Benchmark DAC3 HGC
In the last few years we have often seen a crossover between Pro Audio and HiFi products. There are some doubters out there, that products made by Pro Studio companies will not be as musical as the ones that target “the golden ears” group of the audiophile world.
I must admit that I was one of those. I was new to the hobby, reading too many forum posts and getting carried away in the hype of advertising. The fact is, without studio gear there will be no music for you and me to listen to. And (AND!) I have heard many digital playback products from the so called Highend Audiophile companies that sounded clinical and soulless. My point is. If the product is good and reliable, does it matter which camp made them?
Listening to Mozart’s Piano Concerto, N0.9 in E flat Major, K (Sony 82876872302), played and conducted by Murray Perahia, the beautiful second movement, the Andantino, proved stunning through the Benchmark DAC 3. It rendered the piano and the orchestra masterfully as it fleshed out layers of details and subtle nuances. The micro-dynamics of small finger movement is exceptionally transparent; making it quite an intimate listening experience.
Benchmark DAC 3 is also very listenable with less well recorded albums, I played various 70’s rock music, anything from Led Zep, Zappa and Fleetwood Mac, all very enjoyable with an engaging sound.
I have never ever heard digital playback sub £5,000 that can do DSD playback as good as this. DSD file playback can sound flat and un-involving with the wrong machine but the Benchmark DAC 3 kept me hooked to the music. Soundgarden - Down On The Upside which has been re-mastered to 24/192 file format, sounds so fresh. The guitar solo sounded vivid and in the room, drum pop beautiful, and bass is deep with good timing.
So thumbs up from me. This is a cracking little DAC that the rest of sub £2,000 competition will need to catch up to. Partner it with Benchmark AHB2 Poweramp and a pair of Boenicke audio W5 speakers, and you will have a space saving system that has ability to fill a very large room with sound and more importantly, the sound will be always be musical regardless of which album you choose to play. Now can you put the price on that?
Benchmark AHB2 power amp
Clef Audio Soloist-50 integrated amp
Soulution 511 Poweramp
Boenicke W5+ Speakers
Maxonic TW 1100 speakers
Vertex AQ Roraima power cables and Solfon Inter connects
Ziro Audio Disclosure speakers cables.
Benchmark has been making Pro Audio gear for over 30 years now. That is a long time in any business. The latest offering is the Benchmark DAC3. This keeps up with the traditional slimline look. There are some people out there that may say it is too small for the price! Well sir.... there are many DACs out there that came in a big, half empty box, but if you have around £2,000 budget to spend on Digital playback, let me tell you, this is a giant killer.
You can read about the new spec and technology on the Benchmark website (LINK Here) but for most of us, the proof is in the pudding. What does it sound like? The Benchmark DAC 3 possibly has a higher resolution than any sub £2K digital playback today. The big plus over the older DAC2 model is the new volume control design. It now sounds like a proper preamp. There are no dynamics lacking that could be previously heard. The DAC 3’s soundstage and imaging is top draw due to self noise level being extremely low, you now can hear right through the layers of the recording.