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Benchmark DAC 1

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by JH1, Jan 9, 2005.

  1. JH1

    JH1
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    I currently have an Arcam CD73 cd player I am looking at upgrading my CD player performance. I have looked at changing my CD player as a whole but when I demoed the Arcam CD192, I have to say I was not impressed and was left struggling to hear any real improvement above my current player. I also recently had a CHORD DAC64 on home loan and that was a good improvement. Everything sounded crisper, more pronounced and, well.....more real. I could be really tempted with this DAC if only it wasn't for the price of £2000! :mad:

    In looking around, I have read about the Benchmark DAC 1 and this looks more interesting to me. Has any one out there heard this DAC or can anyone recommend a DAC to rival the DAC64 but for a few less pennies???

    The trouble with something as obscure as this DAC, is that the chances of getting one to trial are as good as winning the lottery....and if that happened, I'd just buy the DAC64 anyway!

    Any advice/experiences welcomed.

    Jason.
     
  2. Knightshade

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    Afraid there's not a lot out there to rival the 64 in my opinion.
    The thing is the 64 was being held back by the arcam amp as well. I've seen them on ebay for about £1200. I know it's a lot to spend but it's very worth it.
    The DCS company make DAC's which are (On the right equipment) marginally better than the 64 but only on the right equipment. Trouble is the price ticket (new) is about £6000.
    You could look out for Music Fidelity, TAG etc. But these are a little slim on the ground now.
    If you're not too desperate I will have a 64 MKII for sale in the next month or so.
     
  3. CJROSS

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    If I was in the market for a new DAC the Benchmark would be one that I would seriously consider you can pick them up second hand for £600-700 pounds and it sports a set of XLRs on the back for future amp upgrade ie Amps with XLR inputs. Dont rule out the DAC 64 Ive seen these go from £900 to £1300 second hand, and every price gap in between. there are of course plenty of DACs lower down the chain than a DAC 64, you can also pick up a MF Trivsita for £800ish these days, and there are loads of sub £500 DACs that are very good. (TAG, MF, Meridian - all a big step up from your CD73 IMHO - I have a friend who went from a CD72 to a Rotel DAC that he bought on Ebay for £140, he preffered it to his CD72)

    There are plenty of places where audiophiles sell DACs at very reasonable prices check out Hifichoices website & Zerogain both Classified section have many DACs come up often.

    Or wait for a DAC 64 to pop up, as Knightshade says they will pop up, also keep an eye open for the Electrocompaniet ECD-1 for £800-900. But if the DAC 64 is too pricy I would check out the Benchmark.
     
  4. JH1

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    Thanks for your response guys. Just a couple more questions:

    1. Knightshade, I have just demo'd the DAC64 and a CD192. I could hear very little difference between the CD73 and CD192. My understanding is that the CD192 should be a good match to the A85, but I did wonder why I wasn't hearing much difference. The DAC64 did sound a good deal different, but do you feel my A85 is letting the side down. My dealer said it is a fine amp and looked surprised when I asked if my amp was up to it saying "your amp is fine. You will only get out your system what you put into it"
    In your opinion, do I really need to change it, or would adding a P90 and biamping my B&W 704's (which was my plan) be suitable enough to extract good sound from something like the DAC64. If not, without going mad, what do you consider I need to look at?

    2. CJ - Have you heard the difference between the DAC64 and the Benchmark DAC1? and....have you, or do you know anyone who has paired a DAC1 with Arcam transport?.....if so what were the results?

    The be all and end all is that I want to hear a sound which rivals/improves on something like the Arcam FMJ CD33 and makes music and voices sound more real. The Chord DAC did this with my CD73 but I can't help wondering whether I need to spend that much to do it. This is where I was hoping for the Benchmark DAC1 to come in!

    Thanks guys (ps still open to other ideas here folks!)

    Jason.
     
  5. Knightshade

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    Hi Jason,
    A lot of people have commented on the lack of difference between the 73 and 192. You're certainly not the first to be dissapointed.
    Your dealer is right in one thing, you will get out what you put in.
    Not wishing to dampen your spirits or anything but the DAC 64 is in a totally different league to the arcam equipment. Unfortunately even Bi-amped you'll be missing out on a lot. But, of course, you will still be gaining a lot! Whether that'll be enough to justify the price to you I don't know.

