Benchmark DAC-1 Review - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

Thread Tools
post #1 of 2 Old 04-24-07, 07:43 AM Thread Starter
Friend of the Shack
Otto's Avatar
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Beautiful Colorado
Posts: 1,356
Benchmark DAC-1 Review

I recently had an opportunity to audition the much vaunted Benchmark DAC1. This is a 24-bit 192 kHz digital to analog converter used for 2-channel conversion only. The unit I borrowed was black with rackmount arms, and without the USB input. I used an optical connection from a Denon 1910 "universal player". Cost for a new unit of this type is $975 ($1,275 with the USB option, which I understand eliminates jitter -- I'd have to read more about this...).

Name:  dac1-usb-black-rm_medium.jpg
Views: 977
Size:  77.0 KB

Benchmark DAC-1 Review-clipboard01.jpg

I did some level matching using the Galaxy CM-140 SPL meter. I set the meter at the listening position and ran a 1 kHz tone through my system (optical output from a PC). I manually moved the optical cable (as coming from the PC) between the Benchmark and my Outlaw 990's "Optical 2" input. Due to the DAC1's variable output, it was relatively easy to level match. However, in retrospect, I believe I would locate the SPL meter closer to the speaker during the process of level matching. This should increase SNR in the measurement, as well as reduce any effects of the room, which we don't care about in this case. I did see the measured SPL fluctuate a bit, but I got it as close as I could. Using the 1 kHz tone, I could not tell any difference in level.

All in all, the Benchmark DAC1 is a nice little unit. The pictures above belie its small size. Its footprint is perhaps that of a magazine, while its height is on the order of two inches. Definitely not a full size component, which is no problem. I'm really not sure what good the rack ears are, as a normal size rack will be far too wide. I'm sure they are for use with some other racks with which I'm unfamiliar. No matter, the DAC1 can be ordered with or without the rack ears, and in silver as well as black.

As for performance in my system, I found it to really add a couple things. I'm looking for "more" in 2-channel listening mode. It's hard to describe what "more" means, but you know it when you hear it.

In this case, the DAC1 was able to add tightness and definition in the bass. I was very impressed with its performance in that regard. I used only "bypass" mode on the Outlaw 990 pre/pro, no bass management, and no sub; my main speakers were the only things making noise... In this configuration, I was able to regain some of the bass punch I recalled from my audition of these speakers, which was in a much smaller room than mine. I've never been able to recapture that audition's bass articulation, but the DAC1 gave me more depth, more punch and more clarity all the way around. You definitely have to be interested in looking for it, but it's there.

The DAC1 also offered some soundstage widening. It just "opened things up" peripherally. To me, this also tended to compress things vertically. I think that's OK, as sometimes the soundstage seems to go a little too "high" for me, as if the performers are floating. On some occasions at a lower than average volume, the soundstage sounded very compressed when using the 990's DACs. Upon switching to the DAC1, it just really blossomed out away from the center. It was quite convincing, and I wish I had more time with the unit to double check my findings.

The level matching I did before testing worked well. There was no obviously and immediately discernible level difference between the two, but I do think that the DAC1's improved bass may have pushed it a tad in that direction. I would like to see electronic and in-room measurements for both configurations, but that's not possible at this time.

Overall, I think the DAC1 is an improvement, and its short-lived presence in my living room places me back on an upgrade quest. I know that I told my wife that I would be "done after getting my speakers", or "after the IB" or "after the amp," but it doesn't really matter. We all know by now how this hobby works, so she won't be surprised to hear me talking about DACs for a while. Before springing for the DAC1, I'd really like to have a chance with the Channel Islands VDA-2. I'll be looking for one on AudiogoN.

Questions and comments welcome.

-- Otto
Otto is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 2 Old 12-16-07, 02:43 PM
Senior Shackster
warpdrive's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 200
Re: Benchmark DAC-1 Review

I've read good things about this unit in seems it has respect as a good source AND is a premium audiophile headphone amp, so it's sort of like two great products in one. I'd go for the USB option and then you can use your computer as a audiophile quality jukebox.

Unfortunately, I wish I could afford it (it also seems that there aren't discounts on this either to lower the price a little). I'm currently using a Headroom Micro DAC and headphone amp which is a great unit but this DAC1 would be the next step up
warpdrive is offline  


benchmark , dac1 , review

Quick Reply

Register Now



Confirm Password
Email Address
Confirm Email Address
Random Question
Random Question #2

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address



Activation requires you reply to an email we will send you after you register... if you do not reply to this email, you will not be able to view certain areas of the forum or certain images... nor will you be able download software.


See our banned email list here: Banned Email List

We DO NOT respond to spamcop, boxtrapper and spamblocker emails... please add @hometheatershack DOT com to your whitelist prior to registering or you will get nowhere on your registration.

Email Address:


Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML is not allowed!
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome