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Using a Benchmark DAC1 USB as the sole audio interface for Live? DAW Software
Old 14th March 2012
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Using a Benchmark DAC1 USB as the sole audio interface for Live?

I had a cheap and cheerful M-Audio FireWire Solo for about six years. I played around in Ableton Live a little but in the main I found myself simply using it as a way to connect powered monitors to whatever computer I was using for the sole purpose of audio playback. When it finally bit the dust last year, I figured that because I was really only ever listening to music I'd be better served by a good DAC.

So I got a Benchmark DAC1 USB and I was utterly blown away by the sound. All the usual things that come with such a nice piece of gear were noted: tight low end, superb stereo imaging, etc., etc.

Now the production urge has returned and I wonder if it's possible to just use the Benchmark DAC1 as the only audio interface, forgoing a traditional sound card. (I have no need for inputs FWIW.)

For those not familiar with the DAC1, there are a few digital input options, notably USB, coaxial and optical. The USB is of the 1.1 flavour which handles playback of 96/24 and no drivers need to be installed. That's how it's hooked up now, but I could attach the DAC1 to my iMac using the optical out.

Is what I propose even possible? If so, will it be usable? Is someone using this set-up? What does getting a traditional sound card afford me (better latency, better stability, better sound, etc.)?

If I were to get a sound card, I'd want to still use the DAC1 in the monitor chain because the sound is astoundingly good.

Thanks in advance.
Old 15th March 2012
  #2
Here for the gear
 

To answer my own question, I got some info from the folks over at Ableton forums. I did some testing and this is what I found:

***

OK, so here's what I know:

I'm using Live 8.2.8. I'm on an iMac 12,2 (Mid 2011 / OS X 10.7.3 / Intel quad-core i5 2.7 GHz / 16 GB RAM / spinning platter HDD). I'm running a Benchmark DAC1 USB via USB 1.1.

In Live's Audio prefs using the Core Audio driver I can simulate (with 80% CPU usage) a 64 sample buffer size/44.1 kHz sample rate. The Overall Latency is 2.95 ms. There are no clicks or pops. Using this buffer size/sample rate I can open the demo Set and playback without breaking a sweat. To test things a little further I added some Audio Effects (flangers, ping pong reverb, saturation) and CPU usage didn't go above 18%. There were no clicks or pops in this 'real world' test either.

If I dial down to a 32 sample buffer size I get no audio at all on the simulation. Subsequently increasing this to 64, 128, 256, etc. leaves me with no sound. So I have to restart Live. Back up to 64 samples and everything's fine again.

So it would appear that that 64 samples is as low as I can go over USB 1.1. That's way lower than I had expected. In fact, I didn't even think it would work at all. Colour me surprised.

It would be interesting to see how this compares with a TOSLINK connection out the back of the iMac. I don't have an optical cable handy but I'll try dig one up. But to be honest, I don't really see any advantage to that approach.

The sound is so much better than what I was used to from the M-Audio. It's immense!

***

Old 13th January 2018
  #3
Here for the gear
 

Similarly to you, my creative side woke up a fem weeks ago. I was considering buying a modern sound card , USB , just for Playback from Ableton, but then I came to think of my DAC1 HDR I use for my hifi setup. Tried it today and even 32samples buffer works. 2.6ms roundtrip total latency. It’s crazy . The output latency is about 1.2ms + 1ms Processing. I use 64 sampels though to have some margins. I can live with 1ms more .
Of course, added to that, it sounds super nice, e.g through sennheiser HD800.

/Simon
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