    Best advice I can give you is try and hear the 64 through some High end Chord/Linn or Densen amps. There are others but these are some of (IMHO) the better matches. That'll show you what it's truely capable of. They'll also make the 704's sing like never before.....

    But make sure you leave your credit card at home.....;)

    Of course the sensible thing would be to take CJ's advice and hunt down one of the ones he's mentioned......
     
  6. WhyAyeMan

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    Benchmark DAC1 is nowhere near 2 grand. They are £925 and thats only if you get em here. You could try and import one from the states, and it will be even cheaper, you might even see it for less than £600 :)

    A guy on zerogain.com had a DAC64 and he prefers an Non-OS DAC that he bought on ebay for £100, which begs the following question: does it really have to cost a fortune to sound good?
     
  7. Knightshade

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    I notice he didn't sell the 64 for £100 though!

    There are plenty of DIY kits around that you can knock up for less than £100. The most popular seem to be 47 labs 'clones'. I haven't heard a DAC based on this technology but if the inverted gainclone amps are anything to go by I'd imagine they'd be very good. If you're happy with a few (very home made looking) boxes taking pride of place in your living room then great! I for one wouldn't get it past the wife.....:thumbsdow

    The manufacturer on ebay probably doesn't have to cover a large research and development budget or make it look attractive to the masses but I expect it sounds very good!

    If I was buying on looks and build quality (which do factor in to the equation!) the 64 would have to be my choice.
     
  8. CJROSS

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    Not heard the Benchmark 1 dude, have heard the DAC 64, very clean and precise would be my vibes on that. The 64 arrived to a fanfare of being the best digital device ever created, transport independent etc etc then a couple of years down the line Chord release a £4000 transport and say it needs to be used with that as its not transport independent after all (Luckily the Dac 64s designer thinks that’s bull and reccomends the toslink connection of any device – quite the opposite of Chords , hype dude beware of it. The Benchamrk 1 is at a similar juncture where many users wax lyrical about it, impervious to jitter for example, there was a dude over on HFc selling 2 DACs at the same time : A DAC 64 and a Electrocompaniet ECD-1, The DAC 64 sold very quickly and he would keep the one that did not, he loves the ECD-1 which gives you an idea that people like DACs at lower levels than the DAC 64. I would still try a Benchmark, seen these going for £600 very well specced ie XLR outputs et al. As for wanting a DAC that comeptes with a CD33 well, I happen to share the vibe that there is not much major difference between CD devices until you get over £1000 for a CD player, I think though that even adding a DAC at £400-500 would be a better option sonically than going to a CD33, but that’s just my DAC orientated vibes though. Even competing on CD tetrms that is, when you add in Digital Radio & DVD-V or even PC use it becomes the proverbial No Brainer. DACs are having a real resurgence in no small part to these other digital platforms. Im currently listening to my new £2000 DVD-A deck from Toshiba, one of the nicest pieces & VFM kit of DVD-V/A kit built and my humble old £400 DAC can compete no problem. I would hazard that the sonic differences between a CD33 and a Toshiba SD-9500 are not that large.

    FWIW here is a thread you should keep an eye on, there is lots of buzz around just now for a very basic DAC sold from Hong Kong IIRC, called the NOS (Non Oversampling) DAC, basically a clone of the totally digital filterless 47 Labs DAC, built by a guy in HK and sold for £100 + £25 P+P, worth reading all the links in the link below. Some people are going crazy over this machine, even selling DAC 64s (Knightshade you now have a upgrade or should I say total downgrade plan) for them. And to think that this item has the most basic of anti jitter design built into it – a very simple reclock circuit IIRC. Maybe worth a try before you try something at 4, 5, or 14 times the price :

    http://forum.hifichoice.co.uk/viewtopic.php?p=134600
     
  9. dynamic turtle

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    £2k is a lot of money, but given the lack of moving parts, DACs are a safe 2nd-hand buy. You should be able to find one (DAC64) for £1200. I guess you could take comfort in the fact that it is (and for a long time will be) state of the art.

    Alternatively, I second CJ's recommendation of the MF tri-vista, which is getting stupidly cheap, at around £850 used. The A3.24 or X-DACv3 (£400-500?) are also very capable.

    Audio Note also make some very nice valve-based DACs that are worth investigating. Their webiste is very informative. They also sell DAC kits - if you're handy with soldering iron!

    Other highly regarded DAC manufactuers you should look at: Theta (great website) and Monarchy Audio.

