortunately since you never did an A/B, you can't really answer the question in this thread either..

 

Agreed with that and hence my provisos to the OP to take it with a grain of salt.

 

But my point also is not even to listen to others who have compared side by side. Unless the person is a professional listener whom you know and respect, and even then that may not translate to your own experience.

 

What is arguable also is that extended listening at home after owning the product is probably a better guideline than side by side auditioning. One may get tired of one equipment after extended use and warm up to another equipment.

 

I once took my Transporter to a dealer to compare with the Linn Klimax which is about 10X the price of the Transporter. I found them to sound very similar and even if I had more money than I could fold paper airplanes with I would not have bought the Klimax. But that was my experience only as maybe a tin ear. Or more likely the differences between good and SOTA digital front ends are actually lesser than we think?

 

Macbook Pro/MacMini/dCS Debussy/Cambridge 650BD[br]Vitus Audio SS-010/Living Voice OBX-R2 Speakers/Ultrasone Edition 8 phones[br]Airport Express/Meridian AD88[br]

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Just tried the Weiss Minerva at home as I couldn't rest in peace not knowing how the firewire (and internal clock) would work versus the usb on the benchmark dac, which may make all the difference in my PC setup.

 

Had a false start with it as it hung my PC a few times before I found a thread online that stated you have to use the legacy 1394 drivers. Did the change and it worked flawlessly after that. There are a couple of options available in the DAC settings and you can set the buffer size or which clock to use. Interestingly, each buffer size sounds slightly different and does alter the tone. The larger apparently gives a richer tone IMO.

 

Without saying too much.. after having heard it at home.. my impressions from the showroom still stayed. Maybe it's system synergy or some other thing (both in showroom or at home!), but I wasn't drawn into the music. While the Minerva seems to benefit from 24/192 material (no real way to A/B), on 16/44.1 it seems to lose dynamics and involvement in favour of a thicker/richer and airy sound versus the benchmark. The tone is also noticably different but I can't place my finger on what exactly was it.

 

Quote this from another review - "I don't like syrupy or dark, I have heard plenty of players try to use that trick to sound musical.".. :)http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?ddgtl&1265305407&&&/Bidat-vs-Perfect-Wave-vs-Weiss-and-other

 

I did feel the Minerva felt even more digital than the benchmark does although it does some things better. In a nutshell, I felt the benchmark had a more open soundstage vs the Minerva's airy feel (this did not match with my Plinius imo which is already a little airy but may be fine in others), and the benchmark had more dynamics while the weiss sounded a little flat in comparison. Minerva, I felt, may have offered me just a tad bit more clarity, but it wasn't significant to me by any means. Imaging was better, but again, I did not feel overly conscious of this as musicality is more important - and there are ways to tweak that anyway. Detail level on 16/44.1 sounded very similar. Other than that, the tone of the Minerva is richer/thicker which may help in some systems - this character reminds me a little of the Bel Canto DAC3 actually, but I haven't heard it in quite awhile so better not to draw direct comparisons.

 

I did not test various power cords or other tweaks (e.g. isolation) with the Minerva (it's supposedly resistent to those), using the same from the benchmark - but the benchmark is very susceptible to such tweaks so that may have made the difference in my system due to a better 'base'. No tests were done on using the pre-amp of both dacs which is also a secondary factor for those who want to use this feature. I do know the pre on the benchmark dac-1 pre sounds ok, but it definitely could benefit from a better pre-amp. This adds much needed refinement and involvement to the benchmark sound, which can similarly sound a little flat and slightly harsh.

 

As usual.. your mileage may vary. Am sure there are many happy Minerva users out there, especially with all the rave reviews..

 

For me, I'm currently home trialing a Chord QBD76 and it beats both the above easily.. am sure there are many other great sounding DACs out there, enough for everyone's tastes.

 

Test system: Plinius M8 + Plinius SA201 + Focal 1027Be. Cabling used were slinkylinks and VDH MC Gold ICs (fully balanced setup), nordost heimdall speaker cables, black sand silver ref and violet, lessloss DFPC power cords, PurePower 1050i and various TAOC isolator + boards.

