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My new Benchmark DAC1 USB....well worth the money!


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I have never had an outboard DAC until this my 79th year. I decided to treat myself. I am in poor health and so I spend a huge amount of time listening to music both Classical and Jazz. The DAC was a mint second hand unit used by a friend for a couple of months. He had bought two, one for his main listening room and another for the family room. He decided he didn't really need the second one, so I got one for $350 below the retail price.

I am not sure what I expected when I decided to buy the DAC1 USB, but what I found was surprising.

 

Initially I was disappointed. I was used to what my AVR Denon 3312ci dished out and my first impression of this DAC was that the music it gave me was too lean and colourless. But I soldiered on for several hours of listening, chiefly to the Berliner Philharmoniker online site. I was watching/listening to Stravinsky's Firebird, when I noticed that I was hearing something different and what finally dawned on me was that the background that the music floated across was not just black as with the Denon, but deeply, velvet black...no hint of distortion, not anything, just pure black at its deepest. I also noticed that I was completely enjoying this piece that I had listened to dozens of times before. The bassoons in the Bercuse seemed rounder and deeper, in fact the whole orchestra seemed to be better focused in a way that was new to me. Maybe my initial judgement was hasty. The sonic geometry of the ballet had subtlety changed! The sound stage was wider by a bit and there was more space around each instrument...there was more of a 3-D'ness to what was coming out of my Sennheiser HD558's. I also detected a subtle increase in the depth of the sound stage. Again, enough that the whole presented a more realistic performance to my old, jaded ears. And what's this?! I got a flash of music happening between the ear cans, just a soupcon of a virtual third channel. Now I was starting to imagine things...or not!

 

I went on listening to different music both classical and jazz, I noticed that the treble that at first I thought was too bright, was really just plain accurate. There was no roll-off...Alan Vache's clarinet F above high C was spot on and crisply delivered. So here it was! The damn thing was not overly lean, it was just plain realistically accurate. Christian MsBride's bass was tight and round. No blousiness.boominess at all. In addition Diana Krall's voice proved that the mids fitted symetrically between the treble and the bass and so the whole was an enjoyable gestalt of lovely sonic splendour. Too much eh! Oh well, that is how I heard it!

My whole way of listening has now changed. My computer has become the centre of my listening, not my Denon. The only time I will be using it, is when I turn on my speakers or watch a movie on the TV. Truly, this Benchmark DAC 1 USB has had a profound effect on my musical enjoyment and therefore on my life. Money well spent. I have never listened to a master tape from a professional sound recording, but I suspect I am now hearing music very much akin to that on master tapes. I am delighted.

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Great post! I'm a lot younger but also retired and music is a very important part of my life also. This hobby brings me joy every day.

 

There is nothing else that brings me such joy each day...well, maybe my grandchildren! They are the best!

Keep on listening my friend and you will someday reach the edge of age as I have!! LOL!

 

very best regards

Leo

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Congrats! That is what it is all about my friend. Nice piece of kit there too. :)

 

Paul

Thank you very much Paul! You are very kind. This is a very friendly forum I think...so far! ;-) Audiophiles though can get cranky on occasion,yes?

 

Cheers

Leo

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  • 2 weeks later...

I should add here that if I thought my DAC sounded great with the Sennheiser HD 558's, I was not prepared for the gorgeous sonics when I attached my new headphones from Shure. This is their flagship set of phones and they sound the best of any headphones I have ever heard before...they certainly made my 558's sound veiled and the AKG 701's seemed near deaf, metaphorically speaking by comparison.

The Shures in tandem with the Benchmark DAC has crystal pure highs with no sharp, glassy edges, very detailed with magical ability to capture the decay of cymbals and the sound of fingers plucking guitar strings while others slide up and down on the fret board; the mids are only slightly forward and Dianne Reeves singing Gershwin songs with the Berlin Philharmonic sounded fresh and gorgeous...so did the orchestra. The sound stage was wide enough and also had depth...air around the instruments and even the clapping of the audience was real...it actually sounded like hands clapping instead of like loud static. The Benchmark DAC again provides a deep black background for the music to wash over, so the Shures can cleanly pick them up and deliver them to my very happy ears. What a combination. As for the bass, from much of what I have read, I expected it to be underwhelming...not at all. The headphones provide a taut bass in both upper and lower sections with no boominess or exaggeration. They dig deep for detail and generally provide a very accurate and pleasing bass pulse for the listener.

I am so pleased with this combination. Once again I took the plunge on something based on my research and intuition and it paid off. I never heard the Shure 1840's until the moment I plugged them into my DAC, Gutsy eh! I know, some will say stupid! LOL! It was an exciting adventure and my music never ever sounded this good.

Leo

 

P.S.BTW they are comfortable as all get out and are of quality build as befits the flagship of a venerable company like Shure, Chicago's finest!

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Fabulous! It's the essence of "music therapy" for sure. And now you can relearn all the music you thought you knew. Best wishes for joy and stability.

 

David

 

Thank you David and you are right. Much of my music now has a wonderful newness that I can re-explore.

 

Best to you mate

Leo

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that I bought these headphones which were demos from a dealer. He offered them at a price I couldn't ignore. They had less then 20 hours on them, but by the time I had added another 12 hours the first day, I could literally hear them improving. My first impression was somewhat south of the way I feel about them now. In fact at first I thought my vaunted intuition had done me dirt, but when the dealer wrote me and said that they had less then 20 hours on them and that there was a surprise in store for me, I persevered.

I now have clocked (or the headphones have clocked much time on their own) another 120 hours and the difference between the sound then and now is so huge. So be prepared if you are thinking of buying them.

 

Leo

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