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DAC Comparison

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So after reading all the rave reviews on the Benchmark Dac1 I decided to upgrade my 10 year old MSB Linc Dac III, and purchased the Benchmark just over a year ago. When I connected it to my system I found the sound to very dynamic and punchy, closer to live than I had previously heard. I was a little burned out on comparing equipment at the time and decided not to worry about comparing the MSB to the Benchmark and just enjoy the music. An upcoming move has made it necessary to slim down on my equipment and the MSB is being picked up tomorrow so I thought before it goes I should compare the two to see how much better the Benchmark really sounds. I used a JVC DVD / DVD Audio player as the transport and connected the SPDIF to one dac and the coaxial digital out to the other. I have an Adcom GFP 750 pre amp which can switch between inputs seamlessly with out any interruption in the sound which I find a good comparison tool. The power amps are Bryston 7BSt's and the speakers are Harbeth Super HL5's. When switching between the two I was surprised to find almost no difference in the sound at all. There might have been a slight difference in character but I doubt I would be able to pick out which DAC was playing in a blind test. I then reversed the SPDIF and coaxial to see if that made a difference but it didn't. I also tried switching to the analog out of the JVC DVD player and noted a slightly thinner sound but again, I don't think I could pick out which was playing in a blind test. I was really hopping to hear better sound from the Benchmark to validate the purchase price. I also have a speaker selector switch and can easily hear differences when I compare different speakers, so although I may not have golden ears, I believe I can hear differences in sound. Has any one else tried a similar comparison? Has anyone compared different DAC's by switching instantly between the two? I believe that even a couple seconds delay in switching can make it difficult to tell if what you are hearing is something you expect to hear or in fact are hearing.




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My decades as an audiophile have lead me to believe that instantaneous switching is not the way to hear differences. I believe it disguises them unless they are gross. Here's the example I like to give: back in the cassette deck days, I used to switch between source and monitor when making a recording. Usually I could not hear a meaningful difference (wow, what a great deck this is!) But in actual fact, the differences were huge, which became readily apparent when you listened to the tape.


Part of my evaluation process always includes some switching back and forth (though usually not of the instantaneous variety), but I also always do some long-term listening, where I put the component in the system and listen to it for a few days or longer. Then switch it out and do the same with the other component. During which period did I enjoy my music more? I appreciate the lack of rigor and the obvious pitfalls with such an approach, but it's the best way I know of to make decisions that are right for me.


While on the topic, music servers are a huge boon to doing direct comparisons because they allow you to pull up so much different music very quickly. I discovered not too long ago that it is important (for me at least) to keep introducing new music to the comparison; that is, if you listen to 3 selections with component A in the system, listen to the same with component B but also add one or two new selections, which will get repeated when you switch back to A while some of the older stuff gets dropped out. Again, music servers are a godsend. The reason I think this is important is that the experience of hearing a piece of music for the first time (in an evaluation) seems to tell me a lot about how my system sounds and how it affects me. That newness is lost when you change components and play the selection again. So give each component a good diet of new music.


Mac Mini 5,1 [i5, 2.3 GHz, 8GB, Mavericks] w/ Roon -> Ethernet -> TP Link fiber conversion segment -> microRendu w/ LPS-1 -> Schiit Yggdrasil

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Dear DanRubin, I like very much your approach for comparing different audio gear. It's even more true when you need to decide for cables. The cables need to stay in the system for some says or weeks then swap with the other cables live also with them for a while. Only then one can decide which cable matches better in term of system synergy.


On the other end, with digital sources, the differences in Sound are not that huge some time. But the differences how the Music is played and the Emotion/individual Involvement induced (at the listener level) can be still quite massive. That's weird, to differentiate the sound from the music, but this is how it goes for me. I hope some of you share the same feelings...


Daphile or VortexBox based audio player with ASUS MB and fanless Streacom case. Paul Hynes and Teddy Pardo linear supplies. SSD drive. Paul Pang SATA cable on its way...

