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Benchmark DAC1 USB or DAC1 PRE


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Sorry guys, newbie here...

First of all, I'm very pleased to finally find a place to talk about this "new" wave of convergence between the PC and HI-FI systems, for me is absolutely the way to go, it makes all the sense...myself, I'm IT guy that really loves music...

 

Today I've a PC with Vista Ultimate(Media Center) as a server(about 600 Cd's ripped in WMA Lossless format), with a Prodigy Sound Card connected to a Integrated Amp from Music Fidelity and a pair of Sonus Faber speaker’s. I'm planning to go a step forward buying a dedicated DAC, since I'm not to happy with the current config, my dedicated CD from DENON still sounds better for me...well, going back to the subject, were to go regarding the two products from Benchmark, what's the main difference/advantage of each "solution" in a config PC->DAC->Integrated Amp....

 

Many thanks,

Renato

 

 

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Hey Renato welcome to Computer Audiophile. It sounds like you have the makings of a really good system. Both Benchmark products are pretty similar. I will be getting the new DAC1 PRE sometime in February when they are available. the biggest difference is that the PRE has analog inputs. Thus it is a DAC/preamp. The DAC1/USB only has digital inputs. it is really up to you if you need the analog inputs. There are some other differences with upgraded internal parts which should be better, but for the most part the analog input is the biggie.

 

For the price the Benchmark products are very good and you won't be disappointed by either one I am sure.

 

One other thing to think about is the file format you are using. You did mention your Denon sounds better than your current system. Along with the external DAC I would try some different file formats if you can. There is a discussion going on one of the forums here about compressed v. uncompressed where you might find some info or you could ask some other members what they think.

 

Thanks for the post.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Renato, I've been using a Benchmark DAC1 USB as my pre-amp for close to a year. It sounds great. The DAC1 was designed from the beginning to have enough output power to drive a power amp, and Benchmark mentions this in the manual. At the time it seemed radical. Now it seems normal, and my ears are happy.

 

The DAC1 USB drives a set of headphones for private listening, and an old Sony ES-line power amp for listening out loud with Cambridge Soundworks Ensemble speakers. The living room in my apartment has very bad acoustics so I feel no need for an upgrade.

 

The new DAC1-pre simply adds an analog input so you can use the device with more peripherals. All of my inputs are digital so the lack of an analog input doesn't bother me. If I had a need for analog, I'd buy one of these immediately.

 

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Hey Chris, thanks for your answer.

 

Considering the difference in the price tag, maybe going to the "PRE vers." is a better deal. The analogue inputs one day might came in handy and since is a new product, as you say, there might be a few improvements in the internal parts.

 

I'm planning to go with Benchmark because their products are in my price range of investment and it seams their products are well supported. There are so many similar products, but unfortunately I don't have the chance to listen to them, so....regarding music and how it sound's, it's always such a personal experience, what is good for me, can be very bad for you... :-)

 

Regarding the file formats "war", first of all, I'm not there, yet :-) !! I need to solve this "bottleneck" with the PCI sound card and very bad quality cable that goes into my amp, only them I will start testing the different formats...but once again, with so many choices on the market, you need to be practical. Unfortunately(or fortunately) Microsoft is going to be around for many years to came, WMA is very hell supported, with lossless format you don't lose quality, I've a lot of "horse power" in my computer and going to Windows Media Center is very convenient, it works very well considering...after many years playing around with different players and Media Center front ends, Microsoft VMC just works!! Unfortunately, I don’t have the time, nor the money to be a “true” purist… :-)

 

Thanks,

Renato

 

 

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Hey Computer Audiophiles!!

 

Nice forum... this is my first exposure to it. Audiophilia is definitely heading straight for the computer world, so this forum will become more and more relevant in the next few years and beyond.

 

I am an applications engineer for Benchmark Media Systems, the makers of the DAC1, DAC1 USB, DAC1 PRE and other high-precision audio equipment. I can answer any questions about our products and also general questions about configuring and optimizing audio systems.