 

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Weiss DAC2 (at the time the Minerva; now own a DAC2). OK, so I gave it away; I bought the Weiss. Why? Because there was not one area where the Benchmark even came close to its performance. Areas like detail, image density, soundstage depth, frequency extremes, midrange palpability and overall musicality (sounding like good analog) were not difficult areas to discern the Weiss's dominance. While a/b'ing I liked the Bryston a bit better than the DAC1 also (high end extension very good), but put my top two DACs, the Berkeley (soundstage width king) and the Weiss several points ahead of the Bryston and wayy ahead of the Benchmark, which soudned shrill and fatiguing to my ears. If the Berkeley had been slightly warmer and slightly less money it's preamp cabilities may have won me over.

 

I have enjoyed the DAC2 immensely. My next a/b will be with the new stripped-down Metric Halo LIO-8 (ULN-8 w/out mic preamps). I'll report back.

 

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ted_b, reading comments like that is what made me want to like the weiss so much. :) but ultimately i guess it is all down to system synergy and our own expectations. it also makes me wonder if i borrowed a dud unit.

 

i have heard my benchmark sound shrill in systems too, especially those without power tweaks or isolation, so i can't dispute, but it sounds smooth in mine. i would guess the minerva would give more consistent performance across board.

 

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synergy is what it's all about. My a/b'ing was done in my system...it may very well have been a situation where the more-tipped Benchmark put my system over the top to the point of no return, where yours does the same thing for the Weiss (i.e Weiss makes it too bloated in midrange, etc.)...dunno. This hobby is about balance and system symmetry...there are not really a great many absolutes. That's why inhome trials/demos/evaluations are paramount.

 

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Much agreed ted_b. :)

 

The main reason I went to try the weiss (apart from the reviews), was because I wanted to test the firewire input versus the benchmark's usb which is supposedly an inferior technology, especially going by all the talk over here! I have also tried the m2tech at home, and also tried using the Minerva as a firewire/spdif converter (where I found the Minerva's characteristics flowed through).

 

Basically what I found was that system synergy is THE most important aspect of a system. With all the talk about async usb or firewire dacs.. 24/192, etc.. I hope we all do not get overly caught up in the technological/marketing talk.

 

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The synergy is all that is important in reality. The final person to judge is you or your family. There is no one else. You could never say one is wrong in the framework of their own system. We all listen to different things. I have not hear the Weiss though it does seem like something I would like. I am going to audition the Bryston ans Sims Audio dacs this week coming up. I have had the Ayre and the naim home. In that trial it was all Naim. They are both nice but the Naim just rocks to my ears. It is more than I want to go but I have not bought anything yet so who knows, Good luck with Metric Ted, that and the Berkeley are just to rich for my blood.

 

Mac Book Pro, HiFace, Cary Exiter Dac, Focal speakers, JL Audio sub,plus cable and cords from Audio Art and Shunyata, Hydra powered by Cambridge Audio

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I replaced a Benchmark DAC1 USB with a Weiss DAC2 after hearing a Friend's Weiss in my system for a few days.

 

Overall the Weiss DAC2 was a different kind of experience from most of the DACs I have tried over the last few years. IMO, most of the DAC all ended up pretty close in terms of resolution and detail retrieval (Beresford, Benchmark, Lavry DA10, Neko DAC100, Wavelength Brick); while there are some distinct sonic differences between the different DACs I did not feel there was really really big step resolution wise. The Weiss beat all the DACs in pretty much all areas - it has the extreme detail and deep view into the recording capability of the Lavry, the dynamics, transients and drive of the Benchmark, and the openess and smoothness of the Brick. With the Weiss digital has for me come for the first time to the level where digital has come close in many areas to my analog setup. Frankly, we tried the Weiss in several systems over a few months and the results were always similar. The Weiss made the Benchmark sound closed in and veiled and had really liked the Benchmark over the two years I had it. In some systems the difference was a little less pronounced and in some the highs of the Benchmark balanced some darker systems. Also, the Benchmark sounded best when driven by the Weiss used as a Firewire to AES/EBU converter (compared to USB direct or SPDIF from transport).

 

In our audiophile circle 5 people went for the DAC2 after hearing the Weiss (one replaced a $15k McIntosh DAC/Transport combo, 3 others replaced a Benchmark DAC1 USB or DAC1 pre). I have been running the DAC2 for almost 8 months now and it has been one of the most satisfying audio purchases I made. I still can find very little to fault on the DAC2.