    DT
     
  10. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Yeah like TAG :D
     
  11. dynamic turtle

    dynamic turtle
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    Well, Audiolab these days, I guess :rolleyes:

    8000DAX MkII Anyone??

    (Or maybe they'll call it the 8000DAZ :rotfl: )
     
  12. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    DT you may laugh but Ive seen a few Audiolab 8000 DAXs (what the TAG DAC 20 is based on with the HDCD filter but with earlier components) selling for upwards of £500+. Always go for a TAG DAC 20 it’s the best DAC Audiolab ever made. :smashin:
     
  13. dynamic turtle

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    Yeah, could never understand why someone would pay more for a 8000DAX than a DAC20?

    Maybe it has to do with "system aesthetics"?
     
  14. JH1

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    Thanks to all of you for your responses. I've really got some food for thought. A dealer is currently trying to get hold of a Benchmark DAC1 on a sale/return basis so I can give it a home trial, so I'll see how that goes first I think.

    If anyone has had any joy trying to import the DAC1, please let me know how you did it. Benchmark, don't seem to want to sell to me from USA and keep refering me to their UK distributor. Problem is the DAC1 over here is not very well known or widely available, but at the USA price, I'd take the risk and order one without a trial. If they are selling for £600 secondhand, I wouldn't lose anything then if I decided to sell it anyway.

    Knightshade - I think after the DAC, I'll have a look at trying a different amp like you have suggested and see how that goes aswell.......the wife will be pleased!!

    Jason.
     
  15. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    JH1 If your moving into source areas as suggested above the A85 needs a look at I would agree.
     
  16. JH1

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    Out of interest....not that I will be able to afford it in the next few months, but without going mad, what sort of budget do you think I ought to allow for a decent amp upgrade and what amp would you consider on that budget?
     
  17. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    £680 NAD S300i - Hifibitz selling them right now. Awesome Amp. But generally the source level you are about to go to generally has amplification @ the £1000-1500 mark. Primare A30.1, AVI Lab Series, Sugden A21, the NAD above, Moon I-3, Arcam FMJ A22-32, Bow Wazoo.

    £700-1000 on a second hand amp will secure you most of these above.
     
  18. dynamic turtle

    dynamic turtle
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    Good selection there. Never heard the NAD silver series (they don't seem to have much of a reputation though CJ, are they really that good?), so can't comment on it.

    The Sugden and AVI are supposed to be very good, but I have no idea where you can audition this equipment - I don't think I've ever seen either company's products in any hi-fi store, ever!

    What on earth is the "Bow Wazoo"????

    DT
     
  19. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    The NAD Silverline series are actually held in very high esteem DT in audiophilia, NAD attempt and successful one at that for creating a hi-level marque. NAD silverline kit has a comparison level with Primare kit at the same price IMHO. Ie I would easily have a S300 rrp £1500 comapred to the A30.1, classy classy components, the other point of interest is that the NAD Silverline range was / is built in the same factory as Gryphon components, hence the widely held belief that the S300 Integrated is based on the Gryphon Taboo Amp, the inside layouts look identical (co-incidence being built in the same factory : so £680 from Hififbitz for a £1500 based on a £4000 Gryphon) its easy to see why a few dudes over on HFC are buying these amps ASAP.

    FWIW If I had not wanted a black fasciad A30.1 to match the DAC 20 Im would have bought one in an instant. Now the Toshiba is here Im forever doomed to black solid aliminium fascias, on the appearance front its quite interesting that one of the dudes over on HFC is a Cambrdige Audio Azur owner, ie he own the CDP & Amp, CA have ripped off the asthetics of the Silverline range from buttons and fascia layout/look right down to the LED display on the CD/DVD players.

    Bow was founded by the guy who created Primare, Bo Christansen, hence BOW. The Wazoo again then is related to the Primare A30.1 due to this family history, The Wazoo is a veritable tank of a Integrated @ 70W, and the Wazoo XL is more powerful again. Stunning looking kit FWIW :

    http://photobucket.com/albums/v250/analogkid/My Hifi/? A user over on HFC with a nice stack of Bow components.

    http://www.tnt-audio.com/ampli/wazoo_e.html

    http://www.bowtechnologies.com/index1.html
     
  20. JH1

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    Thanks CJ, thats given me plenty to look at when the time comes. Once I've got my DAC sorted the amp looks like the next component to look at. Have to say the Primare looks good but I suppose they only do it in black....the rest of my kit is silver!
     
