The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
Using a Benchmark DAC1 USB as the sole audio interface for Live? DAW Software
Old 14th March 2012
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
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
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.

Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.

Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Similar Threads
Thread Starter / Forum
sguali / Low End Theory

Forum Jump
Forum Jump