 

 

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For quite awhile now, I've been intrigued by the wide variety of opinions on the DAC 1 and it's cousins. There seems to be some substantial debate or even controversy. I know The Absolute Sound is mixed on their opinion (and I believe it was they who interviewed Benchmark, or maybe did some other kind of testing, that shed some light on the possible causes of the differences), while Stereophile seems to be fairly uniform in its praise.

 

Interestingly, or unfortunately, I purchased a DAC 1Pre based mostly on the almost universal early praise and from comments from a few other people I know that I respect.

 

Has someone else read the article I'm referring to? All I can say is that while I'm certainly not unhappy with it, I too find it lacking in, for lack of another word, musicality and emotional involvement. Recently I changed amps and it's sensitivity was lower. Being as that my preamp is passive, I had a serious lack of gain and found myself listening to the system with volume turned almost to its max, quite frequently. So, for the second time, I gave the Benchmark a run as a complete Pre-amp/DAC. But, it was not very long before I abandoned it, as it just did not match my inexpensive passive (A Promitheus TVC). I'm using my DAC at the end of a homemade music server that contains a Lynx AES 16 - a very good setup, so I've read, and, for the most part, heard. For now, USB and Firewire are not my modality of choice. But, I'm looking forward to the day when I can simplify and feel that I'm not missing something.

 

I've read a few reports on the new PS Audio Perfect Wave. It looks exceedingly promising, but with all the good things I've read, I still have one issue with it that is just a deal killer for me. I still have a significant vinyl collection and investment in turntable/cartridge/phono preamp, and without just ONE analog input, it's pretty much a non workable situation, without swapping out wires etc. (Oh, and I don't want to start a fight here, but it's the musicality and emotional involvement that keeps analog at the top of my musical experience meter, even with all its faults and worts. I'm looking for something that gives me that experience with all the other improvements that are germane to digital - improved dynamic range etc, not to mention no pops or ticks!) I bought the DAC 1 Pre specifically so I could have it as a backup (at the least). Of course, I could just use some like the Perfect Wave as a "DAC", like I do now, and feed my preamp, but I would OH SO like to find a combination box that does it all and "checks all my boxes" in terms of formats and resolution. I'm confident that we are heading in that direction, so I think I'll wait.

 

Well, I've rambled a bit, again, but I would like to get to the bottom of the DAC 1 controversy. I think that the system synergy, or maybe even the transport, somehow affects the sound of the Benchmark regardless of its jitter reduction. There seems to be a wider difference of opinions with it than most other similar products.

 

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Hi Dainapoo,

 

While I subscribe to Stereophile, I don't believe everything I read. The first priority of publications is to make profit. I've noticed they usually review products from their advertisers. Even though John Atkinson records with Metric Halo products I wouln't hold your breath for a review, since MH is a pro audio company and probably will never advertise with them. You might check out their products. They may have a product which can replace your phono preamp, preamp and DAC. However, don't take my word for it. Audition it in your system

 

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Yea, I hear you there. I'm old enough to remember when those two publications were just starting out. I miss the all out "pans" that someone like J.Gordon Holt was not afraid to make. I was just thinking the other day that Stereophile nowadays reads a whole lot like Audio magazine did back in the 70's, if not Stereo Review. Yikes.

 

I'm completely unfamiliar with Metric Halo. I will definitely check them out!

 

Thanks!

 

Daina

 

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To end off this topic, I just want to update I heard the Berkeley and felt its character (e.g. tonality, thickness) is closer to the benchmark sound, and IMO, would be an easier step-up for benchmark upgraders looking for more refinement. IMO, it is also much better than the weiss.

 

Of course, the lack of usb input is a put off and you'd need to budget more for a lynx card or usb/spdif converter, but just talking generally about the sound characteristic. The berkeley's digital vol is also better implemented than I expected, though I didn't do a long study on it.

 

If spending this budget, I would suggest you check out the Chord QBD76 as well, where it also includes a usb input, although only up to 24/48 if I am not wrong. Not many dacs live in this space that offer similar level of refinement.. have tried naim, esoteric, sim audio and other brands for a 'benchmark upgrade' without much success.

 

Couldn't get to hear the metric halo so no comment about that yet.

 

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