  21. CJROSS

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    Silver you say ? Here is an amplifier sold in the UK that is currently undersold ie its rrp of £900 is too low. Many users have it over on HFC and it also a worthy addition to the amplifiers noted above (The guy I bought my A30.1 from had a Unison Research Unico – he preffered it over the Primare). Nearly bought one myself but the lure of the Primare was too strong.

    http://www.unisonresearch.com/unico/unico.asp
    http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/unisonresearch/unico.html

    Anyway Ive seen the Unico selling for £500 and that’s a bargain in anyones book. Another one to add to your list for consideration.
     
  22. dynamic turtle

    dynamic turtle
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    I wonder what sort of excuse Gryphon use to explain away the Silverline question then?

    Mmm, aural performance aside, that Bow kit looks a little OTT for my tastes. Also, I'm not sure I'd have the speakers THAT wide apart, given how close the couch is?

    Re the Unico - I read a review about it last month - it got absolutely panned (hifi choice or Hi-fi world - can't remember).
     
  23. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Well there are loads of happy users over on HFC. I know who I beleive, ie in the real world rather than a mag.

    ATB.
     
  24. JH1

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    Have to say I agree, I am rapidly beginning to find out that you just can't trust the "hype" put on so many products I've read about in mags. Often when you then give a product a trial you find yourself scratching your head and wondering what all the fuss was about!

    Anyway, thanks for the recommendation on the unico, I have seen this one before and heard people speak highly of it, but never trialled one. Incidentally, I have found a dealer who will loan me a Benchmark DAC1 at last, so I'll let you know my thoughts when I get it to trial in about 2 weeks. It will be interesting to hear how it performs. If you believe the "hype" where audiofile journalists have rated it up with equipment costing upto five times as much, it should be good. I wait with baited breath..............................
     
  25. Andre1234

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    I`m thinking of making some audio upgrade in my system through Benchmark DAC-1

    I have Arcam AVR300 ( Bi-Amped with Jamo D-830 ) and Arcam DV79

    Would the Benchmark DAC-1 make some big improvment do you think?
    Is this a good combo Arcam and Benchmark DAC-1?

    How about the "cheaper" DAC från KH ( NOS TDA1543 DAC )

    Is this maybe a complement to the Benchmark DAC-1 in my Arcam setup?
     
  26. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Andre at the level your considering putting a CD (stereo) DAC into your current system, the item in your current setup that looks like will hinder CD playback is actually your AVR-300, I would look at spending £500 DAC wise and the same again on a stereo amp. You can actually pick up Arcam A22/A32s from £400-700 second hand. Source wise may be shrouded by your current amp.
     
  27. Andre1234

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    CJROSS

    Are you realy sure that my Arcam AVR300 will hinder CD playback in my Setup? As I only use 5.1 Setup, I have the AVR300 Bi-Amped with the Jamo Concert 8

    I think that the AVR300 is realy very good at stereo already as it`s today!

    The point om my upgrade with Benchmark DAC-1 is to make the system more
    analytical and dynamic!

    I think that a combo consisting of my Arcam DV79 + DAC-1 is far more better combination that going for the Arcam FMJ DV29 itself for instans, don`t you agree?

    http://www.stereophile.com/digitalsourcereviews/886/

    "In level-matched comparisons with my long-term reference DAC, the Mark Levinson No.30.6, using Illuminati Orchid AES/EBU digital datalinks, I found it surprisingly difficult to hear differences. But after a lot of listening—whether it was solo classical piano, such as the recent JVC XRCD re-release of Artur Rubinstein performing Chopin piano sonatas (JM-XR24008), or classic rock, such as our February "Recording of the Month," the Beatles' Let It Be...Naked (CD, Apple/Capitol CDP 5 95227 2)—the '30.6 had more low-frequency weight, slightly more dimensionality to its stereo imaging, and a smoother presentation, overall. Both Ringo's kick drum and Rubinstein's piano's left-hand register had more authority via the No.30.6, and I could better differentiate the direct sounds of the instruments and the surrounding ambience, whether that of the Manhattan Center in 1961 (Rubinstein) or the various reverb chambers (Beatles).