 

Thanks,

Elias

 

Elias Gwinn[br]Applications Engineer[br]Benchmark Media Systems[br]Please help us spread the word about our free web-series www.BenchmarkMedia.com/MastersFromTheirDay - a video series about recording music - w/ FREE 88/24 DOWNLOADS[br]

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Hey Elias, thanks for jumping in. We like our information straight from the source rather than the rumors and misinformation that tend to spread in forums.

 

Since you volunteered, here is the first question.

 

Can you explain the difference between the DAC1 USB and the DAC1 PRE?

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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I'll explain the difference between the DAC1 PRE and the DAC1 USB.

 

The DAC1 PRE is designed to act as a stand-alone system pre-amplifier, DAC, headphone amp, and computer audio output device....all in one box and all of the highest quality available. The analog inputs allow iPods, vinyl players, and other analog sources to be seamlessly interfaced with the digital playback system. This is useful even for users that do not have analog sources for times when a friend wants to play something on your system from his/her iPod, etc.

 

The DAC1 PRE has a total of six stereo inputs - one analog stereo input and five digital stereo inputs. The digital inputs include USB, optical (TOSlink), and 3x coaxial inputs. The five digital inputs allows the DAC1 PRE to anchor an entire media system - interfacing directly with digital cable boxes, digital satellite radio, digital television, DVD players, CD players, wireless music server devices, etc.

 

The coaxial digital inputs, the analog inputs, and the analog RCA outputs are all built with high-quality, chassis mounted, Teflon RCA connectors. The DAC1 USB uses PCB-mounted, plastic RCA connectors and a BNC connector for the coaxial input.

 

The HPA2 headphone amplifier that is built into the DAC1 PRE has three gain ranges to accommodate various headphone sensitivities. This feature is a direct result of customer feedback, who found certain headphones to be way too sensitive for the high-output HPA2 built into the DAC1 and DAC1 USB. The DAC1 USB has two gain ranges, but many users have expressed a desire for a third, lower gain range.

 

The analog paths in the DAC1 PRE feature the new LM4562 op-amp from National Semiconductor. These new op-amps are capable of delivering much higher currents before distortion, and have remarkably low noise and distortion levels to begin with. The output drivers of the DAC1 USB are designed with the 4562's, but the rest of the analog circuitry is built with the classic 5532's.

 

The DAC1 PRE has a rotary source selector for easy switching. The rotary source selector can also be pressed as a button to put the DAC1 PRE into standby mode. This works great for instant muting as well. The DAC1 USB uses a momentary switch to scroll through the 4 inputs, and does not have a manual standby feature. It does have an automatic standby feature, which is activated when the DAC1 USB senses a loss of digital input (i.e., when the source is no longer sending data to the DAC1 USB).

 

I believe that coveres everything. I'd be happy to clarify anything...please don't hesitate to ask!!

 

Thanks,

Elias

 

Elias Gwinn[br]Applications Engineer[br]Benchmark Media Systems[br]Please help us spread the word about our free web-series www.BenchmarkMedia.com/MastersFromTheirDay - a video series about recording music - w/ FREE 88/24 DOWNLOADS[br]

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Thank you for joining us here, Elias. I enjoyed the "Jenga" thread on Head-Fi as long as it lasted, and have been missing your comments since that forum blew up.

 

And now I can see that I need a DAC1 Pre, for its low-gain setting. Sigh. Can I get a special deal on two?

 

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Lord,

 

Great to see you too!!

 

The Jenga thread lives!!!

 

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f7/benchmark-dac1-now-available-usb-223006/

 

Join us!

 

Thanks,

Elias

 

Elias Gwinn[br]Applications Engineer[br]Benchmark Media Systems[br]Please help us spread the word about our free web-series www.BenchmarkMedia.com/MastersFromTheirDay - a video series about recording music - w/ FREE 88/24 DOWNLOADS[br]

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How about that. For the last few months, ever since the Head-Fi crash, my bookmark for the site hasn't worked. Now I see that the Jenga thread about the DAC1 USB is up to 128 pages, so obviously I was out in left field. And now my link works just fine. Mysteries of the Internet.