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When the Benchmark Dac1 first came out, I purchase one to replace my CAL Audio Sigma DAC.


I compared them using the SPDIF RCA and AES/EBU XLR digital outputs on my CAL Delta transport. Cables were Audience Au24s.


The Dac1 sounded very impressive when I first hooked it up, but I soon got tried of the it's your face

presentation and compressed soundstage. Switching back to Sigma restored the musical balance to my system.


Fortunately, I was able to return the Dac1 for a full refund.




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He can't hear the difference between DACs regardless of whether the switching is instantaneous or over a long period of listening.


To solve the problem, I would suggest an ear transplant...two in fact. It is important for you choose the proper ears. Do not, for example, choose the ears of Beethoven. They are readily available, but I suspect that is because he was actually deaf! As always, buyer beware.


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Wots, I don't understand the true purpose of your (humoristic, I hope...) post. What do you want to say exactly?


Daphile or VortexBox based audio player with ASUS MB and fanless Streacom case. Paul Hynes and Teddy Pardo linear supplies. SSD drive. Paul Pang SATA cable on its way...

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Hi sound-off,


I read your post a few times and was puzzled at first. You have good equipment that should be able to reveal differences when comparing DACs. Then I noticed the following...


“I also have a speaker selector switch and can easily hear differences when I compare different speakers, so although I may not have golden ears, I believe I can hear differences in sound.”


As a test, I suggest that you wire the Bryston 7B-ST monoblocks directly to each Harbeth speaker. Do not use the speaker selector.


Please try this and then let us know your thoughts after comparing DACs again.









Amarra 3.0.3/iTunes-->AQVOX USB PS-->Acromag USB Isolator-->Ayre QB-9-->Ayre K-5xeMP-->W4S SX-500-->Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Super Towers-->SVS SB12-Plus (L&R). Cables: Nordost, Transparent, LessLoss, Analysis Plus & Pangea. Dedicated line with isolated power conditioning per component: PS Audio & Furman. Late 2012 Mac Mini 2.6GHz Quad-Core i7 (16 GB, 1TB Fusion, 6TB ext via Tbolt). External drives enclosure http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f7-disk-storage-music-library-storage/silent-enclosure-external-hard-drives-7178/

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Hello all,


this is my first post here at CA. I enjoy reading your forumthreads, some of you really know, how the wind blows. (Sorry for my english).


This time I have to agree DanRubin.

When you are a trained listener, you can hear a difference in seconds. But if not, you are wrong when you belief that one component will create different music that the other one. But in a long time period you will realize the difference.


Compare two cars, maybe both of them are great, but in a long term test one will win. Because in the first moment you do not see the point.




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Thanks for all the replies. The possible flaw I have considered with long term listening comparisons is the different moods and feelings that any listetner will feel over the course of a week or two. Have you ever noticed that music sounds better at night than it does first thing in the morning? The same way an athlete warms up his muscles to play sports, I believe the same applies to our hearing. I find music almost always sounds better after coming back from a work out. There are also variables that can affect how a person feels through out a week, different levels of stress, you might have a head ache one day, you might feel a bit stuffed up one day. If your system sounds better or worse to you through out a week, how do you really know that it's the new component? It may just be one of those moments when every thing falls into place and a synergy exists between the listener and the music. The way I see it my eyes can tell me 100% of the time that the color blue is different than red so if my ears can’t discern the difference immediately between two audio components at different price points than the higher priced component isn’t worth it. I am however definitely open and looking to spend dollars on meaningful improvements to my system. Just my two cents.



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The psycho-accoustic effects of intensive listening have been written about, but are still very little understood. One reason, though, why music sounds better late at night may well be a better quality of the power supply. I prefer listening at hours after midnight, as this is when fewer users are at the grid, which improves the power quality that enhances the output of my equipment and in turn my listening experience.

In terms of comparing different dacs, I found that long after hours listening sessions will eventually reveal a preference for one. But as Chris pointed out, the switch could obscure any difference between the dacs.



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