    However, before you conclude that I'm dissing the Benchmark, remember that, before being discontinued in 2003, the mighty Levinson cost $17,500, came in two chassis, and weighed more than 80 lbs. The Lilliputian DAC1 sells for a mere $975. Considered on its own merits as a D/A processor, the Benchmark punched way above its weight. Its grain-free presentation was accompanied by stable, well-defined soundstaging, and low frequencies that, if not as weighty as the Levinson's, were still full-balanced. "
     
  28. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Andre, firstly if your happy with the AVR300 in stereo terms then you may like adding a DAC to your system, its just that at the level of system you are procuring for better CD replay, and I classify your speakers here too, that you would be better served with a dedicated hifi stereo amplifier and I reckon that a £1500 Integrated stereo amplifer will cut the mustard more in stereo terms than your AVR300. If your keeping the AVR300, I would be more inclined to have the DV27 on its own as my CD spinner, you can even use the AVR300s onboard DACs for CD playback.

    No offence dude but looking at Int AV reciever and amps, the market in hifi stereo terms, splits this way AFAICS :

    You either use a pre-out arrangement with a stereo amp powering the fronts.

    Or you go to a passive AV pre (used as a DAC as well for CD use) and then into PAs.

    AV integrateds by the sheer nature of the 5.1/6.1/7.1 processing modules, video switching, power amps, power supplies etc etc, are not the most subtle of replays centres for good old stereo L&R.

    IMHO of course.
     
  29. Andre1234

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    Hi CJROOS

    I`m about to change my Jamo speakers as well, it looks like it will be B&W 805S stands or Aurum Cantus Volla stands ( do you think Arcam goes well with the new modell of B&W 805S ? )

    http://www.aurumcantus.com/loudspeaker/hifi/volla.htm

    So you are right writing: " and I classify your speakers here too, that you would be better served with a dedicated hifi stereo amplifier "

    "No offence dude but looking at Int AV reciever and amps, the market in hifi stereo terms, splits this way AFAICS : "

    No offence dude! :) It`s good to get some advices from others.

    "If your keeping the AVR300, I would be more inclined to have the DV27 on its own as my CD spinner, you can even use the AVR300s onboard DACs for CD playback. "

    Maybe so, but I use the Direct Mode on the AVR300 when I play CD-s.
    I`ll be trying to get some demo at home with the Benchmark DAC-1 and see if it fits with my Arcam setup.

    B.R / Andre
     
  30. Andre1234

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    CJROOS

    "You either use a pre-out arrangement with a stereo amp powering the fronts."

    How about Arcam A32 than?

    BTW, have you seen this?

    http://www.iar-80.com/page130.html

    "If you are looking for a surround receiver, and want the world's best, you already know it's the Arcam AVR300, so you can skip this section."

    "First, we evaluate all processors in their direct mode, which is their best sounding mode, since the only elements in the signal path are the volume control and the analog output buffer stage. This is the mode you would use for playing high resolution audio discs, since most of them are restricted to coming from your disc player in analog mode, and forbid your surround processor from encoding them into digital and doing any further signal manipulation or enhancement. Essentially, the surround processor is functioning as a multichannel analog line section in this mode. We can test this direct mode by simply inserting a surround processor into the line level signal path, and listening for any changes in the quality of the sound. We are effectively comparing the sound of the processor to a short piece of straight wire, so this straight wire bypass test is very cruel and exacting, and no physically real audio product can score 100% audible perfection on this test, at least when evaluated on a high resolution system. The very best high end audio line sections come close, but even they always sound different than the straight wire bypass. In the case of the AVR300, when we tested the intrinsic sonic quality, of this direct mode of the surround processor, we naturally did not yet include the built-in power amplifier in this first phase of testing analysis.
    How well did the AVR300 do on this cruel test? The sonic results were amazing, and already the first indication that this AVR300 was a sonically extraordinary product. In fact, the AVR300's overall sonic performance here was nearly perfect, surpassing all other surround processors we have tested, regardless of price.
    The AVR300 was superb, and virtually indistinguishable from the straight wire bypass, in crucial sonic aspects such as transparency, articulation, speed, and clean purity (lack of distortion). There was none of the veiling, defocusing, softening, or smearing that is so common with most audio circuits, and with most other surround processors. More information, and more musically important information, was coming through the AVR300 than any other surround processor we have tested, regardless of price. Musical instruments, for example, had their transient attacks and their subtle timbral after-resonances revealed and reproduced by the AVR300 virtually perfectly, sounding superbly clear and clean, virtually the same as the straight wire bypass. That's amazing performance for any audio product, regardless of price, and is notably better than any other surround processor has achieved, regardless of price."
     

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