 

Thanks for the link Elias. That's what seemed to fix it.

 

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The first DAC1 PRE is almost out the door!! It is very exciting, indeed.

 

I have a question for Chris: Is there a way to be notified when someone posts on this thread? I've set up this function on other forums, but I can't seem to find it here.

 

Thanks!

Elias

 

Elias Gwinn[br]Applications Engineer[br]Benchmark Media Systems[br]Please help us spread the word about our free web-series www.BenchmarkMedia.com/MastersFromTheirDay - a video series about recording music - w/ FREE 88/24 DOWNLOADS[br]

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Yes, I've had a lot of fun with the "Great Jenga Thread". I feel like we've built a small community around that thread, and that some of the posters are like old friends of mine. ...a very unique feeling, seeing that I've never seen any of these people in person. But it really does feel like that....like its my local tavern, and I go there to chat with the neighbors...

 

Elias Gwinn[br]Applications Engineer[br]Benchmark Media Systems[br]Please help us spread the word about our free web-series www.BenchmarkMedia.com/MastersFromTheirDay - a video series about recording music - w/ FREE 88/24 DOWNLOADS[br]

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Hey Elias - I am testing out a couple different "subscription" functions for the forums, but I'm not happy with them so far. I do agree this is an important function and I'm currently working on it.

 

I could have used the standard vBulletin forums, but I think the look of vBulletin is too sterile.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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I think I get the preamp function of the new unit, but system-wise I don't really need it. But, it could be handy to have, and I suppose I could a/b to more than one set of amps, one with a separate pre, the other w/out. Plus, it also has a few other changes versus the USB. Can the pre just be adjusted to minimal (or whatever) gain and function as plain DAC in a system with a separate pre-amp, or is there a reason to not do that and the USB would be preferred? I'm kind of partial to my tube preamp sound I suppose.

 

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The DAC1 PRE can be connected to another preamp without problem. In this configuration, it will interface exactly like the other DAC1's. All DAC1's are designed to be operated in either configuration: as source to another pre-amp or directly to the amplifier. The DAC1 PRE is more ergonomically suited as a typical pre-amplifier, however.

 

Thanks,

Elias

 

Elias Gwinn[br]Applications Engineer[br]Benchmark Media Systems[br]Please help us spread the word about our free web-series www.BenchmarkMedia.com/MastersFromTheirDay - a video series about recording music - w/ FREE 88/24 DOWNLOADS[br]

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That's what I wanted to hear, thanks Elias.

 

Oh, by the way - have you ever relocated a big ole tube amp while it's playing your favorite tunes? Aside from wrenching your back and melting the flesh off your hands, I'd say that would pass any OSHA ergonomic requirements. Bah, ergonomics, I want lots of knobs, lights and whizzers. Blue flashy things seem to entrance me (as long as I don't get arrested or a ticket). OooOOoOo, I see blue on the new Pre.

 

Next, I'll be wanting headphones, what's a guy to do?

 

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Well, I guess I should have said that the DAC1 PRE is more pragmatically suited as a pre-amplifier. It has the features, build, knobs, lights, and whizzers of a high-end pre-amplifier with the sound quality of the DAC1 family.

 

And it doesn't burn your flesh like a tube-pre!! What else could you ask for... ;-)

 

Elias Gwinn[br]Applications Engineer[br]Benchmark Media Systems[br]Please help us spread the word about our free web-series www.BenchmarkMedia.com/MastersFromTheirDay - a video series about recording music - w/ FREE 88/24 DOWNLOADS[br]

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Yes, the DAC1 has pretty blue lights. It has VERY BRIGHT pretty blue lights. In the bedroom I put the HD-25 manual over them so I can sleep without turning my eyeballs inside out. My desk is cluttered enough that I usually can't see the lights on that DAC1. :)

 

I think Benchmark should sell a little slip-on light attenuator to avoid the Laser Effect.

 

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